A Clear Eyed View

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Andrew McCarthy has written a short but very clear analysis of the fundamental error impeding progress in the War on Terror. He identifies the crux of the matter in this paragraph:
Islamic countries, moreover, are not rejecting Western democracy because they haven’t experienced it. They reject it on principle. For them, the president’s euphonious rhetoric about democratic empowerment is offensive. They believe, sincerely, that authority to rule comes not from the people but from Allah; that there is no separation of religion and politics; that free people do not have authority to legislate contrary to Islamic law; that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims, and men to women; and that violent jihad is a duty whenever Muslims deem themselves under attack … no matter how speciously.
Further explication of the truly parasitical nature of Islam isn't really necessary. The world is fortunate that the parasite has evolved into two antagonistic strains, each willing to feed on the other. Encouraging each strain to make a full meal at home while working on containment measures may be the best that can be done for the moment.

I wonder when Grant and Sherman will be brought in to replace Casey and Abizaid? Soon, I hope.

27 comments:

truepeers said...

Well, we may be fortunate that it has evolved two (more really) antagonistic strains, but this was inevitable as soon as Islam grew to a size when not all could be focussed on killing or plundering the Infidels: conflict is inherent to the human condition and sectarian divisions will inevitably arise in any religion: even at the tribal level tribes will split and form new groups.

And this inevitable conflict has been the basis for any "democracy" there is in the Islamic world. While they don't have our kind of political democracy - except a few tentative experiments - they do have a lot of equality in their submission to Allah, and there is something of a decentralized market in religious-political leaders, fatwa shopping, etc. Encouraging the big winners in these markets to make "a big meal at home", to encourage some Darwinian selection that will likely lead to nuclear-tipped tyrants, promoting their particular apocalyptic vision, is not obviously a much better strategy than hoping and working piece meal that somehow these religious markets can be slowly broadened to allow a more peaceful exchange of political differences.

But you're right that we will probably have to put in a containment strategy, starting with the Muslim expnasion into the West, especially Europe at present. But instead of simply sending all the Muslims back from whence their ancestors came, we might first try to get across the message that the idea of a world living in peace once all are converted to submission to the true faith is an ideology as fantastical as any utopia to come out of the Western tradition, that Islam is as inherently conflictual and divisive as anything, and that is incumbent on Muslims in the West, those who enjoy the freedoms of the West, to take some steps in developing an Islamic culture that faces up to the needs of this world for people who can demonstrate some initiative in making new and improved differentiations of sacred and secular - i.e. in building a firewall around certain Koranic imperatives.

Now why would a Muslim do this? Well, the imperative to consider Allah absolutely other and to submit totally to his word cannot be simply a call to humility. For some, it is inevitably a license to interpret their individual will and desire as the will of Allah. At a certain point a faith that makes extreme demands on faith, downplaying any human exploration or partnership with God in building this world, slips into non-faith, however dogmatic. And it is this hubris that is ripping the Muslim world apart. If enough educated Muslims could come to terms with this reality, they just might push for some theological reforms that recognize the need for a humble understanding that humanity lives in a cloud and must not assume its understanding of God's revelation is anywhere near complete. They might assimilate more of the Western deferral to an unfolding historical self-understanding

In other words, they might be open to significant change - a long hope perhaps - when it is clear that the rest of the world realizes it must work to contain them and convert those who will. Only when we actively engage the Muslim world and put pressure on it to change can we have much hope it will.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Turkey == counterexample

Rick Ballard said...

Tru,

I think McCarthy covered your point with this: "Democratizing such cultures — in anything we would recognize as “democracy” — is the work of generations. It is a cultural phenomenon. It is not accomplished by elections and facile constitution writing … especially, constitutions that shun Madisonian democracy for the State Department’s preferred establishment of Islam and its adhesive sharia law as the state religion."

I don't agree that "they do have a lot of equality in their submission to Allah". The level of reciprocity between Sunni and Shia would have to transcend gunfire and bombs for that to be true. Both sides are all for submission - and as soon as the other side submits the difficulties will be at an end.

MHA - Find an Attaturk and close your eyes and cover your ears. The slaughter involved in bringing democracy to Turkey makes our Revolution look like a barroom dustup. I won't say that it's impossible but I can't see us standing aside and letting the necessary be done.

truepeers said...

I'm not sure Turkey is much of a counterexample. It was only a century ago, almost half Christian, I believe. Now there are only a very few left, the Christian Church is pretty much banned, individual churches are everywhere desecrated, the Armenians have been butchered and can't be honestly remembered, etc. If we are to have hope for Islamic democracy it must begin with an insistence that there be room for apostates and converts and non-Muslim minorities.

truepeers said...

Rick,

Yes it is the work of generations, and first steps are the hardest, etc. etc..

Both sides are all for submission - and as soon as the other side submits the difficulties will be at an end.

-is this your ironic take on the fantastic Muslim world view? Surely you don't believe there can ever be peace within Islam, as if Muslims are not first of all humans with competing desires and resentments. Because conflict is inevitable, it must be contained by whatever system is best suited to containing and recycling it. WHich is why we have moved towards free markets in the West, something Muslims will eventually have to learn if they want to survive, either themselves or the rest of us.

Seneca the Younger said...

Um, Rick, how do Islamic countries "believe" anything?

I'll grant you that Islamic authoritarian or totalitarian governments are run by people who believe that Islam should confirm them in their arrogant power, but six million odd Iraqis with stained fingers demonstrate that not everyone in an Islamic country thinks the same way.

Seneca the Younger said...

I'm not sure Turkey is much of a counterexample. It was only a century ago, almost half Christian, I believe.

Tru, does it even slightly worry you that (a) the Ottoman Empire was hardly a democracy, so the Armenian genocide has nothing whatsoever to do with Turkish democracy, just as the Holocaust has nothing to do with the Merkel government; and, (b) you were just the other day insisting that the West couldn't survive without forcing a standard of belief and behavior down to and including how one wears a scarf on everyone --- which seems, to me, indistinguishable in moral standing from the position the Turkish government takes.

truepeers said...

Seneca,

I have a grasp of the chronology. The point is that if the Merkel government were in active denial of the Holocaust, and were threatening other states that proposed to recognize it, as well as forcing whatever Jews survived in Germany to live with all kinds of restrictions on their faith, I'd say there was a problem with German democracy, which is not to reject Turkish democracy outright: it is better than what is found in other Islamic countries.

forcing a standard of belief and behavior down to and including how one wears a scarf on everyone --- which seems, to me, indistinguishable in moral standing from the position the Turkish government takes.

-they also allow people to smoke in bars in Turkey, which doesn't make me totally sympathetic with their democracy.

"down to and including..." Actually, it should read "up to". I made a defense for freedom, including the freedom to wear most signs of Islam, but I drew the line at the one that I saw (when in public) was antithetical to what is sacred in the west: face to face reciprocity.

I don't want to rehash that debate - but if you will allow one reflection on it, it seems to me you don't want to recognize that we must all make compromises if we are to live together, not just those deemed to be normative, powerful, hegemonic. There can be no such thing as a liberalism that does not defer to some paramount understanding of the sacred we all must share. The American nation is not first of all liberal, a creation of Paine or Locke or the Declaration of Independence. It is first of all a specific kind of nation.

As for "moral standing", I don't propose to judge Turkish morality, just their ethics, which is an important distinction, akin to the sacred/secular distinction. So much of our historical debate is ruined by people who think they can impose their moral judgments on the past, when what really matters are the kinds of ethics that prove amenable to an expansion of freedom that allows a society to survive its competitors or itself. Ethical choices entail all kinds of compromises with sacred morality. E.g. it's morally wrong to kill people, but that does not necessarily make capital punishment wrong.

terrye said...

Rick:

I am sorry, but when it comes to military matters I have more faith in Casey and Abizaid than I do in you or me.

And I think this the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim nonsense is getting old.

terrye said...

In the United Atates of America we used to buy and sell people like they were cattle and we did after our Constitution was written, so maybe we should ease up on the judgmental thing.

terrye said...

Just becasue Republicans lost the midterms is no reaso to go nuts.

Rick Ballard said...

Terrye,

Perhaps you should write to the Sunnis and Shia about good dead muslims - they're the ones making the most piles of them.

The top generals will follow Rumsfeld out the door. Booting those who have failed to execute their own plans, even if through no fault of their own, is a rather common occurence. There are plenty of generals willing to take on the chore and although they might do worse, they won't do a lot worse.

Do you think Mucky will let Maliki meet with Bush tomorrow? He wouldn't let him have dinner with him this evening so I'm wondering if he'll make him come back to Baghdad without seeing him.

Seneca,

You'll have to take up the style question with McCarthy - I didn't write what you quoted. "Peoples" would have been better than "countries", I suppose. Yeah all those purple fingers were truly magnificent. It's a pity that the people sporting them lacked the will to fight for that which they voted. Cowering before less than 1% of the population carrying guns seems to be a hard habit to break.

Tru,

It was 561 years from the Magna Carta to the Declaration. If we could figure out when the muslims were going to get to get to the Magna Carta stage we could rough out a possible start date for democracy.

truepeers said...

I hear you Rick, but I'm sure you also realize that containing them means, in effect, either eliminating any tyrant who comes along and threatens us, or attempting some sort of MAD regime with people who quite often don't care about this world as much as the next. This means, in effect, we either have to rule the Muslim world indirectly through our chosen tyrants, or we kill an awful lot of them, or we live in perpetual fear or dhimmitude. When that is clear to all concerned, and if containment really takes hold and wins the fight, might Islam not start to crumble or at least reform?

Ultimately perhaps our arguments are not in conflict; it is like everything a question of timing and will, no? In an ideal world, if we were confident and capable people and could impress this on others, we would not be averse to trying two things at once - containment and reform. But since we apparently don't have the will for that at present - nor even the will to really take on Iran - is there really any point in pretending we can do much of anything by way of containment or democracy? Arguing for democratization and reform in the ME really implies that we also radically change our sense of ourselves and our nations. Obviously getting the AMericans, let alone the Canadians, or even the French, to forego the "realist" appeasement and white guilt is a forbidding task. But we really need to dig deeper into the relationship between western renewal and Islamic renewal because ultimately we are living a crisis in which all the world's major civilizations are showing a lot of weakness and no one is obviously ascendant. We need more leaders of the right kind or it is going to be a very ugly future for the next few generations. Seeding the idea of democracy is at least a start, even if its short-term failures are now very likely.

truepeers said...

That should read "western renewal and Islamic reform" :)

Syl said...

Rick

Yeah all those purple fingers were truly magnificent. It's a pity that the people sporting them lacked the will to fight for that which they voted. Cowering before less than 1% of the population carrying guns seems to be a hard habit to break.

Fuck you.

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

Seeding the idea of democracy is at least a start, even if its short-term failures are now very likely.

It is a kind of experiment. Either our efforts will bear fruit or they won't. If they do, we'll go one way. If they don't, we'll be able to say at least we tried. It is a kind of solution to the white guilt problem you speak about. As the missiles fly, we'll assuage ourselves with at least we tried. But it may yet turn out to be a better future than that.

Rick Ballard said...

"But it may yet turn out to be a better future than that."

It could very easily turn out much better. Declaring the present government incapable and disarming the militias - using Grant and Sherman tactics rather than this group hug crap - could set the primary necessary condition. It would require establishing a Kurdish "Regional Guard" subject to call up by the Federal Government but it would be worth a try.

It would also require reducing Iran's infrastructure to rubble in order to give the Iranians something to occupy their idle hands. I don't think the realpolitik solution would work for more than a very short time even if its tried.

Ohlmert and Peretz really emboldened the Iranians with their fiasco over the summer and I'm pretty sure that the Iranians will be working with the Taliban and Hezbollah to make spring and summer '07 seasons to remember.

Interesting times.

truepeers said...

Yes Skook, it may turn out better. It is often easy to forget that history is little more than a movement from one relative instability to another.

Anyway, you may feel assuaged that at least you tried, but I don't know how i will resist exploding before the dimwits who will blame it all on America, assuming I get to work on a fallout shelter before then...

It's a fair question to ask what the purple-fingered, living in a place where no one had anywhere near a monopoly on the use of violence thought, underneath the hopeful smiles, they were voting for. I wonder has there has been any serious polling to find out? We need to learn the real lessons about the "Arab street" as we move forward.

Luther McLeod said...

Good conversation. To include the "fuck you". What was it, 8 million people, 8 million stories. Well I like it. I read you folks because you are smart and common-sensible.

This SOB problem we are involved in is ripping all our hearts. Forgive me my extrapolation, but I think all here desire a similar endgame. Many ways to reach it. Perhaps.

Alcohol talking here. But this is at least a 20 year war. It is the youth that we have to reach. We must somehow interdict the Friday sermon.

Else all is naught.

Rick Ballard said...

Luther,

Mookie's thugs hold the portfolio for education. Health and welfare too. Kinda like Nasrullah's thugs in Lebanon. Just one big happy Shia family providing guidance about what mosque is best for the kiddies.

Killing Sadr isn't an option - it's a necessity.

Seneca the Younger said...

I've got nothing whatsoever against the idea of killing al Sadr. Not to mention leaving his body in a Sadr City market wrapped in a pig skin.

But the notion that 99 percent of them are cowering makes no sense whatsoever, if only because they can't both be "cowering" and having all these firefights.

As far as the notion that the Iraqis can't handle the notions of democracy --- well, I remember old people telling me that colored people, or Nigras, couldn't handle the vote or do the same level of mental work that white people could.

Frankly, I'm kind of the opinion that Syl may have the better side of this argument.

Seneca the Younger said...

There can be no such thing as a liberalism that does not defer to some paramount understanding of the sacred we all must share.

Which means that you and I can't co-exist in the same "liberalism"? Or that my good atheist friends can't fit into your "liberalism"?

I disagree. Firmly. And refuse to submit to your notion of illiberal "liberalism."

Rick Ballard said...

"But the notion that 99 percent of them are cowering makes no sense whatsoever, if only because they can't both be "cowering" and having all these firefights."

Right. The masses are ready to rise and fight for freedom at any moment. You've definitely got history on your side and Islam is just like every other religion. Maliki didn't really snub Bush tonight and tomorrow all will be better.

Strong, irrefutable arguments there, Seneca. Sort of like that secret Israeli plan that led to their spectacular victory last summer.

India is the largest democracy in the world and fairly successful at it. Race and ethnicity have nothing to do with the potential for successful democracy and your cheap shots don't constitute rebuttal. Stick with Syl's argument. Save the pixels.

Luther McLeod said...

I don't disagree with you Rick. I am at heart a take no prisoner's type of guy. And Sadr should die, no matter the repercussions. But I do try to stay open minded. Not implying that you do not. And GD it Seneca I don't disagree with you either. Typical Libra I am, I suppose, always sitting on the damn fence.

Having said that, I stand by my delusion/illusion that we must somehow interdict the preaching to the youth, else we are in a thousand year war. Find the heart of the nest and alter it, hopefully for the better. The heart of this nest is the, stated in a simplistic sort of way, Friday night prayers.

Indoctrination and subjugation they are, pure and simple.

But I did like someone's suggestion today, in the blog world, for a Teller like effort to teach Arabic to a majority of the military. That would be a first and relatively (?) minor effort to defeat that which faces us. If we can't talk to them, directly, how can we possibly effect how they think?

Notice my use of "them". Ignorance or reality? We do argue from different cultures, do we not?

truepeers said...

Which means that you and I can't co-exist in the same "liberalism"? Or that my good atheist friends can't fit into your "liberalism"?

-no, it means that any liberal order in which we co-exist depends on some political compact that is pre-liberal, some agreement to hold a line, even to fight, with whatever illiberal means necessary, against that which would erode the basis for a liberal marketplace. We might disagree on what that is; one or another of us might not fight to defend some putatively fundamental line, but rather choose to act as a free rider or wise avoider of an unnecessary fight. But at some point, if no one is to defend certain lines, if no one is remind us that we have a commitment to some unity before enjoying the fruits of diversity, the liberal order will crumble. And this is even likely if we insist on seeing the normal as a sign of oppression rather than of a past compact on top of which the present liberal order has evolved.

terrye said...

Rick:

I do not want to see the prwar movement devolve into a bunch of kooks like the immigration people did. I am with Syl. You are in no position to pass judgment on the Iraqis, they live there. You just sit at your computer and bitch that more of them are not dying.

And Abizaid is a lot more qualified than you are when it comes to military matters. But it seems that trashing 99% of the Iraqi population is not enough, we not only have to demand that Sadr is killed we have to move on to firing all the generals and disbanding the Iraq governments. What is next? A nuke? how about firebombing all the mosques? Outlawing Islam?

You are becoming less reasonable all the time. Sad but true. I am with Syl here.

terrye said...

Hey, Rick btw Maliki met with Bushg. So I let Sadr "let" him after all. Wasn't that your question?