April 25, 2005

Lebanon and Syria in the News

Posted by Jeremy Brown

It would seem that the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon is or will in a few hours be complete. That should be the big news in tomorrow's papers. It will be interesting to see whether that's anything like the case.

Here's a quick sampling of a few bits and pieces I've seen so far:

I searched the front page of The New York Times for the words Lebanon and Syria. Here's the only headline that turned up (it was indeed in international news):

Ex-Officials Say Bolton Inflated Syrian Danger

I'm not boosting Bolton, mind you, just saying.

Here's something -- just for yuks -- from the Pacifica website:

Lebanon is now free of all Syrian troops. Mohammed Shublaq has more from Beirut about the mixed reactions.

I'll grant both of these websites the fact that tomorrow happens across the Atlantic before it happens here. Indeed, The Guardian, much to its credit, has this to say in today's web edition:

Faced with mass demonstrations in Beirut and international calls for a speedy withdrawal, Syria had little option but to pull its forces out. Anxious to save face, Damascus has sought to portray its withdrawal as implementation of the 1989 Taif accord that ended the Lebanese civil war. Today's ceremony is likely to provide Syria with more face-saving spin and may also distract some attention from a UN report, due to be delivered today by Kofi Annan, on the extent of Syrian compliance with resolution 1559.

That report has a just discernibly unsympathetic point of view toward Syria. And that's: "OK." Good for the Guardian.

Iran is not thrilled with the Syrian withdrawal (emphasis mine):

Iranian President Mohamed Khatami warned in a meeting with visiting Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt yesterday that Lebanon was “vulnerable” and risked civil war, the Isna news agency reported. “The possibility exists of an aggravation of divisions which could tranform into a civil war,”

And when it comes to the possibility of an aggravation of divisions and of civil war, Iran is not content to just wag a finger of warning -- they plan to help in any way they can:

Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Massoud Edrissi Monday underlined the need for continuation of Iran's all-out support for Lebanese terrorist group Hezbullah to cope with the current crucial situation in Lebanon.

Which brings me back to Pacifica's promise of 'mixed reactions' which suddenly seems to be a rather apt choice of words.

Do I have a point? Yes. Please be sure you're reading here this week.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at April 25, 2005 09:47 PM

Thank you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 26, 2005 12:34 AM

Since I didn't hear any reports to the contrary, I'll assume the million plus Syrians are still in Lebanon. Syria has 1.4 million "workers" in Lebanon. Are they leaving too? The Lebanese haven't started any shooting to get these out. That means that psychologically, the Lebanese are cowed and intimidated and still fear the Syrians. There's really no need for the Syrian army to physically back up the threat. It's already deeply imbedded psychologically.

And with that many Syrians in Lebanon, how long before they become the dominant story of lebanon? Doubtful that in 20 years it will remain Lebanon.

Posted by: mika. at April 26, 2005 03:56 AM

Also, will Iranian arms shipments still be allowed to make their destination in Hizbollahland through Syria?

Posted by: mika. at April 26, 2005 04:11 AM

“I'll assume the million plus Syrians are still in Lebanon. Syria has 1.4 million "workers" in Lebanon. Are they leaving too?”

Why do they have to leave? Do you think it is necessary to ethnically cleanse Lebanon of all Syrians? I would think that many of these Syrians may feel more loyalty to their new home than to Hafez al-Assad. Are you truly convinced that these Syrians will act as Fifth Columnists? The fact that Syria is removing its military might persuade its remaining citizens to behave themselves.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 05:17 AM

The front page of the Washington Post has a full color picture of a crwod greeting a Lebanese soldier after taking over a Syrian intelligence post. The story is on page 10, but the photo dominates the front page.


However, the subheader is "Relief Is Mingled With Regret for Some Lebanese."

The article includes this quote: "And some Lebanese expressed frustration over the intense international pressure directed against Syria to end its domineering presence in Lebanon."

No one is quoted to back up this claim, no mention is made of who these Lebanese are. We must assume that they are out there, expressing frustration.

Then there's the notice about the drug trade ready to spring up following Syria's departure, as the article notes that in the valley "hashish production and opium crops flourished before Syria's arrival."

Still I'll take it. It's generally positive coverage of a major event in the Middle East.

Posted by: Peter G at April 26, 2005 05:53 AM

Syria's planted a demographic bomb. Same thing the Muzzies are trying for in Israel. Should the Syrians succeed, in 20 years the christian population in Lebanon will be completely marginalized. With the Christians at 10%-15% of the population, their fate will be that of the Egyptian Copts. Game over.

Posted by: mika. at April 26, 2005 06:19 AM

The MSM don’t want to report any good news whatsoever coming out of the Middle East. This only helps George W. Bush and vindicates his overall foreign policies. What may be the greatest threat to the Lebanese? The Democratic Party in the United States! This party is currently lead by those who will throw a monkey wrench into any machinery if they fail to perceive how it will help them. Joseph Lieberman is one of the few exceptions. Do you really want to help the Iraqis and the Lebanese? If the answer is yes, you must do everything you can to marginalize those Democrats who dominate that party’s national apparatus. Don’t ever forget what the Democrat party did to the Vietnamese.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 06:22 AM

David is making the common mistake of filtering absolutely everything through the prism of left/right American politics. In reality, how much media coverage there is a matter of which outlets have reporters in Beirut and which ones don't. The Post probably decided to have someone go from the Baghdad or Jerusalem bureau to cover what was happening, and the Times didn't. That's it. And I don't see the pro-Bush outlets (WSJ, etc.) sending people either.

Posted by: Steve at April 26, 2005 06:41 AM

David is not far off the mark. If the MSM wanted to, the MSM would have covered the story. The story is there. It doesn't take much to get it publicized.

Posted by: mika. at April 26, 2005 07:15 AM

“David is making the common mistake of filtering absolutely everything through the prism of left/right American politics.”

Everything in American national politics IS filtered through the prism of left/right policies. The Democratic Party has been captured by the children of the 60s. John Kerry aligned himself with the radical Left. These people now dominate that party’s leadership. One cannot comprehend anything about our current predicament without studying the 60s radicals. I strongly encourage everyone to view the 2003 Academy Award nominated documentary “The Weather Underground.” This will help you get started.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 07:17 AM

David Thomson -- David Horowitz ought to get an online echo chamber together for people like you who feel the need to utter such inanities as to compare the Democratic Party -- whose Senate leader Harry Reid is today signaling he will back down and allow some extremist judges to be confirmed after all -- to the Weather Underground.
Seriously, forget partisan liberals like me...do you really expect that a single moderate swing voter is likely to view the Weather Underground documentary and decide based on that video not to vote for a Democrat running in 2006?

are you

Posted by: markus rose at April 26, 2005 07:34 AM

David Thomson -- David Horowitz ought to get an online echo chamber together for people like you who feel the need to utter such inanities as to compare the Democratic Party -- whose Senate leader Harry Reid is today signaling he will back down and allow some extremist judges to be confirmed after all -- to the Weather Underground.
Seriously, forget partisan liberals like me...do you really expect that a single moderate swing voter is likely to view the Weather Underground documentary and decide based on that video not to vote for a Democrat running in 2006?

Posted by: markus rose at April 26, 2005 07:34 AM

“do you really expect that a single moderate swing voter is likely to view the Weather Underground documentary and decide based on that video not to vote for a Democrat running in 2006?”

I indeed do expect that moderates who study the 1960s radicals will conclude that these people now dominate the national politics of the Democratic party. You mentioned Harry Reid, but he was not the Democrats’ presidential nominee. That honor belongs to John Kerry who definitely did align himself with the radical Left. Just about every single Democratic national leader was highly influenced by the radicals of the 60s. In some respects, they envy the actual radicals. The latter were willing to essentially go all the way while they hesitated to do so. They are often guilt tripped individuals because they “sold out to the bourgeoisie establishment.”

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 07:55 AM


Syria Announces Multi-Party Elections


Posted by: spaniard at April 26, 2005 08:04 AM

basic facts:
1. pope is catholic
2. bears shit in the woods
3. gravity keeps us from floating away
4. John Kerry was one of the non-radical leaders of VVAW back in 1971, as the real radicals then and now can firmly attest to.
5. He was certainly not a radical during his career in the Senate or during his presidential campaign.
6. No other present day Democratic Party leader was a member of a radical organization like Weather Underground, SDS, PLP in the sixties.

Hence, the Democratic Party is not run by 1960's radicals.

Posted by: markus rose at April 26, 2005 08:07 AM

I find it ironic that Markus Rose is arguing that today’s national Democratic Party is not highly influenced by the radicalism of the 1960s. He is actually a quintessential result of this era’s radicalism. Rose is a Jew who believes that Israel is something of a fascist state that victimizes the Palestinians. This crazy notion comes right out of the 60s radicalism.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 08:37 AM


Can we please not turn Syria and Lebanon into a partisan bitchfest? I've managed to write about what's happening over here for three weeks in a row without ever once mentioning Bush, Kerry, neocons, or the Democratic or Republican parties. Give it a shot. I know you can do it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 26, 2005 08:47 AM

My personal opinion is that the truth about this radicalism/Democratic-Party issue is somewhere between what Markus Rose is saying and what David Thompson are saying, or perhaps that the truth encompasses parts of both.

I think that the Dems have used a few radical sounding phrases here and there during the election and since but that it has had more to do with pandering to middle class boomers and neo-boomers (i.e. young pseudo-radicals) who wanted to hear their candidates uttering some of those groovy counter-culture cliches of yesteryear (and if you act before midnight tonight you'll get this companion CD of 'radical' demonstration chants ABSOLUTELY FREE. Thrill to such perennial faves as "Hey-Hey-Ho-Ho," "WhaddaWeWant/WhenDaWeWannit," "No Justice No Peace," "We're Fired Up...")

That's one of the things that irritates me the most about the Dems: they're basically centrists but they pander to a pseudo Left that has become more simpering than ever before. It's really not much different than the age old phenomenon of the classic slick reactionary machine politician (I haven't gotten to the analogy part yet) pandering to fawning old ladies at a retirement home.

Not that I'm bitter or like to whine at all. But this is how I would agree that the culture of 60's radicalism has found its way into mainstream politics -- largely as fashion and to a lesser extent as campaign promises that will never be kept.

There's a more destructive element of influence in the form of cultural relativism and things of that nature, but that's more a matter of the culture at large being bent out of shape by the least valid philosophies of the 60's Left (and its predecessors) rather than the Democratic party itself. The party will pander to whatever the current fad happens to be.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at April 26, 2005 08:48 AM

Michael's right. I got drawn into the partisan whining too. But let's try to keep this thread about Lebanon.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at April 26, 2005 08:53 AM

Can we please not turn Syria and Lebanon into a partisan bitchfest? I've managed to write about what's happening over here for three weeks in a row without ever once mentioning Bush, Kerry, neocons,


In the very words of the Lebanese, much of what's happening over there had everything to do with Bush and the neocons, so your writing about it without ever mentioning them was quite an accomplishment indeed.

Posted by: spaniard at April 26, 2005 08:58 AM

Great post, Jeremy. CNN and MSNBC are featuring news about Syrian withdrawal, with their usual photos of smiling Syrian soldiers. But there's a lot more useful information on the Lebanon blog and on Tony's Across the Bay.

Is there any more information about this incident, reported on Pulse of Freedom?

Those that opened fire and wreaked havoc at our demonstration this morning do not seem to understand that no amount of violence can compel us to back down. We are demonstrating for the rights of LEBANESE citizens, our family..

Posted by: mary at April 26, 2005 09:07 AM

“That's one of the things that irritates me the most about the Dems: they're basically centrists but they pander to a pseudo Left that has become more simpering than ever before.”

I am a cynic. The national Democrats want to live the affluent life while still admiring the “sacrifices” of Mao, Fidel Castro, Evita Peron, and Che Guevara. I have yet to view the “Bicycle Diaries” but I have seen the tee shirts and wall posters. Guilt tripped left wing Democrats are easy targets of the radical Left. They subconsciously say to themselves: “If only I had more guts, I too would give my all to the cause of the Revolution. Well, I can at least send them money and vote for the most liberal Democratic candidates around. Just because I drive a $50,000 automobile and live in a $500,000 doesn’t mean that my heart is not in the right place”

How much did the radical Left impact the thinking of many Americans concerning Israel? Everybody should see the 1960 movie “Exodus.” This film clearly depicted Israel as a just and decent nation; its citizens to be moral and wanting to do right by everybody. Around 10 years later, the consensus view of the Left was that Israel is a capitalist exploiter of the Palestinians. If the Lebanese opt for capitalism and liberal democracy---then the national Democratic Party will declare war on them.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 09:10 AM

spaniard -- on yesterday's thread, I specifically congratulated Bush, and noted that taking out Saadam might have positively contributed to the speed of the Syrian withdrawal.

jeremay -- I think that the Democratic pandering to the left is a function of the two party system. Both parties are forced to attend somewhat to the extremes of their base. Bush needed to get every anti-gay wingnut vote he could manage, just like Kerry needed every Dean, Kucinich, or Nader voter he could convince to hold his or her nose and vote for him. And both ALSO needed moderates.

If you think I'm wrong, that it would be easy as pie for either party to jettison the extremes of their base, ask yourself why Giuliani is not running for President in '08, why Colin Powell didn't run in '96 or '00, why Mitt Romney is giving speeches in South carolina these days expressing his opposition to CIVIL UNIONS...

What I think the Dems are guilty of being is UNPRINCIPLED. You can bet your last dollar that Kerry would have been quite supportive of what was happening in Iraq in 2004 if the news coming out of that country was not a daily clusterfuck of bad news, and if around 50% of the country didn't invading Iraq was probably on balance not a net plus for the U.S.

Posted by: markus rose at April 26, 2005 09:11 AM


Can we please not turn Syria and Lebanon into a partisan bitchfest? I've managed to write about what's happening over here for three weeks in a row without ever once mentioning Bush, Kerry, neocons, or the Democratic or Republican parties. Give it a shot. I know you can do it.”

You are being naive. There is simply no way possible to avoid talking about our national politics when discussing Syria and Lebanon. The United States is the big elephant in the room. I strongly believe that the national Democratic Party subconsciously desires failure in the Middle East. You might think that I’m exaggerating (and out of my mind), but I’m utterly convinced that the Democrats may be the greatest obstacle to peace in that region.

You should never forget what the national Democratic Party did to the Vietnamese. Do you want the same thing to happen to the Lebanese?

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 09:20 AM

I strongly believe that the national Democratic Party subconsciously desires failure in the Middle East.

No question. We've been saying that for years, and just listen to Susan Soderberg's interview with Jon Stewart for confirmation of that.

Posted by: spaniard at April 26, 2005 09:23 AM

David: There is simply no way possible to avoid talking about our national politics when discussing Syria and Lebanon.

I've been doing it for three weeks straight. Over here our national politics seem EXTREMELY insipid and petty and stupid. We got Baathists, secret police, Hezbollah terrorists, and all manner of other thugs and punks to contend with. The Democrat/Republican bitchfest is the childish whinings of the fat, happy, and spoiled.

I don't mean to be an ass about it, but that's just how it looks from the Middle East.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 26, 2005 09:46 AM

The Democrat/Republican bitchfest is the childish whinings of the fat, happy, and spoiled.

That's the truth, even WITHOUT taking Lebanon/Syria into account.

And just for the record, the top story on the NYTimes website right now is "Syrian Troops Leave Lebanon After 29-Year Occupation."

Posted by: Steve at April 26, 2005 09:50 AM

We've been saying that for years, and just listen to Susan Soderberg's

Who is that? Susan Sarandon? Steven Soderbergh?

Posted by: Steve at April 26, 2005 09:52 AM

“I don't mean to be an ass about it, but that's just how it looks from the Middle East.”

You are being seduced into looking only at the small picture. Nonetheless, the United States is the preeminent power on this planet. The Lebanese will have an overwhelming problem if our country hesitates to support them. If I am right regarding my contention that the Democratic Party will declare war on them---then their plight is very perilous. The national Democrats, on at least a gut level, despise any liberation movement that rejects political radicalism. This is why they get so mushy and sentimental over “The Bicycle Diaries.” Also, have you already forgotten how John Kerry tried to gut the true Democrats in El Salvador? When did this leopard change his spots?

Posted by: David Thomson at April 26, 2005 09:59 AM

David - the Serbians under Milosevic were pretty radical, and the majority of Democrats didn't support them.

The majority of Democrats and the majority of Republicans are moderate, and most believe that they are working in the best interests of the American public. In contrast, the extremists on the right and the left are not working in our best interests. They never have. But the extremists are not the majority in either party.

Iran declared war on the US a long time ago, and we still haven't noticed or cared. Saudi and Iranian sponsored terrorist paramilitaries have been killing millions around the world, yet most Americans know more about Kerry's military record than Saudi, Iranian or Syrian strategies.

Yes, we are the most powerful country in the world, and constant, pointless partisan sniping keeps us from effectively dealing with problems inside and outside the US. That doesn't make us worse than any other nation in the world, but it doesn't make us better.

Posted by: mary at April 26, 2005 10:27 AM


Sorry, Nancy Soderbergh. She was a Clinton advisor and recently wrote a book called The Superpower Myth. She went on the Daily Show and bemoaned the positive changes going on in the middle east. Said that "there was still hope for Democrats," etc.

Posted by: spaniard at April 26, 2005 10:48 AM

She went on the Daily Show and bemoaned the positive changes going on in the middle east. Said that "there was still hope for Democrats," etc.

Oh for Pete's sake. She was joking, and also said that the Bush administration deserved a lot of credit for what was happening.

How sadly and obsessively partisan do you have to be to grasp at that particular straw to confirm your paranoid political fantasies? Even if she were dead serious, you're taking a single comment from a single Democrat on a comedy news show and blowing it up to represent the thinking of 50% of your citizens.


Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 26, 2005 11:55 AM

The issues raised by all of this - Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the US, democratization, and so forth - are obviously contentious.

Among the big foreign policy questions of our day: is democratization of the Middle East the best solution for mitigating Islamic terrorism? Was the US invasion of Iraq the best way of achieving democratization of the region? Is it working?

To those who believe that believe the invasion was the best solution, the current wave of democratization in some parts of the world is a clear vindication of this effect: ripples are spreading out from Iraq, people are demanding their freedom, and so forth.

To those who believe otherwise, correlation does not equal causation, and the current trend is little more than coincidence. Lebanese reformers cite Ukraine more than Iraq, and while Iraq still struggles with forming a government, the world offers a number of examples of countries moving towards democracy without the benefit (or curse) on a US-led invasion.

Certainly the answer lies somewhere in between. While those who insist on a direct-causal explanation are most likely committing the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, those who deny it outright are betting on a rather enormous set of coincidences. The transformation of the Middle East - or eventual lack thereof - will play itself out over years, decades, a century or more, and until that time no one will be able to say with much certainty what its causes or eventual fortunes will be.

To say the least, the Bush administration made an enormous gamble with countries and lives. Hopefully it will, in the end, be worth it.

What's really amazing to watch is this: Mr. Totten, who is actually in Lebanon reporting on these issues, is asking his readers to stop viewing things through the distorting lens of partisan politics in America. Is Bush entirely responsible for every good thing in the world? Is he to blame for every bad thing? To channel Mr. Totten, shut up, who cares? But despite an actual authority on the ground, people just can't give it up.

Political identities really have moved past parties and have moved on to brands - people subsume a party's identity into their own, so that an attack on the party is an attack on them, while the party's successes are their own. Maybe a little detatchment, a little objectivity, a little self-reflection is in order.

PS - In all honestly, the media reports on Michael Jackson, Terri Schiavo, and Scott Peterson - not Lebanon, not Darfur, not Uganda, not Berlesconi, nothing. If you want foreign news, the best place to start is not going to be American media outlets. Political bias? Get a grip - it's called "spectacle".

Posted by: The Commenter at April 26, 2005 12:42 PM

Political bias? Get a grip - it's called "spectacle".

Aha, we have a Situationist amongst us.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 26, 2005 12:53 PM

Good Lord, DPU, there's nothing more hyperreal than the blogosphere.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 26, 2005 01:01 PM

Commentator -- good post.

Turkey is a cautionary example of what western democratic institutions can bring to a middle eastern nation. Several times, the military has had to step in to safeguard the basic pro-western, pro-american, pro-european, pro-israeli orientation against the threat of DEMOCRATIC ISLAMISM. And today, the Islamic party is in power (though thankfully behaving fairly moderately).

Like you said, it's a gamble.

But democracy and radical Islam are not mutually exclusive at all. At least until the radical Islamists amass an overwhelming amount of power.

Posted by: markus rose at April 26, 2005 01:27 PM

"Aha, we have a Situationist amongst us."

I have learned a new word today. I googled the definition and still don't understand what the hell it means, but I've learned a new word nonetheless.

and where can I join the Situationist International, tovarisch?

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 26, 2005 01:51 PM

Alas, the SI disbanded in 1972. But as they themselves defined Situationism as "a meaningless term improperly derived from the above. There is no such thing as situationism, which would mean a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts. The notion of situationism is obviously devised by antisituationists", it's unlikely that anyone could have joined them.

In terms of Situationist cultural and political theory as applied to the blogosphere, this quote seems prescient:
"We live in a spectacular society, that is, our whole life is surrounded by an immense accumulation of spectacles. Things that were once directly lived are now lived by proxy. Once an experience is taken out of the real world it becomes a commodity. As a commodity the spectacular is developed to the detriment of the real. It becomes a substitute for experience."
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 26, 2005 02:21 PM

Jeremy's previous post was about neo-neocon's essay on political change and why some people change and some don't. For a lifelong democrat like me to support the Iraq war and a republican president was presumably an example of the kind of "change" she was talking about it. Recently, though, I find myself very uneasy about that support, although not for the usual leftist reasons, but for precisely the reaons that Markus mentions 2 posts up. I think alot of Americans were somewhat ignorant about Islam itself at the time we went into Iraq. I am no longer ignorant about it. Until I see any evidence that helping Muslims overcome dictatorial tyranny, doesn't in turn lead to them imposing their particular form of Islamic tyranny on women and religious minorities where they are empowered, I will be forced to second-guess my support for Bush's policies. It's already happening in Iraq from some reports - I posted several times previously that the Assyrian Christians were prevented from taking part in Iraq's elections (due to the Kurds no less). Someone (Markus?) posted on this or another thread about yet another oppressed minority group in post-liberation Iraq (help me out here), there are numerous reports of the Islamists imposing vice and virtue-type restrictions on Iraqi's, especially the women - and I share Mik a's concerns above about the fate of the Christians in Lebanon.

In short - I am in major watch and wait mode. I will not support any further military interventions to "rescue" Muslims from brutal dictators until I see concrete evidence that they understand that rights are for everyone, because I don't think it is at all byond the realm of imagination that by empowering ME Muslims, we aren't digging our own (and others') graves as infidels in the long run. In the meantime, if we are seriously fighting a global war on terror - oh forget such euphemisms - we are fighting a war against Islamic jihad - it is utterly ludicrous to spill blood and money "liberating" Muslims from tyranny in the ME, while keeping our own borders wide open to continuing Muslim infiltration.

One or the other policy has to be curtailed. You can't have both going on simultaneously, or we may wind up with MORE (i.e. in addition to the Saudi's) economically strong ME Muslim economies financing our own destruction from within.

So vis a vis political "change" - I am even farther to the right now. I think Bush may be living in something of a fantasy world, possibly due to his Christian beliefs. We'll see how the grand democracy project progresses but while we "wait and see" (possibly for several decades)we have simply GOT to slow down Muslim immigration into the U.S. That's my 2 cents.

Posted by: Caroline at April 26, 2005 04:25 PM

Michael Totten dot com - your source for paranoid America Firsters.

Posted by: FC at April 27, 2005 06:06 AM

FC - you're precisely what's wrong with the political left these days. If anyone expresses reasonable concerns (I assume you've heard of demographic jihad?) you imply that they are racists, which has the effect of silencing people. Is that what you would tell native ME's if millions of western Christians immigrated into their countries and started building churches right and left (while preaching in those churches an intention to convert the natives)? Or do you espouse a double-standard on these issues, like most leftists?

Posted by: Caroline at April 27, 2005 07:07 AM

I don't respond to hypotheticals, so sorry. Your concerns, however, that 2 percent of America will shortly take over our society to be paranoid and delusional.

Posted by: FC at April 27, 2005 07:31 AM

I find your concerns....

Posted by: FC at April 27, 2005 07:32 AM


which do you consider the epithet, being paranoid? or an America firster.

Posted by: spaniard at April 27, 2005 08:03 AM

FC: Michael Totten dot com - your source for paranoid America Firsters.

Just where the fuck do you think I am in the world right now?

Get out. You are banned from posting at my Web site.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 27, 2005 08:56 AM

Obviously, I am banned and I accept that, but I was clearly refering not to you and your noble work but to Caroline.

Posted by: FC at April 27, 2005 09:39 AM


Posted by: spaniard at April 27, 2005 12:20 PM

Busted --Spaniard

Wow.What an interesting last few posts.Having adopted a more objective viewpoint lately,that was an interesting experience.From simple,tendentious, doofus to non-person in 3 easy steps.I would almost be a little distressed were I to accept for even one moment that 'FC'really thought that Mr.Totten's work was noble in any meaningful sense.

Busted as Spaniard succinctly states.

Posted by: dougf at April 27, 2005 02:57 PM

For the record, I hate kicking people out of here. But there are some things I'm just not going to put up with on my own personal Web site. Being lumped in with paranoid America Firsters while in Lebanon helping out democratic revolutionaries - some of whom are anti-American - is one of them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 27, 2005 03:02 PM

I would almost be a little distressed were I to accept for even one moment that 'FC' really thought that Mr.Totten's work was noble in any meaningful sense.

And what would your basis be for calling FC a liar, doug? Prescience? The ability to Vulcan mind-meld with your monitor? Jedi mind-tricks?

Michael, your blog, your rules, and I know that you're normally judicious with your infrequent bannings, but I think you misinterpreted what FC said, as he or she has tried to clarify.

And the "busted" crowd? Are you the guys that would stand behind the teacher and snicker when someone was being disciplined? I know the type.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 27, 2005 03:28 PM

The last few posts have caused me quite a bit of distress today. FC was obviously responding to my post and calling me an American Firster - and not leveling that charge at Michael. My post was somewhat over the top and could be called paranoid but I posted it anyway because it reflects some of the doubts and fears I actually have. I am also very aware that Americans are not to express their doubts and fears precisely because they will be labeled paranoid racists. In general, the Europeans seem to have already been beaten into silence with this sort of PC pressure. However, I also acknowledge that my post was probably ill-timed when Michael is overseas working hard to build bridges. I have no control over Michael's banning policies but I do apologize for posting something that led FC to make the comment that he did, thereby causing offense to Michael. I think I'll shut up now...

Posted by: Caroline at April 27, 2005 03:34 PM

Well said, Caroline. I didn't agree with your post, but it was probably injudicious of FC to call you a name over it instead of engaging in dialog. There's too much of that on this blog too frequently, and it's unfortunate that Michael felt attacked because of it. I have to reiterate that I think the banning without warning premature. And for God's sake Caroline, don't feel like you have to shut up. Sometimes flow of conciousness is what the blogs are for, even the comments section.

Just for the record, Michael, I admire your efforts in Lebanon, it goes far beyond what most bloggers would, and must be more than interesting to watch history in the making. An experience of a lifetime.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 27, 2005 03:44 PM

And what would your basis be for calling FC a liar, doug? Prescience? The ability to Vulcan mind-meld with your monitor? Jedi mind-tricks?--DPU

On sober second thought,I take your point.That comment was a (potential)backhanded attribution of motives and therefore unacceptable.I stand corrected.
Apologies to FC in absentia.

Posted by: dougf at April 27, 2005 04:21 PM

Goodness, everyone's being nice suddenly.

Sniff. I really love you guys. Group hug! :-)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 27, 2005 04:30 PM

Though Caroline's infamous post did slip off the edge of the pool a couple of times IMO, I think she raises a valid point about the culutre of the middle east and the very illiberal elements of Islam.

I hate to quote a Marxist (although it has nothing to do with the point made) but I recall a quote from a book by professor of government that goes 'An un-elected Anti-racist dictator will always be preferable to to a racist elected prime minister'

Blunt and not completely agreeable of course, but the meat of this point is very well spoken on in a book by Fareed Zakaria called "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad"

The point of the book is that the reason Liberal Democracy works in the west is that we already have a liberal society that respects individual rights for all and protects them, whereas simply injecting a democratic form of government into an illiberal society will only produce illiberal results or another dictator.

"Democracy is not inherently good, Zakaria (From Wealth to Power) tells us in his thought-provoking and timely second book. It works in some situations and not others, and needs strong limits to function properly. The editor of Newsweek International and former managing editor of Foreign Affairs takes us on a tour of democracy's deficiencies, beginning with the reminder that in 1933 Germans elected the Nazis. While most Western governments are both democratic and liberal-i.e., characterized by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic rights-the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. Zakaria praises countries like Singapore, Chile and Mexico for liberalizing their economies first and then their political systems, and compares them to other Third World countries "that proclaimed themselves democracies immediately after their independence, while they were poor and unstable, [but] became dictatorships within a decade." But Zakaria contends that something has also gone wrong with democracy in America, which has descended into "a simple-minded populism that values popularity and openness." The solution, Zakaria says, is more appointed bodies, like the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Supreme Court, which are effective precisely because they are insulated from political pressures. Zakaria provides a much-needed intellectual framework for many current foreign policy dilemmas, arguing that the United States should support a liberalizing dictator like Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, be wary of an elected "thug" like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and take care to remake Afghanistan and Iraq into societies that are not merely democratic but free."

I immediately think of the Shah in Iran. He was an unelected leader, in fact a leader chosen by he U.S. after launching a coup, but he was also a feminist and modernizer who was ultimately much more progresive then the medieval Ayatollah.

Posted by: Epitome at April 27, 2005 05:20 PM

Spaniard - busted.

You would think that after you were banned you would have gained some humility - apparently not. You sneak in the backdoor with a new moniker, continue inciting flame wars, continue with your name-calling, and then you gloat over someone else getting banned?

Posted by: Freddy at April 27, 2005 08:42 PM

Epitome, I'm not at all comfortable with your opinion that a "Anti-racist dictator will always be preferable to to a racist elected prime minister."

I think a society with, for instance, a free press and rule of law is much better off under bad leadership than a society with none of those institutions but somehow "better" leadership. In fact I would suggest that idea that leadership that deprives society of liberty as a whole can only appear better, but in reality is worse than the worst possible democratic government, in the long run.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 27, 2005 09:27 PM


I've done none of those things.

Posted by: spaniard at April 27, 2005 11:47 PM

Caroline --
"I am also very aware that Americans are not to express their doubts and fears precisely because they will be labeled paranoid racists."

Actually, to echo what dPu said: don't worry, say what you have to say.

I happen to think a lot of what you say IS extreme, and not so much racist as whatever one would call the equivelent of "antisemitism" when applied to muslims.

But that doesn't mean you don't make some valid points. Political extremists, in addition to being often highly entertaining, are also sometimes right on the mark. Occasionally they are the only people with the courage to point out that "the emperor has no clothes."

But I would also urge you to consider just what it is about Islam that makes it so attractive to so many people. It is not true that the religion survives and thrives solely by the sword. In fact, like it or not, Islam gives meaning and hope to millions, perhaps over a billion people, even as it has oppressed them. I believe that a particularly strong aspect of its appeal is its vigorous defense of the notion of "equality". And as we in the west urge and sometimes force the rest of the world to buy into the secular religion of integrated global capitalism, I think such appeals to equality will continue to speak eloquently to the "have-nots" of this world. With the ideas of Marx and Lenin no longer able to offer hope to the downtrodden, you might prefer that they now read Ayn Rand, but the fact of the matter is they find the Koran much more persuasive and comforting.

Posted by: at April 28, 2005 06:51 AM

Caroline -- that was me, I forgot for the tenth time or so to retype my name after I had cleared my cache.

Posted by: markus rose at April 28, 2005 07:23 AM

Markus - I'm a little slow to respond because I spent a day thinking about this. I suppose it comes as a little of a shock to realize that my views are considered so extreme. I suppose noone wants to be viewed as an extremist, but also I don't want to cause Michael's site to be viewed that way either. I guess the fact is, though, that I'm becoming more pessimistic by the day and that obviously shows. I was up at 3am this morning with one of my periodic bouts of insomnia and I re-stumbled across this exchange between Daniel Pipes and Laurence Auster on the topic of whether "moderate Islam" exists. I read this exchange some time ago but I still consider it one of the best on the subject that I've come across (and I also read through all of the comments on Pipes site). I find myself increasingly leaning towards Auster's POV, which no doubt accounts for my pessimism.

Auster's article is here:

The Search for Moderate Islam

Daniel Pipes response and the comments thread re the exchange is here:

Daniel Pipes

In case anyone missed it when it first came out, its a lengthy exchange, but I think one well worth reading for the way it frames the debate(permalink viewing recommended).

(P.S. Spaniard - I suspect that Freddy may have thought you were a previously banned poster named Carlos. I very briefly entertained the notion myself when you first appeared, but there is no similarity in your posting style so I rather quickly dismissed the idea.)

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