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Learning from history
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Thursday, August 30, 2007

I’ve been reading a book called The History of Invention by Trevor Williams. A lot of people would describe it as a “coffee table” book; large, great production quality, and with many colorful illustrations. It's also an in depth look at technology and how it has affected human history. The subtitle is "From Stone Axes to Silicon Chips".

It was written in 1987. I’m finding it to be a very good read on how technology evolved and interplays with history, though I think James Burke’s Connections duo was better.

This book is not at all political. The author makes no particular value judgments as he chronicles how technology interplayed with the rise and fall of various empires.

Yet, the following passage struck me, and I thought the readers of QandO might be interested in it:
It was one of the most extraordinary and significant centuries in the history of mankind: at its beginning the Arabs were virtually unknown nomads; at its end they were the most powerful rulers in the world. In the process, they had defeated the largest and technologically most advanced armies of their day without themselves having the benefit of any revolutionary new military technology. How this came about we cannot pursue here, but it was very much a triumph of the spirit over the material advantages of their enemies. The Arabs had for generations lived hard, expecting little in the way of comfort. Moreover their belief was absolute and fanatical; to die in battle against the infidel was a certain passport to paradise. {emphasis mine}
(Page 94, updated edition)

One doesn’t necessarily expect history to repeat itself. In this case, I think the odds are heavily against it. But it’s still something worth pondering. I’ll be interested to see what QandO readers think about it.
 
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to die in battle against the infidel was a certain passport to paradise. {emphasis mine}
Has run headlong into..
of the people, for the people, and by the people
And how efficiently we can send them to paradise, if we will.

Enough of us still want freedom more than we want to be at peace, that we will crush expansionist, totalitarian Islam. Either it will be forced to evolve into something not too offensive to our liking, or they’ll agree to mind their own increasingly irrelevant (to the world) business so that we’ll stop sending in the legions.

Locke, Smith, Bastiat, Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, et al,—they wrote more that is distinctly true than Mohammed ever did, and the truth will out.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
And the fact is the Byzantines were NOT exactly "Mr Technology" either...it was the Middle Ages, actually the DARK AGES, so it’s not like Heracletius had Maxim guns and Parrott breach loaders and lost you know.

And there are plenty of examples where the devout who had lots of belief ran into folks who had lots of firepower, Beijing and the 55 days, Omdurman, Rorke’s Drift, Das Kindermord (Ypes 1914). Believing doesn’t necessarily yield the best results, though Isandalwanha is an example of belief over bullets.

It’s not entirely clear that belief is the world winner, IF the technology difference is very great. And the fact of the matter is that US forces in Iraq have a technological edge AND a sense of belief, too (if Yon and others are to be believed) so I’m not sure that the Insurgent forces belief more strongly enough to overcome the firepower disadvantage.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
What Joe said.
 
Written By: Mikey NTH
URL: http://
What Joe said and:
The Arabs had for generations lived hard, expecting little in the way of comfort.
is no longer relevent. Arab leaders live in luxury expecting a level of sumptous comfort.



 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
I think it’s better to compare this to the pre-modern times of Europe, and look at all the issues that arose as Europe went through the centuries long process of modernization and secularization. There were wars, holocausts, conquest of the planet, and revolutionary movements. But the Europeans did it at their own pace, making their own mistakes, with no one more powerful to try to guide them or force them down a particular path. There was no enlightened NATO trying to get Europe and the West to end slavery, embrace full democracy, let markets work, etc. The West got there on its own, with a lot of difficulties.

The Ottomans resisted modernization because it threatened their rule, and they embraced the most conservative interpretation of the Koran of the time — and the power of the ulama — because that protected their role (other movements included Sufism, rationalism, viewing the Koran as invented rather than being a part of God, etc.) This assured that the Arab world avoided modernization and fell behind. In the 20th century little progress was made to try to deal politically and sociologically with the intrusion of modern ideas. So the Arabs and Islam are trying to handle what the West took centuries to handle virtually overnight, and are doing so not on their own pace and terms, but with expectations from outsiders, outsiders who are addicted to their oil (and thus support leaders who may be hindering that development — such as Saudi leaders).

I think we need to really understand the raw force and power of the enlightenment, of modernization and secularization. It took us from centuries of little or no progress with stagnant social classes to a dynamic system of constant change and individual redefinition. If the West couldn’t do this peacefully in centuries, how could one expect the Arabs to do it more quickly? If they didn’t have oil, they’d probably have the problems Africa has — violence, corruption, famine, all pretty much ignored by the West. But they have oil.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I think everyone’s comments, particularly Joe’s, are well taken.

However, the thing that came to my mind was not so much whether they really could overcome the West. As I said in the post, I consider the odds heavily against them. I was thinking more about what the passage says about why the Islamists are so difficult to deter from their chosen course, and implications for our own choice of strategies.

Consider: they believe they are destined to rule the world. They saw their ancestral co-religionists accomplish the feat of becoming the world’s leading empire. As in every religion, they can convince themselves that a "fall from grace" occurred, and that this explains why that empire went away. To the fundamentalist, the obvious corollary is that they need to be more pious, more fanatic, and more fundamentalist. Get back to basics, as it were, and embrace jihad as it was done in the ninth and tenth centuries.

Yes, I’m pretty sure we can dissuade or defeat them in the end, even with our current fumbling mistakes. But what will the butcher’s bill be? If our media is determined to hand them control over how their own religion is presented to the world, how much does that encourage them in their fanatic course?

If I were a Muslim imam in the Middle East, devoted to the resurgence of the Caliphate, I’d be preaching about how Allah had set up everything required for the victory of his adherents. They’ve got something we absolutely must have (oil) and rather than just march in and take it, instead we pay them extremely high prices for it. To them, that demonstrates our weakness, and simultaneously gives them the resources they need to grow stronger. Then we compound our perception of weakness by having a media that is almost completely intimidated, and which now subscribes to an entire philosophy (multiculturalism) that forbids them from criticizing or passing judgment on anyone except white Western males.

To a fundamentalist, it has to look like Allah has set up all the pieces they need. Every time Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or various Democratic presidential candidates open their mouths, the fundamentalists get another reinforcement of their belief that we are too weak to win in the long run. And that encourages them to keep the pressure up, and become more brutal and violent.

By far the most likely end-result I see from that course is an ever-increasing spiral of violence until the West finally decides to take off the kid gloves and show the fundamentalists (and whoever happens to be around them) what Western power can really do. I don’t want that - the death toll could be catastrophic and the repercussions could last decades or centuries. Not to mention the people that die in the meantime from the spiral.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
In response to Erb it took the Europeans CENTURIES, it took the Japanese, 80 years, it took the Koreans and Taiwanese only 40 years...like building the atomic bomb, once you KNOW what you’re doing is possible and what works and what doesn’t the follow-ons aren’t as long, even if they are as difficult. But even then they aren’t as difficult, as you don’t run down as many blind alleys, in this case wars, pogroms, revolutions, and internal strife.

It CAN take a long time or it can take just a few generations.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well, Joe, I talked to you before about why the Arab world and Arab political culture is so resistant to this kind of change, and why your VERY SMALL list of "exceptions" are really exceptions that prove the rule. They also were able to quickly develop a fast growing economy with "state capitalism" (sort like what China’s doing now). That growth made political change easier to handle. There’s nothing like that going on in Iraq or the Mideast — indeed, the Ottoman political and cultural heritage has worked against it.

Note each of the places you mention have a common ethnic identity, and cultural norms for cooperation and social peace.

Japan: Japan was isolated and never colonized. In the 19th century they choose to modernize, going to observe the Prussian government and undertook self-directed modernization. There were moves towards democracy, but those were pushed aside by the radical right wing nationalists who wanted imperial control of Asia. When that was defeated, they put together a similar system — albeit absent militarism and with democratic institutions — that continued their path to where they are now. It still was like the pre-war path in that it was an economic nationalism that still combined finance, business and government as partners to push the country forward.

Japan, Korea and Taiwan also were able to develop an export led growth by tapping in to American markets.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Billy, very few of them think they’ll rule the world or want to. Most of them have turned anti-American only in response to what they feel (rightly or wrongly) has been abuse from the West. It’s very dangerous to assume that there are a massive group of people who want to go back to the 16th century. In fact, the minority — small minority — that want that love it if we’d react to them as if the whole Arab world thought that way. That would help their cause. I read that Osama did want the US to attack Iraq — I think that propaganda move is the reason.

This is fundamental: The battle now is less Islam vs. the West, and more an internal battle within Islam about the future of the faith, and in particular the Arab Islamic world. It’s really important to us that we make it so we don’t have to fight some kind of ’long war,’ but rather than we help the non-extremists win.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Well Dr Erb, the exceptions HAD a US military presence and were a aprt of the US defense perimter...AS IS IRAQ. You keep acting like Iraq is Nigeria, and it isn’t. Nigeria didn’t have US forces and US presence and US pressure to change and to maintain a reasonably civl government and society, Iraq does-unless "Realists" such as yourself have your way.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Billy, very few of them think they’ll rule the world or want to.

It doesn’t take very many to get to the circumstances I discussed earlier.
Most of them have turned anti-American only in response to what they feel (rightly or wrongly) has been abuse from the West.
I think this is true only if you include supporting Israel as a big part of the "abuse from the West". Certainly if they do feel that way, most of that feeling has to be considered "wrongly" instead of "rightly" considering how restrained we have been in using power against them, even in the face of powerful provocations, and how often we have come to the aid of Muslims such as Bosnians and Kuwaitis.

But I think you statement is at best vastly oversimplified. They still go on about how they want Andulusia back, for goodness sake.

Scott, I really think you underestimate the power religion can hold over people. Even when they don’t feel fanatic about it, their religion can so inform their view of the world that they just take certain things for granted, even if there’s no logic or fairness to them at all. I’ve seen it among certain strains of Christians, although naturally the views imparted by that religion are vastly different. If religion tells the Muslims that they should have a chip on their shoulder towards the infidel West, then they’ll find rationalizations for that, and it’s not our fault that they do. And their pathological hatred of the Jews certainly isn’t our fault, and I don’t think we can ever to enough short of another Holocaust to please them on that issue.

When you talk about the battle inside Islam, you seem to just take it for granted that there’s a silent majority or something that is ready for their religion to be dominated by a much more moderate interpretation. But where’s your evidence for that? Sure, there are some outspoken moderates, but how many of them are on the run? How big a percentage of that silent majority would lift a finger to protect an apostate? Based on what people such as Hirsi Ali have to endure, it’s clear to me that the percentage is small indeed.

Even if they would like to moderate Islam and stand up against fundamentalists, most of them are scared spitless to do it. The only way that’s going to change is if they think the fundamentalists are weak enough to not be such a big threat. So, in your "hang back and hope for the best as they struggle through their religious conflict" strategy, can you tell me with some specificity just how that would ever happen?

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
S
cott, I really think you underestimate the power religion can hold over people. Even when they don’t feel fanatic about it, their religion can so inform their view of the world that they just take certain things for granted, even if there’s no logic or fairness to them at all. I’ve seen it among certain strains of Christians, although naturally the views imparted by that religion are vastly different. If religion tells the Muslims that they should have a chip on their shoulder towards the infidel West, then they’ll find rationalizations for that, and it’s not our fault that they do. And their pathological hatred of the Jews certainly isn’t our fault, and I don’t think we can ever to enough short of another Holocaust to please them on that issue.
In the last five years I have been doing all I can to educate myself on Islam, reading books from a variety of authors, especially Muslims of various strips. I disagree that "religion tells the Muslims that they should have a chip on their shoulder." In fact, people like Bin Laden take bizarre and historically unIslamic twists to defend terrorism.


Also, you err in saying there is a pathological hatred of the Jews. Most Arabs don’t hate Jews, most Jews don’t hate Arabs, though there is a lot of bigotry on both sides (and I’ve talked to some Jews that simply go off rabidly bigoted about Arabs). But most on each side are angry about a political issue: the Arabs believe they should have sovereignty over Palestine, that the European colonizers who bought land from the Ottoman imperialists should not get sovereignty. They wanted both populations to live in one state with one government. Religion only became a factor later.

And this is what’s so crucial: religion becomes a tool used by extremists to prey on political and economic anger and dissent. Religion only became a real force for the Palestinians with Hamas in the 1980s, and even then it was secondary until recently. And you’re right that once it comes down to religion, it’s a lot harder to get the genie back in the bottle than if the problems had been dealt with earlier.

When you talk about the battle inside Islam, you seem to just take it for granted that there’s a silent majority or something that is ready for their religion to be dominated by a much more moderate interpretation.
The majority are conservative and traditional, and could go either way in the future. They aren’t sure what to make of the current situation. They get angry at the US when they see images on their satellite TV, and that makes them susceptible to extremists. But most Muslim clerics are conservative and focused less on politics than morality and custom. The fear the West and its influence on their lives, traditions and identity. A minority respond to that fear by lashing out (the extremists). Some respond by embracing western ideas. Probably they have to modernize their own way — Bin Laden types don’t want to give them the chance; we have to help make sure the Bin Laden types fail. The question is how best to do that?

But where’s your evidence for that? Sure, there are some outspoken moderates, but how many of them are on the run? How big a percentage of that silent majority would lift a finger to protect an apostate? Based on what people such as Hirsi Ali have to endure, it’s clear to me that the percentage is small indeed.
Again, most obviously are not outspoken. The trouble makers are outspoken, and they get more attention than they should because they’re clamoring for it. Next week I’ll talk to a colleague who specializes in Islamic politics, and get some specific cites for you if you want. I also think a good book is No God but God by Reza Aslan (who is Iranian). CNN ran a good documentary on Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago interviewing average people, most of whom were focused on local things and their own uncertainties. Just as average people here aren’t into politics or think much of it, so is it there. If you focus on the political news makers, it gives a warped perspective. But average people can be turned into supporters of extremism easily, as Herman Goering noted:

"Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of
the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to
drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a
parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can
always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have
to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Even if they would like to moderate Islam and stand up against fundamentalists, most of them are scared spitless to do it. The only way that’s going to change is if they think the fundamentalists are weak enough to not be such a big threat. So, in your "hang back and hope for the best as they struggle through their religious conflict" strategy, can you tell me with some specificity just how that would ever happen?
How strong are the fundamentalists really? Are the Egyptians scared to do anything? What about the Jordanian government? Syria’s government certainly doesn’t support an Islamic fundamentalist state. In Iraq the violence is less about religion than sectarian identity. In Iran the public really doesn’t agree with the way the country is being run, and the Guardian Council knows it — the fundamentalists have power, but not as much popular support (they won elections, but that was a nationalist reaction to being called an ’axis of evil’ and having the US invade Iraq). The Saudis do have the Wahabis with a lot of power, but they’re more isolationist and rejectionist towards outside influence than desiring to fight the West. Why do you think the fundamentalists — or better, the extremists (fundamentalists can be apolitical, like Sistani) — are so strong? Might you not be overestimating their power?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott, I just think you’re off in the weeds on several items, especially when you try to answer my last question in the previous post.
Syria’s government certainly doesn’t support an Islamic fundamentalist state.
Oh, come on. Syria has supported terrorism from Beirut to Baghdad, and has an effective alliance with Iran. Assad and company might not want a fundamentalist government to replace them, but there’re certainly quite happy with a fundamentalist push elsewhere.
In Iraq the violence is less about religion than sectarian identity.
I almost laughed out loud when I saw this. Scott, where to you think the sectarian divisions come from? Religion!!!! That’s about like saying "Baseball is not abound winning games, it’s about scoring runs."
In Iran the public really doesn’t agree with the way the country is being run, and the Guardian Council knows it — the fundamentalists have power, but not as much popular support (they won elections, but that was a nationalist reaction to being called an ’axis of evil’ and having the US invade Iraq).
It doesn’t matter what the public agrees with or doesn’t agree with if they are unwilling to do anything about it. The key phrase is right there: "the fundamentalists have power". The rest of the comment is window dressing meant to minimize the key fact. If the fundamentalists have enough power to develop nuclear capability and terrorize various other parties through the threat to use it, then the rest of what you said is pretty much irrelevant.
The Saudis do have the Wahabis with a lot of power, but they’re more isolationist and rejectionist towards outside influence than desiring to fight the West.
The Saudis are the worst and smartest of the lot. No, they don’t want to fight. They want to buy a victory instead, and they spend hundreds of billions of dollars exporting their poisonous and fundamentalist ideology. In the long run, that may be worse than anything the Iranians do in the nuclear weapons space. If fundamentalist Islam becomes a cancer in a civil society, then the problem is almost intractable, as various European societies are finding out right now.
Why do you think the fundamentalists — or better, the extremists (fundamentalists can be apolitical, like Sistani) — are so strong? Might you not be overestimating their power?
Well, Scott, I’ve got the smoking hole in Manhattan on my side. And the potential much larger smoking hole that would have formerly been an American city if the Iranians are not controlled, or if the Pakistanis reverted to fundamentalist control, or some set of well-heeled extremists decided to buy a nuclear weapon from some corrupt Russians, or several other scenarios.

Plus a Muslim population in France that is effectively out of control of any government, to the point that they can torch hundreds of cars a night for weeks on end, and virtually nothing is done about it. Plus open murder and credible threats of more on the streets of Copenhagen and Amsterdam over perception of the mocking of Islam, and apparently enough strength behind those threats that the government of the Netherlands is unwilling to stand up to it and protect those threatened (you have read the case of Hirsi Ali, right?) Plus a Muslim population in Toronto that seems completely alienated from mainstream Canadian society, and prepared to provide a nice sea for terrorists to swim in.

Do I think Islam can overcome this? Yes. But only through being shown something better. That’s what we’re trying to do in Iraq. Now, it’s a fumbling attempt in many ways, but I always expected it to take a long time and for plenty of mistakes to be made as we try and figure out an approach that simultaneously paves the way for a different kind of society there and staves off the fundamentalists while they watch their influence erode. So there’s at least a strategy, even if you think it won’t work.

As opposed to that, you have no answer except get out and hope for the best. That’s not a plan. That’s not a strategy. That’s a blind refusal to look the problem in the eye and try to do something about it. Given the stakes, that looks like lunacy to me.

Because, Scott, the risk comes in many forms. There’s obviously the direct damage that fundamentalist Islam can do to us. The risk is also a larger conflict in which many more people on both sides are killed. All of those are credible and worrisome risks. However, I worry just as much about the signficicant long term risk of the erosion of western liberal society into a police state through a well-intentioned but comprehensive effort to mitigate a terrorist threat.

I’ve already seen in my lifetime just how much civil liberties have been eroded by the ludicrous drug war. That doesn’t hold a patch on the potential erosion if our population decides, after a series of attacks in various places, that a long-term clamp down with significantly more power given to the federal government is the answer. We can survive attacks on our cities. But given power, governments very rarely ever give it up short of revolution. The United States federal government already has so much power now that my great-grandparents would be aghast if they knew. How much more are we willing to risk giving it?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Billy, I’ll try to keep this short, so I’ll focus on four minor points and then the big "strategic" question.

1. The division in Iraq is based more on power and politics than religion. The Shi’ites don’t care that the Sunnis have a different belief, they are angry about power and past repression.

2. King Abdullah is trying to reform Saudi Arabia — very slowly — and it appears the Wahabis are losing societal clout. I don’t see how they could export this point of view, they probably can’t maintain it internally.

3. The riots in France were more about economics and alienation than religion, many non-Muslims participated as well. The French need to learn that ghettoization and discrimination leads to anger and has this kind of reaction. I think they are learning that, and Europe in general is recognizing that they need to integrate and assimilate their immigrants.

4. 9-11 is not an example of the strength of Muslim extremists; they didn’t need a lot of power or strength to pull it off, and the damage it did, while visually spectacular, was minimal — we do more damage with our bombing and military action, and unlike the extremists we can sustain it. So yeah, they can engage in terrorism, but don’t confuse that with real power.

The strategic issue: it’s not "do something or hope for the best." Rather, we need to recognize that military action can do more harm than good if it pushes Muslims into the camp of the extremists. They want a ’culture clash’ or a ’war of civilizations,’ and the only way to get that is to get the Muslim world to support them. If our actions cause that, we are playing into their hands. In Iraq that seems to have been the case. Most of "al qaeda in Iraq" are not people who would otherwise threaten us, but Syrians and Saudis who could be recruited to go fight the West. In Iran we helped the religious right win elections they almost certainly would otherwise have lost. Our actions seem to have lost ’hearts and minds’ as we appear an outside invader trying to impose our ideals.

The strategy has to be effective counter-terrorism alongside actions to assure Muslims and Arabs that we want to treat them with respect and not impose our will. Don’t abandon libertarian foreign policy ideals out of fear — anti-interventionism is grounded in a logic, and we see the problems of interventionism playing themselves out in the Mideast. We are at a pivotal point in history, we can either undercut the extremists and form a partnership with the rest of the Muslim world, or we could engage in the kind of demonization and fear that drives extremism and get a result that ultimately ends America’s era of dominance and surely will cause massive destruction in the Mideast. That route will have devastating consequences, we must avoid it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
...a Muslim population in France that is effectively out of control of any government, to the point that they can torch hundreds of cars a night for weeks on end... open murder and credible threats of more on the streets of Copenhagen and Amsterdam over perception of the mocking of Islam... a Muslim population in Toronto that seems completely alienated from mainstream Canadian society, and prepared to provide a nice sea for terrorists to swim in. — Billy Hollis
And then there are the nonviolent but still quite troublesome corollaries of such developments, in areas not previously regarded as Muslim: The inescapable calls to Muslim prayer reverberating through English villages... the banning of pork in the soup kitchens of French charities... the special prayer rooms set up in US and European universities and airports... the orientation of bathrooms in UK housing and prisons so as not to face Mecca... the sex-segregation of public swimming pools and pool schedules to accommodate Muslims (England again)... the ongoing push to expand the acceptance of veils and full facial covering in schools and at workplaces... the criminalization of Koran desecration... the NHS request for hospital staff in Scotland not eat lunch in view of Muslim staffers during Ramadan... etc., etc., etc.

At a dizzying rate, predominately non-Muslim societies embrace Muslim mores and the dictates of Shari’a law. This is to accommodate immigrants, of course, and to make them feel right at home. So many Westerners — like, the ones who seem everywhere to govern — have become awfully danged welcoming in their multicultural dotage, and awfully forgetful — even scornful — of the values with which these . . . colorful? . . . Muslim folkways? tend to clash.

Yes, the (often understandable) confusion among Westerners over where and how to use its superior military technology leaves open the door to continued attack from militant Islam. However, it is the willingness of Westerners not only to allow but actually to subsidize unbridled immigration of Middle Eastern Muslims — along with their unwillingness to impose the least requirement of assimilation or even respect for secular governance — that paves the way for another "triumph of the spirit" of Islam over those it would rule.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
I’m with you, Linda. Of course, as seen in the comments on this thread, there are others who think we’re seriously over-estimating the threat. Problem is, if they’re wrong, by the time we find out for sure they’re wrong, we’re in seriously deep $#!+, and our options for fixing the problem will range from horrible to unacceptable.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://qando.net
Linda, I’d propose to let the market work out the demands of Muslims. If there is a demand for housing with toilets situated to not face Mecca, some builder will decide to make houses that way out of self-interest. Prayer rooms in airports and universities seem fine (as do chapels), but sex segregation of pools should also be market determined. For a pool in a neighborhood with a lot of Muslims it might make sense. Now, if you have government running all these things, that makes it more difficult. It still might make sense to have a sex segregated pool and some public housing geared towards the needs of a minority, but when bureaucracies get involved there is a tendency to go too far, or have a one size fits all solution. It’s OK to show respect for people of another religion by doing things that do not offend. That’s not the same as embracing their mores, and it may make it easier for their children to embrace ours.

Be more confident about western culture! Yeah, minorities come and often set up their own communities. Communities change. Population shifts have caused that since the beginning of human history. But we’ll certainly change them more than they change us. This pessimism that the west is weak, is bowing to some great Muslim onslaught, etc., mystifies me. My bumper sticker says "Fearful people do stupid things." I think we risk reacting to difference out of fear rather than really thinking about the best way to deal with the reality of the situation. Muslims aren’t going to go away. Demographics aren’t going to switch back to where we were in 1970. Globalization isn’t going to shift into reverse. But let’s not underestimate the power and persuasiveness of freedom.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’m with you, Linda. Of course, as seen in the comments on this thread, there are others who think we’re seriously over-estimating the threat. Problem is, if they’re wrong, by the time we find out for sure they’re wrong, we’re in seriously deep $#!+, and our options for fixing the problem will range from horrible to unacceptable.
Conversely, if people respond out of fear of a threat that’s over-exaggerated, they may create a self-fulfilling prophecy as their acts play into the hands of the extremists. But what exactly is the scope of the threat? It’s been six years since 9-11. Once we define the scope, the question is, what do we do?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Conversely, if people respond out of fear of a threat that’s over-exaggerated, they may create a self-fulfilling prophecy as their acts play into the hands of the extremists.
Even presuming that’s a possibility, I don’t see how it’s signficantly worse than what we’ve dealt with for decades.

But this is where we really part ways. I don’t think there’s a ghost of chance that your hypothetical downside is possible. They don’t need any provocation to be extremists. That’s where, again, I think you underestimate the influence of their religion. We could be sweet as sugar, and in fact at various times and places we have been, and it doesn’t help.

I think one of the most illustrative incidents on that score was when the terrorists attacked that French destroyer. As one of them said, "We wish it were American, but they’re all infidels." The French have traditionally bent over backwards to accommodate the desires of the Islamists in the Middle East, and they’ve been targeted all the same.

Even if you’re right, I don’t see that the downside you expect from my preferred course is that bad. On the other hand, the downside from your preferred course looks potentially very bad indeed.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
But this is where we really part ways. I don’t think there’s a ghost of chance that your hypothetical downside is possible. They don’t need any provocation to be extremists. That’s where, again, I think you underestimate the influence of their religion. We could be sweet as sugar, and in fact at various times and places we have been, and it doesn’t help.
One big problem with your argument: why was this not a problem earlier? Why was religious extremism of the sort that threatens so lacking until the last generation? The reason is that it is not about the religion, it’s about politics, power and economics. Religion simply becomes a rallying point when a society or people considers themselves oppressed (whether by one of their own or outsiders) and lacking hope. Moreover, despite that most people haven’t been driven to extremes, the vast majority are not active in that way, and it’s an extremely tiny minority that gets involved in terror groups. You haven’t posted anything to show me how they have the capacity to be a serious threat other than how any terror organization can potentially launch some kind of spectacular attack. But for that you need good counter-terrorism, and almost all the counter terror experts I read say that what we’ve done has helped the extremists rather than hurt them.

And you have to recognize the error in logic in taking ONE quote and using that to generalize. You can’t generalize to the majority by citing one or even ten extremists. One quote shows one person’s opinion. No doubt he speaks for a small subsection of that population, but one can’t simply jump from there and generalize about the larger population. That’s like taking the "Jesus hates fags" group and generalizing about all Christians!

BUT perhaps I’m wrong on one key thing. Maybe I’m making unwarranted assumptions about your ’preferred course.’ What is your preferred course? I could well be thinking it something different than it is (that happens in these discussions sometimes).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What is your preferred course?
That would take a few thousand words to explain completely. But a short form would be this: To the extent that it is necessary for us to fight terrorists, I prefer us to fight them there instead of here. And that we should attempt, whenever opportunity presents, to encourage development of societies in predominantly Muslim areas that are prosperous enough and free enough that they don’t serve as havens or wellsprings of terrorism.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://

 
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