Guest editorial: What can you believe?
It's getting harder and harder to be sure of anything.
For example, we've long been told that Afghanistan cannot be conquered. The Soviet Union couldn't do it in the 20th Century, the British couldn't do it in the 19th Century, nor could Alexander the Great in the 4th Century, B.C.
At least that's what we've been told and that's what we believed. Those Afghans are some kind of tough.
Now comes Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, to tell us differently.
It seems that Afghanistan was subdued in the 13th Century by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes (sounds like a heavy metal rock band, doesn't it?). In the 16th Century, Barbur, founder of the Mughal Empire in India, knocked over Kabul like it was a candy store, and, so long as we're talking about it, the Brits came back from their defeat to conquer Afghanistan in a rematch.
Even Alexander wasn't really defeated by the Afghans. His troops just got tired of fighting and, like a bad date, insisted on going home. Far from being an invincible foe, these Afghans are bums on roller skates. Probably.
So maybe the president's new scheme to surge thousands of troops into Afghanistan and teach those Palookas a lesson isn't as alarming as it seems on the surface to us peaceniks. Maybe.
And then there's global warming. I was pretty much convinced that just about everybody but kooks and crackpots were on board with Al Gore on this. The world is warming at an alarming rate and if we don't do something soon we will have water lapping the outside of our bathtubs as well as the inside. The debate was over, it was agreed.
Now I find that the debate rages on. Skeptics are pointing out that 2008 was the coolest year of the past decade and was followed by a punishing winter that featured snow in Georgia and New Orleans, as well as a cold spell in Europe that had them feeding hot tea to the chimpanzees in Rome. Seriously.
Global warming is over, these people, some of them highly respected, like Freeman Dyson, the eminent physicist from Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, say. And they have statistics to back them. Unfortunately, so do the Gore-niks and they bear no relationship to statistics the other guys are using. I tend to stick with the Global Warmers, particularly when I look at the cheerleaders for the other camp---Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the rest of the Fox News coven---but there's one thing that bothers me.
That poor polar bear stranded on an ice floe whose picture they keep showing to demonstrate the case for warming. Very cute bear. Very alarming picture. But when you think about it, it doesn't make sense. Polar bears can swim. I read someplace they can swim 50 or 60 miles at a time. That bear isn't stranded on that ice floe, he's surfing.
If the case for global warming is so overwhelming why are the Gore-niks resorting to cheesy sentimentality to convince us? Couldn't they come up with better examples?
To me the thing that argues most persuasively for global warming is this: Why wouldn't there be man-made warming? Do you really think that we earthlings can release vast clouds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere year after year without having an effect on that atmosphere? And if not warming, what? That's what I think but I'm less sure than I used to be, I'll tell you that.
And finally, there's President Barack Obama's plan to bail out the banks. I was disturbed at the thought of rescuing institutions that had plundered the investments and savings of millions of Americans, but I was willing to go along. What am I, a Nobel Prize-winning economist?
Then Paul Krugman, who is a Nobel Prize-winning economist, said that the plan filled him with "a sense of despair." And he's a lefty.
I don't know what to believe anymore. Hot tea to chimpanzees?
Don Kaul is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he's wrong.