January 25, 2007

Slouching Toward War -- Continuously Updated

While I'm finishing up my next article, read Michael Young's latest in Beirut's Daily Star:

For the third time in almost a year Lebanon has averted a civil war, but we're nearing the end of the rope. If the Danish Embassy demonstrations and Hizbullah's mobilization in early December were, ultimately, manageable when it came to Christian-Sunni or Sunni-Shiite antagonism, what happened on Tuesday was, in its permutations, pretty much war. And if anything induced Hizbullah to suspend the protests, it was an awareness that if these continued for even a day, war was inevitable.

...Hizbullah had cut off most roads between the eastern and western sectors of Beirut, as well as the airport road. The irresponsibility of those steps was staggering. Not only did the party take Lebanon back to the symbolism of the war years, but Beirut's Sunnis saw the move as trapping them in their half of the capital. The word "blockade" started being used, prompting the mufti to heatedly muster his community. Wael Abu Faour of the March 14 coalition warned that if the army did not reopen the roads, supporters of the majority would. Hizbullah backed down, aware, let's not forget, that a Sunni-Shiite confrontation is a red line for Iran.

However, that reality only reaffirmed how Hizbullah has been juggling contradictory agendas. The Iranians may not want sectarian discord, but what happened this week was fulfillment of the Syrian side of Hizbullah's agenda. The main obstacle remains the Hariri tribunal and Syria's refusal to permit its creation. How Tehran and Damascus will work out their clashing priorities is anybody's guess. You have to assume that with the Lebanese so close to doing battle, and given the dire implications of what this would mean for Hizbullah and its already dilapidated reputation in the Sunni Arab world, Iran will remind Nasrallah of who pays the checks. On the other hand, the Iranians realize that the tribunal might be fatal to the Syrian regime, depriving the Islamic Republic of a key asset in the Levant.

At a more parochial level, the opposition's actions were self-defeating for being built on a lie. If the benchmark of success was Hizbullah's ability to close roads, then Tuesday was indeed successful. However, that weapon has now been used up, and the government remains in place. The next time the opposition threatens to do something similar, we might as well load the guns or head for the shelters. On the other hand, what kind of confidence can anyone have in a party, and its Christian appendages in the Aounist movement and the Marada, that promises to be peaceful, only to practice intimidation? There is such a thing as Lebanese civil society, one hardened by the 1975-1990 war, and it will unite against such abuse.
Read the rest in the Daily Star.

UPDATE: There were more violent clashes in Beirut even after Nasrallah called off his siege. The clashes, of course, are between Sunnis and Shia. Hezbollah used M-16s, and Hariri supporters used pistols. Beirut is now under curfew.

25leba.337.jpg

UPDATE: According to the Ouwet Front, Hariri supporters burned the office of the (fascist) Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Tareek Jdeede.

UPDATE: From Naharnet:
Police sappers also defused a rocket that was directed at the Moustaqbal newspaper in Beirut, shortly before it was set to launch. "Luckily they discovered it. It would have resulted in a massacre. The newspaper is packed by journalists at this time of the evening," Editor Nassir al-Assad told Naharnet by telephone.
Moustaqbal is the newspaper for Hariri's Future Movement, by the far the most popular Sunni party in Lebanon.

Naharnet also reports that Hezbollah is attacking buildings in the downtown banking sector.

UPDATE: Thugs from the Hezbollah dahiyeh attacked the Lebanese army.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 12:48 AM
Comments

Do go and read the whole article, folks. I've had a lot of questions in my mind regarding the Lebanese Christians and Michel Aoun, especially after this mess Tuesday. I was hoping that some of the Christians saw through Aoun, after Tuesday, and have put their support elsewhere.

SNIP from article:

Then there is Michel Aoun, the big loser of the Tuesday protests. Until then, the general could count on support among the many floating Christians neither with March 8 nor March 14. His error was to so polarize the atmosphere by imposing a strike on all, that many of his coreligionists could only turn against him. The Aounists will not easily live down their siding with Shiite stone-throwers against Lebanese Forces youths at the Hazmiyeh roundabout, which many Christians, for better or worse, regard as "their" area. Nor would they have held the streets for very long without the army around to protect them. In Zahleh, Aoun's ally Elie Skaff was soundly humiliated by the refusal of even his own supporters to obey the strike order - an order that he sought to impose by force of arms early in the day. January 23 could be the beginning of Aoun's descent into terminal irrelevance, and even the cautious Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir was said to be livid with the general.

The big winner, on the other hand, was Samir Geagea, who seemed to have a plan (along with Walid Jumblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party) to counter the opposition. Rather than focusing on volatile areas bordering Shiite quarters - for example Ain al-Remmaneh - he went after the Aounists and cleared roads within the Christian heartland. For example, it was a Lebanese Forces push against the Aounists in Nahr al-Kalb that compelled the army to open the northern highway. Something similar happened in Jbeil. Where Aoun managed to alienate hitherto ambivalent Christians, Geagea may have brought some of them over to his side. In the struggle for Christian hearts and minds - and it's unfortunate how the hard-liners win out in such cases - Aoun was defeated in the very districts that he and his parliamentary bloc represent.

Posted by: Renée C. at January 25, 2007 06:18 AM

Hizbullah and its already dilapidated reputation in the Sunni Arab world

I thought Hizbullah's reputation was now sterling in the Sunni Arab world - even the Sunni despots who originally (quietly) cheering Israel on eventually gave into the "street."

Or has that changed?

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 25, 2007 06:50 AM

So it looks like Iraq is acting as something of a political model for a nearby state with a large Shia population. Only it turns out that the people being "inspired" are a Lebanese Islamist militia rather than Iranian liberals.

Here's hoping that Bahrain doesn't start going up in flames as well.

Posted by: Eric at January 25, 2007 07:43 AM

It saddens me to say this, but the Lebanese and Iraqis are about to prove democracy is not possible in the middle east. The Arabs it seems are a tribal people whose allegiance is to blood and tribe, not ideas and nationhood. I supported the ouster of Saddam because I wanted to see a free Iraq, but it seems the Arab demands a ruthless dictator to impose order in their lives. It's very sad to see that perhaps the Left was right about the Arabs after all. They are blowing it big time, and another opportunity like this won't come for another 100 years.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 08:14 AM

It's very sad to see that perhaps the Left was right about the Arabs after all.

Even when realizing that his powers of analysis are near non-existent, he still tries to slag those with better perception. The left didn't say that Arabs weren't capable of democracy, they said that democracy isn't easy to set up, especially if the societal precursors are not present and there are significant amounts of people determined to sabotage it.

You, actually, were the one to twist that into an expression of racism, and now that you've reached this racist conclusion, you don't even have the guts to claim it as your own, you want to blame that on the left as well.

Pitiful.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 09:19 AM

Eric: "Here's hoping that Bahrain doesn't start going up in flames as well."

Perhaps Bahrain is getting the message?

IRAN: BAHRAIN BANS IRANIANS

Tehran, 23 Jan. (AKI) - The government of Bahrain has decided to close its borders to Iranians, starting from midnight Tuesday. Iranians will reportedly not even be allowed to land at Manama's international airport as a stopover if they are bound to a third country. "This situation has nothing to do with American pressure and is simply a matter of public order," said Rashid ben Khalifa al Khalifa, the deputy interior minister in announcing the decision.

Up until a United Nations-sponsored referendum granted it independence in 1975, Bahrain was part of Iran with the status of autonomous region.

Though it is governed by a Sunni monarchy, most of its inhabitants are Shiites and retain close ties with Iran.

The US has placed strong pressure on allies not to entartain relations with Iran over its nuclear programme, which it fears is aimed at building nuclear weapons. The UN Security Council approved sanctions against Iran on 23 December over the programme.

http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.379251229&par=0

(Rah/Aki)

Jan-23-07 17:28

Posted by: Renée C. at January 25, 2007 09:22 AM

I thought Hizbullah's reputation was now sterling in the Sunni Arab world -

Not now:

Government and opposition supporters clashed at a Beirut university campus Thursday, battering each other with sticks, stones and even pieces of furniture in new violence spilling over from Lebanon's political crisis. One person was reported dead.

Black smoke poured into the sky from cars engulfed in flames as armored vehicles full of troops moved in to try to keep the two sides apart. But the riot spread into the nearby streets around Beirut Arab University as students smashed parked cars and battled for hours.

The battle grew out of an argument between pro-government Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shi'ite Hizbullah opposition movement in the university cafeteria, students said.

As the melee grew, Hizbullah supporters called in help, and residents from the surrounding Sunni neighborhood joined in. Dozens of vigilantes wearing blue and red construction hats and carrying makeshift weapons - chair legs, pipes, garden tools, sticks and chains - converged on the university and started clashing with the police.

More..

Posted by: mary at January 25, 2007 09:22 AM

Some news sources are giving different figures and accounts, but there have been more clashes today:

4 dead in student clash at Beirut Arab University

Clashes erupt between government loyalists, opposition followers at a Beirut University; two of dead are students loyal to opposition, which includes Shiite Hizbullah and Amal groups
Reuters
Published:
01.25.07, 17:25

The death toll in clashes between government loyalists and opposition followers at a Beirut University on Thursday rose to four, an opposition-run television station reported.

NBN said two of the dead were students loyal to the opposition, which includes the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah and Amal groups.

A security source said 35 people were wounded in the clashes between the opposition supporters and government loyalists from the Mustaqbal movement of Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri.

Rioters armed with sticks torched cars and tires and thick smoke billowed from the area.

Television stations run by both camps blamed each other for the violence. Leaders of both sides called for calm.

Witnesses reported shots fired at the students from rooftops in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas and attacks by a Shiite mob on a Sunni-run school in another area of the capital.

Al-Manar television, run by the opposition's Shiite Muslim Hizbullah movement, blamed the shooting on pro-government gunmen loyal to Hariri.

At least 35 people were injured, some by gunfire, in the clashes that included running battles with sticks and stones in the university and in nearby streets.

Lebanese soldiers fired into the air to try to disperse the crowds, to no avail. Soldiers evacuated students from the area in army trucks.

Hizbullah issued a statement urging its supporters to pull out of the streets around the university while Hariri urged supporters to show self-restraint and calm.

The opposition launched nationwide protests on Tuesday which shut down much of Lebanon and sparked violence in which three people were killed and 176 wounded.

The opposition want veto power in government and early parliamentary elections to topple the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Siniora and his main backer, parliamentary majority leader Hariri, have refused to give in to the demands.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3356980,00.html

Posted by: Renée C. at January 25, 2007 09:27 AM

The left didn't say that Arabs weren't capable of democracy, they said that democracy isn't easy to set up...

Yes exactly and nothing is worth doing unless it's easy. Because "the left" stands for nothing if not convinience!

I remember that the real left used to fight for things like unions and working conditions. There was a time when Americans worked 40 hours a day instead of 80 because the left made us strong. Now we have the longest working hours in the world again because "the left" stands for nothing if it's not easy.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:53 AM

"The left didn't say that Arabs weren't capable of democracy, they said that democracy isn't easy to set up, especially if the societal precursors are not present and there are significant amounts of people determined to sabotage it."

Oh, I see. That's what Baathist Georgie Galloway has really been saying. How thick of us.

Hey kids. The PC is back.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 25, 2007 09:56 AM

Anyway it's our useless left, with no ideals, no ideas, no power and that's of no use other than being less extreme than the republicans that's pitiful.

And while "the left" may not be racist about the Arabs as much as completely apathetic, it is slouching toward antisemitism.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:56 AM

Of cours that should have been "40 per week<" not "40 per day"

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 10:01 AM

Lebanese Army Imposes Curfew in Beirut

Posted by: Renée C. at January 25, 2007 10:02 AM

"The left didn't say that Arabs weren't capable of democracy, especially if the societal precursors are not present

In other words, they aren't ready for democracy. It's what you've been saying for the last 3 years, no matter how you try to recast it now. And you may have been right, so why the long face, DPU? I didn't call it racism, you did. Hmmm, interesting.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 10:28 AM

ankhfkhonsu: Oh, I see. That's what Baathist Georgie Galloway has really been saying. How thick of us.

Yes, because the entire left bows down before Galloway at sunset. Or, wait, are you claiming that Galloway says Arabs are incapable of democracy?

carlos: In other words, they aren't ready for democracy.

Only a lunatic would think that saying Iraq might not be ready for democracy means saying an entire ethnic group couldn't handle it. Isn't it time for your Klan meeting?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 10:47 AM

The left didn't say that Arabs weren't capable of democracy, they said that democracy isn't easy to set up,

No shit sherlock. That's what WE'VE been saying for the last 3 years in response to the Left's constant demands for instant results and neverending naysaying (i.e., "the Arabs aren't ready for it.") Only NOW you claim "democracy isn't easy" because you're fairly confident the experiment has failed. And you're all broken up about it too! Can I come to the party?

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 10:54 AM

Only a lunatic would think that saying Iraq might not be ready for democracy means saying an entire ethnic group couldn't handle it. Isn't it time for your Klan meeting?

Here's your lunatic:

Egyptian lawyer and longtime human rights activist Mona Zulficar said there needs to be cultural as well as structural change.

"We, in the Arab world do not have a culture of democracy," said Mona Zulficar.

http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-05/2006-05-22-voa58.cfm?CFID=26993604&CFTOKEN=21066250

LOL. What an idiot you are.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 11:09 AM

Boys, don't make me pull over this car.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 11:13 AM

Courage, dear brave Lebanese! As they say in boot camp, the only way out is through.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at January 25, 2007 11:17 AM

Dear non-Arab commentors above,
I don't think you got to the democratic societies you live in without years of struggle and blood spilling,
so save us your rhetoric and arrogance, and let your input be usefulin our struggle towards democracy if you find yourself aching to contribute in some way or another,
otherwise, we do not need any demoralization.
Cheers,
A.T.

Posted by: Abu Takla at January 25, 2007 11:18 AM

"You, actually, were the one to twist that into an expression of racism."

The claim that "Arabs" currently appear incapable of establishing tenable democracies is not a "racist" argument. It is cultural. Nobody thinks there is something inherent, at the level of race or gene which prevents Arabs from accepting the modern concept of the nation state and running it by democratic rule. Rather, it is a long, entrenched culture of tribalism which seems to be halting their progress in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. We have plenty of Arabs in Israel quite capable of understanding and taking advantage of our shared democratic institutions. Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs (yes there are Jewish Arabs) do democracy just fine when the conditions for actual freedom are met.

Posted by: Israeli at January 25, 2007 11:19 AM

"save us your rhetoric"
meant to say spare us...

A.T.

Posted by: Abu Takla at January 25, 2007 11:20 AM

"Isn't it time for your Klan meeting?"

Ah yes the Klan meeting... crypto-nazis like George Galloway are the big topic for discussion at Klan meetings.

What's next? If one doesn't like Chumpsky, Chavez and their fascist buddies like Fatboy Nasrallah and the Tehran chimp....and even if there has been criticism from historical leftist who do have a brain...mmm. Wait, I know... I can hear you now..

Stalinists!

So predictable. So pedestrian.

Don't you have to get back to your high school classes, little boy?

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 25, 2007 11:26 AM

The claim that "Arabs" currently appear incapable of establishing tenable democracies is not a "racist" argument. It is cultural.

People on the Left are totally incapable of making that distinction. DPU is a perfect example. "Racism" is their response to everything. Like leftbots. These are the John Kerry "nuanced" intellectuals we keep hearing about.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 11:27 AM

Lebanon is a weak democracy under siege by powerful totalitarian regimes and their quislings. That does not mean Lebanese are culturally incapable of democracy. They teach democracy in schools there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 11:30 AM

Abu,

I am losing confidence, but I'm still on your side. I'm willing to encourage my government to support you through this tough slog, even if many of my countrymen are not.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 11:32 AM

"Yes, because the entire left bows down before Galloway at sunset. Or, wait, are you claiming that Galloway says Arabs are incapable of democracy?"

Apparently Georgie is da man. Just ask all the anti-war types, and all their Islamist buddies. Where've you been?

By virtue of his past escapades with Saddam and "his good friend Tariq Aziz", I would say that money is his main hobby and not Arab democracy.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 25, 2007 11:46 AM

Hariri supporters burned the office of the (fascist) Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Tareek Jdeede.]

I can't say that I'm sorry to hear that..

Posted by: mary at January 25, 2007 11:48 AM

Apparently Georgie is da man. Just ask all the anti-war types, and all their Islamist buddies. Where've you been?

You know someone's got an extremely weak argument when they resort to this nonsense.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 12:07 PM

I know this is moving even more off topic (sorry MJT), but:

Yes, because the entire left bows down before Galloway at sunset.

Judging from some of the company he keeps and some of his views, there is nothing particularly left wing about George Galloway.

The old adage about the extreme left and extreme right being not that disimilar: Both are broadly anti free market, anti semitic and anti American

Posted by: Dirk at January 25, 2007 12:12 PM

Michael, in the photo you posted that shows guys crouching behind barricades and flames in the background, is that a guy lounging on a couch in the middle of the street I see?

I mean, ten out of ten to him for for style, but WTF?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 12:14 PM

The question raised here of why democracy just won't seem to work in the Arab world is an interesting one. Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories have all had democratic elections and are all falling apart and verging on civil war.

I think part of the problem is that for democracy to work one has to accept being a loser. When the Republicans or Democrats lose an election they don't take to the streets or the barricades. Instead they revise their policies, change leaders and try to work out how to gain more democratic support.

Perhaps the problem boils down to the "honor" culture. Losing an election means losing face. "Honor" and "dignity" are restored by demanding power through whatever other means are available - mostly violent ones.

Democracy will only flourish in the Arab world when Arabs learn to be good losers.

Posted by: mertel at January 25, 2007 12:25 PM

This isn't just a a case of "why can't democracy work in the Arab world". Any cultural or ethnic group with the same set of problems would suffer the same results. Democracy requires at its onset political stability, a level of economic parity, a willingness to give a national identity priority over an ethnic identity, and the ability to concede one's own political aspirations and to compromise for the health of the nation.

There is too much instability in many parts of the world for democracy to work at this time. At a minimum, political stability needs to be in place. And that's a tough nut to crack in a region like the Middle East at the moment.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 12:42 PM

Dear non-Arab commentors above, I don't think you got to the democratic societies you live in without years of struggle and blood spilling,

That's a good attitude, and one of the first times I've seen a good attitude from an Arab commenter.

My arrogance comes from my wish to break through Arab arrogance, because, usually, the Arab attitude is that we Arabs are completely superior to you stupid infidels, it would be beneith us to learn from you, and your so called democracy is a sham anyway (what about Halaburton? Bush is worse than Nasrallah etc. etc. etc)

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 01:00 PM

I mean, ten out of ten to him for for style, but WTF?

You just won big points by making me think of Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's guide.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 01:02 PM

The concept of democracy is often mistakenly considered to be equivalent to the holding of elections. Elections of any kind are meaningless unless the society in which they are held is a free and open society that tolerates the exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Democracy celebrates diversity and dissent and its two major pillars are the vote and open debate.

It would seem that real democracy is problematic for the Middle East for the forseeable future.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 25, 2007 01:06 PM

Mertel
Perhaps the problem boils down to the "honor" culture. Losing an election means losing face. "Honor" and "dignity" are restored by demanding power through whatever other means are available - mostly violent ones.

Democracy will only flourish in the Arab world when Arabs learn to be good losers.

Good point - and the idea, that goes with it that the ends always justify the means. That it's ok to use violence to restore your "honor". That has to go or there can be no democracy.

I put "honor" in quotes because that's no western idea of honor. It's completely shameful and dishonorable from my point of view.

The Arab concept of honor will have to change.

ankhfkhonsu: Elections of any kind are meaningless unless the society in which they are held is a free and open society that tolerates the exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Democracy celebrates diversity and dissent and its two major pillars are the vote and open debate.

That too! Very important.

Double Plus Democracy requires at its onset political stability, a level of economic parity, a willingness to give a national identity priority over an ethnic identity, and the ability to concede one's own political aspirations and to compromise for the health of the nation.

Some of this is more cant than useful. If economic parity were required, the US would be doomed, that's the usual shopping your pet causes over aspects that are actually relevent to the topic. And talk of "stability" confuses cause with effect.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 01:22 PM

I inserted the word communism for democracy in those conditions mentioned above. Point by point, they appear rather similar, if not equal. Might even give communism an edge on the economic parity scale. Most any political -ism or -acy would blossom wonderfully under those conditions. I think we need some more variables on this issue. I'll throw one out for consideration...a general will for respectful dialog and productive negotiation and bargaining. I'm sure numerous other pre-conditions could be conjured up. The danger lies in waiting for the perfect conditions to exist. Conditions that may never arrive. Chicken and egg analogies might apply here.

Posted by: allan at January 25, 2007 01:23 PM

Elections of any kind are meaningless unless the society in which they are held is a free and open society that tolerates the exchange of ideas and beliefs.

A good point, democracy is more than just a 'vote.' For example, just because Hugo Chavez won an election, does that make Venezuela democratic now that he has been given power to rule by decree?

Taking a look at Syria for a moment, and I will preface this by saying that in no way is this meant as a preface for Assad and meddling in Lebanon:

The main opposition and likely beneficiary of any vote held tomorrow are groups like the Muslim brotherhood.

There is an awful lot wrong with Syria, but fact remains that it is the Arab country which gives the most rights to its Christian population, outside of Lebanon. Christian churches and monasteries are for example supplied with free electricity just like mosques, something that does not happen in neighbouring Arab states.

Clearly, it's very unlikely that groups like the Muslim brotherhood would maintain a similar even handed and tolerant approach to non Muslims.

Posted by: Dirk at January 25, 2007 01:26 PM

"Lebanon is a weak democracy under siege by powerful totalitarian regimes and their quislings. That does not mean Lebanese are culturally incapable of democracy. They teach democracy in schools there."

According to a recent NYT article the version of Lebanese history one learns in school greatly depends on which neighborhood one lives in. And obviously learning "about" democracy makes one democratic in much the same way as learning "about" morality makes one moral.

As someone posted above, the Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinians all lack "a willingness to give a national identity priority over an ethnic identity."

Posted by: Israeli at January 25, 2007 01:33 PM

DPU: is that a guy lounging on a couch in the middle of the street I see?

He's crouching behind a concrete barricade, not sitting on a couch.

Follow the link to the NYTimes article and you can enlarge the picture.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 01:36 PM

Josh,

I suggest reading the Lebanese blogs I link to on my side bar. You will find that many have that "good attitude" you find so lacking. It's not so rare in that country, despite what you see happening right now.

The nutcases get most of the attention. I, too, am giving them most of the attention at the moment because that's where the news is.

Hezbollah Lover and his Aounist enablers like to show up here and claim they're the majority. They're lying. March 14 has a veto-proof majority in the parliament, which is why Hezbollah is freaking out in Beirut.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 01:42 PM

OK, I am SICK of 'Left' and 'Right' and 'Blue' and 'Red' in the West using Shia-Sunni relations as a political role model. As soon as one side pulls out the broad brush and the black paint, stupidity and catastrophizing and common sense and civil discourse get gleefully abandoned by both sides. Out comes name-calling and Three Stooges eye-pokes. You are arguing over lumping all Arabs together by lumping all Left or Right together!

There are liberals who are ferociously anti-Islam, and a LOT of us, actually -- and I know righties and conservatives who will piously preach tolerance and compromise with flat-out terrorists as long as it lets them keep making big bucks.

This isn't just a a case of "why can't democracy work in the Arab world". Any cultural or ethnic group with the same set of problems would suffer the same results. Democracy requires at its onset dedication to political stability, the clear opportunity for a level of economic parity, a willingness to give a national identity priority over an ethnic or other partisan identity, and the ability to concede one's own political aspirations and to compromise for the health of the nation.
I would add in a reasonable access to public education.

For a non-ME example, take a look at Mexico.

Posted by: Pam at January 25, 2007 01:46 PM

There are liberals who are ferociously anti-Islam, and a LOT of us, actually -- and I know righties and conservatives who will piously preach tolerance and compromise with flat-out terrorists as long as it lets them keep making big bucks.

Hear, hear - though I'd substitute 'anti Islam' with 'anti Islamic extemists'

Posted by: Dirk at January 25, 2007 01:53 PM

NB - that MJT post from the other day where Jumblatt said the March 14th forces were beginning to run out of patience seems to have come true.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/syria/story/0,,1998649,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12

I've read elsewhere that the whole thing started with a simple punch up between a few students - an example of how this sort of thing can quickly escalate into something bigger

Posted by: Dirk at January 25, 2007 01:59 PM

Josh,
I would like to second what MJT said above,
moreover, you need to start defferetiating between Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world, we have always had a pseudo-democracy, free media, and a level of tolerance for the west far beyond what you would imagine. The current struggle is one which mostly driven by a Syrian-Iranian interest in seeing Lebanon fail to stand on its own, and this is clear to the majority of the Lebanese.
It is also worth noting that there is word that Iran-Syria are not totally agreeing on where to head from here, as the Syrians want to escalate and Iranians showed readiness to accept a settlement.

Posted by: Abu Takla at January 25, 2007 01:59 PM

If economic parity were required, the US would be doomed, that's the usual shopping your pet causes over aspects that are actually relevent to the topic.

I said "a level" of economic parity I would probably qualify that further by saying that the situation is helped if movement is possible between economic classes. Extreme disparity of wealth doesn't help democracy much, as the poor are much more numerous and the rich have incentive to disenfranchise them.

Also, the conversation might be more productive and therefore enjoyable if you could restrain your urge to imagine what are and are not my pet causes. The speculation does not help the tone of the conversation, and is not particularly accurate either.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 02:15 PM

This isn't just a a case of "why can't democracy work in the Arab world". Any cultural or ethnic group with the same set of problems would suffer the same results.
Well, actually, that's why it is precisely a case of why democracy can't work in the Arab world. It's not because of genetics, after all; there are no antidemocratic Arab genes, as can easily be seen by how well Arab immigrants adopt democracy in, say, the US.

It's because of the deep-set cultural problems that have made the Arab world immune to democracy, even during a time when democracy is, like a helpful virus, spreading through the rest of the world. Lebanon and Iraq had the best shot of any states in the Arab world for democracy, in recent years, and both of the polities blew it because, for cultural reasons -- and despite the presence of some real small-d democrats in both states.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 25, 2007 02:22 PM

Lebanon and Iraq had the best shot of any states in the Arab world for democracy, in recent years, and both of the polities blew it because, for cultural reasons...

I suppose it depends what "cultural reasons" means, but I'd be more inclined to say that it was because of political reasons, primarily because there are some people doing an effective job of stirring up sectarian rivalry for their own political ends.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 02:54 PM

Sorry, my above was in reference to Iraq, not Lebanon.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 02:59 PM

Joel Rosenberg: both of the polities blew it because, for cultural reasons -- and despite the presence of some real small-d democrats in both states.

Don't forget, also, that both countries are under siege by the totalitarians in Syria and Iran who cannot tolerate democracy on their borders. We like to forget this is happening because we don't want to do anything about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 02:59 PM

We like to forget this is happening because we don't want to do anything about it.

What exactly would one do about it?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 03:11 PM

DPU,

political reasons often derive from cultural ones. They don't arise in a vacuum. And the fact that democracy is virtually non-existent in the Arab world suggest the problem is cultural, not the political. Accusations of racism in 5, 4, 3, 2....

That doesn't mean it can't be overcome, but it takes political will, and as you can see we just don't have it. We're about to pull the rug out from under a fledgling democray in Iraq because you and your buddies on the Left demand instant results, and you just aren't going to find that in the middle east. But you sure do talk a good talk when it comes to Lebanon.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 03:13 PM

DPU: What exactly would one do about it?

Nothing that you would find acceptable.

I, however, can be persuaded fight back.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 03:15 PM

We're about to pull the rug out from under a fledgling democray in Iraq because you and your buddies on the Left demand instant results...

I for one do not advocate an American withdrawal from Iraq right now, quite the opposite, in fact. And point to a single instance where I have said I want instant results, or even quick results. Just one.

Put up or shut up, Carlos.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 03:18 PM

Nothing that you would find acceptable.

That wasn't a dodge, was it?

I wasn't asking for solutions that I would find acceptable, I was asking what you might have in mind.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 03:20 PM

Michael, regarding your excellent post to Josh.. in addition to what you mention I also see Hezbollah doing all this as sort of a distraction or prevention because of the "Hariri Tribunal" and all for the sake of protecting "Syria".
On another forum I visit, someone posted this about this video. Have you seen this Michael? It is quite good and has a powerful message to it..

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8326734789464462895&q=Zarka&hl=en

In this, you also see Nasrallah giving praise to Syria.
I've learned the hard way what Syria can do.. it affected me "personally" all the way here in Oregon.

Posted by: CindyPDX at January 25, 2007 03:23 PM

I wasn't asking for solutions that I would find acceptable,

How bout funneling large amounts of cash to the Senoira government so he can match Hesbollah's spending. Free clinics and handouts apparently is what buys loyalty over there. That's the carrot.

How about parking some aircraft carriers off the syrian and Iranian coasts. If they don't stop meddling in Lebanon, bomb the crap out of them? That's the stick.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 03:30 PM

How bout funneling large amounts of cash to the Senoira government so he can match Hesbollah's spending. Free clinics and handouts apparently is what buys loyalty over there. That's the carrot.

Sounds great, and sounds like what was just decided, with the US and Saudi Arabia pledging the most of the 7.9 billion aid package.

If they don't stop meddling in Lebanon, bomb the crap out of them?

Is that likely to work? And by that I mean will that weaken the hardliners in Iran and strengthen the reformists? Or the opposite? And what effect will bombing Iran have on Iraq? Might there be a paradoxical effect on the situation there?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 03:38 PM

DPU: Is that likely to work? And by that I mean will that weaken the hardliners in Iran and strengthen the reformists?

It depends.

If the hardliners are forcibly removed from power, I'd say they would be weakened rather considerably.

I'm not saying we should do that right now, but it might come down to that in the end.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 04:01 PM

I'm not saying we should do that right now, but it might come down to that in the end.

Iran has three times the population of Iraq, is three times the size in area, and has a considerably larger military than Iraq had. An invasion of Iran with the intent of regime change on the scale of the Iraq invasion would probably require 750,000 troops. If it were to be a better success than Iraq, then I think closer to a million troops would be required.

Do you really think this is feasible?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 04:05 PM

Democracy is not simply a count of votes, but in its best example a collection of institutions that support and maintain the civil and human rights of residents equitably within a state. Supremacists often set aside the civil and human rights of others so they may lord over them militarily and in other ways. Like their Iranian benefactor, Hezbollah is militant, supremacist, and wants to gain control of the Lebanese government. Scruples may be few.

At least in the present it appears that Lebanese differ from Iraqis. When it is not enough to murder an adversary outright, but somehow necessary to torture first or devise a slow and painful death, then heinous murder is the standard of the perpetrators. And, in Iraq it is not one faction but several who practice that against one another daily. The question remains, who can reform a land of the freed, but home of the depraved? Religious leaders have clearly failed in Iraq, will they do better in Lebanon?

Posted by: JAS at January 25, 2007 04:06 PM

Concerning the use of military power against Iran and Syria:

I believe that we cannot hope to have peace in the Middle East so long as Iran continues to stir the Hornet's nest. We did that before because it was necessary. However, Iran is doing so now because it suits the Mullahs.

Many have argued for the targeted destruction of Iran's nuclear capacity, along with whatever military capacity it has to inflict harm on its neighbors. I agree that the second would be necessary, but I disagree with the first. Iran's nuclear program is not necessarily unpopular inside the country. Taking it out, or rather, severely crippling it, might not weaken the regime greatly.

Instead, I think that we should target the regime's "political" and security apparatii. Destroy the organizations and agencies which help the Mullahs maintain power. Not Parliament, but the support structure that keep the Revolutionary Council in power. Weaken the true foundation of the regime's power. Annhilate, not decimate, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Bombing the goons who keep the Mullahs in power will be bound to generate better will towards the US inside Iran than bombing its nuclear facilities, or at least, general less ill will.

Posted by: Final Historian at January 25, 2007 04:23 PM

DPU, we don't need to invade Iran. We need to merely remove its ability to meddle with affairs of its neighbors. That means destroying security organizations inside the country and those agencies responsible for carrying out the Mullah's intent.

Posted by: Final Historian at January 25, 2007 04:26 PM

If I may change the subject from the prospects of democracy amongst Arabs to realpolitik for a moment. If you were King of Israel, is there a way you could turn the situation in Lebanon to your advantage? It occurred to me that Nasrallah and friends are pretty busy now and perhaps that is a good time to do something. But what? Try to recover the bodies of the kidnapped soldiers (they must be dead by now). Blow up some arms or missile caches. Interdict stuff coming in from Syria. Assassinate Hezbollah leadership. How restrictive is the UN ceasefire resolution? Presumably, Israel could claim that Hezbollah has failed to disarm, but really, does anyone care. I have to imagine any overt action by Israel would meet widespread condemnation, which leaves only covert stuff.

I got it . . . forget about Israel's interests. If Israel attacks, they will end the standoff and reunify Lebanon. That must be Siniora's plan. Launch a few missiles towards Haifa, claim Hezbollah did it, get Israel to invade lebanon and have all Lebanese rally together to fight Israel but blame Hezbollah for starting trouble again.

Seriously, I think my speculation basically leads to a dead end, but maybe someone else will have a more clever idea.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 25, 2007 04:29 PM

That means destroying security organizations inside the country and those agencies responsible for carrying out the Mullah's intent.

It's so simple, I'm surprised they haven't done it yet :-)

Seriously, I'd suspect that any attack on Iran by a foreign power would have the moderates and reformists throwing their support to the government. No one likes to see their country attacked, and especially so if there's the possibility of it leading to a situation that they see next door to the west.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 04:35 PM

All I know is that it's going to get a lot worse in the ME before it gets better. Lebanon included. The forces that benefit from instability (Syria, Iran) aren't just going to lay down. And once Iran gets a nuke they'll have a free hand in the ME and there won't be a damn thing we can do to stop them. So whatever we're going to do we better do it fast. WHAT we do I'll leave to the experts, but doing nothing is not an option.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 04:39 PM

The other thing to consider would be that Iraq would blow up big time in the event of a US attack on Iran. And the Baghdad supply lines run through the relatively peaceful Shia south. Should those lines be cut by Shia reaction to an attack on Iran, US forces might have to withdraw from Baghdad to Kuwait, and it would be a bloodbath. If success in Iraq is important, that likely places some severe restrictions on military action that can be taken against Iran.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 04:42 PM

Final Historian said: "DPU, we don't need to invade Iran. We need to merely remove its ability to meddle with affairs of its neighbors. That means destroying security organizations inside the country and those agencies responsible for carrying out the Mullah's intent."

What specifically do you mean and how could this be done. Are you talking about blowing up buildings? Attacking some barracks? How exactly do you "take out" the revolutionary guard? Do you wait for a parade?

Whenever I plan to foment revolution (usually, I plot to take over the world, but sometimes I need a change of pace), I take a different approach. I would find guys number 3 through 10 in the power structure and tell them that if Number 1 is not deposed in a week, the third most important thing to you will be destroyed, then the second thing the following week and the most important thing the week after. In the meantime, do whatever you can to weaken No 1's base and make him look vulnerable. Blow up his house, destroy the power lines to his home village, leaflet the countryside with pictures of him having sex with a donkey, etc. Make up stuff about how he plans to have No. 2 killed. After a while, something is bound to happen.

Something like that.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 25, 2007 04:43 PM

So whatever we're going to do we better do it fast. WHAT we do I'll leave to the experts, but doing nothing is not an option.

You're absolutely correct, once Iran gets nukes, that's the end of the threat of military action against them, which is the only real political influence that the US has over them at the moment.

But there are no attractive options to stop them from doing so.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 04:46 PM

Also, the conversation might be more productive and therefore enjoyable if you could restrain your urge to imagine what are and are not my pet causes.

No, I didn't assume that this was your personal pet causes, rather this horribly dishonest crap is frankly the only game in town when lefties pretend to analyse world problems. I assumed you copied that argument from anywhere at all without think about how completely fucking empty it was of actual truth. The right isn't at all reliable either, but it's slightly less fatuous.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 04:54 PM

>>>The other thing to consider would be that Iraq would blow up big time

Is that a fact? There's never been any love lost between the Arabs and Persians, even shiaa ones.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 04:55 PM

Could it be concidered a coup' at this point?

Iran, will get nukes. Nothing will stop that.
At this point nothing can stop the growing Nuclear Club.

Posted by: Bryan at January 25, 2007 04:58 PM

Iran getting nukes is not an option. It won't happen. Get ready to wake to some crazy headlines in the coming weeks or months.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 05:01 PM

DPU: But there are no attractive options to stop them from doing so.

There never are attractive options in war. That's one reason why they say it's hell. So we're going to have to choose an option we hate. Doing nothing is also a detestable choice, and it is just as much of a choice.

Doing nothing means more war, more terrorism, and mullahs with nuclear weapons. Once they get nukes that means even more war and more terrorism than we'll see in the short and medium run.

Doing nothing may be the worst possible choice of them all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 05:08 PM

Iran getting nukes is not an option. It won't happen. Get ready to wake to some crazy headlines in the coming weeks or months.

Uhuh, and what do you expect president Obama to do?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:09 PM

DPU said: "You're absolutely correct, once Iran gets nukes, that's the end of the threat of military action against them, which is the only real political influence that the US has over them at the moment.

But there are no attractive options to stop them from doing so."

Here is what is written on one of the pages of my mad political scientist playbook:

U.S. announces to the world:
1. that it will no longer bother with impeding Iran's nuclear ambitions, although it will be supportive of the UN Security Council, generally, if it attempts to do something about it (provided the UNSC does not interfere with the US's freedom of action - see below). Iran's weapons are now the rest of the world's problem.

2. in the event Iran's weapons are used for any reason by anyone (that includes defensively) or anyone uses nuclear technology or material obtained from Iran, the US intends to glaze the country.

3. announce that since no one will believe the US's intentions without a demonstration, [pick a small Iranian city] will be turned to rubble in 15 days so evacuate it now. Then do it. Non-negotiable. If Iran offers to negotiate, accept only complete verifiable cessation and dismantlement, but if negotiations are going well offer to pause after some initial destruction to continue talks before finishing the city. Declare that failure to evacuate the city will not serve as a deterrent - and mean it. Also leaflet city just in case.

All this assumes the US has the technical capabilities.

Cuban Missile Crisis 2007 - sometimes you have to be nuts to get people's attention.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 25, 2007 05:09 PM

dontgetit,

mickey likes it. But it's a bit more realistic to solve the problem conventionally.

I say we use two carriers groups to cover Iran like a blanket, then drop some marine brigades-- supported by air cover-- on Iran's nuclear sites. Also army engineers and whoever it takes to rig the sites to blow. And blow it up real good. We could be out of there in 2 days before Iran could even respond.

That's how we'd do it if I were king.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 05:19 PM

Carlos said: "Iran getting nukes is not an option. It won't happen. Get ready to wake to some crazy headlines in the coming weeks or months."

Someone who's judgment and common sense I respect and who has reasonably good connections with people in professional wings of the Executive Branch told me roughly the same thing. There is too much risk involved in a nuclear Iran for the U.S. to accept and the US will do something about it before it is too late. Despite my mad scientist ideas, I am more inclined to reach DPU's conclusion. I don't think there is much we are willing to do that can stop it. I have a sneaky suspicion that we, and secretly the French and others in Europe, are hoping that the Israeli's, who face the more immediate and existential threat, will take care of this problem for us. Sadly, I am not sure the Israeli's really have the means.

Posted by: dontget at January 25, 2007 05:19 PM

dontgetit, people keep saying that using nukes has a serious problem with fallout spreading. It may be that we can't nuke anything without poisoning the middle east.

If you change your mad scientist plan to one that uses conventional bombs, that gets rid of that objection.

We're not ready for starting wars though. "ain't gonna study war no more"

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:29 PM

The problem with pushing things to a painful point is that I'm not sure that Islamic culture is sane enough to choose peace over suicide. There's something suicidal about their entire attitude. And we're not really ready to slaugher a people, even one that demands to be our enemy and refuses every option other than war or annihilation.

What do you do with people who's idea of peace is like what's happening in Israel. A "hudna" means that rockets (small ones I know) never stop raining on Israel and that terrorists never stop trying to kill innocents. Their idea of peace is simply slower warfare.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:34 PM

A pause to rearm.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:35 PM

Josh: My mad scientist never said anything about using nukes. They certainly aren't needed for the first phase and how to glaze Iran if they ever use their nukes would be a game-time decision. I don't think they are really needed, but who knows what our airstrike and their anti-air capabilities might be by then. Maybe we will need nukes to be quick and done with it. Maybe we will have lots of cheap long range conventional missiles that could do the job without aircraft and bombing runs. Who knows. The point is to make the threat and to make it credible by an initial display of the willingness to be brutal and direct in advancing a position.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 25, 2007 05:36 PM

>>>And we're not really ready to slaugher a people,

josh,

The entire point of depriving Iran of nukes today is precisely to preclude the need to slaughter an entire people tommorow. You nip it at the bud. Like Totten said, we have two choices. War now, or more war later.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 05:43 PM

The problem is that it hasn't been proved that Muslims are sane enough to give up jihad under threat. They won't believe a threat unless we actually make good, and once we do that they're committed to warfare.

Keep in mind that there is no reason to assume that anything in their culture ever works. They sometimes just don't end wars. And terrorism comes as much from incitement to hate and kill as from policy, and that incitement will just increase under pressure.

They may not be sane enough to save themselves. It's hard for us to imagine a culture that is premised on internal balances of terror. Their religion holds control based on terror as well as belief, their families hold control over their women based on terror as well as natural ties (?does that apply to persians as well as arabs?) and their governments hold control based on terror. There's no pressure we can make on them from the outside that changes that, and the local terror may always have more affect on people's lives than our external threats. They're stuck in cement. So they simply can't and won't stop the incitement. They're not open to considering outsiders worthy as human and they're not open to change.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:47 PM

What I said about not assuming that anything works, is that we can't look at them and assume that they ever solve problems.

We base our socity on the assumption that problems have solutions and that compromises can always be made. Look at them - war goes on forever. It's like vendetta. It's evil in that no solution is ever possible.

In fact I think they do have some safety valves, but they're also not ones we can imagine from our experience. Basically I think the only way they solve problems is by lying. But it's not so simple that we give them a way to declare victory and save face and they'll do that, because they don't understand, won't accept, and would lose face to accept, that we demand actual peace.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:52 PM

From Josh:
"The problem with pushing things to a painful point is that I'm not sure that Islamic culture is sane enough to choose peace over suicide. There's something suicidal about their entire attitude. And we're not really ready to slaugher a people, even one that demands to be our enemy and refuses every option other than war or annihilation."

My point is to demonstrate that we are ready to slaughter a people. Not normally, but if they represent a genuine threat. A nuclear Iran is such a threat.

"What do you do with people who's idea of peace is like what's happening in Israel. A "hudna" means that rockets (small ones I know) never stop raining on Israel and that terrorists never stop trying to kill innocents. Their idea of peace is simply slower warfare."

I said nothing about making peace. The only option is deterrence. My guess is that the US behaving in a somewhat psychotic fashion would have a pretty serious deterrent effect. I also would not be surprised if whoever was thought to have poked the tiger in the eye found himself very unpopular at home after the tiger goes on a real rampage. I know Arabs have a history of rallying around the idiot who caused them to get their asses kicked (see Nasser), but Persians are not Arabs. I would expect a regime change. At a minimum, every time the US said "don't do that" afterwards, they would stop.

As for your comments about "hudna", this is an illustration of why Iranian nukes are different. Once your adversary can do serious, consequential damage, and has the intent to use that ability, you have a responsibility to deal with the threat. The day the Pals demonstrate the ability and willingness to hit Tel Aviv with chemical weapons is the day that Israel goes apeshit as well.

Anyhow . . . this is not my field and I am just talking out of my ass. Nonetheless, it is interesting to think about these things.

Posted by: dontgetit at January 25, 2007 05:53 PM

Josh, your comments are are too sweeping and over-the-top. If you spent any serious time in, say, Kurdistan, Beirut (not Hezbollahland), Tunisia, Kuwait, Dubai, Turkey, and any number of other Arab and/or Muslim places you would almost certainly reign it in.

Your description fits Gaza pretty well, but the Muslim world as a whole is extremely varied in belief, culture, temperament, and ideology.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 05:53 PM

My point is to demonstrate that we are ready to slaughter a people. Not normally, but if they represent a genuine threat. A nuclear Iran is such a threat.

Right. But I don't think we are ready.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 05:59 PM

Your description fits Gaza pretty well, but the Muslim world as a whole is extremely varied in belief, culture, temperament, and ideology.

Right. But it hasn't been proved that Iran's hard core is any different from Palestine's. It will be a painful experiment to find out, because we won't know until it's to late, right?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 06:00 PM

And over the top or not, this is a discussion that western society needs to be having, as publically as possible.

Human being are capable of amazing things once we're fully cognisant of the problem. And whether it's Muslims becoming fully aware of the shameful contrast between our cultural dynamics and theirs or whether it's our side fully adjusting to the reality of what our enemies are like, or whether we both change and have a dialog, we need flush the PC silence down the drain and start this sort of deep criticism!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 06:04 PM

Josh:
I don't want to belabor this, but I believe that if you level a city, even an empty one, in a cold and premeditated fashion you will have made your point and are unlikely to ever have to slaughter an entire people. They will ensure that their leadership does not provoke you. And their leadership will take you seriously.

If they ever do use nukes, I would not be surprised if our inhibitions about slaughtering the home address of the bomb would amount to much.

This won't make us friends but it might buy some time and time is certainly one of the things needed to change the culture.

Posted by: dontgeit at January 25, 2007 06:08 PM

If they ever do use nukes, I would not be surprised if our inhibitions about slaughtering the home address of the bomb would amount to much.

Of course. By then it's too late. But that fact won't stop too late from happening.

They don't make direct warfare, after all, they just support jihadis and maintain deniability like in Iraq.

More likely terrorist will get minor WMDs and use them, God knows where and it will build up very slowly over the years. They will hope that by boiling the frog slowly, we'll never reach the point of certainty where we nuke some unknown country in retaliation. And they're probably right about that - until some future generation reaches its limit and we have a real WWIII. (And wingnuts, shut up about the cold war being WWIII, it didn't have smoking, burned out cities and millions dead; the real one will at least that, probably much more).

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 06:14 PM

Imagine that ten years after Iran, Egypt, Syria and Saudi are all known to have nukes, a surprise nuclear bomb goes off in an LA port.

We have no idea who sent it or how they got it. Are we going to glaze the entire middle east?

That's the direction things are going.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 06:18 PM

"You're absolutely correct, once Iran gets nukes, that's the end of the threat of military action against them, which is the only real political influence that the US has over them at the moment."

No, we can still threaten them. It worked with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Posted by: mary at January 25, 2007 06:24 PM

I don't want to belabor this, but I believe that if you level a city, even an empty one, in a cold and premeditated fashion you will have made your point and are unlikely to ever have to slaughter an entire people. They will ensure that their leadership does not provoke you. And their leadership will take you seriously.

Yep.

Google "Hama rules" for an example. It worked for Syria, why wouldn't it work for us?

I daresay that if it was made clear that the US plays by, say, 'Damascus rules", damn near all of the obnoxiousness in the middle east would stop for two or three generations, minimum.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_Massacre

[...]

Locally, within Syria, the attack was publicized in order to act as a deterrent. However, even the most conservative (but not radical) elements within Syria did not rise to the aid of the Brotherhood, nor strongly expressed sympathy, largely because of the Brotherhood's violent means and actions, compared to Al-Assad's initial patience in dealing with the them, until the attempt on his life and Hama's uprising. Thomas Friedman points out that never again have Muslim extremists threatened the Syrian government.

[...]

I find such things repugnant, but so is the endless sacrifice of American and allied soldiers along with the deaths of the civilians who are merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Is there a good choice to be had? Or is the best we can hope for finding the least-bad choice?

The longer this goes on, the more Americans will be willing to consider a foreign policy for the middle east that could be summarized as 'Oderint dum metuant'.

I hope we will find a solution before it comes to that, but I am not optimistic.

Posted by: rosignol at January 25, 2007 06:54 PM

You should have included an English translation: "Let them hate so long as they fear."

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 07:16 PM

Anyway the media is and will remain simply AWOL. There will be no discussion of relevent issues, the media doesn't want to be involved in anything that is serious - they don't want that kind of responsibility, and they can't possibly stand being held responsible for what they print.

So you can kiss goodbye any hope of a there being public discussion or consensis. Our policies will always be limited to those that you can sell to an ininformed or misinformed public.

So things will be allowed to get terrible, and big wars may result, but the important thing is that the media will have refused to play any part, and thus can claim innocence, but only in the sense of being an uninvolved bystander. That's the state of American morality - lack of involvement, lack of knowledge even, is the new virtue.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 07:41 PM

I have come up with a 'Grand Unified Theory' of how the United States is able to wage war. To put it simply: Only the Democrats can do it. What has been the single biggest problem with the Iraq war? It was a Republican war. A BushMcChimpyHalliburton war. It can be leveraged by the left and their allies to reduce the political clout of the Republicans.

You can see this in the political obstructionism emanating from the Democrats now that they control Congress. They were for troop increases until Bush suggested it. Now? Not so much.

For you see, when the Republicans see an external threat they will stand against it regardless of who is in power. So a Democrat can gain the support of the Right Hawks on that issue. Net result? We are in a pause until a Dem wins in '08 - and then All Hell breaks loose as the Intelligencia, the Internationalists, the Academics, the Journalists and the Europeans have an acceptable leader to follow to war.

My prediction? War breaks out with Iran and Syria and maybe Pakistan not to long after Hillary or Obama become president, with only China grumbling until we promise to secure their oil supply.

Unless, of course, the Iranians do something really idiotic before then.

So what should be the Iranians greatest fear? That Hillary turns out the be the second coming of Andrew Jackson.

Posted by: Mike in Colorado at January 25, 2007 07:52 PM

So what should be the Iranians greatest fear? That Hillary turns out the be the second coming of Andrew Jackson.

I agree.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 07:55 PM

Yes and no.

The institutional media is a megaphone. They amplify and convey what a certain set of speakers (selected by the media) want the rest of us to hear. They suck at conveying information back the other way- so much that politicians have hired companies who conduct specialized polling to find out what the public thinks.

You can't have a real conversation that way, it's just not possible. The media can allow you to be a spectator in a conversation between [member of elite group] and [other member of elite group], but for various reasons, such conversations are taking place more and more out of the view of the media.

Up to a point, I can understand this. Today's journalists are prone to advocacy and damn near always get something substantially wrong- not good things when dealing with important and complex issues and when global communications are instantaneous. So there isn't going to be a public discussion of how to deal with the jihadis, just a lot of criticism of every little thing that goes wrong (and every military operation in history has plenty of that, which is compounded by the current crop of j-school graduates thinking 'military affairs' is what happens at Tailhook conventions).

It appears that a lot of the members of [elite group] have adopted a strategy of minimizing the amount of criticism directed at them by doing as little as possible, and if something must be done, doing it out of the sight of the media. Senator Kerry would be a prime example of the former, VP Cheney of the latter. Niether approach is optimal in a representative government where officeholders are accountable to the electorate- how can we decide if someone is doing a good job?

What it comes down to is that we're trying to use a 20th century tool- the institutional media- to inform us so we can make decisions about 21st century matters, and the tool is not well suited to the job.

Posted by: rosignol at January 25, 2007 08:50 PM

I have come up with a 'Grand Unified Theory' of how the United States is able to wage war. To put it simply: Only the Democrats can do it. What has been the single biggest problem with the Iraq war? It was a Republican war. A BushMcChimpyHalliburton war. It can be leveraged by the left and their allies to reduce the political clout of the Republicans.

You have accurately identified the symptom, but not the cause of the problem.

You can see this in the political obstructionism emanating from the Democrats now that they control Congress. They were for troop increases until Bush suggested it. Now? Not so much.

The problem is that many Democrats are putting partisan advantage ahead of the national interest.

For you see, when the Republicans see an external threat they will stand against it regardless of who is in power.

...the Republicans, for all their faults (and they have many) will put the national interest ahead of partisan advantage.

So a Democrat can gain the support of the Right Hawks on that issue. Net result? We are in a pause until a Dem wins in '08 - and then All Hell breaks loose as the Intelligencia, the Internationalists, the Academics, the Journalists and the Europeans have an acceptable leader to follow to war.

You are hoping that handing power to the deranged will result in an outbreak of sanity.

Please excuse me for being blunt, but when has that ever worked?

More generally: if you reward putting partisan politics ahead of the national interest by granting the partisans more power, you remove an incentive to put the national interest ahead of partisanship and WILL see a great deal more partisanship in the future.

As a general rule, you get more of what you reward and less of what you discourage. Please be careful to reward the behavior you want to see more of, not what you want to see less of.

What is actually likely to happen: a reprise of the 1970s, with the Democratic base DEMANDING that their support be rewarded by the new Democratic administration conduct it's foreign policy according to their wishes, and if not, the nutroots will turn on Hillary/Obama just as the anti-war Democrats turned on LBJ during Viet Nam.

No thank you.

My prediction? War breaks out with Iran and Syria and maybe Pakistan not to long after Hillary or Obama become president, with only China grumbling until we promise to secure their oil supply.

I generally concur, except for the part involving Hillary or Obama and maybe China. Musharrif is not in a secure position, and is unlikely to ever be in a secure position, and when he goes, Pakistan is likely to go from being a nominal ally to being decidedly unfriendly.

Unless, of course, the Iranians do something really idiotic before then.

...always a possibility.

So what should be the Iranians greatest fear? That Hillary turns out the be the second coming of Andrew Jackson.

Fat chance.

If there was any indication that was a realistic possibility, I'd vote for her... and I am a long way from being a fan of the Clintons.

Posted by: rosignol at January 25, 2007 09:10 PM

We are in a pause until a Dem wins in '08 - and then All Hell breaks loose as the Intelligencia, the Internationalists, the Academics, the Journalists and the Europeans have an acceptable leader to follow to war.

Exactly right. I had hoped that winning back the Congress would give the Dems a sense of ownership, a stake in this war that perhaps would allow them unify behind this president. No such luck. It's still "Bush's war" apparently. So I guess the war will have to wait until the Dems have won all the political marbles before they stop campaigning and decide it's time to begin governing. Only a rightwinger could go to China, and I guess only a Democrat can fight the war on terror. Until then we are fighting in leg irons.

Posted by: Carlos at January 25, 2007 09:14 PM

Josh Scholar: No, I didn't assume that this was your personal pet causes, rather this horribly dishonest crap is frankly the only game in town when lefties pretend to analyse world problems.

Well, I figure I've given your opinions a fair shake, and I've think I've tried hard enough to engage you in polite dialog. But you're a complete waste of my time. I mean, geez, at least Carlos has something worthwhile to say occasionally amongst the insults, and at least he has a history here. You, not so much, just belches of hot air.

So now you go into my GreaseMonkey script for this site, and the only thing you'll be saying to me on this forum from now on is "Gosh, you know, I really like pie."

See ya.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 09:31 PM

I think that the Democrats are more tuned into world elites than the Republicans who are tuned to American Christians.

And the world elites just want the oil to flow without inturruption. That's all, nothing else.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:36 PM

Ok, from now on my critisisms of you are going to be talking behind your back. Cool. I'm going to enjoy not being subjected to any more of your temper tantrums. Chao.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:40 PM

That was for double plus, by the way, who's sulky that I don't take his fatuous arguements seriously or spend any effort on him.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:41 PM

Josh Scholar: Gosh, you know, I really like pie.

Yay!

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 09:43 PM

That I do.

Of course I didn't know that you could be any ruder than your previous temper tantrums. But you've outdone yourself.

And I really like pie.

Oh Gosh.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 09:48 PM

Guys, come on. I get along with both of you just fine, so you should be able to manage it yourselves.

I like pie, too, by the way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 25, 2007 10:07 PM

Guys, come on. I get along with both of you just fine, so you should be able to manage it yourselves.

Michael, I've tried. But rather than actually discuss any of the points, I just get labeled as a lying leftist pretending some kind of nonsense. I don't mind a certain amount of abuse here, but he's way over the line.

He's had his chance, and sorry, but the guy's an idiot with a shitty attitude and not much else. So it's probably better for your comment section if my script just deletes his insults before I have a chance to read them. Maybe I can discuss stuff with others intelligently while agreeing with him about his well-thought-out opinions on pie.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 25, 2007 10:15 PM

...the Republicans, for all their faults (and they have many) will put the national interest ahead of partisan advantage.

BWAAAHAAAHHHAAAA! Stop, stop, I snorted wine all over the keyboard!!

Not if there's a corporate financial advantage to be had they won't. They will put money ahead of national interest nine out of ten times. American megacorporate leaders are no different than German or French -- shameless greed is their only political party.

And Dems may have an in with global intelligensia, but the Pubs have the in with Global moneymakers.

Second, the commercial media is OWNED, it's a corporate infotainment property -- you act like it should have some responsibility to deliver actual news"

Third, this past Tuesday Jan 23rd was National American Pie Day. Hope you all enjoyed some pie!

Posted by: Pam at January 25, 2007 10:26 PM

DP ran head long into one of my pet peves, the fatuous claim that every problem in the world is caused by economic injustice.

I may even be left of DP on economic issues, but I don't think you help that cause by selling it as snake oil.

If people are richer, that won't change what they believe. Don't forget that every study shows that terrorism itself tends to come from middle and upper middle class people, not the poorest.

Nor does it change the fact that a poor economy or poverty itself may be an effect rather than a cause.

But the left has become so desperate about the issues that it's failed to sell to the political class that it claims them as the cause of every problem ... pure snake oil. DP was upset that I called it dishonest. Too bad.

Anyway I think he finds my attempts to spread social critisism deeply disturbing. I understand that. I believe he thinks that nice-nice will solve every problem, while I think the sentience are awareness are the magic elixers.

In past discussions he went nuts telling me to shut up with my critisisms and I blew a gasket telling him that critisism is our only hope. Never shall the twain meet.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 10:31 PM

Oops, I typo that ruins the way this scans. Correction:

Anyway I think he finds my attempts to spread social critisism deeply disturbing. I understand that. I believe he thinks that nice-nice will solve every problem, while I think the sentience and awareness are the magic elixers...

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 10:35 PM

ARG, I must be rattled. Preview is my friend. Here's the fix with two words corrected:

Anyway I think he finds my attempts to spread social critisism deeply disturbing. I understand that. I believe he thinks that nice-nice will solve every problem, while I think that sentience and awareness are the magic elixers...

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 25, 2007 10:37 PM

I haven't read the whole string, but in the discussion about Arabs, culture and democracy there is one HUGE factor that hasn't been mentioned. Many of the comments are accurate and relevant, BUT, one of the largest politico/cultural dysfunctions is the tribal rather than individual based philosophy of rights and responsibilities.

The tribal culture has to be broken on the rack of the rule of law and equality of INDIVIDUALS under the law. The idea that each tribe gets its share of the power may enable stability, but, it does not do anything for cultural growth or freedom both of which are necessary for true successful democracy.

The Lebs need to stop thinking of themselves, politically, as Shia or Sunni or Christian or whatever and start thinking of themselves as INDIVIDUALS that live in Lebanon.

Posted by: AlanC at January 26, 2007 06:28 AM

They will put money ahead of national interest nine out of ten times.

That stereotype may apply to the term "Republican" (and I may not entirely disagree with you), but it doesn't apply to American conservatives. Haven't you read "What's Wrong with Kansas"? It's entire thesis is that conservatives are ignorant rubes who vote against their economic interests when they vote GOP.

Well, may be true, but only because voting your values often impacts negatively on your pocketbook. So, you can't have it both ways-- accusing them of both greed AND voting against their pocketbook. There is nobody more patriotic and concerned with his country's interests and well-being than a conservative.

That is a far cry from how the "global test" Democrats and citizen-of-the-world Liberals see America. If a Democrat goes to war on behalf of his country, you can bet that he will count on conservatives to back him up. Too bad that it's a one way street.

Posted by: Carlos at January 26, 2007 07:03 AM

I wrote: both of the polities blew it because, for cultural reasons -- and despite the presence of some real small-d democrats in both states.

MJT writes: Don't forget, also, that both countries are under siege by the totalitarians in Syria and Iran who cannot tolerate democracy on their borders. We like to forget this is happening because we don't want to do anything about it.

I'm not forgetting it, honest; but it's not really all that important, as the lack of Arab democracies in other Arab countries that don't have those particular problems, I think, demonstrates.

(Again, just to repeat: it isn't anything vaguely resembling genetics that makes the Arab world impermeable to democracy . . . )

The only Arab countries that have democracies on their borders are, of course, Syria, Lebanon, and the Hashemite entity -- (Trans)Jordan.

As to what we want to do about it, I don't think it much matters, in the long run; historical pressures have a way of forcing hands beyond what desires might motivate, and I think the key to seeing how the Iranian problem is going to play out isn't found in history, but in fiction -- Heinlein's "Solution Unsatisfactory," in particular.

Lebanon -- as horrible as their Faustian bargain is going to make it for the Lebanese -- is just, except for the Lebanese and those who care about them, a sideshow.

If you'll permit me a personal note, occasioned by some email I've gotten in response to my posting here (and, if not, please feel invited to delete it): no, I'm not Joel C. Rosenberg; I'm the other one, the SF/fantasy writer and gun guy.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 26, 2007 07:49 AM

Ooops: I left out Egypt; it's an Arab country, and it also had a democracy on its borders, like Lebanon, Syria, and the Hashemite entitty, (Trans)Jordan, do.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 26, 2007 07:52 AM

Gee-- you don't like it when I lump all right-leaning groups together, and I don't like it when you lump all left-leaning people together. You differentiate carefully between 'Conservatives' and 'Republicans' (and I would further slice along the lines of big-C and little-c conservatives, etc.). All I am asking is that you likewise try to see the many shades of blue.

When I got back from my first Israel trip, I assumed most of my Dem friends would be appalled by my new love of the people and place. However, out of about ten very liberal non-Jewish friends, only one proved to be even vaguely anti-Israel.

ALL were more staunchly anti-Arab/Islamist than I had realized. Only one or two were even interested in being 'PC' about it. ALL were deeply concerned about Islamic growth in US economic, media, and educational environments.

Where we split from the conservatives was that we all believed the neoCons had profoundly and arrogantly ****ed up an opportunity to deal militarily with some aspects of Islamist terrorism -- for reasons having nothing to do with US national security, and had set relations with our allies back hugely in the process.

Posted by: Pam at January 26, 2007 07:53 AM

Perhaps, Pam, a complaint about lumping people together might go a bit better -- just a bit -- if, in it, you didn't so very explicitly lump together anti-Arab and anti-Islamist.

(In fact, at least many Arabs aren't Islamist -- particularly, say, the Christian ones -- and many Islamists -- say, the murderous Iranian mullahs and their red-handed followers -- aren't Arab.)

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 26, 2007 08:15 AM

ALL were more staunchly anti-Arab/Islamist than I had realized. Only one or two were even interested in being 'PC' about it. ALL were deeply concerned about Islamic growth in US economic, media, and educational environments.

Which is why I'm fairly certain the next Democrat in the White House will be closer to Truman, LBJ or Kennedy as opposed to the aberration that is Carter/Kerry. Our moats aren't big enough to Ostrich again, despite what the left 'nutroots' imagine.

Of course, I've been wrong before.

The main difference between the 'Anglosphere' and many other cultures that are having difficulties adopting 'democracy' and the rule of law is that we didn't really try to assimilate our tribal cultures. Britain had mostly expunged her native Celtic population south of Newcastle by the time William took ship, and we know what happened in the Americas and Australia.

To me, the main impediment to Democracy or Republican style government in the Middle East and Africa is that clan / tribe / familial identity generally trumps that of the Nation (as opposed to say China or India with long histories of Bureaucratic subservience).

How does this get fixed? No idea. Perhaps both regions need to Balkanize along cultural identity borders as opposed to post-colonial lines in the dirt. Maybe then could Nation States begin to form along voluntary associations.

Posted by: Michael in Colorado at January 26, 2007 08:27 AM

Heh -- OK, guilty, to a degree. In terms of the people I referred to, it may be an accurate reflection of their perspective.

I'm not asking for PC, I just resent being dismissed because I am generally a liberal, as if that by definition made me a complacent, appeasing mealy-mouthed idiot.

I keep trying to tell those 'across the aisle' that they have a very large, untapped population of liberal allies on this issue that they persist in denigrating and insulting. The fight against Islamist hegemony is too big and too nasty and complex blow off allies. We may not always agree on the best method at the moment, but at least try to deal with those issues civilly, not by arrogantly dismissing one another.

9/11 brought Americans together on this issue, and even the neoCons have not actually dissolved that underlying unity -- but they have dissolved trust in this administration to deal effectively with the problem. Even my conservative friends are furious at the gross mismanagement, at every level of the fight - economic, PR, and military.

Another common point -- liberal and conservative both despise MSM, and rightly so.

Posted by: Pam at January 26, 2007 08:29 AM

>>>I assumed most of my Dem friends would be appalled by my new love of the people and place.

Pam,

it seems even YOU were surprised by your friends reaction to your visit to Israel. So perhaps you can understand why we on the Right might also hold such impressions of your Lefty friends? Ask yourself why you-- who know your friends intimately-- were surprised by their reaction to your trip to Israel, and then you'll understand why we on the Right see the Left as we do.

You sound like a reasonable person, and I hope you're right about your Lib pals because I want to believe not all liberals are so deranged by Bush hatred that they would prefer defeat Bush than win the war on terror. But we don't hear much from that kind of Liberal too often (neither do you, apparently). I can go to any Liberal website and it's kook land out there. Where are all the pro-Israel Liberal blogs? Where are all the anti-terror Liberal blogs? They don't exist. Why is that? Because defeating Bush is more important than winning the war on terror, that's why. Thats will be true until the Democrats take the White House, unfortunately. The war on radical islam will have to wait.

Posted by: Carlos at January 26, 2007 08:51 AM

Which is why I'm fairly certain the next Democrat in the White House will be closer to Truman, LBJ or Kennedy as opposed to the aberration that is Carter/Kerry. Our moats aren't big enough to Ostrich again, despite what the left 'nutroots' imagine.

Well I live in San Francisco where people are angry ... angry that we haven't tried hugging the Islamists enough. We obviously believe that the solution is to improve their self-esteem. And if that doesn't work, there's nothing wrong with them that a blow job won't fix.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 26, 2007 09:47 AM

If San Francisco has its way, our next president will be Jacques Chirac.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 26, 2007 09:50 AM

Oh, and for DP I just want to say "Gosh, you know, I really like pie."

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 26, 2007 09:51 AM

Josh, I think DPU wrote a script that displays every one of your comments as saying "Gosh, you know, I really like pie." Might as well just laugh about it, because he won't see anything else you write unless you two pledge to be nice and I mediate.

My experience with liberals is much like Pam's. Almost all my friends are Democrats, and none of them give me any crap whatsoever about visiting Israel and liking the place.

The only anti-Israel whining I've heard from any American I know in person is from two members of my family who are 20 years older than me.

There is a very large difference between the liberal "street" and the liberal activists and elite. In San Francisco that may not be the case, but here, 500 miles north, there is a difference.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2007 10:47 AM

Michael,

were you as surprised as Pam was to learn that your Liberal buddies aren't so anti-Israel as you thought they were?

Show me where are all the pro-Israel liberal voices. I see plenty of the other kind though, so I guess your buddies don't have blogs.

Posted by: Carlos at January 26, 2007 11:01 AM

Where are all the pro-Israel Liberal blogs? Where are all the anti-terror Liberal blogs?

Believe me, I've asked that myself; so, it turns out, have my friends. I can only take small amounts of any of the blogs on either side, because they all seem to be irrationally partisan and knee-jerkish. One reason I like MJT's blog so much is that it is not rabidly anything except thoughtful.

I also have pondered why I was so surprised by my friends positive attitude toward Israel -- and believe it is because they felt that it was something of an aberration, a personal idiosyncrasy, and no one ever really brought it up. All we hear are the rightist media claiming all Dems are into appeasement BECAUSE we think the neoCons suck, and all we see in the average liberal MSM is Carteresque horseshit. I think we tend to believe our own bad press, and feel "I must be the sane exception."

A very politically-active, very liberal friend visited a few weeks ago -- we hadn't talked in depth in almost a year. He hates Bush, but not only because he believes Bush has absolutely no respect for the Bill of Rights, or would happily sell our civil liberties to the Evangelical right. He was almost incoherent with fury at how incompetent the admin has been militarily against terrorism -- "The one fucking thing they are supposed to really be good at, and they have mired us into a complete debacle in the wrong goddam country, and lied nonstop the whole time and then called us traitorous for saying publically they were blowing it!" Then he went off into a rant about American Dawa that was amazingly well-informed.

We're the mainstream of moderate American liberals, not Europeans, and not Marxist academics. We believe the fight against Islamism is much bigger than just a short-term fight against militaristic terrorism. And turns out we almost all think Carter is showing early dementia, btw.

Posted by: Pam at January 26, 2007 11:06 AM

Josh, I think DPU wrote a script that displays every one of your comments as saying "Gosh, you know, I really like pie."

I understood that. I wrote a similar script for Harry's Place, though it just colors annoying people's text white on white. I still read their posts by highlighting them, but I'm not forced to read them the rest of the time.

Might as well just laugh about it

That's what I was doing.

I think one reason I got off on a wrong foot with DP is that I had been away for a while and at first I think I had him confused with DSquared.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 26, 2007 11:06 AM

were you as surprised as Pam was to learn that your Liberal buddies aren't so anti-Israel as you thought they were?

No. Most Americans don't make politics their full-time job or sport. They are very different from those who do. Look at American polls about Israelis and Palestinians. Something like 7 percent blame Israel and take the Palestinian side in that dispute.

I guess your buddies don't have blogs.

Two of my local liberal friends have blogs. Here and here. Neither are anti-Israel, but only one writes about politics.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2007 11:12 AM

mired us into a complete debacle in the wrong goddam country,

Pam,

thanks for that very thoughtful response. It gives me some hope. But I still think Bush Derangement Syndrome is clouding their vision. If they didn't hate Bush so much they would see that Iraq is a blessing in disguise. Remember how before the invasion we all worried that fighting terrorism would be like fighting ghosts because they don't have a country? Well Iraq has become that country, and terrorists and potential terrorists from all over the middle east are flocking to Iraq to die as martyrs. We are killing them by the thousands. Even AQ has stated that Iraq is the main battlefront in their war against the infidel. Whether Bush intended it or not, you can argue. But the results couldn't have been better in my opinion. They are flocking to Iraq to die, and we are killing them. Too bad Bush Derangement Syndrome prevents your friends from seeing it.

Posted by: Carlos at January 26, 2007 11:33 AM

were you as surprised as Pam was to learn that your Liberal buddies aren't so anti-Israel as you thought they were?

No actually, I wasn't. But then, most of my 'liberal-buddies' don't easily fit the Progressive Socialist / 'nutroots' mold and I all ready knew they were uniformly pro-Israel. I don't have any hard-left (or hard right for that matter) acquantences. If you want a 'classically liberal' pro-Israeli voice then you found one. If you want a 'Progressive Socialist' pro-Israeli voice then good luck, because being pro-Israel doesn't fit their meme that all conflict is classist/economic inequity in nature.

We're the mainstream of moderate American liberals, not Europeans, and not Marxist academics. We believe the fight against Islamism is much bigger than just a short-term fight against militaristic terrorism. And turns out we almost all think Carter is showing early dementia, btw.

This, in a nutshell seems to describe 'Middle America'; Left, Right, Libertarian, and Federalist. Take that where you will.

Posted by: Michael in Colorado at January 26, 2007 12:16 PM

Well, Michael in Colorado, Michael in Oregon, but Pam in Arizona -- so maybe I was more surprised because liberals, although unexpectedly plentiful hereabouts, tend to keep our heads down.

Mostly we talk Suns' Basketball.

Posted by: Pam at January 26, 2007 01:15 PM
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