Democrats & Liberals Archives

Torn In Time- The Real Face of Tyranny In the Middle East

The tragedy of the Middle East is of a region that was half-conquered, half assimilated, and left with modern and ancient modes of thought, both incomplete, smashed in together. There is the conflict. There is our problem, and what we’ve managed to likely screw up with Iraq. We Americans and Europeans had the chance to grow out of our premodern modes of thought, to develop and evolve systems of thought consistent with our times and our newfound abilities.

Other nations have not made that transition so well, and they are left half stuck in the past, and half stuck in the present. This is the conflict that rages across the post colonial world, where the European Powers tried to create subjects, but were too mired in the fear of rebellion and in their racism to remake them as equals.

The word Islamofascist tries to make it out like its some sort of politcal movement. Really, it all represents a thirst for control of a world where the moderate means of control all seem to belong to a painful, humiliating past, one of forced assimilation. But since they seek control without equality, like their former colonial masters, they both follow the worst political traditions of our past, and create the same basic results.

This is a vulnerability that goes across racial and religious lines. This is the very human pursuit of power over one's enemies.

I attended a very interesting lecture yesterday by a guy named Bernard-Henri Levy, who was talking about his new book American Vertigo which detailed a recent trip of his across American. He said a very interesting thing about what our nation is, or rather what it isn't: Our nationality, he says, is not defined by blood, by language, by religion, or anything else except what Rousseau would call an act of will. This act of will serves to connect a broad range of people who often have no more in common but the dream of Democracy.

Even more interestingly for our purposes here, he talked about the manner in which we assimilate our immigrants. We know of the way France assimilates its immigrants, which is to tell them that they are to leave all that tehy were behind, and become essentially French. This is reflected in the measures to limit things like yarmulkes and headscarves in schools. Here, we obviously take a different path. We would never approve of a public school teacher telling a student to remove such religiously required or preferred articles of clothing. We have our social pressures, but there is no official requirement to assimilate.

What really got my interest, though, is what he said about the Muslims of Dearborn, Michigan. He found to his surprised that not only did the people he speak with identify themselves strongly as Americans, but that many of them wished to follow in the footsteps of other minorities, one saying that they wanted to be the new Jews in America. I want you people out there talking about the hatefulness of Islam and everything else to consider what is happening in that 80% muslim city.

America has always been about choice, about giving up the dream of absolute power over your fellow human beings, in return for being free yourself. It is this, and not merely the mechanical structures of a Democracy that America should be in the business of exporting.

What we are opposing in the Middle East is not political, nor religious, though it manifests in both those forms. It is the erroneous belief that by defeating one's enemies, that by taking arbitrary control of others, one can triumph and reach for a better life. It is this, and not some mysterious thing called Islamofascism that we are fighting.

Our methods can either reinforce the hateful impulse, or diffuse it and smother it out. We cannot expect the Middle East to sort itself out. And we can't force them to sort it out either. American Style Democracy, both Dr. Levy and I agree, is not instant, nor natural, nor inevitable. Our failure, so far, has been to truly reflect on that truth, and shape our efforts according. The Bush Administration went in thinking they could start to leave by August. They thought they could hand the mess over to Chalabi and the INC, and that the Baathist leadership could be smoothly replaced.

They did not recall that the last time we successfully created Democracies, we managed the feat through extended occupations, after having secured both countries. They also forgot that the Iraqis did not have much experience of our kind of Democracy, nor would they have over three decades of sadistic Stalinist rule.

Democracy is what one could term a strange attractor, a form in the space of possibilities that comes as a result of different factors interacting together. We have refined our democracy over time, dealing with the adverse phenomena that often make a democracy such an institution in name only. Our institution was not fully realized ahead of time.

Our system is by no means perfect or ideal, but since the citizens it deals with are neither of the above, it fits us rather well. It is a system in a constant process of reinvention and refinement, as it evolves alongside the society in a perpetual feedback loop. Our freedoms help to maintain this loop, to keep it working.

We have allowed the people to become the ones determining the nature of our Republic, rather than some preacher, military official, or other official. Sure, there are a lot of grumbling preachers, officers, and other elites who think that's a problem. Hell, we all disagree with our government's decisions from time to time, and we look at the majority that defeated us still convinced we were right. The difference is that we can voice this disagreement, persuade others, organize with them and perhaps change things for the better if enough people decide, for one reason or another, that we are right. In dictatorships, the leaders can pretty much permanently get in the way of things being changed for the better, at least until the resistance becomes violent.

Here resistance can build and be let off more peacefully, and more productively. In the Middle East, however, they learned their lessons as to how to wield power from those simply seeking to arbitrarily serve their own interests, at the expense of those they considered less developed peoples. It combines the worst of both worlds: the old tribal prejudices combined with Europe's right-wing nationalism and Stalinism. Europe's problem, as Levy would point out, is that many people in Europe are still mired in those philosophies, which treat nationality in terms of religion, ethnic identity, and language.

The backward-looking parts of European political tradition conspire with the backwards looking parts of Middle East Society. The dreams of dominance arise, and everybody jockeys for the lead. Everybody competes, but the ground isn't a fair playing field where the losers can count on the winners being forced by the rule of law to respect their human rights. No, instead it's a system where the losers can often count on being kicked around or even purged. That's never been a recipe for peace and stability. Combined with today's powerful military technology, it's become a bloody, hellish problem for societies like ours, not the least part because must of us no longer have experience of systems unlike our own.

The Right's response to the terrorists has not defeated this iniquity, only gotten us involved in its vileness. Is isolation the answer for this? Not just no, but hell no! We don't even really have a choice anymore, with the way we've become globalized. If we withdraw, it is only as a prelude to our own destruction as a prosperous society, to our collapse as a world power.

What do we do? I don't think any ideology we have has a truly correct, much less easy answer for that. One thing for sure, though: it won't help us if we repeat the mistakes of foreign colonizers past. We can't be arrogant about this, because this is an enterprise that requires cooperation from both sides for it to work. It won't help us if we start spouting racist views, or coming down on their religion as delusional or barbaric. Our friends in Mother Russia didn't make many friends with us, or the Arabs with that attitude. We should not expect to, either, if that's going to be our approach.

Also, we can't look at this as if its going to take care of itself. Democracy in Japan did not take care of itself. Nor did it do so in Germany, where we basically had to remake the system from the ground up. A Democracy like ours is not simply about electing a government. It's about there being a feedback loop between the populace and its government, so that when the people suffer for the choices of the government, the people have the ability to bring the government to heel. If the government can invade their lives without cause, secretly or not, that endangers this system. If a majority in government can persecute its rivals and outlaw their participation, this endangers the system. When one's faith and one's political beliefs can become a matter of legal persecution, this endangers the system.

We've done something marvellous here in America, and it's not merely a matter of the fact that we can vote for our leaders. What we have here is a society of radical egalitarianism, where the descendants of so many enemies, so many rivalries, so many religions, races, and languages have not only made a home for themselves, but done so without sacrificing everything they were before. All this, and we live in peace! America represents a nation based, as Henri-Benard Levy has it, on an act of will, between people who have little else in common.

The idea of this scares many, even in our own country. People still thirst for control, yearn for the simplicity of a government where things are decided, rather than perpetually argued about. We still admire kings and queens, princess and princes in this country, still find ourselves somewhat impressed with people who can call themselves lord or sir. Many still think to some extent that somehow that if we just get the right people in, everything would be hunky-dory, and we wouldn't need those pesky limits on power. Some people think they've gotten that with Bush.

Trouble is, people are imperfect. It only takes one bad leader to ruin things for a nation which invests its authority in an arbitrary power. Even good leaders can ruin their nations if they take things too far. Democracies can recover because their are limitations on the damage that our leaders are permitted to inflict on the people, and a mechanism for replacing them with new leaders on a peaceful basis. Democracy works because we aren't forced to live with our rulers when their weaknesses overtake their strengths in office. The civil liberties that liberals treasure are not just there as luxurious freedoms, but to preserve the ability of people to make informed choices about their candidates, and to keep the weaknesses of any one leader from turning our Democracy into a Tyranny. Bush's aggressive pushing of the envelope on this leadership is not doing us any favors, but only invite future abuses to occur.

In the end, the act of will that consitutes our Democracy is an admission that we as human beings can be weak, can be wrong, and can go in a direction with our choice of leaders that we will regret later, because of that, we entrust ourselves to a law that says two things: our government will be one of our choosing, whether directly or indirectly, and we will willingly sacrifice the ability of that government to do all that we would like it to do, because we recognize that this wish is ultimately in vain, given the limits of mankind's faculties, and the limits of our foresight. In exchange for that, we give ourselves what so many who trusted their governments with absolute power rarely get, at least without civil war and strife: a second chance to get things right, where that's possible.

With right-wing governments, with totalitarian, authoritarian, and fascist governments, the past is ever inescapable, and one minor slip up can destroy one's future. Tyranny is the past always reaching out to steal the good things of the present. It is living under the power of those that the public will once gave power to, but who have not since had to answer to those who gave them their power.

With democracy, the gift given is the future. When the next election comes, the incumbents can muster all the reasons for winning the last election that they would like to, but that will mean nothing if the people no longer believe them fit to hold that office. As much as some would like their rivals to wallow in perpetual despair, our system allows them the hope of change.

The gift of that hope to us is peace. In a system where we can speak freely and freely join with others who believe as we do, we have the opportunity to vent our frustration, to vent our angers and fears before they push us over the edge of civil behavior. Looking back at Bernard Henri-Levy's experience of Dearborn, we can perhaps reflect that the problem is not strong religious belief, but a general atmosphere of violent defensiveness about viewpoints. Where we must fight others to see our beliefs manifested, we surround ourselves with defenses and react violently when outside forces threaten to break through. The Muslims in Dearborn, though, need no such violence to live their lives according to their religion and their conscience.

Here in America, you need not concern yourself with what your neighbor thinks and believes to ensure your own freedom to think and believe freely. To borrow Jefferson's phrase, it neither breaks your leg nor picks your pocket.

Elections cannot be our own goal, as we attempt to spread Democracy. We must spread the respect for other's freedoms, the respect that lets us live and let live. If we just drop a system on people who have not learned it, we may spread elected governments in the world, but they will not be Democracies as we recognize them.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2006 8:06 AM
Comments
Comment #125924

Wonderful post…and if you ever choose to seek public office, you’ve got my vote.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at February 16, 2006 12:55 PM
Comment #125949

Great post Stephen. Not much to add. Borrowing from the thread on the right, it is the culture of freedom and democracy that allows religious Islam to flourish peacefully in dearborn.

And it is the culture of authoritarianism and retribution that chokes liberty and bears Sharia and oppression in the Middle East.

Posted by: CPAdams at February 16, 2006 1:45 PM
Comment #125950

And if circumstances ever permit, you can count on my vote too.

Posted by: CPAdams at February 16, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #125963

CP:
“Great post Stephen.”

So, what else is new?

“Not much to add.”

Nope, as usual the man covered the whole issue, perfectly. :^)

Posted by: Adrienne at February 16, 2006 2:15 PM
Comment #125997

OK, just to be disagreeable:

People still thirst for control, yearn for the simplicity of a government where things are decided, rather than perpetually argued about. We still admire kings and queens, princess and princes in this country, still find ourselves somewhat impressed with people who can call themselves lord or sir.

Are you kidding? Monarchies are tolerated by modern societies as tourist attractions, and reminders of national history, not as examples of simpler times. Times were in fact very complex under this kind of system, because special status and favors were given to so many land thieves, cattle rustlers, and court prostitutes, in addition to religious foundations and any other special interest able to get the ear of the ruler. That is the comparison that applies to the Bush administration.

We are not going to spread democracy anywhere. Democracy is something that occurs out of an historical progression. Occupation to produce democracy would have to involve a larger number of troops than we will ever put into another country again. Also, you would have to control the entire territory of a country, which many national governments, like Colombia, can not do, and we can not do it for them.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 16, 2006 3:48 PM
Comment #126038

Steve
If the Muslims in Dearborn want to do something constructive instead of wishing for Utopia,they can volunteer as translators for our government in this war.

Viewing this thing with no rose colored glasses on,the fact remains that people want to kill us because of what we believe in.

Beautifully written piece,but a little too much pie in the sky.

However,as a collegian,idealism is to be lauded.

In a few years,after a couple dirty boms have been blown up somewhere causing untold catastrophe,I wonder what your thought will be then.

Overall though,I’d be proud to call you my son (little eagle).

Too bad more of your generation don’t have your passion and intellect

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 16, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #126041

Ray-
Modern monarchies, of course, are tolerated as figurehead that represent the people in a symbolic fashion. By why tolerate them at all?

Because we’d like to think that one person can represent us all, unite us all, stand up for us all. If you think that’s dead in modern times, look at all the strong national leaders that have arisen from time to time, and political leaders beside. Look at Bush. Despite all we are as a Democratic people, we let a son succeed the father as leader of our country, and many of stand by and even cheer him on as he gathers dangerous amounts of power to himself.

No, we’re not past it. It’s part of human nature. That’s why we need Democracy and need freedoms: because there are times when the majority gets carried away, or chooses wrongly. With freedom we can move society back to moderation, and not be blocked by our own government. With Democracy, we can replace those who misuse their power.

Now let me clear on something, the impulse towards an apparently simpler system does not mean that this is this will always be the result. As often as not, it only leads to a different kind of complex. That’s beside the point, though. It’s the motivation that I’m pointing out, and I do so in the process of critiquing what comes of it.

As for historical progressions, the trouble is, these nations will never see a world where their history can evolve on its own. Even our history is not without interventions from outside.

We could suppose that America, if it chooses not to get into the business of encouraging Democracy, will simply stay out of things. That will not be the case. We will intervene, from time to time, and we will have choices to make.

I believe we should center those choices around the expression and manifestation of our best impulses. We should act abroad towards the goals of freedom, tolerance, human rights, and our unique individualism.

But not naively. Not recklessly. Not in any half-assed manner. War is not our only means of spreading Democracy, nor should it be.

What I’m suggesting is that we start living out our ideals on the world stage.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2006 5:06 PM
Comment #126054

We only intervene when we have interests, like oil, at stake. You are beginning to sound like you think we are going to elect someone Bartlett on The West Wing as president. That would be nice, but it is not going to happen.

A vanished world : medieval Spain’s golden age of enlightenment by Chris Lowney, might be a good book to read for people who do not know how much European civilization was influenced by Islam after 700 AD.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 16, 2006 5:25 PM
Comment #126061

SE-
People do want to kill us. They want to kill us because that’s the idea of power they are most familiar with, most beholden to. That’s the cultural problem.

I think you make the mistake of believing that the problem is inextricable from other aspects of their culture. Look over in Dearborn, though, and you see Arab culture and ours coexisting. In part, this can happen because what America does is that it lets people graft their ethnic, religious, and linguistic identities onto their newfound identity as Americans. What that newfound identity does is let America’s rich mix of other identities and other sensibilities soak on through their character. The result is that people’s identity as Americans, neither completely destroys nor preserves intact the original sensibilities.

Look over in France. Look at their mistakes. They expected what many on the right would expect of the Arabs and Muslims assimilating into our communities now: full abandonment of the former identity. Naturally, great big communities of these people balked. The idealistic notion that France should be united in its mindset actually deepened the division by drawing strict cultural lines that those who wanted to preserve the best of their culture balked at. If we do the same, I imagine the results will unfold likewise.

For my part, I think the very fact that the Arab and Muslim immigrants of Dearborn identify so closely with us is a gift we should not minimize in importance. The fact that they consider themselves Americans, that they stand with us as fellow citizens is a victory in and of itself. The fewer people we have living in aienation from the rest of us, the more secure this nation is. Were they not more loyal, we would be racked with the anxieties of our allies about their populations.

Sometimes cynicism is just like a negative version of Naivete- one refuses unreasonably to believe the positive the way a naive person would refuse to believe the negative. If we do believe the worst about the Arabs and Muslims in this country, we could end up writing ourselves a self-fulfilling prophecy, where our distrust and fearful reactions embitter those who were loyal to us, and make of them a knife to pierce our backs. Let those who would betray us in this country make the first mistake. Otherwise they are innocent until proven guilty.

I have no problem in going after those who would betray our country, those who would kill us. My article, though, is as much about what we do, and what kind of character we have as a nation. If we give up our freedoms because we fear an attack, then we have crippled our best selves for the uncertain chance of safety. I would rather die than be so weak as to back down from my values as an American, just to be safe from terrorists.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2006 5:52 PM
Comment #126065

Ray-
Bartlett? No, not necessarily. I think it’s going to be way more complicated than the liberal-convenient plots of West-Wing would have happen. And I’d say more fascinating. The first thing we can do is fight back against the abuses of the system going on now.

I think, though, we need to start pushing something else than the watered-down isolationist thinking we’re giving people as a party. We’ve been caught in the partisan trap of simply contradicting our rivals. That will not do. We have to articulate strong, idealistic policy that shifts the paradigm away from their mindset. It doesn’t have to be the opposite. It just has to be good, with a real world chance of working.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2006 6:01 PM
Comment #126091

S.D., Bush has gone a long way in creating enemies for us. I do not think that a change in policy or government will allow us to be viewed as a positive force in the world for a long time. If we get a more sensible president, it would help, but people will always be wary that our government can change back.

Have you read about the effort by everyone else in the world to get the prison in Guantanamo shut down? Greenland is melting, and we are still arguing about global warming. Our government is a disgrace, and no one is looking to us for leadership in anything.

If you are not thinking in Sorkinesque terms, then how about Edwards? He seems fairly sensible. I agree with you that we have a problem when we keep looking backward instead of into the future, but our opponents do not believe in the future, only a present with familiar platitudes from the past.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 16, 2006 7:38 PM
Comment #126122

Stephen,

I don’t know if this is off topic;

http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/news/world/13871545.htm

“Popular Turkish movie portrays American soldiers as brutal killers

By Matthew Schofield
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BERLIN - A Turkish-made film that portrays American soldiers in Iraq as brutal and callous killers is setting attendance records in Turkey and has just opened throughout Europe.
From the opening seconds to the dramatic conclusion, the movie, “The Valley of the Wolves - Iraq,” portrays Americans as wearing the black hats.”


The movie opened in Turkey Feb, 3rd, and is now also showing in Europe.

Posted by: Rocky at February 16, 2006 8:30 PM
Comment #126168

Ray-
Even if it’s difficult to turn around our problems in the short term, it’s best to start early. It’s a big job to do. Bush may have done great harm to our system, but he cannot stay around forever.

We will, in a little over two years from now, have the chance to turn things back. That is Democracy. The Ship of state is one whose navigation is always difficult, but whose course can always be corrected.

What we need are good voices, and new ideas. The Liberal ideas of yesteryear were good for their time, but now new challenges face us. I don’t think we should wait for the chance to become the majority again before we start rethinking things. In fact, I think we stand a better chance of reclaiming the advantage and keeping it if we can manifest a new vision. Edwards is a nice guy, but if he’s not got a lot of solid ideas for policy he’s a liability.

As a writer I know that words are often not trustworthy, especially when their authors fail to back them with substance. We can wield our influence on the system best when we can combine the emotional drive of aesthetic image appeal with foundation of fact and substance that best justifies it.

If we focus too much on image, we end up like the Republicans are now, trapped in a world of mutually referenced illusions.

In short it is important to both say and do the right things, and to keep ourselves sharp about both things.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2006 10:25 PM
Comment #126186

Bush can not stay around forever, but I am not sure how much permanent damage he has done to our system, and whether or not the problems he has created will continue even without him.

Will we ever have fair elections in our country again without interational monitors? Will anyone trust the results of the elections, or will future governments be regarded as illegitimate as this one?

The Turkish film mentioned by Rocky is an example of how we are now viewed in a country that is an historic ally of ours. The residual resentment of Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Wolfy was exemplified on Sorryeverybody.com after the 2004 election.

Democrats are hoping that McCain is nominated by the Rplcns if they are to continue in the presidency. I just remembered today why he will not be the nominee, when someone in another forum mentioned the SC primary in 2000. McCain was disqualified as their nominee because he adopted a child from Bangladesh. Phil Graham of Texas, a former democrat, was a frontrunner for the Rpblcns years ago until he appeared on 60 Minutes with his wife, who is of Asian ancestry. His funding dried up right after that. That is the way things are in their party.

My own favorite on the democratic side is Hilary, but I admit that it is mostly prejudice on my part. She grew up a mile from where I live, and I would like to see Bill Clinton back in the White House, even if only as first gentleman. She is a conservative who was elected to the senate in a liberal state, and the Rpblcns always manage to make fools of themselves over her. She probably does not have the ambition, but she certainly has the knowledge and experience.

Thank you for the intellegent discussion.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 16, 2006 11:29 PM
Comment #126185

Bush can not stay around forever, but I am not sure how much permanent damage he has done to our system, and whether or not the problems he has created will continue even without him.

Will we ever have fair elections in our country again without interational monitors? Will anyone trust the results of the elections, or will future governments be regarded as illegitimate as this one?

The Turkish film mentioned by Rocky is an example of how we are now viewed in a country that is an historic ally of ours. The residual resentment of Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Wolfy was exemplified on Sorryeverybody.com after the 2004 election.

Democrats are hoping that McCain is nominated by the Rplcns if they are to continue in the presidency. I just remembered today why he will not be the nominee, when someone in another forum mentioned the SC primary in 2000. McCain was disqualified as their nominee because he adopted a child from Bangladesh. Phil Graham of Texas, a former democrat, was a frontrunner for the Rpblcns years ago until he appeared on 60 Minutes with his wife, who is of Asian ancestry. His funding dried up right after that. That is the way things are in their party.

My own favorite on the democratic side is Hilary, but I admit that it is mostly prejudice on my part. She grew up a mile from where I live, and I would like to see Bill Clinton back in the White House, even if only as first gentleman. She is a conservative who was elected to the senate in a liberal state, and the Rpblcns always manage to make fools of themselves over her. She probably does not have the ambition, but she certainly has the knowledge and experience.

Thank you for the intellegent discussion.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 16, 2006 11:29 PM
Comment #126213

ray,

“The Turkish film mentioned by Rocky is an example of how we are now viewed in a country that is an historic ally of ours.”

Unfortunately I think that it goes further than that already.
We have many fences that need to be mended in order to regain the trust of the world. We still have most o four allies but I could imagine that they now view us with a raised eyebrow.

Look, I am for democracy everywhere. The more the merrier.
But that said, we appreciate what we earn more than what is given to us. We should help where help is asked for. Where the populus wants to earn democracy, we should stop at nothing to make sure that it happens.
There will be some failures, some folks probably just aren’t ready to give the commitment that is required by the democratic process. There were folks missing the old communist regieme in Russia.

To borrow a phrase, “Democracy is advanced citizenship”, true free speech is defending the right of someone you disagree with.

From;

http://www.bartleby.com/65/to/totalita.html

“totalitarianism

(ttl´´târ´nzm) (KEY) , a modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society. The citizen’s duty to the state becomes the primary concern of the community, and the goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect society.”

Security is only an issue to those in a fearful state. Democracy must be fought for to be truely appreciated.

Posted by: Rocky at February 17, 2006 1:06 AM
Comment #126224

“We still have most o four allies”

That should be;

“We still have most of our allies”

Damn fingers!

Posted by: Rocky at February 17, 2006 1:27 AM
Comment #126262

Very nice article and well worth reading. I wish more of your party would take these kinds of critical views.

btw, France’s obsession with Rousseau’s vision of democratic society has hurt them before, and it does seem they have made the same mistake again. The founding fathers foresaw these same dangers in conceiving our nation and you are right to warn us against the same; we can’t expect perfect assimilation into every aspect of our culture, but we can expect an agreement to be civil.

Posted by: Amani at February 17, 2006 3:53 AM
Comment #126273

SE- How do you read rose colored glasses into this? I’d have to say exactly the opposite- while ambitious, Steven is more down to earth than the French, President Bush, and most of our other pols have proven themselves. I am proud to call such a man my fellow citizen.

Posted by: Amani at February 17, 2006 4:45 AM
Comment #126285

Amani and Steve

And so am I.

Far and away I have always felt that Stephen is the most insightful and least partisian writer on this blog….he is a perfect example of what all our “young” people should be and can aspire to.

And I say this knowing full well that he and I have crossed swords on many issues in the past and imagine that we will do so in the future.

However,Muslims here ,becasue of forced assimilation thanks to our mandatory education laws(kids,unless home-schooled,must attend school until age 16) are literate and to a limited extent can criticially think.

That is not the case on the Arabian pennunsula.

Untold millions are illerate.

The internet,newspapers,magazines and the like are unless to reach the masses.

As a result,as been the case for centuries,oral histories are the primary way people learn there,handed down from generation to generation.

Except,of course,for the madresses.

Those schools indoctrinate hate and intolerance,which in turn also gets passed down to the masses.

“Our” Muslims(US and for the most part educated Muslims living in Europe are a different breed..completely.

Having the benefit of principled discussion that hasn’t brainwashed them,we can at least have a “detante” with them.

How to fix that problem….which goes far beyond Bush and his policies….is the question that we refuse to confront.

Saudia Arabian text books espouse hatred for Jews and the West (and they are supposed to be “educated”!).

Nit wit Imams advocate cutting heads off satirists and writers….themselves often illerate..and the only thing that qualifies them as an “imam” is that they have memorized the holy Koran chapter and verse and have given it “their” intrepertion.

The solution is educating the masses I think.

The question is how.

By educating the masses I mean a two fold issue:educating us here in the West and then the hard issue of educating the illerate.

I have my personal thoughts on that particular issue but Stephen would go nuts and this is his thread.

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 17, 2006 5:49 AM
Comment #126403

Stephen (and all),

Very insightful and thought provoking post and replies.

While perhaps only loosely related something that has baffled me since it began is the religous fanaticism that has led to destruction and death regarding the infamous cartoons. I’m stuck with the dumb question, “how do you overcome religous fanaticism”?

Even education can only go so far. I live in the “bible belt” and I can assure you their views, and thus their reaction or response to “all” issues, are tempered more by religion than any level of academic achievement.

I’m all for expending all “reasonable” efforts to attain a peaceful resolution prior to the use of “bombs and bullets” but, as liberal as I am, I sometimes fail to understand how we can overcome some threats.

Color me baffled.
KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at February 17, 2006 12:31 PM
Comment #126405

Oops, “I can assure you their views”, is nonsensical.

ie: who is their?

I should have said, “I live in the “bible belt” and I can assure you the views shared by many of my neighbors, and thus their reaction or response to “all” issues, are tempered more by religion than any level of academic achievement.”

Sorry, KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at February 17, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #126490

SE, Amani-
Thank you for your kind words.

SE-
The CIA Factbook puts their literacy at 78%. I’ve seen figuresM for those under 24 and over 15 that give their literacy rate at 93.5%.

I don’t think it’s quite that accurate to portray your average Arab as uneducated. I do think your concerns about what they teach their children are valid, but we shouldn’t get the impression that we can just force these people to change their ways, and change their opinions. The trick is, by a combination of argument, inclusion in certain processes, and new understandings about past problems, to persuade them to that themselves. Failing that, we can at least encourage them to view us in a more sympathetic fashion, a limited success we can build upon later.

The trick of it is to understand that democratization is in no way inevitable, to understand that much of what happens depends on their choices as well as ours. Many of these choices are the kind that mean more when freely than when made under duress. One such choice or set of choices is the interpretation of Islam brought forward. It is best if the moderation comes from them, for there will be those who see any moderation as collaboration with the enemies of Islam.

Part of dealing with the radicals is making it more difficult for them to criticize us without making things up or taking a patently unfair interpretation of it in their fellow Muslim’s eyes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 17, 2006 2:47 PM
Comment #126583

Steve

Iraq 40.4%,Pakastan 48.7%,Afganhastan 51%,Egypt 57%,so I stand by my “untold millions” statement for literacy rates while agreeing that Iran,Indonesia and Saudia Arabia all have high literacy rates…although the threshold for defining literacy is extremely low.

It takes 2 to tango though and right now it’s kinda tough to dance alone…dialogue with the radicial fanatics isn’t in the playbook,I think and they wag the dog opf mainstream Islamic thought unfortunately.

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 17, 2006 5:19 PM
Comment #127076

SE-
Question: When you look at those literacy figures, do you see innate capability or emergent results of the situation?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 18, 2006 3:38 PM
Comment #127208

Stephen

I see PROFOUND capability.

It is without question that Muslims(I don’t want to generalize here) have given much to mankind…the advancements in science,math and culture speak for themselves.

However,a darkness has befallen them as this mighty war between Shia and Sunni continues…and that’s what scares me.

We are the outsiders here dragged into a religious struggle as moderates fight within their own sects for control….the Wahhabi’s within the Sunni,and the followers of Komehani within the Shia.

Moderates of both sects have no choice presently but to cower.Those who do speak out get killed…..just like moderates did in Europe as Christianity did as it struggled to find itself.

This time,as opposed to the Protestant Reformation or the Spanish Inquisition and the like,we have a nuclear element,and no amout of diplomacy that a Westerner can do will influence the struggle between Shia and Sunni fanatics.

Again,note I said fanatics,not mainstream Moslems.

Everything seems to be coming together right now…cartoons,Iran and nukes,Hamas,mass protests all over the place over there….

Two things will happen,I fear.First,the uninformed HERE will take it personally(again) and think that this is about the West,and second,tribals influences and a reversion back into seperate sects for safety reasons will render a unified Iraq or anywhere for that matter impossible.

My view?

It’s deadly,Stephen and will disapoint you.

I think we have to take out fundamentalist imams and mosques one by one,section by section.

If a Lebanese mulla issue a fatwa calling for beheading a Danish cartoonist for instance,the next week he and his mosque should be destroyed.Same with the fundamentalists madrasses.

Do this 1,000 times,destroy 1,000 radicial mullahs,get them to fear that at prayer on Fridays,they will be killed and sooner or later attritrition will swing back the other direction.

Look at history.

When Rome occupied Partha(today Persia in part),they stamped out resistence by partitioning the country into three…and forbade travel or trade between the three.

A ruthless solution to a ruthless SEGMNENT of that society.

Three centuries of sectarian peace followed…until they banded together and threw out the Romans.

If we are going to have a war on terror,we have to do something pro-active to those that espouse terrorism in the name of a sacred religion(And Stephen,I truly believe that the Prophet was a holy man….his followers,ab initio since his death,(very much like Jesus’ followers did) have stamped THEIR meanings on his holy words.

My view anyway.

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 18, 2006 9:16 PM
Comment #127258

Stephen,

I guess you’re coming around after all. But I think you will not be able to give up your prejudice against the right to see what’s right in front of you.

This ‘newfound idea’ that you’ve come across is in fact the core of the neocon argument!

I’ll need to run through my archives to see how closely I’ve articulated this myself, but you seem to catch on to some of it and then move right on into bashing Bush.

Some corrections:

You seem intent on misrepresenting not only what the label ‘Islamofascist’ means but also who it applies to.

The best historical anology I can think of is the KKK. Not everyone in the South was in the Klan, but many were sympathetic, and many shared the same views and even supported the cause.

The organization was in decline from 1868 to 1870, and was destroyed in the early 1870s by President Ulysses S. Grant’s vigorous action under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act). The first Klan was never well organized. As a secret or “invisible” group, it had no membership rosters, no dues, no newspapers, no spokesmen, no chapters, no local officers, no state or national officials. Its popularity came from its reputation, and that was greatly enhanced by its outlandish costumes and its theatricality. As historian Elaine Frantz Parsons discovered [Parsons p 816]:


“Lifting the Klan mask revealed a chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerrilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, bored young men, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own. Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic, was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen.”
wikipedia

In the Middle East we have some of the same social dynamics going on that went on in the south. Strong anti-semitism, irrational hatred…

My question to you is: was the Klan eradicated with liberal understanding and accomodation? By avoiding condemnation? Or trying not to ‘make them mad’ or offend them?

What we are fighting is a meme. A system of thought. Those today who are terrorists are not ‘misunderstood’ or mislabeled, they are soldiers in a war, and just as it would have been wrong to allow the Klan to grow, it is wrong to not try to transform the middle east and complete the assimilation. To fulfill the promise of freedom that is part of the west. I think that this a stumbling block for the left, and part of the reason that they choose not to understand it yet.

But maybe they will, in parts, over time.

Posted by: esimonson at February 19, 2006 12:24 AM
Comment #127581

SE-
The question will always be to what extent our action lead to the reinforcement and spread of radical views.

I’m not such an opponent of lethal force as you may think. When we face a group like this on the battlefield we should make no apologies about waging a war on them. That said, we should not get into situations where we’re entangled in a long term guerilla resistance. As Sun Tzu said, one rare if ever hears of a brilliantly protracted campaign.

We should hit hard, secure fast and with overwhelming force, then let people get use to and become grateful for the peace we bring. Under that cover of protection, we arrange things so we can leave, and then we do so on a tight timetable. If we’ve played our cards right on how we prepared their defenses for our departure, the inevitable attempts of the radicals will run into two brick walls: a lack of public support, and a well-armed, well trained, stout-hearted force of people who take pride in their country.

That, by the way, is what my notion of a good approach to Iraq is. If we’re not willing to secure the place ourselves, we’re really out of our depth in trying to hand it over to somebody else.

As for your plan? The flaws in your argument are many. First, it would rightly be percieved by many as contrary in its principles to our religious freedoms. Second, it would help fuel the belief that it is Islam that is under attack, not just the misfits who blow things up. Third, the collateral casualties would be a recruiting tool. Fourth, they could center their mosques in urban areas, in allied countries, and in other places where the destruction of a mosque would cause problems for us. It’s a power fantasy, and little else, really. If we tried something like that, we could never pile up the bodies fast enough to replace the recruits that the inevitable jihad and personal vendettas would create.

What we do, is we get moderates invested in an order that shows the moral, positive side of our country. Get it to where their personal experience of Americans leads them to believe that we aren’t bad after all, and that less sympathetic folks at least see our actions bring peace and good business with them.

Eric-
Don’t think meme. Mental constructs don’t tend to be so reducible. what we see, often enough, are the emergent results of several major controlling ideas, and a number of smaller assumptions, memories, and other things.

If we take the KKK as an example, we can say that we didn’t take one particular approach, we took a number of approaches in several different directions.

We took steps to destroy the official culture of racial prejudice, driving racism gradually underground. Secondary results of that destruction ensured that people would come into contact with the racial minorities on a more everyday basis. Instead of being squared away somewhere else, these people become neighbors, classmates, colleagues and co-workers.

But keep in mind, this was our own backyard, in a nation where we had sovereignty. The approach is different when we must ask people for their help, when we have to operate in countries where we can’t make the laws.

The Neocon’s approach isn’t merely about recognizing the problem of non-democratic government reinforcing the problems of religious radicalism in both its support and persecution of it. It’s also the pre-emptive use of force, the lumping of different parties to the problem under one misleading lable, and the belief that Democracy’s triumph is inevitable, and a natural progression of history.

They have too limited a notion of the problem. When going into battle, Sun Tzu advised generals to know their enemy. Von Clausewitz advised strategists to seek out centers of gravity of the enemy’s forces that their own forces could use to overthrow the enemy. What I’m getting at is that understanding the different movements as they are individually is crucial for figuring out how we use the means at our disposal, military, diplomatic, and economic, to defeat and/or defend against our enemies.

It’s also crucial for the tough, labor-intensive problems of nation-building. If you go in with naively generalized notions of what these people are like and what they want, you could alienate many potential allies and not even realize it.

The Neocon’s problem is that they have an overly idealistic, academic understanding of the problem, coupled with the sense that they are God’s gift to foreign policy, there to show everybody else the error of their ways, not to be corrected themselves.

As for the Liberal’s response? Well, your generalizations there cloud your perceptions again. If you take what we say at face value, you’ll find few people are for mollycoddling the terrorists. That is just the arrogant notion of our rivals, who suppose that Liberals just say what they say to hid the truth of what they really feel.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 19, 2006 10:27 PM
Comment #127720

Stephen

Terrific response and I am pleased that you have become versed with Sun Tzu.

That book has been on my nightstand for two decades and is the most dor-eared book I own.

Please,when you have a few hours to kill read “No God but God” by Reza Aslan published by Random House ISBN 1-4000-6213-6

I suggest everybody read that book in order to get a true understanding of Islam then and now.This book is a tour de force and should be a must read for every politician,student and geo-politicial student.

It’s easy to read and may change your thinking a bit.

Anyway,my “plan” as you call it wouldn’t work…of course not…for exactly the reasons you sited.

However,someone should call out each mulla and mosque and challenge them on Islamic principles within the Koran.

Here is a quick example:

“The foundation of Islamic pluralism can be summed up in one indisputable verse:
“There can be no complusion in religion” (2:256)
This means that the antiquated partitioning of the world into sphere’s of belief (dar al-Islam) and unbelief (dar al-Harb) which first developed during the Crusades but which still maintains its grasp on the imagination of Traditionialist theologians,is utterly unjustifiable.It also means that the ideology of the Wahabbi who wish to return Islam to some imaginary ideal of original purity must once and for all be abandoned.” pg 263 of Aslan’s book.

I would love to see a team of Islamic experts (and non-experts too)start throwing out there for the whole world to see verses from the Holy Koran,one by one,that directly cut against what is now being sold as Islam…..now THAT’s my plan

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 20, 2006 8:19 AM
Comment #127721

Sorry…that’s dog-eared..another typo

Posted by: sicilianeagle at February 20, 2006 8:21 AM
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