Articles

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Donkey is Dead

Once upon a time a mad Caliph demanded of an old servant of his that he teach a donkey to talk for his amusement. If he refused, he would be put to death. If he failed he would be put to death as well. The old servant shrugged and asked for a year's time in which to complete the task. When other servants asked him why he had accepted, he answered. "A year is a long time. Either the Caliph will die, the donkey will die, or the donkey will learn to speak."

It's been quite a few years and the donkey is on its last legs. Obama has done to half a dozen countries what Carter did to Iran. The Islamists are in ascendance and the Caliphate genie has been let out of the bottle. Down the road they may well implode, but for the moment they are a rising political force in the region. The handful of Muslim countries that could have been accused of having moderate governments are gone now.

The posse of "Islamist Whisperers" in the press, lead among them Thomas Friedman, are busy looking for fallback positions. In his latest column he explains that the Islamist victories only came about because the dictators prevented "independent, secular, democratic parties" from developing. What he fails to understand is that the dictators were the only force maintaining a modicum of secularism, not because they were freethinking atheists, but because many of them had come out of the military and wanted a functioning state, instead of a theocracy.

In Turkey the military was the guarantor of secularism until the European Friedmans decided that it was much better to back the Islamist AKP and its democratic commitment to turning Turkey into an Islamist state. Now the generals are locked up and a sneering imbecile who bankrupted his country to funnel money to his associates and create a temporary economic boom is threatening Europe.

The Shah of Iran, Ben Ali and Mubarak are just a few of the badly flawed rulers who nevertheless maintained some measure of social freedom, rather than democracy, and paid the price when the idiots that we elected decided that the region would be better off if it were in the hands of the Islamists.

Secular and democratic are a contradiction in terms where the majority of the population supports the Islamists. The secular activists that Friedman and the Western media embraced are an out of touch elite that is more familiar with Twitter than with the ordinary Egyptian. They have more in common with the dictators they are campaigning to overthrow, and in many cases have familial connections to the ruling class. Had the West succeeded in shoving El-Baradei into the top spot sans election, then they might have taken power, otherwise they are going to remain in the Islamist shadow.

But never fear, Friedman promises that once the liberal independent secularists get some time to learn how the whole elections thing works, then the Islamists will have to "compete with legitimate secular parties".

Reading Friedman is like arguing with the proponent of a completely discredited theory who keeps asserting that given time it will finally stand up to the test. But does the mustached wonder of the Times really believe that the Islamists will wait around for the secularists to compete with them? Friedman and the rest of the gang dismissed the idea that Egypt would follow Iran, but now he might want to take a second look at the history of Iran. Islamist democracy begins when the old regime falls and ends when they take power.

In FriedmanLand (TM) if the Islamists rig elections then the people will rise up and overthrow them. But how well did that work out in Iran? The difference between the Islamists and Mubarak is that the jolly bearded boys don't care how many bodies they stack up and the only people they answer to are even more extreme than they are.

The media is still operating under the delusion that the Islamists will maintain democracy once they have profited from it, and that only shows their basic ignorance. The essence of the Islamist agenda is to deny people the freedom to live the way they want to. And that being so why would they allow  any parties that don't toe the Koranic line to play in their new sandbox when that would be in violation of their principles?

Financial analysts have popped up to inform us that the Muslim Brotherhood is pro-business, which it true is in the same way that Iran's leaders are pro-business, and Mubarak was pro-business and Vladimir Putin and the rulers of the People's Republic of China are pro-business. Meaning that they like money and running an oligarchy which will control much of the country's industry or solicit bribes from those businesses it doesn't control. To a financial analyst this is good news, but he might want to take a closer look at what the GDP of Persian might have been today if it wasn't overrun by black robed parasites and their pet thugs.

Saudi Arabia and the rest of the tribal oil states are good examples of pro-business Islamists, but the profits that don't get funneled into palaces, prostitutes and bread and circuses for their people, are invested into terrorism and buying up Western useful idiots to do their bidding. A financial analysis might begin by taking a look at the economic cost of their terrorist investments to the free world, not to mention the demographic Jihad with its attendant rapes, murders and social services costs.

Most of the new acquisitions for the Caliphate are not in the same financial position as Saudi Arabia. Turkey at least had its proximity to Europe, Egypt doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Some of its most lucrative financial interactions were with Israel and the country benefited from American aid. No matter how softly the Brotherhood starts out and even if we're saddled with Obama for another four years, that money is going to stop coming. 

For Israel the death of the donkey is a mixture of good and bad news. Bad news because it's likely to have a war on its hands, but good news because there's going to be a drop in interest in trying to force the Jewish state to make the donkey talk. Ever since Oslo, Israel has been expected to soothe the savage beast with the music of appeasement and if the donkey kept refusing to speak, that was still Israel's fault. But it's hard to expect anyone to make a dead donkey talk and the Brotherhood, which doesn't recognize Israel, is not going to be willing to talk anything but temporary truce.

A sign of the times is that even Friedman is forced to concede that he understands "Israel not ceding territory in this uncertain period to a divided Palestinian movement". This is one of the rare occasions where anyone in the New York Times has acknowledged that negotiating with half a wannabe state makes absolutely no sense. But Friedman being himself quickly spoils it by holding up PA PM Salam Fayyad as a pinata full of wonderful possibilities like peace, joy and sunshine.

"Israel has an Arab awakening in its own backyard in the person of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad," Friedman insists. "He’s been the most radical Arab leader of all." If being an appointed leader who has never run for office or done much of anything besides reorganize the Authority under the supervision of Western governments makes you a one man awakening then Tom is setting the barrier rather low.

Fayyad didn't rise to power through popular acclaim and he hasn't won an election. The PA isn't holding any elections at all, which is the kind of behavior that Friedman denounces from some Arab rulers, but praises in others. Fayyadism isn't some national movement as the Times would like you to believe, it's the foolish fetishism of a few columnists desperate to pretend that the same broken PA is about to cast off its cocoon and fly away as a beautiful Brussels Blue butterfly.

Friedman whines that Netanyahu isn't empowering Fayyad to do his magical best and that the lovely security services who murder Israelis on their break aren't being given enough responsibility. But Tom is right to worry. Hamas will take Ramallah when it decides to and if the Brotherhood takes Cairo then the PA will lose any friends it had over there. And once Hamas controls all of it, then the donkey will be well and truly dead. There will be no peace process to bemoan or try to resurrect. Like the Norwegian Blue parrot it is pining for fjords of the Palestine that might have been in the minds of all the Friedmans. That wonderful democratic secular independent state that would have Oslo in the Gaza strip.

Two years ago I wrote an article suggesting that Netanyahu was playing the Caliph's game, waiting out the demands of the Obama Administration and hoping that the clock would run out on its plans for peace. While the Friedmans hoped that the donkey would learn to speak, and many American Jews hoped that the Caliph would be forced off the throne, instead the donkey appears to be dying.

The dead donkey has implications for more than just Israel. The facade of normalcy kept the myth of a moderate Muslim world going. A world in which Iran and Saudi Arabia were the exceptions not the rule. But if sizable portions of the Muslim world were to turn into open theocracies with the attendant treatment of women, the game might well be up.


(Spanish language translation at Reflexiones Sobre Y Medio Oriente El Mundo)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Muslim Anti-Semitism and the Arab Spring

Western columnists eager to bestow their blessing on the democratic impulses of the Arab Spring are troubled by its darker side, the bigotry, the sexual violence and religious fanaticism. Rather than admit that they may have gotten the Arab Spring wrong, they look at its dark side as an external factor, rather than an internal one.

Case in point, Jeffrey Goldberg's recitation of Anti-Semitism in the Arab Spring leads to the same baffled attempts to understand. "On the surface this makes no sense: Arabs are rising up against Arabs, so what does this have to do with the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”?" he asks.

The question isn't all that baffling if you look back at the historical context of the Protocols which emerged from the poison pens of two secret police agents of two different countries seeking ways to stifle reform by associating their opponents with a vast Jewish conspiracy. It took place in a century where the left and the right spent a good deal of time accusing each other of working for the Jews. That century gave way to the next one where they stopped writing essays and began running death camps.

The Muslim world is still backward enough to be besotted with the worst lunacy of the period, the Masonic conspiracy is an article of faith for most Islamists, right up there with the Koran, Mein Kampf is a bestseller and Fascism and Communism are admired in a way that horrifies the Eurocrats who visit from time to time. Grand conspiracy theories explain everything and everyone is assumed to have a complex secret agenda.

But those aren't the sources of the Anti-Semitism in the Arab Spring. Nor is Israel. The fundamental error that is made over and over again is to assume that Muslim attitudes toward the Jews emerge out of politics rather than theology. While Israel certainly looms large in the Muslim imagination, the image of the Jews as the nemesis of Islam is of ancient theological provenance dating back to Mohammed's efforts to ethnically cleanse the region of non-Muslim minorities.

When Arab Spring mobs paint the Star of David on pictures of dictators or call them Jews, they are using an old insult. To call someone a "Jew" in the Arab world is the equivalent of calling him a dog. There is no special racial slur needed, "Jew" is already enough. 

The reason for this isn't Israel or Gaza or Lebanon-- it's that Jews were a minority in the Muslim world. While the Islamists and the Arab Nationalists, along with their Western useful idiots, insist on spreading their revisionist history of a golden age of tolerance and brotherhood that ended abruptly in 1948, the truth is that being a minority in the Arab Muslim world was dangerous and degrading. And long after the Muslim world has been emptied of Jews, "Yahood" still remains an insult.

When Thomas Friedman heard that a nickname for many American soldiers in Iraq was "The Jews", in his usual clueless fashion he wrote up an extended column about Sharon, Israel and the peace process. But Friedman missed the point. Arab Muslims have been calling people they don't like "Jews" long before the modern State of Israel.

But in a conspiracy rich environment, "Yahood" is also often meant a literal accusation that someone actually is a Jew. Forcible and the occasional voluntary conversion of Jews to Islam created its own paranoid obsession with "Secret Jews" in the Muslim world. And some forcibly converted Jewish communities such as the "Jedid Al-Islam" did remain secretly Jewish while pretending outwardly to be Muslim. This is a special obsession in Turkey where the conversion of cult members known as the Donmeh led to accusations that the Young Turk movement was a Jewish conspiracy. 

The prototype for the accusations that the dictators are Jewish was the light-skinned and blue-eyed Kemal Ataturk. His supposed Jewishness remains a special obsession for Turkish Islamists, albeit one that is still illegal for them to articulate. That obsession also spells out the difference between the United States and the Muslim world. If it were to be discovered that George Washington had a Jewish father, it wouldn't delegitimize the United States. But Muslim states are still based on ethnic or religious grounds. And the best way to undermine Ataturk's attempt to drag Turkey into the modern age is to not merely claim that Ataturk wasn't a Turk and an enemy of  Islam (both true)... but that he was a Jew.

The utility of accusing Ataturk of being a Jew is obvious. It's a charge that bypasses the need to attack his ideas or debate their legitimacy. Once he is a Jew then it is a given that he was part of a vast conspiracy and that everything he did was wrong. "Jew" is not only shorthand for dog, it's also shorthand for enemy.

If accusing Ataturk of being Jewish doesn't seem that crazy, try the Saudi royal family whom the Lebanese Minister of the Environment accused of secretly being the Jewish tribe that had been ethnically cleansed by Mohammed. From the standpoint of Islamic theology this makes perfect sense. It recycles the ancient Jewish enemy into a current foe.

Hate the Wahhabis? Then just go ahead and claim that Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab's grandfather wasn't really Suleyman but Shullman. What about Mubarak? He must have had a Jewish mother. Gaddafi's mother being a Jew is now a common belief in Libya. Those wonderful democratic Syrian protesters are shouting, "Alawi Jews" referring to the Alawi quasi-Shiite minority sect that rules the country. Even Ahmadinejad got hammered with accusations that he was a Jew.

No matter how rabidly Anti-Semitic a Muslim leader may be, he cannot escape the possibility that sooner or later someone will accuse him of being a secret Jew. If the Saudis and Ahmadinejad aren't safe, then no one is.

Goldberg and Friedman both mistake a preexisting situation for a new phenomenon. Conspiracy theories to explain everything have been widespread for a long time, not just as a tool of dictators. Blaming outsiders for whatever goes wrong and then connecting those outsiders to a political faction you hate is as common as sand.

But the larger mistake is that they fail to grasp what the Arab Spring is. It's a series of populist movements based around theocratic and nationalistic ideology. Such movements naturally position ethnic and religious minorities as outsiders and enemies. Which is why churches in Egypt began burning and friendly mobs showed up outside a synagogue in Tunis to recount what happened back when Mohammed began his campaign against the Jews.

Tyranny is a vague idea. The Jews are a very specific idea. Tyranny means illegitimate rule, but what makes it illegitimate? The Arab Spring activists will answer that it is undemocratic. Why is it undemocratic, because it fails to represent the majority. And how do they prove that the tyrant fails to represent the majority? By claiming that he really works for the Jews.

It's a fairly simple formula that isn't limited to the Muslim world. The left leaned heavily on it to charge that the Iraq War was illegitimate because it was a project of the Jews. Tomes on the Israel lobby attack foreign policy not on its merits, but on "Jewishness". And it's no coincidence that of all the Democratic senators who voted for the war, the one ruthlessly targeted for destruction by the left was Joe Lieberman.

Goldberg suggests that, "The Arab Spring should liberate people not only from oppressive rulers, but also from self-destructive and delusional patterns of belief." Having conceded that the Arab Spring is rotten with Anti-Semitism, his proposal is that the Arab Spring should liberate the Arab Spring from being the Arab Spring. And perhaps Goldberg should try to lift himself up by his own belt. That will work just as well.

All Arab and Muslim movements are founded on "self-destructive and delusional patterns of belief". Take those away and you're left with some spicy food and curious architecture. All of them also pretend to unify the people around a common identity and in opposition to outside forces that seek to undermine that identity.

From the time of Mohammed onward, the Jews have played the role of the "outside force" that is out to undermine Arab and Muslim unity. When Arab leaders tell Western diplomats that Israel is the source of regional instability, that is what they mean. In Islamic terms they are charging the Jews with "Fitna" and Western diplomats and journalists strip away the theology from the accusation and pretend that it's a serious policy statement.

The Sunni Muslim world still believes that it can form a secure common identity if only it could get rid of Israel, and then the Christians, Shiites, Alawis and all the other "outside forces" who are a barrier to the harmonious brotherhood of the Ummah. That combination of theology and politics is what drives the Anti-Semitism of the Muslim world and of its theological and nationalist movements including its latest one.

There is no reason to be surprised by Anti-Semitism in the Arab Spring. The Muslim Middle East has failed to break with the poisonous religious and ethnic politics of the past. The Arab Spring is a continuation of those same toxic politics under the banner of democracy. The fragility of Arab and Muslim identity, its insecurity and instability, the unworkability of its structure, always requires enemies to serve as a focus and shoulder the blame. And in every season, spring, summer, winter or fall, that group has been the Jews.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yes Obama Wants to Win

It's downright strange that at a time when the field of Republican candidates has narrowed down to a few bad choices and the left has finally fielded its own answer to the Tea Party movement, that some pundits on the right are still cheerfully pushing the meme that Obama is all but done.


Sure it would be great if Obama were lying on the floor in a pool of spilled beer while humming songs from Sesame Street, but that is not what's going on. And adding false self-confidence to the mix is about the worst possible thing to do.


Yes Obama wants to win and worse still he's on track to win. It doesn't matter how low his ratings are, so long as his opponent's ratings are even worse. This is not a campaign that he has to win by being the better man, he just has to sit there and let the press destroy his opponent.

Obama does have one thing in common with some of the pundits predicting his imminent demise, they're both sure that they can't lose. But Obama has grounds for thinking that. Far better grounds than the cheerleaders who insist that anyone the Republicans run will win in a landslide in every state.

The lack of a traditional campaign on the D side of the line means nothing. 2008 wasn't a traditional campaign either. Is Obama tossing away the white working class vote? He won without them in 2008. The unions have no choice and the rest can go to hell. Obama is saying mean things about Americans? He did that in 2008 too and it didn't slow him down.

All that arrogance can easily lead to a fall, but so can the arrogance on our side. No one should believe that this will be an easy or simple election. It will be long, hard, ugly and at times seem unwinnable. There will be fraud, personal attacks that we have yet to even imagine and press involvement that will dwarf anything in 2008. And most of all it will be unexpected.

Using leftist occupations of public spaces in major cities as the kickoff to a campaign. How many people saw that coming and how many expected it to work? But it worked well enough to engage the younger voters who helped boost him last time around. And it's not the end of the show.

It's tempting to see Obama as another Carter or Dukakis, a malaise ridden liberal, but while he has a good deal in common philosophically with them, his image and his campaign have little in common with theirs. And it's also worth remembering that Reagan's defeat of Carter was not nearly as easy as some would make it out to be. 

Reagan's victory might not have been nearly so decisive without the involvement of an independent candidate who drew votes from Carter. And even that victory was not always inevitable. Before the debate, Reagan was polling behind Carter. Had Carter avoided debating Reagan and avoided challenges from the left, it's not inconceivable that he might have pulled off a second term.

No we aren't doomed to a second term of O. But as always the election is ours to lose. And the best way to lose a game is to assume that you're going to win before you even play. It's possible that we might win this on an "Anyone But Obama" vote by independents, but it's more likely that we will have to work hard for it.

Out of the starting gate that means we are likely to be saddled with a candidate that much of the party isn't happy with. Our challenge will be to revive a grass roots campaign even while the grass roots may not be particularly enthusiastic about the ABO candidate. It will be to cope with daily media attacks without getting beaten down or losing our spirit. And the best way to begin is to understand that this will be a tough fight.

So I'll say it again, yes he wants to win. It may not look like he's working for it, but that is because he doesn't have to work for it.

Obama does not have to work hard to win this election. He just has to make his campaign stops, read his speeches off the teleprompter and bask in the glow of the media's praise. We are the ones who have to work hard because we are the insurgents. No matter how dissatisfied the public is with this term, and no matter how willing they seem to be to vote for a generic Republican, they are not going to be nearly as eager to do so after a month of media attacks.

The media is going to make this a campaign of personalities, contrasting the personalities of their guy and our guy. We are going to have to fight to bring the issues to the forefront and that means renewed activism, not just for the big chair, but for the smaller chairs in the House and the Senate. We are going to have to pick a core economic issue and hammer it home over and over again until it can no longer be ignored.

Whoever the Republican nominee will be is not likely to be another Reagan, and he will likely not be reliable on many core issues, and it will fall to us to take up the fight on those issues. And that will not be an easy fight. The campaign won't want anyone disrupting the likability of their candidate by touching of any divisive issues, a plan that will work as well as the shiny and likable McCain did.

Most of all though this election will not be fair. Politics is already civil war by other means, but it will get much worse. Expectations don't matter. Looking to see how badly Obama is doing is a waste of time.

Obama has lost the insurgent's advantage, but he has gained the incumbent's advantage. If his team manages to make his opponent seem unpalatable enough, then he becomes the default choice. If he's at 35 percent, then his team's goal is to push Romney, Gingrich or Perry down to 34 percent. And after what we've seen so far, do you think that will be impossibly hard to do?

The goal here is to make voters uncomfortable with voting Republican by portraying him as personally reckless and politically extreme. And it's a little too easy to see how that will play out. The template for this was already written in election after election and there will be new wrinkles here, unexpected surprises and unprecedented attacks.

The idea that Obama doesn't want to win ignores the simple fact that this is all he is. What he wants most is attention and being where he is puts him at the center of it. Not only that it's financially lucrative and gives him powers well beyond those he ever expected to have. And it's doubtful that he has gotten tired of wielding them.

At times he may appear sullen, not because he doesn't want to be where he is, but because like a petulant child he doesn't want to do the work that will take him there. Obama has always gotten by on the externals with other people to do the hard work for him. We can't count on having anyone to do the hard work for us. Not our candidate, not the party and certainly not public dissatisfaction.

The people around Obama know that the public mood can be turned around in an instant, and that no likes to look foolish. If they can introduce wedges then they can split their opposition and collect the winnings. They also know that overconfidence can quickly lead to despondency and despair. The best way to prepare yourself for a tough job is to know the size of the task you mean to tackle and expect strong opposition and difficult obstacles along the way.

And no amount of irresponsibility, petulance and obnoxious behavior should give us the impression that our opponent doesn't want to win. His contempt for us is a weakness, but it's also a sign of how fortified his position is. We are the ones with the uphill battle and we cannot afford to rest at the bottom of the hill before we have taken the high ground.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Myth of the Arab Spring Underdog


Ever since the Arab Spring began videos have been making the rounds of massacres in Syria and Bahrain, photos of violent protests in Egypt, excited tweets, bloodied faces, Molotov cocktails and all the rest of the revolutionary chatter.

It is tempting to side with the people battling tanks, even when you don’t know why they are battling them. That was how Americans ended up cheering an alliance between the anti-American leftist Kifaya movement and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo against the Egyptian government. Or backing an Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group against Gaddafi in Libya.

America was built on revolution and sympathy for the underdog is in our national DNA. But it can also lead us to mistake a difference in force for a difference in moral standing. Just because one man has a Molotov cocktail and the other man has a tank, doesn’t mean that the man with the burning bottle in his hand is any more right than he is.

In a conflict there are two possibilities. Either one side is more moral than the other, or both sides are equally repugnant. Or close enough that it makes no real difference. Looking at the disproportion in force is not a useful guide and provides no relevant answers.

Just because a regime is repressing a populist faction does mean that we should feel sorry for them. The Nazis and Communists both started out as populist factions being repressed by the authorities, and when they took power, they made the abuses that had come before them look like spring flowers and sunshine. 

Revolutions often begin with the oppressed and end with repression. The true test of whether a faction deserves our support is not the dramatic photos of protesters waving flags and darting through the flames or the government responding with clubs and bullets. (It is doubtful that even the most bleeding heart liberal would have retrospectively opposed putting down the Nazis by any means possible.) The only meaningful test is what the protesters actually stand for.

Drama is cheap and what looks like a cry for justice often becomes a mandate for oppression. When a Tunisian vendor was slapped by a policewoman, he touched off a chain of events that ended with the Islamists coming to power, bringing about a Tunisia where few women will serve in the place or enjoy civil and legal rights. Who really deserves sympathy in that encounter, the illegal fruit vendor or the policewomen of Tunisia?

It is only when you look at the bigger picture that the consequences can be seen.

Right off the bat we can disregard slogans calling for “democracy” or “power to the people”, these are so ubiquitous that they have virtually no meaning. Populism is all well and good, but what matters are the details of their agenda. The populism of a totalitarian ideology such as Islam, Nazism or Communism has no value or worth. Totalitarian ideologies exploit populism, but only abide by it so long as the will of the people comes out their way. When the public mood shifts, then the bayonets are fixed and the prisons open up.

Whether it's Occupy Wall Street or Tahrir Square, protests are calculated to create the image of a popular uprising supported by the people. Whether or not the people actually support it and whether even those who are dissatisfied with the government share their agenda are questions that fall by the wayside in the media's coverage. And even if a movement does represent the majority, will it also disenfranchise the minority?
The failure to ask those questions has transferred the Middle East out of the hands of one set of tyrants and into the hands of another set of tyrants who represent a totalitarian ideology that will not only repress the people inside their country, but are engaged in a war against the entire free world.

That is the danger of atrocity without context and protest without purpose. Scenes of mobs fired on in Syria or Bahrain have no meaning unless you understand what is going on. In Bahrain, the struggle is not some abstract revolutionary "Power to the People" nonsense, but a fight between Saudi backed Sunnis and Iranian backed Shiites. In Syria it's another sectarian struggle, this time between the Sunni brotherhood along with its associated socialist useful idiots and the Iranian backed Alawis, a controversial Shiite splinter sect. Do you really feel like taking sides in that no matter how many dead bodies show up on the news? 

Nor is "unarmed protester" the same thing as peaceful protester. The way to determine that is not by checking arsenals, but by checking ideologies. The protesters who want to set up a state under which women will have few rights and religious minorities will be even more persecuted than they are now are not peaceful. And any use of the word in relation to them is a complete distortion of its meaning, much like applying democratic to Islamist movements who are confident of winning at the polls.
The goal of a genuinely peaceful protester is a peaceful society. Not an Islamic society, but a society where men and women, Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites enjoy equal rights and freedoms without interference from the government. A peaceful society does not seek to be at war with anyone or to persecute anyone. And such a society is not the goal of the Arab Spring protesters in any country which is why they cannot be described with such a term. Whether they happen to be marching peacefully at a given moment or staging a riot, they are the cannon fodder of a violent ideology. A non-violent protest is a tactic that tells us about the strategy of their leaders, not about their ultimate intentions when they take power.

The bloody photos and videos can be heartrending, but even more so once you stop to consider that they are part of a regional cycle that cannot be ended with a change of government. This sectarian violence will not end simply by taking out one government and bringing in another. Giving the Arab Sunni or Shiite majority the power to trample the minority will only lead to more bloody photos that will receive less publicity because the media will no longer be interested in covering them. 

Intervening over genocide, as we did in Iraq, is one thing. Intervening over violent clashes is another. That's the difference between Iraq and Libya. If we intervene every time a Middle Eastern country has flashes of sectarian violence, then we might as well remain on standby. The real test of armed force or even sanctions should be whether this intervention meets our interests. If it doesn't, then intervening because of some bloody photos is misplaced humanitarianism. In a region where ethnic and religious conflicts are settled with bullets, there will always be bloody photos. 

The myth of the underdog captured the attention of the West, but the underdog in the Arab Spring actually turned out to be the majority and its totalitarian agenda. Sympathizing with them was like treating Muhammad Ali as the underdog. When faced with a country at war between a ruling minority that hates us and a majority of the population that also hates us, nothing we do is going to make things any better. 

Syria is a prime example. Choosing between a Syria that acts as an Iranian puppet and a Brotherhood run country that's in hock to an Islamist Turkey is like choosing between cholera and the Plague. Either we give Sunni Islamists or Shiite Islamists more power and regional influence, and when all is said and done, there really is no right choice except to stand back and let them fight it out.

We already did everything wrong in the Arab Spring. We should have backed Saleh, Ben Ali and Mubarak. We should have also backed Gaddafi in exchange for wresting concessions from him. We should have gotten something from the Saudis in exchange for letting them go into Bahrain. And now we need to stay out of Syria.

The Arab League has come out against Assad. Which is only natural since the League is mainly Sunni and the Assads are Alawites and tools of the Shiites in Iran. Turning Syria into a Sunni Islamist state may be in their interest, but it isn't in ours, and Turkey has already made sure that this is what the outcome will be. If Obama decides to do to Assad what he did to Gaddafi, then the Brotherhood will rack up another win. On the other hand if we do nothing then Iran keeps its prize. Is there is a right choice? No there isn't. 

Do we back the underdog that happens to be the overdog? What's in it for us except playing referee in a fight between Sunni and Shiite Islamists, two groups of people who hate our guts and want to see us dead?

But "people are dying" is the response? And it's true, they are dying. Sometimes courageously. As they have been dying on and off for one reason or another. But their deaths have nothing in common with our values, anymore than the deaths of the Bolsheviks or the SS, some of whom fought and died courageously as well. 

That is where the Islamists and their leftist enablers are wrong. It's not the willingness to die that matters, but the cause which you are fighting for. Everyone dies sooner or later. It's what we live for that matters. 

The cult of martyrdom in the Muslim world means that there are no shortage of people eager to die in order to become a symbol. But before we accept them as symbols, we should ask what it is they symbolize and to whom.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Recession Hits the Green Movement

Do you know what Africa needs most of all? If you answered food or international peacekeepers, then you're wrong and clearly not cut out to work for the government of a modern country. No what a continent filled with genocide, starving children, female genital mutilation and warring factions needs is help fighting global warming.

Even as Climategate 2.0 emails reveal that there's less of science and more hot air to the whole thing, global leaders will do their part to cut carbon emissions by flying to South Africa to discuss how to cap global warming, and not in the usual way someone gets capped on the streets of Durban.

At stake in Durban is a whole lot of green or red or grey, depending on your country's color of currency. The 100 billion dollar Green Climate Fund is supposed to be finalized and Kyoto 2.0 is supposed to do something about all those flatulent cows who are dooming the planet. It's a serious problem, not because there are mobs of polar bears windsurfing on melting glaciers down to Hawaii, but because a whole lot of influential people who got in on the ground floor of Global Warming Scam 1.0 are about to lose their tie dyed shirts.

How bad is it? The UN's Certificates of Emission Reduction have lost half their value since June. That means if an Occupier brought a CER to resell at a profit to the factory owner down the block, then he just might be out of luck. The Euro flavored EUA variety of carbon indulgences aren't doing any better.

“We’ve got a lot of carbon around. It’s been a little bit of a hothouse of supply coming in against very, very moderate demand and that has pushed prices down," said an analyst for Barclays bank. Or to put it another way, when your hothouse is full of worthless pieces of paper that will only be of value if the world's developed economies bow their knees to the Goddess of Global Warming which is a tough sell in the middle of a recession, then the temperature is going to keep rising.

Like being a bail bondsman in an anarchist state, it's hard to make money on certificates that give people permission to build factories, drive to work and exhale when the people are busy exhaling without forking over money to the UN and Al Gore.

When all is said and done, and the fat lady sings without first buying a special certificate for the carbon being emitted by her lungs, the "Greens" might go down as the biggest financial scammers in history. But this is one scam where it's hard to feel sorry for the scammed. Investing in bail bonds in the hopes that a billion people will be forced to go to economic jail is reprehensible.

Not only did the monotone hypocrites put a price on pollution and then proposed to put the money in their pockets, but they did it while wearing their best self-righteous face and flying a private jet even as their victims were bleeding gas money from their wallets. And they're not done yet. There are always more global warming conferences and proposals to save the planet from the carbon menace.

The UK, which under Cameron has slashed its budget to the bone, will dump a billion pounds to help Africa fight global warming. This is a government which prematurely cut up an aircraft carrier before beginning a war in Libya to save money, but it will still be kicking in the cost of a small navy to help a continent full of starving people learn to use "low carbon energy."

The HMS Invincible, an aircraft carrier that was once the flagship of her majesty's navy, was sold to a Turkish scrapyard for a few million. Want to buy the HMS Royal Ark, the last functioning carrier in the fleet? Stop by the Ministry of Defence's auction site and you can put in your own bid. Climate change aid to Africa won't pay for itself you know.

How fiscally irresponsible is the Climate Fund? So irresponsible that even Obama won't fund it. And you know that when a man who tosses around trillions of dollars like they were golf balls flying into a lake isn't on board with a spending program, then it's really bad. But to be fair to Obama, he isn't really opposed to insane senseless bouts of spending by international governmental bodies. He just wants Saudi Arabia to receive more compensation for the shift away from fossil fuels. And more private sector involvement so all the "environmentally conscious" investors who invested in his campaign can also profit from robbing the people blind.

True to form the media is already pushing numerous stories about Africa's suffering at the hands of the Carbon Devil.

"Long ago, I could set my calendar with the date the rains started. we have to gamble with the rains. If you plant early you might lose and if you plant late you might win. We are at a loss of what to do," says a Zimbabwe farmer.

Clearly this is a problem that can only be solved with a 100 billion dollar climate fund. And not at all by addressing the fact that many of Zimbabwe's "farmers" are just land thieves who don't actually know how to farm, but did know how to kiss up to the UK's former friend, Mugabe, who decided to expropriate the land from farmers who did know how to grow crops, but had the misfortune of being the wrong skin color. But we'll be stepping in to provide aid to the poor farmers victimized by global warming, or possibly their complete lack of farming skill. 

"Today, nothing is definite. You get rain in April then our maize rots in the fields. If we are not respecting our spirits and if they are angry, there will be no rain," the farmer is quoted as saying. And if a 100 billion dollar climate change fund can't appease the spirits, then I don't know what will. Back in America and Europe, we're busy appeasing the spirits of furious carbon by bicycling to work and paying more for groceries. And if that doesn't appease the spirits, we're going to spend 100 billion to promote low carbon energy in a place where carbon reduction is usually done with machetes swung at carbon emitting lifeforms.

But we can afford a 100 billion dollars, just so long as they are Zimbabwean dollars which used to trade at about a trillion ZWF's to a single American penny. A few years ago you could buy an egg in the land of Mugabe for a mere 50 billion dollars and a quart of beer for a 150 billion dollars. That climate fund would cover about two eggs or two-thirds of a beer, either one is a better investment than solar panels for villages where they will be sold five minutes after they're installed so that the residents can buy gas or eggs and beer.

At The Guardian, John Vidal harrumphs, "At Durban, the big emitters will no doubt fail us again on climate change." That's a pretty convoluted sentence to harrumph, but it leaves no doubt that the big emitters are to blame. Including possibly the sun, which is certainly the biggest emitter for hundreds of millions of kilometers around.

Vidal admits that "the peer review science (on African climate change) is still sketchy." From a global warming advocate, this is the equivalent of a compulsive liar admitting that he is prone to the occasional fib. But he insists that it's "the best there is in a continent starved of research funds". Clearly there's no alternative but to toss a 100 billion into the mix and see if we can get any better peer reviewed science from the angry spirits.

At the Independent in Zimbabwe, John Yeld mourns that "A carbon-free world is still a dream". Now to me a "carbon free" world sounds more like a horrible nightmare that means the end of all life on the planet. But what do I know, unlike Yeld, I haven't won an award from "South African National Parks" for coverage of the environment and conservation issues. I just happen to think that wishing for a world incapable of supporting life in order to defeat the Carbon Menace might be a bit over the top.

The good news is that a 100 billion dollars won't be enough to eliminate all carbon or nitrogen or oxygen or even kryptonite from the planet. Not even if it's a hundred billion American dollars, rather than Zimbabwean dollars. The money isn't really going to poor farmers looking to appease the angry spirits of C6 or calm the blazing fury of its electrons. It's going to bribe African leaders with aid in exchange for supporting a global financial scheme for carbon offset credits. Which may be the one thing that can save the Eurozone and the Al Gore Reality Distortion Field.

But the bad news is that if we keep spending money like drunken climate change scientists on a fake problem invented to expand federal power, dole out grant money to people who have their tongues stuck to thermometers and make a whole lot of green, red and grey currency for green investors then the American dollar, not to mention the Euro, will start looking a lot like the Zimbabwean dollar.

While we struggle for a "carbon-free world", what we're actually ending up with is a "money-free", a "car-free" and a "food-free" world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Afternoon Roundup - So Much to be Thankful For

                                             (See if you can spot the Turkey) 

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING

There was a time long ago when Americans were sad and unhappy, when the world hated us, people were forced to work for a living and there were no inspiring leaders. But today in this wonderful age of free health care, free mobs and freedom for Islamists, there is so much for us to be thankful for. Like that new age of freedom and democracy breaking out like a rash across the Middle East.

Sure women keep being sexually assaulted in the new liberated Egypt, but that's democracy for you. Or a democracy of Muslim men.

Caroline Sinz, a French reporter for Channel 3, was the latest to experience Islam's historical tolerance for women who walk down the street unaccompanied by a male guardian. Her story is nearly identical to what happened to Lara Logan.

The significance here is that there's nothing new about this. Egyptian women experience sexual harassment on a nearly universal basis. Egyptian were being assaulted in this way for years. I wrote about this back during the Logan assault with "Muslim Rape Culture and Lara Logan" And then there's this back in 06 on mass sexual assaults in Cairo.
"It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gathered trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenzy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncovered. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police. The ones who approached the police asking them to do something were told : "what do you want us to do? It's Eid. Happy Eid to you too!"
Happy Eid indeed. You can't blame the Islamists for this or the authorities or anyone but the culture in Egypt and throughout much of the Muslim world. A culture that says a woman causes a man to attack her through her looks and that a woman who is unveiled is a whore. Islam's conquests, its commodification of women as sex slaves and loot for the victorious Muslim armies certainly helped.

And the Islamists will respond to assaults like this by calling for more morality, which means women "taking responsibility" by donning Burqas and avoiding going out without a male guardian. And just not to leave anyone out, Aliaa al-Mahdy, who had shot to prominence with a photo protest was beaten and thrown to the ground at Tahrir Square and dragged out of a protest area. No information on who the men were, but their goal was to move her out of a protest area, and all but one was clean shaven, which suggests these are some of the "heroes" of Egypt's democracy movement getting rid of an atheist girl who called for freedom.

Expectant Cairo Takes a Dark Turn, reads the Australian's headline. As if this was something that happened just now. Before Tahrir Square was just sunshine and bunnies. Now it's suddenly dark and rapey.

Tahrir Square does represent freedom. Freedom as Egyptian Muslim men define it, which includes the freedom to burn churches, assault women and dominate ethnic, religious and other minorities. That is the true face of Tahrir Square that the media romanticized.

Forget the Mona Eltahawy story, that's being utilized to call for an overthrow of the military authorities who are the only thing keeping the Islamists from sweeping the nation. The military authorities are bastards, but it should be abundantly clear to anyone paying attention that everyone playing this game are bastards and that the liberals, the Islamists and the military are no better than one another. The Sinz story proves that this is hardly some unique SCAF phenomenon. And the men dragging al-Mahdy in that video are likely members of the same liberal activists pushing the Eltahawy story. (Though to be fair Eltahawy did publish a piece in the Guardian defending al-Mahdy)

The bottom line is that Egypt has a problem with abusing women not because of Mubarak or military rule, but because the culture has a problem with human equality for anyone but Muslim men. Too many bloggers were taken in by the Kefaya movement and their Twitter propaganda on the first round. Don't fall for it a second time. This is a leftist anti-American movement of articulate upper class Egyptians with El-Baradei at the top. Their main function is to sanitize the anti-government protests whose true beneficiaries have been and will be the Muslim Brotherhood.

In response to the Sinz assault, Reporters Sans Frontières suggested that the media stop sending female reporters to Cairo. After protests followed it withdrew that statement and urged media organizations to make the security of reporters their first priority. But how much security will it take to protect a female reporter from a mob of Egyptian teenagers? Those who read the bible might suddenly find a new relevance in the stories of Abraham and Isaac traveling to Egypt and Gaza, and being forced to pass off their wives as their sisters from the Egyptians and Philistines to avoid being murdered. Though the Arabs are newcomers to the area, not much has changed over the years.

But a better solution than not sending female reporters to Cairo might be to stop allowing Egyptian Muslim men into America and France. The high rape statistics coming out of Europe link Muslim men to startling numbers of sexual assaults in countries where they are a minority. A female reporter going to Cairo has some kind of security, but what do we do when Cairo comes to us, except to start acting like Egyptian Christians? Or to quote from the al-Mahdy CNN interview
Women under Islam will always be objects to use at home. The (sexism) against women in Egypt is unreal, but I am not going anywhere and will battle it 'til the end. Many women wear the veil just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets.
But we still have to remember to be thankful because these are changing times. Very soon Egypt will be free and democratic and then bunnies will dance in the sunshine of Tahrir Square. Don't believe me? Just listen to the song.

.


THANKFUL FOR JOBS

As the Summer of Recovery has faded into the Arab Spring and into the Winter of Our Discontent, those imaginary green jobs have died and fallen off the Washington cherry tree.

According to the National Association for Business Economics, "The NABE Outlook panel expects employment will improve, albeit very slowly. Monthly job gains are expected to rise steadily over the forecast horizon, from an average of 100,000 during the fourth quarter of 2011 to 130,000 by the end of next year." Now that's optimistic. Of course the Keystone XL pipeline could have created six figures worth of jobs, but who needs those anyway?

Not the Environmentalist Administration which killed the deal to get America some freedom from Muslim oil and a whole bunch of jobs. But good news to be thankful for...
At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy.
I think Jimmy Fallon's drummer has an intro to go with this statement. Obama might want to ask Fishbone about making that his theme song. But at least the Islamists and the People's Republic of China have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Saudi Arabia has an even bigger stack of oil barrels, and on top of that black pyramid is a degenerate royal family wearing crowns of terrorism and tyranny. Iran has its own pyramid with hanging women dangling off it and the corpses of murdered student protesters floating in the crude. And if the environmentalists really cared about any of that, at least to the extent of wanting to end the wars, then they would be laying a pipeline that would funnel money out of the House of Saud​ and the Mullahs back to the United States of America.
Instead billions have been poured into the People’s Republic of China, which lends us the money to pay for the solar and wind power components that we buy from them, and after the handful of watts from green power have been exhausted to spread joy and peace across parts of Vermont and Oregon, the country goes back with hat in hand to the grinning petroleum plutocracies.
Read the rest in my article at Front Page Magazine on the the Islamist-Environmentalist Alliance.



ISLAM IN AMERICA

But that's not all that we have to be thankful for. TLC's not at all fake documentary/reality show So You Want To be a Muslim All-American Muslim reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for to the immigrants coming from distant shores to culturally enrich us with their ancient heritage of beheading people who offend them and their legacy of science looted from the Indians and Greeks.

Take the previous episode where we learn how wonderful Hijabs are and how they can help you give birth when you're infertile. And the episode does feature a true Islamic scholar and feminist who has very modern and enlightened views about beating and raping women. Here are some of his answers to All-American Muslims who wonder whether it's legal to rape their wives.
So, the wife must obey her husband by giving him his physical rights which he asks from her; she has to make herself available to him when he wants her; she has no right to abstain unless she has her period, a medical condition, or a difficulty that keeps her from responding favorably to him. If he demands his right and obliges her, this would not be rape in the Islamic Law, but something basic in the concept of marriage contract. Otherwise, what would marriage be without mating?
Truly Islam is a beacon of human rights and enlightenment and only filthy Islamophobes would get the idea that the Religion of Peace has any negative attitude toward women. Just to prove it, here's Berry on how to beat your wife.
When all peaceful methods have been exhausted and attempts to fix the problem have failed, and if this is the only means for reform, practice disciplinary confrontation with the rebellious wife. Again, Islam poses extreme conditions on this last step. The confrontation must not lead to injury or leave bruises. It must not be done in revenge or be based on hatred which trespasses the set limits, but instead be prescribed like the bitter medicine with calculated dosages to speed reform while still protect from harming the self and others.
The noble fellow goes on to suggest that beating your wife should be seen as a kind of surgical procedure.
Noting of course, that no one would object to a doctor’s decision to cutting open a patient’s body to cause it to heal later on. Islam, in a similar way, legalized this last effort like a surgical procedure (light confrontation) as long as it is deemed the only effective treatment to bringing a family back together that could lead to healing and allow things to return to normalcy.
Islam does not require men to go to medical school to beat their wives. Still there's good progressive news coming out of all this.
On the other hand, more importantly, other societies prohibit such disciplinary confrontation between the man and his wife and this could lead to legal complications that could complicate the entire problem and dissolve the family entirely. It should be understood that Islam allowed such confrontation but did not deem it an obligation.
Just to be clear, Islam does not mandate beating your wife. Or raping her. And how can anyone read that and doubt that Islam is a truly progressive and enlightened faith? The Imam also has a lot of great stuff about statutory rape.
"The girl’s menstrual period is a natural sign that her body qualifies her for fertility, pregnancy, or reproduction. Islam does not contradict the natural aspect of life. Therefore, it does not oppose marriage at a younger age when the girl is naturally ready."
And lots of similar rulings...
Q. Is it true that a fourteen year old girl can be allowed to marry? A. Yes she can be married with the permission and consent of her parents, preferably the father. This is very normal with Muslims and in Muslim states. Islam allows early marriages as a protection to society and children from the spread of corruption, fornication, and rape. In the USA, an early marriage has to be blessed in court by a civil judge in addition to the parent’s consent.
And if you want an even more nightmarish answer, here you go
25: The Age of Maturity in Relationship to Marriage Q. What is the age of maturity and marriage for girls in Islam? A. According to Islamic law, a girl reaches the age of maturity when she has completed nine yours of age. A girl’s maturity is achieved at the age of thirteen, however, according to some jurists; that is when she starts her menstrual cycle and her body is ready for pregnancy and childbirth. As for mental maturity and physical aptness, these might differ from one to another. For some men and women, it could happen at the age of fifteen, for others at eighteen, or twenty, or even at forty
Naturally All-American Muslim neglected to include all these wonderful things about Islam or the Imam in this episode. Sadly they might have thought that people would not understand. They didn't even include wonderful pieces of advice like this.
It is also true that by not helping with doing housework, she is pushing her husband to seek a second wife who is more willing to do the work.
And a piece of Hijab related advice that the episode even more unaccountably left out.
36: Refusing to Wear the Veil Q. Does the husband have the right to force his wife to wear the veil if she refuses to do so under the pretense that the veil has nothing to do with the essence of religion? What if she refuses to wear it? A. He can resort to moral influence, such as making her know that she is pushing him into looking for another wife who wears the veil.
Just keep in mind this is America or it used to be. And these are the rules by which the All-American Muslims live. To follow up, Debbie Schlussel has some more on the Hezbollah ties of the fun-loving Shiites in Anti-American Muslim And one final grace note from Imam Berry.
Q9. Some people refer to a saying that Muslims should not initiate the Islamic greeting to non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians. Is saluting them forbidden? A. No, it is not forbidden. The Islamic greeting is “Al-Salamo Alaykom”, which means “Peace is on you.” Of course, this greeting of peace is not fit for those who fight Muslims and are their enemy. Also, it is not favored to salute them who are like those who at the time of the Prophet (p) used to mock Muslims by changing the words of our greeting, saying to Muslims “Al-Samo Alaykom” which means “death be upon you.” Other than that there should be no issue with saluting non-Muslims and non-believers.
...other than that.

See the entire thing in my Front Page Magazine article, "The Islamic Feminism of All-American Muslim."



ROMNEY, GINGRICH, PERRY AND IMMIGRATION

One reason I never spent much time taking Perry to task on immigration is that none of the candidates were very good on it. And that's true of the recent list of Republican presidents as well. Perry was worse than most but unfortunately none of them are much good on it.

Gingrich's panel proposal seems to be loosely adapted from something similar in Switzerland. Bringing it up is a testament to his broad knowledge, but proposing it in the United States is just stupid. In Switzerland those panels are made up of natives, in the United States they would be made up of other immigrants from the same part of the world.

Gingrich, like so many Republicans is trying to develop a rationale for distinguishing between different types of illegal immigrants, which isn't entirely unreasonable, but it's also a dead end. And unwise.

Last Shabbat I listened to Linda Lingle, the former Republican governor of Hawaii, now running for Senate, talk about the issues and like Gingrich, she showed that she had thought about the issues and came up with some interesting proposals, which were hobbled by the same inability to understand the scope of the problem. (I shudder at the prescription of stamping a green card for every university engineering grad. I can't think of a better formula for more car bombs in Times Square.)

It's easy to propose these kinds of solutions when you ignore the scope of the problem and what its long term implications are. There's a certain similar thought pattern in the War on Terror and immigration. The speaker begins from the position of, "We can't deport them all" or "We can't fight them all" and then tries to arrive at a way of distinguishing moderates from extremists or good risks from bad risks. That's fine as far as it goes, but it misses the bigger picture.

At the Restoration Weekend, I listened to a panel debate featuring Robert Spencer who discussed the dangers of shifting the meaning in order to win over the moderates. I would highlight the danger that when the meaning is shifted then we forget what the problem is.

What is the problem with illegal immigration? Disrespect for the law is one factor, but the bottom line is that illegal immigration is a demographic threat that places undue stress on southwestern states and on the national economy. That's the fundamental thing to keep in mind.

Guest workers stay on and become citizens. Which isn't a problem if we want the United States to become Mexico. Mexico isn't a bad place despite all its problems. There are much worse places in the world. But it also has a broken political culture, massive drug and gang violence and a whole bunch of other things that will change this country significantly. And large scale immigration will do that beyond our ability to control it. Importing Muslim immigrants in sufficient number means importing everything wrong with the Muslim world along with some ethnic foods. The same goes for illegal immigration from Mexico. The bottom line is do we want to live in Mexico? Do we want to live in Cairo? Because if things keep going the way they are, we will. Just ask a European.

We're a nation built on immigrants, but on a balance of immigrants set around a Western European core. Change that core and you fundamentally change the nation. On a similar note, Lawrence Auster's response to the trouble with Muslim democracy.
The modern West cannot face this truth about Islam, because it would mean that not all cultures, peoples, and religions are equally capable of self-government. And that discovery would mean in turn (a) that not all peoples and cultures are equal, period, and (b) that a universal liberal order embracing all mankind is not possible.
And a corollary to that is that even when Third world governments fail, we must go on believing that they can succeed to be able to go on believing in that universal order.




AND NOW THE ROUNDUP

American Digest has narrowed down the primary candidates to just one.

OccupyMiami is OccupyIslam, via Boker Tov Boulder. No wonder it has this whole, "Jews to the Ovens" clause.

Christian refugee? Forget about it! Religion of Peaceful Beheadings? Uncle Sam Wants You.

US policy regarding the refugee resettlement program would shock most Americans if they only knew. The UN picks who becomes US refugees. Christians are being refused refugee status and face persecution and many times certain death for their religious beliefs under the sharia, while whole Muslim communities are entering the US by the tens of thousands per month despite the fact that they face no religious persecution.

Nothing to be thankful for in the Eurozone

A reminder that there are alternatives to the PA. Muslim tribal elders and leaders have governed their own clans and areas well enough and adding a layer of terrorist politicians on top paid for by the US hasn't made things any better. Restoring tribal authority makes more sense than anything else so far.

Finally a rather dark piece of satire from Latma, which like most of their Israeli stuff is well done. It helps to have some familiarity with the Israeli reality to get this one.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Future of Egypt

In the wake of the latest instability everyone has an opinion on the future of Egypt. But the future of Egypt is the past, not the distant past of its pre-Arab culture, but a repetition of the last century. In a region that has never escaped from the past, history is not a road, it is a circle. Travel far enough along it and you come back to where you were.

There was once a time when the UK thought that Egypt and Jordan were the best regional prospects, but instead of becoming Arabic accented versions of Albion, today it is London that has taken on the accent and the Hijab.

Cairo has been shedding its colonial cosmopolitanism for half a century. The Muslim Brotherhood arsons sped up the process, and the Islamization of Egypt has been gaining ground for some time, but the cause and effect is a little more complicated than that.

Egypt wasn't really cosmopolitan, it was ruled by a Western power that was and the country's upper class mirrored their foreign rulers. That upper class still exists, the Tahrir Square protest organizers drew heavily on the country's own top 1 percent (not counting the Brotherhood) and the sons and daughters of the extremely well off, who tour Europe and America, and speak English well, make up a large percent of the activists, the bloggers and twitter users. And they're also irrelevant to the country as a whole.

As Egypt has drifted from the UK's orbit to the USSR and the US, fragments of the culture and politics have lodged, but have never gone very deep. The Brotherhood may have borrowed its organization from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and the Egyptian left may be drawing heavily on Europe for its inspiration, but these are means to an end, they are not what the conflict is actually about.

Conflicts over power are about power, the nature of power and who wields it. Will it be the oligarchic capitalists, their activist kids, the military or the Imams of Al-Azhar University? The answer is probably all of the above.

The military and the Brotherhood are part of the oligarchy and so is much of the left. The economic root of the protests were about money, or the price of goods in an economy controlled from the top down. And everyone is offering their own subsidized goods programs.

The election will come down to economic issues, rather than Sharia or the nature of the government, and the Islamic parties have done an excellent job of positioning themselves as less corrupt and more trustworthy. In Turkey, the AKP took the country deep into debt in order to finance an economic boom that gave them enough popularity to permanently crush military rule. If the Brotherhood takes power in Egypt then you can expect them to do the same thing.

American and European pressure to install El-Baradei in place of Mubarak means that the military is bound to feel closer to the Brotherhood than to the Egyptian left, which ended up looking like an American puppet. And the Islamists are always a convenient excuse for the dictators looking to crush the opposition with American support. Which also means that the military must keep the Islamists around.

The tyrants kept the Islamists around in order to maintain international support, only for the latter to rise up and overthrow them when the West suddenly turned around and backed the Islamists confusing everyone. But tyranny in the region is a military resource. Any good military has enough officers who will become dictators if given the chance. It's why the Gulf tribals have incompetent armies and rely on the US marines to keep them safe from ex-military dictators and socialist tyrants.

While the West backs the liberal "reformers", the Brotherhood and the military enter into a tense and uncomfortable relationship. If the Brotherhood achieves its aims, then the military will be taken apart and replaced by an Iranian style Revolutionary Guard. That process is already underway in Turkey where there are more generals in prison than on the front lines. But if the military waits out all its rivals and then picks up Western support for stabilizing Egypt, then a new Mubarak will be in power.

None of this will lead to a better Egypt. The military and the left consist of the same people and their children who have been running the country into the ground for over half a century. If the average Egyptian isn't too enthusiastic about them, he can hardly be blamed for it. He may not agree with the Brotherhood's entire program, but some aspects of it appeal to him. The moral parts of it seem like common sense.

Western culture exports the products of freedom, without the process of freedom. The Muslim world receives Madonna music videos, rather than the Constitution that makes possible. It receives gadgets rather than the innovation behind them. From that perspective, all he sees that the average Egyptian sees is license and materialism. And it's tempting to dismiss the West and embrace the Brotherhood, even if the actual source of that license and materialism is right here at home.

Democracy is no solution to a country where tolerance doesn't exist and there is no way to mediate conflicts between different groups. Women have no place in the new Egypt, because they're not men. Christians have no place because they're not Muslims. Or rather their place is at the feet of Muslims. This is the way it has always been and democracy doesn't change that, it only shines a light on the fact that this is the will of the people, not some aberrant impulse.

The Western approach to Egypt has always been unserious, bad history combining with spectacle, the romance of orientalism followed by the romance of protest. The coverage of the Egyptian protests focused more on striking photos of shouting men and women with flames in the background, than on who they were or what they wanted. Similarly the top story now is an Egyptian female blogger who posed naked to protest against Islamist domination of culture and the country's treatment of women. But it's the first half of that sentence which interests the media, not the second half. Just as it was the violence of the protests, not the identity or the protesters or their demands that interested the media. The common denominator is the search for spectacle over depth.

Protest tourism is very much a reality and the biggest offenders read Edward Said and talk about "Otherising" even as they keep treating other nations and cultures as political spectator sports. And when they sympathize enough with one team, then they try to help it win, without actually knowing who the teams are or what they are fighting about. This is how a generation of university students wound up wearing Keffiyahs, denouncing "Israeli occupation" and promoting a grass roots version of the Arab League boycott.

But there is nothing to hope for here and no teams to cheer for. Just bankrupt ideologies rooted in the past while using the technologies and terminology of the present fighting over the spoils of a dysfunctional post-colonial state that has never had a stable government that wasn't backed by force.

Whoever takes power and in whatever combination of shifting alliances, most of the country will still be poor and illiterate. Sexual harassment will still be commonplace and the presence of women in the public sphere will continue to diminish. Christians will continue being shoved aside and the West will be blamed for everything. There will be more men with beards and women with veils and few people will have rights and most things will run on connections.

Some on the left dream of the Egypt that might have been if Israel had never existed and there had been nothing to get in the way of Nasser's Arab Socialist program. But Nasser was not some great leader who was sidetracked by that pesky Jewish state sitting in the middle of his Arabist empire, he was a buffoon who needed an external enemy because he lacked any real ability to move his country forward. That made him no different from Saddam, Assad, Khaddafi and every tinpot dictator cluttering up the region.

Now the Arab left is through, has been through for a long time. Even the dictators never had much use for it, not even when they were promoting Arab Socialism and fattening themselves on Soviet aid. The only people interested in the Arab intellectual are Western academics and diplomats who haven't learned that the majority of the breed are either idle theorists or toadies for those in power.

The military is rotten, a relic of British colonialism kept in place by the need to fight the ethnic and religious minority across the border, and turned into a ruling class with tentacles in the country's economy. Hated by the pre-military elite families, many of whose children and grandchildren played a major role in Tahrir Square, it has no justification for ruling the country except the instability. Without the ideology of a Pan-Arabist power or anything besides its past record of fighting Israel, its only basis for rule is wholly serving.

That only leaves the Brotherhood, which has been working toward this for a long time, purging the country of its outside influences and crawling to the top. Now the political path has opened up, but elections means very little. In Egypt they mainly mean a chance to fail. But running Egypt has very little resemblance to anything that looks like functioning government. After all the shouting and arguments, the winner will be the one with the biggest mobs and the most bread and circuses.

That is the real future of Egypt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Decline of Nations

No country falls but from within. Given a sufficient population and resources to hold off its enemies, the only sufficient explanation for its fall is internal.

Take the decline of the West, which is often talked about and attributed to leftist conspiracies and Islamic colonialism. But why is Japan, a First World nation whose culture and geography differs dramatically from America and Europe also in a state of economic, political and cultural decline? Not to mention demographic decline.

The Japanese left is certainly active, but blaming it for the country's decline is a more difficult proposition. Japan has a long history of Islamic outreach, but it isn't about to be Islamized and immigration is not a factor. Nor did Japan have a religious heritage that was lost to secularism. Nevertheless with its dwindling population, escapist culture, dysfunctional politics and tremulous foreign policy-- Japan's follies seem to resemble those of the West. The origins of its problems may be different, but the outcome is the same.

Taking a broader view, it almost seems as if joining the club of First World nations is a national death sentence. Sure the technology and the social benefits are nice, but they're not much good without a future.

The future is an important part of the equation, not the actual future to come, but how people see the future. Progress split the world into two kinds of societies, those that could envision a future different from the past-- and those that could only imagine the past endlessly repeating itself.

To change, you must first know that change is possible. Only then is it possible to break free of the wheel of time and rise like an arrow into the unknown reaches of the future. A hundred years ago, the world was dominated by nations that were fascinated by change and futurism. 1900 was attended by wild predictions about what life in the year 2000 might be like. That century also brought the explosion of Science Fiction, a primarily American literary genre that envisioned technology reshaping mankind.

60 years ago those elements still remained in place, but progressivism had become Dionysian, irrational pleasure seeking and substance abusing, its reformism limited to social reforms. Big government was swiftly becoming the only element of the old progressivism that still remained intact, but even that was a shell of the scientific government it was meant to be.

Pessimism has replaced optimism. Mankind is in a state of eternal war against its own social problems, class war, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on carbon and the war on terror with no solutions in sight. The Dionysian intoxication drifted between naive optimism and pessimistic melancholia aided by large doses of self-medication with drugs, prescription and illegal, to aid in their doomed search for happiness and fulfillment.

The enemies of the West had never embraced progress. The Soviet experiment was derived from a Western European model and quickly reverted to Czarist feudalism under a new name. And Islam, which had never accepted any other future than the past, was determined to tear away modernity and replace it with the past.

The Clash of Civilizations is a clash between a First World that no longer believes in its own future and an Islamic world that is determined to undo the future and bring back the past.

It is always difficult to envision the future, but the First World's visions of the future have gone from the optimistic to the pessimistic to the entirely blank. The progressives see the future as a long chain of government offices, the expansion of authority from the local to the national to the global. But there's no romance in global government as even the EU's biggest enthusiasts have trouble depicting it as anything more than some tottering gargantuan nightmare. 

Take Europa riding the bull, a common piece of EU art, the outward symbolism is of the gentler side of humanity fighting to rein in the beast of nationalism, but the actual tale is of a god in the form of the beast abducting Europa. The Eurocrats might like to pretend that the woman represents the EU, but actually they see themselves as the beast-god, ideals posing as brute force, to kidnap and ravish the nations of Europe for their own good/

The EU's motto "In Variate Concordia" or "United in Diversity" means something very different from the similar sounding, "E Pluribus Unum" or "Out of Many, One", the original motto of the US and even more different than the official motto, "In God We Trust". In Variate Concordia is contradictory, expressing the limits of the progressive vision without even knowing it is doing so.

Bigger and bigger government is not inspirational to anyone who doesn't foresee a future working for it. Nor is a national identity built out of regional and global diversity at all meaningful. A future of multicultural bureaucracy isn't visionary, it's crisis management for societies that use cheap slogans to pave over real problems.

That European vision defines the First World, but it is a vision in decline and the decline of national vision is also the decline of nations. Latecomers to the club, including America, Japan and Israel have tried to adopt the European vision with disastrous results and formerly optimistic countries now suffer from national malaise.

50 years ago, America, Japan and Israel represented the "can do" spirit. Today they're as hapless and dysfunctional as Europe and unable to imagine a future that doesn't hinge on some kind of global togetherness as expressed in UN literature and Benetton ads. The European vision has gifted every country that adopted it with oversized and unwieldy governments, unstable economies and no future.

The Islamists and Communists who gathered to feast on the corpse of Europe were a symptom of the problem-- and the problem was a failure of vision. And a failure of vision originates in a loss of identity.

To know what you want from the future, you must first know who you are. The High School student who has yet to develop an idea of the kind of life he would like to lead and the things he would like to accomplish is going to have trouble picking a profession. Are you a strong person? A contemplative one? Do you enjoy the company of people, are you interested in what makes things work? Or are you "United in Diversity" and have no idea who you are?

The American future was defined by an American identity. When the American identity switched to "United in Diversity" and the national goal became to heal the eternal wounds of classism and racism and address all the social problems, then there was literally no future left. If you define the future negatively, in terms of remedying ills, rather than positively in settling an entire continent, then the future can never arrive. And even if it did, you wouldn't want it to, because those ills, racism, sexism, poverty and pollution are the closest thing you have to an identity.

A nation does not have to be multicultural to suffer an identity crisis, not when it's piggybacking on someone else's identity crisis. Japan tried very hard to catch up to Western modernism, now it's racing Europe into economic and demographic decline, without ever opening up its borders or indulging in much political correctness, besides the ritual apologies to the Ainu. Israel is still on the rise economically and demographically, but culturally it has drunk deep of the poisoned wells of European academia.

America, Australia, Canada and the rest of them are busy with their own apologies to the indigenous peoples and the foreign peoples who were offended by something or by anything. Which amounts to apologizing for their existence. And nations that apologize for their own existence have lost their identity and their future.

The "United in Diversity" model is broken, globally and locally, and that model is used to sustain the national, regional and global federalization of government into one long iron chain of authority. Without that model, the illusion of functionality would begin breaking down, forcing a redistribution of power back to local authorities.

A more honest name for the First World model would be "Progress Through Central Authority", a distillation of everything that has gone wrong, consuming the energy and vitality of great nations. In the absence of a directional vision, the First World has become easy prey for reactionary utopians with their own perfect societies.

Islam has the demographics to conquer the West and a vision of a future that is the past, building on the progress of the cultures it conquers while crushing the spirit of inquiry that made that progress possible. Having subjugated Athens, Delhi, Constantinople and Jerusalem in the past, it has its eye on London, Paris and New York today. It knows to sweep in when the innovators falter, their cultures decay and become static, and then claim its prize.

Islam has lost Jerusalem, Athens and Delhi, but it is confident of being able to reclaim them, and Athens, despite the loss of Constantinople, is urging the downfall of Jerusalem. But to those who subscribe to the "United in Diversity" vision, what difference does it make who populates a city. All people are alike in that they are to be ruled by the same global authorities. What matters is the rule of law embodied in global government... not the beliefs and identities of individual peoples, except as cultural heritage fairs.

If the First World nations don't reclaim national visions of the future that are deeper than that, then they will fall into the hands of those whose vision isn't "United in Diversity", but "United in Submission" and "Enslaved Through Force".

Creative societies innovate, decaying societies quarrel over the scraps and invite in their own enemies to rule over them. It has happened before and it is happening again before our eyes. Our capacity to resist that decay emerges from our culture and its vision of the future. Only when we see the future as an adventure, rather than a progressive decline, will we be able to win that future for ourselves and our grandchildren.