"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pique Abu

Ahem! Why is no one mentioning the elephant in the room? The elephant's name, in case you missed his flicks, Beheading I, II, III et al, is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. My new column in TAS addresses this question.

Here is an excerpt:

This perfectly limns the schism between the Republican and Democrat perspectives of the war in Iraq. If you ask Republicans why our forces are still on the ground in Iraq, they will explain: "Because of our great success in defeating Saddam, we need to midwife the emergence of a historic new democracy. Because of our great success in luring the terrorists out of their hidey-holes, we now get a chance to mow them down far from our home turf."

Ask a Democrat that question, he will aver: "Because of our great failure in mistaking a tinpot kvetch for a fearsome tyrant, we're stuck babysitting the various corrupt and violent elements of a provincial society. Because of our great failure in waking a sleeping giant, we have spawned a new generation of terrorists that would not otherwise have existed." Whether this originated in sincere ideology or partisan one-upmanship, the fact is that we are witnessing a radical divergence of worldviews; to be honest, the chasm between the two positions looks to be unbridgeable.

You might also recall that I addressed aspects of this in a previous article at JWR. But as Inspector Clouseau said: "I will not rest until this problem is sol-vedd."

15 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The reason "we" don't mention him, Jay, is that "we" can only safely confont evil if it's named Bush or Blair or Cheney, "evils" that won't hit back.

There is no courage in moral judgments unless there's some personal risk.

I wrote back privately to a correspondent of ours that Jewish thought has a less accomodating view of "evil." Among those who haven't been thrown into ovens, evil is only a question of human misunderstanding or some sort of overrreaching materialism.

The Jewish vocabulary includes ימח שמו, yimach shemo, "may his name be erased," to describe a soul that chooses its own destruction. I think of Hitler and suicide bombers.

The American war hero Rodger Young fell on a grenade to save his fellows. But for a person to annihilate himself not to save life but to kill, ימח שמו.

I'm not God, so maybe He saves even those souls that choose self-destuction. Or maybe He lets them have their wish. The latter would be just; the former would be mercy beyond human comprehension.

Tlaloc said...

"Whether this originated in sincere ideology or partisan one-upmanship, the fact is that we are witnessing a radical divergence of worldviews; to be honest, the chasm between the two positions looks to be unbridgeable."

Too true, the problem though has always been one of those who know the history of the region and the conflict and those who don't. Those who don't seem to believe everything started with 9/11, have no grasp of the historical parallels, believe that terrorists are some strange commodity that can be reduced but not increased, believe oppressing a religion doesn't make it flourish, expected a foreign policy based on Rambo movies to work, and have been shocked by our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Whereas those who had say studied the Middle East knew that Saddam was not a threat, that he was furthermore enemies with Al Qaeda, that the Iraqis would welcome us with RPGs instead of flowers, that Iran was the likely victor so long as we backed people like Chalabi, that focusing on Iraq would cause Afghanistan to backslide, that use of mercenaries would lead to rampant human rights abuses and inflame hatred of us anymore, that grotesque war profiteering would be conducted, and that we'd ultimately make the situation worse by dealing with a symptom instead of the disease.

The symptom is radical Islam. The disease is our constant meddling in the Middle East with no regard for the inhabitant's human rights for the last hundred years. Without that meddling there is nothing to drive everyday Arabs into the arms of radical Islam.

There are indeed two sides Jay and the one in charge has been rong at every single turn. Isn't it time to acknowledge they have no concept of what they are doing?

Jay D. Homnick said...

That's a cool Hebrew font.

As for the question of "Do suicide bombers get destroyed forever?", it reminds me of a Talmudic tradition.

The Talmud says that Onkelos, nephew of Titus (the Roman emperor who destroyed the Temple), was able to communicate with his uncle's spirit in a seance of some kind involving bones from a skeleton.

He asked Titus how he was being dealt with in the next world.

Titus told him that he was being given the "sentence that he had decreed upon himself".

You see, Titus had thought it would be cool to be cremated and have his ashes spread over the Seven Seas.

What he did not know was that cremation of the body is painful for the soul, especially if the ashes are scattered.

And so his punishment forever is that every day his body is reconstituted in some mystical sense, then he experiences the agony of cremation and scattering all over again.

Whether this story is intended literally or allegorically I don't know. But it does employ that same sort of thinking: they wanted to blow themselves up, then fine, we'll blow 'em up over and over again.

connie deady said...

The reason "we" don't mention him, Jay, is that "we" can only safely confont evil if it's named Bush or Blair or Cheney, "evils" that won't hit back.

I find that comment offensive.

Matt Huisman said...

I find these comments offensive...

We are in the process of a historical war between the World of Arrogance [the west] and the Islamic world... Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? You had best know that this slogan and this goal is attainable, and surely can be achieved.

-Iranian President Ahmadinejad


...does anyone on the left?

Tlaloc said...

"...does anyone on the left?"

No more so than Reagan's posturing about the Evil Empire or Bush's posturing about the Axis of Evil.

Leaders posture all the time. Us no less than Iran. So what exactly is there to get offended about?

Matt Huisman said...

I think the part where he states that once available, he intends to use the bomb to wipe Israel off the map is a start.

Tlaloc said...

"I think the part where he states that once available, he intends to use the bomb to wipe Israel off the map is a start."

Again no different than a lot of rhetoric from our country and every country. In fact not much different from our rhetoric regarding Iran itself.

connie deady said...

Matt, I find Ahmandinejad's comments very offensive also. But that begs the question.

I found Tom's comment offensive because he created a false dichotomy of either finding Bush evil or finding Al-Zarqawi evil.

I get tired of the suggestion that because I find Iraq to be an insane war, that it somehow means I am opposed to fighting terrorism or radical fundamental Islam, or other crazies of the world.

Matt Huisman said...

Again no different than a lot of rhetoric from our country and every country.

Just because it might be rhetoric (and everybody's doing it) doesn't mean it's not reasonable for me to take offense to it.

But let's try to imagine for one second what the world reaction would be if Israel said that once they completed a 2yr fence project around the country they intended to launch a nuclear attack on Iran as part of their plan to eradicate Shia from the earth. I'm sure no one would say anything, I mean, it's only rhetoric.

Tlaloc said...

"Just because it might be rhetoric (and everybody's doing it) doesn't mean it's not reasonable for me to take offense to it."

By all means, I just point out that you may be approaching identical situations differently. I like consistency.


"But let's try to imagine for one second what the world reaction would be if Israel said that once they completed a 2yr fence project around the country they intended to launch a nuclear attack on Iran as part of their plan to eradicate Shia from the earth. I'm sure no one would say anything, I mean, it's only rhetoric"

Personally I'd assume it was rhetoric because Israel generally doesn't telegraph their atrocities ahead of time. Now if either Iran or Israel actually nuked the other then that is certainly objectionable. But the chest thumping simian routine just doesn't men much in my opinion. YMMV.

Matt Huisman said...

By all means, I just point out that you may be approaching identical situations differently. I like consistency.

And I like consistency and clarity too. Especially clarity. What is the point of saying anything if we don't want anyone to actually believe anything we say? Maybe the whole Jesse Ventura thing wasn't such a bad idea - we could just have professional diplomat-wrestlers talking smack to each other all day long, and we could all sit back and have a laugh.

Personally I'd assume it was rhetoric because Israel generally doesn't telegraph their atrocities ahead of time.

I don't really think that's true. For the most part, Israel has been pretty clear that they are going to take action in response to those that threaten their country. Sounds pretty straight-forward to me.

Tlaloc said...

"And I like consistency and clarity too. Especially clarity. What is the point of saying anything if we don't want anyone to actually believe anything we say?"

Hey no argument that clarity would be great but you have to admit it isn't exactly the corner stone of politics.


"Maybe the whole Jesse Ventura thing wasn't such a bad idea - we could just have professional diplomat-wrestlers talking smack to each other all day long, and we could all sit back and have a laugh."

We don't have that? Are you sure? When was the last time you took a look at FOX and MSNBC and CNN?



"I don't really think that's true. For the most part, Israel has been pretty clear that they are going to take action in response to those that threaten their country. Sounds pretty straight-forward to me."

Their idea of what threatens them seem a tad... inclusive. But more to the point as I recall in the major wars that Israel initiated (Suez, six day war, the 82 invasion of lebanon) Isreal simply attacked with no decleration of war.

Matt Huisman said...

Hey no argument that clarity would be great but you have to admit it isn't exactly the corner stone of politics.

Why do you think that is? I don't want to outlaw partisan comments, but there has to be a way to have some level of seriousness in our discussion. For goodness sake, Rep. Murtha made a proposal the other day for troop withdrawal from Iraq that even he voted against!

We don't have that? Are you sure? When was the last time you took a look at FOX and MSNBC and CNN?

Thankfully, it's been a while.

Their idea of what threatens them seem a tad... inclusive.

But that's not what we're arguing. Maybe they're a little jumpy over there...but their actions haven't really varied from their rhetoric. If you try to cut off their water supply or ask the peace-keepers to get out of the way in order to 'protect' yourself from a potential Israeli attack, they're probably going to do something.

Tlaloc said...

"Why do you think that is? I don't want to outlaw partisan comments, but there has to be a way to have some level of seriousness in our discussion."

Well I think there's a difference between statements of principle (or lack thereof) from government leaders and actual policy discussions. Presidents are essentially figure heads and are expected to behave as, well, drama queens.



"For goodness sake, Rep. Murtha made a proposal the other day for troop withdrawal from Iraq that even he voted against!"

That's not entirely true. Murtha's bill never came up for a vote. Instead the house republicans created a bill that they claim was essentially identicay that Murtha voted against. Naturally Murtha and the house Dems in general say the bills are substantially different. As I read them Murtha's bill called for us to start moving toward withdrawl whereas the republican bill would have withdrawn the troops overnight.



"But that's not what we're arguing. Maybe they're a little jumpy over there...but their actions haven't really varied from their rhetoric."

True although as I pointed out in the cases where they were genuinelygoing to attack they didn't really say anything official before doing it. And of course they never made any official declarations to engage in the massacre of palestinian villages before they did that either. That's what i mean about them not telegraphing their atrocities.