Over at RedState, Erick Erickson promoted a post in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage by “mjdaniels,” a Christian conservative and long-time lurker there. It’s a long post that makes a number of good points, but he ultimately makes a number of rhetorical errors that give his fellow Christian conservatives an easy way out, and they did fix on those errors. So it is that the people I see praising his argumentation with the fewest reservations are mostly not currently practicing Christians or self-identified conservatives.
Among those errors, the biggest was probably when he said, “Is Homosexuality a Sin? I. Do. Not. Care.” Christians are supposed to care whether others sin. The proper question is the duty others have to sinners. And behold all the RedState regular commenters saying that they’re called to rebuke sin and lead sinners away from sin, out of love. Many deny that enshrining these rebukes in legal exclusivity is tantamount to “hunting down sinful people,” and they claim that it isn’t them but same-sex marriage activists who are trying to “wield the power of the government to enforce my convictions on others.”
I’d sorely like to see how his fellow Christian conservatives would respond if they couldn’t focus on those errors. In particular, I wished “mjdaniels” had better focused on something he only said in passing at the end of his post: that opponents of same-sex marriage were essentially calling for “casting the first stone at” this set of sinners.
It seems to me that when persuading Christian conservatives, one should be absolutely clear that the status quo is coercion – discriminatory taxes and inheritance rules, and denying the right to contract, all of which conservatives agree is state coercion when it’s applied to them – and that when Jesus was challenged to support such coercion (stoning a woman caught in the act of adultery, according to Mosaic Law), he in turn challenged the teachers of law and Pharisees that the first stone should be cast by one who is without sin. When no one would stone her, he said he would not condemn her that way either, and he simply told her to leave her life of sin.
If even Jesus doesn’t think it’s humans’ place to punish violations of one of the Ten Commandments dealing with marriage, then it’s an uphill climb for a Christian conservative to argue that it’s their duty to uphold the use of such force based on moral strictures that are much less clear.
I find it baffling that conservatives think the government is capable of making a compact sacred by calling it a marriage, but there I see it in the RedState comments. Do they teach their children that the state’s refraining from coercion is an indication of societal approval of a behavior? No; what is not prohibited is merely left to be governed by the other aspects of civil society (the family, the market, churches, social pressure, etc.) and, if Christians are correct, God’s ultimate judgment.
No, really, you read it right. The Chinese government has banned reincarnation without government permission.
In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."
Actually, despite the article’s claim (and as the article eventually points out), it really isn’t as an absurd of an act as it may seem, even though it is certainly representative of totalitarianism.
In fact, it is all about China’s war with the Dalai Lama.
At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it’s under Chinese control. Assuming he’s able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks.
We can all figure out how that will work.
The Chinese communists surface very visibly every now and then as if to remind everyone that China is far from a free country. And, in such a totalitarian country, no detail is too small for the government to ignore … even something in which it likely doesn’t even believe.
Actually, there’s a lot Ron Paul says I agree with, but there’s about 5 to 10% of what he says that makes him, at least to me, unsupportable.
But he and I see eye to eye on this thought (from an article about an interview he did with Candy Crowley):
Paul seemed almost baffled that everyone has been talking about social issues at a time when he and others are more concerned with preserving basic civil liberties and the economy.
Folks, for this election social issues is a loser. Sorry to be so blunt, and burst the social issue’s activists bubble, but this is the distraction the Obama administration badly needs and it is playing out pretty much as they hoped, with the candidates concentrating in an area that is so removed from the real problems of the day (and the real problems of the Obama record) that it gives relief.
Additionally, it gives visibility to the one area that usually scares the stuffing out of the big middle – the independents who are necessary to win any election (and, until this nonsense started, pretty much owned).
What is going on now is a self-destruction derby. And the tune is being called by the left (if you think the George Stephanopoulos question on contraception that started all this nonsense during one of the debates was delivered by an objective and unbiased journalist, I have some beachfront land in Arizona for you) and kept alive by the media.
How I see it is Americans, in general, don’t give much of a rat’s patootie about all this nonsense at this moment in history. They’ve watched their economic world collapse, they’re upside down in their houses (or have lost them), they’re seeing their children, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren enslaved to government debt, they’re out of work and they’re suffering – economically.
And the GOP goes off on the usual nonsensical social issue tangent when there is a table laden with a feast of issues that are relevant to the problems with which the majority of Americans are concerned.
Really? Could we maybe see attacks on Obama for adding 4 trillion to the debt, or the highest unemployment rate in decades, or the failed stimulus, or his persistent attacks on fossil fuel even while we sit on more of it than most of the world combined but are getting much less benefit from that because of him? How about Keystone? Gulf permatorium? Solyndra? ObamaCare?
Instead what sort of attacks are made against Obama? Senior Obama Advisor: Rick Santorum’s ‘Phony Theology’ Comment ‘Well Over the Line’, which spawned, Santorum explains ‘phony theology’ comment, says Obama is ‘a Christian’ which results in, Santorum denies questioning Obama’s faith.
I cannot imagine a stupider subject being the focus of headlines at this time in our history nor a worse place for a GOP candidate than talking about other people’s faith or lack thereof. There is no upside to that. This is the sort of nonsense and ill discipline that has cost the GOP elections in the past, and is well on its way to doing it again.
The middle is watching and my guess is it is not happy with what it sees. If ever the GOP wanted to lay out a strategy to drive independents back to the Democrats, they’re well on their way. They are playing to every stereotype the left puts out about them.
Take a hint from the Clinton campaign GOP (as loath as they are to do so, I’m sure): “It’s the economy, stupid!”
If your hope for the latest version of “Arab Spring” to be found in Libya was a secular democratic state, you can quickly forget the secular part of the dream.
The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.
Indeed, what has immediately happened is the roll back of many of Gadhafi’s decrees that those who’ve now taken over contend violate Sharia law and Islam’s tenets:
Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.
In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.
I’d love to tell you this comes as a complete surprise, but then I’d be acting like some politicians I know.
I’m certainly not going to contend that keeping Gadhafi was the best thing we could do, but let’s be clear, what has happened darn sure doesn’t seem to be an outcome that we’d have hoped to see either. At least as it now seems to be shaking out.
In that area of the world, secular dreams seem to me to be the most foolish. How that particular dream manages to stay alive among the elite of the West is beyond me. It isn’t now nor has it ever been a probable outcome of any of these so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. The revolutions are steeped in Islam because the governments being replaced were relatively secular for the area and the Islamic groups now rising were the ones being repressed.
How someone could believe that out of that situation, secular democracy would emerge still remains beyond me. No democratic history, no real established democratic institutions and no real democratic experience by the people there. Yet somehow we’ve determined that this bunch is superior to the last bunch.
Based on what I’ve always wondered?
Yet, we continue to hear the hope proclaimed in each upheaval even as reality seems to dismiss the hope at every turn.
And we still try to deny the source of the terror. What am I talking about, you ask?
A Massachusetts man who was plotting to use explosives and radio controlled aircraft was arrested yesterday by the FBI for plotting to blow up the Capital and Pentagon.
It was a rather imaginative and fantastic plot by Rezwan Ferdaus who believed himself to be working with members of al Qaeda. Of course that’s key to the point in the first sentence as you’ll see. Anyway, the plot:
Ferdaus allegedly gave the undercover FBI agents a detailed set of attack plans “with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the Department of Justice.
The plans focused on the use of three small remote-controlled drone-like aircraft loaded with C-4 plastic explosives, which he planned to fly into the Capitol and the Pentagon using GPS equipment, according to the DOJ.
Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.
For the past five months, Ferdaus has allegedly been stockpiling the equipment he needed for his proposed attack, including a remote-controlled aircraft, 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives, six automatic AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades, according to the DOJ. He allegedly kept all of it in a storage facility in Massachusetts, where he was arrested.
Ferdaus allegedly modified eight cellphones to act as detonation devices for improvised explosive devices, and gave them to the FBI agents to be used against American soldiers in Iraq.
“During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq,” according to the DOJ. “Ferdaus responded, ‘That was exactly what I wanted.’”
According to the DOJ, a focal point of Ferdaus’s plots revolved around “jihad” and his desire to carry out the will of Allah.
The U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, stressed that any underlying religious motives to Ferdaus’s actions should not reflect on the Muslim culture at-large.
“I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community or religion,” Ortiz said.
Really? So none of this was “reflective of a particular culture, community or religion?
Poppycock. It is indeed reflective of a particular culture, community and religion no matter how perverted other adherents of that religion claim otherwise. It certainly doesn’t mean that that all Muslims agree or that the community at large would act this way, but we need to quit pretending actions like this just magically happen without any influence from those three areas.
How else, then, do you get the “culture, community and religion” to face up to the fact that it has some responsibility in what is happening in this ongoing “jihad” (yeah, there’s a religion and culture free word)?
Why is it that schools, the supposed bastions of education and purported citadels of tolerance and intelligence are so blasted uneducated, stupid and intolerant?
Latest example? A teenager in Seattle, doing community service work, does a project to hand out to younger children in class. The results? Just fascinating in a bizarre and idiotic sort of way:
"At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.
She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."
"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs."
Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas.
"When I took them out of the bag, the teacher said, ‘Oh look, spring spheres’ and all the kids were like ‘Wow, Easter eggs.’ So they knew," Jessica said.
Never mind that a “sphere” is perfectly round, not an ovoid shape. It has to do with the unbelievable nonsense that allowing something that has been a traditional American practice and celebration since the founding of the country has to be made secular because A) it will somehow be construed as the school establishing religion or B) it will offend someone or C) all of the above.
It doesn’t establish anything in terms of religion and if it offends someone, tough. The argument could be made that celebrations of Spring favor Wiccans or Druids or something. And how about those who are offended when teachers make up stupid and obviously incorrect descriptions for Easter eggs like “spring spheres”?
The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
Notice the only group listed who can possibly be racist according to their definition.
And it gets even better.
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.
Got that? “Future time orientation”, i.e. planning ahead, is racist. Apparently only whites do it. And individualism? Racist. And the school district also made it clear they had no desire "to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality."
Calling MLK Jr., because as I remember him, a colorblind society was his fondest hope.
The Supreme Court of the United States literally mocked the district’s racial nonsense in a ruling it issued.
Interestingly, the justices highlighted the bizarre claims about race made by the Seattle schools, which cast doubt on whether allowing schools to use race will promote racial harmony rather than racial balkanization.
For example, the Chief Justice’s opinion points out that “Seattle’s web site formerly described ‘emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology’ as a form of ‘cultural racism,’ and currently states that the district has no intention ‘to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality.”
Justice Thomas pointed to those claims, and other bizarre claims on Seattle’s web site, in rejecting the dissent’s argument that “local school boards should be entrusted to make decisions on the basis of race.”
Now they’re into “Spring Spheres”.
Wouldn’t you just love for your child to have to grow up attending school in a district that makes race (and now religion) as toxic as that?
So enlightened. /sarc
I don’t know what to say about this goof except in this country, he has every right to do what he’s doing.
I may not like it (I don’t like the “piss Christ” or Westboro Baptist Church either), I may not support it, I may see it as unnecessary and inflammatory to some, but then the same can be said of my other two examples as well. His activities provide no more of a provocation than do the examples.
One of the tough things about rights and freedoms is they also apply to actions we don’t like (as long as they don’t violate any caveats to those rights).
Many here would like to liken this yahoo’s conduct to shouting fire in a crowded theater. I don’t buy it. Shouting fire in a crowded theater can cause panic and irrational behavior by people in the theater because of lack of information and fear for one’s life. It is an immediate response to an immediate action. Panic ensues, people rush to limited exits all at one time and some get crushed or trampled. It can cause immediate death and injury.
There’s no such parallel in this this story as far as I can see. Trust me, I’m not at all pleased by the deaths of UN workers in Afghanistan, but it was at the hands of a mob that was whipped up there (not by the act in FL at the time it occurred) and chose – important word – to react murderously. That’s right, they chose to attack people who had absolutely nothing to do with the event in Florida well after the deed was done.
Others want to invoke “fighting words” as a reason to shut Terry Jones down. Uh, no. The only “fighting words” I can imagine came from whomever it was in Afghanistan that whipped that crowd into its murderous frenzy. My guess is most in the crowd had never before heard of Terry Jones or his deed until that day. And my guess is the incitement took place in a mosque.
Don’t mistake this for a defense of Terry Jones. I think he’s a waste of protoplasm. And I think what he is doing adds nothing positive to the world around us. But –and again, this is the hard part – he has every right to do it.
I’ll continue to denounce him and would be glad to tell him to his face that his actions are harmful to both people and the cause he supposedly represents – Christianity.
I doubt he’d listen. Zealots never do. But as long as he confines himself to the activities he has so far, it’s his right as an American to continue to do them despite how others in the world choose to react to them.
UPDATE: Figures (debt, deficit, out of control spending, over regulation, ObamaCare – all taken care of I suppose):
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem.
"Ten to 20 people have been killed," Reid said on "Face the Nation," but refused to say flat-out that the Senate would pass a resolution condemning pastor Terry Jones.
"We’ll take a look at this of course…as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know," he added.
Here, Harry, let me help you out:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first five words (the fourth one in particular) are all Congress needs to know about this.
I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction. That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power. The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:
In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.
Emphasis mine. As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country. And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?” That means:
It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.
Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good. Why? Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge. So:
As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.
“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”
And there you have it. Result?
“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”
So much for the “Twitter” revolution.
A week or so ago I wrote a post about ruthlessness and how that usually wins in contests like we see in Libya. Of course, the fact that the opposition is amateurish in the field and remains unorganized hasn’t exactly helped their situation. But Gadhafi has been and continues to be ruthless in his pursuit of maintaining his power.
Meanwhile, given the deteriorating situation for the opposition, the time for a “no-fly zone” appears to have passed. When it might have had some effect was early on in this battle. As the battle has matured, the advantage seems to be going to the Gadhafi forces. Not only are they more brutal, they’re better organized (relatively speaking) and performing better in the fight (again, relatively speaking). At some point, one has to expect Gadhafi’s forces to take control of key areas that will signal, for all intents and purposes, that the revolution has pretty much failed (that’s not to say the civil war won’t go on for some time, but at a much lower key than now).
But back to the opposition and an article in the NYT today. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a discussion of why the opposition formed and what is happening to it according to the NYT.
Nearly 70 percent of Libya’s population is under the age of 34, virtually identical to Egypt’s, and a refrain at the front or faraway in the mountain town of Bayda is that a country blessed with the largest oil reserves in Africa should have better schools, hospitals, roads and housing across a land dominated by Soviet-era monotony.
“People here didn’t revolt because they were hungry, because they wanted power or for religious reasons or something,” said Abdel-Rahman al-Dihami, a young man from Benghazi who had spent days at the front. “They revolted because they deserve better.”
So the argument can be made it was started by the youth and the aim is secular – they have the luxury of oil but they’ve not enjoyed the benefits of that vital commodity within their country as they think they should. Got it.
But, do you remember this quote from the older post? It’s a quote from David Warren:
As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."
Religion, speaking here of Islam, is ubiquitous in the Middle East. It just is. And those who live there, whatever their other desires, sift everything almost unconsciously through the filter of Islam. That’s why it isn’t difficult for religious leaders or radical religious leaders to quickly gain a foothold they ruthlessly expand in any situation like this. And that’s precisely what the NYT discovers:
The revolt remains amorphous, but already, religion has emerged as an axis around which to focus opposition to Colonel Qaddafi’s government, especially across a terrain where little unites it otherwise. The sermon at the front on Friday framed the revolt as a crusade against an infidel leader. “This guy is not a Muslim,” said Jawdeh al-Fakri, the prayer leader. “He has no faith.” [emphasis mine]
Other’s continue to fight against that trying to keep it (or change it into) a secular fight:
Dr. Langhi, the surgeon, said he scolded rebels who called themselves mujahedeen — a religious term for pious fighters. “This isn’t our situation,” he pleaded. “This is a revolution.”
But, it seems it is turning into their situation. Again back to the Warren quote – what is ingrained in the opposition fighters no matter what their ostensible reason for fighting may be? Their religion. And what has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision.”?” Their religion. When viewed against the complicated process of democratic governance, religion as a one stop shop for both their spiritual needs and their political needs makes the former much more difficult to sell than the latter. Religion, whether it is a fundamentalist brand, or a more moderate strain, is going to emerge as a huge force in all of the struggles in that part of the world.
Something else to note from the NYT article that is interesting:
Sitting on ammunition boxes, four young men from Benghazi debated the war, as they watched occasional volleys of antiaircraft guns fired at nothing. They promised victory but echoed the anger heard often these days at the United States and the West for failing to impose a no-flight zone, swelling a sense of abandonment.
Obviously their feelings for the US and the West aren’t particularly good these days. One has to wonder if they ever were, but clearly, now that they’re starting to get rolled back they are complaining about the West’s dithering and lack of response.
I’ve said it before, I don’t support the US imposing a no-fly zone. That’s not to say I’m necessarily averse to a NFZ if Europe wants to take that bull by the horns. But I see this as Europe’s fight, not ours.
That said, any good will we in the West had prior to today with the Libyan rebels seems to have dissipated and may, in fact, be in the negative column now. The outcome could be the beginning of an even bigger problem for the West:
None of the four men here wanted to stay in Libya. Mr. Mughrabi and a friend planned to go to America, another to Italy. The last said Afghanistan. Each described the litany of woes of their parents — 40 years of work and they were consigned to hovels.
Why Afghanistan? Well not to fight on the side of the US, you can be sure. As for the other two, disaffected and disenchanted immigrants provide a fertile hunting ground for Islamists. Should the two get to where they want to go is there a possibility that they, at some future date, become radicalized? Of course there is.
Again, who has the “simplest, most plausible and easily communicated “vision”?”
Reading through Martin Walker’s Feb. 28th piece for UPI about the unrest in the Middle East and N. Africa, I found this interesting:
That heady early talk of an Arab spring and a democratic flowering across the Arab world now seems distinctly premature. It is going to be much more difficult, and much more complicated, as the Europeans found when they started turning back thousands of Tunisians looking for jobs and opportunities in Europe rather than staying home to enjoy the new freedoms.
Beyond the unpleasant endgame of the Gadhafi regime, there are three predictable crises yet to come in North Africa. The first will be the question of food shortages and subsidies in Egypt, where the price of bread has been kept artificially low for decades at a cost of more than $3 billion a year. (The Mubarak government spent more on its various subsidies than it did on health and education.)
Egypt’s new government faces a tough dilemma. It cannot afford the subsidies but nor can it afford the popular outrage among the poor if it tried to end them.
The second crisis will come when business returns to normal and 30 percent of Egyptians and Tunisians in their 20s remain unemployed and a new class of graduates emerges to join them. They will demand government jobs. The government will try to comply but the government has no money. Money will be borrowed and printed. Inflation will result.
The third crisis will be more a problem of U.S. domestic politics but it will have grave implications for Egypt. It concerns Israel. The new Egyptian government, whatever its politics, will find it difficult to be quite as accommodating to Israel as Mubarak used to be. In particular, it will find it politically very unpopular to maintain the siege of Gaza.
His point, of course, is while there are many other problems attendant to any forced overthrow of a government, there are some others that will likely manifest themselves that will put even more stress and pressure on compromise governments (by the way, whatever happened to ElBaradei in Egypt?).
In fact, the new Prime Minister of Tunisia’s latest government just stepped down over dissatisfaction that change wasn’t coming fast enough. So as hard as putting some form of government together that can quickly take the reins and effect the changes that the protesters have said they want, there are other externalities, beside a lack of history or tradition with a free form of government, that may sabotage their efforts.
As most pundits are now saying – after the initial orgy of opinions claiming this was nothing short of the flowering of democracy in some very arid land – we’re “early” into all of this. That’s called “walking it back”. Now that the heady days of nonsensical optimism have passed, more sober analysis is becoming prevalent. And, as one might expect, many are looking back into history to find a clue to what may happen in these countries.
Lo and behold, some are finding some fairly disturbing examples and principles that seem they may apply themselves to these particular situations. For instance, as David Warren reminds us, the “most ruthless usually triumph”. And our history is rife with examples.
A couple of points from Warren’s piece. First ruthless doesn’t just apply to those who rise in opposition to the current government. A recent example:
It does not follow, from the fact everyone is hooting, that Moammar Gadhafi will fall. He might, tomorrow, for all I know, or all anyone knows who is not clairvoyant. But as I recall, Saddam Hussein did not fall after the Gulf War of 1991. And the comparison is instructive. Every part of Iraq not directly attached to him through extended family and tribal networks (so tightly that they would share his fate) rose against him. And the world, beginning with the United States, was then as now urging his opponents on.
Saddam endured plenty of defections. Eventually, even "no fly zones" were established, to stop him from using airplanes and helicopters against the general population. But by the time these could be declared, and enforced, he had broken the back of the insurrection, and needed ground force only.
Saddam’s consistent policy was to be more ruthless than any potential rival. He slaughtered people by the tens of thousands to retain power, on that occasion alone. And that was not the only occasion on which his power was challenged. The casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, that continued eight years from September 1980, may never be adequately counted. Mixed in with them were huge numbers from his own side that Saddam massacred "pour encourager les autres." Millions of Iraqis found themselves being minced between two satanic giants: the other, of course, being Ayatollah Khomeini.
Gadhafi is also ruthless.
Loony as a cartoon character, but certainly ruthless. That sort of ruthlessness obviously has a value to the person or organization that uses it – it provides a means to keep or take power.
Ruthlessness can come in many guises, but it essentially means letting nothing stand in the way of attaining an ultimate goal. Whether it is in politics, sports or revolution, the most ruthless in the pursuit of their goal usually triumphs. And that’s regardless of whether or not you agree with their methods.
So Libya has descended into unspeakable violence. But I’d guess few would believe anyone more ruthless than Gadhafi (and his family) exits there – but there may very well be.
Which takes us to part II of this. Why do some nations who go through the throes of this sort of revolutionary change find it within themselves to create a more free and democratic society while others fall into even more and greater tyranny than before? Warren’s theory:
We should grasp, for instance, that the American Revolution was almost unique in history, for ending so well. We should also grasp why. It was, from beginning to end, under the leadership of highly civilized men, governed by a conception of liberty that was restrained and mature. George Washington commanded, in his monarchical person, the moral authority to stop the cycle of reprisals by which revolutions descend into "eating their own." Nelson Mandela achieved something similar in South Africa.
Alternatively, a whole society -I am thinking here of the nations of Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall -may be so exhausted by revolutionary squalor that they long for return to "normal" life and have constitutional orders in their own, historically recent past, available as models. But even they needed Walesas and Havels.
Where such men exist, they are visible at any distance, from the start. Nowhere in the Arab world -and particularly not in Egypt, its centre of gravity -can such leaders be detected; only ridiculous pretenders. Nor do the conditions exist for wise statesmen to emerge. Nor have any of the Arab states a stable constitutional order to look back upon. Tyranny begets tyranny.
Certainly there are many shades and flavors of tyranny, and a nation may even lessen the hold its tyranny without actually ending it. But as Warren observes, there are no real leaders emerging (at least not yet) that one could label, at least in the way Westerners would, that could be considered “highly civilized men” imbued with a sense of liberty that is “restrained and mature”.
Instead, given the area, the culture, the history, we see this as what will likely emerge:
As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."
Islam, in whatever form, shape or flavor is the common thread of these revolutions. As I’ve mentioned before, what is considered a “moderate” in most of these countries would be viewed, were he a Christian, as a fundamentalist in most other places. The inclusion of Islam into the everyday lives of the people is as natural as breathing. They take for granted it will be an essential part of any government they form.
There are no Walesas and Havels in those countries. There are Imams and Ayatollahs who fill that function. And, as Warren points out, the vision they present is indeed the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated vision” of all of them, to include secular representative democracy.
They also fulfill the other two historical requirements to take power – they’re the best organized and, as we’ve seen in many other places, the most ruthless.