May 16, 2007

Another Hostage in Iran

By Noah Pollak

Haleh Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, and in December of last year she traveled to Iran to visit her ailing mother. In a statement on its website, the Wilson Center explains that in late December, “on her way to the airport to catch a flight back to Washington, the taxi in which Dr. Esfandiari was riding was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men. They took away her baggage and handbag, including her Iranian and American passports.” Her visit to a passport office four days later instigated six weeks of interrogations. Last Monday, just over a week ago, she was arrested and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where she stands accused of being a Mossad agent, a U.S. spy, and of trying to foment revolution inside Iran -- the same charges that were leveled at the American embassy staff in 1979 when it was taken hostage.

One might think that at this heady moment of entente with the Iranian regime, when American officials are expected to meet with their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq, members of the media and political classes would have their diplomatic seismographs particularly attuned to the signals emanating from Iran. Yet that appears to not be the case: the Esfandiari abduction has been downplayed, and almost as appalling as the scant attention the story has received is the tepidness of the comments from those who have broached the matter.

The Washington Post’s editorial page, which can usually be relied upon for relatively sound judgment on foreign affairs, wrote on Friday that “Arresting an Iranian American scholar is no way to win the world’s respect,” and concluded its mushy, insipid statement by boldly reemphasizing that Esfandiari's imprisonment is causing the world to “lose respect for Iran.” One might start by noting that the question of the world’s respect for Iran was settled almost 30 years ago, when the regime held the staff of the U.S. embassy hostage for fifteen months. I’m not sure what’s more troubling: that among the editorialists of the Post there are apparently reserves of “respect” remaining for Iran, or that the same editorialists appear to believe that losing the world’s “respect” (whatever that entails) is actually a source of apprehension for the mullahs. Indeed, isn’t the ideology of the Iranian Revolution founded quite explicitly on disrespect for the West? Hasn’t the entire question of “respect” been long settled, given that for thirty years Death to America! has been a central organizing principle of the regime?

Several politicians have also weighed in, and they haven’t done any better. In a statement sure to send an ominous chill across the Iranian political establishment, Barak Obama announced that "If the Iranian government has any desire to engage the world in dialogue, it can demonstrate that desire by releasing this champion of dialogue from detention." Haleh Esfandiari’s senators, Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, asked Iran to make a “gesture of goodwill” to the American people by releasing their latest hostage. Respect, dialogue, gestures of goodwill. I’ll bring my acoustic guitar and some big fluffy pillows and we can do a sing-along for Ahmadinejad.

I probably shouldn’t be so flippant. Aside from the fact that Esfandiari’s detention brings the number of American citizens being held by Iran to three, there is a deeper problem, and that is the apparent inability of American elites to grasp why the regime continues to take hostages. The Washington Post and LA Times editorials, not to mention many of the politicians who have spoken on the matter, seem to take Ahmadinejad seriously when he claims to desire the world’s respect and express their befuddlement when the mullahs do something audacious and cruel that will undermine Iran’s ability to cultivate that respect -- like imprisoning a well-known, well-connected scholar.

So, let us ask: Why does Iran abduct British sailors and marines, supply weaponry to insurgents in Iraq, imprison American scholars, and take so much delight in repeatedly doing things that frighten and bewilder the western world? The answer is to be found in the Iranian conception of the significance of its revolution and its relationship to the West, especially to America. In the eyes of the revolutionaries, the overthrow of the American-backed shah in 1979 was a supreme victory, proof not only of the revolution’s divine ordination but of America’s weakness and the ease with which the great power could be disgraced (at least through its allies). Having succeeded in expelling the shah, the radicals believed that the United States should be next. And it was: the assault on the U.S. embassy in Tehran happened only nine months after Ayatollah Khomeini’s arrival in Iran.

And the hostage-takers and the government that sponsored them never paid a serious price for the ensuing fifteen-month humiliation of the United States. Iran has also never paid for its various assassinations and bombings in Europe, the murder of hundreds of American marines and French soldiers in Lebanon in 1983, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, its lavish funding of Hezbollah and destabilization of Lebanon, the abduction of the British sailors, its nuclear program, and so on. In other words, the Iranian regime, since the first day of its existence, has seen its every provocation go unanswered -- which has perfectly reinforced its conviction that the West, and America in particular, is a brittle facade, economically powerful and technologically sophisticated but weak-willed, indecisive, risk-averse, and easily intimidated.

And so all the fretting about “respect” and “dialogue” amount to more than just comforting creations of the western imagination and impositions of a hoped-for reality. For the Iranian regime they are yet another layer of evidence vindicating a set of beliefs about America's inability to stand up for its interests -- or even for its citizens. Meanwhile, inquiry into the more plausible sources of Iran’s actions, such as the regime's ideological contempt for America and its need to demonstrate revolutionary strength and western weakness, continues to be avoided. In 1981, after the American embassy hostages had finally been released, Iran’s chief negotiator said, “We rubbed dirt in the nose of the world’s greatest superpower.” His comrades are no doubt saying the same thing today about their newest hostage, Haleh Esfandiari.

Posted by Noah Pollak at May 16, 2007 02:14 PM
Comments

The boomer generation grew up with an ever less threatening, supremely rational and not entirely ill intentioned Soviet Union as the big enemy.

They formed all of their attitudes about diplomacy and force with that enemy as the context, and now they're too old to comprehend any new situation or that none of the principles they fought for were general enough to apply to our new enemies.

But people who were kids when 9/11 happened have a completely different context to build their world view on. They will understand that Islamists are completely different species, and growing up with Google they have infinitely more information to use to build that world view.

When the that generation gets into power then you can expect miracles.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 16, 2007 04:55 PM

It's funny that you wrote this, Josh, because I was just thinking the exact same thing, even though nothing Noah wrote suggested it. Weird.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2007 05:05 PM

I offer up this bit of data without comment:

http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/posters/hj.jpg

Posted by: alphie at May 16, 2007 06:02 PM

This thread got Godwinned early.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2007 06:28 PM

Respect, dialogue, gestures of goodwill. I’ll bring my acoustic guitar and some big fluffy pillows and we can do a sing-along for Ahmadinejad.

It may be flippant, but it's a cogent appraisal of our government's relationship with Iran and other Islamist regimes.

When Iran's negotiator said “We rubbed dirt in the nose of the world’s greatest superpower.” he also expressed Iran's attiude towards the West. They're like toddlers, seeing how much they can get away with. For decades, we've been letting them get away with everything.

This indulgent attitude is based on the Carter administration's 'Green Belt Strategy', which planned to use the Islamists as a weapon against communism. We and the Russians still think we're players in some grand game, but unfortunately, we're the ones who are being played.

We can elect new leadership, but we also need to get rid of the fossilized realpolitikers in the State Department.

Posted by: mary at May 16, 2007 07:19 PM

I was down at the revolutionary council discussing the merger between neo-nazi's, crazy muslims and socio-anarchisto-antiglobal-sydisocialists and how that might effect our effort to confront global warming when the truthers showed up and it was facinating. Would you like to join the movement to overthrow the fascist American hegemony?

---Thread has been Blaired:)---

It's funny that you and scholar both thought that. When I was reading the article I was thinking about how much I hate baby boomers.

"I’ll bring my acoustic guitar and some big fluffy pillows and we can do a sing-along for Ahmadinejad."

Imagine all the people...

Posted by: mikek at May 16, 2007 07:25 PM

Let's see, what have we done to Iran over the past few decades?

Toppled their government and put a brutal monarch back in power for 20+ years.

Backed Saddam when he invaded Iran.

Shot down an Iranian civilian airliner.

I don't see what they have to "pay" for.

I'd say we're about even.

Posted by: alphie at May 16, 2007 07:33 PM

Frankly, a lot of the blame lies with Mrs. Esfandiari for going there in the first place (using her Iranian passport to enter the country).

It's no secret the US is funding pro-democracy groups inside and outside Iranian. For a prominent Iranian-American scholar, the risks in traveling there should have been self-evident.

Posted by: tg at May 16, 2007 07:52 PM

Just which boomers do you hate? All of 'em? Or just the ones who'd love nothing more than to wipe the planet of anything Islamofascist, communistic, fascist, fill in the blank, you know the bad guys. Or maybe the ones who put up with pouty welfare slackers, the corporate billion dollar welfare assholes, and the hiphop criminal ho beating bullshit. Or is it the boomers who turned into lawyers, then politicians, then appeasers. Look, the same thing happened to my generation. And it will happen to yours. Those buddies of yours that are becoming lawyers and politicians, a certain segment of them will sell you out just like they do in every damn generation. You'll see....and just like the boomers who thought it'd be different this time, you can't do a goddamned thing about it. You can't get into the politicians' covey unless you become one. And that's where the leadership comes from. But I'll damn sure root you guys on if you got the nads to finally kick the bastards out of your generation. Call me in twenty years...just about the time the new young 'uns are thoroughly disgusted with your generation.

Posted by: allan at May 16, 2007 08:19 PM

I have Iranian-American friends who travel back to Iran with regularity to visit family.

This will probably make them think twice about future trips.

It's at the same time a sickening yet bold/brilliant (meant strictly in the objective sense) move by the Mullahs - they know no quick action can be taken, they know it's not enough of a provocation to start a war, and they know then can "sell" it to the Euros as a "response" to our taking the 5 Iranian "diplomats" in Iraq into custody - and they likely have nothing to worry about.

I hate the Iranian government. Evil psychopaths.

At a minimum, the U.N. should expel the Iranian delegation from New York (and Geneva, if they're on some body there) until Esfandiari is released - maybe kick them out altogether.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at May 16, 2007 08:34 PM

Josh, the Islamists don't represent even a 10th of the threat to the US that the Soviet Union did. And the Soviet Government was certainly never "supremely rational." We're not doing ourselves any favors by pretending that "Islamo-fascism" is a world wide menace. It really isn't. People are always looking for drama and importance in their lives and I suppose this often leads them to exaggerate the threats and menaces they confront. Iran is a third-rate power - it exports nothing of consequence to the world other than what it can pull out of the ground using foreign technology, produces no scientists capable of original research, has an under-equipped badly trained military with aging equipment, and is riven by internal dissent and ethnic tensions. The only reason we care about them is oil, otherwise we could let them rot. Yes, they fund some nasty terrorist organizations, but again without oil money they couldn't even afford to do that, they have none of the deep structural capabilities the USSR had. I'm not saying Islamic terrorism isn't a threat, just that a lot of you people really need some perspective. Do you how many naturalized US citizens China has arrested over the past 5 years? Heard of David Ji? David Wei Dong? Xei Chunren? For every evil thing Iran has done, I could probably name 5 that the Chinese government has done. Do Iranian government agents force women to have abortions and then boil their 7-month old fetuses in front of them? Does Iran have a large network of forced labor camps? Does Iran have a large network of espionage agents dedicated to stealing US military and industrial technology? The difference is the US actually needs China so we can't afford to go around posturing and making idle threats - it's easy to talk big about Iran since they actually have no power to hurt the US in any significant way. Iran can talk big about "rubbing dirt" in our noses all they want, we know, and more importantly most Iranians know, that Iran is a failing state. We don't need to ramp up the tension and waste our time and resources on Iran, the best thing to do is treat them as the minor annoyance they are and not give them the satisfaction of being treated as an equal.

Posted by: vanya at May 17, 2007 12:23 AM

Josh, the Islamists don't represent even a 10th of the threat to the US that the Soviet Union did.

Can you back this up somehow? What was it that made the Soviet Union more of a threat? Nuclear weapons? They'll have them in a few years unless we do something.

We're not doing ourselves any favors by pretending that "Islamo-fascism" is a world wide menace. It really isn't.

What constitutes a world wide menace in your opinion? The Vogon fleet firing up the lasers?

I'm not saying Islamic terrorism isn't a threat, just that a lot of you people really need some perspective.

I would suggest that it isn't just a few terrorist attacks that worry people, but the fact that several other states are on the verge of joining in the Islamic revolution, and a number of European countries are allowing a fifth column to develop quietly, but do nothing to stop them from the fear of being politically incorrect.

China is a nasty regime, but lately they seem to be more concerned with conquering the business world rather than actually forcing us, by the sword mind you, to live by their way of life.

Posted by: jonorose at May 17, 2007 02:18 AM

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 is a new phenomenon in history: it is the first successful weld of salvific theology with fascist ideology: "theofascism." As such, it is another example of political homicidal/suicide, the first two examples being 20C Marxism and Nazism.

The Khomeini ideology of the 'learned jurisprudent' is a puritan's doctrine (Hitler), fueled by a fierce religious fanaticism that will not stop either its expansion (the honored Islamic doctrine of da'wa) or its aggressive seeking of constant confrontation until the ideologues meet with their deep psychic desire: their own suicidal death, after killing the 'other' first.

There will never be 'accommodation' or 'containment' or 'negotiations in good faith' with the theofascist True Believer; as you are negotiating to reach some form of peace-building consensus, the fascist is--by his nature--secretly planning your murder.

Theofascism is humanity's newest 'dance with death.' At a minimum, Tel Aviv and Tehran are at risk of incineration; between those cities lay Amman and Baghdad. The entire world--and especially Europe--have a terrible record of accommodating fascism until it is too late.

The latest abduction by the Iranian theofascists is merely one in a long string of 'detentions' over the past several years, although now the detentions are mostly intellectuals; many more abductions are to come, slowly and steadily, like dripping water, until there is a flood.

Posted by: a Duoist at May 17, 2007 02:37 AM

Vanya,

Okay, so Iran looks like little more than a nuisance at worst. I almost believe that myself.

But.

How threatening did Afghanistan look in 2000? Who would have thought the worst attack on America ever would come from that country?

I don't think Iran is going to nuke anybody if they get nukes. They (probably) want nukes as a regime-insurance policy so they can continue using proxy militias to bully the region with impunity.

That would be bad for the region and bad for us, and not just because of the oil. Deranged politics in the Middle East means more dead people in the Middle East and more dead people in the West (and elsewhere), as well.

9/11 was an example of Islamist political science. I'll worry about China when they start exporting that sort of thing to New York. I very much doubt it will ever happen.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2007 02:52 AM

I'd say we're about even.
-Alphie

Not even close.

They're like toddlers, seeing how much they can get away with. For decades, we've been letting them get away with everything.
-Mary

Yep. It's long past time to remedy that.

When the that generation gets into power then you can expect miracles.
-Josh Scholar

That's what the Boomers thought, and they've made quite a mess of things. I am optimistic that the US will eventually come to it's senses with regards to indulging thugs who despise us, but will it all turn out for the best? I dunno... but I do know that it will be better to be in the US than in the country run by the thugs.

When a nation gets in a pissing match with a superpower over something the superpower considers important, the smart money bets on the superpower.

Nuclear proliferation and energy security are very high on the list of things the US considers important. I don't think the Iranian government really understands that.

Posted by: rosignol at May 17, 2007 03:12 AM

Hi -

As always, Michael, a rather nice rant.

Denial isn't a river in Egypt: it is the pampered elite reaction to events and people who don't fit into their ivory-tower preconceptions of how the world works.

I remember a discussion way back when on the Soviet threat I had with a fellow student in Germany (he was German): we talked about the difference between capabilities and intents, and the importance of understanding capabilities. His reaction at one point was whether he could take the Soviet threat seriously: he realized that if he did, it meant that his world construct no longer worked (he was basically a socialist) and that his world view would collapse.

He became a vehement denier of any Soviet threat whatsoever. The vast militaries deployed in eastern Europe - this was 1982 - were there only because NATO was so aggressive and threatening.

Right. In reality he didn't have the personal courage to recognize that he was wrong, that his world view didn't match with reality.

Is there any difference with so many of the "powers that be" today with Iran? Dealing with Iran means hard choices and hard politics, as their government is truly dedicated to the propagation of their theology and the subsumed politics, regardless of the cost and regardless of the real interests of the Iranian people.

Politics is also not a zero-sum game of "you did that, we did this, we're equal". That way lies madness and idiocy, the core beliefs of the appeasers and those who actively deny or belittle the threat of Iran.

This is nothing new: after the takeover of the American embassy, it was business as usual for almost all countries dealing with Iran, instead of the immediate withdrawal of all and any diplomatic personnel that should have happened in a more rational world. The failure of the UN to resolve the situation, the flaunting of international protocols dealing with diplomatic personnel and the failure of the world community to isolate and deny Iran the fruits of its actions all add to the conviction of the Iranians that they are, indeed, following God's will (they did what they wanted, and nothing happened to them!).

This kind of denial just lets the problem fester and makes the problem grow worse. In perfect 20/20 hindsight, the US should have demanded the return of their personnel within 24 hours and restitution, followed by the gradual, deliberate dismantling of Iranian oil industry infrastructure by international sanctions (no trade with Iran whatsoever) and by military action.

Carter was too much of an appeaser and coward to do anything until it was far too late and far too difficult.

The mullahs understand only two things: faith and force. You can only defeat a faith-based political system by its complete collapse and destruction: that is how Germany and Japan were defeated.

A pox on France for having harbored Khomeini for all of those years and tacitly allowing his takeover of Iran from exile. Lovely geopolitics there, done more damage than imagineable at the time.

Posted by: John F. Opie at May 17, 2007 03:21 AM

Who would have thought the worst attack on America ever would come from that country?

But it didn't - not one of the 9/11 terrorists was an Afghani, and they mounted the attack from within the US. Nor did they get any financial resources, as far as I know, from the Taliban - Bin Laden is independently wealthy. Afghanistan provided a convenient base, but the same team could have operated in North Eastern Pakistan equally easily. But your basic point is right - instability in the Middle East in the long term is dangerous for the US, I agree. I think Noah's post is basically right, my disagreement is more with some of your commenters who treat Iran as if it were the second coming of the USSR or Nazi Germany which is simply ludicrous and paranoid. Even ignoring the incredible industrial power that both the USSR and Nazi Germany had, and Iran does not, both european fascism and Communism were attractive ideologies to large segments of the West, constituting real "5th columns." Islamism has almost no real traction even with the most disaffected leftists in the US. If we really wanted to contain and control the Islamist threat, it really wouldn't be that difficult.

Posted by: vanya at May 17, 2007 03:43 AM

No pox on the people who jammed the Shah and his secret police down the throats of the Iranian people, Opie?

Two words to the people trying to paint Iran as the Evilest Empire ever - try harder.

Posted by: alphie at May 17, 2007 03:53 AM

Vanya,
You don't think they have an attractive ideology? Tell that to the more than 1 billion Muslims in the world today. I'm not saying they are all extremist fundamentalists, but neither were the Christians of Europe that embraced Nazism and Communism.

Posted by: jonorose at May 17, 2007 04:16 AM

"number of European countries are allowing a fifth column to develop quietly"

So are the US and Canada.

Posted by: Don Cox at May 17, 2007 06:18 AM

>>>But it didn't

This is an example of why I never get past the first sentence. I see her monicker and I just move on.

Posted by: Carlos at May 17, 2007 07:18 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/17/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by: David M at May 17, 2007 08:10 AM

Jonorose,

That's the point - Islamism so far is only attractive to people who grow up Muslim. Contrast that with Communism which was popular everywhere from Berkeley, to Santiago, to Cairo to Pyongyang. Look at all the Muslims, Japanese, South Americans who even now buy Mein Kampf. Islamism doesn't have a mass appeal beyond its culture - if you isolate that culture our problem would be over tomorrow. And if some of you are right that Muslim immigrants in Europe constitute a 5th column, then explain to me how invading Iraq and creating even more Muslim refugees flooding into Europe helps us control that 5th column. The more we interact with the Middle East the worse we are making things for ourselves.

Posted by: vanya at May 17, 2007 08:11 AM

Islamism so far is only attractive to people who grow up Muslim.

Heard of David Hicks? Richard Reid? Germaine Lindsay? Don Stewart-Whyte? Oliver Savant? Brian Young? Cat Stevens?

You'd think you'd at least take 0.25 seconds to google something before spouting such crap.

Oh, yeah, I forgot - we should ignore hard facts and only listen to emotional rhetoric.

Posted by: mertel at May 17, 2007 09:43 AM

If we really wanted to contain and control the Islamist threat, it really wouldn't be that difficult.

If we really wanted to contain and control the Islamist threat, what would you suggest we do?

Posted by: mary at May 17, 2007 09:55 AM

The boomer generation grew up with an ever less threatening, supremely rational and not entirely ill intentioned Soviet Union as the big enemy.

Absolutely freaking hilarious.

The Soviet Union directly controlled half of Europe through police states and had a conventional army large enough to overrun the other half. It had a military-industrial complex strong enough to make it the second strongest industrial power in the world and to give it technological near-parity with the U.S. for decades. It was founded on an ideology interrelated, at least in theory, with social justice concerns that had immediate resonance to the daily lives of billions, if not trillions, of third-world individuals. It's peak ruler killed thirty million of its own citizens, and it was on one side of a civil war in about fifty different countries. It had an armada of nuclear weapons and a delivery system able to vaporize all life on the planet.

And don't even get me started on "supremely rational". This is post-hoc sanitation by leaps and bounds.

To hold up Iran to the Soviet Union in any of these measures is more than a stupid joke. There's actually a reverse psychology at work here - the Soviet Union was such a genuine challenge that the difficulty of succeeding forced a certain level of rationality out of most of the people confronting it. Whereas, Iran is such a relatively lame and harmless foe by comparison, that there are no real incentives not to allow oneself to be overtaken by your grandiose delusions of the Coming Apocalypse. No matter how ridiculous you are, America will win.

Mike is right, a little, in his counterpoint that the risk to individual American citizens on American soil, in scenarios other than full-scale strategic collapse in the Big Game and as a threat from radical Islamism in general, has risen from very close to zero to very slightly more than zero, but no one thinks that Iran is sponsoring terrorist attacks in the U.S. To sponsor terrorist attacks in the U.S. is a fatal idea, and everyone knows it. The struggle at hand is Iran's struggle to survive, not ours.

Iran is now holding three American citizens. How many Iranian citizens is America holding?

I think it's rather inaccurate to portray Iran as laughing in triumph. They're surrounded by the U.S. military on all sides. Most of the region is fighting to keep their ethnic kin on the bottom of the boot. Their semi-democratic system is unhappy with its leaders. To gloss it, they're under quite a lot of pressure. They think America is out to destroy their system, and they're not wrong.
None of that, of course, makes their hostage taking morally legitimate: just an ugly scene in an ugly business.

Posted by: glasnost at May 17, 2007 10:12 AM

"lives of billions, if not trillions"

Ants?

Posted by: leo at May 17, 2007 10:25 AM

Josh: The boomer generation grew up with an ever less threatening, supremely rational and not entirely ill intentioned Soviet Union as the big enemy.

Glasnost: Absolutely freaking hilarious.

What I think Josh meant (and he can correct me if I'm wrong) is that communism is a potentially less deadly ideology than Islamsim.

Not that Stalin killed fewer people than Osama bin Laden. Obviously Stalin killed many many more.

But look. I accidentally ended up in an armed communist camp in Northern Iraq. (I wrote about this if you will recall.) Nothing bad happened to me. The communists gave me interviews, lunch, and a tour.

If I would have ended up in an Al Qaeda camp in Iraq I probably would have been killed.

Your average communist were political fools, often well meaning political fools. Your average Al Qaeda member is more like a political Hannibal Lector.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2007 10:56 AM

Ask yourself this, Glasnost.

Who would you rather be a nuclear superpower that can rule one-third of the world, sponsor armed insurgencies that often succeed in another third of the world, and plausibly threaten the remaining third of the world with total annihilation? The Soviets? Or Al Qaeda? And why?

I would choose the Soviets, but that's me. This (I think) is what Josh was getting at.

I do not, however, think Al Qaeda will ever become anywhere nearly that strong.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2007 11:01 AM

al-qaida does not have to become strong. they only have to inspire nuts all over the world, as they did those in fort dix.

barbarians attack when their target is already in decline and weakening -- check out history.

islamism did not rise randomly, it did because the west not only is in free fall, but in fact has been building and developing its own enemies and betraying its allies. Practically all the west's enemies were creatures of the west, including saddam and obl.

A lot of it has to do with ignorance, incompetence and willful thinking. Just one minor example:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,273055,00.html

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 11:43 AM

oops, i meant wishful thinking.

Remember olmert's statement that "we're tired of winning, of fighting etc."? What do you think that tells hamas, hezbollah and iran, whether they are strong or weak?

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 11:45 AM

The comparison of Iran and the Soviet Union is an interesting one, especially, in my opinion, when it comes to understanding an important similarity: the way that a belief in historic determinism has animated both ideologies, which after all are revolutionary.

Now, I don't mean to gratuitously plug the magazine I work for, but we took up the similarities between the Iranian and communist revolutions in the editorial of the current issue. It's worth a look.

Posted by: Noah Pollak at May 17, 2007 11:52 AM

Such comparisons are nothing new and to knowledgeable and intelligent observers the similarities are quite obvious. There have been quite a few writings on the subject. It is but one of the reasons the lunatic left is in bed with islamists. See, for example:

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2125

But there is a critical difference: the left is not a death cult, which is the distinction that Michael was making, I think.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 12:59 PM

Here's another, not as strong though:

http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007/05/leftwing_extremists_and_salafi.php

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 01:06 PM

I read the article and thought it was a snoozer. Nothing new or insightful. And the author must be very out of touch to think that Israel could act as a role model for other western nations. Even our best friends downplay the relationship to appear like honest brokers in the region, not to mention the many who think of us as "that shitty little country", to quote the French ambassador to England.

The article's main point was the need for "clarity of purpose", but that just begs the question. One of the chief strategies of the anti-western forces is to defeat that clarity of purpose, which they do by a)depicting themselves as victims while acting as aggressors b) hiding their actions behind proxies and shadowy organizations c)dividing themselves into good guys (moderates) and bad guys (extremists), so that the west will hesitate for fear of hurting "the good guys".

All of these tricks, and others, defeat clarity of purpose. Combined with post-colonial guilt, hatred of war, worship of human rights, etc. from the West, it is highly effective. And now the apparent failure in Iraq. Whereas for the other side, the purpose is clear - drive out the westerners. So there is assymmetry as far as clarity of purpose as well.

Posted by: MarkC at May 17, 2007 01:07 PM

Mark,

You are correct. Except that a lot of the effectiveness of those tricks is due to the fact that western societies suffer from ignorance and inability to reason due to a collapse of the educational system. Academia in the west is riddled with lunatic left and multiculturalism nonsense.

Had the west been inculcated with history, logic, the classics -- instead of just propaganda and training for jobs -- all these tricks would not have been so effective. And something like this would not have happened:

http://www.pajamasmedia.com/2007/05/the_silencing.php

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 02:05 PM

NP: "The comparison of Iran and the Soviet Union is an interesting one,"

I would also add that the Islamic Republic seems to be in an advanced state of Brejhnevication. Its economy is stagnated, and its driving ideology is largely a farce for many if not most Iranians. It can still inspire fools abroad, but at home it has feet of clay. The fact that the Mullahs fear some sort of Velvet revolution (something I'm sure neither Kohmeini nor Saddam would ever consider as a threat) shows how brittle the regime is.

This uncertainty about domestic support is probably the greatest constraint on foreign adventures on the part of the regime. Getting attacked, on the other hand, would probably be a godsend to them, as far as solidifying their support is concerned.

Posted by: Bruno Mota at May 17, 2007 02:15 PM

All utopian totalitarian logic-defying states reach that state sooner or later. But belief in allah may make the collapse slower and longer than belief in the proletariat.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 02:23 PM

I've been away from this thread all this time and just took a quick look back before running off to work.

Some people misunderstood the time frame I was referring to. I said "ever less threatening," by which I meant that the USSR started out extremely threatening, but Andropov? Gorbachev? How threatening were they? How rational were they?

I grew up with adults around me overreacting to a Soviet threat that had largely evaporated already because containment was already working and working well.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 02:38 PM

And ultimately, the thought processes of the Soviets were extremely rational.

Rationality wasn't a weakness, but it did mean that our main fear from the nukes was accidental war not deliberate genocide or mass suicide.

Remember the refrain:
"if the Russians love their children too"

Go study the Palestinians, the Iranians (during their war with the Iraq) then get back to me on that.

"if the Muslims love their children too"

We can't count on rationality This time, we can't count on raionality at all.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 02:46 PM

Josh, the Islamists don't represent even a 10th of the threat to the US that the Soviet Union did.

Technology is a multiplier of destructive ability, and destruction is inherently infinitely easier than protection.

As long as your enemies are too irrational to be deterred by your threats of reprisal, then ANYONE will be able to kill millions soon enough.

Factor in the will to commit genocide with the will to die, and there is no such thing as a small threat eventually.

In this way, like the others I was talking about, your thinking is entirely obsolete. A vial of ebola or some such is a much more potent weapon than an A-Bomb; and the right vial would be worse than MIRV. Think about that. EVENTUALLY, any mass will to genocide will be all it takes to create an enemy as threatening as the Soviet Union was. You have to think ahead.

The computer sitting in my lap right now has as much power as one that cost 10 or 100 million when I was a teenager. You have to understand your enemies much more deeply than many people have been willing to do to see the threat looming.

I prefer that we prevent massive threats than we respond to them after we lose cities, thank you.

Anyway this is very poorly written because I'm late and in a hurry, but I hope you understand my point

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 02:57 PM

Mary,
You asked the real question.
If we really wanted to contain and control the Islamist threat, what would you suggest we do?

I have said it around the net but nobody has read it. If we want to really tackle the issue of Islamic fundamentalists we need to tackle it with the pen.

We need to create schools of a westernly looking Islam. Effectively we need to do an "Embrace and extend" on Islam. Why? The religion and the nations in that section of the world have built in a very good level of purity security. If you try to worship in any religion that is not Islam, you will be stopped.

How can this be done? The US needs to build an institute to do this and a school to teach the new variation. To build it we would need to staff it with top notch Muslim teachers, Christian teachers, Jewish teachers and psychologists. The variant might have to be Islamically coherent, easily picked up and secular facing version of Islam.

Right now, Saudi Arabia is colonizing the US by funding the building of Mosques and providing Saudi leaders. This institute would need to be providing leaders for mosques all over the west and into the Middle East.

If we want to deal with Iran quicker well there is a way for that. Connect up the guy who was designing cruise missiles in New Zealand with the Iranian dissidents. (if possible NOT the Kurdish groups)

Posted by: crazyman in NYC at May 17, 2007 03:01 PM

Mark,

This isn't a one-sided battle.

Anti-Islamism is a movement itself.

While there may be a rational, reasonable "clarity of purpose" behind it, the anti-Islamists have made common cause with the very worst elements of western society.

Nationalists, racists, radical Christians, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" war lovers, etc., all march behind the anti-Islamist banner these days.

And I (and, I think, a majority of Americans) now see the anti-Islamist movement as a much bigger threat to western society than radical Islam.

Game over.

Dump the freaks (you know who) and start all over again, or fade away.

Posted by: alphie at May 17, 2007 03:41 PM

crazyman,

the west is an utter failure in teaching its own youth the fundamentals of knowledge and reason, and you mean to tell me that they will be able to fight indoctrinated fanatic islamists via education? you can't be serious.

haven't you seen the link i posted about the US-funded arabic TV network that broadcast hezbollah and hamas propaganda without realizing it because nobody spoke arabic there?

after 9/11 a tv channel assembled together former CIA ME desk chiefs to comment and none of them spoke arabic or studied islam.

Do you recall who bush appointed to promote the US brand in the ME?

The reason western foreign/ME policy in the ME is the utter failure it is is precisely because the west knows zilch about the enemy. and you expect it to win by education? u gotta come down to earth.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 03:51 PM

Alphie,

perhaps that is so because the left is in bed with the islamists and full of hatred of the west as they are, leaving the anti-islamist fight to the right.

If you want to see lunacy go visit daily kos and their ilk, they're rabid. or read dershowitz's articles about Norman Finkelstein et. al.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 03:56 PM

Some more evidence:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0517/p13s01-legn.html

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 04:22 PM

Noah Pollak, history didn't start at the point when it is convenient for your argument. The 1979 revolution was not the beginning of the world, nor was it the beginning of the United States' often-sordid relationship with Iran. Besides the obvious, what other tunes do you want the Iranians to dance to, and if you don't, consider what tunes others may want played.

Posted by: The Other Alan at May 17, 2007 04:37 PM

I welcome the attempt to refine your argument, Josh, and I heard some of the other people here.

The comparison of Iran and the Soviet Union is an interesting one, especially, in my opinion, when it comes to understanding an important similarity: the way that a belief in historic determinism has animated both ideologies, which after all are revolutionary.

I think certain kinds of comparisons between Iran and the Soviet Union are potentially warranted, but it's hard to even get into them because of how easily they are distorted to make arguments that are the opposite of the conclusions I'm arguing for. An overall understanding of the strategic situation now vs. then is best arrived at by focusing on the differences.

If you compare Iran to the USSR, they're long past the Stalin times and well into the Brehznev times.

Josh, you've now pared down to your fundamental premise, one which Mike echoes, a little.

I grew up with adults around me overreacting to a Soviet threat that had largely evaporated already because containment was already working and working well.

In contrast:

And ultimately, the thought processes of the Soviets were extremely rational.

Rationality wasn't a weakness, but it did mean that our main fear from the nukes was accidental war not deliberate genocide or mass suicide.We can't count on rationality This time, we can't count on rationality at all.

The problem here is the conflation between radical Islam, in general, and small groups of jihadists, vs. Iran as a nation-state.

"Rational vs. irrational" is, generally speaking, both a simplification and a fallacy. As an example, the nation of Imperial Japan was a rational nation that made rational policy - for example, it invaded the weak, like the Dutch, and appeased strong threats, like Russia during its struggle with America. For another example, its battle plan in Leyte Gulf in 1944 rationally accepted the U.S.'s massive advantage in carrier air power and sought to distract it, rather than fight it head on.

Nevertheless, this rational organization trained thousands of young pilots to deliberately kill themselves in attempts to blow up U.S. Carriers. If you base a claim of irrationality on a willingness to die, then you have to include the Japanese. You also have to include militant communists everywhere who pursued collectivization of agriculture in the face of severe famine. You also have to include Western soldiers who commit self-sacrificial acts and receive Medals of Honor.

In short, first of all, lots of communists were willing to kill and die, just like the Islamists, rational vs. irrational is a red herring. The question is only deterable vs. indeterable. Small terrorist groups are often rational, but not deterable by the threat or even promise of death - this is in a decentralized way comparable to elite Western military units.

On the other hand, Iran, like all nation-states, and perhaps all bureaucracies, is both rational and deterrable. If you study the behavior of the Iranian government in any depth for any length of time, it's absolutely littered with rational responses to threats - and not suicidally, monochromatically aggressive responses, either. Some, they buy off, others, they compromise with, others, they ignore, others, they try to kill.

Mike does the same thing in his argument - Noah's article is about Iran, but he ends up making an example based on Al-Quieda.

I support the ultimate goal of eradicating Al-Queida precisely because Al-Quieda is undeterable, and I smack down exaggerated depictions of Iran as laughing at the West because they are deterrable.

(PS: just because Al-Zawahiri in Pakistan is undeterrable, and the Al-Quieda faction in any multi-faction war is probably the most fanatical and best to kill, this does not mean that all military non-state actors are undeterable, nor that the same approach to all of them is sensible from a cost-benefit perspective.)

Posted by: glasnost at May 17, 2007 04:43 PM

fp,

Let's take it as a given that the American Left and the American Right hate each other far more than they hate any foreigners, and the win on any issue goes to whichever side attracts the most independents.

The anti-Islamist movement allied itself with the wrong side at the start.

They shoudda sold anti-Islamism as a leftist human rights campaign first, then brought onboard the crazies later for the big push.

Posted by: alphie at May 17, 2007 04:52 PM

Effectively we need to do an "Embrace and extend" on Islam.

The problem with that is that there is no opening in Islam to create moderation with. You'd have to invent a new history of Mohammad, invent new scriptures, whole cloth. As things stand, there's no material to work with.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 05:03 PM

I think the answer is to attack the premise of Islam

Islam promises salvation through conquest. The only sure way into heaven is to die in battle or to be close to someone who did die in battle.

When the world is too damn well armed to make war on anywhere when Muslims have learned the lesson of WWII that its nothing more than group suicide to make war on a well armed enemy in the modern age, Islam itself will expire, having nothing left to offer.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 05:09 PM

alphie: The anti-Islamist movement allied itself with the wrong side at the start

That's because too many leftists sneer at Arab liberals as miniscule and irrelevant (which is true in places like Egypt) or, worse, vaguely sinister and duplicitous Achmed Chalabi types or, even worse, CIA tools and collaborators.

Trust me, Alphie, anti-Islamist Middle Easterners could not give two shits about American domestic politics. They will take whatever help they can get and they could not possibly care if that help comes from one political "side" or the other.

What they want is help from both sides, but right now only one side is interested.

This is the reason I had to walk away from the left. I was interested in siding with Arab and Muslim liberals, but most of my fellow lefties were not.

Whenever I write nice things about liberals in Lebanon or Iraq or wherever else, Western liberals give me a bunch of crap and think I'm being "right-wing." Don't assume for a minute that the Middle East's liberals don't know what you guys on the left in the West think of them. They know. They know.

It never ceases to amaze me how when I take the side of the liberal-democratic "March 14" movement in Lebanon, supposedly liberal Democrats in the United States give me shit for not siding with the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis, or at least for not being "fair" to that axis.

Feh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2007 05:15 PM

glasnost,

iran MAY be deterrable, but the problem is there are NO deterrers and I don't think there'll be any any time soon, at least in a time that counts.
would you be deterred by how the west, particularly UK, handle themselves? if their marines acted the way they did, would the general population? would the dhimmicrats and the ignorant US population deter them?

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 05:22 PM

alphie,

i'm not sure what you're arguing here, but the point is that the left has associated itself with a side that is anathema to the left's principles. therefore, it is no longer real left, but a mockery thereof. they actually hate the domestic nonleft more than they hate islamists. that's the whole point.

people like me who consider themselves left of center were left to choose between their nonsense and the right, who understand reality much more than the now so-called left. the latter demonize sites like lgf and jihad watch as full of hatred and lies, and embrace the death cults, without looking in the mirror to see that it is themselves who are the demons.

the problem with the so-called left is that they are sore losers of the socioeconomic fight and try to take revenge on that by allying themselves with nutters. iow, they're nuts themselves.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 05:30 PM

Well, I don't really consider myself a "leftist" Michael.

It may have been expedient for the anti-Islamists to jump in bed with the right after 9/11, but now that the GWOT has devolved into a Klan rally sponsered by the oil and defense industries...the party's over.

Bad move.

Posted by: alphie at May 17, 2007 05:32 PM

scholar,

but they may expire AFTER they bring the west down first, in main because the west lets them.

the fact of the matter is that it is the west -- its technology, innovation,products -- that has built and maintained the islamic world, without which the latter would have indeed, expired. the west saved it from that and pumped them up.

what do you think will happen if and when the advanced arsenal that the west has pumped into pakistan or saudia fall into islamist hands? I would guess that they will expire together with a lot of us.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 05:36 PM

alphie: Klan rally sponsered by the oil and defense industries

There is no point in talking to you about this at all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2007 05:37 PM

Maybe my comment was influenced by my recent readings about John C. Breckinridge, 14th Vice President of the U.S., a brilliant and decent guy who got sucked into the pro-slavery movement and was ruined by it. Had things turned out differently, he might have been more famous than Lincoln.

He did find some redemption later in life by speaking out against the Klan when he returned to Kentucky after the post-Civil War amnesty.

A lesson to be learned, maybe.

I think the anti-Islamist movement is dead here in America unless it separates itself from the racists, radical Christians and war lovers and profiteers it has partnered with.

Yelling about "multi-culturalism" and "leftists" is just making things worse.

Posted by: alphie at May 17, 2007 05:55 PM

Mike,

I concur regarding alphie.

1st, nobody's yelling here. 2nd, leftism and multiculturalism are accurate descriptions of the pro-islamist so-called left. 3rd, it is certainly more accurate than their yelling 'islamophobia' whenever one provides sensible descriptions/criticism of the islamist creed and actual behavior.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 06:30 PM

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the liberals in the muslim world are indeed two weak and too few to make a difference (given the mass islamic indoctrination that susbtitutes for education in the muslim world, one wonders how even those few exist). The so-called left always claimed they are the principled ones. So embracing the islamists and ignoring the liberals, is that a principle that drives them?

Leftists are not very good at consistency.

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 06:43 PM

I don't get this. Please tell me you are all serious about being baffled how to get rid of this so-called 'Islamic threat'. It's so easy that you've completely missed it. Just leave the people alone. SIMPLE. Maybe too simple? not at all. Here's my arguement;

Osama Bin Laden had originally become a militant after afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. He felt the need to protect muslims from foreign invasion (just in case you think i'm trying to defend any of Osama's ideologies, i'm not, i'm a Shia and strictly protest against any ideology of any likes to that of Osama or any other group which believes in killing innocent people to achieve any type of goal - I personally believe the best resistance, defence mechanism and progressive policy is education).

So we have an Osama fighting off the Russians, rightfully at the time (even the American people + leaders hailed the 'mujahideen' of Afghanistan - i'm almost certain this was a cold war tactic rather than genuine support). Then the American decided to built an army base on the Holiest Islamic location in the world. Big mistake. Osama protested at first - and i must admit he did it peacefuly - but then he saw that the democracy they expected from him didn't work and therefore adopted his brutal ways to gain recognition, and it actually worked.

Then he became really fanatical to a point that hardly anyone supports him, even if they agree with his main reasons for 'resisting' (more like terrorising) the west/americans. I don't think there's any normal everyday man/woman who does believe in his reasons anymore (since Zawahiri - the terribly ugly/uncharismatic/illiterate Osama right-hand man claimed he will stop the fight when america becomes a muslim country - lol i mean come on - even the almighty Soviet Union couldn't get what it wanted from America, how can a bunch of sandle-wearing inexperienced fighters who die in their hundred to kill one NATO soldier be able to pull it off - bad luck i bet hahaha).

Anyway, back to the point. So Osama started militancy when SU invaded Aghanistan, then terror war when America placed barracks in Saudi.

Then there are the two so called 'terror intifadas' of the Palistinians. On some Palistinian issues, I can hardly make my mind up of who is right or wrong. To be even more genuinly honest, i hardly know how the first intifada happened, but I know how the second happened, and i'm guessing how the thrid will take place. The second intifada, which cost the lives of 1000 Israelis and 3000 palistinians, was the result of just one ignorant action by Ariel Sharon to step on the head of every Islamic group and say 'look, we're in control here, not you, say byebye to your dominance, it's our turn now, your worst enemies, the jews'. Then the intifada kicked out. I know that what this man did was stupid, wrong, crazy and profoundly dumb, and i'm sure alot agree with that, but i also think what he did was intentional.

It wasn't like, woops i think i took a wrong turn. Oh look am on that holy mosque of those muslim peepz. No. He went there knowing he will spark a reaction. During the intifada 2, alot of terrible things happened, on both sides. Thousands of Civilians on both sides paid the brunt for the ignorant action of a single person, which then set a chain reaction to the rest of the events. I believe, if you are going to call the Palistinians the terrorist side in the intifada 2, you must call the Israeli side with the same label for many reasons, primarily for adopting the same tactics as the Palistinian clans and for sparking it off in the first place. The former meaning the settlers who were regularly attacking and killing palistinian workers and the IDF for targetting the Palistinian civilian infrastructure and people to 'apply firm pressure' in response to the 'mass civilian illegal activity'.

Then we get to Iran. Now you are thinking - great a propaganda lesson from a shia about the likewise shia Iran. Not at all. I believe in the flexibility of Islam. Yes we have laws which makes non-muslims living in a muslim country pay a special tax, but likewise, in western countries people without a 'green card' or citizenship do not enjoy the same rights as those that do, no argument their. I believe in the Islam which exempted non muslims from all Islamic tax (such as the one where you have to pay a fifth of all earnings for a charitable cause - thats a hell of alot of tax) and being exempt from military service with the sole responsibility being placed on the muslims to protect the non-muslims (some may interpret this differently, but it's main interpretation is to put others before yourself). Anyway, my point is for any islamic country to place the sharia as conventional law with other aspects of it as common law i.e. all aspects of the sharia which are not widely accepted being enforced using incentives and through conventional means rather than obligation through punishment and other aspects of the sharia law which are accepted by all society being placed as common law such as stealing, perverting the course of justice, killing an innocent etc and at all times being flexible, lenient and evolving to meet the societys needs.

Iran isn't like that at all. It almost forces all people within its borders to oblige by every aspect of the islamic code, whether they like it or not and instead of encouraging people by using incentives, they force them by almost terrorising them of the harsh consequences. That i believe is wrong. But the very least is that Iran is better off than all other islamic countries concerning they do have constitutional change, and to a certain extent democracy. Thats another issue for another day.

My point concerning Iran is that they have so far never hurt anyone. There was a post in this thread i read just now telling of what the west, namely america, has done to Iran i.e. all the sanctions, dropping its airliner, placing a brutal monarch (which by the way encouraged to seek nuclear power). Irans permission was actually seeked by the Americans to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iran, believe it or not, found side-by-side with the NATO forces in Afghanistan to combat the Al-qaida and Taliban terrorists. Before you deny it research it and you will know im not bullshitting you.

Then we get to Hezbollah. This is probably the easiest one. Hezbollah's presence was made after Israel repeatedly attacked - and at some stages even invaded - Lebanon and in 1982 occupying 3/4 of the country as well as trying to place its own proxy government, failing to do so by popular protest, creating a buffer/proxy lebanese army - the SLA, arming and financing them to terrorise the local inhabitance into submission to the occupation without resistance, discourage resistance and punish it if it were carried out - therefore the IDF was successful in retaining control of a whole section of a country without being directly responsible for the submissiveness of the people or even the control (the IDF field of control wasn't very large - it hardly penetrated more than 8miles of lebanese land, whereas the SLA controlled at least 5 times the ammount of land as the IDF). Therefore Hezbollah was a response. You may disagree with what kind of response it was - a popular response, a military response, a terrorist response or even a proxy response - the only thing im concerned out of how hezbollah was created, is the word response.

I personally believe it started off as a proxy-militant response, but then forming into a popularly supported one which made it evolve over time to become independent. But just like every country, faction or party, Hezbollah is not totally sovereign because it does have allies and interests, just like any other nation or party. I don't think being a proxy at the begining as something wrong - the lebanese were too into eachother (as in thirsty for each others blood - civil war) that it is shameful a foreign country had to come in and put lebanon's interests above those of internal strife to combat the occupier through foreign intervention via lebanese combatants. This is not a terror tactic. Its a popular tactic, a conventional tactic, everyone everywhere does it. Even individuals (you get into a fight with someone, hes too strong for you and you call your bigger brother to protect you - just an example - you're using your brother to protect you i.e. hes your proxy against your enemy and notice the word use). Yes Hezbollah may have been used at the begining by a foreign country - or countries to that matter - but hezbollah, as i have said so many times before, have been able to be clever enough to use their host nations/allies as well in bostering there power, credibility, influence and making sure they fulfil their aims and achieving the desired outcomes. Finaly, just like any other event in this world, the matter of the fact is that no-one has pure intentions. Nations tend to think even dirtier than individuals. They strictly do tit for tat. Israel invades lebanon, they must pay. They create a proxy, why don't we create a proxy i.e. israel create SLA, next morning you hear a hezbollah coming out of nowhere with iranina flags before lebanese ones.

SO. The best way to stop all this mess is to leave the Arabs alone and stop the influence over them, then no angry arabs/muslims would be created anywhere therefore even the most appealing maniac wouldn't be able to recruit the 'fascit' jihadis because since the problems have been solved, theyre too busy making a family and trying very hard to prosper like any good citizen does.

THE END please comment back on anything you agree/disagree. I always like learning from others and trying to understand their p.o.v/opinions.

Posted by: YO YO at May 17, 2007 07:25 PM

you gotta love hearing yourself talk, huh?

Posted by: fp at May 17, 2007 07:32 PM

Please tell me you are all serious about being baffled how to get rid of this so-called 'Islamic threat'. It's so easy that you've completely missed it... blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

You know only 1% of what you think you know, kid.

How annoying.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 09:20 PM

It's funny that you wrote this, Josh, because I was just thinking the exact same thing, even though nothing Noah wrote suggested it. Weird.

The disconnect was suggested by the entirely inappropriate conceptual framework used by the Washington Post, politicians and others in this story.

It's really no surprise that they haven't managed to absorb the fact that nothing in our previous experiences has prepared us to deal with Islamism - who has time to take out of their busy lives to learn a new culture and prove to oneself that it's the world's odd man out?

It's an odd fact noted in the thread above, that people's attitudes about Islamism are mostly determined by their preexisting beliefs. Many, (and at first most) who are right are right by accident, and for the wrong reasons - and unfortunately everyone else is wrong.

But it is frightening to realize how naive we can be.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 09:58 PM

PHENOMENAL COMMENTS SECTION!! WOW. Josh, you rock! (as some do others here) My only exception-taking is the broad, tar-slathered anti-boomer brush you wielded. Speaking as a demographic, I think you might be startled at how many of us (at least in the over-fifty crop) DO understand the difference, and do see that the stall-and-appease process is a ghastly, potentially suicidal mistake. And, no doubt true to our Hippie roots, we tend to see BigCorp and Gov't,Inc as the driving force behind that blindness, just as it is in our dealings with China. And those forces predated us, and will probably postdate us.

The sad fact is, a large chunk of the younger generation you believe in WILL sell out. They always do.

In fact, of the 18-22 year-olds I see in my work, nearly all of them have a narcissistic sense of entitlement and a lack of any concept of personal sacrifice that does not bode well at all for your premise. I find myself hoping every time I am just seeing an exceptionally skewed bunch, but my friends who teach HS and college unhappily assure me it's quite prevalent, maybe the norm. These kids are deeper into escape than my generation was at its stonedest.

Also -- The Soviets may have sought death and total destruction for us, but they certainly did not seek it for themselves. That lent the situation a backstop somewhere, that if not 'rational,' at least gave us a small shared ground to work from -- neither side wanted to be obliterated. I truly don't think guys like OBL and Ahmadinejhad care.

Posted by: Pam at May 17, 2007 10:50 PM

Thank you, Pam.

Anyway I know nothing specific about gen "y" or "z" or whatever it's called, I just know that children incorporate information that their parents ignoring, and that adults, left to themselves, seem to stop forming new attitudes after a while.

For instance I believe that environmentalism waited until a generation had grown up exposed to tales of environmental threat. The boomers picked up environmentalism as kids and then their parents followed suit, the older generation following the lead of the younger one, not the other way around.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 11:22 PM

These kids are deeper into escape than my generation was at its stonedest.

Of course. They're facing a life of much harder work, complete insecurity in their careers, no time for family etc. etc. Ie, they're facing a life that sucks balls. What else can they be but escapist?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 11:27 PM

... once again things have changed and the older generation hasn't noticed that the frog has finally boiled and that the American dream has given way to the American corporate sweat-shop.

Americans may be cash-rich but we're largely so time-impoverished that by any rational measure we're miserably exploited.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 17, 2007 11:32 PM

So the key fear the "anti-Islamists", for wont of a better term, seem to have is that despite the complete absence of any industrial, scientific, cultural or technological advantage over the West, the Jihadists are a dire threat to us because they are irrational and don't value their own lives. I'm open to hearing some real evidence in support of that position. Note that Iran has behaved exceedingly rationally for the past 10 years - they always push the West to the edge, but they have never gone farther, and they seem to have a pretty good sense of where that edge is. If you read any Iranian dissident literature, and MT I'm sure you have, you will be struck by how corrupt the Mullahs actually are, just like the late period Communists in the Soviet Union. My impression is that 90% of them are only lip-service believers and their real interest is maintaining their power. Even if Ahmedinijad himself actually wants to go out in a blaze of martyred glory I'm sure none of his hangers-on do. Al Qaeda is the same way - they find desperate people and convince and intimidate those people into killing themselves. The number of people who truly want to martyr themselves isn't that great - at least this is the impression I have from reading Israeli literature on suicide bombers. These organizations like Hamas and Al Qaeda are evil, and apply pressure to find these martyrs, but they are also acting rationally. Haven't you ever noticed that the leadership of Al Qaeda seems very intent on staying alive? Certainly Islamist are incredibly callous about using other peoples lives, but that was also true of Communists. So evil - yes, irrational death cult? Only if you actually believe the Islamists own propaganda.

Posted by: vanya at May 18, 2007 12:24 AM

I was interested in siding with Arab and Muslim liberals, but most of my fellow lefties were not.

Maybe it's your definition of liberal. Other than supporting the Iraq war I don't see many conservatives who care much about human rights in the Middle East, usually they are just looking to score political points against the US left. If you want to see a "leftie" who sides with Arab liberals look at someone like Mark Lynch over abuaardvark.typepad.com - he's deeply involved with Arab pro-democracy forces. I can't think of anyone on the Right who is as deeply engaged. My impression is that the real split is not concern for Democracy in places like Iraq or Egypt, the split is that you seem to regard any Arab who is anti-Israel as by definition not liberal, most leftists who are engaged with the Arab world tend to sympathize with the Arab position on Israel.

Posted by: vanya at May 18, 2007 12:36 AM

"they always push the West to the edge, but they have never gone farther,"

Why the F*** should we put up with always being pushed to the edge? At some point, they will judge, rightly or wrongly, that they can finally make their real move, as Hitler invaded Poland, and then we'll be off to the races. Better to stop them before, as we should have done with Hitler.(I realize that this was not your point, which was to refute the proposition that Iran acts irrationally).

"despite the complete absence of any industrial, scientific, cultural or technological advantage over the West,"

Why do you insist on this irrelevant point? Didn't you learn the obvious lesson of 9/11? Blitzkriegs are out, mass death suicide terrorism is in.

" Al Qaeda is the same way - they find desperate people and convince and intimidate those people into killing themselves."

Prove this statement. The 9/11 hijackers were educated and from wealthy families. Many of the jihadis who go from Saudi Arabia to Iraq are as well. As for Hamas, sure, the bombers are mules, but the ones who send them don't enjoy a much longer life span, including leaders like Rantizi and the Sheik Yassin. They are every bit as much suicide terrorists as the bombers.

The number of people who truly want to martyr themselves isn't that great -

Doesn't have to be. Suicide martyrs get a really good kill ratio (see 9/11).

"but that was also true of Communists"

Communists by and large did not use terrorism against civilians (other than in certain war zones). Big difference in my opinion, both morally, and in terms of the danger they pose to the societies they target. We were able to live under the threat of assured nuclear destruction for decades. Terrorism will bring a society to its knees a lot faster than that.

Posted by: MarkC at May 18, 2007 01:10 AM

Vanya, I don't have time to prove anything right now, and it would be an awfully depressing night if I did (I have an arguement and a list of sources in mind, but I really don't want to drag either of them out - I'd rather be able to sleep tonight).

But I do want to clear up what I meant. I didn't mean that suicide soldiers are the main threat. I meant that a view so clouded by faith that one can destroy one's own society, destroy one's own children is the main problem. No one who's both weak and sane would pick the best armed country in the world as an enemy and one that firebombed cities, and nuked two cities... As Iran funds terrorist organizations and makes speeches about destroying the economy of the west and of genocide, and yet they're a barely armed third world country that couldn't survive a large earthquake or even manufacture their own petrol...

I think it's only our pity, as for the retarded and mentally ill that keeps us from taking them seriously and putting them down.

Anyway, just as the Palestinian schools, TV, radio and sermons trained their own children, en-mass, to want to be suicidal mass murderers (for a decade now!), the Iranians armed ten year olds with satchel bombs and had them throw themselves under Iraqi tanks. They still have museums devoted to this war crime. No, Muslims don't love their children too. Or yours.

And the other big problem I alluded to was what we can see so clearly in Palestine (but also the rest of the world if we look closely enough) - a public will to slaughter and genocide. I swear to God that this is the part I could prove, but would rather be able to sleep tonight.

I would add that their form of warfare has probably always included deniability. I don't think that funding terrorism through charities or governments doing it indirectly will save them from suffering the consequences of their wars. But they think it will.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 01:27 AM

On the other hand, Iran, like all nation-states, and perhaps all bureaucracies, is both rational and deterrable. If you study the behavior of the Iranian government in any depth for any length of time, it's absolutely littered with rational responses to threats - and not suicidally, monochromatically aggressive responses, either. Some, they buy off, others, they compromise with, others, they ignore, others, they try to kill.

Iran may be deterrable, but I see little evidence of it. Instead, I see a very consistent pattern of seeking to undermine governments friendly to the US, attacking the US via proxy, and general diplomatic antagonism.

The Soviet Union was contained until it collapsed- a process that took around half a century and required numerous proxy wars, in which millions died- because the alternative was a military confrontation with a MAD-capable nuclear power in which billions would die. Containment did not become policy because it was a good plan, it became policy because it was the least-bad plan.

While it is true that Iran is not a Soviet Union-scale threat to the US, it is also true that Iran is not a MAD-capable nuclear power... and that means the US has far more options than it did with the Soviet Union.

.....

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that I see no compelling reason to allow a government that has demonstrated a consistently antagonistic position to the US to become a nuclear power, and many many reasons to take any action necessary to prevent it. In rough order, those reasons are 1) If Iran has nuclear weapons, other governments in the region will also seek to acquire them to preserve their own freedom of action, 2) the instability the region is noted for makes a conflict between nuclear powers likely, 3) the consequences of a conflict between nuclear powers in the ME are likely to involve massive damage or outright destruction of part of the energy infrastructure that supports every industrialized economy on the planet.

..and I haven't even gotten to the shipping-container bomb scenario that keeps customs officials awake at night.

Do I need to go on?

If Iran was 'just another country', nobody would care that they were building a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. Unfortunately, we're not talking about 'just another country', we're talking about a government that has "Death to America" for a motto.

I am inclined to take their word for it, and see little reason to wait for them to act on it.

Posted by: rosignol at May 18, 2007 01:45 AM

In any case, the more likely threat isn't a big war immediately, it's an ever worsening situation where terrorism slowly gets worse over the decades, eventually backed up by regimes that are very well armed...

It could lead to a world war EVENTUALLY, because there's no way in hell we're ever going to submit, and because radical Islam fully expects to be fighting massive wars when God rewards them with the end of days... They may even decide that God won't reward them until they prove their worthiness that way. And don't forget the bits about how they're going to please God and please all of God's creation by killing the Jews (all of the Jews) when the end of days comes.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 01:45 AM

Josh,

The Christian bible has the exact same endgame.

Posted by: alphie at May 18, 2007 01:52 AM

No Alphie, I may not be a Christian, but I know that the Christian Bible does not end with the Christians killing all of the Jews as even the trees and rocks call out "there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!"

Nor any other snarky, poetic allusions to all of creation hating Jews, or to stoning them to death or hanging them from trees.

But thanks for playing!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 01:56 AM

Haha Josh,

I'm not a Christian either, but I'm pretty sure the Jews don't survive the end of days according to the Bible.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him...

Posted by: alphie at May 18, 2007 02:05 AM

Oops got a word wrong:

It should have read "nor."

It's a relief to get that out!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 02:05 AM

Why the F*** should we put up with always being pushed to the edge?

^^^^^^^^^^^^
What he said.

At some point, they will judge, rightly or wrongly, that they can finally make their real move, as Hitler invaded Poland, and then we'll be off to the races. Better to stop them before, as we should have done with Hitler.(I realize that this was not your point, which was to refute the proposition that Iran acts irrationally).

(quoted because it's worth reading twice)

Terrorism will bring a society to its knees a lot faster than that.

Not necessarily.

Terrorism committed by an identifiable sub-group of the overall population is very likely to result in what has been euphemistically referred to as 'ethnic cleansing'.

In such a scenario, one of the better outcomes would be internment (to protect people in that sub-group from lynch mobs looking for jihadis to kill) for the duration of the conflict.

The other likely outcomes are uglier.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_Race_Riot_of_1921

Posted by: rosignol at May 18, 2007 02:09 AM

This really is a fascinating comments section. Except for YO YO who is a waste of bandwidth.

Posted by: Jonorose at May 18, 2007 03:25 AM

No one who's both weak and sane would pick the best armed country in the world as an enemy and one that firebombed cities, and nuked two cities... You wouldn't think so, but if you look more deeply, isn't that an expression of Iranian weakness? The only thing that keeps the mullahs in power is fear, and now, especially with Iraq neutralized, the mullahs have to convince their own people that the US and Israel are the enemy, and they have to keep beating that drum because they have nothing else to offer - the country is an economic disaster, riddled with corruption and cynicism. So you can make a case that the mullahs are quite sane - they have a choice between definite death at the hands of their own people, or possible death at the hands of a foreign invader and they've chosen the better option from the view of their own hides. I agree with you about the extreme callousness of the Islamists, I just don't see how that makes them any different from the Communists - who also sponsored multiple assassinations of "enemies" on foreign soil, including the West, killed millions of their own people on a far worse scale than even Hizbollah would conceive of, and showed little concern for the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Hungary, Czech Republic, Cambodia, etc. And let's not forget that "secular" North Korea has sponsored terrorist attempts that are exactly like what the Islamists do - including suicide bombers on passenger airplanes.

Posted by: vanya at May 18, 2007 03:32 AM

You wouldn't think so, but if you look more deeply, isn't that an expression of Iranian weakness?

Not exactly in the way you think but yes

... Are they hoping that publicly demonstrating their hatred for the west will make them more popular with Sunnis? Is the message really, "We're all Muslims here. See, we even hate the right people, just like you do!"
That's part of it. Shias (or Muslims who belong to a small sect) are considered to be traitors. This can be very troubling: the last thing one wants is to be put in the same group as ex-Muslims. So, to convey their loyalty, they attack America and Israel with a vicious passion. (The Iranian regime has made this practice into an art form.) ...
Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:56 AM

The only thing that keeps the mullahs in power is fear, and now, especially with Iraq neutralized, the mullahs have to convince their own people that the US and Israel are the enemy, and they have to keep beating that drum because they have nothing else to offer - the country is an economic disaster, riddled with corruption and cynicism. So you can make a case that the mullahs are quite sane - they have a choice between definite death at the hands of their own people, or possible death at the hands of a foreign invader and they've chosen the better option from the view of their own hides.

Many middle eastern countries have never had any more to offer. They have surprisingly low expectations in the middle east, as we're finding out in Iraq.

I agree with you about the extreme callousness of the Islamists, I just don't see how that makes them any different from the Communists - who also sponsored multiple assassinations of "enemies" on foreign soil, including the West, killed millions of their own people on a far worse scale than even Hizbollah would conceive of, and showed little concern for the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Hungary, Czech Republic, Cambodia, etc.

But the communists mellowed over time until they gave up the ghost voluntarily in the Soviet Union.

But Islam has had a millennia and half to mellow out, hasn't it? If only we wait a few more thousand years and they'll ready to be good neighbors right?

And let's not forget that "secular" North Korea has sponsored terrorist attempts that are exactly like what the Islamists do - including suicide bombers on passenger airplanes.

NK is the worst of the worst. I wish I could call such madness beyond categories like "secular" and "religious". But that's wrong; nauseating as it is, they really do worship their leader as a God. NK, honestly, must be called a theocracy.

What, in the end, is the difference between Kim Jong Ill and Mohammad?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:05 AM

"So you can make a case that the mullahs are quite sane - they have a choice between definite death at the hands of their own people, or possible death at the hands of a foreign invader"

Is this really the case? From what I've read, the pro-democracy movement in Iran has never represented a real threat to the regime, nor any other movement representing disaffected Iranians. I'm not even aware of any serious crackdowns by the mullahs, a la Tianman Square. I don't think internal dissent has risen to that level. I don't claim to be an expert, and would be happy to be shown wrong.

"The only thing that keeps the mullahs in power is fear"

Fear will keep you in power an awfully long time, especially in the middle east. No need to cite examples, I don't think.

Posted by: MarkC at May 18, 2007 04:34 AM

By the way, the fear that keeps the mullahs in power would seem to me to be the fear of the secret police, torture and imprisonment, rather than the fear of foreign invasion, as Vanya claims. The idea that the Iranian government needs to "convince" its people of anything, (beyond providing routine propoganda and sermons in the mosque) seems naive.

Posted by: MarkC at May 18, 2007 04:46 AM

It's tiring and expensive to torture and intimidate everyone. It's a simple recipe in most authoritarian countries to hold on to power - you intimdate, arrest or kill anyone who could be a potential leader of a subversive movement, but you keep the masses in line by a combination of subsidies (in Iran's case oil and I believe bread), and jingoistic appeals to patriotism, and maybe the random imprisonment just in case. That's the way it worked in the USSR as well, most average working people did not live in constant fear of the secret police, only the elites did. I hardly think I'm being naive, if anything perhaps too cynical.

Posted by: vanya at May 18, 2007 06:14 AM

Vanya, you said "Islamism so far is only attractive to people who grow up Muslim. "

Not true. Richard Reid, the wouldbe shoebomber, did not "grow up Muslim". Nor did at least one of the 7/7 suicide bombers in London. A number of the most virulent Islamists in Britain are converts.

Posted by: Laura at May 18, 2007 06:21 AM

It's tiring and expensive to torture and intimidate everyone.

What an astonishing line. I may have to steal it sometime.

That's the way it worked in the USSR as well, most average working people did not live in constant fear of the secret police, only the elites did. I hardly think I'm being naive, if anything perhaps too cynical.

I guess I'm missing your point here, but I think you are ignoring a great many examples to the contrary, where the common people did indeed live in fear of the State and for damn good reason -- Chile, NK, the Shah's Iran, Cambodia, China under the Red Guard...

The strategy of the Mullahs has not been to continually terrorize their own people into a massive smoldering rebellion, but after the first horrific decade or so, to allow a small degree of economic development and modernity, doing as you describe -- bread and circus for the scruffy masses. The post-Mao Chinese model rather than the USSR. President 'Stinky' however is screwing this up a bit (from some reports) and the Mullahs aren't ecstatic with his job performance. They are, after all, as corrupted by power as any other leadership in history. It really is a corrosive.

I will return to my own premise, in any event -- if Ahmadinejhad didn't exist, the Saudi's would have had to invent him -- he is perfect -perfect - for the advancement of the Whahhabi perspective in the West. How mind-blowing that our government has declared 'The Sunnis will prevail,' as it did on recent visits to Syria, and considers the Saudi form of Islamism less risky to the West. And even Israel seems momentarily seduced by this insane bullwash.

Having thought about Josh Scholar's opening gambit, it occurrs to me perhaps this piece is shaped in part by our cold war experiences with China and the USSR, and our enormous fear 'if they ever got together against us.'

I am still not convinced it's due to a generational rigidity, as much as it is to the other view someone expressed -- we simply have no idea how to deal with theofascism, we don't even have political concepts to let us recognize it.

I don't think the youngsters now do, either, and with the kind of education we aren't giving them, they may not have concepts to recognize anything having to do with social or political structure or history.

But let me para-quote someone with whom I was discussing that point -- after mentioning that his adolescent kids are relatively well-behaved, disciplined, etc., but that they and their peers are inconceivably materialistic -- 'My kid's friends are the most frightening people I have ever met. I have no question if they get annoyed enough by the Islamists, or anyone else who frustrates them, they would nuke them without blinking."

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 07:53 AM

Pam,

>In fact, of the 18-22 year-olds I see in my work, nearly all of them have a narcissistic sense of entitlement and a lack of any concept of personal sacrifice that does not bode well at all for your premise. I find myself hoping every time I am just seeing an exceptionally skewed bunch, but my friends who teach HS and college unhappily assure me it's quite prevalent, maybe the norm. These kids are deeper into escape than my generation was at its stonedest.>

You may want to check the following, to get a better understanding of the reality you describe. Must reads.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708563824&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2007/05/14/final-thoughts-on-the-finkielkraut-debate/

FP
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 08:02 AM

Scholar,

What makes you think we're not going to submit? In fact, if you watch closely, Europe is already in partial submission (the scandinavians and the dutch politicians already tell their people it is so, see the UK marines case; and don't be misled by Sarkozy's talk, parts of france are not accessible to the french). And judging by the dhimmicrats and the lunatic left, there are signs that the US may not fare better.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 08:18 AM

Pam,

Having been born and raised in Romania, one of the worst communist regimes, I can attest to all those in the west and the US who speak of those regimes without having a clue what they really were that not only did their populations live in abject fear, but that they were turned into animals ferreting for food to survive to such a degree that they did not have any time or inclination to even THINK about revolting.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 08:28 AM

Vanya -

I don't mean to argue you with you all the time. Nor am I any kind of expert on Iran. I just think that they're probably closer to other middle eastern dictatorships, like Iraq under Saddam Hussein (or the shah, for that matter), where people did need to live in constant fear of the secret police. Of course, if you don't want to live in fear, you simply don't engage in dissent, which is why I think things are pretty quiet on the domestic front in Iran. If your own life isn't unbearably miserable, you simply become apathetic.

Posted by: MarkC at May 18, 2007 08:32 AM

What a great thread! My only meager observation is the mullah's in Iran look very shakey and weak these days. Their "big day" to rekindle the heady 1979 embassy takeover in seizing British sailors fizzled into an feeble, anemic street protests and an awkward hostage handover. (Gift bags???) Capital is fleeing the country and even the thickest of Ayatollahs are getting it. To be sure they are mischeif making in Iraq and Afghanistan but a bus strike or a bread riot looks like it could take down the whole tottering regime.

Posted by: gk at May 18, 2007 08:33 AM

Pam,

We don't give kids (and even students) an education -- knowledge and reasoning skills -- anymore. We mainly train them for jobs by using what I call the cookbook approach: recipes that manimize to the max the burden of having to think for oneself. No wonder that when they face situations for which they do not have recipes, they resort to forcing the situation into one of the recipes they have, instead of acquiring knowledge and reasoning about it.

Training is not education. Do you know of any schools or universities who focus on history, the classics, logic? And I don't mean lip-service "courses".

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 08:36 AM

fp, we've had this discussion, and you know I agree with you to a large extent -- certainly that adequate, much less classical, education has all but vanished.

I have watched a superb HS science teacher, my dearest friend, as his HS has lost all arts coursework and most advanced science, math, and literature classes, most non-critical administrative and support staff, and barring a change in local tax levies his school is looking at the loss of 30 or so more faculty next year -- which will come from core areas.

You and I differ as to whose grossly failed leadership and misplaced priorities bear the brunt of the responsibility; I believe we agreed to disagree on that?

But -- I don't think that education's the only problem. To me it's more a symptom of a deeper cultural crisis than it is the cause.

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 09:04 AM

pam,

social problems almost never have just one cause, but poor or no education is a biggie, with huge direct and indirect effects.

the poor education itself is a result of multiple, not one factor, and failed leadership is certainly one of them.

but leaders in western democracies are themselves products of their societies and their failed education systems, so their reinforcement of that failure is to be expected.

As to the question on how to contain terrorism, it may not be possible due to structural reasons.
Check out this:

http://freedemocracy.blogspot.com/2007/05/david-brooks-insurgent-advantage.html

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 09:19 AM

'My kid's friends are the most frightening people I have ever met. I have no question if they get annoyed enough by the Islamists, or anyone else who frustrates them, they would nuke them without blinking."

Wonderful, that's a sign that they do get it better than we do. Being terrifyingly violent and completely selfish is exactly what's needed. Moronic boomers would try to appease tigers by covering their bodies with mustard and steak sauce - and talking about how hard life is for poor oppressed wildlife!

FP, I didn't say that Europe would not submit, I said that we won't submit. As they burn hundreds of cars a night, have double the casualty rate of Iraq, and respond by outlawing journalism one wonders if there's no depth of craven cowardice the French are incapable of.

But they did just vote the bastards out, so things are changing.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 11:12 AM

I meant to write that French police have double (or something) the casualty rate of soldiers in Iraq.

Obviously things are still safe for the public compared with the Iraqi public.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 11:17 AM

It seems clear that, over the last 30 years anyway, Ahmadenijad's opinion of the West and America is correct. We can easily be bullied. Meet the new boss, at least 'til his oil runs out.

We are a culture that has lost its will and self-respect.

Posted by: Mark at May 18, 2007 11:26 AM

FP, your friend over at "free democracy" has it wrong. He can't fight terrorism not because it's decentralized, but because it's funded by big countries that he doesn't want to face attacking. It's deniable war with big countries enemies, but still war with big countries.

Now this isn't always the case with terrorists, but it's probably mostly true in Iraq.

If we want to stop a terrorist organization in Iraq, one way to do it is to bomb the fuck out of the country that provides the funds and weapons - probably Iran, Saudi Arabia or Syria.

We'll get down to that eventually. We're not stupid enough acquiesce to all that deniability forever.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 12:02 PM

Josh,

First, he is not my friend.

2nd, you are right about the funding and about the unwillingness to face the problem.

However, this does not negate the decentralization argument. The point is that tons of groups arise given the weakness of the nation states in the west and not all of them are funded by states.

States like Iran and Syria take advantage of the decentralization to make it easier and more deniable to fight the west, given the latter's gullibility. For this argument see:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/cm/main/viewArticle.aip?id=10882

I hope you're right about "getting them down". I am not that optimistic--the evidence of abject stupidity is quite persuasive. The article compares very validly the current situation with 1938 which, if accepted, it means that the best we can hope is to pay an exorbitant price by the time we come to our senses.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 12:43 PM

Mark,

Absolutely. Have you seen Bernard Lewis's article "Osama was right?"

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 12:44 PM

Could anybody do a TV expose which "follows the money".........?
So, Sunnis get money from S.Arabia, Iran (rumors included) feeds Sunnis as well as Shia, Nasrallah gets it from Iran as well as from their ilegal operations in S. America.........and etc., etc.,etc.,
Yes,follow the trail of the money would be an excelent, although dangerous, TV program........Besides, once one really know the source, one can stop it or let it run in its normal fashion........

Posted by: diana at May 18, 2007 12:53 PM

I hope you're right about "getting them down". I am not that optimistic--the evidence of abject stupidity is quite persuasive.

I don't think we would bomb Saudi or Iran for Iraq's sake, but we would do it for our sake.

So I think they're going to get a pass this time. After I wrote that we wouldn't put up with deniability forever I regretted implying that we were going to stop it in Iraq.

I think we're going to get wise on this eventually, and the next time the mainland is hit, it will be no-holds-barred on the funding countries, contributers etc.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 12:53 PM

To disagree with the central premise of most of the posts here:

Iran, the Shia, the Twelvers, and the Mullahs are exactly as rational as the West and the Soviets.

From a completely alien thought-process to ours.

The Soviets wanted to have the vast majority of their people to live in peace under egalitarian socialism. To the Soviets, "peace" meant the absence of external threats (or capitalist materialistic temptations), so they had to conquer the entire rest of the world. Peacefully. By starting local civil wars.
And since "peace" also meant no noisy arguments or dissent, disbelievers had to be re-educated. Re-programmed. Taught the value of work over counterproductive speech. In sub-zero siberian gulags.
Stubborn problems were dealt with by kinetic lead treatments when psych ward treatment or electroshock failed. Ethnic problems were death with by disbandment, relocation and more re-education.
Since true communists were atheist, only this world matters, so suicidal attacks are only relevant in the military and tactical sense ... "for the better lives and greater good of those who will live on after you."

Muslims (specifically Wahibbis and Twelvers) also want peace ... at Allah's side in the afterlife. Dying in battle against the infidel (even if the infidel is a divergent sect of Islam) is the guaranteed way to get to heaven and to bring N (N=10?) members of your immediate family along too. Living a good life, following all the rules does not get one to the highest levels of heaven, but dying in_battle ... specifically in_battle ... is the only way to get to the highest level of heaven.
Sending kids with satchel-charges under Iraqi tanks sends them directly to heaven for all of ethernity. From the true-believer perspective, why should you make them wait 50 more years and only get to a lower level of heaven when they can
shortcut right to the top, not waste time, rack up sins, etc.
From the purist perspective, billions/trillions of years in the afterlife is more important than this life. The only purpose this life has is to establish what level of heaven you will spend the next many trillion years on.

Even more disturbing is the anti-MAD point-of-view:
If Ahmadinejad gets 1 nuclear bomb, uses it on TelAviv, he gets a triple-bank-shot:
1: 30%(?) of the jews on earth die, making Allah very happy.
2: Israel nukes all of Iran. Ahmadinejad will be standing on the roof of the highest building to make sure he dies first / early, going straight to heaven ... his personal goal since he was first indoctrinated.
3: All other Iranians killed in the attack (90%+) also go directly to heaven since they were killed in a battle with infidel jews, even if they were not directly front-line-combatants. Ahmadinejad will therefore have been personally responsible for the largest mass influx of souls into heaven in the entire history of Islam, beating even Saladin for the top-soul-bringer trophy.

MAD only works from a secular/atheist/life-loving perspective.

"You love life and we love death, which gives an example of what the Prophet Muhammad said."

"The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."

In his first speech on the guiding principles of his politics, Ahmadinejad made this clear: "We are in the process of an historical war, . . . and this war has been going on for hundreds of years," he declared in October 2005. This is a war, then, that is not fundamentally about the Middle East conflict and will not end with the elimination of Israel."

In his letter to George W. Bush, the Iranian president described his objective: "A bad ending belongs only to those who have chosen the life of this world. ... A good land and eternal paradise belong to those servants who fear His majesty
and do not follow their lascivious selves."

The Islamists are rational ... rationally seeking their place in the afterlife by killing us and dying in the process. The more of both, the better.

Posted by: Sarnac at May 18, 2007 01:14 PM

Western societies assign no honor to those who die in battle against the enemy, sarnac?

Posted by: alphie at May 18, 2007 01:29 PM

Even more disturbing is the anti-MAD point-of-view:
If Ahmadinejad gets 1 nuclear bomb, uses it on TelAviv, he gets a triple-bank-shot:
1: 30%(?) of the jews on earth die, making Allah very happy.
2: Israel nukes all of Iran. Ahmadinejad will be standing on the roof of the highest building to make sure he dies first / early, going straight to heaven ... his personal goal since he was first indoctrinated.
3: All other Iranians killed in the attack (90%+) also go directly to heaven since they were killed in a battle with infidel jews, even if they were not directly front-line-combatants. Ahmadinejad will therefore have been personally responsible for the largest mass influx of souls into heaven in the entire history of Islam, beating even Saladin for the top-soul-bringer trophy.

Maybe.

And maybe as a response, Shiites the world over go out and shoot their mullahs or hang them from the rafters. We win.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 01:29 PM

Sarnac,

There is rationality of goals and rationality of means.

The islamists/jihadists may be rational in terms of their goal, if it is to go to paradise to get 72 virgins and drink all alcohol they want.

But to kill yourself or your children in order to kill others in order to get in paradise what some supernatutural allah forbids you in this world is not exactly rational, is it?

Religions are irrational because they are beliefs in the supernatural. GIVEN those beliefs, though, the means to achieve them may be rational indeed.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 01:44 PM

Josh,

Optimism in the face of contrary evidence can be dangerous. That's probably one the roots of western gullibility, which is exploited: it'll be OK, things will be worked out.

The decision when to bomb will be extremely difficult rather than as clearcut as you imply. That's exactly the reason iran wants the nukes.

There is an episode in the TV series "yes prime-minister" when a scientific advisor gives the PM a gradual scenario and at each small step asks: "do you push the trigger now?". There is a chains of no until it's too late.

That's what iran is doing now and what it will do even better with nukes. and it will also use its non-nuke proxies in the bargain.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 01:55 PM

sarnac,

to clarify, what i meant is that islamists are rational in terms of MEANS to achieve their goals, but their goals are irrational.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 01:59 PM

FP, I know all that.

I was just pointing out one of the possible dynamics. Islam will end because it preaches war and modern warfare with a well armed enemy is suicide. Eventually, the religion will expire.

The more intransigent our enemies are, the more of them will die. But frankly it can't be our problem whether our enemies survive. That has to be their problem.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 02:19 PM

Josh, you have a lot more faith in common sense of the rank-and-file religious faithful than I do,and I'm surprised to see that. These are the same people who stone their daughters to death, happily send their kids to madrassas to learn martyrdom specifically against the Jews and the West, and say in polls they would prefer to live under Sharia. The ones who riot over fucking cartoons or a papal historical parallel they can't even comrehend, because the Imam said to.

It really is the nature of the belief system that they consider life --any life -- a pain-in-the-ass bus stop on the path to heaven, and the fastest route is to obliterate the next bus full of Israeli schoolchildren.

This is not a new development in Islam -- just the methodology is different. Been the same recurrent violent global jihad in one place or another for a thousand years. Why would anyone think it's going to mellow out any time soon? On the basis of exactly what cultural evolution?

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 02:33 PM

Diana, the money trails are quite well known. There's books, there's even been TV shows -- but Saudi influence over their media subsidiaries, control over politicians and State Dept hacks studying in Saudi-endowed University programs, and general reluctance to alienate the men who fill our gas tanks means that any strong, concerted effort to hit people over the head with it will never get off the ground. Plus, it'll never beat out American Idol.

What is interesting to me is the number of people I meet in various walks of life who (pardon the arrogance) I expect to be pretty damn obtuse about this stuff, but actually KNOW the Saudis and Gulf States are funding terrorism, and who KNOW Pakistan is not an ally, and that we've myopically fastened only on the madman in Iran.

Somehow, the word has gotten around. I think what surprises them, though, is the extent to which crime -- counterfeiting, smuggling, sex trade, extortion -- funds terrorism, and the extent to which we allow the Saudis to establish domestic programs and influence our largest educational centers.

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 02:39 PM

Josh, you have a lot more faith in common sense of the rank-and-file religious faithful than I do,and I'm surprised to see that. These are the same people who stone their daughters to death, happily send their kids to madrassas to learn martyrdom specifically against the Jews and the West, and say in polls they would prefer to live under Sharia. The ones who riot over fucking cartoons or a papal historical parallel they can't even comrehend, because the Imam said to.

Well it's hard to communicate with writing. If I say things too exactly it makes a boring read and people miss all the points because they're too subtle. And if I exaggerate so that you get the point then everyone says I'm exaggerating.

So yes, Islam will die because war is disastrous. But no, it won't happen in a single day the way I described it. But it might happen quickly.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:21 PM

Once they get the message that jihad is a complete and disastrous failure, they'll leave.

If people had common sense they'd see that now. But there comes a point where everyone sees the obvious. How many residents of Dresden thought "despite the firestorms, this war was a great idea and I still support it totally!"

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:24 PM

Why would anyone think it's going to mellow out any time soon? On the basis of exactly what cultural evolution?

As many people have said, Ali Salem for instance, Islam can not moderate, instead it will die.

So I'm not expecting Islam to change, I'm expecting that a huge number of Muslims will die, a few generations will be ever more defeated their children will abandon Islam because without conquest there can be no Islam.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:35 PM

Josh,

That's why I posted the link to the article about decentralized insurgencies. Because state armies are not capable to keep up with such insurgencies all over the place. The islamists don't take on our armies as another army, and the results are seen in Iraq and last year in Israel.

I am unaware that I ever said their deaths are our problem. The problem is that they die taking some of us with them.

Pam,

Over time people might learn, but the media makes it very difficult, so they must learn from their own experience, which is slow and muslims are very good at takiyya.

And there is always a gap between elites and the public. This is particularly clear in europe, where the elites are PC and multiculturalists and submissive and suiciding their societies and the increasing number of people who realize what's going on have no alternative but accept or join radical right groups.

I am detecting a beginning of such a split in the US, but the process is slower here because the avg american is much more indifferent to and ignorant of other cultures.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 03:37 PM

Josh,

WHo you're gonna bomb if this happens? Iran? pakistan? Saudia?

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/5/14/162425.shtml?s=al&promo_code=33FD-1

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 03:40 PM

And there is always a gap between elites and the public. This is particularly clear in europe, where the elites are PC and multiculturalists and submissive and suiciding their societies and the increasing number of people who realize what's going on have no alternative but accept or join radical right groups.

I think lots liberal arts college educated people tend toward the multiculti here or Europe. That's not exactly the same as elite, given that it's a fairly large percent of the population.

The Republicans pull away from that. And the multiculti currents in the Democratic party are more grass roots moveon.org/KOS losers lefties than elites. It's amazing that this group is getting any power because the Clinton Democrats ignored them completely.

I think it's a matter of reflexively opposing the Republicans. And the fact that too few people have been bothering to educate themselves.

Anyway, it's true that the elites in Europe ignore the masses, pushing politics into alternatives to democracy such as far right groups. I don't think Americans have that problem. Our politicians will pander to anything that gets a vote. I've never thought of that as a virtue before, but it is better than the alternative isn't it.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:45 PM

WHo you're gonna bomb if this happens? Iran? pakistan? Saudia?

That depends how courageous the president is (and what party).

I really bold president might claim to show official ties to a few countries and bomb all of them.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 03:57 PM

The point, (after the US is nuked by terrorists), will be to insure that we are have a deterrent that our enemies will fall over themselves to respect.

And that means demonstrating that deterrent to whatever extent it takes to insure that the survivors are more frightened of us than of God.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:00 PM

I don't dsagree with much of what you say.

The prominence of the lunatic fringe like Kos for the dhimmicrats is probably a reaction to the republican era which was disastruous both in terms of policy and how it treated the non-base.
And the dems are so desperate to win, they'll listen to anybody. What they don't understand is that they will be saddled with an impossible situation both externally and internally and will react to it as incompetently as their candidates and base show themselves to be.

It is true that there is a lot of PC and multiculti in the EU population, but there is a limit to what can be swallowed. Swedes for example, are strangers in their own countries. You should read Fjordman, who writes for the Brussels Journal and the Gates of Vienna sites.
Whether they will do anything serious about it is unclear. If you read the following interview, you'll see why the chances may be slim:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708563824&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 04:08 PM

Josh Scholar: Islam will end because it preaches war and modern warfare with a well armed enemy is suicide. Eventually, the religion will expire.

No, that branch of Islam will expire.

Not all Muslims behave this way or believe this sort of thing. And I'm not just talking about the secular people in Muslim countries, or the Islamic liberals and reformists.

Some places -- like Iraqi Kurdistan for example -- reject that point of view out of hand across the entire society.

Most Kurds are conservative Muslims with all the baggage that comes with it -- male dominance, no sex before marriage, gender segregated schools, etc. They are not liberal and secular like the Turks and Lebanese. And yet they utterly reject the Islamist view of the world. They are conservative, not radical or fascist, and that difference means everything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2007 04:16 PM

No, that branch of Islam will expire.

I'm not so sure. Kurdish Islam sounds much more sensible than Mohammad's raving actually are. I don't know what side-step makes that possible, but it may not be portable.

The side step may be that they DO have enemies to fight - the Arabs and Persians. They may just have redefined "enemy" away from religious definitions toward racial ones. That would not be a permanent, stable fix for Islamic warfare.

When Arabs feel that Islam has failed them, they may not respond by importing Kurdish imams and their foreign ideas, they may just walk away.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:23 PM

The ethnic enemy factor is a possible explanation.

But for the arabs to leave islam would be enormously traumatic. This is about the only thing they have, and if by now they have not realized how inhibiting to their lives it has been, I dk if and when they'll ever do. Keep in mind that the substitution of education with quranic indoctrination also inhibits their intellectual ability to connect their problems with islam. Nothing that happens is a consequence of man's action, but the will of allah. in fact, the concept of causality does not really exist in islam.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 04:36 PM

FP, you're right that they have nothing else and would be an empty shell if they left, not that they're doing so well now. It's very sad.

And good insight that they've learned to avoid applying the principles of cause and effect.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:44 PM

I am not worried about this "new" (aren't they always like this?) threat. If the unconventional stuff, which is the only thing they are capable of, ever gets too bad (I mean really really bad) we can just destroy everything and kill everyone. It's win/win because we don't have to deal with them and they get to die. Our fanatic problem and their not being in paradise problem are solved. I bet we could do it without even using chem/bio weapons in under a year.

Posted by: mikek at May 18, 2007 04:46 PM

And if they never do find it possible to apply the principle of cause and effect, or blame Islam for the disasters of Jihad then I imagine a very bleak future for them. They might start massive wars over and over and fight to the last person, entirely incapable of recognizing defeat.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:50 PM

It can never be easy mikek.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 04:52 PM

Josh: I don't know what side-step makes that possible, but it may not be portable.

Lots of Muslim places make that side step: Tunisia, Morocco, Dubai, Turkey, most of the Central Asian "Stans."

The Kurds say "We are Kurds before we are Muslims." This is actually in some of their "national" anthems. And they put the Yezidi pagan sun on their flag instead of the Islamic crescent. This is part of the story, but not all of it.

Partly it's because they HATE dictators of every conceivable variety, especially after Saddam's genocide. Partly it's because they want the success the West enjoys and they know that emulating the West is the way to get there.

The bottom line is that religion is only one variable among many that feed into identity and politics, not just for Kurds but for every country and culture in the world.

Religion plays a bigger role in some places than in other places, and it tends to be interpreted from within a cultural/political/historical context.

Muslims who are tired of war skip over the war-mongering parts of the Koran. It's that simple. I have met plenty of Muslims who do this, including an Arab Shia imam in Lebanon who is a descendent of Mohammad and hates Hezbollah. I interviewed him here a while ago, if you recall.

I have also met atheist Shias in Lebanon who support Hezbollah despite religion and for ethnic/sectarian reasons. Also for various political reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with religion at all.

It's odd, perhaps, that some atheists support Hezbollah and some religious Shia hate them. But that's how the world works.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2007 05:26 PM

The point, (after the US is nuked by terrorists), will be to insure that we are have a deterrent that our enemies will fall over themselves to respect.

And that means demonstrating that deterrent to whatever extent it takes to insure that the survivors are more frightened of us than of God.

I hate to see us go to that level, but it worked for Jordan, it worked for Assad, and it was what the Arab world expected of Israel this summer. And, if Israel had done just that, and nailed Syria, too, it would be in a whole hell of a lot better shape now than it is.

we can just destroy everything and kill everyone. It's win/win because we don't have to deal with them and they get to die. Our fanatic problem and their not being in paradise problem are solved.

So... so it's actually humane! It's not depriving them of anything, it's not even being anti-Islamist. I LOVE IT!!

Can we nuke the Spurs now, just for practice? ;-)

MJT, I know there is an intellectual religious sub-sub-sub-current in Islam trying to re-examine the historicity of the Quran and Hadith, trying to open the religion to some moderating adjustments or re-interpretations -- but Il Papa Ratzinger was right -- that is absolutely forbidden in Islam, literally by definition. Mohammed booby-trapped the sucker against all subsequent wannabe prophets and interpreters.

So Josh, we may be in for a very, very long battle -- a number of smart Israelis have said it will take 300 years, but it's already been over a thousand.

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 05:28 PM

Pam a couple of people have made the mistake of thinking that italics can span paragraphs. The way HTML is filtered on this blog, it can't. You need new italics for every line break.

Too bad it's impossible to go back and fix comments.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 05:36 PM

"We are Kurds before we are Muslims."

Fascinating.

Imagine the Pashtun saying something like that, or the Saudis.

Or even imagine the fighting that would ensue if some Egyptians tried to say that.

Hell, I can't even begin to imagine American Muslims saying "We are Americans before we are Muslims."

The Kurds must have been awfully persecuted by the other Muslims to get to this point.

And I'm not so sure this sort of thing is stable in Turkey. Without the army intervening, Turkey would be a theocracy by now. And it's not what's happening to Indonesia or even Thailand.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 05:46 PM

Strange thought: the Kurds may be the only Muslims who really believe in their own county.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 05:50 PM

Josh Scholar: The Kurds must have been awfully persecuted by the other Muslims to get to this point.

Yes. But their worst persecutors lately (Turkey and the Baath) have been secular. They could have gone the other way and sought salvation in religious politics, but very very very few Kurds have chosen that route. Turkish and Iraqi Kurds are extremely secular in their politics, and the Iranian Kurds are even more so -- if that's even possible.

And I'm not so sure this sort of thing is stable in Turkey. Without the army intervening, Turkey would be a theocracy by now.

Yes and no. The ruling Turkish Islamist party is actually pretty mellow. They are not even on the same planet as the Taliban or the Iranian Ayatollahs. Partly because of the military check, but also because they've just mellowed out over time.

Turkey is an extremely modern country. You see half-naked women on billboards there, and the ruling party hasn't done jack squat to put a stop to it. As far as I know, they don't even say anything about it, but I don't know for certain.

The Islamists are trying more vigorously to get into the European Union than the secularists are.

Visiting places like Turkey, Kurdistan, and Lebanon has definitely mellowed me out about Islam as a religion. And -- and this is not a contradiction at all -- I am more opposed to Islamist politics than I was even after 9/11.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2007 06:30 PM

Actually Michael you are wrong about the naked women on billboards: the govt just cut them out.

As to their mellowness it's essentially their realizing, based on history, that they can be more effective with small, creeping steps and not overreach. That's why they are much more effective. Kind of like Abbas -- works much better with the infidels. Let's see, like Pipes wrote after just visiting Turkey, what happens over time, shall we. I am not as confident as you are.

Josh, you are on to something about the kurds:

The Kurdish example for Palestine
http://www.tnr.com/blog/spine?pid=104008

But evidence about the stupid policies of the west keeps coming:

http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=8993

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/016502.php

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 07:24 PM

When did they cut them out, FP? They were there a week ago.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2007 08:06 PM

The second intifada, which cost the lives of 1000 Israelis and 3000 palistinians, was the result of just one ignorant action by Ariel Sharon to step on the head of every Islamic group and say 'look, we're in control here, not you, say byebye to your dominance, it's our turn now, your worst enemies, the jews'.

Really, YOYO you poor thing, got evidence?

Posted by: michael at May 18, 2007 08:54 PM

Michael, what Yoyo means that that the prime minister of the Jewish state dared to set foot on the temple mount, which after all is the holiest spot in Judaism. You would think that there being Jews near the Jewish temple wouldn't bother Muslims, but then Muslims don't share or play well with others.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 18, 2007 09:07 PM

Michael,

I've just seen that on the Net. I thought it was in the press coverage on the MEMRI blog, but I don't recall exactly when and by skimming through it I did not find it.

Josh,

Not to mention the fact that no infidels are allowed at the islam holly sites and that when jordan had the temple mound no jews were allowed there. The arabs have a lot of gall for their fake grievances, but are guilty of exactly what they accuse others of. And, amazingly, most fall for it due to ignorance and worse.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 09:21 PM

fp,

I haven't been to Turkey myself for a year or so, but an article in the Washington Post last week about the Islamist versus Kemalist standoff mentioned that the billboards remain and that there is no campaign against them. I assume that's true because the (American) woman who wrote the article lives there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2007 10:15 PM

Too bad I cannot locate the item, but it exists.
If it is true, then it may take time for them to be dismantled.

Posted by: fp at May 18, 2007 10:26 PM

Josh, sorry not to get you quoted properly, I was rushing and forgot -- I wasn't trying to lift your line, just admiring it, but you know that. This HTML stuff is a minor nuisance. Like a stick shift.

Turkey sort of shouldn't count as a 'mellowed' Islam, since the country's constitution banned any representation of Islam in the political sphere,and there have been a few military coups to make sure it stays that way when Islam raises it's Hijab-covered head. As may happen again, given the increasing conservative religious pressure.

I'm sorry, MJT, but not one of the three countries you mention is exactly a showpiece of civility or stability. Kurdistan has an Honor Killing problem, among other things, Lebanon seems always to be a carbomb away from civil war, and Turkey's human rights record and harsh control of free speech sucks. Is it just the Middle East? Or is it something about the Islamic presence in each case?

Posted by: Pam at May 18, 2007 11:31 PM

Josh,

You take the Islamist propaganda far too seriously. Like many religious leaders, the Islamists are mostly cynical men who abuse people's faith to get power, not true believers. The Kurd attitude MT mentions is hardly unique to Kurds, I know lots of Iranians, all of them are "Persians first, Shia second, Muslims 3rd." There is no love lost between Persians and Arabs at all. The Middle East consists mostly of tribe based societies - everyone's loyalty is to the tribe first, the Muslim identity becomes relevant when dealing with non-Muslims. You can see the same thing in Afghanistan where Muslims have been happily feuding with each other and killing their neighbors for centuries. And in response to Pam's question - it's a Middle Eastern thing, not a Muslim thing - when the Middle East was Christian in 4th-7th centuries it was no different than it is today - constant feuding, internecine fighting, and civil wars. The religion is just a label over a much deeper cultural issue. It's no accident that Malay and Indonesian muslims, who come from a very different culture, don't tend to be jihadists.

Posted by: vanya at May 19, 2007 03:43 AM

Michael says The (Turkish) Islamists are trying more vigorously to get into the European Union than the secularists are.

This is true, because ironically they will be freer to preach Islamist doctrine under EU rules than they are under the Turkish secular government. But the Turkish Islamist party is also a good counterexample to those who say poverty has nothing to do with the growth of Islamism. I don't now anyone who has been to Turkey could say that with a straight face. The Islamist party represents mostly those who have been left out of Turkey's economic growth and resent the educated elites in Ankara and Istanbul. Any time a backwards rural agricultural society is shaken by rapid social and industrial change, the losers band together and try to find a champion who will smash the elites they blame for their problems. We saw it in Germany, in Russia, in China, in Iran in '79 and now we see it in the Arab Middle East. Islamism is nothing new in that sense.

Posted by: vanya at May 19, 2007 03:56 AM

@Mr. Totten:
"Don't assume for a minute that the Middle East's liberals don't know what you guys on the left in the West think of them."
Out of curiosity what do the Middle East's liberals think of us guys on the right in the West?

@Josh:
"Many, (and at first most) who are right are right by accident"
I grew up an atheist surrounded by Christians trying to convert me.
I saw in Islamism the same base impulses amplified into something far worse than anything the Christians ever dished out, starting with Salman Rushdie back in the 90's. My response to Islam was therefore to generalize my skepticism toward religion.
When 9/11 happened I reassessed Islamism as an imminent threat, not just a reason to grant asylum to people like Mr. Rushdie but a menace to us here at home that must be dealt with as we dealt with Nazism and radical Shintoism: war.
Am I what you refer to as being "right by accident", and if not then to what accidental beliefs are you referring?

"From a completely alien thought-process to ours."
Right, the choices of rational actors axiomatically bound to a core religious doctrine appear as random noise or worse false correlations to an analyst either ignorant of that doctrine or assuming a materialist paradigm. Understanding payoffs in the spiritual sense reveals even the suicide bomber to be a kind of rational actor.
Of course my colleagues on the right gained a gut level understanding of all this from two words: "72 virgins".

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at May 19, 2007 05:19 AM

Vania,

Shia second, muslimg third? Last time I looked, shia was a religious term.

There are people like that, but they do not determine events and policies in the ME; they usually keep their heds down to stay alive.

Since religion and god are man-made inventions, by definition those who invented them were operating from a power and control intent, that's its whole point. But that does not make them less dangerous. And even if they're cynical they still manipulate masses who are not into atrocities. Not taking them seriously is suicidal or an invitation to subjugation and oppression and terminally stupid. That's what they said about the Nazis too.

I would prefer not to take you seriously.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:34 AM

woof,

see my earlier post on the rationality of goals and means.

all religions are irrational in the sense they believe in the supernatural, suspend judgment and do not require evidence. all are full of nonsense, contradictions, etc.

i dare anybody to explain how anybody with a brain can accept a deity that gave its creations intellect which they're supposed to suspend, and who prohibits enjoyment, sex and alcohol only to promise them in infinite amounts after killing others and oneself. the irrationality of it is clear in the lack of any achievement by those who suscribe to this absurdity.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:44 AM

pam,

i'm with you on that one.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:45 AM

Vanya: And in response to Pam's question - it's a Middle Eastern thing, not a Muslim thing - when the Middle East was Christian in 4th-7th centuries it was no different than it is today - constant feuding, internecine fighting, and civil wars. The religion is just a label over a much deeper cultural issue. It's no accident that Malay and Indonesian muslims, who come from a very different culture, don't tend to be jihadists.

Yes, I agree.

The bad laws in Turkey come from the secularists, the now infamous honor killing in Kurdistan was committed by Yezidis because the girl ran off with a Muslim boy, and Lebanon's major internal problems are sectarianism (which is just tribalism on a larger scale) and foreign intervention -- not (primarily) political Islam.

I'm not saying political Islam isn't a problem at all in these places, but it isn't the main cause of its problems in any of them. In Iran it is, but most Iranians hate it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 10:56 AM

Laika: Out of curiosity what do the Middle East's liberals think of us guys on the right in the West?

It depends. Some are pro-Bush, others hate him. For some, Bush (etc) isn't their cup of tea, but they will take what help they can get -- which, let's be honest here, is very little.

The Kurds love him almost to a person. In fractious Lebanon, opinions vary more.

For what it's worth, there are more pro-Bush people in Beirut (around a third) than there are in my hometown of Portland (around a fifth).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 11:01 AM

fp: Shia second, muslimg third? Last time I looked, shia was a religious term.

Yes, but its also a general identity term like "Jewish" in Israel and "Catholic" in Northern Ireland whether the person is religious or not.

You will notice that I used the phrase "atheist Shia" above in reference to some people in Lebanon. That is because even if you're an atheist in the Middle East (and lots of people are), you're still Shia, Sunni, Druze, Jewish, or Christian.

I am not even remotely religious, but in Lebanon I am a "Christian."

I have never heard someone say they are Persian first, Shia second, Muslim third, but this is precisely how many people in Lebanon think. The Sunni and Shia labels are far more important than the Muslim label to everyone there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 11:09 AM

Mike,

Sorry, don't buy it.

The definition of jewishness is ethnic--mother's blood (anti-semitism started as a religious phenomenon and turned into racism). That's why I cringe when people like Dawkins lump jews together with muslims and christians to complain about. He would be more accurate using judaists.

Hence, we can talk about atheists/secular jews (i am an anti-theist one), kurds, persians, arabs, but not shia.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 12:36 PM

My guess is that the "whatever help they can get" is predominant. Unfortunately, the US has a tradition of abandoning or ignoring allies and rewarding enemies. Not very reliable.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 12:49 PM

Vanya,

Partially true. islam has been preserving and exacerbating violent tendencies in the arab culture. But because it is a fixed perfection, it cannot undergo reformation without stopping being what it is, which is what the islamists understand very well.

There has been a recent poll in indonesia which reveals more religiosity than secularism.

As to Malaysia, it's one of the most islamist states with respect with treatment of the dhimmis within it. There is plenty of evidence about that at Jihad Watch.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 12:57 PM

fp: we can talk about atheists/secular jews (i am an anti-theist one), kurds, persians, arabs, but not shia.

People like you are what teachers refer to as "unteachable." All the Shia of Lebanon refer to themselves as Shia whether they are religious or not. That is just how the place works. You cannot refute this any more than you could refute the obviously correct claim that the Jews of Israel self-identify as Jews whether they are religious or not.

The Shia (and Christians and Sunnis and Druze) of Lebanon self-identify as Shia, Christian, Sunni, or Druze regardless of whether they are religous or not. They just do. Arguing with me about this makes you look incredibly foolish and willfully ignorant.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 01:03 PM

FP, "Shia" isn't a race, but so what? It is an all-important identity in the Middle East. The fact that it isn't DNA-based is completely irrelevent.

If you want to say "we can't talk about secular Shia," what you're saying is that you won't talk about secular Shia. Everyone else in the region does all the time, and they will continue to do so despite your protesting about Shiism not being passed on through the mother, or whatever arcane and irrelevent genetic argument you care to throw at them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 01:15 PM

"I am not even remotely religious, but in Lebanon I am a 'Christian.'"
Whoa, so you're saying if I were to visit Lebanon they'd refer to me as "Christian" even if they knew I was an atheist?
Does race have anything to do with it? If I looked Asian would they call me "Buddhist"? Or is it nationality, like I'd have to actually be from China?
If you told them you were Jewish would they re-categorize you as such? What if you said you were Hindu? Or if you said one of your parents was Hindu?

Sorry, curiosity getting the better of me. But I'm really curious!

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at May 19, 2007 01:22 PM

Here's a joke from Northern Ireland.

An Israeli guy walks into a bar in Belfast. Guy next to him asks if he is Catholic or Protestant.

"I'm Jewish," the Israeli says.

"Ah," says the Northern Irish guy. "But are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?"

---

Go ahead and try saying you are "none of the above" (meaning Shia, Sunni, Christian, or Druze) in Lebanon and see if Lebanese find that any more an acceptable answer than the Northern Irish guy at the bar in the joke. They won't.

During the civil war people were killed for what was printed on their identity card. There was no atheist, secular, non-religious, or anti-theist category on Lebanese identity cards.

In Iraq people are killed for being Shia or Sunni regardless of whether they are religious or not. Sunni and Shia aren't printed on identity cards, but the death squads can tell which you are by your name. If you were born into a family with a Shia name, you're a Shia even if your family has been non-religious for hundreds of years.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 01:23 PM

Laika: Whoa, so you're saying if I were to visit Lebanon they'd refer to me as "Christian" even if they knew I was an atheist?

Oh yes, most definitely. You cannot escape it. They would be utterly baffled if you even tried, although being non-religious is extremely common in that country.

Does race have anything to do with it?

No. What matters is the religious ancestry of your family.

If I looked Asian would they call me "Buddhist"?

Probably not. For one thing, not every Asian-looking person is Buddhist.

They probably wouldn't care one way or another.

But they will slap the religious label on you if you are one of Lebanon's officially recognized religions, of which "Jewish" is one.

"Muslim" is not a religious category in Lebanon, by the way. Lebanon has Sunnis and Shias, not Muslims. A huge percentage of Lebanese are non-religious, but they still count as Shias, Sunnis, Christians, or whatever, because of Lebanon's sectarian mentality and its institutionally sectarian political system.

It is very much like Northern Ireland this way, only more complicated.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 01:30 PM

Mike, I appreciate you giving some pushback against some of what I would classify as insulting hate speech. You were pretty nice about it. Nicer than you are to, say, alphie.

What, in the end, is the difference between Kim Jong Ill and Mohammad?<?i>

Josh "Scholar", I'm not in denial of basic differences in the story of Mohammed vs. that of Jesus Christ, but simply to ask this question at all reveals not only astonishing ignorance of history, but an amazing mendacity regarding moral change over time to begin with. In the
eighth century A.D., Mecca and Medina was a more liberal place than North Korea is now, at a time when genocide/slavery was a standard method of warfare for Christians and polytheists alike. Read a history of the crusades and find out that the Religion of the Warmongers was represented by a society more civilized than the one represented by the Religion of the Peacebringers.

The problem with that is that there is no opening in Islam to create moderation with. You'd have to invent a new history of Mohammad, invent new scriptures, whole cloth. As things stand, there's no material to work with.

You haven't read the Koran, Josh. More to the point, you haven't read the Old Testament, either, have you? Ever noticed the broad sanctioning of and even triumphalist championing of the slaughter of the enemies of Yehowa? I say this as a Jew by birth and training.

Regardless of what the book says, you can make anything you want out of a religion. If you can't find a nearly infinite number of examples of this in history, you're not looking. It's rather hard to respect someone who makes that kind of argument with a straight face. It's an argument born of xenophobia, period.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 04:32 PM

The reason one can make that claim with a straight face is because the Quran is by Mohammed's definition THE spoken word of God -- not Mohammed's interpretation or recollection. Josh Scholar is actually saying the same thing as the Pope, who is a theological and philosophical scholar of considerable intellectual acclaim even before he became Pope. I suspect he says it with a very straight face, actually.

After extensive religious study with Islamic religious leaders and scholars, specifically seeking to understand where modernity and moderation may arise in Islam, the Pope came to the conclusion that Islam as instructed by the Quran is not open to any conceptual or behavioral revision or re-interpretation, and anyone who tries is by definition a heretic. Inerrancy is not merely the province of Popes. What that means is the literal fundamentalists have a huge leg up on their religious competitiors.

Now the Hadith, whence much of Sharia comes, is a totally different matter. THAT could easily be subject to scholarship and interpretation. In fact the most radical of radical fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia have wanted to destroy the Hadith, Mecca, and even curtail the Prophet's status since he has become an object of worship, in contradiction to the Quran.

Unlike the Bible, it is my (imperfect) understanding that the Quran is designated as having sequentially true revelations, so the later (typically more paranoid, aggressive) sections supercede and where there is contradiction replace the (more peaceful) earlier sections.

So while every individual no doubt has his or her own personal interpretation of Islam, looking at it institutionally, there is really not much room for significant refinement or adjustment to modernity or to large-scale social change. Women must be worth less than men in all spheres, and Dhimmis must be treated as such.

Otherwise, it isn't Islam.

Posted by: Pam at May 19, 2007 05:05 PM

the now infamous honor killing in Kurdistan was committed by Yezidis because the girl ran off with a Muslim boy

Take a closer look, MJT. Hardly an isolated incident.

http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/964/context/archive

http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-05-08-voa58.cfm

Posted by: Pam at May 19, 2007 05:09 PM

Ros,

Iran may be deterrable, but I see little evidence of it. Instead, I see a very consistent pattern of seeking to undermine governments friendly to the US, attacking the US via proxy, and general diplomatic antagonism.

I wouldn't completely disagree with that assessment, although I don't really buy the second clause. But we're in the same ballpark. The behavior you describe is fairly similar to the behavior of the contained Soviet Union. If you'll recall, the alledged argument that started this whole discussion of was "Soviet Union deterrable, radical Islam not". Ergo, by your own logic, Iran is detterrable. It's not suicidally sacrificing itself as a nation in an obsession to inflict as much damage as possible on us, regardless of consequences to itself. It's sniping from the sidelines where it thinks it won't get in trouble for doing so. I, for one, never argue that the Iranian government is friendly, just rational and weak.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that I see no compelling reason to allow a government that has demonstrated a consistently antagonistic position to the US to become a nuclear power, and many many reasons to take any action necessary to prevent it.

I don't agree with this argument, although to your credit, it's not based on anything wildly irrational, inaccurate, or simplistic.

In rough order, those reasons are 1) If Iran has nuclear weapons, other governments in the region will also seek to acquire them to preserve their own freedom of action, 2) the instability the region is noted for makes a conflict between nuclear powers likely, 3) the consequences of a conflict between nuclear powers in the ME are likely to involve massive damage or outright destruction of part of the energy infrastructure that supports every industrialized economy on the planet.

I don't think Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon is a good thing, but #1 is something we can prevent as we prevented South Korea, Taiwan, swathes of South America and other allies of ours,
#2 isn't any worse than India and Pakistan, and probably better, as I don't see a country that borders Iran getting a nuke, and therefore #3 is probably not an issue. Is there an element of risk? There is.

I'm not even going there re the container argument.

Meanwhile, bombing Iran would set the liberalization of their country back 100 years, while failing to genuinely stop their weapons program. And we don't have the ability to execute regime change on their government right now. It's just not there - not even considering that the risks of losing control of nuclear material spike disasterously as Iran disintegrates into chaos with the hypothetical fall of the regime and with the change in incentives the regime will have once its violent end becomes immediately imminent.

Sure, we could theoretically mobilize ten million troops, completely seal the borders, saturate the country with troops, carpet-fuel-air bomb every program we know about, get ready for a four-decade occupation and cross our fingers/pray about having missed any isotope hoards, but it's not on the political horizon. Our realistic political choices are between doing just enough in the way of violent action to incur all the consequences and few of the desired benefits, and between trying to contain the regime and wait for it to liberalize.
At which point, it may surrender any nukes it builds on its own. There's precedent for that.

The world would be a little less risky if Iran didn't have a bomb than if it does. I agree with that. (Of course, that's true for every country on earth but the one you live in, but it's still true). What I'm not convinced of is that there's a plan with a cost/benefit ratio in favor of it.

..and I haven't even gotten to the shipping-container bomb scenario that keeps customs officials awake at night.

There's a lot you can do about this risk, and bombing Iran shouldn't even be in the top 100 priorities. Whatever risk there is of this happening, it doesn't go away or even shrink appreciably with Iran added or subtracted. Offshore inspections of every piece of commercial cargo that approaches within 10 miles of land solves this immediately. Anything less than that, like we've chosen as a nation, and we're all playing footsie with the possibility of this happening.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 05:09 PM

Glasnost: Mike, I appreciate you giving some pushback against some of what I would classify as insulting hate speech. You were pretty nice about it. Nicer than you are to, say, alphie.

Josh is a reasonable person who takes what I say seriously. When he and I don't agree (which isn't all that often) we can discuss it civilly. Alphie doesn't take me seriously at all, and lumps me in with the Ku Klux Klan. I could ban him for that alone, but I haven't. I'm nicer to him than I need to be.

If Alphie wants reasonable pushback, he can be more reasonable himself.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 05:09 PM

Mike,

I am not protesting, I am using logic. Now, people can and do use whatever they damn please, but because they do, that's why iraq, iran and the whole ME looks the way they do.

I have no problem accepting that people call themselves all sorts of things, but that's different than our discussion here. We're trying to assess, evaluate, judge and we should be using reason.

Whether I am teachable or not I will leave to the public to decide, but i have 15 years of studying the phenomena we discuss and i taught it and i lived 18 in the area. and i have just a little bit more life experience than your freelancing self-styled journalism.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 05:30 PM

After extensive religious study with Islamic religious leaders and scholars, specifically seeking to understand where modernity and moderation may arise in Islam, the Pope came to the conclusion that Islam as instructed by the Quran is not open to any conceptual or behavioral revision or re-interpretation, and anyone who tries is by definition a heretic.

I can't fathom what would bring the pope to say this, because it's self-evidently incorrect.

Or, I can fathom it, because the Wahhabist school of Islam argues something a lot like this - and the Wahhabist movement of Islam has its roots in the Deodandi revivalism of the 18'th and 17'th centuries. Regardless of some current Islamic speakers' positions on the matter, everything before the Deodandis - that's 1000 years of Islamic history - literally demonstrates that the living interpretation of Islamic law can and does change drastically over time. The fact that the pope can find learned Islamic scholars who are willing to tell him this may be a sad statement about the way some Muslims think about Islam today, but as a predictive element it doesn't mean anything at all.

What the pope says isn't even a factually accurate description of Wahhabism - even the Wahhabis include the Hadiths as well as the Quran - in fact , most of the discouragingly intolerant popularly quoted Islamic verses are found in the Hadiths - which are histories of early decisions made by early Islamic scholars about how to interpret the Quran - not the Quran itself. Re-reading your statement, I notice you mention these. You might notice how they immediately demonstrate that Islam isn't historically observed as if the inerrantists were correct.

Furthermore, you know what a fatwa is, do you not? That's the ruling of an Islamic religious authority regarding what the Quran was intended
to say about a given modern issue at hand
Fatwas are issued that contradict earlier fatwas, not to mention each other, all the time.

So while the Quran is indeed universally taken by Muslims as the perfect word of God, interpretation of it varies wildly - from century to century, sub-branch (school of thought) to sub-branch, scholar to scholar.

If it was impossible to deviate from a pure interpretation of Islam, Shiism wouldn't exist.

It's popular in Christianity to argue that the bible is literally inerrant, as well. Nevertheless, there are as many interpretations of what the inerrant bible tells us to do as there are stars in the sky. Roman Catholicism tells us that the pope is inerrant and infallible, and yet God did not stop the reformation.

Islam isn't inherently harder to adapt because of what's in the book than any other religion. All the popular monotheistic religions claimed to be the inerrant final revelation, and none of them were upheld as such. Islam's claim that the Quran is the perfect word of God is the same as Christianity and Judaism's claim. They all said it was perfect, and they all claimed at one time or another that there was only one way to interpret it, and they all ended up interpreting it a hundred different ways.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 05:32 PM

An interesting report on Iraq and Afghanistan by a US guy who worked in both places.

http://antiprotester.blogspot.com/2007/05/weekend-in-afghanistan.html

As those of us who lived in the ME know, the arab culture has its own problem aside from islam. but it makes it clear why such a religion was invented by arabs, and that other cultures that assimilated it have some counterbalances to its nonsense, while the arab culture doesn't.

Mary, in a sense they ARE children: large majorities are uneducated (except in madrassas) and primitive, and indoctrinated with suspension of judgment. they can be readily manipulated and emotions pumped up.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 05:38 PM

btw, note the update at the end and what he thinks about the US handling of iraq.

what's the difference from europe? any wonder that the islamists have nothing but contempt?

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 05:42 PM

pam,

there is very good material by spencer at jihad watch about how the islamists are theologically on top in the muslim world, because if the so-called moderates raise complaints, the jihadists can readily invoke the scriptures and all the major interpretations of islam and can deem them apostates or infidels (if not kill them). and the moderates know it and don't raise their voices in opposition.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 05:50 PM

How do you explain this, fp:

http://www.burjdubai.com/

Posted by: alphie at May 19, 2007 06:03 PM

glasnost, it seems to me that you accuse others of the very sins you exhibit yourself. You have the nerve to say that the bible is as innerant as islam and that the major interpretations of islam are as diverse as those of the bible and then accuse others of not knowing the quran? (I speak as an anti-theist jew).

if you wanna know the difference between cherrypicking the quran by somebody without serious knowledge of it who finds it "a religion of peace" and a scholar well versed in it who provides extensive factual evidence and impeccable reason and demonstrates how the jihadists are theologically well grounded while the moderate muslims are not take a look at the armstrong's idiotic crap and critiques of her by spencer and others.

Be that as it may, christianity on the main has been tamed a long time ago and separated from the state. No such thing is possible in islam.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 06:04 PM

all the talk about bombing everybody is utter nonsense. by people who have no clue how such decisions are actually made under enormous time pressures, fuzzy information and uncertainty by people with limited smarts and competence.

the decentralized jihadis having loose connections with al-qaeda will at some point get their hands on some WMD and use it and i frankly very much doubt that we can expect even one response, let alone the wide range suggested here.

the best the west can do is to do the utmost through cunning policies and infiltration to prevent such an act,which is exactly what they are incompetent at. once a WMD is deployed, there is good chance the west loses.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 06:13 PM

glasnost, if the us and the west had any competent and smart foreign policy, there would not be any need to bomb them. there have been all sorts of reasonable proposals of what such policies could be.

the problem is, though, that for various reasons the west conducts stupid policies which do nothing but embolden the worst in the enemies, and help them instead of inhibiting them.

the result being that they are brought to situations where they would have to either bomb or risk serious damage.

the west has nobody but itself to blame for this state of affairs. it has brought itself to it.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 06:20 PM

glasnost, if the us and the west had any competent and smart foreign policy, there would not be any need to bomb them. there have been all sorts of reasonable proposals of what such policies could be.

the problem is, though, that for various reasons the west conducts stupid policies which do nothing but embolden the worst in the enemies, and help them instead of inhibiting them.

the result being that they are brought to situations where they would have to either bomb or risk serious damage.

the west has nobody but itself to blame for this state of affairs. it has brought itself to it.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 06:28 PM

what explanation does it require?

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 06:32 PM

How can Muslims build something that puts the rest of the world to shame if they're as primitive as you claim?

Posted by: alphie at May 19, 2007 06:37 PM

FP, if you want to protest that secular Shias still call themselves Shias, you're arguing with the wrong person. They do call themselves this. So does everyone else in the Middle East, except, perhaps, for you.

It doesn't matter if it's illogical or not. It's the way things are.

Until that changes I will continue to speak of secular Shias (and Sunnis and Jews, etc) because they exist. I am not going to try edit them out of the world just because their existence is illogical.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 06:44 PM

all the talk about bombing everybody is utter nonsense. by people who have no clue how such decisions are actually made under enormous time pressures, fuzzy information and uncertainty by people with limited smarts and competence.

I do understand. I also understand that in war we pretend far more certainty than we have and act anyway.

After all, if the goal is deterrence, there's an old Bedouin saying "You beat the dog to scare the lions"

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 07:33 PM

If you can't find a nearly infinite number of examples of this in history, you're not looking. It's rather hard to respect someone who makes that kind of argument with a straight face. It's an argument born of xenophobia, period.

I mentioned Ali Salem who made that arguement, obviously not "out of xenophobia, period."

Nor do my former-Muslim friends who also make the same argument make it "out of xenophobia, period."

I found your post so insulting, with my name mocked and so on that I'm not going to waste much time on an ass like you, Glasnost.

But I will point out that your "arguement" is absurd, as I read it, you even admitted that Mohammad committed much worse crimes than Kim Jong Ill and yet somehow Kim is a monster and Mohammad a liberal for his time.

No wonder you stooped to insults, you obviously felt your arguments too weak to support with reason.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 07:42 PM

Funny thing though, it was me who first brought up that the first people on the anti-Islamist bandwagon were the xenophobes. Funny that Glasnost, grasping at straws, picked my own observation to smear me with.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 07:45 PM

josh,

if a so-called "scholar" like armstrong, who is the darling of publishers and the media, can dump so much crap about "the religion of peace", what do you expect from people like glasnost?

he accuses others of not having read the quran, but if he did read it, as well as the other sources and the major interpretations of islam and this is what he concluded from it, he has a much more serious problem than ignorance.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 07:53 PM

mike,

for somebody who accuses others of being unteachable, you seem to be hard of hearing yourself.

I explicitly said that I do not protest what they call themselves -- that would be idiotic.

i was talking about how we discuss things here. most of the ME is confused, ignorant and irrational. what we try to do here is to assess and analyze. we should recognize what they say, do or think, but if it does not make any sense, we should be aware of it in our discussions. because if their illogical, irrational, confused attitudes and behavior that are the root of the problems in the region.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 07:59 PM

alphie,

THEY build it? you gotta be kidding. everything that's being done there is done by the west and by others.

as to the real circumstances of all these building in terms of economy, society etc, you should read unbiased, non-marketing sources.

don't be blinded by megalomaniac buildings and artificial islands. not all that glitters is gold. it's all consumerism and finance manipulation and real estate speculation for the rich, nothing productive or scientific.

incidentally, all these gulf arab states, who are so concerned about the palestinians and the arabs in general not only have refused to accept the refugees and even kicked them out. their financial contributions is just protection money so that they don't get spillover of violence their way.

Here's an interesting perspective that the west should have considered if they had any brains:

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?frm=7159&sec_id=7159

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:08 PM

glasnost, your arrogance is impressive.

The man is a professor of theology and was the leading academic theologian of the Catholic church for many years. He by all accounts has an exceptional intellect. He spent considerable time -- months at least -- studying Islam with Islamic religious leaders and teachers to make sure he understood it from the Muslim point of view. Tutored, not self-taught, OK?

He was looking for the means to develop a rapprochement between the West's ideals -- not just Christianity -- and Islam -- not just Wahhabi.

His educated conclusion was that "unless there is a radical re-interpretation of the Quran, and thus a reconceptualization of the very meaning of 'Divine Revelation' in Islam," then the religion we know as Islam cannot fully adapt to modernity and democracy. To do so is internally inconsistent with the Quran as it was presented by Mohammed.

Now I'm sure you have far better credentials than the Pope, so let's hear 'em.

Posted by: Pam at May 19, 2007 08:27 PM

Oh God FP, whoever wrote that article needs to find another job.

Whether there's a valid point or a dozen hidden in that article doesn't matter because it was so horribly written that it only served to sabotage itself.

I gave up after two and a half paragraphs.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 08:28 PM

josh,

while i like to read good english, i judge by the quality of knowledge, reasoning quality and relevance/importance of the points made. english not being my native language, i am neither perfect in my writings myself, nor am i probably the best judge on its use by others.

the fact is that fitzgerald raises a CRITICAL point. the effect of the money contributed to the arabs regimes has been destructive for both the ME and the west. whether he says it in good or bad english is beside the point.

i would also point out that (a) i've read more of his stuff and i can ignore the style (b) he often speaks with heartfelt frustration about the stupidity of the west and that tends to affect his writing. i know how he feels.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:37 PM

glasnost,

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/016511.php

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:39 PM

fp,the problem was that this guy made himself sound like a paranoid xenophobe with big chip on his shoulder.

The fool had no concept that, in print, you have to support your contentions long before sinking into a spit flecked rant.

This guy went straight for the spit flecked screaming.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 08:45 PM

Islam itself will expire, having nothing left to offer.

When Arabs feel that Islam has failed them, they may not respond by importing Kurdish imams and their foreign ideas, they may just walk away.

Islam will end because it preaches war and modern warfare with a well armed enemy is suicide. Eventually, the religion will expire.

As many people have said, Ali Salem for instance, Islam can not moderate, instead it will die.

So I'm not expecting Islam to change, I'm expecting that a huge number of Muslims will die, a few generations will be ever more defeated their children will abandon Islam because without conquest there can be no Islam.

These are your statements, Josh, so please, spare me the sidesteps "Ali Salem made this argument, not me." You made it, and it's an offensive, insulting, preposterous, ridiculous argument. As you might have noticed, it made me rather annoyed. Angry.

As I read it, you even admitted that Mohammad committed much worse crimes than Kim Jong Ill and yet somehow Kim is a monster and Mohammad a liberal for his time.

What I actually said was:

In the
eighth century A.D., Mecca and Medina was a more liberal place than North Korea is now,

I'm not sure how you're reading what I said as the exact opposite of my literal words. More importantly, this is a literally ridiculous argument. It would be laughable if it wasn't so offensive. Was Kim Jung Il worse than Moses and the Israelites, who basically committed what would now be considered genocide against the Canaanites? If Pope Urban II, who directed the massacre of Constantinople as I recall, was worse than Ayatollah Al-Sistani, is Christianity in fact the evil-ist religion instead? George Bush has invaded more countries than than the Tiberius, so shall we call America bloodthirstier than the Romans? Or is this just a hopelessly manipulative frame of reference, so completely bereft of relevance, that we'd be better off determining which religion was the evil-est by giving you a turban, me a yarmulke, and seeing who fights the dirtiest?

I can't recall enough detail about the secular reign of the early caliphs to precisely rank Mohammed in the Great Wall Chart of Morality, but if you're arguing predestination about how religious adherents behave based on what the book says, you are making a bigoted and ignorant argument. It's not even acceptable theoretically, and it takes only a cursory awareness of history and/or modern current events to blow it up with Islam, specifically. Don't expect a civil response from an incivil argument.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 08:46 PM

pam,

let's leave theologians out of it. we don't need a catholic to tell us what islam needs to change in order to be compatible with catholicism. these are useless endeavors.

and they are not needed to know what the fundamentals of islams are both as a religion (all religions have the same kind of problems) and as the specific religion that is islam. there is enough scholarly material not handicapped by faith on which reasonable people can make judgments. not to mention the statements and actions of muslims.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:46 PM

and i said i can't blame him, i often feel the same. as i just said in a previous message, there are obvious absurdities by the west which have been pointed out tons of times to no avail. for somebody who is steeped in the subject and has expressed it the way you expect to no avail it can be frustrating and at some point he can just stop elaborating and just call a spade a spade.

the reason I understand it is because i had the same experience in my professional capacity, in which i spent more than 20 years trying to insert knowledge and reason to counter rigid ignorance and stupidity. at some point i stopped bothering and just called the spade a spade.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 08:52 PM

As you might have noticed, it made me rather annoyed. Angry.

You must have me confused with someone who gives a damn.

Sorry you wasted your time writing all that crap.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 08:54 PM

I've also noticed that your writing becomes confused when you're angry Glasnost.

You should work on that.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 08:58 PM

Pam, you're talking past each me.(And me, past you, maybe?) The Quran makes the same claim of inerrancy that other monotheistic religions have made. A cursory examination of Muslim behavior over two millenia, or of Islam itself, makes it immediately clear that the book is interpreted in widely varying ways across time and geography.

When two Islamic authorities say the book - any part of the book - means two different things, it becomes immediately obvious that, the original claim , as follows:

Islam as instructed by the Quran is not open to any conceptual or behavioral revision or re-interpretation, and anyone who tries is by definition a heretic.

Doesn't prevent Muslims from constantly re-interpreting the Quran. As for how the Muslims deal with the cognitive dissonance that almost all of them must be heretics, I imagine they do the same thing the Christians and Jews do when they widely disregard the literally obvious meanings of their texts, to say nothing of the interpretations of those texts they don't agree with. They ignore it.

It's de facto extremely clear that the Quran, Islam, Sharia, - specifically, what the religion requires actual human beings to do - has been interpreted differently by different people, in different places, at different times.

So the 'obstacle' to re-interpretation, logically, isn't much of an obstacle.

I don't think you're attempting to disagree with the bolded statement. I'm not sure that the Pope, who seems to be talking about Mohammed's intentions, would attempt to deny it either, although he might try to talk past or around it, because he thinks that Islam is a religion of infidels, as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, I'm not sure that what I'm saying contradicts Ratzinger's statement, or that I'm ready to dispute Ratzinger's statement, which I think is ultimately a question of opinion.

I don't have a high opinion of Pope Ratzinger, smart man or not. John Paul II was, in my opinion, a genuine Christian. Not this pope.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 09:04 PM

glasnost,

crap indeed.

http://islam-watch.org/Rafi/Price-of-Dissent.htm

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 09:08 PM

glasnost,

try to reinterpret this:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/016518.php

you're of the kind that spencer would ask all people who seem to think they can opine on islam and the quran: in what order are the verses in the quran ordered?

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 09:12 PM

Islam itself will expire, having nothing left to offer.

When Arabs feel that Islam has failed them, they may not respond by importing Kurdish imams and their foreign ideas, they may just walk away.

Islam will end because it preaches war and modern warfare with a well armed enemy is suicide. Eventually, the religion will expire.

As many people have said, Ali Salem for instance, Islam can not moderate, instead it will die.

So I'm not expecting Islam to change, I'm expecting that a huge number of Muslims will die, a few generations will be ever more defeated their children will abandon Islam because without conquest there can be no Islam.

Whenever you're ready to admit that these are your words, Josh, I'll be here. You made 'em. You own 'em. I've even got the italics right for you.

Let me condense this down a little for you, since you had a hard time with it: he who attempts to paraphrase Islam by comparing Mohammed with Kim-Jong Il, is, for a variety of reasons, an idiot.

I could be charitable and just call it a bad and stupid argument made by an otherwise perfectly average human being, but I don't feel like it.
I care about as much that I'm insulting you as you do that you're insulting me. Fun, isn't it? And productive! I'll make a nod towards respecting Mike's comment thread though, and end the fun here. Feel free to carry on on your own, and please accept my apologies for your hurt feelings.

Posted by: glasnost at May 19, 2007 09:24 PM

josh,

here's one example of why fitzgerald style may not be to your liking:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016508.php#more

vs.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/05/us_opens_door_to_millions_of_m.html

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 09:24 PM

Glasnost, stop wasting everyone's time. I didn't say I didn't write those things, I just attacked your assertion that they were proof of "xenophobia, period" by pointing out middle easterners (former Muslims and a well known Egyptian playright) hold the same opinion.

If you wish to waste bandwidth on any further irrational tantrums, don't bother this forum anymore, send it directly to my email, where I can delete it in privacy.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 09:32 PM

I recommend the following audio regarding mohammad, islam, violence and interpretation.

http://www.mgshow.org/archives/20070422_WWMD/20070422_WWMD.ram

Pay particular attention to what average americans in the street know about these issues when asked, at the beginning of the audio.

Posted by: fp at May 19, 2007 09:59 PM

Blah, I'm not looking forward to installing realplayer. I almost installed it a moment ago to listen to your file, but then I read the license. I have to agree to this intrusive program messing with my firewall settings, no doubt so they can download adverts without the firewall alerting me like it did with all of the previous versions. I sure got sick of those stupid ads popping up every time I closed realplayer, and of the firewall complaining everytime it tried to get more.

But that file won't run under MPlayer..

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 10:33 PM

OK, a great thread has descended to name-calling and drivel.

That's a wrap!

Posted by: Pam at May 19, 2007 10:41 PM

Glasnost: Doesn't prevent Muslims from constantly re-interpreting the Quran. As for how the Muslims deal with the cognitive dissonance that almost all of them must be heretics, I imagine they do the same thing the Christians and Jews do when they widely disregard the literally obvious meanings of their texts, to say nothing of the interpretations of those texts they don't agree with. They ignore it.

This is absolutely true. I know lots of Muslims who do this, and no one can tell me I don't.

Bemoan the fact that not enough do this all you want, it doesn't change the fact that some of them do and that interpretations of the Koran vary widely enough that Muslims kill each other over it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 19, 2007 11:11 PM

Well it's drivel because Glasnost was doing something that doesn't really work.

He was trying to dictate that my conclusions and judgments must be respectful of Islam, but he's debating and debate isn't about conforming to etiquette it's about objective description - it's about reasoning, about prediction and about facts.

His reasoning was largely nonsense - he never found logical way to shoehorn all of his disapproval of the social results of making disrespectful comparisons into a critique of my reasoning, because his goals had nothing to do with correct reasoning.

So he got hysterical trying to project, by shear force of will, by that I must be a xenophobe, or failing that uneducated, or failing that beneath notice etc. etc.

But you can't succeed in being manipulative in writing, just like you can't succeed in being intimidating in writing.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 11:16 PM

...and that interpretations of the Koran vary widely enough that Muslims kill each other over it.

Nothing hopeful there. That outcome was inevitable the moment Mohammad set out his dictum that those who change the meaning of his words be killed.

I once read that Muslims were already killing each other over this during his lifetime.

It is inevitable that meanings vary over time and place no matter how much effort people put into prevent any change.

But even though that supreme effort does not in fact prevent slippage, it can be completely successful in many times and places in preventing Islam from making rational adaptations and moderating.

It can also insure that the immoderate will spring from the moderate, as exemplified by the British studies showing that moderate 1st generation Muslims have radical children and grandchildren.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 19, 2007 11:23 PM

You're still rocking, Josh.

Glasnost -
Disrespect or dislike of something does not equal bigotry, or xenophobia, no matter how much you would push that prejudicial view.
As far as I'm concerned, Islam disrespects me (and would disrespect me to death) so I have every right to disrespect it back just as fiercely as I wish.

No one is arguing that individuals and even small groups have, do, and will cherry-pick and reinterpret any and every religious teaching to suit themselves. Even Michael seems to be stumbling on this piece.

What I think some of us are saying is that UNLESS THERE IS A TRULY RADICAL REINTERPRETATION of some of the most basic tenets of Islam as taught in the Quran, including being able to cast it into historical context, Institutional Islam (note - not talking about individually-practiced Islam) cannot mesh with full democracy and equality. That's not disrespect, that's a simple fact. Read the damn book.

Any Islamic government will inescapably be bound by the innately concrete,fundamentalist landmines strewn about in the Quran very deliberately by the later-life, increasingly paranoid, Prophet Mohammed.

Thus either people will make drastic revisions such that it is no longer a religion we would recognize as contemporary Islam, which would be fine, or as per Mr. Scholar, millions (on both sides) will die in the name of the Islam we do know; hopefully, since we're on this side,it will be extinguished and ultimately abandoned.

and fp, I was only citing Ratzinger because glasnost stated that his own understanding of Islam was far more accurate and detailed than the Pope's. Catholicism is just a short rung up the ladder from Islam as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: Pam at May 20, 2007 12:03 AM

Thank you Pam. I haven't gotten so many complements in years. Actually I don't think I've gotten any complements on my writing for about a year now. I thought I must be getting too senile.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 20, 2007 12:45 AM

"Toppled their government and put a brutal monarch back in power for 20+ years."

We now know why that brutality was necessary.

But many people have a weird opinion of the Shah, probably because he opely supported the US and didn't abuse religion to excuse the finer parts of his rule.

Truth is that the Shah was finally removed from power when he attempted to give women the right to vote.

What you seem to remember is the removal of a prime minister who violated Iranian and international law, by the Iranian government and its allies.

"Backed Saddam when he invaded Iran."

That backing consisted of France and Russia selling him weapons. But those countries, especially Russia, enjoy excellent relations with Iran. The US, OTOH, sold weapons to Iran. But apparently the mad mullahs do not choose their friends as you would.

The urban legend that the US backed Saddam falls apart when you check who sold what to Iraq and find that the US sold him almost nothing, certainly less than they it sold to Iran during the same conflict. You are looking for a scapegoat, not a guilty party.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at May 20, 2007 02:17 AM

josh, feel just like you about realplayer. but i am using it wout any ads and without messing around with the firewall. i use zonealarm.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 09:43 AM

pam,

most internet threads end up in name calling because there are always ignorant or stupid participants who like to hear themselves talk. either they start the foul language, or they force others calling a spade a spade. comes with the territory of online interaction. get used to it.

mike,

some muslims may do it, but they are theologically weak and they know it. they can be accused of apostasy and we know what that can bring. that is why so few do it, don't raise their voices too much, and don't determine events.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 09:51 AM

josh,

atheists have started to attack the absurd notion that ANY religion should be shielded from analysis and criticism and that, as huge absurdities and damaging phenomenona, should be respected, of all things. It's about time.

this should be particularly true of islam, which has violent roots and divides the world into believers and infidels, the latter to be converted by force, subjugated or killed.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 09:55 AM

josh,

maybe glasnost does not know about takfir and that OBL and the rest of the jihadis take this approach towards other muslims who dare to give non-wahabbi/salafi interpretations of islam.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 09:58 AM

andrew,

looks like a saddam was as necessary in iraq as the shah in iran. and in both cases the west brought them down with the current consequences with which they dk how to handle and are bound to lose.

the problem has always been ignorance about islam and arrogance that the west can control and manipulate the ME to suit its interests. so i guess, given the criminal ignorance, stupidity and incompetence, they deserve what they got.

unfortunately it's us, the populations, who pay the price.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 10:03 AM

Josh: It can also insure that the immoderate will spring from the moderate, as exemplified by the British studies showing that moderate 1st generation Muslims have radical children and grandchildren.

Very true. The good news is that it goes both ways.

Most young Iranians are very different from those who made revolution in 1979. (Many of those in the '79 revolution weren't even religious, though, I should add. I have met some of these people. It all worked out very badly for them.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 20, 2007 10:33 AM

mike,

it may go both ways, but there is a reason the one way josh refers to is and will be dominant, and it's rooted in the nature of islam. anything else is apologetics or wishful thinking.

here's yet another explanation on this:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016527.php

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 11:23 AM

Very true. The good news is that it goes both ways.

I disagree. I think that's a completely different dynamic. In Iran these people who are disillusioned with the regime are NOT creating a more moderate Islamic theology, they are simply ignoring theology. Islam is not becoming more moderate in Iran at all, rather more Iranians wish to ignore theology entirely.

My point is a separate one, that wherever children are taught Islam, there is this problem: Islam specifically teaches that Muslims are required to hate, that the infidel is dirty, disgusting, hated by God, their enemy and God's enemy, and that God wishes them to make war.

Obviously their parents were people who could not absorb the message that the infidel is so dirty and hated by God that they are forbidden to associate with us otherwise they could not have come to live in the infidel west - but then they send their children to the same Islamic training that had little effect on them, and as in the middle east, it does affect some number of their children who come back from class having learned hostility or even consumed with hatred.

There is no solution to this problem. If you teach children (or adults!) that God hates and wants them to hate you create deep hatred. And if you couple that with a message that God approves of violence, you can not but create at least occasional violence.

But this is indelible Islamic theology. Mohammad's words are forever and can never be suppressed.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 20, 2007 11:41 AM

josh,

they don't just teach them hatred. in the case of palestinians, they actually send them to kill and to die.

people should watch -- if they are strong enough -- the memri tv and palestinian media watch clips from the arab and iranian middle east which show this predominant child abuse as well as the rabid racism and hatred (and they have the gall to accuse the west of islamophobia). here's an example:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3402283,00.html

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 11:50 AM

Glasnost, no doubt, would point out that Judaism once had such a message (though it was less extreme) and it is now forgotten.

But Islam is different in that Islam has only one prophet. One can not shift emphasis in Islam because there is only one source, and he was fairly consistent toward the end of his life. Mohammad's last word were words of hatred. Unless Islam is to posit that Mohammad deteriorated over the course of his life rather than being perfected by his association with God throughout his life, there is no way out for Islam.

But the truth is that the poor man, a traumatized orphan who was both psychotic and epileptic did deteriorate over his life.

But there is too much horrible about Mohammad's life to allow any questioning in Islam, because once you allow the first question, the obvious others follow. If his hatred was wrong, can't we also say that the genocide was wrong? How about the slavery? The rape? The assassination of all of his critics? The assassination of victims who mourned too publicly? The raids? The example of torture?

How about the theological problems? Why one set of rules for mankind and a different one for Mohammad? Can a God who made exceptions for Mohammad's own appetites be a real God?

If you allow a single bit of compassion into your Islamic morality, then Islam will be destroyed because there was no compassion in Mohammad. If you allow any wisdom into Islam then it will be destroyed because there was no wisdom in poor mad Mohammad.

And what about the question of the validity of dissent and debate? Mohammad forbade democratic processes saying that Muslims must always find leaders and follow them. If you allow the possibility that he did this for his own authority rather than God's, then what is left of his theological authority?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 20, 2007 12:01 PM

but hey, palestinians are against terrorism and want to set up an institute to combat it:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/016522.php

as spencer says, you can't make this stuff up.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 12:02 PM

more about the religion of peace and why the process is dominantly one-way:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/drawings-link-prison-converts-to-terrorism/2007/05/19/1179497333545.html

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 12:06 PM

josh,

of course.

but the point is not to criticize his behavior in the 7th century, when they did not know any better. at that time what he did was acceptable.

rather, it is the literal emulation of him in the 21st century. so in a sense the problem is not with muhammad, but with the islamists.

it is this literalism which is self-destructive. whenever he won, muhammad claimed allah's support and whenever he failed, that followers were not true believers. taken literally, this explains why when muslims fail -- which is most of the time -- there are those who demand return to pure islam, which means reinforcing the very factor that led to the failure. they're stuck.

to realize it is to become apostate and we know what that means. it also explains why there are "secular shia" and "secular sunni" in the ME.
they are really secular arabs or iranians who don't want to pay the price for such identification.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 01:50 PM

"They probably wouldn't care one way or another."
So if I'm a Schwartz or a Smith I'm pretty much locked in, but if I'm a Shang or a Kwan I fly below radar?
And tell me about the "identity card" -- do you really have to carry around a religious ID?

"... but an amazing mendacity regarding moral change over time to begin with."
I think a criticism of Muhammad is valid precisely because his worshippers haven't changed over time.
One age's enlightened god-king is another's brutal barbarian. That times change but Islam doesn't is a fair criticism not made less so by bringing up Muhammad.
I do think you're right to argue that nothing in the Islamic religion makes it impervious to change. Indeed, our strategy in the War on Terror is to wager everything on that hope.

"... for various reasons the west conducts stupid policies which do nothing but embolden the worst in the enemies ..."
Right, we'll never convince Muslims to change unless we can prove we're stronger than the fundamentalists.
Politically correct gladhanding and appeasement undermine our diplomatic efforts. Here at home the excessively negative views taught in college toward the West contribute as well.

@Josh:
Realplayer = spyware. Supposedly the BBC carries a "clean" version, but I won't trust it, either.

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at May 20, 2007 02:45 PM

but the west increasingly is doing appeasement. and it has a particular knack of doing it most just when the islamists are down and if left to their own devices will self-destruct. all the west's current enemies were pumped up if not created by the west.

up until now israel has survived based on the policy you suggest. but now, when the fatah/hamas are self destructing even israel has now joined the idiocy, and i am willing to bet that soon the west will reinstate the jizya.

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016529.php

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 03:04 PM

re realplayer: so what? i use spyware and firewall and they let me defeat it if necessary.

Posted by: fp at May 20, 2007 03:06 PM

it is this literalism which is self-destructive. whenever he won, muhammad claimed allah's support and whenever he failed, that followers were not true believers. taken literally, this explains why when muslims fail -- which is most of the time -- there are those who demand return to pure islam, which means reinforcing the very factor that led to the failure. they're stuck.

Yep. They're in a self-reinforcing loop.

It also means that success or failure are determined by the will of allah. If you failed, it's not because your training was insufficent, your equipment inferior, or your tactics, strategy, and doctrine inadequate, it was because you were not sufficiently devout.

Apparently the fix some muslims have settled on is to believe more in the hope of following enough of the rules in the koran and hadiths to find the magic combination that brings allah's favor.

This would explain a lot about muslim military history.

Unfortunately, it means that in order to resolve the problem, we have to break the loop. As discussed above, as the Koran is the word of allah transcribed by Mohammed, it is an inherently perfect divine creation. Revision is heresy.

I do not see a way to reform Islam without killing a very large number of people. Unfortunately, there is precedent for this- anyone who's read the christian bible will have noticed a tremendous difference in tone and attitude between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The bible does not state it explicitly, but anyone who's studied history has some idea of what happened right about the time the New Testament appeared: the Romans showed up, and I daresay they had very little tolerance for a fair number of things that were encouraged in the Old Testament.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish-Roman_War

Do we have the stomach to play the part of the Romans this time around? I'm fairly certain that if we don't, the Russians and the Chinese do.

to realize it is to become apostate and we know what that means. it also explains why there are "secular shia" and "secular sunni" in the ME.
they are really secular arabs or iranians who don't want to pay the price for such identification.

A lot of westerners seem to be completely oblivious as to just how tolerant western society is, and how dangerous it can be to express opinions that are considered unremarkable here.

Posted by: rosignol at May 22, 2007 04:07 AM

What I think some of us are saying is that UNLESS THERE IS A TRULY RADICAL REINTERPRETATION of some of the most basic tenets of Islam as taught in the Quran, including being able to cast it into historical context, Institutional Islam (note - not talking about individually-practiced Islam) cannot mesh with full democracy and equality. That's not disrespect, that's a simple fact. Read the damn book.

Pam, I don't agree with you. And you have no monopoly on that judgement: nor does Cardinal Ratzinger.

It's possible that the historical story of Islam is a context that is less absolutely forbidding of violence than the historical story of Christianity, but history demonstrates that it doesn't matter what the religion says about violence: violence will occur and can be justified by the religion regardless. As for the Quran itself, ask an actual, practicing Muslim from among the two million living in America whether their religion is in fundamental conflict with their participation in democracy. But you shouldn't have to, because it should be manifestly obvious that it doesn't. There doesn't need to be a great purge, and two million Muslims in America haven't had to officially rewrite vast swaths of their holy book.

By exaggerating the extent to which Muslims are going to have to 'rewrite', as you put it, or 'destroy', as Josh would put it, their religion in order to save it, you speak disrespectfully non-violent Muslims everywhere. But more importantly, in a GWOT context, the more maximalist your demands are, the easier it is for the other guy to blow them off. It's kind of like when Al-Quieda takes hostages and demands the immediate departure of all U.S. forces from Iraq, or the immediate resignation of President Bush, etc, etc, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, Islam disrespects me (and would disrespect me to death) so I have every right to disrespect it back just as fiercely as I wish.

I respect you, Pam, because you're trying to argue empirically, but now we have the issue out in front: you hate Islam. (if you feel there is a valid differentiation between "disrespect" and "hate", you may dispute: I don't see that as a relevant distinction). So does Josh. This is an irrationality that I'm sure is mirrored in many angry Muslims in the middle east's feelings about Christianity and the West. It's also a systemic global force pushing for violent destruction under the rationale of self-protection.

Emotional investment in analysis clouds judgement, promoting radical solutions ahead of incremental ones, and diminishing awareness of context, risk, and coherence with the larger strategic environment. It leads to bad decisions.

Posted by: glasnost at May 22, 2007 12:37 PM

But there is too much horrible about Mohammad's life to allow any questioning in Islam, because once you allow the first question, the obvious others follow. If his hatred was wrong, can't we also say that the genocide was wrong? How about the slavery? The rape? The assassination of all of his critics? The assassination of victims who mourned too publicly? The raids? The example of torture?

Josh, as an academic exercise here - I know I've already called you an xenophobe and a bigot, and you've already called me a fool and an apologist, and so on - what are you talking about here? Seriously and literally.

It's not just your opinions and predictions of the future - this isn't the first time that it has seemed to me like you're reading out of a completely different book full of completely different facts than I'm reading out of.

From what sources do you derive your understanding of the life of Muhammad? What books, what articles, what passages? Are you aware that most objective historical texts don't describe Muhammad as a 7'th century Genghis Khan, and don't describe his time on earth as a reign of barbarity and extermination? From where are you pulling this point of view, and have you read the alternate points of view, and successfully explained the data behind their perspective?

This is me inviting you to make your case. As for me, I don't see how Mohammed's moral standards were any lower than Charles Martel's, or one of the more benevolent Roman emperors. We don't often compare Charles Martel or Octavian Ceasar to Kim Jong Il. All three people fought some battles, established some order, did some negotiation, appeared to be fairly popular in their time, and none of them that I have read of conducted extermination campaigns, although I might have missed one from Octavian, because the Romans were not above that.

Posted by: glasnost at May 22, 2007 01:07 PM

"I don't see how Mohammed's moral standards were any lower than Charles Martel's, or one of the more benevolent Roman emperors [Octavian Caesar] ..."

To quote myself, "One age's enlightened god-king is another's brutal barbarian. That times change but Islam doesn't is a fair criticism ..."
That Muhammad is no better than a medieval emperor is precisely the problem. Times have changed.

Posted by: Laika's Last Woof at May 24, 2007 01:29 AM
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