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Sunday, April 08, 2012

One Hundred Broken Mirrors

Old wars never really go away. Thirty years after Falklands, Argentina and the UK are still facing off over the islands. Bananas are going for a pound each and there's an egg shortage among the native population.

Thirty-one years after Israel destroyed Saddam's nuclear reactor a few miles outside of Baghdad to the universal condemnation of the whole world, it seems likely to launch such an attack. Once again Israeli F-16's are likely to head into the jaws of a regional power and come out victorious and condemned.

There is good reason why old wars don't go away. War hatreds are convenient distractions for poor economies, whether in Buenos Aires or Tehran. If a bomb falls on Israel, few in Iran will be asking how much money the Revolutionary Guard pocketed from developing the massive program. And in the middle of economic turmoil, denouncing the Brits for stealing islands on which hardly anyone wants to live, but the people living on them, is a fine distraction from a closer look at how Kirchner is using legislation to consolidate economic power.

Thirty-nine years after the last major war between Israel and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will unveil a constitution based on the Al-Azhar document, a lovely piece of work which emphasizes the importance of democracy and freedom-- and the subservience of both to Islamic law. Western observers still working up their enthusiasm for the Arab Spring are noting the former and not the latter.

Virtually everyone has ignored one of the final clauses of the Al-Azhar document and its commitment to the "Palestinian" cause. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian cause is Hamas, which is to say themselves. A commitment to Hamas is a commitment to an arm of the Brotherhood. A war against Israel is inevitable, but not until the Brotherhood sucks as much aid out of the Great Satan as it can, under the pretense of serving as a moderating influence on Hamas.

For all the beards and Koran thumping, the Brotherhood is likeliest to begin hostilities when a poor economy causes a dip in its popularity. The Egyptian phase of the Arab Spring wasn't fired by idealism, except in some corridors of Twitter and even then most of the idealists ended up running for public office. The economy was bad, the price of bread was high and corruption was everywhere. And none of those factors are going away. The Brotherhood is an economic cartel just like the economic cartels in the military and the ruling party that it promised to get rid of. And the Salafis are waiting in the wings to succeed them as the incorruptible moral guardians of the nation.

Camp David never meant anything. It was a temporary measure by military leaders looking to transfer their allegiances from the Warsaw Pact to the West, and expand their country's horizons beyond the ritual throwing massive numbers of soldiers, tanks and planes at the Jewish bastards on the other side of the border. A feat which was accomplishing nothing, except for providing a brief distraction from the domestic problems of building some Arab Socialist hybrid of Nazism and Communism for the benefit of the ruling class.

Egypt was not particularly troubled by the battle losses. Sure it lost twice as many men as Israel, but it also had a population many times the size. And the Fellaheen are always replaceable. The massive losses of tanks and armored vehicles weren't too much of a problem either. Uncle Leonid in Moscow would be happy to ship Cairo more of them.

Egypt's biggest casualty in the wars was its sense of pride and that was tied to the sense that it wasn't getting anywhere. It had tried to imitate Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini and none of that worked out. The grandiosity of a Nasser or Saddam was briefly reassuring, but it lacked forward motion. So it tried the American way instead. Not democracy and freedom, but a limited dash of capitalism, some imports, some imitations and a lot of greenbacks.

That is the thing about America that most Americans don't realize. For all the hopeful speeches made by American leaders about exporting the Des Moines way of life to Baghdad or Kandahar, what people in those parts of the world see when they look at America isn't democracy and freedom, it's wealth and power. Those are the things they want, and they don't understand why American leaders keep chattering on about democracy and freedom, no more than we understand why Muslims keep going on about the Koran.

They're not interested in what we believe, but in what we have, and they can't make the connection between one and the other, as far as they are concerned they already believe the right things. Muslims see the West in purely mercantile terms, decadent but rich. Dubai and Riyadh are in their own way crude imitations of us, or how they think we are. Luxury cars, gold encrusted things, prostitutes and tall buildings. The same goes for Moscow and Beijing, which gave rise to their own ruling mafias riding around in limousines, squandering fortunes, building tacky towers and imagining that they are outdoing the West.

That was what Egypt wanted and its ruling elite got it, to some extent, it just didn't have enough natural resources to exploit and the mercantile instincts to become Saudi Arabia, China or Russia. And with the Soviet Union gone, the United States faltering, it found a new path to travel or rather an old path.

The real message of the Brotherhood, the AKP in Turkey and Al-Nahda in Tunisia is that you don't have to choose. You can have the modern good life, a thriving economy, international respect and all the shiny things of Europe and America-- and you can have them through Islam. It's a seductive message, but a hollow one. The Faithful of Islam are just another mafia, even if it's one that claims to be chosen by Allah. What they do really well is enrich their own with gambits, tricks and juggling acts that eventually comes crashing down.

Americans have already gotten a taste of what that system looks like. A corrupt elite overseeing a broken economy being goosed for the benefit of the few. A lapdog media that is forever searching out enemies, bleating denunciations, exposing new threats and conspiracies, to distract everyone from the disaster up top. The Obama era is only a small taste of how people in Russia or Egypt live. In the wake of the Cold War, rather than them becoming more like us, we are becoming more like them.

The Brotherhood's caterpillar caliphate will be more of the same with an Islamic coating. Just as Russia and China are the same with nationalistic coatings. Just as Iran is the same with heaps of revolutionary martyrdom on top. Power has only one true purpose, if you doubt that ponder how many Chavez family members hold high-ranking positions in Venezuela or the net worth of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for president.

There's a history here that's deeper than nations and events, it is the history of human character. And it's why nothing will really change. Nothing really can change. Nations can fall, but until they do, the cycle will repeat again and again.

Israel will have to fight because nothing has really changed. It will have to fight because it lives in a global community and that community looks nothing like Eleanor Roosevelt thought it would. It will have to fight because it lives in a region where when people get bored, angry or upset, they fight. It lives in a region where corrupt leaders start wars as a distraction or to keep the army pointed away from them or because the people are angry over the price of bread.

Had Mubarak sent the army into Israel, instead of into Cairo, he would likely still be in power. But he thought that he could survive without extreme measures and knew that the United States, which wields economic power over Egypt and particularly its military, would not approve of such a step. Mubarak's successor will not make that same mistake. When things get bad, the military will roll, with a win-win situation for the Brotherhood, which will either see Israel destroyed or see the military disgraced.

Iran's clerics and generals hoarding their ill-gotten loot while the crowds are ready to lynch them at a sign of weakness certainly will not make that mistake. And with a nuclear weapon, they won't even need to leave home to reap the political benefits. And without a nuclear weapon, they will still go on doing what they are doing now. Because there is no other way.

The Islamic revolution, like the Communist revolution like the Third Reich has failed. The people at the top, who aren't completely delusional know it. There is no place to go. No golden utopia over the bend. Just the grim work of conquest and repression, of internal feuds and piles of wealth. Once the true believers are purged, the smiling men in uniforms and beards step off their posters and act the part of kings. And so there will be war, because there is nothing else.

We can escape many things, but never ourselves. Israel is proof of that in the ways that it exposes its own flaws, those of its friends and those of its enemies. The revival of a country thousands of years gone is a mirror that reminds us that very little has changed. It is an unwelcome reminder in a region always looking to unlock a lost golden age with a sharp sword.

No people can escape itself, but they can escape another by killing it. If nothing else it passes the time, it distracts the crowds worried about the price of bread or how they'll pay for the wedding. Even the ugliest forms of action still hold the illusion of a forward momentum. The Nazis at the end had lost their race across Europe, but they still had their death camps. The shrinking Soviet Union still had its Gulags. Muslims have their Jihad and their Dhimmis. Power can look a lot like progress. With the ability to kill your enemies, you can almost forget that you have nowhere to go afterward.

History repeats itself because we repeat ourselves. Systems fail because people fail. The more perfect a system aspires to be, the quicker it rots and comes apart. The wheel spins and the cycle begins again.

12 comments:

Lemon said...

What was is, what is was and nothing is new under the sun.

dave s said...

The reality the Western intellect can no longer handle. A superb piece. I suppose our leaders no longer read, or if they do, understand Homer's Iliad

mindRider said...

Man's tools change and develop, man's mind does hardly. The color of the veneer man behaviour gets varnished with by one or other philosophy changes but remains ever thin and brittle ready to shatter and expose the animal within. Generation after generation we re-invent ever the same wheel of destiny.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Eastern view of American wealth as separated from our democratic system. I also agree that the last war never really ended.

For me, the part that is missing is that we are viewed as the weak horse. Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey are good examples of a society moving in a Western, secular direction after 1973.

However, by failing to respond completely to the Iranian counter revolution in 1979, it was downhill since then. Iran released the American hostages immediately upon Reagan's election without firing a shot. As opposed to keeping them under Carter even with a failed military rescue attempt.

Once Regan's restraint of Iran was gone, there are no boundaries.

Death of the West is not murder, it is suicide.

The root issue is that Islam has correctly identified the West as the "weak horse". They are right on that issue. Nothing else matters.

Anonymous said...

I would also add that Islam sees the end-game in sight. That is why in the last 30 years, things like ethnic cleansing have wiped out indigenous populations of Christians and Jews that have lived in Arab lands for thousands of years.

This war cycle is different: (1) They are defining terms of victory by winning on their terms. (2) They are taking the war to Western streets.

Keliata said...

Our enemies make their threats public information and always keep their promises of destruction and we continue to try to make friends with them as if we can win them over.

Geoffrey Britain said...

Whoa. Do I detect a bit of pessimism and woe is us?

Nothing Daniel said is untrue, none of your analysis is untrue. All of it is incomplete.

Yes, the glass is half empty but it is also half full.

Islam is in a fight to the death with the West because it cannot survive another century of cultural exposure to an ever increasingly modern world with which it cannot compete or relate.

Islam however, cannot win this war. Read Wretchard's inescapably logical The Three Conjectures as to why Islam cannot win its war with the west.

Islam shall either lose conventionally or it will lose in a nuclear conflict. Either way, Islam will not be a terrorist force in the 22nd century.

Yes, the cycle of social entropy is ever active and human nature remains. Historical perspective however, yields some contradictory facts; in freedom, technological advances and sheer quality of life, we have far more to be grateful for than existed during even the 'golden age of the enlightenment', a time when life was, for the majority but a bit less nasty, brutish and short than it had been in any time before.

Our grandchildren will see in their lifetimes the emergence of a great Tidal Wave of Change which shall certainly bring its challenges and human nature will remain (barring the "technological singularity" predicted by some) but the promise of the virtually certain potential ahead, equals that challenges we face.

Anonymous said...

The bigger story according to the NYT is that Mitt Romney will channel American Foreign policy through the devil himself, Netanyahu. Certainly a reason for Obama to funnel American taxpayer money to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and support his re-election.

Say, when is the NYT going to do hard-hitting pieces on the corruption in Mexico and really discuss the drug wars there on the front cover like they did the Mitt-Netanyahu piece and as they seem to focus all their Israel bashing? Doesn't Carlos Slim really want it extensively covered?

Anonymous said...

I'll concede that history repeats itself up to a point.

On the other hand, when is the last time anybody met an Amalekite?

Dr. Zharkov

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your essays, but this one was too dark. Whether you are right or wrong,or in between, I feel there should always be a little window of hope in our way of thinking. Or else we just doom ourselves and there is no point in anything.
Polyanna

Keliata said...

"The Nazis at the end had lost their race across Europe, but they still had their death camps. The shrinking Soviet Union still had its Gulags"


Yes. The Russian Federation is now turning the Gulags into museums claiming to remind Russians of the horrors of the past. Meanwhile, the documentary Torture Factory was proven to have been filmed in 2007, not before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Nothing new under the sun.

Anonymous said...

This is the best blog around. Keep up the good work. Can this guy become president?

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