Krauthammer's Iraqiphobia

Monday, November 20, 2006
Or maybe Malikiphobia.
Are the Arabs intrinsically incapable of democracy, as the "realists" imply? True, there are political, historical, even religious reasons why Arabs are less prepared for democracy than, say, East Asians and Latin Americans who successfully democratized over the last several decades. But the problem here is Iraq's particular political culture, raped and ruined by 30 years of Saddam's totalitarianism.
That's certainly true but part of Saddam's notoriety as an above average muslim thug comes from the fact that some Iraqi's did attempt insurrection and his reaction was not much different than the Syrians or the Algerians or the Iranians or the Jordanians or the Saudis or the Egyptians or the Turks or the Paks or the Afghans or the Somalis or the Sudanese or the Libyans or the Lebanese ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
But unless the Iraqis can put together a government of unitary purpose and resolute action, the simple objective of this war — to leave behind a self-sustaining democratic government — is not attainable.
Can't argue with that.


Syl said...

Well, here's the crux, as stated by you in an earlier thread:

My problem with Iraq is the governments refusal to assert a monopoly on the use of force.

I agree with that statement. That's a very specific problem we and the Iraqis have to deal with.

But that specific detail concerning Maliki doesn't make Krauthammer an expert on the possibility of an Arab democracy (of some sort--we are very lax at defining exactly what that would be.)

The problem I see (and, of course, I'm no expert either) is that it will take this culture a heckuva lot longer to work through to this goal than most others.

I've always seen the Iraq project as giving the Arab a world a chance at it. However, my mistake was in forgetting how impatient Americans are.

And I'm quite disappointed in those conservatives who have jumped on the Iraqiphobia bandwagon due to the election. ISTM that they've mostly gone wobbly and that includes Bush.

Rick Ballard said...


If you want to dig through the archives at Belmont Club you can find comments that I wrote three years ago that said that there would be a civil war and the sooner it was over the sooner that building a real nation in Iraq might begin. I don't consider actual recognizable democracy to be compatible with Islam and outside of the sham of Turkey there is no evidence that it is.

Maliki has taken himself out - we just need to make an example of him (or let the Iraqi people make an example of him) and then try and 'manage' the damage of the civil war.

Gen Zebar ran some Iraqi Special Forces units into Sadr city while Maliki was busy kissing Turkish butt over the weekend.

Maybe the Iraqi people will get to take another shot at muslim theodemocracy after Maliki gets the boot. Whether they do or not depends upon their reaction to the destruction of Sadr's forces - and Sadr.

I don't want the US to leave at all - I just want to see ROE that minimize American casualties. That means a lot more dead Iraqis - including a much higher number of 'collaterals'. That's unfortunate but that's what they've earned to date. The 'collaterals' stand around and watch the IEDs being planted and not near enough of them warn American forces.

What goes around comes around.

Syl said...


How do you think Indonesia is doing? It's a muslim country.

And re civil war, it's not and will not be a civil war. There's too few sunni left for a civil war to occur.

Now if the shia start fighting other shia, then you might have a point.

Syl said...

As Mohammed at ITM puts it, neighboring countries are interfering so America has the right to interfere too and help Iraq find someone to take over for Maliki. Iraqis have totally lost faith in the government they elected.

Is it a lesson learned? Is it too late? We'll see.

He suggested Allawi (my choice) but fears he doesn't have broad enough support. (But if Allawi is thought to be competent and capable of 'fixing' things he might get more support.) He even suggested the Kurds may come up with some solution.

terrye said...


yes, when one side represents about 15% of the population, it is not a civil war, it is a potential massacre.

I read that a lot of the Sunni are going to Fallujah.

Knucklehead said...

It is possible that the Iraqis (and if it is true of them it may well be true of several other areas of the ME) need to have their knock-down, drag-out battle among themselves. Call it "civil war" or whatever makes sense. But until somebody is beaten bloody enough to give up while the remainder are beaten bloody enough to wish for and end to their bloodshed, they may well be incapable of figuring out how to move forward peacefully.

It is a shame that we don't have a press who would go there and figure out what is going on, who is who, what they are pissed off or frightened about enough to blow people up in bunches, and whether or not there's any good chance they can be made or convinced to get over it. And then tell us about it honestly.

Oh well. I seriously doubt the American people have the patience and attention span to let it play out. They certainly don't have information because there's nobody packing up large chunks of trustworthy information.

Syl said...


Remember for every shia there are 4 sunni and most of the shia are in Iran.

So that means in every middle east country, the shia are a tiny minority.

Except Lebanon and Iraq.

So let's just not go there. It's going to get worse in Lebanon as is and there was just another assassination of a cabinet minister there.

Knucklehead said...


So let's just not go there.

How do we not "go there"?

I doubt that you meant "let's no got there" in the "let's not even talk about this!" sense. If that is the case and you meant, instead, "we cannot let that happen" then how do we prevent it?

I was going to put these pointers in a post but I think they more properly belong here.

Instapundit points to M. Simon and Spengler who make cases that the Islam is breaking up - dying - and that the suicide bomber pehnomenon is a sign of that. M. Simon points to a two posts (one, two) by commenter Sgt. Mom.

It is certainly possible that the propensity for mass murder is a symptom of Islam's death throes as the modern world puts a stake through its heart. I've attempted to make the case that Islam cannot survive modernity in the past. I have some doubts but on the whole I suspect that Islam, for all its centuries of expansion, its bloody borders, its billion adherents, its rank as the "largest growing religion", and its vast petro wealth cannot survive the steam-roller that is modernity.

But even if the basic premise is true - Islam has essentially shot its wad and is now desperate and dying - how does that really matter to those of us who must live through the next hundred or more years while the desperate and dying carcass thrashes violently and murderously both internally and externally?

We cannot save the beast even if we were dumb enough to think doing so a good idea. We can't administer a morphine drip to calm it and ease its pain. We have to defend ourselves from the thrashing beast. We can't just sit around and tell the victims - past present and future - not to worry about it because, after all, it won't last forever because death is on the way.

If, as Spengler claims, Iran is a dead nation walking what good does that do us? The fingers on the buttons within the USSR seem to have had the sense to realize that there was no point to killing millions with some act of desperation. Have we some reason to believe the madmen who control a dying Iran will believe the same? If, in fact, they believe their apocalyptic nonsense it seems to me they'd be more inclined to push the button and try to take the infidels out.

Needless to say, I'm in one of my pessimistic periods where I have dark thoughts such as it may just be better, horrible as it would be, to just finish this thing. Nuke 'em now and get on with the cleanup 'cause we're gonna nuke 'em eventually anyway. Why wait till they strike the first blow?

Well, sorry, I've wandered.

Syl said...


Go back and check the link in the update to the post linking M.Simon and spengler.

I'm with the update guy.

Knucklehead said...


I read the "update" guy - the medic. The points he makes are among those which leave me some doubt re: the idea that Islam is dying. Islam has always been violent and it's adherents don't seem to have ever given a rat's butt who or how many they kill or what methods they use. So the suicide bomb and bomber may well be just more of the same. Same miserably, murdering ideology, different day.

And I find Spengleer's piece unconvincing. I'm pretty sure we could find many examples of high proportions of female populations engaged in prostitution without corresponding social collapse. And I imagine we could find examples of collapse without corresponding rises in prostitution.

That and the fact that if he presented some sort of evidence of demographic collapse in Iran then I must have missed it. All the data I've seen says they have a very young population. I didn't see anything that says their birth rate has fallen off a cliff.

What are the possibilities?

1. the "Islamic world" is gaining strenght and confidence and, therefore, surging again and merely repeating their history of violent expansionism.

2. the "Islamic world" is treading water and the violence emanating from it is just the modern manifestation of a systemic problem with Islam.

3. the "Islamic world" is struggling mightily with the unstoppable forces of modernization that are destroying it and is lashing out violently.

I suppose there are some more nuanced possibilities but I'm missing them at the moment. None of those three are attractive. They are all bad. As much as I dislike them all I'd prefer #3. At least that suggests and end somewhere even if a few more centuries down the road.

loner said...

Maybe reformation arrived somewhere near 200 years earlier for the crescent than it did for the cross. Wouldn't be much of a surprise given the improvements in the means of communication and transportation during the intervening 400+ years.

That would be #3.

truepeers said...

Knuck, I tend to #3, but there is something also to #1 given the situation in Europe. As I wrote in Terrye's post, above:

We need to remember that there is no such thing as a stable social order. All forms of society or culture are unstable. The ones that succeed in the long run are the ones that have a way of recycling the unstabilizing desire and resentment they create back into their system.

Islam has always had its way of recycling its resentments. Big man government has meant a continual series of big men coming to power, being overthrown by fundamentalist idealists who soon devolve into big man government, and so on, with many excess male bodies churned under. And Islam has had global conquest as its other outlet for the resentment in generates internally.

But today Islam has trouble expanding because it is a hopeless force in the global economy and so the cycle of big man governments becomes ever more unstable and their tendency to entertain the craziest fundamentalists and apocalyptic visions for the rest of the world grows accordingly.

We will either inject some imperative to change in democratic directions into this cycle or it will blow up and take a lot with it. Whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy is not really the question. Today's Islam is not, by and large. The question is whether Islam has to be totally destroyed before democracy can come to the ME, or whether some elements of democracy can be introduced to erode Islam from within until we get to some new world where "Islam" is not what it used to be.

It seems we should try chaning from within before we move on to preparing for the big blow. We also need to stop importing Jihadists to the West, chaps who couldn't get here under their own steam.

Knucklehead said...

Just to toss another voice/idea into the mix, Gates of Vienna seems to be arguing for strangling the Islamic world through quaranteen.

Rick Ballard said...

Thanks, Knuck. Fjordman (and the Baron and Dymphna) have a very clear view of the muslim enemy. Quarantine will be almost impossible to achieve unless Islam is redefined as a political system (which it absolutely is) and muslims treated the way we used to treat communists. No visas, no immigration and quick deportation for those overstaying current visas.

truepeers said...

The problem with Fjordman's argument is that it assumes that Islam is something to contain on the model of the Soviets, until it collapses a la 1990. But Communism collapsed because there was a national and Christian structure in the Eastern European cultures into which it could collapse. Even if we set up a quarantine and say half the population of the Islamic world starve (but would we allow that to happen - could our own societies overcome their ideological divisions and just let that happen?) what are they going to collapse into except tribalism which is entirely compatible with Islam - it's most unlikely that they would go back to some wholly pagan religion. So, as long as there is oil wealth in the ME and tribes in need of fighting and building states to control this wealth and power, the problem remains. Either we play along with the big men until we no longer need their oil, or we try to convert the people to Christianity and/or democracy and give them an alternative to Islam as it exists today.

And what would it take to mobilize a serious quarantine - much of the European and Asian world would have to come on board and commit to the blockade, even as everyone wants the oil. It seems to me more probable than that we could mobilize these many peoples on Islam's borders to fight, colonize, and convert. But obviously we are a long way from either possibility at the moment.

Bostonian said...

"We cannot save the beast even if we were dumb enough to think doing so a good idea."

Like you, I have phases of deep pessimism.

But I do not view our presence in Iraq as any sort of attempt to "save" Islam- (if that is what you meant)-just the opposite.

Evolution occurs more rapidly when there are external pressures.

Bostonian said...

And Rick,
I think you are right, that Islam (as it is) is incompatible with democracy (indeed any sort of rule by man).

I think we do a favor to ourselves and to future generations by ushering in that realization and by forcing Islam to evolve somehow. The critical change that has to happen (IMO) is the recognition of freedom of conscience.

Christians fought for a couple of centuries, I think, over that one. That change, if it can happen, will not happen overnight and will probably not happen without external pressure applied to the adherants of this religion.

Syl said...

4. It's all about sex. The upsurge of rape and sexual assault by muslim males is becoming more and more documented. Britain (once the PC mentality lets the statistics have wider dissemination). Sweden. Egypt (where a blogger was just arrested for pointing out the assaults on women in downtown Cairo.)

Perhaps the reason for the upsurge in sexual assaults is globalization of the female body and the muslim male just cannot cope.

Sharia law is very very strict.

Also recently we heard from an ex-jihadi who was indoctrinated into the suicide school solely for the virgins in the afterlife. He said it is a very very powerful incentive for the muslim male.

(Though Butt, the al Qaeda recruiter in Britain interviewed a couple years ago, denies this and I don't think sex was a big thing with Arafat's arguments when he started the suicide bomber movement.)

Unfortunately I doubt the possibility of bigwhig clerics/mullahs issuing a fatwa declaring masturbation halal.

All those males. All those untouchable women. What's a jihadi to do?

Syl said...

On the other hand, that fatwa probably wouldn't do anything anyway. It's not about sex, it's about power over women.

I'd be remiss not to add that.

Rick Ballard said...


The problem with the concept of an Islamic Reformation is that it ignores the fact that the Koran is "unchangeable" - and read in its original language. The Christian Reformation erred many times in its initial exegesis through mistranslation compounded by flat misunderstandings of intent. Those errors led to the diversity of denominations in existence today - and to very widespread acceptance of the idea that "there is no one true perfect Christian way of understanding".

The muslim sects are divided on a much narrower basis and the basic precepts of haram/halal which establish a world divided into two separate classes is absolutely clear to any Arab speaker. That clear division is the basis of the death cult and it can't be removed or truly deemphasized without leading to very sustainable charges of heresy.

If you want an example of the depth of the hypocrisy embodied in haram/halal just study the remarks of the revered Sistani who firmly declares that it is haram to blow up fellow muslims. He says absolutely nothing about non-muslims for which I hope that he manages to make it very close to a very big blast prior to the end of his miserable existence.

Bostonian said...

Yeah, Rick,
I know, I know.

I had an unforgettable conversation with an Egyptian co-worker years ago, who assured me that the Koran was the literal word of God.

Still, people find a way when they *have* to. Humans have a nearly unlimited capacity for rationalizing whatever needs to be rationalized (witness my stepmom who thinks that the Kelo decision was ultimately conservative).

But there will be no change unless pressure is applied. Seventeen hundred years of jihad attest to that.

Seneca the Younger said...

The problem with the concept of an Islamic Reformation is that it ignores the fact that the Koran is "unchangeable" - and read in its original language.

Oh, for God's sake. The Koran is no more "unchangeable" than the Bible. If it weren't, there wouldn't be so many differences in how Islam is observed --- eg, Islamic eastern europeans don't wedar head scarves, and doi drink alcohol.

Rick Ballard said...

For which they would be tried convicted and punished in every sharia court throughout the ME.

What heretics do away from the reach of the law is meaningless.

Let me know when women are wandering around Riyadh without looking like sacks of rags.

Syl said...

The problem with the concept of an Islamic Reformation is that it ignores the fact that the Koran is "unchangeable" - and read in its original language.

Um, this is what the early Christians claimed as well.

Granted, it's obviously taking a helluva lot longer for Islam to begin to come to terms with this. And they've had centuries of Islamic thought and arguments to fortify Islam against assaults on this purity.

Rick Ballard said...

It's not at all what early Christians claimed. The canon wasn't even set for two hundred years and the early church fathers spent a great deal of time arguing original intent and meaning. "Unchangeable" and "inerrant" didn't show up for a very long time. The Jews didn't establish their canon until about the same time.

You're comparing apples and boxcars.

loner said...

What brought on reformation? What brought the Muslim Brotherhood into being? That is where, I'm coming to believe, the parallel exists. The Reformation greatly reduced the role of religion in the temporal aspects of life where Christianity held sway and it did so at tremendous cost to countless people who lived and died through centuries of turmoil while reformation played out. There's little reason to think a reformation in Islam, should it play out, won't result in the same, but worldwide.

Not really something I'd care to see happen. Our best hope remains, in my view, affording the maximum exposure possible through communications technologies to the material goods (and I mean everything) available to those who embrace modernity—pathetic as that may read.

truepeers said...

What brought on reformation? What brought the Muslim Brotherhood into being? That is where, I'm coming to believe, the parallel exists. The Reformation greatly reduced the role of religion in the temporal aspects of life where Christianity held sway

-Well just because the pre-Reformation church, as a social insitution, had a lot of power in temporal life does not mean that power was in essence Christianity. Maybe it was just the power typical of any pre-modern social institution, comparable in logic and structure to that of , say, the Chinese empires. Maybe the essence of Christianity - the model of Christ's life and teaching - is so radical in its call to universal reciprocity that it neither then nor now has been fully achievable in this world and is necessarily constrained by clerical and no-clerical institutions. But, I would suggest, the modern marketplace that you see as being pathetic Loner is actually a very positive step towards the Christian call to universal reciprocity and maybe that was what the Reformation was all about.

But then, if a Reformation is a return to, or a further realization of (whether in sacred or secular guise) the founder's revelation, then an Islamic Reformation would be a return to the revelation and practice of Mohammed. If this is so, you could argue that Islam has already had countles reformations, but none has served to bring Islam into modernity because modernity is essentially Christian and Islam is neither. In which case, we have every reason to be at war with the Muslim Brotherhood.

truepeers said...

To clarify the argument that modernity is essentially Christian, one would have to say that all of the Gnostic religions and ideologies that are perhaps the more apparent "essence" of modernity are Gnostic responses to Christianity, and that modernity is some kind of dialectic between Christianity and the heresies that are typical of it. That was Eric Voegelin's argument.

truepeers said...

"Unchangeable" and "inerrant"

-not quite the same as Eternal and Uncreated. Because however unchangeable a canon became in theory, Christianity necessarily situates itself in a prophetic tradition in which the creation and its revelation has been a partnership (if not an equal one) of God and man.

So, the realization that interpretation is necessarily involved in any "literal" reading will come more easily to Christians than to Muslims, especially when Christians are in contact with Greek traditions of reason. All religions change, no doubt, but Islam has clearly had a harder time of it than others because of its central doctine that it holds the eternal and uncreated truth, a doctrine that was designed precisely to counter the monotheism of the Jews and Christians who believed in a revelation that (had) unfolded in historical, human, time.

loner said...


I don't think the modern marketplace pathetic. Far from it. I do wonder though if some of you might not think it pathetic to use the modern marketplace (which owes little to nothing to any religious founder's teachings) to subvert the religious pathetic, but then maybe you don't think people who try to be good Moslems religious.

truepeers said...

I do wonder though if some of you might not think it pathetic to use the modern marketplace (which owes little to nothing to any religious founder's teachings) to subvert the religious pathetic, but then maybe you don't think people who try to be good Moslems religious.

-no I don't think it pathetic; good Moslems are certainly religious but they are also political (in Western terms).

-as for the modern free market, as Karl Polanyi showed, it is a very novel thing, no more than 300 years old. It was only ever able to emerge once in human history - much mitigates against it. And it was created by Christians. Does that prove it is a product of Christianity? No, but it certainly suggests it, especially when you look at how difficult other civilizations have had adapting to it even when its productive superiority has been demonstrated. Even people who make the decision to jump in, have an awful time throwing off the older ethical systems of, e.g., patron-client relationships, like today's Chinese. E.g., even with all their cheap labour, today's Chinese cars are more expensive than then need me because Communist officials have interests in and protect certain manufacturers.

What is a free market, where the centre does not hold, where creative ethical destruction reigns? It is a place where the individual traders are able to go to the margins of the world and act on their own, without benefit of ritual direction - i.e. challenging, destroying, and personally rearranging the ethical order - because they are able to incorporate centrality in themselves. I can only see this as an outgrowth of Christianity - though of course once the modern marketplace exists, anyone can learn to adapt to it and one need not be Christian to succeed in it. I see our secular Western culture as a secular form of (judeo or national) Christianity.

truepeers said...

Having said that, it seems that the Islamic insistence (where it can) on the universal performance of its rituals and the equality of all performers in their submission to Allah mitigages strongly against finding ways to adapt to modern market society, as the inability to do much with the vast sums of petrodollars, and much else, suggests.

loner said...


It's even easier to argue that curtailing the influence of Christianity as it actually existed in temporal life led to a political and social environment in which "The Great Transformation" was possible. Btw, have you read The Great Transformation?

truepeers said...


I read parts of it, some time ago. Anyway, Polanyi is frequently discussed in Canada and so yes, I am quite sure I would not agree with many of his political positions or historical interpretations if that is what you are suggesting. That's not to forget that he correctly identified how radical the transformation was.

But as for the power of Christianity in temporal life... How do you show that this power was essentially Christian? How do you point to the life and revelation of Christ to say everything the church did was "Christian" - surely you are not going to buy the church's line that it was, infallible. Some parts of the system of power were no doubt an articulation of Christian symbols, but shouldn't we acknowledge that there is something about all pre-modern "classical" civilizations that is shared in common, including certain kinds of hierarchies and authoratative understandings of the public scene, of which there is only conceivably one such scene shared in common in the classical world. This changes with the neoclassical revolution, with its privatization of the "public" imagination, in e.g. the creation of plays within plays.

Sure, that neoclassical revolution was not simply about the unchaining of Christian personhood to roam the world free of the old church. It was as much a marriage of Christianity with Greek thought, and as I suggested above with Gnostic ideologies and sects of a Christian type. But how would any of this have been possible without the radicalizing nature of Christ's revelation? Could the Jews, say, have invented free market capitalism? Or would they always have been restrained by an ethical order that kept a check on the kind of radical personal morality that Christian self-sacrifice engenders?

Of course the Jews adapted well to the free markeplace once it existed, just as did the theoreticians of the Enlightenment. But the Enlightenment was a way of codifying or theorizing what was already happening; it was largely a continental response to the expansion of the English-speaking world and market of the 17th and 18th centuries. The motive force for the free market came from the new protestant sects in tandem with neoclassicism. Is this last statement different from saying the motive force was the withdrawal of the Catholic church from temporal life? Not on the surface, but what is the core ethical or moral idea motivating both developments?

loner said...


I'm just interested in where you get your rather unique, in my experience anyway, perspective on Christianity and its influence in the world. Polyani seemed a very unlikely source. I've not read The Great Transformation, but I've read about it from time to time through the years.

What do you mean by neoclassical revolution?


truepeers said...

Loner, my thinking on Christianity has been shaped by a few people - I'm not sure the current Pope would argue too much with what I've said. But most important to this argument is the work of Rene Girard and Eric Gans. If you want to spend a little time thinking through Gans' innovative paradigm for historical thought, you can find my argument here developed in Gans' book, Originary Thinking, the second half of which includes a tour de force of what he calls "esthetic history", which he divides into a few periods: classical, neoclassical (the Renaissance), romantic, late romantic, modern, postmodern. Each period is marked by how esthetic forms unfold signficantly new ethical revelations. Gans uses - I think it is in this book - the forever pausing Hamlet as an example of how the neoclassical (already anticipating the Romantic hero of bourgeois market society) transforms classical revenge tragedy through a new model of the deferral of violent desires, in part through the multiplication of meaningful public scenes (and their privatization in the individual imagination) as symbolized by Shakespeare's innovation of the play within a play. Hamlet is a kind of marriage of Christianity and classical tragedy - neoclassicism

loner said...


I thought that was it, but it's been at least a year since I last looked through what I could find on Gans and Girard (whenever it was that I transcribed the story of Paul in Athens from The Bible at Roger's place) and thought it interesting insofar as it tries to answer some basic questions, but then I've been there before. Anthropology was my major and, though I was more interested in its hard science discipline, it was required that I do some course work in its social science disciplines.

Hamlet lends itself so easily to interpretation. Being me, I used to use it fairly often as the explanation for Macbeth. People kept telling Shakespeare that Hamlet was very good and all and that they understood that he was working out issues arising from the death of his son, but that the story didn't make any sense and there wasn't enough blood or laughter to cover this defect so Shakespeare, finally fed up with all the carping, wrote Macbeth and said, "Now leave me alone and let me write what I like" or words to that effect. Macbeth is my favorite play.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

[Knock within]
Open, locks, whoever knocks.
Enter Macbeth


truepeers said...

Gans on Hamlet

loner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
loner said...



For what it's worth, I think the Franco Zefrelli-Mel Gibson adaptation of six years earlier superior to Branaugh's full-length version.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

My one take on Hamlet that is possibly fairly original centers on the lines that end the most famous of the soliloquies. One of the concerns of the Renaissance was whether it was better to live a life devoted to thought or a life devoted to action. Shakespeare lived very close to the end of the question as a metaphysical concern and in the era where thought was definitively on the ascendant. It's possible to see Hamlet, in its entirety, as Shakespeare's commentary on the question.