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« Oh, The Insanity. | WILLisms.com | Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 36. »

Pundit Roundtable Open Mic

Merry Christmas! Welcome to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your holiday host, Ken McCracken.

First of all, as you know Will Franklin has been temporarily sucked out of the blogosphere and into that vortex known as real life, I'd like to wish him and his family holiday tidings and a happy new year!

That goes for you, too.

Since nearly everyone decided to respond to the topic questions in the comments rather than emailing me, I just decided to convert the Open Mic into the Roundtable itself - what follows below is the original post:

Are you a blogger who would like to vulture off a little traffic from WILLisms.com? Are you a commenter with attitude? Are you really bored this holiday weekend?

Every Sunday around noon or so we post an item here called Pundit Roundtable. Well, this week, we are inviting anyone who wants to participate to send me a response to these topic questions:

Topic 1: You are now EMPEROR OF THE WORLD, with unlimited dictatorial powers. What policies do you enact? Are you a benign, or malign ruler?

Topic 2: Make one bold prediction for 2006.

Respond to any or all topics and questions as you wish, be as short or verbose as you like, and being on-topic is not essential.

This is an experiment that might be cancelled this week if it is overcome by overweening apathy.

So go into the comments and see what folks had to say.

We do have one guest who emailed a response to me, from 'Dan, EOD Technician', an active serviceman who asked me to post his thoughts regarding Islam:

I am a member of the United States’ much maligned military. I spent seven years in the Army and the last five years in the Air Force Reserves. In the Army I was a Patriot missile man. Now in the Air Force I am an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician (Bomb Squad). All twelve years of my service I have been on active duty (thanks in part to 9-11). I have been I’ve spent most of my adult life, in one way or another, working in the Middle East (6 deployments). The reason I mention this is that I want my pedigree fully understood. I’m not some armchair quarterback, and my involvement with the Middle East is not shallow or purely academic. I have taken the time to study the Arab region and the Muslim culture. I even learned Arabic.

Now that I’ve established some background, let me say that which the PC crowd won’t say. Folks, the culture and religion in question is hostile. The individual’s are often sweet and well meaning people. Some would bring credit to any group or situation they could be placed in. The overall society however, is as poisonous as a pit viper and twice as touchy. I’ve sat back and watched as academics and media people have apologized over and over again for the Muslim culture. Saying repeatedly “Islam is peaceful” and constantly rehashing the “Jihad is spiritual struggle” meme. This is categorically false. The “Jihad of the spirit” many apologists refer to is a late Sufi tradition, extremely rare and often discredited among “mainstream” Islam. To put it in perspective, Sufis are as rare in Islam an 7th day Adventists are in Christianity. Probably more so.

Having stated all that, let me tell you about the Islam that I have witnessed. On my first deployment in 1994, while eating at a café in Riyadh, I saw a woman beaten and dragged away from her children on the street. What was her crime? After a very careful inquiry, my friends and I learned that she was selling souvenirs without her husband present. Her three small children were left to cower on the street in tears. We were nearby for almost an hour; we wanted to help, but were unable to. Both because we were advised against it, and for fear that the Mutawa (religious police) would take us in as well. The woman’s husband never showed. On another deployment in 1995, also in Riyadh, I saw a Saudi man beat a Pakistani nearly to death for the crime of being hit by the aforementioned Saudi’s Mercedes. I watched the accident and the subsequent beating. The Saudi was clearly at fault for the accident. When the aforementioned Mutawa showed, they hauled off the Pakistani to an unknown fate and sent the Saudi man on his way. In case you didn’t know, Pakistani’s and members of other poor Muslim countries are often recruited to work in Saudi Arabia as indentured servants / slaves. The conditions they live in and treatment they receive are appalling. I could go on, there were other incidents that I observed, both more and less disturbing. I have observed similarly jarring incidents in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. From conversations with other servicemen I can tell you such incidents were not unusual or even rare. Call them “cultural quirks” if you will, but I was raised to know right from wrong when I see it.

All of the “little” incidents I witnessed or heard about, pale into insignificance compared to what I observed and learned about during my time in Baghdad. On a visit to rid a small village of UXOs (Un-eXploded Ordnance), I had a conversation with a man who lost most of his family to one of Saddam’s Gas attacks. By most let me clarify by saying that only his sister and three cousins survived. By the time I met him, he’d already lost one of those cousins to a bomb set by Zarqawi’s group. Later, during one of my longest duty days (38 hours), I had to conduct a post blast analysis where an IED had gone off. The only victims were two Kindergarten aged girls. One of their little shoes (blood stained) was still at the scene when we arrived. I had to watch my friend’s stricken face when he realized that what he thought was a component of the device revealed itself to be a little girls’ tooth. Ansar Al Islam claimed responsibility for the bombing. It was not the only such incident. One of the other incidents I helped investigate was the grand opening of an elementary school. A device with approximately 10lbs of explosives was detonated during the opening ceremonies. The vast majority of the crowd consisted of children and Iraqi civilians. Thankfully the only injury was a scraped elbow received by a soldier knocked from his vehicle. I will not speak of the atrocities I heard about that were committed by the Taliban. They literally give me nightmares, and I do not wish to pass them on. As with the “minor” cultural incidents in the preceding paragraph, there is much more that I could mention. I hope my point is made. DO NOT fall under the spell of the apologists for Islam. The Islamic people need to be held accountable for their actions. Ideally, they should police themselves and purge the radical elements from their society. Personally, I believe that is unlikely to happen, except possibly in Iraq where they have suffered so much at the hands of the radicals. The long on the short of it is that there is a reason why most of the conflicts occurring around the world involve Islam in some fashion. I encourage anyone and everyone who has read my words to look into this for themselves. Read deep enough and you will see that I am at least partly correct. As I said, I am hardly neutral.

Right now, my colleagues throughout the military are fighting and dying to provide Iraqis with a chance to improve the Arab culture and bring democracy to a region that desperately needs it. I believe that democracy is the only thing that can “tame” the Islamic cultures of the world. What we’re doing now may be the only way to prevent all out war between Islam and EVERYONE else. I wish others could see the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in that context.

Anyway, now that my probably incoherent rant has come to a close, I can only say that I hope someone out there listens. With or without WMD’s, going into Iraq was the right thing to do. Facing down and destroying “Islamofascism” on our terms, is the only way to deal with it.

That's it! Thank you everyone for responding, and thank you Dan for your service to our country. Come back next week for the next installment of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Update: Oops! In my rush to get out the door and go watch the Bears thrash the hapless Packers, I forgot the Host's Last Word! I am now Emperor of the World - I hereby abolish my rule and replace it with Democracy! Purple fingers for everyone!

And Howard Dean will NOT make any outrageous or incendiary comments in 2006. Now that is one bold prediction!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 25 December 2005 04:05 PM


Topic 1: First amendment rights everywhere. That means synagogues in Riyadh and North Koreans denouncing Kim (I'd probably get rid of him, Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez anyway).

Topic 2: Citing health reasons, Dick Cheney will not serve out his term as vice president. Bold!

Posted by: Eric Lindholm at December 23, 2005 08:26 PM

Actually, this one's kinda boring: unlimited dictatorial powers over the world can take you a long way. I mean, if you can lay down any edict you want, and enforce it as easily as breathing, a lot of hard stuff is suddenly easy. Like:

1. Peace on earth. No wars, no violence, no blowing shit up, no laying a finger on anyone without their consent.

2. Human rights. All flesh-and-blood adult persons everywhere will have the protections of the Bill of Rights.

3. Democracy. Every country can choose their own form of it, but every nation will have an elected, representative legislature in which ultimate power will be vested. The franchise will be an absolute right to those over 18 and with sufficient mental skills to fill out a ballot. Legislative districts with equal pop computed by RT's populaton-compactness-maximization method once every decade. (You want details? Another day. I'm the dictator. You can wait.)

See? The world's halfway to paradise already.

Of course, I'd also want a handful of imperial residences in optimal locations around the world with an imperial jet to take me everywhere I wanted to go, and a bevy of beautiful women anxious to please me in every way possible. But the former wouldn't be that much of a load on the global economy, and since I'm a benevolent dictator with a respectable amount of sex appeal, finding volunteers for the latter shouldn't be a challenge either.

Limitations are what makes a problem interesting. A better question would be, suppose you are given unlimited power, for one day, to alter the Constitution and laws in your own country, and have those changes maintained for, say, a decade - long enough so people can see how they like them. What would you do then?

Posted by: RT at December 24, 2005 06:44 AM

As Dictator of the world, I'd command that hot dogs and buns both be sold in packages of 4 or a multiple of 4.

I figure once folks heard that command, they'd suddenly start looking and questioning every other insane standard by which they live. It would be like an avalanche.

I figure the next thing to go would be the notion of "100% recycled" labels on things that nobody wants, like McDonalds Fun Meal toys. What's the point of recycling when you're making something nobody needs or will bother recycling when they throw it away?

Finally, people who complain about gas costing too much will be forced to drive a car that runs on Liquid Paper with the same gas mileage.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at December 24, 2005 09:30 AM

As dictator, I would shut down all biased media -Hollywood would be required to make boyscout movies for a year, and teachers would go back to being public servants instead of putting parents in competition with the NEA.

My bold prediction is that the liberals will attempt to bash Bush.

All weather will here-to-fore be called climate change, and the liberals will bash Bush.

Posted by: DL at December 24, 2005 02:20 PM

Global Emperor? I'd abolish any measuring system that wasn't metric.

Short of disbanding the most corrupt global institution ever, the UN, I'd ban any country that wasn't a representative democracy from being a member.

Bold prediction for 2006: Howard Dean will say something mind-numbingly moronic. More times than people can count.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at December 24, 2005 04:02 PM

I would buy alot of shoes!

I predict in the year 2006 Ted Kennedy will gain at least five more pounds...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at December 24, 2005 05:18 PM

McCracken - I love this idea, but think you could foster some good, intellectual debate by telling people to post their ideas in the comments, not your inbox. Just a thought.

RT - I wish it were that simple. The fact is, a global dictator would invariably neglect the myriad of social, political, and economic cultures around the world. ie: What works in the United States will not work in Honduras, North Korea, or Sierra Leone. It would be nice to think that capitalism and democracy would work everywhere, and given enough time and guidance it could, but it would take generations upon generations of ideological engineering to expect global human rights - a dictator can't guarantee human rights, even at gunpoint.

Now for me:

I would be a benign ruler. My first act would be to eliminate tariffs. Bring on the free trade! My second act would be to create localized districts. Yes I'm the EMPEROR SUPREME, but regionalized control is the only way to effectively wield power. I would control the governors of these districts through normal means (propaganda, threats, etc). Thus I would be 'benign' in appearance, though much more malevolent at heart. I like that. ;)

Prediction for 2006: Aside from another great hurricane season, a few catostrophic earthquakes, and the tsunamis resulting thereof, I predict an increased and consistent base of Muslim fundamentlist terrorism in Western Europe, beginning in France.

Posted by: Tom at December 24, 2005 05:39 PM

Yeah Tom I think you are right, er, I didn't expect everyone to just put their predictions etc. in the comments, but I should have known better!

That's fine - the point is to just have a little fun eh? I am glad people are participating.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at December 24, 2005 07:39 PM

Ken my daring? I just couldn't resist going ahead and putting a comment in the comment section!... Honestly I would not be a very good "Emperor" or Empress! BUT I think there are some great bloggers out there in Blogland that I would consider being very good leaders of our great country!... I personally like our system in the USA and would not trade it for the world! I really love Freedom and Democracy and would never want to dictate to anyone!... Merry Christmas and thanks for asking such a poignant question!... It is interesting question! And the responses are even more so!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at December 24, 2005 11:36 PM

Topic #1: Oh, the possibilities. I think I would be a benevolent ruler, but I'd also be vengeful and arbitrary toward all the bad guys out there.

The main thing I'd want to do is create a time machine type of deal where I could slow down or freeze time and get all sorts of things accomplished. Such as... killing bad guys and cutting taxes.

Topic #2 (predictions):

The next American Idol winner will not have any hit songs after the initial one.

The news media will continue to lose readers and viewers. Hollywood will make a bunch more terrible left-oriented movies like Brokeback Mountain and Syriana. They will-- at best-- break even. More likely, they will flop. Then, everyone will be shocked and surprised that faith-themed movies (like Narnia) overachieve.

Democrats won't take back the House. Democrats won't take back the Senate. Not even close.

The march of freedom will reignite, and we'll see another "Babe Theory" in action someplace (Belarus, maybe).

Posted by: Will Franklin at December 25, 2005 10:38 AM

Topic 1: You are now EMPEROR OF THE WORLD, with unlimited dictatorial powers. What policies do you enact? Are you a benign, or malign ruler?

No anonymous sources in the Media.
hmm, wonder if that means i am malignant or benign.

Topic 2: Make one bold prediction for 2006.

UT over USC.
TTU over Alabama

Posted by: Huan at December 25, 2005 10:46 AM

Anyone using the term "public service", or reasonably similar words, shall be killed as a "public service". The constitution shall be altered to allow their kin the same fate.

Prediction - Bill Clinton will be given the Nobel Peace Prize, but not until 2008 as Hillary is running for President.

The 2006 award will go to Jacque and Kofi for having endured the disdain of decent people around the world.

Posted by: K at December 28, 2005 12:18 AM