June 16, 2004

Al-Sadr Becomes Pat Robertson

The insurgency of Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's fundamentalist fanatic-in-chief, is toast.

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr sent his fighters home on Wednesday in what may mark the end of a 10-week revolt against U.S.-led forces that once engulfed southern Iraq and Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines.

With the formal end of U.S.-led occupation just two weeks away, Sadr issued a statement from his base in Najaf calling on his Mehdi Army militiamen to go home.

He's damn lucky he's breathing.

So it looks like he's decided to become a "mainstream" Religious Right figure now. He'll be Iraq's Pat Robertson instead of Iraq's Ayatollah Khomeini, unless he just can't resist the temptation to bring the gun back into politics, in which case he won't be just toast he'll be burnt toast. If he's smart he'll get a TV show where he can rail against Godless heathens, raise money for kooky causes, and call it good.

I suppose this development is fine and all, but there's a danger here. It could have been al-Sadr's plan all along to throw a gigantic fit to get in on the action. Other marginalized wingnuts might decide to follow his example and see if it works for them. I don't expect they'll be happy with the results if they try.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 16, 2004 08:54 PM
Comments

It's not all bad news. I thought this paragraph, from the NYT, was particularly encouraging:

In recent days, Mr. Sadr has taken efforts to remake himself into a player in Iraq's emerging political landscape. He has offered his conditional approval to the interim government and, through his spokesman, Qais al-Khazali, floated the idea of organizing a political party. On Wednesday, the spokesman said in an interview that Mr. Sadr had no plans to run for office himself in the elections planned for January.

I hope, and I'm really very pleased to see with al-Sadr, that the possibilities of democracy will bring radicals to attempt to broaden their appeal through peaceful means...

Good news.

Posted by: harry at June 16, 2004 10:32 PM

As a quick addendum:

Michael points out that he's "damn lucky" he's breathing. No doubt. We could have taken him out. But we didn't. And, you know, I'm glad that we didn't. There's no doubt that the threat of our bullets helped persuade him -- but it is also the promise of our solution. Let's never forget that our cause is far more strong a motivation to peace than our bombs.

Posted by: harry at June 16, 2004 10:37 PM

It's really one of the most interesting stories coming out of Iraq right now--the looming spectre of popular, violent Islamic uprising led by a charsimatic leader became a reality, and what happened? Not only did he have is ass handed to him, but he's now endorsing what will become a democratic, secular government. Now I don't expect him to play nice, and it would be prudent of the Iraqis to hold him responsible for the death and destruction he's caused. But still.

The mullahs must be pissed.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at June 16, 2004 10:53 PM

This is encouraging.

But haven't you written Al-Sadr off before, Michael?

Posted by: Mork at June 16, 2004 11:01 PM

Mork, yeah I wrote him off a while back. I'm just glad he's officially taking his ball and going home now. (I'm assuming he's not pulling a Yasser Arafat here. We'll see.)

Hey Harry, you still coming to town?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 16, 2004 11:59 PM

You guys--tater totten in the lead-- gotta be the most self-complacent, proZaic and lamest denizens of cyberspace who ever attempted political commentary. Your stolid application of parochial and stereotyped American concepts to an Arab reality you can't even begin to comprehend is amusing. It's like you're looking at a Sumo match as if it were pro wrestling.

With minds like yours, it's small wonder the US empire of shreds and patches is in the fix it's in Mesopotamia.

Posted by: Falstaff at June 17, 2004 12:05 AM

Falstaff,

Only one of us you're scoffing at supported the invasion of Iraq. Doh! I'm the only hawk in the thread so far.

(To Harry, Christopher, and Mork...How does if feel, guys, to get lumped in with the Imperial Right for nothing? I don't know about you, but I do find if amusing.)

Poor Jack Falstaff, living up to your name...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 12:14 AM

You guys are way way too optimistic on Al-Sadr. And way way too optimistic on the idea of "radicals broadening their appeal" being a good thing. And definitely too optimistic in thinking that Iraq will turn into a "democratic, secular government". I'm usually the overly-optimistic one so I feel a little funny saying all this, but it's true.

Al Sadr isn't having a change of heart. He's merely embracing a change of tactics and it's a testament to just how dangerously intelligent the guy is. We shouldn't have shut down his paper, turning him into what he is today. That said, we probably should have killed what he is today months ago (to prevent what he now may become a year or two down the line).

Yasser Al-Sadr is on the way I'm afraid, Michael.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 12:19 AM

Make that two hawks, now. And, yeah, seeing Mork get accused of being an evil neo-con is a hoot!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 12:21 AM

Totally Unrelated PS...

Michael, I'll be emailing you in the next couple of days to catch you up on all the current events in my weird and twisted life. It's been a month and a half since, well, you know. So much has happened since then, you wouldn't believe. My life is now somewhere between soap opera and sitcom, it seems. Talk to you later.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 12:26 AM

Grant,

Yes, please do let me know what's up. Hope all is well.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 12:30 AM

By the way, the number of Republicans on this thread is still zero, the number of anti-war liberals is still larger than the number of hawks, and I'm still chuckling at Mr. Falstaff's commentary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 12:31 AM

Hmmm...

-No Republicans.
-Lots of Anti-War Liberals.
-A Few Pro-War Liberals.
-A Crazy Leftist or Two for Good Measure.

It's just like being on campus. Weird.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 12:53 AM

This thread rocks. Thanks, guys!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 12:56 AM

Yes, campus life isn't really that bad, Michael. Well, so long as it's a halfway normal campus and not Bob Jones University or Ithica, New York.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 01:00 AM

Uh...make that ITHACA and not "Ithica". My Ithaca friends would kill me for misspelling it. Well, that is they would kill me if they didn't believe all forms of violence and warfare to be inherently unjust.

Okay, I'm thread-hogging. I'll stop. Good night, everybody.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 17, 2004 01:08 AM

Micheal,
You do have a Republican..me! Although I haven't posted any real comments yet.....I read your blog everyday. One of the few sites with intelligent and ineteresting discussions.

(Bonnie-Marc's Sister)

Posted by: Bonnie Spolin at June 17, 2004 01:39 AM

Hi Bonnie. Of course I remember who you are. How could I forget? Thanks for reading, and say hi to Marc for me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 01:52 AM

Well, I'm toying with becoming a Republican, to show support for Bush's vision, despite his flaws. Does that count? (otherwise a Libertarian for Life kind of guy; now a Libertarian Paternalist.)

I'm sure that arresting him BEFORE shutting down his paper would have been better; but not sure (based on the prior pol stuff), that the CPA or GC is the right group to try Sadr for murder. I wonder if the interim gov't is up for it. I doubt it. Flushing him out, so he had to start doing something, too soon (before the handover), gave lots of time to deal with him; and, better, to let him mostly fizzle.

Slobo got elected while in jail. Sadr might, too, unless they make the election based on local districts (FPTP), not national party lists. And the big pol didn't ask about local elections--I don't understand why more folk don't realize how important these local democratic details are.

Posted by: Tom Grey at June 17, 2004 03:09 AM

I'm voting GOP, though I'm not necessarily a Republican. They're too liberal.

Posted by: David at June 17, 2004 06:14 AM

I've got to admit that I thought of the"yasser al-sadr," possibility too. The history of wingnuts selling out and going mainstream is a bit checkered, to say the least. How much is just a packaging change, how much is learning, growth, and and understanding of compromise in the political process in order to sustain some level of power and influence? Only time will tell.

And what happens after the Iraqis take over? Saw the godfather for the umpteenth time last night. Makes me think this could all be "No, Carlo. I'm not going to kill you. Do you think I'd make my sister a widow? Now who approached you?"

Everyone knows what happened to Carlo, right?

Posted by: bk at June 17, 2004 06:25 AM

>>>"Your stolid application of parochial and stereotyped American concepts to an Arab reality you can't even begin to comprehend is amusing. It's like you're looking at a Sumo match as if it were pro wrestling."

Wow Falstaff, that was brave; way to go out on a limb with your own commentary! It's obvious you're some kind of Arabist, or some kind of expert on the middle east. And I bet you can comment expertly on Sumo wrestling as well--- Is there anything you aren't able to illuminate us on? Will I become as well rounded as you by hanging out on Leftist blogs too? Off to Indymedia I go!

Posted by: David at June 17, 2004 06:34 AM

I would caution against a superficial analysis of this event. The recent poll done for the CPA shows him with a 67% approval rating, second only to Sistani (70%) amongst non-Kurdish Iraqis - and that represents a huge increase over the past year. In other words, his militancy has greatly increased his popularity. This doesnt seem to translate into seeing him as a political leader (only 2% would vote for him for president), but it does seem to indicate that he is not necessarily giving up his general approach - at least it seems that he has no reason to believe that it isnt working.

Perhaps he feels that the Americans would just love to take him out as a parting shot before 7/1, and he just wants to get some of the heat off for a few weeks. After the turnover, any major military action against him will need to be done "in consultation' with the government - meaning it might be harder to pull off, and also that if/when it does happen, the government will be publicly complicit.

The great task for the government will be to escape being seen as puppets. If militancy has increased Sadr popularity in the past, then it might in the future as well - and this time it might result in deligitimizing the government.

I dont really know which scenario is most likely - my instinct tells me that the superficial, publicly stated rationale is probably least likely.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 06:45 AM

One from the pro-war libertarian right: I think Grant's got it. Victor Davis Hanson quite accurately characterized the Islamist way of war as passive-aggressive. Sadr is pretending to fold while he recruits and reloads.

Posted by: Ken Hall at June 17, 2004 07:30 AM

You guys are way way too optimistic on Al-Sadr. And way way too optimistic on the idea of "radicals broadening their appeal" being a good thing. And definitely too optimistic in thinking that Iraq will turn into a "democratic, secular government". I'm usually the overly-optimistic one so I feel a little funny saying all this, but it's true.

Hey, I'm not about to believe that Sadr backing down is a sign of secular democracy -- or even a sign of Sadr's coming embrace of religious pluralism. But, if the NYT story I quote is correct and Sadr is thinking about forming a political party, that does seem to indicate that he's thinking of ways to work within the system. And it's hard to argue that that isn't a positive development.

Michael: Yep, I'm still heading out your way, though my summer visit will not, unfortunately, coincide with your schedule. But I'll be in Portland for good Aug. 15. I can't wait!

Posted by: harry at June 17, 2004 07:31 AM

Think Hamas.

Sadr is setting himself up to lead the political arm of his group. He can always plead that he has nothing to do with "that darn militant bunch."

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at June 17, 2004 08:11 AM

Michael,

I don't post often, but I try to read every day. I'll likely move from libertarian to Republican as well. A couple of reasons why, including my concern over terrorism/Islamofascism, cocern that voting for any but the two parties is a waste (I've done it for awhile now, to no avail), and the fact that my vote might actually mean something this time around (I've moved from Colorado to WV, where the race promises to be much tighter). I must say, though, I'm no huge Bush fan. The libertarian in my is choking at the sight of these budgets. I understand that the war costs money, but funds should be shifted to pay for it. I'm also not a big fan of some of the religious rhetoric, though I don't mind it as much as others at this blog seem to.

There you go -- an agnostic libertarian from West Viginia who's a clinical psychologist, who's going to vote for Bush. Try fitting that into some pollster's demographic!

Jerry

Posted by: Jerry at June 17, 2004 08:14 AM

Well, I'm a Gnostic gay psychotherapist from the People's Republic of San Francisco, and I'm gonna vote for Dubya! I've been around too long to expect anyone, much less a President, to fulfill all my needs for a Hero. But George has the priorities right Muslim terrorism even when I don't get his tactics. I supported and support the Iraq invasion for one simple reason: to destablize (sp?) the Middle East. It is the matrix of 9.11 and nothing short of a strong military response would ever get the Arabs' attention. It has been and always was a huge gamble, but I saw no other possibility. The prospect of a Western style democracy in an Arab Muslim country never has been good. There is hardly an American I loathe more than Pat Robertson maybe Michael Moore but compared to Al Sadr, both these homegrown loonies are puppies. But as long as we don't get an Islamist theocracy to replace Saddam, I'd say it was worth it. To me, it's always been about America, not about Iraq. Iraq was just the logical place to hit back. Does that make me a bad person?

Posted by: EssEm at June 17, 2004 08:40 AM

>> You guys--tater totten in the lead-- gotta be the most self-complacent, proZaic and lamest denizens of cyberspace who ever attempted political commentary.

Wow, bottomfeeders all. Gee, ummm..., gosh, Sir, it pains me to know Mr. Totten and everyone else has failed you so badly. I just feels so... what's the word... humiliated, that's it!

For the sake of helping us all do better, let's assume you've spinkled just a pinch of hyperbole in there.

Of course everyone knows full well that everyone here deserves even worse but, fortunately for those of us who aren't you, there aren't words to adequately describe the profound depths of our ignorance, stupidity, and unimaginativeness overlayed with drug induced stupor. But you are the one with the vast intellectual gifts, so please be gentle and generous - "give back" if you will.

>> Your stolid application of parochial and stereotyped American concepts to an Arab reality you can't even begin to comprehend is amusing. It's like you're looking at a Sumo match as if it were pro wrestling.

Which particular parochial and stereotyped American concepts did you have in mind? Is it the tired old "melting pot" thing or the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." thing, or the "Can Do Yahoo Cowboy" thing or the "Mayflower WASP" thing?

Maybe its the "America is an idea, not a culture" thing! Oh, I hope so. That's one my very favorites. Not that I understand it, of course. But there was this Christmas Eve and a snow storm (honest injun!) and I needed to get home and my car broke down and this tow truck guy hauled me and the car 50 miles while he told me all about Puerto Rico and how there were true ethnic Puerto Ricans and these sorta fake Cubano Puerto Ricans and how proud he was of that hero pilot who died when we bombed Libya and how the guy was his cousin and... Oh sorry, I wandered. It happens to us besotted fools, you understand.

>> With minds like yours, it's small wonder the US empire of shreds and patches is in the fix it's in Mesopotamia.

Oh my goodness! The empire is in shreds and patches? I hadn't noticed. Should we just curl up and suck our thumbs or should we send one of the kids to fetch a BFH so we can fix it?

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 08:40 AM

Your Darth Vader Republican has arrived.

I'm not a Pat Robertson fan, but your labelling of al-Sadr as Iraq's version of is inapt. Last time I checked, Pat wasn't ordering hits on rival televangelists (although I don't keep up with their exploits, so I could be wrong on that count). al-Sadr has been implicated in the murder of a rival cleric before the start of the "uprising", and there is a chance that his fate could be decided by an Iraqi court or by extralegal retribution before he can get "The 622 Club" up and running.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at June 17, 2004 08:45 AM

DtP,

Are you telling me that Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell and the rest of those loathesome amerimullahs don't have teeming legions of AK and RPG waving, explosive-device-improvising, police-station-sacking, church-barricading minions at their beck and call? I gotta pay more attention. I coulda sworn from listening to the MSM and other smart people talking about the VRWC... Gosh, its all so confusing.

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 09:14 AM

I apologize for bogarting the thread, but I just have to aks...

EssEm - are you really Gnostic? I saw you guys on History Channel. Did you really do all that DiCinci Code stuff?

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 09:31 AM

Dennis the Peasant: Last time I checked, Pat wasn't ordering hits on rival televangelists

Oh, I know. But that's Yesterday's Moqtada. I'm talking about the New and Improved Low-Fat Moqtada!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 10:12 AM

Y'know, while I'm all for less violence in Iraq, I gotta point out that al-Sadr's group (who's political position I find abhorrent, btw) took the resistance path because they were marginalized politically by the interm gov't. Now they've got pretty much what they wanted in the first place.

So I'm not sure why, Michael, you're saying that his insurgency is toast. The guy is a friggin' hero in the eyes of most Iraqis. Well, the non-Kurdish portion.

Oh well, at least less people are dying. I hope that there's more support for Sistani than al-Sadr, and that the support he's been getting because he's a figure of resistance will now dry up.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 17, 2004 11:19 AM

" Iraq was just the logical place to hit back. Does that make me a bad person?"

Yes.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 11:39 AM

Here is one more Republican. Voted for Reagan, GWB, but no Papa Bush for me, thank you.
Read you every day now instead of Andrew Sullivan

Posted by: Anna at June 17, 2004 11:56 AM

Al-Sadr has a death wish. It's in his blood. His father and grandfather were murdered, and if you follow the Shia at all, you know that martyrdom is a huge part of their appeal.

Ultimately, he will get his wish. But thanks the U.S. armed forces, it will probably be more of an old-fashioned assassination by one of his rivals.

Having said that, now that his chubby countenance has made umpteen magazine covers as the face of the inflammable insurrection, when will the MSM admit they were wrong? When will their comical predictions that a few thousand, badly equipped, untrained thugs would roll back the First Armored be audited? When will their ludicrous claims that Sadr's ragtag Shiite army was somehow "coordinating" with the Ba'athist mujihadeen in Fallujah, some 200 miles away, be disowned?

Correct: November 4th.

Posted by: Fresh Air at June 17, 2004 12:01 PM

EssEm

No

It's only too bad that that the invasion could not have been sold to the US public in that manner.

Prediction for Al-Sadr - He will be jailed for murder by an Iraqi court until he is politically irrelevant. Sistani will lead the charge as it is in his best political interest, both to increase his stock with the US, and to consolidate his Shiite leadership.

Posted by: Obe at June 17, 2004 12:10 PM

Obe,
I'll dispute your prediction.
I think it far more likely that Sistani sees Sadr as his bulldog, rather than his rival.

As for Essem, the reason he is a bad person, and the reason that his apporach could not be sold to the American people, is that it is a profoundly immoral postion.

To go to war for the explicit purpose of sowing discord and instability in a region?
To "hit back" at someone for something they did not do?

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 12:23 PM

>> the reason he is a bad person, and the reason that his apporach could not be sold to the American people, is that it is a profoundly immoral postion.

Now hang on there a second, Hoss. Its not enough that you disagree, or you find the position "immoral", but you jump to "profoundly immoral" and then to "bad person". There's been some bashin' and trashin' of certain leaders within the "Religious Right" here recently that semed to define that sort of "reasoning" as ridiculous. How does what you just said differ from "homosexuality is immoral therefore homosexuals are bad people" (just one example).

>> To go to war for the explicit purpose of sowing discord and instability in a region?

Not only did you make the insupportable leap of logic of "that with with I disagree is immoral and the person who disagrees is, therefore, bad" but you seem to have based that on the demonstrably incorrect assertion that "stable = good". A sunken ship might be perfectly stable sitting on the ocean floor but I dount you'd care to be a passenger on it at that point. You may be in a nice, stable state of REM sleep, but if someone is climbing through your window to cut your throat your stability places you in an undesireable situation. Stability is not automagically a "good" thing.

Not to mention that we could have some valid disagreement regarding whether or the situation in Iraq was stable. JMO, but I don't see how a nation which had twice invaded neighbors and for which we and the Brits were had been waging low-intensity warfare for a decade to maintain the "no fly zones" could be considered "stable". And we don't even need to get into a whole list of other things such as how any enviromentalist worth his salt marsh could have defined the situation in Iraq as "stable" - never mind "good".

If you'd care to expand the discussion out to the Middle East, or the Arab world, or the Islamic world or anything larger than Iraq, that's fine with me. But if you're going to claim whichever region you'd care to discuss was "stable" you'll have to defend that. And if you try to take it further to suggest that whatever stability there was represented a long-term, tolerable situation you'll be doin' some triple salchows on some thin ice.

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 01:01 PM

++UG said:
"...The guy is a friggin' hero in the eyes of most Iraqis. Well, the non-Kurdish portion."

I'd like to see you support that first assertion.

Every Iraqi blog I've seen condemns the man. As Obe points out, he's going most likely going to get arrested and tried for murder.

Posted by: Eric Blair at June 17, 2004 01:12 PM

To echo an important point made above--the measure of Moqtada al-Sadr's future lies in the murder charge he's got hanging over his head. It's important to note that all of the surrender negotiations included a stipulation that al-Sadr stand trial for the murder of a fellow cleric; there was no offer to forgive and forget on that point in return for standing down his mafia goons.

I'd wait and see how he slides through that process before I start predicting his political future. After all, there is good reason to believe this is his swan song.

Posted by: Sam Barnes at June 17, 2004 01:13 PM

Knuck,
'How does what you just said differ from "homosexuality is immoral therefore homosexuals are bad people" (just one example)."

Doesnt differ at all. If you think homosexuality is immoral then you think that people who engage in it are immoral people. And immoral people are generally considered bad.
Whats your point?

"Not only did you make the insupportable leap of logic of "that with with I disagree is immoral.."

I said no such thing. There are plenty of people I disagree with who I do not consider immoral. I think the war was wrong for instance. But I certainly recognize that there are good people, with moral reasons, who supported it. I think they were wrong, but not immoral.
We were discussing one particular person, who laid out one particular set of justifications for the war. And those I find to be profoundly immoral. IOW, I did not charge him with immorality because he supported the war, but because of the justifications he presented.

"you seem to have based that on the demonstrably incorrect assertion that "stable = good". ":

I made no such assertion, of course. Why not deal with what I said, rather than make stuff up?
Whether a situation is stable or not, starting a war for the purpose of making it more unstable is immoral. Making a war for the purpose of making an unstable situation stable, or a badly stable situation stable in a good way, are two entirely different matters. But those were not the reasons given.

The rest of your message is just more hot air on about an assertion I never made.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 01:34 PM

Eric,
Not to speak for anyone else, but the reference to Sadr being a hero to non-Kurds was the same point I made earlier. It is based on the polling done by the CPA, and released yesterday, or the day before.
It found that of all the major personalities in Iraq, Sistani was the most popular (70%), and Sadr right behind (67%). And the new prime minister was at about 23%. And that these numbers represented a huge increase in his popularity since the last poll - before his insurgency.
Kurds were not included.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 01:39 PM
Eric Blair
++UG said: "...The guy is a friggin' hero in the eyes of most Iraqis. Well, the non-Kurdish portion."

I'd like to see you support that first assertion.

Geez Mr. Orwell, can't you Google? Sigh. Well, this from Bill O'Reilly, from Fair and Balanced news:
According to the poll, 81 percent of the Iraqis surveyed actually approve of or refuse to condemn the killer cleric Al Sadr.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 17, 2004 01:41 PM

Sistani was the most popular (70%), and Sadr right behind (67%). And the new prime minister was at about 23%.

What was really scary about that poll was that about 37% wanted Hussein back in charge.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 17, 2004 02:01 PM

Oh man, so very, very wrong. Sadr should have been killed along healthy dose of his followers. He lives to fight another day, rearming and recruiting. We had him on the ropes and should have finished the job. You want to kill a movement you kill it's leaders, quickly,with authority, and most importantly, with no apologies. Sadr is going to come back to bite us in the ass.
This is war, not a conflict resolution class at the local college.

Posted by: Joe Marino at June 17, 2004 02:24 PM

This is war, not a conflict resolution class at the local college.

If al-Sadr had been killed by the US, the Shi'a would have gone apeshit. And that, my friend, is the technical political term. It would have made al-Sadr's insurrection look like a tea party. That was why they didn't kill him when they could have.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 17, 2004 02:34 PM

Instead of Pat Robertson, I think our friend Muqty really needs to go the Jimmy Baker route, and build himself a Jihad-themed amusement park. This way, he gets to rail against the infidels and dispense cotton candy. It's win-win!

Posted by: Independent George at June 17, 2004 02:37 PM

>> Doesnt differ at all. If you think homosexuality is immoral then you think that people who engage in it are immoral people. And immoral people are generally considered bad.
Whats your point?

Let's have a look at the concept of "morality" and whether or not there is some "standard".

mo·ral·i·ty

1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

I assert that wrt "morality" the vast majority of "liberal minded" people believe there is some amount of "indivuality" or "wriggle room", if you will, for people or groups of people to define for themselves, within limits, their "system of ideas of right and wrong conduct". So, for example, someone whose "system" says that eating pork is "immoral" for THEM would not hold people who don't hold the same beliefs to the same standards.

Clearly this would not hold in an "absolute" sense. For example (this is PURELY rhetorical!), suppose that your system of right conduct, your morality, dictates to you that looking at pornography is immoral and "Playboy" qualifies as pornography in your system. I, on the other hand, may have a different definition of pornography. Let's just say that, despite what others may think, I view "Playboy" (they still publish that thing, don't they - the articles were good) magazine as literature or art rather than pornography. I suppose, but have no proof, that you would not accuse me of being an immoral person for looking at "Playboy". I have no doubt that if we reverse this I would not consider you immoral for looking at a girlie magazine simply because I chose to define that as immoral for me.

This wouldn't hold in an absolute sense for "typical" people because there are some "typical" limits most of us would agree to. For example, killing people because our religion says they are "infidels" might be a supremely "moral" act for some people but most of us would consider that immoral even if we acknowledge some gray area or "wriggle room" for morality in a broader sense.

This is certainly a "American" outlook and, in fact, as a nation we don't consistently even recognize "morality". There's legal and illegal rather than moral and immoral in terms of the law. My "system for right conduct" may be nothing more than "that which is legal is moral and that which is illegal is immoral". Yours may be guided by religious dogma that requires conduct far more limited than simply being legal.

I assert that, by and large, at least a significant portion, if not most, Americans or participants here would define as something like a "zealot" anyone who rigorously held that their own personal system of right conduct, their morality, was absolutely binding on everyone else.

But even if I have that wildly incorrect, even people who are zealous in their adherence to a formalized system of right conduct (rigorous about their morality) and even those who project that sense of morality onto others, do not normally assert that an immoral act defines a person as "bad". From Christians we frequently hear, "Hate the sin, love the sinner". Not precisely apropos, but darned close. Most people, even rigorously moral people, allow that a "good" person might commit an immoral act or have an immoral thought. We don't normally hold people to a standard of perfection before we allow that they are "good" and we typically require some "pattern" of immoral behavior before we declare a person as "bad". We distinguish people from their acts to some degree and we have very forgiving natures (all of that has limits). I'm beating on this way to hard, but I avoid people I consider "bad" but, on the other hand, have no problem with inviting people into my home who I consider "good" even though I know they sometimes do something I consider immoral.

Its possible that I am just a wellspring of incredible tolerance, but I don't think so. I think I've got a relatively "standard" idea of morality and good people vs. bad people.

And then, of course, there are always people who define motives as good or bad and judge actions upon that basis. Such people could see two bank-robberies and judge one to be a moral act and the other to be immoral based upon the motives of the actors. "I robbed the bank to take money from the zionist oppressors and use it to finance the revolution!" (MORAL/GOOD!) vs. "I robbed the bank 'cause I really like money and banks have a lot of it!" (IMMORAL/BAD!) But that's a different discussion.

After that bit, you claimed that I put up a bunch of hot air about things you didn't say.

I'm not going to go bother cutting and pasting from above. EssEm, if I understood and summarize it correctly, said that - in his opinion or according to his understanding - the war in Iraq was justified because it "destablized" the region (i.e, in his own little version of St. Thomas Aquinas' schtick, it is a "just war").

Your response to that was that going to war to "destablize" the region was not a valid reason (you believe, if I understand and summarize your position correctly) to go to war; i.e, it is an "unjust war".

You further said (correct me if I'm wrong) that his reason was "immoral" and that his "immorality" made him a "bad" person.

I assert, and I said it above and stick with it, that there is more than enough room for disagreement regarding not only whether or not "destabilzaton" is a valid or invalid reason to go to war and, furthermore, there is ample room for discussion regarding whether or not Iraq, or the region, is even stable.

Please, what did I misrepresent about what you said or what words to I put in your mouth? To be perfectly honest, Tano, I think you way out on a limb and painted yourself in a corner (not to mix any metaphors or anything) and your limb cracked and got paint all over your shoes. But I've been wrong before and I could be wrong about this. That might make me a bad person, but it doesn't make you one (although you might be, Idunno).

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 02:58 PM

Tano,

JIC I failed, yet again, to make my point clear, I'll provide a couple real-life examples.

My daughter rides horses. Horses are sometimes "off", which means they have some level of pain which shows up as a "limp". She would never work a horse that was off - that would be immoral in her book. If you have any exposure to people who use horses for real work (for example, the Amish to pull their wagons) you would quickly learn that simply being "off" does not qualify as a reason to not work a horse. They will use the horse even though it is in pain (obviously there would be some limiting factor, but simply inflicting pain isn't it). I guarantee that my daughter does not view Amish people as "bad" even though they consistently do something she considers immoral.

I have one friend who is the most Christian person I know - rigorously Christian. I know for a fact that she considers homosexuality to be immoral. I have another friend who is homosexual. I know for a fact that she does not consider the fact of homosexuality as the determinant for whether people are good or bad. In fact, to quote her, "Your friend is such a nice young man. He just seems so good. His boyfriend, though, I don't know about that one". Both of those friends I judge to be very moral people. The Christian consider the homosexual immoral and the homosexual considers the Christian immoral for considering immoral (he'd have to explain that for himself, its way too circular for me). Each considers the other a good person whom they are happy to see and spend time with (they've actually had this discussion - gave me a freakin' headache listening to them). The homosexual, BTW, considers himself a Christian and the Christian seems to also.

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 03:36 PM

geez knuclehead, could you at least make an effort to be concise?

I think that advocating a war for the purpose of destabilzing a regime is immoral. I think that advocating a war agaisnt one nation, as an attempt to hit back for a crime committed by someone else is immoral.
I think that anyone who does these specific immoral things is a bad person.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 04:07 PM

Tano,

If a regime is immoral, why is it immoral to destabilize it? The way I see it, it is immoral to do anything in order to deliberately preserve an immoral regime, and it is amoral to be neutral toward it. Also, it is not sufficient to simply say "I oppose that regime" if you're in a position where you can do more than strike a pose with nice sounding words. Those words by themselves accomplish nothing. What matters is action and results.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 04:20 PM

DPU, and just what percentage of those polled approved of Al Sadsack, and how many simply refused to condemn? Merging the two, especially two options that far apart, doesn't strike me as being that useful of a stat. Factor in all the other usual questions about such polls, (The actual questions, sample size, sample selection, etc)and you'll see why I'm not that concerned about the results. Now, had you quoted someone credable on the right, instead of a sensationalist blowhard like O'Reilly...

Posted by: Cybrludite at June 17, 2004 04:38 PM

Tano, if that's the case, how come our response to 12/7 was to invade Morroco when it was the Japanese who bombed us?

Posted by: Cybrludite at June 17, 2004 04:40 PM

Michael, thanks for clarity.

If only Bush (or Kerry) could be that concise.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 17, 2004 04:48 PM

If a regime is immoral, why is it immoral to destabilize it? "

First off, the guy wrote that he supported the war to destabilize the REGION, not the regime. Seems pretty obvious to me that we wouldnt go to war against Saddam to destablilize him - it would be to take him out. That is an entirely different issue than what the guy proposed.

Destabilizing the region means more terrorism, more killing, more war - presumably with the hope that something good would somehow emerge in the end. I find that immoral and irresponsible.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 05:37 PM

>> geez knuclehead, could you at least make an effort to be concise?

No.

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 05:39 PM

Concise is what smart people like Michael do. Excellent point, BTW. please identify a regime in the region which isn't immoral and deserving of being removed?

Posted by: Knucklehead at June 17, 2004 05:42 PM

Tano,

Did the destabilization of the Soviet Union have a moral or immoral outcome?

Look, I don't want countries like Jordan, Tunisia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Morroco to be destabilized. Their governments aren't democratic, but they are moderate. However, you can count me as a cheerleader for a destabilization campaign against Syria and Iran since they are both ruled by totalitarians. Totalitarian stability is evil, and I don't buy the assertion that throwing a monkey wrench into it is immoral.

And by destabilization, I don't mean war. I mean leaning hard on the regimes, loudly supporting human rights, and giving aid to liberal democratic revolutionaries.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 17, 2004 06:06 PM

MJT--

You are being too kind to Tano. He is double-speaking again. Here is what he said:

I think that advocating a war for the purpose of destabilzing a regime is immoral. I think that advocating a war agaisnt one nation, as an attempt to hit back for a crime committed by someone else is immoral.

Then he said:

First off, the guy wrote that he supported the war to destabilize the REGION, not the regime. Seems pretty obvious to me that we wouldnt go to war against Saddam to destablilize him - it would be to take him out. That is an entirely different issue than what the guy proposed.

Let's recap: First Tano said it wasn't moral to destabilize a regime. Then Tano said it was okay to destabilize a regime, but not a region, so long as we "took out" Saddam.

If you can find a moral compass in that crackerjack box of b.s., I'll hand you a ten-spot.

Posted by: Fresh Air at June 17, 2004 06:22 PM

"And by destabilization, I don't mean war."

OK,OK relax bud. I wasnt calling YOU immoral. But the poster said he justified WAR as a means to destablize the region.

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 06:23 PM

Yes, FA
You got me there. The original poster spoke of the region. That is what I responded to. Then after following Knuck through a very long roller coaster ride, I misspole myself (always wanted to play politician with that line), and said regime. So sorry. I clarified later. But clearly, you got free shots coming....

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 06:27 PM

Damn, I finally get to use the phrase, and I end up mispelting myself.
"Misspoke"

Posted by: Tano at June 17, 2004 06:28 PM

Just a note about destabilization. I've brought this up before as a critisism of the Iraq invasion, that it would destabilize the region. The response I got was "good".

Well, the region is now thouroughly destabilized. It looks as if Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a major insurrection by jihadists. If the oil supply routes in that region start being sabotaged in the same was that they are in Iraq, say hello to $5/gallon. Imagine what that will do to the economy.

If you imagine that this would allow western intervention into Saudi Arabia and allow a liberal democracy to be set up... well, latest polls indicate that over 90% of Saudi Arabians think Osama Bin Laden is a great guy. Imagine what that democracy might look like.

I cannot see how anyone can think that destabilization in a politically volatile region containing an enormous source of resources critical to the world economy, and three, count 'em, three nearby nuclear weapon-equipped nations. Four if you count Russia.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 18, 2004 08:20 AM

.. is a good thing.

(sorry, incomplete sentence at the end of the last post)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 18, 2004 08:57 AM

Western intervention in Saudi Arabia to save the regime, or establish democratcy? Not exactly. The only really important part is the costal oil-bearing and handling area. Grab that, kick out the the Saudi/Jehadi riff-raff (who don't know how to run the equipment anyway, the imported westerners do that), and seal it off from the rest of the place. They can have their sand, and their black rock too. And Saudi royal family can go f**k themselves. Decadant parasites, they have outlived their usefulness.

And as a plus, doing it that way cuts off all that oil money the Saudis use to fund terror. It would do a lot of damage to Al Qaeda to lose their primary funding source.

Pretty nasty realpolitics, not sure Bush has the stones to do it, but I could go for it myself. After all, the oil fields were developed by western technology and investment, and then nationalized (stolen, confiscated, whatever). Turn-about is fair play, a dish served cold, etc.

We are going to be facing an oil shock anyway, as soon as sanctions (read: naval blockade) get imposed on Iran for their Bomb program. Or even a hot war, if they force our hand. Better to secure a major portion of the world's oil supply by taking out of untrustworthy arab/muslim hands permantly.

We are now getting to the end of the middle game, where all the stacked tensions, threats and counter threats will violently unwind into a simpler ending. If we are agressive and ruthless we can come out on top. If we play nicey-nice, we will get screwed.

Hopefully, a major oil shock will focus people's minds the survival issues we a facing in this war. In a way, it would be a better outcome, and a better focusing event than a major hit on a US city, that some suppose will be the only way to get the 9/10 people to realize that this is not patty-cake, or just domestic politics.

Posted by: Eric E. Coe at June 18, 2004 08:51 PM

you can count me as a cheerleader for a destabilization campaign against Syria and Iran since they are both ruled by totalitarians. Totalitarian stability is evil, and I don't buy the assertion that throwing a monkey wrench into it is immoral.

And by destabilization, I don't mean war. I mean leaning hard on the regimes, loudly supporting human rights, and giving aid to liberal democratic revolutionaries.

You know, it seems to me that we should have done exactly that instead of invading Iraq.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 11:40 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn