February 29, 2008

The Moderate Supermajority

My Contentions colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 29, 2008 3:41 PM
Comments
Where did you get the data regarding CAIR membership? I'm not doubting you, but I'm just curious because I'd like to throw those numbers and more into the faces of people who use the following argument: CAIR has not denounced 9/11, therefore Muslims support it. Bizarro logic, but there it is. The rapidly declining membership is a nice rebuttal.
Posted by: Saint in Exile at February 29, 2008 5:14 pm
Saint in Exile,
Google "cair membership" and you'll get lots of sources.
Here's one.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 29, 2008 5:30 pm
MJT -- nice article, although I think you may understate the large numbers and influence of the 'social conservatives' who may abhor violence but otherwise approve of a distinctly non-secular approach to government.
I just read an article about the 50 or so remaining Jews in Kosovo, btw, who ARE now reporting a new but growing Wahhabist presence in the media and elsewhere.
Posted by: AZZenny at February 29, 2008 6:41 pm
Another issue is the farce of "balanced" reporting - when one side is really a vast majority and the other is a fringe element.
Here is a good write-up on how to write a bad science story - but it could easily be tweaked to describe how to write a bad story about Muslims or Iraq.
Excerpt:
8. Seek balance, particularly where none is warranted.
A primary tenet of journalism is that it present a balanced view of the story and not make any subjective judgments. The fact that the scientific community has semi-objective methods for determining the reliability of claims (such as peer review and the requirement of repeatably demonstrable evidence) should not impinge on this. It is therefore important to present "both sides" of every story, even if one side lacks any empirical support and is populated only by a tiny minority of scientists (or better yet, denialists and cranks). This does not necessary conflict with step 5, because a false controversy can be set up using an appeal to balance. For example, a productive strategy is to provide one quote from someone at the periphery of the field and one quote from a recognized expert to make it seem as though there is debate about an issue within the scientific community. Under no cricumstances should you explain why the scientific community does not accept the views of the non-expert. This has proven very effective in stories about issues that are controversial for political but not scientific reasons, such as evolution and climate change.
And the #1 rule is:
1. Choose your subject matter to be as amenable to sensationalism as possible.
Posted by: markytom at February 29, 2008 7:53 pm
MJT: The same gaggle of the perpetually outraged have been photographed over and over again, like the bussed-in and coerced Saddam Hussein
Posted by: Edgar at February 29, 2008 8:46 pm
Michael, I know you're just addressing this issue from a radical versus moderate angle, but what of Islam itself?
Undercover Mosque investigations around the world show hatered against Christians, Jews, Gays and the West being preached. Saudi text books teaching the same thing are being used in American and British Islamic schools.
There are thousands of so called honor killings around the world every year. Forced marriages and female circumcisions are common. In many Muslim countries, women are beaten by the religious police for not wearing the hijab.
40% of British Muslims want Sharia law to be the law of the land.
Everywhere you turn in Europe, movies, plays, books, ads, art works and posters are banned if they are deemed offensive to Muslims.
And on and on it goes.
The silence from the "Moderate Supermajority" is deafening.
Posted by: marc at March 1, 2008 1:09 am
Posted by: rosignol at March 1, 2008 1:21 am
Marc: Undercover Mosque investigations around the world show hatered against Christians, Jews, Gays and the West being preached.
I don't doubt it.
There are thousands of so called honor killings around the world every year.
That "tradition" is older than Islam, and is separate from it. Christians in the Middle East do it, too, unfortunately.
In many Muslim countries, women are beaten by the religious police for not wearing the hijab.
Many? You mean two.
40% of British Muslims want Sharia law to be the law of the land.
Britain has serious problems.
Everywhere you turn in Europe, movies, plays, books, ads, art works and posters are banned if they are deemed offensive to Muslims.
That's Europe's fault for being ridiculously and hypersensitive and PC.
There are billboards with naked women on them in Turkey, which is 99 percent Sunni Muslim. We don't even have those where I live in ultra-liberal Portland, Oregon.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 1, 2008 1:58 am
MJT: Journalists tend to ignore moderate Muslims, not because of liberal bias or racism, but because sensationalism sells. At least they think that
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 7:16 am
Nope. People come here because they want to see their views of the Iraq war vindicated. They want to hear the
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 1, 2008 7:59 am
maryatexitzero: The mass media doesn't put the extremists under the lens, they promote the extremists' propaganda.
Ok, so I'm assuming then that you disagree with MJT over this issue?
I guess that shows a good balance of opinion. One camp here thinks the MSN is in league with the terrorists, while another thinks that the MSM is making Muslims look bad by portraying them all as extremists.
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 8:14 am
One camp here thinks the MSN is in league with the terrorists, while another thinks that the MSM is making Muslims look bad by portraying them all as extremists.
I don't think the MSM is in league with the terrorists, I think they promote terrorist/dictator-producted propaganda for the reasons rosignol described:
so long as someone submits, the majority of the violence perpetrated by the minority will be directed at others in a fairly random manner. You still have a chance of being targeted, but it is a small chance.
Stand up to the violent minority, and the violence will be directed very specifically at you and those you care about.
The MSM reporters know they're targets, so they do what the dictators and terrorists tell them to do. And I agree that "So far with the exception of Gaza, mainstream Muslims everywhere in the world risk arrest, torture, and death while resisting Islamist governments and insurgencies whenever they arise."
The only thing I don't agree with is the idea that the UAE is an Islamist-free zone. As Islamism's financial center, it's immune from terrorism (they don't like to foul their nest) but that doesn't mean that it's not central to the terrorist infrastructure.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 1, 2008 9:00 am
"One camp here thinks the MSM is in league with the terrorists, while another thinks that the MSM is making Muslims look bad by portraying them all as extremists."
How are these contradictory positions? Can't it be both?
Posted by: Joe at March 1, 2008 9:18 am
maryatexitzero: I don't think the MSM is in league with the terrorists, I think they promote terrorist/dictator-producted propaganda
There is a problem of terrorists intimidating the media, but it's nowhere near as severe as you imply. Certainly, it doesn't reach the extent that terrified Western journalists write actual propaganda because they fear for their lives (unless they get kidnapped, of course).
MJT is a perfect example of what happens when you don't toe the line. He got on Hizballah's bad side by writing satirical stories on his website that they didn't get, which resulted in a menacing phone call from their media guy. He also got in an altercation with their "security" at a press conference over their seating plan. When he left Lebanon, he wrote on his blog that Hizballah was a terrorist group, and that their PR guy was an "asshole" who had threatened to kill him.
Obviously, I wouldn't take Hizballah's side in this dispute, but you can see why being neutral is a good idea to get long-term access to these people, whether or not they deserve it. Yes, it annoys me to see Hizballah described as "militants" by the press, but it's not as if Western media reports describe them as "glorious freedom fighters" and Nasrallah as a "heroic leader" fighting the "Zionist entity."
Instead of calling them militants, MJT calls them assholes. Great, and I respect him for that. But I don't have anything against the journalists who are calling them militants so they can continue writing about them. If it reaches the extent that they're publishing flat-out lies, I'll change my mind.
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 9:40 am
Joe: How are these contradictory positions? Can't it be both?
Well, I guess it is possible. Maybe the terrorists like when the media portray Muslims as violent savages, and is intimidating them into doing so.
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 9:42 am
If it reaches the extent that they're publishing flat-out lies, I'll change my mind
How about if they're only telling half the truth, kind of like a doctor who cures a rash but leaves a melanoma untouched?
What good is long-term access if all you get is propaganda and half-truths? If the press is afraid to publish the facts about media manipulations, as MJT and Anderson Cooper did, then their reports are worthless.
When the press gives in to intimidation, they encourage more intimidation. This also discourages any kind of investigative reporting, which leaves us clueless about the strengths and weaknesses of terrorist organizations.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 1, 2008 10:26 am
I don't think the MSM is in league with the terrorists, I think they promote terrorist/dictator-producted propaganda for the reasons rosignol described:
Mary and I are not in disagreement about this.
Hezbollah bullies journalists. They bullied me and I told them to go fuck themselves and even wrote about their bullying treatment in a newspaper.
To my knowledge, only Anderson Cooper and Chris Albritton have also done that. (Chris did it on hig blog.)
I'm a little more forgiving, though, than some people are. Seriously, watch Live from Baghdad, about CNN in Iraq in 1991. They had to put up with massive amounts of crap from the Saddam regime or be thrown out of the country. They were all but forced to air his propaganda, but they fought it tooth and nail all the way and very cleverly pulled some stunts to get past his censors and get the truth out. They played a cat and mouse game (where they were the mouse) with the Ministry of Information the entire time they were in Baghdad. This kind of thing goes on a lot in the Middle East. It goes on right now to a lesser extent in Iran and Syria. There are a variety of ways to handle it.
Some journalists play along willingly and don't even have to be bullied. For them, I have nothing but contempt.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 1, 2008 11:15 am
MJT: Hezbollah bullies journalists. They bullied me and I told them to go fuck themselves and even wrote about their bullying treatment in a newspaper.
Yeah, but you knew you would be safe in Portland. Some journalists have to remain in the same dangerous area for years. They can't burn any bridges.
I guess there are those who don't even try to get around the restrictions imposed on them, though.
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 11:31 am
Edgar: Yeah, but you knew you would be safe in Portland.
They threatened me on the very day I moved into my Beirut apartment just as I was setting up residency. And I've back in Lebanon since I moved back, poking around inside Hezbollah's "capital" and bombed out villages. Being safe in Portland was hardly a luxury I could count on.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 1, 2008 1:08 pm
Some journalists have to remain in the same dangerous area for years. They can't burn any bridges.
I get that. There are various ways of handling it.
Some areas are more dangerous than others. Lebanon isn't as bad as some parts of the world. It has been a long time since Hezbollah physically harmed a Western journalist, so telling them to go fuck themselves was a viable option and I took it. If it weren't, I would have been more subtle about it.
What many journalists don't understand is that Hezbollah is actually afraid of them, especially Americans. You can push back and they'll cave to an extent. I've done that with them three times. The worst they've actually done to me is blacklist me for it. They won't give me any more interviews or quotes. Oh well. The one interview they did give me was utterly worthless anyway.
Also, I have it on pretty good authority that their blacklist of me no longer applies because their entire file and computer system was destroyed by the Israelis, and the guy who was my "handler" quit the party after the war. I know that last part as an absolute fact, and also that he plans to write a book about his experience with "the party." I might even read it.
In any case, I will never work under conditions where I have to broadcast propaganda under threat. I'd just leave and go work somewhere else.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 1, 2008 1:16 pm
MJT: In any case, I will never work under conditions where I have to broadcast propaganda under threat. I'd just leave and go work somewhere else.
Yeah, that sounds like the best thing to do. I just think people take their criticisms of journalists too far in many cases. They get angry, for example, when a journalist doesn't challenge a statement from the group in question.
If you were a journalist living in Gaza and the Hamas government issued a press release saying that the IDF had killed civilians in cold blood, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to add "but Hamas lies frequently about casualties. It seems more likely that these people were armed terrorists, or at least people who supported terrorists."
A better approach is to simply report what they said and what the IDF said. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
I'm not saying you didn't take any risk in telling off Hizballah. I'm just saying that if you were certain you'd face reprisals, you probably wouldn't have told them to piss off. And who would have?
There's a certain level of courage journalists should have, I think. But nobody should expect them to risk their lives just to refute terrorist propaganda. Like I said, readers can decide what to believe from a balanced report.
Posted by: Edgar at March 1, 2008 1:55 pm
Posted by: TallDave at March 1, 2008 4:13 pm
Anderson Cooper reported the story about how Hizbullah managed and intimidated reporters in 2006, but it was the increasingly battered-looking Michael Wade who went through it and did a couple short live reports. One was memorable to me, because it was the only one of its type anywhere: I wanted to show you the broad, intact boulevards of much of Beirut -- that we are not permitted to report or film -- not far from the location of massive Israeli destruction. These streets are quiet late at night, but social and business activity carries on during the day. I'm leaving Lebanon in a few minutes, Anderson, and thought I'd get a quick shot of this as we drive out of town.
I don't think the majority of reporters parrot the 'militant' party line only because it buys them protection and continued access. I think it's because it would take actual work to do otherwise and real knowledge to ask tough questions, and they're not much smarter than their readers. Besides, their paymasters back home seem happy with the underdog slant.
Posted by: AZZenny at March 1, 2008 8:22 pm
Edgar: One camp here thinks the MSN is in league with the terrorists . . .
Maybe some of the MSM, along with some anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war Democrats are in league with the terrorists - and many just didn't/don't realize it.
Read this - an interesting perspective.
Excerpt:
And so it was settled. Al Qaeda
Posted by: markytom at March 2, 2008 12:26 pm
Maybe some of the MSM, along with some anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war Democrats are in league with the terrorists - and many just didn't/don't realize it.
If the "pro-war" faction can't defeat the "anti-war" faction in electoral competition, then war should not have been waged.
It's because the members of the broad electorate, each acting rationally according to their estimation of how the war benefits them, provide a check on the war-mongering proclivities of ambitious leaders that democracies don't go to war often.
Don't like democracy in action? Move to a dictatorship.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 2, 2008 1:21 pm
edgar-
you said: "Do you think the readers here support you to learn about
Posted by: pedro at March 2, 2008 8:39 pm
It's worth pointing out that the "high conflict group" identified by the Gallup Survey was pretty narrowly "defined as those who said the 9/11 attacks were completely morally justified and who also have an unfavorable or very unfavorable view of the United States." While Greenwald's question strikes me as intellectually lazy, Gallup itself provides a more challenging statistic than the one that engaged his attention, and subsequently, yours :
But perhaps most importantly, both the moderate and high-conflict groups have a deep sense of being treated as inferiors and being humiliated by the West. In fact, what they resent most is the West's "disrespect for Islam."
When violence and repression (not just Rage Boys) are a widespread response to nearly any form of such disrepect, whether officially sanctioned via sharia or widely tolerated out of either sympathy or fear, I think it is not unreasonable to frame the issues in terms of cultural conflict -- which it's my impression is what you're trying avoid.
While I'm no media defender, the problem is not that the non-violent supermajority just can't get good press. That's more like a universal truth. Unfortunately, for every staged cartoon riot that has been pathetically overblown, there is a Danish cartoonist in fear for his life, or a London exhibition being shut down by overt threats, or a publisher hauled in front of a "human rights commission," or gangs of "disaffected youths" harboured in communities that are virtually closed to ordinary law enforcement in Paris and elsewhere. Yes, there is the underreported story of "the anti-jihadist convulsion" in Iraq, but that story includes the sheer scale of the devastation it took to catalyze such metamorphosis. Car bombs may get a disproportionate share of coverage, but such bombs are designed to have a disproportionate influence on non-violent majorities everywhere. That's a premise of assymetrical war, but it's true of almost every endeavor from politics to charitable fundraising. It's the active 10% who control the narrative or the active 7% who get results or the radical 19 who change the course of history.
The fundamental cultural divide that stares us in the face is not a religious conflict in an ordinary historical sense. It is, at heart, a conflict over the very definition of the rule of law, which in western canons requires the separation of church and state, the delinking religious and political powers. It is a conflict between precepts of sharia and the secular principles of common law. Yes, we may know that Muslim countries can and do commit to secular governance, but we also know that the Kurdish purge of Islamists has been fraught with violence and sustained by an empowered and vigilant majority. We also know that the most violent Islamists find protection and support in countries where religion (and jihad) is used as a tool by goverment and where government (and jihad) is used as a tool by religion -- where, in partial answer to Greenwald's question, majorities which might otherwise make the most difference to us are also the most effectively disempowered.
The 7% who stamp the violent demise of American civilians with moral approval represent an existantial threat of death and destruction. Our "way of life" however, is also threatened by a considerably larger percent of Muslims, and no small number of non-Muslims too, who believe that government has a proper role to play in ameliorating "disrespect for Islam." Far too many, for example, believe it would, in fact, have been appropriate for the Danish government to censor or otherwise sanction the publishers of anti-Muslim cartoons. Decidedly vocal individuals and states called on Danish government to offer some form of official reparation, whether rhetorical or concrete, for the insult to Muslim sensibilities. CAIR is hardly alone in voicing such demands and there's all too little reason not to read the silence of the supermajority as consent, when it is reinforced by the kind of statistics Gallup and others provide on a regular basis.
Such expectations -- and the underlying assumptions about principles of governance from which they derive -- even in non-violent form, also represent a repudiation of both legal and cultural western values. The Bishop who commented on de facto Muslim no-go zones in England was put under police protection; it's emblematic that the Archbishop who contemplated sharia carve-outs de jure apparently remains safe enough. Just as signicant however, are both the Archbishop's elevated position and the magnitude of his affront to a conceptual cornerstone of western thought -- equality in law. It was all the more stunning because of the void where public discourse on the issue should have been.
While I understand the impulse to tamp down gratuitous fear mongering and careless generalizations, I ultimately find the alarmists less worrisome than those who are too quick to dismiss alarmist rhetoric out of hand, while loathe to acknowledge, let alone address, legitimate causes of concern. Arguing civility is socially acceptable as long as you don't bring up civilization! Ironically, such denials are often a fear-based response to the complexities which confront us too. The fear being mongered is that the alarmist will exacerbate or inflame tensions which obviously already exist. They exist for reasons it strikes me as unwise to discount in service to politesse and an uneasy status quo.
Posted by: JM Hanes at March 2, 2008 11:23 pm
Michael ran real risks in Beirut when he reported on attempted press intimidation with a frankness no one had admitted to since the early 1980s in Beirut. Edgar, I think you owe MJT an apology. The kind of apology that comes with a donation is usually the best.
Posted by: Solomon2 at March 2, 2008 11:43 pm
JM Hanes,
A thoughtful response.
There are, indeed, troubles in the Muslim world beyond the seven percent. I touched on that with reference to seculars and "moderates" who support the likes of Hezbollah and Fatah. There are plenty more examples, some of which you mentioned above. I just didn't want to get into it too much because I wanted to focus on something else and I was way my "word limit" as it was.
The majority of Muslims are anti-American for all sorts of reasons that may or may not be faith-based, so to speak, and this does often provide a shield of sorts for the worst of the radicals. A huge percentage of that group, though, is flexible, as we are seeing in Iraq.
I met many Sunnis in Lebanon who admitted to me they were once anti-American and no longer are because the U.S. is standing up for their country now, albeit weakly. Religion was not the cause of their previous anti-Americanism, nor is it the cause of their current pro-Americanism or, at least, what you might call their non-anti-Americanism.
I was in Kurdistan when the first cartoon riots happened, and when the Danish embassy in Beirut was torched by a mob bussed in from Syria. I was supremely pissed off about the whole thing, and every Kurd I spoke to about it was horrified and embarrassed. I didn't meet a single Muslim who defended that nonsense until I went to the West Bank.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 2, 2008 11:49 pm
Solomon2: Edgar, I think you owe MJT an apology.
No, it's fine, really.
Honestly, it wasn't that risky. I was severely rattled by that threat from Hezbollah, but every single Lebanese person I spoke to about it told me I could tell them to go to hell and they wouldn't do anything to me. And they were right about that.
Hezbollah is more radical now than they were then. At least, their actions are more radical if not their ideology. They are more paranoid, and that makes them more dangerous.
Even then, they were overwhelmingly the most paranoid people I have ever met. It took me a while to figure it out, but they are much more frightened of Americans in general (if not me in particular) than any American will ever be of them. You can use that to your advantage, carefully, and within limits. You can scare the bejeezus out of these people just by flipping open your cell phone. As dangerous as they are, they're also pretty ridiculous.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 2, 2008 11:58 pm
The good news: ~93% of muslims are moderates.
The bad news: ~7% of ~1,000,000,000 is still a pretty big number, especially when you're talking about people.
I'd like a way to resolve the situation that does not involve killing a significant portion of 70,000,000 people. At the current time, trying to establish democracy in Iraq and hoping it inspires a wave of reform in the ME seems to be our best bet, and everyone knows that's a longshot.
Anybody got a workable alternative?
Posted by: rosignol at March 3, 2008 12:23 am
Her is my alternative, and it is also, I believe, the present alternative of our nation.
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=44849319&blogID=247516883&Mytoken=6740BE8E-D9C7-45B5-8B45E2242FC620DE151132477
It will take time, patience, effort, bi-partisan commitment, action in the political, economic, intelligence, diplomatic and military spheres, blood and treasure...but I see no feasible alternative.
Posted by: Salamantis at March 3, 2008 4:36 am
The problem with any survey such as this is that you will almost always have at least 5% responding to the more extreme position.
I assure you, you can ask the same poll to Americans and find at least 5% holding radical views.
Posted by: Joe Rushty at March 3, 2008 5:08 am
I need to point out that the "Marc" who posted earlier in their thread certainly is not me.
I think MJT did a good job covering this report and I think overall it is accurate.
I am not a fan of CAIR, but in all honesty they HAVE condemned 9/11 and did so within a day of the attack. People do not have to resort to lies or disinformation to show up CAIR.
As to the bullying of journalists, this is hardly an act that Hizb'Allah has the corner on. Journalists can and are threatened from all directions in Lebanon and almost everywhere in the Middle East. Freedom of speech and the right of people to say and write what they wish is not something that is well respected in the area.
I suggest if a Syrian or member of the opposition journalist attended a March 14th event and started complaining and making issues they would most certainly be met with a similar threat, or worse, as MJT was with the Hizb'Allah event. MJT is probably lucky in that he is a Western journalist, and as such, will get a pass that Arab journalists would not.
There is an over all lack of respect for journalists in the Middle East that is sad, but a bit understandable. All of the Arab papers are owned by major players in the areas politics, especially the Saudis. They all end up taking up a rather militant stance in favour of one side in a conflict or another.
Journalists are therefor not seen to be impartial news reporters, but actually as propagandists in what many times is a life and death struggle. This impartiality tends to make them targets. If they want to remove this they must remove themselves from actively supporting one side or the other and work more towards reporting the facts in situations and not pushing their particular side's line.
As an American I can say that on a day to day basis I meet people I would describe as fanatics. I dont know how many times I have been told that we should just level the entire Middle East, women and children be damned. We have Congressmen calling for the nuking of Mecca and Saudi Arabia.
In Israel I met Jews who advocated killing all the Palestinians they could and forcing the rest to move to Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Of course lets not forget the "Arabs to the Gas Chambers" sign in saw in one settlement.
The honour killings is a cultural thing, not a religious thing. That is exactly why you have Hindus, Seikhs, Yazidis and Christians doing it all around the world. As a matter of fact, nothing matches the killings in India. Thousands of women are killed every year in honour killings and dowry killings in India. One would wonder why Hindu India doesn
Posted by: Marc at March 3, 2008 7:09 am
pedro: How narrow a view. You display your disdain for the majority of Michael's readers so plainly.
You're right. I didn't mean everyone. I meant people like you, actually.
Solomon2: Edgar, I think you owe MJT an apology.
Apologize for what? Being awesome?
Posted by: Edgar at March 3, 2008 7:34 am
JM Hanes carries the day. Excellent and well-stated perspective.
Posted by: AZZenny at March 3, 2008 7:53 am
Marc: I suggest if a Syrian or member of the opposition journalist attended a March 14th event and started complaining and making issues they would most certainly be met with a similar threat
I wasn't threatened at a Hezbollah event.
Hezbollah's "media relations" goon Hussein Naboulsi called me on my cell phone and said "we know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live."
He did this after journalists had been car bombed for writing against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis.
Nothing March 14 does is comparable.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2008 11:36 am
MJT: Hussein Naboulsi called me on my cell phone and said
Posted by: Edgar at March 3, 2008 2:43 pm
The funny thing is Naboulsi didn't have a freaking clue where I lived. I hadn't even been in my new apartment for two hours yet. I was signing the paperwork as he called. He thought I was still in my hotel. My belongings were still in the hotel.
A day or so later I called him and yelled at him on the advice of some local friends of mine. He backpedaled fast and hard. I doubt many journalists have tried that approach. The only reason I did that was because I was assured I'd get away with it after I first damn near had a panic attack.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 3, 2008 3:02 pm
JM Hanes:
While I understand the impulse to tamp down gratuitous fear mongering and careless generalizations, I ultimately find the alarmists less worrisome than those who are too quick to dismiss alarmist rhetoric out of hand, while loathe to acknowledge, let alone address, legitimate causes of concern.
Would you have supported the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II?
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 3, 2008 6:01 pm
Michael, I don't believe you know how threatened you were.
Was it a 1 in 6 Russian Roulette chance that somebody does try to kill you?
1 in 50?
1 in 100?
1 in 1000?
Were you as safe as if you were driving home drunk in Portland at 3am?
I know I don't know (known unknown!).
One thing about risk is that, after surviving the risky event, it doesn't seem all that risky.
What were Theo van Gogh's odds of survival in Holland? Yet he was killed by some nut. Effective intimidation -- many truth speaking anti-Islamists are in hiding out of fear.
Most folk feel that yelling at others will both increase the likelihood of them backing down, but also increase the likelihood of them attacking.
The Moderate Post was well written, but it seems to missing some sparks that your best work has. Perhaps more on the non-religious anti-Americanism, or the need of Muslims for "respect", either as people, as part of a nation, or as part of a religion. (I don't know what's missing, but I'd recognize a spark generator if it was there.)
Edgar, like me, is unlikely to get as many readers of his stuff anywhere else.
Rosignol's note on the ability of a violent minority to compel a peaceful majority to submit was excellent -- it can be extended to explain how the more violent among that minority become leaders by their ruthlessness and willingness to use violence against their own side.
Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 3, 2008 6:10 pm
Creamy Goodness:
"Would you have supported the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II?"
Huh?
Posted by: JM Hanes at March 3, 2008 9:49 pm
JM Hanes,
You wrote:
I ultimately find the alarmists less worrisome than those who are too quick to dismiss alarmist rhetoric out of hand,
During World War II, we sent 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans to "forced relocation camps". 60% of them were American citizens. In 1988, Congress passed a bill apologizing and attributing the government actions to "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" (emphasis mine).
Since you come down on the side of the alarmists now, I want to know whether you would have come down on the side of the alarmists then.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 3, 2008 10:26 pm
I was astonished that some posters in the commentary magazine dismissed this article as "anecdotal" evidence. I guess if he was on spring break trip to the middle east, hanging around 5 people who think nothing like 99% of their population, I guess I'd be a little skeptical. But it appears to me that MJT has been active enough in the that area to make an informed opinion.
"Yours is just one story, there are lots of exceptions, so you can't generalize. So there!" Ah, the prototypical American response. Blockade of meaningful arguments.
Posted by: lee at March 4, 2008 2:17 am
"During World War II, we sent 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans to 'forced relocation camps'. 60% of them were American citizens. In 1988, Congress passed a bill apologizing and attributing the government actions to 'race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership' (emphasis mine)."
Nothing similar this is happening today. Nor there is a sign it will. Nor anyone thinks today it was right thing to do.
Aside from that can you tell what passes these days for hysteria and what's not? Should we wait for 50 years to get an answer?
Posted by: leo at March 4, 2008 5:25 am
Sorry Michael, I dont find the March 14th movement or segments working with it as benign as you do. It is segments of the March 14th movement and their supporters that supported, with arms and cash Fath al Islam, the group that the Lebanese Army had such a hard time displacing from their areas in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Originally Saad Hariri and other members of the March 14th movement provided arms and cash to the Sunni extremist group in the hopes that they would end up fighting the Shi'a and specifically Hizb'Allah.
We all know this turned out not to be the case and they fought the Lebanese Army instead. March 14th had a large role in this.
The Saudis and other Gulf Sunni Arab states are increasingly supporting Sunni extremist groups in Lebanon and the wider Levant as a way to counter balance Hizb'Allah, Iran, and Shi'ites in general.
ALL sides in Lebanon are supporting some pretty bad guys, and like with the March 14th support of the Sunni extremists of Fath al Islam, sometimes it backfires.
March 14th in composed partially of Islamic (Sunni) extremists, right wing ultra-nationalists in the Lebanese Forces/Phalangists, and is largely bank rolled by the Saudis and other Gulf states who have ZERO interest in what is best for Lebanon (aside from their summer vacations to the bars and brothels in Beirut) and are just interested in blunting Iran and Shi'ite power.
March 14 and Hizb'Allah are two bad sides of the same coin. Both sides have their hands dripping with blood.
I guess if one feels the need to stake a ideological pole in the conflict one is forced to grasp one of these hands dripping with blood.
That is certainly a move I wouldnt make.
It is sad to note that Lebanon continues to be the proxy battle ground where others fight their wars.
Posted by: Marc at March 4, 2008 6:08 am
Aside from that can you tell what passes these days for hysteria and what's not?
Yeah. It's not hard. (Jose Padilla, anyone?) This is March 2008, not September 12, 2001.
Should we wait for 50 years to get an answer?
No, we should aggressively fight the natural human tendency to demonize our adversaries today and every day. We need to keep bigotry at bay because it impedes our judgment and makes us pursue bad goals badly.
I always chuckle grimly when pro-war politicians play up Barack Hussein Obama's middle name in a crude appeal to anti-Muslim hysteria. The fact of the matter is, those pro-war politicians are dependent on Muslim Iraqis to win the war for them.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 4, 2008 6:35 am
Creamy Goodness:
"Since you come down on the side of the alarmists now, I want to know whether you would have come down on the side of the alarmists then."
I fail to see how finding alarmists "less worrisome" than knee-jerk deniers constitutes endorsement, but I'm happy to assure you that I would have come down on the correct side of every moral issue since the beginning of time.
Posted by: JM Hanes at March 4, 2008 8:47 am
I'm happy to assure you that I would have come down on the correct side of every moral issue since the beginning of time.
Excellent. I appreciate your full-throated endorsement of every position I hold.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 4, 2008 9:23 am
Well out of the 70 million radical muslims, how many live in Saudi Arabia our best friend forever ?
Posted by: john Ryan at March 4, 2008 10:03 am
Well out of the 70 million radical muslims, how many live in Saudi Arabia our best friend forever ?
Posted by: john Ryan at March 4, 2008 10:09 am
"Yeah. It's not hard. (Jose Padilla, anyone?) This is March 2008, not September 12, 2001."
What about Jose Padilla? And difference between 9/12/2001 and 03/04/2008 would be ...?
"No, we should aggressively fight the natural human tendency to demonize our adversaries today and every day. We need to keep bigotry at bay because it impedes our judgment and makes us pursue bad goals badly."
Demonizing adversaries is a must if you wish to win. You can sing koombaya later. I agree regarding bigotry, though. Just make sure you do not go hysterical and not start confusing it with healthy criticism. Effects, you warn about, will be just the same.
"I always chuckle grimly when pro-war politicians (do you mean Hillary Clinton?) play up Barack Hussein Obama's middle name in a crude appeal to anti-Muslim hysteria."
Absolutely.
Posted by: leo at March 4, 2008 10:55 am
Marc: It is segments of the March 14th movement and their supporters that supported, with arms and cash Fath al Islam
I don't buy that for a nanosecond. It's a bogus story peddled by Seymour Hersh whose sources are Syrian government officials. It's crap. Every other source I've seen on that cites Hersh or the same Syrians.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 4, 2008 11:04 am
Leo: Demonizing adversaries is a must if you wish to win.
Just make sure you don't demonize people like the Iraqi Kurds and the Kosovars while you're at it. They're more pro-American than we are.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 4, 2008 11:17 am
Demonizing adversaries is a must if you wish to win.
Good thing you ain't writing the COIN manual.
do you mean Hillary Clinton?
Nah, when anti-war politicos pull that stunt it just evokes pity and revulsion. It doesn't have the same entertainment value as, "Here, take hold of my testicles you crazed Jihadi scumbag, and please don't squeeze."
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at March 4, 2008 11:41 am
"Just make sure you don't demonize people like the Iraqi Kurds and the Kosovars while you're at it. They're more pro-American than we are."
Must admit, very much unexpected remark. Are they our enemies?
"Good thing you ain't writing the COIN manual."
Of cause. Why should I? But can you kill a human being just like you kill a mosquito, without a feeling of any sort? I am sure majority of people cannot. So, demonizing of enemy is sort of conditioning everybody needs. Else you just may roll over and die because your enemy will be ready to kill demonized or not.
Posted by: leo at March 4, 2008 12:25 pm
Are they our enemies?
They're Muslims, aren't they?
Posted by: Creamy Hussein Goodness at March 4, 2008 12:56 pm
"They're Muslims, aren't they?"
And?
Posted by: leo at March 4, 2008 1:00 pm
And?
I don't detect sufficient hatred from you for the Muslim demonspawn.
You must not want to win.
Posted by: Creamy Hussein Goodness at March 4, 2008 1:11 pm
Leo:Must admit, very much unexpected remark. Are they our enemies?
Of course not. But a certain faction thinks they are.
How about the Iraqis? Are they enemies? Some are and some aren't. Demonization is a dangerous business.
Soldiers and Marines are told the following: The Iraqi people are not our enemies, but our enemies live among them.
How do you demonize the invisible portion of the population without it spilling over onto the rest?
Counterinsurgency is delicate.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 4, 2008 1:13 pm
"Soldiers and Marines are told the following: The Iraqi people are not our enemies, but our enemies live among them."
True. But are soldiers and marines being told to love insurgents and treat them nicely?
"How do you demonize the invisible portion of the population without it spilling over onto the rest?"
Easily. I never identify them with the rest. And once I do that they are no longer invisible in my mind.
Posted by: leo at March 4, 2008 1:55 pm
"We got over it mostly, as so will they."
As did the Germans, it just took a little prodding.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at March 5, 2008 12:13 am
Michael,
I have heard the stories of March 14th funding from many Lebanese themselves and a few Palestinians who lived in the camp where they were based. This is hardly a Seymour Hersh only story.
Have you read the Frank Lamb report on the same subject? He is a researcher at the AU-Beirut. He came to the same conclusion.
Given the vast history of Lebanon being used as a battle ground for proxy wars between various regional players it would be a bit odd if you DIDNT think about it for at least a bit.
Look, there is a reason the Saudis are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Lebanon. It isnt because they are worried about having their summer retreat/brothels closed down, they are doing to it blunt Hizb'Allah and Shi'ite expansions.
Given the Saudi nature to arm and fund Sunni radicals, especially if they are fighting Shi'ites, the DEFAULT position almost must be that the Saudis are behind much of the funding and arming of Sunni militants in Lebanon.
As the Saudis have learned so well however, once you unleash their extremists they dont always attack who you want them to. In this case the millions of dollars of black cash and arms floating around in Beirut the last few years bit the March 14th movement in the butt.
But considering 50% or more of the Lebanese Army is Shi'ite, I am sure the Saudis funding Fath al Islam thought it money well spent. A dead Shi'ite is a dead Shi'ite.
The more time I spend in Lebanon and the more I learn about the behind the door dealings the more I think the only thing of value that Lebanon has to offer is Marcel Khalife.
Both sides in Lebanon are dirty, both have hands dripping in blood, and both sides are political/power whores.
Neither side is worth supporting.
Posted by: Marc at March 5, 2008 6:05 am
Look, there is a reason the Saudis are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Lebanon. It isnt because they are worried about having their summer retreat/brothels closed down, they are doing to it blunt Hizb'Allah and Shi'ite expansions......As the Saudis have learned so well however, once you unleash their extremists they dont always attack who you want them to. In this case the millions of dollars of black cash and arms floating around in Beirut the last few years bit the March 14th movement in the butt.
If you've ever read any of my comments or my blog, you'll know how I feel about the Saudis. But should we condemn a secular, pro-democracy movement because some of their members may have made deals with them? Then we should we condemn every government or organization that makes deals with the Sauds. The list is pretty long - let's see, there's every government on the planet, including Iran - most universities, most major media outlets, several major corporations. It would be a lot easier to find someone who hasn't made deals with them.
Yes, it's a bad idea and yes it bites everyone in the butt, but they continue to do it.
Lebanon, like Israel, a very small country in a very bad neighborhood. Like Israel, they have to make deals with nasty players in order to survive. The difference is, we don't. If anyone deserves harsh condemnation and if anyone needs to set the pace for change, it's the USA.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 5, 2008 8:24 am
Mary,
The members of the March 14 movement are just as dirty and corrupt as the opposition are. Many, if not most of them, have been in bed with the Syrians, some of them until recently. They have ate Syrian food, spent Syrian money, and killed with Syrian weapons. This is why they are political whores. They flutter from one side to the other like the waving of a flag.
Calling the March 14 movement secular is a bit misleading. There might be members from the different confessional groups, but that hardly makes them secular. If membership in different confessional groups makes your movement secular, then the Hizb'Allah/'Ayoun camp then is secular as well.
The March 14th camp includes some figures who are pretty conservative on the Sunni Islamic end of the scale and a bunch of pretty ugly right wing Christian ultra nationalists.
Calling them "pro-democracy" is a bit misleading as well. The constitution they support basically disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Shi'a based on an outdated sectarian model. In this the Sunnis and some Christians are united, they do not want a government based on a one person, one vote system. The outdated sectarian system is inherently unfair and gives them more power than their population should allow if the system were really democratic. Basically what unites the Sunnis and the ultra-right wing Christian nationalists, who were slaughtering each other with glee a few years ago, is the shared interest in denying the Shi'ites of Lebanon proper and fair representation.
So I find it to be completely misleading to call a camp dedicated to the disenfranchisement of an entire segment of their own population "pro-democracy".
As to the Saudis, they are doing the same thing in Lebanon they do almost everywhere. They are spreading arms and cash to extremists who they think will do their bidding. In the case of Fath al Islam it failed in that they attacked the Lebanese establishment, but succeeded in that they killed a lot of Shi'a in the Lebanese Army. Kind of a mixed draw for the Saudis there.
It is interesting that you cite the Israelis, and I am sure unwillingly, you make my point for me. The Israelis originally supported the Islamists in Hamas as a barrier to the secular PLO. That was probably one of the stupidest moves the country has ever made. Saudi is in the process of doing the same thing. It is not without note that the Saudi government has just advised their citizens to avoid Lebanon. I am sure that bothers the Saudis who will miss their summer vacations of brothels, drinking and the night life. They'll have to look elsewhere for the "Nique-Nique" this summer.
The Shi'ites have a right to proper and fair representation. The way that Hizb'Allah is going about trying to get it for the Shi'ites is wrong however. There will be no peace in Lebanon as long as it is governed in a unfair, sectarian manner.
Posted by: Marc at March 5, 2008 9:40 am
The members of the March 14 movement are just as dirty and corrupt as the opposition are. Many, if not most of them, have been in bed with the Syrians, some of them until recently.
They were doing something bad and now they stopped doing it. They should be condemned for this?
Or are you angry with the members of the March 14th movement because they're not still in bed with the Syrians and the Iranians (along with the Hizb'Allah/'Ayoun camp)?
The March 14th camp includes some figures who are pretty conservative on the Sunni Islamic end of the scale and a bunch of pretty ugly right wing Christian ultra nationalists.
The Christian ultra nationalists don't own ugly - have you seen pictures of the Hizb'Allah crowd?
It is interesting that you cite the Israelis, and I am sure unwillingly, you make my point for me. The Israelis originally supported the Islamists in Hamas as a barrier to the secular PLO.
Actually, I was talking about their willingness to deal with the terrorists of Fatah, who were originally the 'secular' terrorists of the PLO.
As to the Saudis, they are doing the same thing in Lebanon they do almost everywhere. They are spreading arms and cash to extremists who they think will do their bidding
Yes, they spread arms and cash to extremists in the United States, Europe, Thailand, everywhere. That's my point, that's the problem that needs to be solved. It would seem that an American, a European or a Jew would be most concerned with that fact - yet your primary concern seems to be Shi'a rights. Why is that?
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 5, 2008 10:38 am
The members of the March 14 movement are just as dirty and corrupt as the opposition are.
Everyone in Lebanon has both dirt and blood on their hands, and has been involved in corruption at some point. There are no immaculate players in that place. If you're going to criticize someone, criticize them for something everyone else hasn't done. If nothing else, it lets you avoid looking naive and partisan for not making the same criticism of everyone else.
Many, if not most of them, have been in bed with the Syrians, some of them until recently.
Duh. Until quite recently, that was the best way to avoid having some 'aftermarket modifications' wired into the ignition of your car.
Criticizing everyone-other-than-Hizbullah for having been in the sack with the Syrians at some point in the past while defending Hizbullah (who is currently in the sack with the Syrians) makes it very, very difficult to take you seriously.
Posted by: rosignol at March 5, 2008 12:00 pm
Mary,
I have a problem with your use of the past tense when you say "They were doing something bad". They still are. They have just switched sides, again. Before they were dirty for the Syrians, now it is dirty for the Saudis. The facts aren't different, just the boss. All sides are dirty here and I am surprised that someone is trying to claim anything any different. I could understand if democracy is what this March 14th crowd is all about, but that is so far from the truth as to be on the other side of the moon.
I am not "angry" with anyone, I have no dogs in this fight. I do find it important, however, to stick to facts and not allow personal agendas to somehow erase facts and whitewash history. It would seem that some people would support the devil himself if he claimed to be committed to "Western style democracy".
I never said the Christian ultra nationalists owned "ugly". Unlike others here, however, I am not openly supporting any side. It isn't up to me to defend one side or the other when I reject the tactics and the claims of both sides. The only people that would have to defend these people are those that support their cause or take up their argument. In this case that is not myself. What I reject is the impression that some are selling here that this a clear cut case of good verses evil. Both sides here are wrong in their own right.
It would seem you are trying to attack me when you mention some concern you think I have for Shi'a rights. Like I have stated before, I have no dogs in this fight. I reject the tactics of both sides and reject the scum that they have all chosen to be their leaders. That does not take away from the FACT that the Shi'a are under represented in Lebanon. Do you dispute that the sectarian governmental system in place, based on a census some 30 years old, denies an equitable representation to the Shi'a?
I am an American, I am a believer in democracy. I believe all peoples have a right to free and proper representation. That is what is at the center of the dispute between the March 14th crowd and the opposition. One wants to hold unto an unfair and outmoded sectarian form of government that denies equal representation to all people of Lebanon and the other side wants to reform that. I don
Posted by: Marc at March 5, 2008 12:03 pm
Rosignol,
I have stated here many times that I do not care for Hizb'Allah. As I seem to be in the minority here in that I do not support the March 14th mob I guess I have been designated the Hizb'Allah supporter, but that is not only unfair, it is untrue.
If I get down on the March 14 crowd for being in bed with Syria, why wouldnt the same go for Hizb'Allah? I think I have made it clear to anyone who isnt blind that I do not support Hizb'Allah, but I find that since almost everyone here thinks the March 14th crowd is the best thing since sliced bread that I must remind everyone that the March 14 leadership is filled with a "who is who" of mass murderers, religious extremists and political pimps.
As the anti Hizb'Allah crowd here is well voiced, why would I need to repeat what others say? When we start down that road the forum ends up being an echo chamber.
There is one fact, and one fact alone, that is at the core of this entire discussion. Is the government in Lebanon set up to to give fair and accurate representation to all groups in Lebanon?
The answer is clearly no. The March 14th crowd wants to keep the status quo because they are well aware of the fact that if a true representation of the Lebanese public were in goverment their power would shrink dramatically.
Of course Hizb'Allah, drawing the majority of their support from the Shi'a have a lot to gain if the Shi'a of Lebanon were treated fairly.
I reject the March 14th crowd because they are a load of mass murderers and political whores who want to keep the government purposely lopsided to keep their own power.
Everyone who supports the March 14th crowd supports the idea that it is okay to marginalise an entire group of people to hold unto power. How this can be described as a "pro democracy movement" I dont know.
I reject Hizb'Allah, not because I dont think Shi'a deserve proper representation, but because I do not support their tactics nor would I ever support any group based on sectarianism.
The Shi'a of Lebanon deserve full, free and equitable representation in the government of Lebanon, which they do not have. They are ill served in this interest by Hizb'Allah who wish to use this influence to push their own agenda.
Posted by: Marc at March 5, 2008 12:19 pm
If you support March 14th, whether you want to or not, you are supporting the Saudis. I fail to see how people supporting March 14 can talk with a straight face about Iranian support for Hizb'Allah when their side takes their money from the Saudis.
I support the American government even though they take money from the Saudis. I believe in the value of a University education even though those schools are funded in large part by one of the most draconian, Islamist governments in the world. I don't call schools like Berkeley and Columbia dirty and ugly just because they beg for money from the Sauds. And they do beg.
As I said, every government on the planet, most universities, most major media outlets and many corporations take money from Saudi Arabia. No matter who you consider to be on 'our side', I can guarantee that they've taken a few Saudi bribes. I share your opinion that this is a bad thing, but I don't see any reason to single out March 14th for this.
The March 14th crowd wants to keep the status quo because they are well aware of the fact that if a true representation of the Lebanese public were in goverment their power would shrink dramatically.
March 14th's goal was to change the status quo by getting rid of Syrian influence over Lebanon. The goal of their opponents is to return Syrian influence to Lebanon, thus restoring the status quo.
Are you seriously expecting us to believe Hizb'Allah's propaganda about bringing " fair and accurate representation to all groups in Lebanon"? Yeah, like Stalin and Chavez, they're doing it all for the poor...
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 5, 2008 2:48 pm
"If you support March 14th, whether you want to or not, you are supporting the Saudis."
And if you support Hezbollah, whether you want to or not, you are supporting the Iranians. Goodness, what to do? Are there any countries at all in the region not beholden to either the Saudis or the Iranians? Gee, let me think ...
Posted by: Gary Rosen at March 5, 2008 11:56 pm
Michael: that's not "fore square". It's "four square", as in carpentry.
----------
Zero;
Hizb is a shell pretending to have Lebanese interests at heart, while it is in fact an Iranian cat's-paw. It did the training of the Mahdi army, and is busy trying to get mullocracy in place everywhere in the ME. Its home turf in Beirut is indistinguishable from a slum, cheek-by-jowl with the clean and functional areas inhabited by actual productive human beings. Like March 14 supporters, for example.
Hizbullah is of, by, and for theocratic scumballs.
Posted by: Brian H at March 6, 2008 12:00 am
Typo: last comment was to Rosen, not Zero. :-0(
Posted by: Brian H at March 6, 2008 12:02 am
Mary,
I like your logic. If fair and just governance might benefit one group you don
Posted by: Marc at March 6, 2008 6:07 am
Marc - I like your logic too. In the long run, the empowerment of the Hizb'Allah/'Ayoun will lead to a return of Syrian domination of Lebanon, the return of the status quo and the end of self-determination for Lebanese. So, as supporters of democracy, we must support it.
Malaysia gives inordinate power to Muslim Malays, they discriminate against the Chinese and Indians. Inequalities like that are prevalent all over the world. Where's your outrage about that? Are you just picking on the Lebanese because, like Israel, they're a little country and everyone else is picking on them too - or is there another reason for your ire?
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 6, 2008 9:42 am
Mary,
Sometimes democracy brings with it some unintended consequences. Are we then to dispose of democracy because we don
Posted by: Marc at March 6, 2008 10:24 am
Actually, the fact that "In the long run, the empowerment of the Hizb'Allah/'Ayoun will lead to a return of Syrian domination of Lebanon, the return of the status quo and the end of self-determination for Lebanese" is the only fact that matters.
It's the fact you continue to ignore.
The FACT is that the current system of government in Lebanon MUST change.
That sounds like a heck of a crusade. Even at his worst, Bush was never that bossy. Who said that this was for you to decide?
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 6, 2008 11:05 am
So stop trying to make me out to be some Iranian spy, a closet Shi'ite or the other nonsense that has been supposed here by some.
LOL. Why would a Shi'ite be closeted?
I'm not trying to do that at all. You just sound an awful lot like some of the folks I was talking to during my last trip to Ireland. Lebanon was in the news then, and people were giving various opinions...
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 6, 2008 11:11 am
Mary,
I fail to see what part of representational democracy scares you? Do you doubt the power of democracy to win out in the end? I certainly do not.
Democracy for the short run, in the entire Middle East, will be a gigantic mess. However, things will sort themselves out for the best long term. Short term thinking like yours will mean disaster for the Middle East long term and lead to exactly what you are talking about, more internal meddling by outside powers and more status quo.
I don't think there has ever been a case where a sizeable minority, soon to be majority, has ever been kept out of the rungs of power without major violence. That is exactly what you are advocating for Lebanon.
Changing the structures of government is not "a heck of a crusade". We did it here in the USA when we allowed blacks to vote and allowed women to vote. Since when is enfranchising a people seen as a "crusade"? It is a right in any country that calls itself a democracy. On a lesser level we do it all of the time in the USA when we "re-district" our states and counties to reflect demographic and other changes. If Lebanon refuses to allow for the complete and equal enfranchisement of it's people then it is not a democracy.
I never said it was for me to decide, that is something you came up with on your own as a way of suppressing debate. That is what we are doing here, debate, not ordering peoples or countries to do anything. That accusation reviles the secret motive conspiracy theory in it's infantile level. I am simply putting forth my opinion as to what I think will avert violence in Lebanon. None of us here has any ability to decide anything.
You can try to be coy about your conspiratorial accusations against me "is there some other reason for your ire" but I don
Posted by: Marc at March 6, 2008 12:14 pm
As to Ireland, most of my experience is in the north of the country where one street will hang Palestinian flags and support the PLO and Hizb'Allah, the other street will have the Star of David next to the flag of Ulster and advocate the ethnic cleansing of Israel; with most of either community knowing fu** all about anything in the Middle East.
Exactly! That's why I thought I'd heard a voice like yours over there.
See, no conspiracy at all..
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 6, 2008 1:07 pm
"I wonder, if Hassan Nasrallah said
Posted by: Gary Rosen at March 6, 2008 10:51 pm
Mary,
No matter how much we have gone back and forth I have yet to level a personal insult against you as you did to me above. More proof that your argument lacks substance and you must resort to ad hominem attacks.
That's fine, such personal attacks only lend weight to what I say when it is clear that you cannot rebut them. As I am more interested in facts, I will not return your ad hominem attack.
Gary,
It is clear that some here are basing their arguments on nothing more than their personal support of one side in the issue here. Like I have said before, I have no dog in this fight and support neither side. I am a supporter of democracy, hence I support what I think is best for democracy. As a person with faith in democracy I feel that if properly applied it will win out in the end.
It is clear that many with short sightedness support one group which claims to be democratic, no matter how vacant those claims may be. This is done not out of support for this group, but more for distaste of the opposition.
Sometimes it is better to support neither side, because neither is worthy of it. Such is the case in Lebanon.
Posted by: Marc at March 7, 2008 4:54 am
No matter how much we have gone back and forth I have yet to level a personal insult against you as you did to me above.
In fact you did. Cutting and pasting your ad hominem attacks against me would probably tax MJT's server, so just scroll up.
If you're going to make a habit of flinging so much rhetorical poo around, don't be surprised when you step in it.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at March 7, 2008 8:09 am
Nice try Mary.
It is clear that your hatred of Hizb'Allah trumps your interest in democracy.
For me the best way to defeat Hizb'Allah in the long term is to actually enact fair and equitable changes in how Lebanon is run.
If you get past your hatred of Hizb'Allah and start thinking long term you'll see that. Disenfranchising one group to benefit another will never amount to anything in the long term.
The same forumula will work over the wider Middle East. Enact democratic reforms in the entire region. Even if Islamists win in the short term, which they are sure to do, long term their moral and political bankruptcy will erode their support to nothing and the people of the Middle East can move on with living a life that they control in peace.
Supporting pseudo democratic groups like March 14 only prolongs the pain and the suffering in the region. They are as much of the problem as are groups like Hizb'Allah and Hamas, only for different reasons.
Posted by: Marc at March 7, 2008 8:24 am
For me the best way to defeat Hizb'Allah in the long term is to actually enact fair and equitable changes in how Lebanon is run.
Denying political authority to people who pick wars with neighboring countries despite the wishes of the rest of the country is entirely fair.
Ask a Canadian or a Mexican what would have happened if some provincial government had done to the US what the government of 'Hizbullahland' did to Israel.
I assure you, the answer you would hear is most emphatically not "give these people more authority at the national level".
Posted by: rosignol at March 8, 2008 12:05 am
"Like I have said before, I have no dog in this fight and support neither side."
What a crock. You make your sympathies clear every time you post. You're not fooling anyone with that "I don't support either side" bullshit in Lebanon, it's just cover for your hypocritical attacks on March 14, allegedly for taking Saudi support. When *I* criticized the Saudis you excoriated me as a bigot and made a typically arrogant, elitist remark that I wasn't a "rational player" but you do the same thing when it serves your purposes. Then there's your frequent claims to Jewish ancestry, nearly as frequent as your references to the "bloodthirsty Torah". I could go on ad nauseam on what a fraud you are, but I have a life to lead.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at March 8, 2008 12:26 am
Rosignol,
This has nothng to do with giving power to Hizb'Allah, it is about making sure that all segments of a population in a country that claims to be democratic have a fair and equitable share of the vote. I have said this before, but democracy in the Middle East will always start with people we in the West do not care for, but that will be short term. The long term benefits, both for us and them, will be enormous.
Gary,
It is clear you are filled with a large amount of hate and have trouble dealing with people in a rational manner.
If it makes you feel better I will admit I am actually Hassan Nasrallah himself.
Happy? Now let the rest of us get on with the debate. It seems you are more interested in attack me than actually talking about issues.
Posted by: Marc at March 8, 2008 7:15 pm
This has nothng to do with giving power to Hizb'Allah, it is about making sure that all segments of a population in a country that claims to be democratic have a fair and equitable share of the vote.
It is not possible to do one without doing the other.
Posted by: rosignol at March 8, 2008 10:00 pm
"It is clear you are filled with a large amount of hate and have trouble dealing with people in a rational manner."
I cheerfully admit to sarcasm, I dunno, it just seems to suit me better than pious pomposity. I guess since you can't answer me pointing out inconsistencies in your posts it's easier to just trash me with no content.
"If it makes you feel better I will admit I am actually Hassan Nasrallah himself."
It would do more to make me feel better if you admitted you are a human being with a point of view and prejudices like everyone else instead of going on with this phony "no dog in this fight" bullshit.
"let the rest of us get on with the debate"
Earth to marc: this is Michael's blog, it is up to him and him alone to decide whether I can post here. Besides, what's there to debate when you have "no dog in this fight"?
Posted by: Gary Rosen at March 8, 2008 10:57 pm
Rosignol,
So your solution is that if democracy benefits someone you or our government doesn't like that we do our best to stop it?
I am glad not everyone thinks that way, democratic countries would be going to war against each other and others all of the time.
Like I have always contended, in the short term democracy in the Middle East will see people elected we don't like. In the long term it will be in our best interest as these people first prove they cannot rule and then are thrown out.
As long as the extremists remain in the eternal opposition their ideas will always draw support. Time to put them to the test and see if their "Islam is the answer" will put food on people's table.
Gary,
I see no inconsistencies in my posts. I see you being a person who thinks in black and white and I realise that the world is more grey than you think.
I don't have a dog in this fight and the only prejudice I have is for democracy, no matter the benefactor. In the long run EVERYONE is better off in a true and equitable democracy. Those who deny this are only thinking short term.
I never said you cannot post here, nor did I deny that this is Michael's blog.
You state "what's there to debate when you have no dog in this fight". I am not sure I have read something more daft here yet. Because I do not support a side in the conflict in Lebanon I have no right to debate what I think would be best in Lebanon? I wasn't aware that a staked out position of support for one side in a conflict was required here for debate?
I am laughing because you tried to chastise me for supposedly taking away your right to debate on Michael's blog, yet you do exactly what you accuse me of in your next sentence. Thanks for bringing some levity to my Monday morning
Posted by: Marc at March 10, 2008 6:17 am
So your solution is that if democracy benefits someone you or our government doesn't like that we do our best to stop it?
How does promoting democracy in places where democracy would give our enemies more influence benefit the US? How does it benefit Lebanon? How does it benefit the US's friends in the region?
How does it benefit anyone other than Syria and Iran?
I may be somewhat idealistic, but I am not a complete fool.
Posted by: rosignol at March 10, 2008 6:19 pm
Lebanon already has democracy. It's flawed, but they have it. Democracy is not what Hezbollah and the Syrians are seeking in Lebanon.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 10, 2008 6:50 pm
Rosignol,
I think you'd better ask the Bush government your question. Democracy anywhere in the Middle East, short term, will not be good for US interests at all. Long term, however, the exact opposite is true.
How does equal enfranchisement benefit a democracy? Do you want to ask that one again after you have thought about it?
It is as plain and simple as this, if the Shi'a of Lebanon are not given equal representation there will be a war in which they will most likely be able to take what they want.
If it is between war to support an unjust system and equal representation, then I'd certainly rather seen equal representation.
Michael,
I am not talking about what Hizb'Allah wants, nor what Syria wants. I am talking about what I think is in the best long term interests of the nation of Lebanon and it's people.
There is NOTHING positive about groups trying to exclude others from proportional representation.
A positive, fair and equitable democratic system is the only thing that will save Lebanon from war, full stop.
Posted by: Marc at March 11, 2008 5:14 am
It is as plain and simple as this, if the Shi'a of Lebanon are not given equal representation there will be a war in which they will most likely be able to take what they want.
Nope. All they will accomplish is getting a lot of people killed, and most of them will be shia.
Starting a war when the best outcome you can hope for is survival is really stupid. Unfortunately, hizbullah's leadership is not noted for their tactical or strategic vision, and they are beholden to people who are entirely willing to sacrifice Lebanon to achieve larger goals.
Posted by: rosignol at March 11, 2008 11:13 am
I dont know what Lebanon you are talking about Rosignol, but the Shi'a are the largest grouping, and in case you missed it, the only decent military in the country belongs to Hizb'Allah.
Either way, I dont see why people would risk civil war just so they can keep one section of people from having a fair stake in the government and elections in the country?
It is amazing that people who would balk at such a system in the USA readily advocate force and violence to keep it in Lebanon.
Lebanon is a democracy in only the very weakest meaning of the word.
Unless they become a fair and more representitive government it is entirely likely there will be no Lebanese government in 10 years.
All of that to keep one group from having equal and fair rights. Amazing.
Posted by: Marc at March 11, 2008 11:48 am
I dont know what Lebanon you are talking about Rosignol, but the Shi'a are the largest grouping, and in case you missed it, the only decent military in the country belongs to Hizb'Allah.
Impossible to assess, as hizbullah is an insurgent militia, not a regular military, and neither the Lebanese army or the other factional militias have been in combat recently.
Either way, I dont see why people would risk civil war just so they can keep one section of people from having a fair stake in the government and elections in the country?
That's the problem, you don't see.
You think Hizbullah wants 'a fair stake'. Maybe Hizbullah believes it, too. Most of the rest of Lebanon thinks Hizbullah wants to run Lebanon like they run Hizbullahland. That's not a fair stake, that's outright control, with everyone else's interests coming second. While this is how a lot of the middle east is run- example #1 being the Alawites in Syria- it is only democratic in the old 'tyranny of the majority' sense. It is not an improvement over the status quo, and the rest of Lebanon will fight to keep what they have now.
Throw in the fact that Hizbullah's leaders like to start wars with the country who has the most competent and well-equipped military in the region, and it's really, really easy to understand why nobody outside of Hizbullah wants to give these guys more authority.
Frankly, your blindness to this makes you look like a shill.
It is amazing that people who would balk at such a system in the USA readily advocate force and violence to keep it in Lebanon.
Horsecrap. Nobody here is advocating deploying troops to Lebanon to 'keep the Shia down'. What I am doing is questioning the wisdom of the US supporting a change that gives an organization that is in the sack with Syria and Iran more influence.
What you are doing is trying to deflect a reasonable question with rhetoric.
Lebanon is a democracy in only the very weakest meaning of the word.
So? By middle eastern standards, it's an exemplar of democratic government. As someone once said, "This is not Norway here, and it is not Denmark". While there is a lot of room for improvement in Lebanon, there is also a lot of room for things to get worse.
Unless they become a fair and more representitive government it is entirely likely there will be no Lebanese government in 10 years.
Again, so? In 10 years, Iraq will be stable, the situation with Iran will be resolved, and the leader of Syria will either abandon his strategy of being the second-biggest jerk in the ME, or dial his foreign policy down to a much lower level of obnoxiousness.
All of that to keep one group from having equal and fair rights. Amazing.
Nobody here is buying what you're trying to sell.
Posted by: rosignol at March 11, 2008 1:01 pm
Rosignol,
I dont care if anyone here is wanting to buy what you are claiming I am trying to sell. Most people here have never set foot in the Middle East, never will, and have no friends or family in the area. At the end of the day it is an abstract debate for them.
I have been to the Middle East for a couple of decades now and have friends and family scattered throughout the area, including areas that would be directly affected by events in Lebanon. My wife's entire family lives within rocket range of Southern Lebanon.
So I care sweet fu** all what people think.
You might think that the "democracy" in Lebanon is the best in the Middle East, but that wont be worth much when the country is plunged into civil war because IDIOTS want to deprive people of fair and equal representation.
The very short sightedness that has cost SO MANY lives in the Middle East looks set to do so again.
But then again.........who cares right? As long as the people who are dying are OVER THERE!
By all means, continue with your abstract debate.
Posted by: Marc at March 12, 2008 6:57 am
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