Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Unanswered Questions (page 1 / 1)

How Much Military Is Enough?

For the past two years, I've been slowly trying to figure out my opinion about U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. military. There are a lot of very bad people in the world. The thuggish mullahs of Iran and the even more thuggish dictator of North Korea jump immediately to mind. But one shouldn't forget about the thugs in Africa (Robert Mugabe and the like), the thugs in Latin America (Hugo Chavez and friends), or the thugs in Europe (Vladimir Putin).

But what should the American response be? Is it our responsibility to throw them out and make the world a better place? Is it our responsibility to protect our friends (Israel, South Korea, Japan, etc) or should we only be concerned with the countries and individuals that pose a legitimate threat to our homeland? How big should the U.S. military be and how should we use it?

I still don't know what my opinion is. It vacillates between "nuke 'em all" and "let the world take care of itself", depending on the day and how recently I've read about foreign atrocities. So I was interested to read Jerry Pournelle's take on the question:

The British at one time had a naval policy of having a fleet able to defeat the next two fleets in the world; but at that time Britain had an Empire and relied on it for a number of things. The US is not an empire, and we don't seem to be learning how to be one. The question becomes.; how large a force does the US need to defend our legitimate foreign policy goals We already spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. This may be excessive, depending on what we think we must do with that military.

I'm not at all convinced that we need NATO now that the USSR is gone. I am not sure what good it does us to have pledges from Germany to go to war if someone attacks us. I am thoroughly unaware of why we might need the Georgian army to help us if we are invaded. I can see that our commitment to them is valuable to them, but I am not certain I understand the value to the US of the US guarantee to Germany and potentially to Georgia.

I know that such guarantees are hideously expensive. And I'm inclined to make the snotty Europeans bear the cost of their own military defense. Overall, I think I favor downsizing the American military and getting out of Germany, South Korea, Japan, etc. But I'm not sure what the long term consequences of that would be. In 50 years, would we be facing a threat from a much larger and more expansionist Chinese or Russian military? It gives me pause.

Update (5:39PM): Via NRO, I see that, unless things change, China may not be too worrisome in the future.

China's Population Policy, and Ours - John Derbyshire - The Corner on National Review Online

China is not far behind Japan on the path to the demographic cliff edge. Fertility figures are no more dependable than any other Chinese statistics, but there seems to be general agreement that the current TFR is in the 1.7 to 1.8 range, somewhere between Sweden and Belgium in the international rankings.

For China, still a poor country with a huge peasant population, this is starting to throw up problems. With the one-child policy entering its fourth decade, the typical Chinese in his prime productive years now has two elderly parents to support. Elderly, and likely penniless, since those parents left their productive years without ever having had the opportunity to accumulate much.

The Mainstreaming of Demographic Alarmism (Cont.) - Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online

On page 5 of my notoriously "alarmist" book, I asked, "Will China be the hyperpower of the 21st century?", and answered no: It will get old before it's got rich.

These opinions make me even more likely to take an isolationist approach.

Don't dismiss Gallup poll


The findings of a recent Gallup poll suggest that of all political persuasions, Republicans feel most mentally healthy - and it's not even close.

Reports Gallup's site:

"Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education."

Now, the blog Daily Kos correctly notes the obvious reason why the poll hardly settles the issue.

"Notice anything missing? Like, say, pointing out that this was SELF REPORTED mental health? And this poll is really not so much a poll about mental health than a poll about people's PERCEPTIONS of their mental health?"

The blog goes a little far, however, in its vitriolic attempt to fully rebut the results.

"[Gee,] why would anyone doubt that someone who considers themselves a Republican wouldn't be completely honest and forthcoming with a complete stranger on the phone about a personal matter that has no small amount of social stigma attached to it?... If we have learned nothing[sic]... it is that Republicans are well adjusted, honest folks who are in no way invested in maintaining the illusion of complete normalcy to a judgmental and unforgiving society that they helped bring about and still maintain."

Since the names of the participants in these studies aren't revealed, fear of embarrassment can hardly be much of a factor. Plus, Gallup itself does play fair by mentioning that, "In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls."

It also cannot be said that to learn how separate demographics perceive their own mental health is not in itself enlightening. A group's belief in its own mental health likely, at the very least, indicates a lower shared stress level.

None of this is to suggest that Republicans are more mentally healthy in general than Democrats (I know far too many Republicans, many of them just as angry and bitter as any Democrat), only to remind that the poll should not be cavalierly dismissed as partisan. Such a trend likely means something - but possibly nothing more than that Republicans generally possess a less stress-inducing world view ("Planet Earth will be just fine."), whether right or wrong, which translates into more assurance and attendant better mental health. At this point, who can say?

All that out of the way, your Minor Thoughts correspondents would like to point out that the inclusion of other independents within our bracket is doubtlessly throwing off our score.

This entry was tagged. Unanswered Questions

Bible Study: Exodus 1:1-7, continued

Oy; the good folks at the Bridge-Linguatec School just sent me a packet on information concerning the CELTA certification course (Cambridge English Language Teaching Association), which - God willing - I'm taking this June. And here's an excerpt:

"...The course is very intensive. Trainees need a great deal of energy and stamina to work through the course. You will be at school every day from approximately 9 "“ 6, and your evenings will be taken up with reading, research, lesson planning, and written assignments. It is advisable not to have a part-time job or other outside distractions during this month, as it will take your focus away from the course and you will not receive as much benefit from your time here. The course is very intense and requires a great deal of time and energy. Past trainees have commented that homework takes from 3-5 hours every evening."

The failure rate among students, it goes on to say, is roughly 6-7%, and so is the class drop-out rate, for a total of round-abouts 12-14% who are accepted and find they can't hack it. As for those students who pass the course: "C" students account for 65% of the typical class, the "B" students 20-25%. "A" students: 3-4% ("These Candidates usually have a number of years of teaching experience").

I admit to slight concern.

But!: We're not here to worry about my future, now are we? No, we're here to discuss Exodus 1:1-7 some more. So, let's.

We return to the somewhat troublesome question of how seventy-five Jews become 2-3 million Jews within the seemingly absurd span of a little over four hundred years.

  • Exodus 1:5: "The total number of persons that were of Jacob's issue came to seventy, Joseph being already in Egypt [and not counting Joseph's grandchildren and great-grandchildren]."

According to Plaut, this group of seventy consists of Jacob, sixty-seven male offspring, and two wives. Adding in Joseph's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the total number of men comes to seventy-two.

  • Exodus 12:40: "The length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years..." [if you believe this verse and not Genesis 15:16, in which God says Israel shall dwell in Egypt for four hundred flat. Gen. 15:16 also says "the fourth generation" shall leave Egypt, whereas 1 Chron. 7:20-27 records ten. We won't be getting into this seeming contradiction today.]

Is it possible that a family of seventy men became a nation of two to three million, or even more? Well, mathematically-speaking, the answer is like every other answer in Judaism: "Yes, but it depends." Several questions have a great impact on the issue.

Question 1: Were the Jews still polygamists? If Jewish men can take more than one wife, the birth rate of Israel increases. Simple.

Question 2: Did Israel's children take foreign wives? Joseph's wife was an Egyptian. If Joseph's kin followed suit (at least until their enslavement), and especially if they were polygamists, then the potential for a powerful birth rate was more strong. On the other hand, Abraham clearly hated the idea of his son Isaac marrying anyone who was not of his own kind. Was this attitude passed down to Abraham's descendants as virtual law, or was it not until Mount Sinai that such rules were enshrined?

Question 3: Did Israel's children take wives of their own kin? We often think of the Hebrew race as simply beginning with "Father Abraham", but of course this isn't true; Abraham himself belonged to a people populating the Fertile Crescent.

Who were these people? A popular theory among today's scholars is that the word "Hebrew" (Ivri) shares the same roots of, or is derived from, the word "Habiru" - the name given to a people populating (you guessed it) the Fertile Crescent.

From Plaut:

"[The Habiru] may have been related by family ties; they became prominent in Mesopotamia and later spread out all the way to Egypt... Although at first they were nomads or semi-nomads, they later settled in the countries of their choice. They were, however, usually considered foreigners, which means that they succeeded in maintaining their group identity..."

This especially clicks when you consider that the word Ivri "was used only when the members of the Israelite tribes spoke of themselves to outsiders and when outsiders referred to them. Thus, Abraham is called ivri (Gen. 14:13)..." Otherwise the people referred to themselves by their tribes (e.g., Judah, Ephraim) or by their more immediate common ancestor, Israel."

Interestingly, despite the seemingly perfect fit, Plaut stops short of saying in his Commentary that the Habiru and Israelites were kin, even though others don't. He only suggests that the Israelites were identified with and/or shared familial ties with the Habiru.

If Jacob and his children were Habiru, however, then the likelihood of their having met other Habiru in Egypt - and intermarried with them - is far from remote. The Israel that left Egypt may even have absorbed some of these Habiru into its body.

The rate of procreation necessary in order, for example, for thirteen men to become three million within four hundred years isn't actually so tough to swallow when you crunch the numbers. Within the first generation, forty children would have to be born (a modest rate of less than four children per man); by the second, there would have to be one hundred and fifty-three. But if the answers to any or all of the three questions I've raised today are "yes", we find the Bible's account all the easier to accept.

That is to say, IF you were having any_ trouble_ accepting the Bible's account. I, of course, never doubted. I'm just doing this for all you faithless people.