Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Strategic Planning for the Eschaton

Yodeling the faithful to prayer

I won’t argue with Wretchard.

I don’t generally argue with Wretchard, because a close reading of any Belmont Club post shows that Wretchard is almost always right. So anything I say here will be mainly a shift in emphasis.

In his post on Saturday, Wretchard compared the period between 9-11 and the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis with the “Phoney War”, the period between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September of 1939 and the onset of actual warfare in May of the following year. The appeasement that led up to the war was a strategic calculation by the West, designed to push Hitler eastward and cause the two great dictators to destroy each other. The failure of this French and British strategy left the West relatively undefended, and brought on the great conflagration that followed.

It is an old and familiar story which bears repeating because it illustrates how far leaders can be trapped by webs of their own making. Like the politicians of the 1930s the leaders of the West after September 11 each made their own calculation. In America’s case it took the shape of thinking that it could make common cause with the most enlightened elements of Islamic civilization against fundamentalist extremists who were vying for Islam’s soul. The strategy for achieving this goal, though reviled as simplistic, was anything but: America would not pick a fight with Islam itself. Rather it would make itself Islam’s friend, ally with its most moderate elements, overthrow its worst oppressors and enlist the aid of the Muslim everyman against the Osama Bin Ladens of the world. In practice it would build a web of relationships with intelligence services, soldiers, intellectuals and politicians in Islamic countries who would provide the information and in cases the manpower to hunt down fundamentalist villains. The War on Terror would be to wars what Smart Bombs were to bombs. It would destroy the miscreants while leaving the surrounding structure untouched. It may be that Europe’s calculation was more cynical. But it was equally sophisticated. It would pursue a policy of Appeasement which like Chamberlain’s was calculated to drive one nuisance against another, pitting America against Islamic fundamentalism in the hopes that one would wear the other out. And the key to Europe’s establishing its bona fides with Islamic countries was to make nice at every opportunity; avoid giving offense; be lavish with aid; open to immigration and obstructive to America at every turn. Like the appeasers of the 1930s it paid for its diplomatic strategy by systematically weakening itself.

The crisis over the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed has ironically struck the weakest point of both strategies. At present the crisis is not a danger to the grand strategies of either. But as the days pass the danger grows that it may get out of hand; that some Islamic cell may detonate a bomb in Europe or some skinhead burn a mosque. And then the consequences may incalculable. For America an open antipathy between the West and Islam would destroy its carefully crafted attempt to ally itself with the Muslim street. It would place Washington in the intolerable position of having to choose between its old European allies and its newfound friends in the Middle East and Central Asia. For Europe the consequences would be no less disastrous because in following the policy of Appeasement its leaders have risked falling so far behind their publics that they now find themselves unable to steer the course of popular events. Europe is angry and Chirac, like Chamberlain after the Sudeten crisis, is too far behind the curve of popular opinion to seize its leadership. Chamberlain understood it and brought Churchill into his cabinet to bolster his credentials when he himself had none.
If you read closely, you’ll notice that Wretchard describes the American strategy, but he does not venture an opinion on the wisdom of it. So I’ll go out on a limb and venture one myself.

The American strategy – to make alliances with “moderate” Islamic states and organizations against the extremist ones – was an absolute necessity at the start of this war. Even if our leaders were willing to take action over the objections of all the other nations of the West, our operations would have been impaired by our lack of actionable intelligence. With almost no speakers of Arabic or Pashtun in our intelligence stable, the two landmark victories in Afghanistan in Iraq would have taken years longer, and cost many more American lives. Thus it was necessary to co-opt the locals in the initial phase of the “Long War”.

But we may have already reached the point of diminishing returns. People in Iraq and Afghanistan, egged on by their religious leaders, are rioting against freedom of speech in Denmark. Is it really possible to make common cause with these countries for any length of time?

We can hope that the democratic institutions we have planted there will take root and grow, and that someday, maybe in our great-grandchildren’s time, Iraq and Afghanistan may join the civilized world.

The Twelfth ImamBut in the meantime, it behooves us to consider the people we’re dealing with. Iran, sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan, is undeterred by the presence of the American military on two of its borders. Its leader is a madman acting under the mandate of Allah, charged by the Divine to foment violence and increase chaos on this earth so as to immanentize the eschaton.

Hitler was a madman, too, but his deranged appetite longed for satisfaction in this world, not the next. Ahmadinejad is of a different breed – when our enemy cannot be counted on to act rationally in his own interests, the conflict we face is indeed apocalyptic.

But never mind our enemies – what about our allies?

Until the Danish cartoons created the current crisis, it was not clear how closely the religious ideology of the “moderates” matched that of the “extremists”. Now the glass has lost some of its darkness. The “moderates” have taken to the streets to proclaim their duties against the defamers of Islam, no matter their location. If these are our friends…

Two-faced lying so-and-soAll right then, forget the Arab street. What about its palaces? When we look to our “friends” the Saudis, we find one of the most repressive and dictatorial regimes on the face of this Earth.

And can it truly be said of King Abdullah that “he may be a thug, but at least he’s our thug”? Like the late Yasser Arafat, the king has one thing to say in English when he talks to the Western press and holds hands with our President, and another in Arabic when he’s at home making nice with his imams and keeping the women down. Of how much utility is this kind of “friendship”?

Do it for the childrenAnd then there are the Palestinian “moderates” with whom Secretary Rice is so avid to engage in the “dialogue of peace”. How many of them can you find? And when you do, how many of those will survive the first six months of a Hamas government?

It’s time to assess realistically the strategic calculation of our current policies.

Our enemies may be comparable to Hitler, but then our allies would have to be compared with Stalin. Communism was an insane ideology, and Stalin was ruthless, cruel, calculating, and evil, but his eye was always for the main chance.

The Millennium announced by the Communists was to be realized right here in this world, here in the “old chaos of the sun”. When it came down to it, the Soviet leader, the Soviet soldier, and the Soviet peasant all wanted to live.

I’m not so sure the same can be said for all our current allies. How many of them share the same dream of entering the afterlife while killing as many infidels as possible?

And how much are we prepared to risk in order to maintain this alliance? Do we want the Danes to back down and surrender a portion of their freedom of speech to appease the Umma? And will we ask the same of Americans?

That would be the equivalent of throwing Poland off the boat in 1939, of saying to Hitler, “Go on, you can have it. Those Poles mean nothing to us.”

Will we surrender what we’re fighting for to appease the millenialists of Islam?

What kind of strategy would that be?

Europe after the Hudna of Lausanne

43 comments:

Christine said...

In the end the only ally we may have in the ME is Israel. If they survive.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Is the lineup of enemies complete, open as well as silent ? Watch China.

We must take China into account. We cannot afford to let them sit, unengaged, unthreatened, making piles of money and building up their military while we exhaust ourselves trying to prop up Europe and hold back Islam.

Another question in this Iranian business is how much Tehran has been cooperating with Pyongyang, and what Iran has gotten from China in exchange for preferential access to its oil. Those two powers have reasons to cooperate.

We really, really need to find ways to work with Russia, Japan and India, at the same time as we prepare for a longer, deeper, total war with our Middle Eastern enemies. We also must find ways to divide our foes.

Pavel Kohout said...

Czech Republic as another Switzerland? Hmmm... The influx of Christian immigrants from the West might solve our fertility crisis.

Adaneshju said...

I think I flew on Alitalia once...

Baron Bodissey said...

Pavel --

A warm Gates of Vienna welcome to a visitor from the Czech Republic!

But don't wish for that future -- look what you'd be surrounded by...

dag said...

Our friend Derek has a warning placed on his blog by Google.

Derek posted an editorial graphic of Mohammed.

Now Derek's site is under a warning.

I am outraged.

Please support Derek and all others who exercize their right and your right to free speech.

Derek is our Denmark.

http://thestudyofrevenge.blogspot.com/

Mussolini said...

"Do we want the Danes to back down and surrender a portion of their freedom of speech to appease the Umma? And will we ask the same of Americans?"

I don't think this is necessarily about the cartoons, so an apology won't matter.

The cartoons came out in September of last year. This current rampage started a couple days ago after some towel-head purposely inflamed muslims with the pictures.

Purposely inflamed.

Note also that the French car-burning riots ... that were "in no way connected with Islam"... no matter how loud they screamed "allahu akbar"... did not immediately die down when Chirac promised an enormous jizyah.

The riots in Australia exploded suddenly and continue to flare up occasionally.

The French riots appeared directed, so said several different sources. Arms and ammunition, along with supplies for molotovs were discovered that spoke of central planning and execution. Rioters coordinated by cell phone. Cell phone? Across 300 towns? 300?! That's a lot of phone numbers in people's cell memories at even a fraction if they were all connected 2nd and 3rd person.

The Australian riots showcased roving bands and carloads of muslims, again showing planning.

The cartoon riots smell just as fishy to me due to the incitement by the cleric, reports of international support from Islamic countries of riots in other countries, and the obvious replication of hundreds of placards all in the same hand...

THIS IS ALL PLANNED.

We are being tested. Our reactions are being noted.

An apology won't matter because this isn't about cartoons in the broader sense of the rampage.

Pastorius said...

Hi Baron,
I think the Islamic world is showing itself to be almost monolithic in its embrace of extremism, and its hatred of the West.

While we must keep in mind that many in the Islamic world are merely human beings caught up in a frenzy of hatred, we must also acknowledge that that was the case with our enemies in WWII.

The fact of the matter is, when an enemy says they want to kill you, you can't quibble over nuance, and you waste time trying to pull the good individuals out of the snares in which they are trapped in their homelands.

That is an impossible task.

Unfortunately, the Islamic world is telling us that we have to end their regimes, or our entire civilization is going to be unplugged and ransacked.

Mussolini said...

I had said sometime ago that I didn't believe "spreading democracy" was going to work.

I remember quite a few put a lot of faith into the idea.

Unfortunately, it looks like I was right, and this is getting more disturbing by the month.

I know it's not popular to say, but hey - just look at my avatar and blame it on a dead fascist - Iraq is a failure.

We bled and died to give them a free country to elect whom they would. I cynically said that muslims would elect muslims, so the whole idea was flawed to begin with. The elections in Iraq show that. The Iraqi "moderate" slate was voted into the dustbin of marginality.

The reports from Iraq I read indicate that there is typical Islamic corruption and murder going on at the behest of the highest government officials.

This ain't good. In light of that, I recently changed my stripe on whether we should stay or go in Iraq. While the country was ruled by secular forces, we needed to stay. At this point, however, we are safeguarding a radical government as they maneuver against each other's factions.

We might be stopping them from a bloody civil war, but what does this gain us? We have almost 200,000 troops tied down there at enormous cost that could be utilized elsewhere.

The election of radicals shows us our effort was wasted - and I hate to say that. Saddam was a secular tyrant, and the world is better off being less one tyrant. However, the government that replaced him is Islamic fundamentalist, both in the majority and the minority.

Our troops are now protecting a basically hostile country. Doubt me? Read MEMRI for the latest duel of Iraqi clerics who are in power trying to outdo each other in blaming the US for anything they can.

This is getting worse and our resources are being wasted in misallocation.

El Jefe Maximo said...

The Duce is right about the "planned" thing -- we are being gamed big time. This is about getting the Sunnis and Shia together to rally around Iran as defender of Islam, and intimidating the Euros away from supporting the Americans.

Freedom Fighter said...

The current strategy with Iran is a disaster, IMO. Something had better change, and quickly.

J O S H U A P U N D I T: True fiction: Iran and the UN

Bush and Condi have made a MAJOR blunder with the IAEA referral

Jason_Pappas said...

I wouldn’t call the current predicament of Iraq a disaster. Yes, I was opposed to nations-building from the outset. I thought we should slap in a dictator and move on. However, I knew our fellow Americans were ignorant about Islam and they believed the people in Iraq held values we’d recognize and share.

I sure if Bush installed a dictator after toppling Saddam (at the cost of say 200 fatalities) there would have been an uproar claiming nothing has been achieved and 200 lives lost in vein. The American people could not be educated about Islam in so short a time and George Bush isn’t an intellectual warrior capable of taking on the cultural taboos let alone the whole mainstream establishment.

We still have to educate our fellow Americans about Islam. They are starting to suspect that “it’s just a few who hijacked Islam” is a lot of bunk. But we have a long way to go. It took 30 years, from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech in 1947, before Americans really became alarmed about communism. These cultural changes are slow. But we will prevail. At what cost, I don’t know, but we will triumph in the end. In case it doesn’t show, I’m a fighter.

Mussolini said...

El Jefe: I'm embarassed to say but readily admit I hadn't connected those final dots, even though I could smell something fishy.

Yes, what you said connects everything together that I've been reading and suspecting.

This is why talking is good. It makes semi-dense people like me look a little smarter. I hope. (laughs)

Freedom Fighter: I thought the same thing - what victory? The UN will just stall off everything... Hell we all know that. Does a muslim behead infidels? We know exactly how the UN will obfuscate... I mean operate.

I think we're in for some "stern warnings" news reports...

Freedom Fighter said...

Actually, I was talking about the current non-strategy with IRAN.

As for Iraq,the correct thing to do IMO would have been to create an independent Kurdistan, give them military aid and let them police their own area.

The Tzahal(Israeli army) is helping train the Kurdish Persh merga as we speak and arming them, under the radar.

I would have not saddled our troops with ridiculous rules of engagement and allowed them to ruthlessly fight the war in the Sunni triangle the way it needed to be fought..and I would have given the Iranians and the Syrians a courtesy warning if they sent terrorists into Iraq the first time and paid a call with the F-16s if it happened again.

And I would not have allowed an Iranophile like Jafaari to win the first, all important election, but would have created a Shiite state under someone reliable.

Bush made some mistakes. We all do.

But the Iran one is major.

Your other remarks onIslam I agree with..but what do you expect when we had a president that called it a `religion of peace' after 9/11?

The country was energized after 9/11 and Bush let it go back to sleep again, unfortunately.

At least he's been willing to fight half a war.

Hopefully, he'll wake up or we'll get a real leader next time out.

Mussolini said...

Freedom Fighter: I was talking about Iran, also, in my comment to you.

I don't think Bush failed in keeping the issue "awake." I think the media purposely put it to sleep. We can replay images of pearl Harbor over and over and make dozens of movies about it, but we just CAN'T show clips of the planes hitting the towers?

9/11 is one nightmare the left and the media desperately want to go away.

A. Eteraz said...

here is a lesson from ancient western history that apply to this day. i've read my fair share of thucydides.

when the athenians wished to divide and diffuse the power or threat of a competing city-states (not including sparta here), they subverted the oligarchy and left democracy in its place.

the usual effect was that the city-state BECAME AN EVEN GREATER FAILED STATE and EVEN MORE VIOLENT AND SOUGHT TO DESTROY ATHENS. (I think this il Duce's point). But there is a however.

*However*: as the newly democratized city-state became more combustible and aggressive, Athenians used that time to build up their defenses, restructure their economy and simply restore their naval and military supremacy in that region, such that the newly democratized city-state backed down in the face of assured destruction. Democracies can talk a lot of bravado; but they are also the most "realist" of all forms of government.

So the solution in the middle east IS more democracy. We must assist in putting in place a Saudi Democracy and an Egyptian one. Mark my words: BOTH OF THOSE democracies would HATE US MORE than the countries currently do. However, we can pull our billions of dollars in aid and our economic and military input. It will be then that those countries back down. Take Hamas as an example. We put democracy into Palestine and what did we get? Nutjobs. However, because the nutjobs are now INVOLVED in the governance, they'll become a lot more realistic about their ability to "take on" Israel. In other words, over time it'll be revealed that Hamas was only Hamas when it didn't have responsibility.

It worked for the Athenians and it will work for us. The Athenians were some of the best political thinkers of all time. I am deeply impressed by their use of democracy.

Muslim said...

The pictures were ridiculous.

Freedom of speech doesn't mean insulting someone's religion.

The prophet peace be upon him is dear to us. And as Muslims, we aren't allowed to meant to draw pictures of other prophets e.g. Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and we are not allowed to disrespect other religions.

Mussolini said...

Muslim: "Freedom of speech doesn't mean insulting someone's religion."

Tell that to those who tell christians to shut up while being forced to suffer insult every single day.


"and we are not allowed to disrespect other religions."

Hmmm.... what about all those anti-Jewish hate cartoons Saudi Arabia loves to print?

Lemme give you a message, Muslim, that all of us westerners agree on - when you start "respecting" us, we'll start "respecting" you.

The West has given you a free ride of respect for decades while you murder and spread Islam through conquest - just like the Crusades. 400 years of muslim murder and we finally react. We're getting fed up with you again, Muslim. Maybe YOU think Islam needs to be the only religion on the planet, but WE don't.

bordergal said...

Did being in power make the Taliban more moderate?

I think that the hope that governing will make Hamas more amenable is a pipe dream. They may "play nice" for awhile, but that is a typical hudna. They'll be back at Israel's throat soon enough (but with plausible deniability, like Arafat).

Time to buy out the Palis, on the condition they move to other Arab countries and never return. That would be a much better use of Israeli, EU and American aid money.

pst314 said...

"we are not allowed to disrespect other religions."

So when infidels are described as being the descendants of pigs and monkeys, the Koran (and its oh-so-moral followers) mean that in a good and friendly way?

So when Muslim newspapers and TV stations and mosques spread the Blood Libel, that is respect?

So discriminatory laws and customs are respect?

So the jizyah tax on infidels is a gesture of respect?

So the killing of those who convert to Christianity or Judaism (or Hinduism or Buddhism etc) is done out of respect?

So the outlawing of dissent is out of respect for other religions?

So jihad, and the choice of conversion, submission as semi-slave, or death is a policy based on love and respect?

Mussolini said...

Eteraz: I tend to agree on one hand and nod at your dose of reality in turning Islamic countries to democracy (they'll hate us worse). I also find myself trapped by my optimism in wishing that this would be so in our efforts of spreading democracy.

On the other hand... Lemme ask you a question.

Assuming we establish democracy in an islamic country, and the muslim populace votes in Islamic fundamentalists, do you not see the inevitability that the lawmakers then institute sharia law as the populace demands?

What I'm thinking here is that religion pulls the voter into voting for that which replaces democracy or at the minimum seeks to subvert it.

I'm not of the opinion that islam and democracy are ultimately compatible.

Archonix said...

Whether or not the US abandons is relationship with the saudis, and "moderate" muslim states in general, I certainly think that a fundamental rethink of their reltionship with europe is in order. We, as a pseudo-sate, or collection of states, or whatever, are dead weight. We're a burden. The EU in particular is antithetical to the goals of the US and the free world of which, I fear, we're no longer a part.

a4g said...

Duce,

I am one who the Baron put in his "softy" column some time ago; I envy your clarity on this issue.

BUT... (didn't you know that was coming)

I see the central question of how to proceed against Islam as having little to do with the religion itself, and instead with our attitude towards essential human nature.

I assume you are someone who places responsiblity where it should be, on the individual; how do you reconsile this with the idea of Islam-as-human-poison?

I concede that much of the data are on your side-- there's scant evidence to indicate that democratization will work.

But somehow I can't accept what seems to boil down to "culture is destiny" twaddle that I would expect from the left, thereby rejecting the core fundamental tenets of my conservatism-- that each man is a individual with free will who ultimately has the power to control his own decisions.

If Islam is more powerful than free will-- if no amount of seduction from the force of liberty can bring the Muslims back from their madness-- then I am fundamentally wrong about human nature. Why not fall in line with Pavlov or Skinner? If men are no more than their cultural programming, then why shouldn't I believe that we can remake the world with the right combination of political correctness, anti-discrimination laws, and (ultimately) re-education camps?

I'm curious as to how you reconsile the irresistable force of Islam with the immovable object of free will.

Mussolini said...

Ah, yes, A4G. I see what you're driving at.

Not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I've been saying it elsewhere.

In individual free will and responsibility, each man makes choices. Your supposition is, when confronted with greater freedom of democracy, why would someone remain mired under islam and thus why do I view Islam as the focus of attack rather than spreading democracy to the individual.

My answer: The muslim man is so thoroughly indoctrinated in religion that he first sees all forms of expression and individualism in a sharia light. How does it compare to the truth of Muhammed?

In christianity, Jesus never preached war to spread the gospel. He preached peace.

In Islam, Muhammed said over and over and over to kill, slay, behead, and ambush the infidel pigs.

In each case, the major figure of the religion provides service as exemplar to believers.

This is why christians generally tend to be peaceful; their example is a man of peace. Conversely, muslims generally tend to be violent; their example is a man of murder.

So, to answer your supposition, a muslim man, when confronted with individualism in the vein we're talking, will first see how those tenets apply to the life of Muhammed and his words in the Quran.

If we must first approach muslim men through the violent prism of Islam and Muhammed, then we first need to deal with Islam.

Or so my thinking goes.

The only working alternatives have been to convert muslims to some other religion or thoroughly corrupt them with sin.

Baron Bodissey said...

a4g, Duce --

Remember Jinnderella's analysis (she of the late lamented blog "Hot Needle of Inquiry").

Islam is what as known as an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy. An ESS is a closed information system whose basic replication strategies (in this case, inflexible doctrine, death to apostates, and conversion by force) make it like a virulent pathogen in a biological system, i.e. very deadly and difficult to eradicate.

As a system, it reproduces itself with very few meme changes. If the analogy is accurate, the only way to deal with Islam would be to (1) kill its adherents before they have children, or (2) adopt its children out of Islam before their indoctrination has passed the point where the system can be modified.

Neither of those seems doable to me (though I know Fratello Benito favors #1). Maybe readers can come up with a third way.

A. Eteraz said...

il duce,

you say, "Assuming we establish democracy in an islamic country, and the muslim populace votes in Islamic fundamentalists, do you not see the inevitability that the lawmakers then institute sharia law as the populace demands?"

The operative word here is democracy. If there is a democracy in a Muslim country, you are right, initially they will rule themselves by the Shariah. Problem is: they'll soon realize how absoultely shit the Shariah is in the operation of a modern state. Look, I have studied Islamic Law for about twelve years. Both the traditionalist and reformist versions. Fact of the matter is, that the traditionalist version of Shariah is simply incapable of dealing with most questions of socio-political life in a *functional* way. It can resort to violence, sure; but it can't solve problems. If there is democracy, over time the population WILL move to get rid of Shariah on their own.

Iran makes my point very clearly. They have a pseudo-democracy. In 1979 they gave themselves the Shariah. Within 10 years they hated it so much that they started agitating against it. Five years after that they elected a REFORMIST president -- do we remember Khatami? The reason that Khatami was unable to do anything was because Iran was only a quasi-democracy (because the Council of Elders can veto all acts of the parliament). But think about it: *even within a quasi-democracy with a deep clerical oligarchy, it took only 10 - 15 years for the people to start agitating against Shariah.

The other example is Pakistan. Whenever democracy has been fortunate to show its head after martial law, it has never actually brought any hardliners to power. In fact, the Islamic Laws were added to the Pakistani constitution by Zia ul Haqq (a dictator -- and an asshole, mind you).

My Athenian-Democracy-as-subversion model is the clearest way for us to guarantee our own freedom. We have to let the Muslim world go ahead and choose Shariah. They'll quickly realize how shitty it is. At that point they'll either turn secularist (unlikely) or start introducing secular ideas into their Shariah and still calling it Shariah (to save face).

This happens on a small scale with mosque operations in the West. First the mosque is all about fundamentalism, denying women their rights and freedoms, imposition of rules and so on. Within five years, as the threat of failure looms, the patriarchs have to first bring in the women because they are simply better at running the religious schools, then they have to bring in young teachers because their students need someone who can actually speak English. It's a microcosm of the Muslim world.

A. Eteraz said...

Baron,

I'm going to assume that you are fanning the flames of hatred because you want to create more conversation. I'm rather appalled at your analogy, even as a hypothetical, largely because of the consequences that emanate from it. "If the analogy is accurate, the only way to deal with Islam would be to (1) kill its adherents before they have children, or (2) adopt its children out of Islam before their indoctrination has passed the point where the system can be modified."

Islam is not a "closed" system. Why? Because courage, creativity and chutzpah can all throw a huge wrench into the gut of any Islamic culture. Shirin Ebadi comes to mind. On a smaller scale there is hundreds and thousand of those people. They live on and prosper and introduce change despite daily threats of apostasy or the apparent rigidity around them.

There is a lot of excellent work going on in the Muslim world. In terms of creative scholarship, a number of Pakistani jurists have reintroduced mutazila (rationalist) thought in Islamic Law. A plethora of western educated men and women are going back and working both in relief and economic development. I know PhD students who are going into some of the most dangerous parts of the Muslim world (areas still Taliban run) to collect the history of people's folk songs and revive them in the urban centers. Some Arab Sheikhs, most notable those in Dubai and Oman have bought into capitalism. Did you know that Cornell and Georgetown are both opening campuses in the Middle East? You think they are going to teach "Sultanate Theory 101" there? No: they teach democracy and Montesquieu. If it was a closed system it could not produce people like me.

You have done a lot of research in exposing the idiocy of the Islamic world. But I get the sense that you can do this research with ease sitting in your chair. To do the opposite -- to explore the possibility of a beautiful future, you'd have to go to the Muslim world and unearth the people who are risking their lives.

I encourage you to read Marshal Hodgson's Venture of Islam, as an introduction to Islamic History. After that you might consider Khaled Abu el Fadl's books to get an introduction to Islamic Law from a reformist position. Then we can together explore some of the fascinating changes made by the jurists coming from Pakistan and Malaysia.

Mussolini said...

Eteraz: " In 1979 they gave themselves the Shariah. Within 10 years they hated it so much that they started agitating against it."

(laughs) So true. I can't argue with that kind of logic. The assessment is based on fact.

I have read conflicting news stories that some in Iran would like to move back into the US' good graces. Yet I also read of mass demonstrations against the US.

On one hand I might believe reports about "wishing" on our side about Iranians, and on the other I might also believe in the government sponsoring protests even if the populace doesn't believe in it.

Unfortunately I think like the Baron... that it's a closed system, but your comment on Iran rings true.

Before I ask, let me illustrate the current scenario in geo-political terms. It is a known factor that Islam believes Israel is occupying the Levant and that America's support makes the US complicit. Equal blame is given to the US whenever Israel takes blame - whether deserved or not.

As a symbol of the Great Satan in the West (because of its support of Israel), how does the US overcome the lifetime of teaching - even when the muslims "realize how shitty sharia is"?

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz--

You're right, I'm stoking the fires of controversy in order to stimulate more conversation. That way I learn more. It's what brought you into these discussions, and I have learned a lot from you.

Jinnderella's ESS theory is really applicable only to hard-line Islam, like Ahmadinejad's and bin Laden's (the Shiite and Sunni variants). But the big question for us is this:

Will the hard-line version of Islam, the ESS, consume the rest of Islam, and then come after the infidels?

I don't think we know the answer to that one yet.

The next 10 or 15 years in Iraq will tell us a lot. If you're right, the process you described should have begun unfold there by then.

a4g said...

Duce,

There is no doubt that Mohommad provides a dubious-at-best role model. But I'm still too pigheaded to concede that even a life inculcated on hate/ pathology can completely snuff out the innate human desire for freedom and dignity. erzatz's experience with glimmers of light in the Muslim world is evidence of that.

But your conversion-or-sin point is well taken, for there is no doubt that that is specifically what the democratization rationale intends-- to introduce the "sin" of liberty and justice into the Islamic canon.

Perhaps you and I differ only in the amount of time we are willing to risk before bringing down the hammer.


Baron,

Applying an evolutionary/biological analogy to Islam (or really any philosophy/ religion) is intriguing-- and actually quite comforting.

Remember that any pathogen, although internally closed, still exists in a wider world. A bacterium has to compete for limited resources (which in this analogy would be the number of adherents). Any increase in complexity is counterbalanced by greater energy requirements-- which is why simpler systems/ organisms are generally selected for.

Typically, an increase in virulence means a decrease in robustness. Which is why "anti-bacterials" are so often counterproductive, leaving only the most resistant stock in an environment where there is suddenly an absence of less specialized but more robust competitors.

The tradeoff Islam has made with its "inflexible doctrine, death to apostates, and conversion by force" is the key to its undoing. By so strongly protecting itself from "conversion-loss", Islam has approached the problem of self-sustainability with an impermeable cell wall against a hypertonic environment. Contrast this with Judeo-Christianity, which has developed a more permeable membrane by balancing itself with its environment (which would be balancing the human desire to love and serve God with the equal desire for democratic self-determination and self-interest.)

Puncture the hard cell wall in Islam and the system fails-- either adapting to survive permeability or being devoured by hungry competitors.

The Berlin Wall comes to mind.

Baron Bodissey said...

a4g,

Yes, you've got something there. When a pathogen becomes too virulent, it kills its host. Plague organisms are tamed by this process, made less dangerous.

Think of the Taliban and Afghanistan. Also the mullahs in Iran.

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz --

Eventually, you'll have to address what makes Islam different from the rest of the world. Modern civilization developed out of the fusion of pagan Europe, Christianity, and Judaism. But it has spread successfully to other cultures.

Look at the Hindus. Yes, they still have hard-core believers who attack other groups. But a huge chunk of Indian culture has become secularized, operating successfully in the modern world without compromising its religious identity.

What makes Islam different? Why is it so resistant to modernity?

It may not be a pure ESS, but it cretainly does resist modification by outside sources.

A. Eteraz said...

hey guys,

the last four or five posts on my blog relate in some way to civilizational conflict, etc. you may find them interesting. haven't been seeing you guys there so i thought i'd remind you to add me to your blog roll. i aspire towards a diverse readership

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz -- look closely: you're on our blogroll already!

What with Dymphna's illness & my work, I haven't had time for much visiting in the last few days. But I'll get back there eventually.

A. Eteraz said...

oh yes baron, i see, i see the blogroll. thanks!

what makes islam 'resistant' is just not the right way to frame the issue.

there's no way i can accept that any people or society or anyone for that matter can be resistance to change. i mean, look at the middle east for a second. the arab shaikhs of dubai have the world's only seven star hotel. the world's tallest building (is in construction), and cities underwater (a new atlantis). how are these bedouins not resistant to modernity but farmers in iran suddenly are resistant to it? it's a bogus question to suggest that people are resistant to change.

the fact of the matter is: that the age of a 'religion' plays a huge role in its level of openness and accept critique. judaism and hinduism had their violent eras for about the first 1500 years of their existence. look up their histories. you'll find my point validated. after that, they started on a downward trend of increasing worldliness and increasing openness. in hinduism, buddhism found a foot-hold, as well as polytheism (which is actually nothing more than a tolerant way of spreading monotheism). in christianity, it took 1500 years before the trend towards opennes emerged.

islam is at year 1427. the opennes 'trend' should be starting up now. it has nothing to do with modernity. it has everything to do with realizing that insecurity is immature. in his essay, was ist aufklarang ('what is enlightenment') Kant says: enlightenment is when you stop being immature. it took christianity about 200 - 300 years after its 1500 mark (from Machiavelli to Voltaire) to give up its violent history and become open. like i said, islam is at year 1427. actually, machiavelli was in 1410 or so, no?

like i said before, please check out marshall hodgson's 'venture of islam' and then read toynbee or that other guy's 'history of western civilization.'

also, if you want to get a good idea of where islam is *headed* after its 1500 year-mark, read barzun's 'dawn to decadence.'

some of these historical comparisons might make you a lot more optimistic. of course, that doesn't mean we should become complacent. the dirty work has to be done.

i imagine it must be somewhat disconcerting and despairing for non-muslim-non-easterners to look at islam, see that it needs to change, and realize that there is very little *they* can do to assist it in going into the right direction, especially since they have been taught all their lives that if they put their mind on something, they can fix it. i still think that westerners have a huge role to play in the shaping of the future. by being the wiser and older brother; not by being a tyrant.

A. Eteraz said...

hope you feel better dymphna.

i didn't realize you guys were married.

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz --

The argument about the relative "age" of Islam doesn't cut it.

Consider the Mormons. Their religion is brand new, but they are not at all violent. You might argue, "but the Mormon church was an outgrowth of Christianity," and so it was, but Islam was an Arab variant of Judaism and Christianity combined.

In fact, Christianity is a variant on Judaism, so it should have borrowed the previous millenium of Jewish history and arrived at its peaceful state before the Vikings ravished Europe.

I'm willing to grant the possibility that it is the peculiar tribal culture of the Arabs and South Asians which is resistant to change, and not the religion itself. But even that's not entirely convincing -- the Jews were just as tribal as the Arabs.

bioqubit said...

Divide and conquer is absolutely necessary. The Muslims do it to themselves all the time. So, our geopolitical strategy of ever so delicately setting moderate countries against extemist governments is indispensable. Freedom and liberty are powerful concepts. How well they translate throughout the Koran is another issue. But they are capable of all kinds of lethal rationalizations, it should not be so hard to discover greater wonders and beauty in the Koran through the lenses of Freedom and Liberty.

A. Eteraz said...

mormons are in one state, about 2 million people baron. islam from its inception was a world religion. not only that, but the only thing that the mormons differ from the christians is in the source of revelation. they were, at the time of their genesis, already children of post-enlightenment christianity. your distinction doesn't work.

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz, I beg to differ. Islam started small and grew. The Mormons may or may not be as successful as Islam after another 1250 years.

But, once again, if your analogy holds, Christianity should have become peaceful much earlier, drawing on 1,000 years or more of Jewish history.

A. Eteraz said...

my understanding of christianity is that early christians totally rejected the jewish thought that came before them.

about the mormons, i can't believe we're already on the third comment about them.

mormons fell off the *post-enlightenment* christian tree. that's the whole point!

my 1500 year theory also holds with regards to hinduism.

Dymphna said...

eteraz...you said
my understanding of christianity is that early christians totally rejected the jewish thought that came before them.

I need to unpack this sentence before refuting it:

What do you mean by "early" Christianity? Are you talking about Jerusalem? Until its fall in 70 AD, Christ's disciples entered *through* Judaism first. A Christian became a Jew -- circumcison, syangogue, diet and all.

Mark's gospel, probably written first, was gathered from some of the same sources as parts of Luke and Matthew. But Mark's is more primitive and was dealing with exigencies of Christian slaves in Rome, where he wrote.

However, before Mark, there was Paul -- formerly the Jew, Saul, whose conversion consisted of being knocked off a horse on the road to Damascus and blinded. He lived in seclusion for two years, recovering, and then went out to preach and write his letters. Paul's letters date from the 50's or so, followed by Mark.

Later come the other two synoptics, written for two different areas, but drawing on now-missing sources (like the Q document). They had different motives and methods. Matthew was attempting to prove Jesus' fulfillment of Jewish law; Luke was a doctor trying to convince the later Romans that Christians weren't a threat to civil peace. The Acts of the Apostles is merely Luke's continuation of his gospel, and idealizes the early Christian community.

But conflict revolved around Paul and Jerusalem. Acts 15 (Luke) and Galatians 2 (Paul) are essentially coverage of the same event but from the two conflicting factions.

Today the question is whether Islam can make the transition to modernity. Back then, the conflict was between those who had seen the Risen Christ during his life (Jerusalem)and those who were later converted (Paul). Whose ws to be the authority? Mostly Peter andf James and John prevailed, but Paul's influence lived on in his epistles.

The third thing was John, the Apostle who settled in Patmos and didn't die until well after everyone else.His gospel was compiled about 125. He's the most mystical of the Apostles and the Johnanine gospel is very unlike the others. Think of him as a Sufi, maybe....

But break with Judaism? Nope. The Last Supper was a Seder meal. That's why Easter (whose date was settled until the 600's) always falls somewhat near Passover. The sacramental Christians emphasize the Seder ritual. And all Christians use the Hebrew testament. Catholicism tends to emphasize the New Testament somewhat more than the reformed, or evangelical Xtians. The Pentateuch is revered by all of them, however. They say Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses, not to change it.

Then there is the early Christianity of the Patristics-- eg., Augustine in No Africa, who set the terms of Christian doctrine and the Desert Fathers like Anthony and Pachomius who set up cenobitic and eremitic monasticism that was to be taken West eventually and become the basis of Benedict's rule.

Women were active in the early Church and established the intial "ecclesia" (churches) and convents. Pachomius left his orphaned sister with one such group when he founded his order of monks.

Christianity was rich and varied. It did not become anti-semitic until political issues gave a convenient scapegoat and channel for the dirty work.

The renewed contact between Christians and Jews has been taken up again, like an old conversation. It grows in volume every year. In America, Avery Cardinal Dulles (the son of Eisenhower's Sec of State)is a leading theolgian in this area of Covenant and Christianity.

NOTE: These early Christians did disagree, but they didn't kill one another off as a consequence.

Fred_from_AL said...

Baron: " the Jews were just as tribal as the Arabs."

The Jews were transformed by the Babylonian exile and the Roman diaspora, to say nothing of invasions by Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks. They are a "remnant" that has passed through the "refiners fire".