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

Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

We're all sick of the talk of it. But that changes nothing.

I've been struggling with the current truism, that the only solution to Iraq is political, not military. Even St. David Petraeus has been known to mouth that one. No justice, no peace, it's been formulated in another context.

But by "military" we really mean "security." There is no security solution, then?

Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither, said Ben Franklin. But is that really true outside the United States? (Like in the UK, where what the ACLU considers egregious abrogations of civil rights are routine, and people love them.)

Folks are fully willing to sacrifice freedom for security all over the world, and that's the fact. It's why there are so many dictators still in power, and dictators are the rule not the exception throughout the fractious Arab world.

The prophet Sting advises us that there is no political solution to our troubled evolution. I'm not a disciple, but I think he was onto something there. What I can glean from the confusing reports from over there is that Iraqi society is moving ahead of its government, as successful societies always must. (The medieval Muslim philosopher al-Farabi notes that first there is a common ground, an ethos, that defines a nation or a people. Politics simply follows.)

The Iraqis have no choice, but I dunno if the American polity will give the situation until January '08 to leave more divinable tea leaves, although our generals are already making those noises. Is the surge "working"? Even some Democrat senators think so. But what is this "surge"? What does "working" mean? Language devolves into nonsense so quickly these days.

A>B has been the conventional wisdom, that political agreement will result in stability. Or maybe it's A>B>A+, that stability will result in political progress will result in greater stability. I'm not sure the Arab world (or human society at its most naked, as Iraq's is) works that way, as previously noted. Politics, as we in the West have grown to understand it, is not what politics is when practiced at the tribal/sectarian level.

Maybe A is simply A, and B is only a corollary. If people want peace, they tend to get peace, even if you tend to have to kill most of those who don't want peace first. Politics might simply be those who are left standing writing up the details.


I ran across a contemporary Muslim philosopher who said that the West are the children of Rousseau, but the Islamic world is Hobbesian. (Life is nasty, brutish and short, and one simply does what one must do to survive.) Jihadism certainly stands in opposition to that, and indeed supplies an acceptably Islamic answer to Hobbes' insufficiency for the human spirit.

But, if the Taliban hadn't been enough proof, the barbarity and outright obscenity of bin Ladenism as exhibited in Iraq has turned all but the most self-annihilating of Muslims against this latest centennial round of Islamic eschatology.

So, what remains is Hobbes, and as bin Laden himself noted, people go with the strongest-looking horse, the likely winner.

We are continually told that we must keep our eye on the real ball, the real villain, the real threat, Osama bin Laden. I submit that his real defeat has been not in forcing him physically into a cave somewhere over the Pakistan border (or killing him), but in Iraq, where his ideology has been shown for what it is, and appears to be finding increasing rejection.

Whether that's because it offends Rousseau in aesthetics, or whether the strong horse of our military is enforcing Hobbes, I don't care. Probably a lot of both.

9-11-01 was designed as a clarion call for global jihad, the re-establishment of the caliphate, blahblahblah. In 2007, I think Europe---from within---has more to worry about from jihadism than the Muslim world itself.

Oh yeah, there's still Iran. Dang.

2 comments:

Jay D. Homnick said...

Iraq is not human society at its most naked. It is actually a fairly cultured place. And the wrangling for power there since our invasion has been relatively mild compared to, say, Rwanda.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Quite so, Jay. Iraq 2007 doesn't make the Top 10,000 in the history of human depravity.

I was thinking more of the reversion to tribalism, which is society at its basest state.