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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy New Year!

Welcome the Year of the Tiger!

Pili-pala-peng! Pili-pala-peng! Pili-pala-peng!(That's Taiwanese Mandarin's onomatopoetic way of expressing the sound of firecrackers exploding).

It's times like this when I feel nostalgic for my times in Taiwan, when there was lots of food, the conviviality of an extended clan, and family visits. Granted, as Christians, my wife and I did not take part in any ancestor worship; but I know that Chinese-speaking churches will be offering prayers of gratitude to the Almighty for another year of grace. While we in the West get some flavor of the season around Christmas and Thanksgiving, they aren't quite the same.

But, maybe, the reason I am now waxing nostalgic is because I have just hurt my back digging out from a record snowstorm (where's global warming when we need it?), and am thinking of a subtropical land where snow is not seen at habitable elevations.

However, I'm grateful to God that my wife, sons, and daughter-in-law are at my side and we will celebrate today.

Gong He Xin Xi! I'll put this in Han Zi as soon as my Chinese word processing is available.

The Iranian Revolution

This is a conservative dissent against any plans to take out Iran's nuclear facilities, invade that country, or invest American tax dollars in it dissident movement. The best policy would be to allow Iran to stew in its own juices over the next thirty years or so while keeping the proverbial American powder dry, and talk when Iran is ready to talk.

This is also coming from someone who believes the following:
(1) That if Iran's mullahs were so angered by our having made it impossible to find martyrdom at the hands of the Soviets in 1946 or Mossadegh's Tudeh friends a little later, they should have simply kicked our diplomats out in 1979--as we did with Japan's in 1941.
(2) That Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is an utterly disgusting piece of work.
(3) That the USA should regard Iran as a threat.
(4) That President Obama's desire for engagement with Iran was ill-advised.

China and France should have taught us in the 1960's that there is no way to keep a determined state from developing its own force de frappe. Neither the science nor the technology of nuclear weaponry is all that difficult to obtain. Nor is enrichable uranium all that difficult to obtain. Iran has chosen the path of many other ambitious and able states, and now we must live with it.

Sarah Palin and others who advocate either our or Israel's assault on Iran's nuclear facilities are probably frightened of Iranian-sponsored terrorists smuggling parts of a nuclear device into the USA and detonating it. This is indeed a legitimate fear, and any American administration that discounts it needs to be voted out of office ASAP. However, would Iran take such a step when it knows that it could lose sixty of its most important cities and military sites in retaliation? Probably not.

A strike on Iran would mean war with that country. But what form would such a war take? A successful invasion of Iran is possible. The Arabs proved it in the 7th century, the Mongols proved it in the 12th, and Temur Lenk's Central Asian Turks did it again in the 14th. But such an invasion would almost surely galvanize the Iranian population and unify it behind its government. Victory over Iran could be achieved only if the invader was willing to employ a ruthlessness that is foreign to American political and military culture. Further, the occupation of Iran and the rebuilding of that country would be a costly investment with an uncertain return.

Nor should the USA invest in Iranian dissent. The people in the streets of Tehran, like the mullahs whom they seek to overthrow, descend from the same crowds who occupied the US Embassy in 1979. The most credible organization among Iranian dissidents is the mojaheddin-e-Khalq, who in their own circles boast of being the first "revolutionary fighters" into the "nest of spies" back in 1979 even as their exiles solicit American support. They, no less than the mullahs, must be kept at arm's length, and, if present in the USA, really should be rounded up and deported rather than given asylum and support. The potential for rule-of-law liberalism (in the sense of valuing political liberty, not in the sense of allowing the have-nots to loot the haves) in Iran is basically nil.

China offers an instructive parallel to present-day Iran. Between 1919 and 1959, China's intellectuals were determined to realize a scientific socialist (Marxist-Leninist) regime in their country. No amount of Japanese militarism or American Cold Warring could change that. When Japan invaded, the Marxist intellectuals of China rallied around Jiang Jieshi, even when they despised his government and successfully fought for its overthrow as soon as the Japanese were defeated. Indeed, had Japan not invaded, Mao's Communist China could well have died by 1940.

Only the Wenhua Geming (Cultural Revolution) cured China of its radical dreams--largely by killing off the Marxist intellectuals who had made Communist China possible. The vision of China embodied in the post-Deng reforms is far closer to the vision of the defeated Jiang Jieshi than to that of the victorious Mao Zedong. Despite Mao's determination to be a socialist god on earth and his ruthlessness in pursuing that vision, Mao is now a mummified corpse, and Mainland China is undergoing one of the largest Christian revivals the world has ever seen.

In dealing with Iran, America should heed the adage that to try to save people from their own folly is to fill the world with fools. Our disastrous experiment with world imperialism in the post-World War II world, no matter how benign, should have taught that. Europe's intelligentsia has never forgiven America for having made it impossible for them to live and work under their idol Stalin. Our attempts to save Asia from Communism only resulted in making Communism credible. Our attempt to save the Islamic world from "fundamentalism" (whatever that is) is also making radical Islamicists seem credible and even is radicalizing Muslim immigrant minorities in the US and Europe. At the present moment, the Islamic world wants to be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian-style mullah-ocracy. It wants to apply Sharia, and badly wants to believe that Crusaders and Zionists are responsible for all of Islam's ills. That is the meaning of the Iranian Revolution, the current brutalities being visited on the Christian minorities of Egypt and Pakistan, and Salafist agitation in the Maghreb. It is also the meaning of the current bout of Moro dissdence in the Philippines and the oral idiocies of Muhammad Mahatir.

If the Iranian people are allowed to grope their own way over the next thirty years or so, they will awaken to the fact that they were swindled by their mullahs and radicals and that the Twelfth Imam of Ithna'ashariyya Shi'ite Islam is not going to come. Their regime will face the problem observed by Kong Zi in the fifth century B.C. that when the people cease believing in the state, the state will not stand. The internal contradictions within the Islamic world will probably force a search for allies elsewhere, and, maybe then, a more prudent America can normalize its relations with a sadder but wiser Iran.

At a time when the USA is up to its ears in debt to nations that hate us in order to pay for an expanding entitlement state and under an administration that has raised the deficit more in one year than its admittedly spendthrift predecessor did in eight, the USA cannot afford another nation-building exercise in a part of the world it does not understand.

So, with all due respect to Daniel Pipes (a usually worthwhile and brilliant commentator) and Sarah Palin (a sympathetic figure to me, even if one whom I would be reluctant to vote for),hand off Iran. We do not need to be the target of popular anger in yet another failed state in the making.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Where is Global Warming When you Need It?

We are now digging out of the heaviest snow in the Washington area in thirty years. On Saturday, we were without power for roughly 17 hours' although clearing off the deck, we were able to use the grill to make a small meal. Our hats are off to Beijing man and Neanderthal man, who had to do grilling in the midst of an ice age winter, too.

It looks as if public worship will not be happening this Sunday, for many roads are still blocked. Our front sidewalk is a slash through towering walls of packed snow, something that might be called the Great Wall of the Eskimos rather than the Great Wall of China!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Theology for Dummies--Four

This is short one to explain why Christians do not say "Peace be Upon Him" when speaking of Jesus.

God the Word took on human flesh and dwelt among us for this reason:

"Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject o bondage...Therefore, in all things he had to be made like His brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:14-18).

The obedience Jesus showed to the Father when He was on earth, His death on the cross as atonement for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead save us. Therefore, it behooves us to call for His peace on us; not to pretend that we can give our peace to Him.

Monday, February 1, 2010


最近,我的初级汉语学生要阅读李白的“夜思”。我写了一篇文章介绍唐朝与李太白的生平。研究此题目时,我自己发现不少新的消息。原来,我认为李白出生于中国中部,可是一些参考说它是现代哈萨克或别的中亚国家出生的。当然,这并非重要的问题,因为在几元后第八世纪,这些地方为唐朝中国的领土。可是,如果现代希腊又名诗人Kavafis是埃及出生, 古代中国名实力太白出生于哈萨克也没什么大罪恶。


可是,学生们同意李百过世的传说是郎忙的故事。 一天晚上,李白在长江水上与朋友们又夜会。 李白喝醉时,他看月亮影子散光在水上,怕月亮落于水里。李白想拯救月亮,低头抱月亮的影子,就落于水里淹死。我记得自己当大学生提股市的时候,我认为李白是傻瓜。但现在,比较老了,多了解实情,我现在了解为什么这样的传说会发展。


Recently, my Elementary Chinese students have begun to read Li Bai's "Ye Si". I wrote them a short blurb to introduce the Tang Dynasty (618-903 A.D.) and the life of the poet. Researching the topic, I myself discovered a few things. For instance, I had long supposed that Li was born somewhere in central China, but found out that his actual birthplace is probably in what is now Kazakhstan or Kyrgizia. Maybe this isn't that important, since China's borders have changed quite a bit during 4,000-plus years of history, but it was an interesting factoid nonetheless. Well, if Cafavy, one of modern Greece's great poets, could be born in Egypt, what is wrong with one of China's ancient poets being born outside the current borders of his country?

Although I'm teaching High Schoolers, I found there's a lot they don't know. I've had to explain "concubine", "eunuch", dynasty, and a few other things. Many also have little concept of how the borders of an important nation may shift over time.

Still, the students agreed that the traditional legend of Li Bai's death was quite a romantic tale. It holds that while partying on a boat on the Chang Jiang, Li got quite drunk (as was his wont), saw the reflection of the moon in the river, and thought the moon itself had fallen in. Thinking he ought to rescue it, he bent over the gunwhale and fell headfirst into China's mightiest waterway--and drowned. I admit that as a college student, I thought Li Bai a fool when I first heard this story. But with age, I've come to appreciate the poetic quality of the legend.

The history of Tang China is a rich period in human history. it featured artists, poets, great emperors, officials, beauties, eunuchs, rebels, and everything that makes history interesting. I hope my students warm to the subject, too!