September 18, 2002

wanna talk root-causes?

Steven Den Beste lays out his case for Iraq, which strangely enough sounds like a thorough analysis of root-causes. Those poor, poor liberals, who still think that answering the question “Why do they hate us?” will avoid any spilled blood and make the world embrace in green fields lined with oleander.

Soon. There’s some business that needs taking care of, first.

We must attack Iraq. We must totally conquer the nation. Saddam must be removed from power, and killed if possible, and the Baath party must be shattered.

“Put the hanky down, it’s clobberin’ time.”

But Saddam isn’t our enemy. bin Laden (may he rest in hell) is not our enemy. Iraq isn’t our enemy. al Qaeda isn’t our enemy. The Taliban weren’t our enemies.

Our enemy is a culture which is deeply diseased.

We’re everything that they think they should be, and by our power and success we throw their failure into stark contrast, especially because we’ve gotten to where we are by doing everything their religion says is wrong; we’ve deeply sinned, and by so doing we’ve won. They are forced to compare their own accomplishments to ours; we are the standard of success, and in every important way they come up badly short. They have nothing whatever they can point to that can save face and preserve their egos. In every objective way we are better than they are, and they know it.

And since this is a “face” culture, one driven by pride and shame, that is intolerable. Nor is it something we can easily redress. The oft-proposed idea of increasing aid and attempting to eliminate poverty may well help in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, but it will not defuse the hatred of our Arab/Islamic enemies, for it is our success that they hate, not the fruits of that success.

They face a profound crisis of faith, and it can only resolve one of three ways.

First, the status quo can continue. They can continue to fail, sit in their nations, and accept their plight. By clinging to their culture and their religion they may be ideologically pure, but they will have to continue to live with the shame of being totally unable to earn the respect through achievement that would be the only thing that actually would satisfy their grievance. Solution one: they can stagnate.

The second thing they can do is to accept that their culture and their religion are actually the problem. They can recognize that they will have to liberalize their culture in order to begin to achieve. They can embrace the modern world, and embrace western ways at least in part. They can break the hold of Islamic teachings; discard Sharia; liberate their women; start to teach science and engineering in their schools instead of the study of the Q’uran; and secularize their societies. Solution two: they can reform.

Some Arab nations have begun to do this, and to the extent that they have they have also started to succeed. But this is unacceptable to the majority; it is literally sinful. It is heresy. What good does it do to succeed in the world if, by so doing, you condemn your soul to hell?

Which leaves only one other way: become relatively competitive by destroying all other cultures which are more capable. You level the playing field by tearing down all the mountains rather than filling in the valleys; you make everyone equally tall by shooting everyone taller than you are. Solution three: they can lash out, fight back.

We’re facing a 14th century culture engaged in a 14th century war. The problem is that they are armed with 20th century weapons, possibly including nuclear weapons. And they embrace a culture which honors dying in a good cause, which means that deterrence can’t be relied on if they get nuclear weapons.

Why is it that the US is concerned about Iraq getting nukes when we don’t seem to be as concerned about Pakistan or India or Israel? It’s because those nations don’t embrace a warrior culture where suicide in a good cause, even mass death in a good cause, is considered acceptable.

It’s certainly not the case that the majority of those in the culture which is our enemy would gladly die. But many of those who make the decisions would gladly sacrifice millions of their own in exchange for millions of ours.

It may sound strange to say, but what we have to do is to take the 14th century culture of our enemies and bring it into the 17th century. Once we’ve done that, then we can work on bringing them into the 21st century, but that will be much easier.

I am forthrightly stating that it will be necessary to destabilize the entire middle east, which puts me exactly counter to European foreign policy. No bandaid will do. It isn’t possible to patch things up with diplomacy because the rot runs too deep. Diplomacy now would be treating the symptoms and not the true disease.

I am forthrightly stating that no amount of aid to the poor will stop the aggression against us, angering liberals everywhere. It isn’t our wealth they hate, it’s our accomplishments. The only way we can appease them is to ourselves become failures, and that is a price I’m not willing to pay.

I’ve parsed his argument down severely. It really is quite a nice piece of work in full.

> The second thing they can do is to accept that
> their culture and their religion are actually
> the problem.
Nothing like some good old fashioned American arrogance to push America into a war.
They’re wrong; we’re right. Do we really need any more evidence than that?
C’mon, Dane. You don’t really believe that they’re in need of a good conquering, because they wear turbans and there are differing spellings for their holy text in English… do you?
Get real… and get over the impression that a Bible and a red white and blue passport are better than the alternative.

No. They do not need a good conquering because they wear turbans. Your argument is merely a straw man. They need a good conquering because their culture embraces violence, death and the spread of its beliefs across the world, by any means necessary. To do any less would be dishonorable.
Yes, yes, yes, I’ve heard the smugness from “intellectuals” who sniff at any attempt to create a heirarchy of right cultures versus wrong cultures. The genius of post-modernism tells us that we cannot do such a thing.
Who am I to say that human lives are worth something? Who am I to say that suicide is not honorable, even when I take as many innocents from my enemy as possible? Who am I to say the terrorists were not justified in their actions? They obviously thought they were justified, or else they wouldn’t have done it, right?
The wonderful, shaky, amoral grounds of pomo.
A culture that results in nations that oppress their women and forbid criticism of their government is hardly a culture at all.
I point you to a Wall Street Journal op/ed piece from last February, which has a similar thesis to that of Den Beste. It’s long, it’s well-written, and I challenge you to take the time to read it.

How much easier for nonvoters of the Arab world to vent frustration at the West, as if, in some Machiavellian plot, a democratic America, Israel and Europe have conspired to prevent Muslims from adopting the Western invention of democracy! Democracy is hardly a Western secret to be closely guarded and kept from the mujahideen. Islam is welcome to it, with the blessing and subsidy of the West. Yes, we must promote democracy abroad in the Muslim world; but only they, not we, can ensure its success.
The catastrophe of the Muslim world is also explicable in its failure to grasp the nature of Western success, which springs neither from luck nor resources, genes nor geography. Like Third World Marxists of the 1960s, who put blame for their own self-inflicted misery upon corporations, colonialism and racism–anything other than the absence of real markets and a free society–the Islamic intelligentsia recognizes the Muslim world’s inferiority vis-�-vis the West, but it then seeks to fault others for its own self-created fiasco.
But blaming the West, and Israel, for the unendurable reality is easier for millions of Muslims than admitting the truth. Billions of barrels of oil, large populations, the Suez Canal, the fertility of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates valleys, invaluable geopolitical locations and a host of other natural advantages that helped create wealthy civilizations in the past now yield an excess of misery, rather than the riches of resource-poor Hong Kong or Switzerland.
Many Middle Easterners have performed a great media charade throughout this war. They publish newspapers and televise the news, and thereby give the appearance of being modern and Western. But their reporters and anchormen are by no means journalists by Western standards of free and truthful inquiry. Whereas CNN makes a point of talking to the victims of collateral damage in Kabul, al-Jazeera would never interview the mothers of Israeli teenagers blown apart by Palestinian bombs. Nor does any Egyptian or Syrian television station welcome freewheeling debates or “Meet the Press”-style talk shows permitting criticism of the government or the national religion. Instead, they quibble over their own degrees of anti-Americanism and obfuscate the internal contradictions of Islam. The chief dailies in Algiers, Tehran and Kuwait City look like Pravda of old. The entire Islamic media is a simulacrum of the West, lacking the life-giving spirit of debate and self-criticism.
As a result, when Americans see a cavalcade of talking Middle Eastern heads nod and blurt out the party line–that Israel is evil, that the United States is naive and misled, that Muslims are victims, that the West may soon have to reckon with Islamic anger–they assume the talk is orchestrated and therefore worth listening to only for what it teaches about how authoritarian governments can coerce and corrupt journalists and intellectuals.
If Israel were not so successful, free and haughty–if it were beleaguered and tottering on the verge of ruin–perhaps it would be tolerated. But in a sea of totalitarianism and government-induced poverty, a relatively successful economy and a stable culture arising out of scrub and desert clearly irks its less successful neighbors. Envy, as the historian Thucydides reminds us, is a powerful emotion and has caused not a few wars.
Most Americans recognize and honor the past achievements of Islamic civilization and the contribution of Middle Eastern immigrants to the United States and Europe, as well as the traditional hospitality shown visitors to the Muslim world. And so we have long shown patience with those who hate us, and more curiosity than real anger.
But that was then, and this is now. A two-kiloton explosion that incinerated thousands of our citizens–planned by Middle Easterners with the indirect financial support of purportedly allied governments, the applause of millions, and the snickering and smiles of millions more–has had an effect that grows not wanes.
So a neighborly bit of advice for our Islamic friends and their spokesmen abroad: topple your pillars of ignorance and the edifice of your anti-Americanism. Try to seek difficult answers from within to even more difficult questions without. Do not blame others for problems that are largely self-created or seek solutions over here when your answers are mostly at home. Please, think hard about what you are saying and writing about the deaths of thousands of Americans and your relationship with the United States.
America has been a friend more often than not to you. But now you are on the verge of turning its people–who create, not follow, government–into an enemy: a very angry and powerful enemy that may be yours for a long, long time to come.

Didn’t I say yesterday I was going to stop working on this damn thing for awhile?

I don’t feel like arguing, so I’m just going to prove the quadratic formula:
x = (-b +/- SQRT (b^2 – 4ac)) / 2a
2ax = -b +/- SQRT (b^2 – 4ac)
2ax + b = +/- SQRT (b^2 – 4ac)
(2ax + b)^2 = b^2 – 4ac
4a^2x^2 + 4abx + b^2 = b^2 – 4ac
4a^2x^2 + 4abx = -4ac
4a^2x^2 + 4abx + 4ac = 0
a^2x^2 + abx + ac = 0
ax^2 + bx + c = 0 Q.E.D.

Fact is, I should read those articles, and I would like to, but I just have too much other stuff to do to cram that in as well.
I commend you for staying informed, and coming to a conclusion based on a lot of information which you’ve read and analyzed.
Regardless of what my thoughts are, yours are more thoroughly researched, and, I assume, considered.
That’s without saying they’re right or wrong. But who is ever right or wrong about anything, especially in advance of the matter in question?

I think what is going on is truly indicative of a world-wide movement in blameshifting. It manifests itself in pointless lawsuits in American courts, to Anti-American rallies in the middle east. No one wants to place responsibility squarely on their shoulders, lest they recieve some sort of punishment for their actions. The current systems are littered with laws, regulations, customs, etc. that in reasonable use work as intended. Throw in a few screwballs who find a way to twist the words for an advantageous position, get some sheep to follow them, and that’s where we are. We’re giving up our civil liberties so we can sleep better at night, knowing that “we weren’t responsible for those people’s deaths/suffering/insert condition here .” I know that’s only applicable to the U.S. side of the equation, but truly the point is the same. We didn’t do it, someone else did. AUGH!