Interview with William R. Polk: Out of Iraq Now





Mr. Shenkman is the editor of HNN.

Mr. Polk taught at Harvard from 1955 to 1961 when he was appointed a member of the Policy Planning Council of the US State Department. He is the author most recently (with George McGovern) of Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006), which advocates the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of June 2007. This interview was conducted by email.

First, how did you come to write this book with George McGovern?

I have long admired Senator McGovern as one of those “old fashion” Americans who, without any pretence, sticks to fundamental principles.  He has paid a considerable price for this, as you know, losing the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon with tragic results for our country.  I did not know him then, but we met last year and began to discuss what was happening in Iraq.  Both of us had been much affected by the Vietnam war, he in the Senate and as the candidate who was attacked rather viciously over his stand against the war, and I in the Policy Planning Council where I argued (from 1962) that we would lose the war.  I gave a lecture to this effect to the “best and brightest” of our colonels at the National War College in 1963.  They were more polite than the press was to McGovern, but they were, to put it mildly, not pleased by my prediction. 

Anyway, the years passed and in 2004, he read my book  Understanding Iraq where I argued, as I had on Vietnam, that we were engaged in a process we did not understand and of whose history we were ignorant.  He fully agreed.  We both had seen that an increasing number of observers were coming around to what we had been saying all along on the Iraq war.  What was missing, obviously, was  what to do about it.  No one was addressing that issue.  So we decided to tackle it.  The result was our book Out of Iraq which spells out a complete program, costed out, with a timetable and an evaluation of the effects of each aspect.

Dick Cheney and others say that if we were to withdraw from Iraq we'd be giving the terrorists the victory they want.  Do you agree?

Certainly not.  Nor, I think, does any competent observer.  But, as you know, Americans have been so traumatized by the issue of terrorism and politicians have been so scared of being thought to be “soft on terrorism” that it isn’t enough or even persuasive to try to take a detached look at the issue.  So where possible, we cite others who cannot be dismissed as liberals  to show how misled we have been by Cheney, Bush and company.  For example, a man no one could accuse of being a liberal Democrat, Lt. General William Odom, the former head of the super-secret National Security Agency, said flatly, that in our policy in Iraq “We’re achieving Ben Laden’s ends.”  The conservative or libertarian Cato Institute made that case too.  And the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute determined that the resistance in Iraq is expanding and becoming more deadly as a consequence of our presence there.  As one of the younger officers out in the field in Iraq told a Washington Post reporter last August, “No body wants us here…if we leave all the attacks would stop, because we’d be gone.”

Now it is important to understand “terrorism.”  It is not a “thing.”  The idea of making war on terrorism may be good PR but it is meaningless.  It is like saying “making war on war.”  Terrorism is simply a tactic.  I have labeled it “the weapon of the weak.”  When combatants don’t have aircraft, tanks or vast numbers of soldiers, they use it.  We did in the American Revolution before George Washington created a British-type army at Valley Forge.  The Irish used it.  So did the Algerians, the Zionists in Palestine, the Vietnamese before Dine Been Phi, and so on.  The Iraqis who oppose us do not have large numbers of fighters – the best guess is about 15-20 thousand – nor do they have the massive equipment our 130-150,000 soldiers and 25,000 or so mercenaries have so they fight as guerrillas.  And when they cannot do even that, they fight as terrorists.  We can anticipate that if we attack Iran, as many fear we will, the Iranians will use guerrilla warfare when they can and terrorism when they have no other means to fight.   It follows that the longer we stay in Iraq and the more wars we fight, the more danger there will be of terrorist attacks wherever those who oppose us can carry them out.  Including, of course, right here in America. 

One more point: no one has ever been successful in stopping guerrilla warfare or terrorism with force.  All the hoopla about “counterinsurgency” is just that, hoopla.  If you really dig into the history of each of the struggles, you find that the gimmicks didn’t work. 

You recommend in your book temporarily replacing the American troops with a lightly armed police force of 15,000 for two years.  Don't you worry they could get caught in a civil war between Shia and Sunnis?

It is a danger.  Our relatively massive military force is now caught in the same mess.  If we cannot stop it with about 150 thousand men, 15 thousand, logically one would have to admit, could not.  However, what I anticipate is that with us, whom about four in five Iraqis regard as the enemy targets, out of Iraq, what will happen is what happened in every guerrilla war I have studied: fighting will die down.  This is a crucial point so permit me to enlarge on it. 

Most guerrilla wars have been about driving out the foreigners.  Our Revolution in 1775 was too.  It was the presence of British troops in Boston that triggered the Revolutionary War.  When the British finally got out in 1783, the war died down.  It didn’t completely stop, at least not immediately, and there was a period of chaos just like what many people who don’t want us out of Iraq now emphasize.  But when the foreign intruder is gone, the people who have been helping the actual fighters become less willing to supply them, feed them, give them intelligence or put up with their demands.  That happened at the end of every guerrilla war.  To put it in the famous phrase coined by Mao Zedong, the “water” – the people – dries up; so the “fish” – the actual fighters – are no longer supported.  Then, assuredly, there will be a period in which terrible things happen while the various factions struggle with one another to readjust their relationships.  We cannot prevent this.  We have not been able to prevent it will all our troops in Iraq now.  But with us gone, the fighting will die down.  So what is needed, I believe, is some help to ameliorate the transition period.  That would be the role of the “stability force.”  It would not be able to, and should not try, to fight the guerrillas.  Its role would be directed against the people all the factions would agree are true criminals, robbers, black marketers, etc.  They would assist in policing the roads, guarding the government offices, banks etc. until such time, hopefully about two years, until an effective national police force, aided by neighborhood watch and ward patrols, can create an acceptable (but still not perfect) degree of security. 

We are not naïve.  We recognize that this will be a difficult period.  But we stress that Americans cannot accomplish it – our record proves this.  So our judgment is that the best hope is an acceptable, patently neutral force which works for and is paid by the Iraq government.

What does history suggest happens when an occupying power withdraws?

I have partly covered this: the key things are two.  The people stop  supporting the fighters and if the government can rise to the occasion it will disarm the fighters.  That is what happened in Ireland.  De Valera suppressed the IRA;  in Yugoslavia, Tito became a nearly conservative nationalist and reined in the men he had led against the Germans; in Algeria, Ben Bella suppressed the “internal” army, the guerrillas who had fought the French; in Kenya, Kenyatta “reconciled” those Kikuyu who had supported the Mau Mau; in Israel, Ben Gurion (at least temporarily) preempted the Irgun and Stern.  When the outside irritant is removed, people try to redress the political process.  If the interruption was of short duration, so is the period of readjustment; if it is long, that becomes much harder.  Ultimately, it can become so disruptive as to virtually destroy a society.  That is why one should not go in and if one does go in, he should get out quickly.

Isn't it likely that if we withdraw civil war will break out and the country will dissolve? (And if that happened, how would that affect America's strategic interests in the region?)

We are already in civil war in Iraq despite Bush’s frequent denials.  It is a very bad situation and will get worse the longer we stay.  We cannot end it.  The idea of “victory” is worse than wrong; it is stupid.  So let me consider the other two parts of your question: will the country dissolve – or should it?  And what will be the effect on American interests if it does.

Much is said about Iraq being an “artificial” country.  What country isn’t?  Well, examples of small island states might be, but look, as I have suggested, at our own history.  The United States was certainly “artificial” and we fought our Civil War to try to overcome nearly crippling regional differences.  Britain?  Tell the Scots or the Welsh that they are English.  France spent centuries convincing the Bretons, the various peoples of Provence (who did not even speak French in the nineteenth century) and the still-unconvinced Corsicans that they are French.  Few nations and states are coordinate or coterminous.  

Having said that, Iraq is weak as a state because it has not existed very long and because the linguistic, religious and cultural differences are both evident and deep-seated. And the Sunni Arabic-speaking Iraqis certainly made life very hard for the Kurds and Shia Arabic-speaking Iraqis.  Hatred is deep.   But, there are important unifying factors: some are internal -- the Iraqis as a whole share experiences that are different from those of their neighbors.  While we think of Iraq in terms of an overview with the Kurds in one area, the Sunnis in another and the Shia in a third, the populations are mingled.  They share infrastructure and institutions and if they were thrown apart the human tragedy, the flood of refugees, would be enormous.   Even more important are external factors.  Let me briefly explain.

If as various Americans including Senator Biden, Peter Galbraith and Leslie Gelb believe it is inevitable, perhaps even desirable, that Iraq flies apart into three pieces, each piece will be vulnerable.  It wasn’t only Saddam Husain who was hard on the Kurds.  Both Turkey and Iran regard Iraqi Kurdistan as a threat to their national interests.  Both have sporadically intervened.  The Turks have sent frequent military missions into Iraqi Kurdistan and almost certainly would do so in the future.  If they are wise, the Kurds will not push autonomy so far that the Turks will take action against them.  Iraqi Shia have a complex relationship with Iran.  Many of the leaders of the “mainline” Shia organization have spent years in exile in Iran, speak Farsi and, of course, share the faith of the Iranian leadership.  The Iraqi Shia, however, are split.  There is a “nationalist” faction which does not want to be drawn into an Iranian orbit.  And the Iraqi Shia leadership in general is unlikely to want to become subordinate to the Iranian leaders.  There is no clear outcome of these issues, but my hunch is that Iran will not push its advantages in Iraq especially if Iraq holds together.  If it does not, then the issue becomes far less clear.  For the third group, the Iraqi Sunnis, I do not see any serious likelihood of intervention by Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia if Iraq holds together but more if Iraq disintegrates.

You oppose the creation of a strong national Iraqi army.  Why?

Looking at Iraqi history from the 1930s to the Baath period, it is evident that the army has always been a source of destabilization and moves against the evolution of a healthy civic society.  There is no reason to believe that it would be different in the future.  Moreover, it has no useful role to play.  And, finally, to the degree that it becomes effective its very existence will promote the arms race in the Middle East.

In the book you are argue that we should turn the Green Zone over to Iraqis and settle for a "normal" size embassy.  Why in the world do you think we are building the largest embassy in the world in Iraq?

The simple answer is that our “embassy” is not an embassy but an occupational government.  And that, of course, is how the Iraqis see it.  If we really decide to disengage, we will need to transform it.

Is the foreign policy establishment, such as it is, willing to back your plan?   (Isn't that support essential for the plan to win the backing of the American people?)

I really do not know what the “foreign policy establishment” is any more.  I think there was one that could be identified back in the Cold War period.  Now, none of the former senior officers I have known in the State Department, Defense Department or CIA feel that they are part of the group now running our foreign and security affairs.

One of your most controversial suggestions is that the United States pay reparations to Iraq.  Do you really think the American people would get behind this proposal?

I think this is probably hard.  However, as we point out, the overall effect of the withdrawal plan we suggest is to save America about 97% of the cost of doing what we are now doing as well as saving the lives of hundreds or perhaps thousands of young Americans.  What we suggest is very cheap at the price.  What we need is for our political leadership to help educate us in our own best interests.  We have a good example of how that worked in the Vietnam War when Senator William Fulbright held headings that clarified the great issues and the options.  Sadly, nobody from either party is rising to that level of statesmanship now.

What happens if we remain in Iraq for a couple more years?

More casualties and more wasted money.  We are now spending about $100 billion a year and that cost is rising about 30% a year.  That is just the “out of pocket” expenditure.  The real cost to our society will be far higher.  Probably Iraq has already cost us, if we figure the costs as an insurance company would, about $1 trillion.  So two more years will eat up more money.  That is on the order of $6,000 to $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.  This drain on our economy has a ripple effect.  To shield the public from the real cost of the war, the Bush administration has sweetened the deal by cutting taxes.  In order to do that it has had to borrow vast amounts abroad.  I don’t know the latest figure but in 2004, we borrowed $540 billion, mainly from the Chinese.  We put our economy in more jeopardy than Usama bin Ladin could possibly have done.

Then look at casualties.  October has been a horrifying month.  Are November, December and so on likely to be better?  Our military commanders certainly do not think so.  And consider what they do not like to talk about in public: the “quiet” casualties – the wounded.  The war has damaged the lives of over 20,000 young men and women, about half of whom will never recover.  But that is only the start.  At least 50,000 have suffered brain concussions that will partially disable them already and at least another 40,000 have suffered severe psychological damage.  The monetary costs, to be crass about their disabilities, will be with our society for at least a generation to come.  How many more will two more years of senseless war add to these numbers?  No one can tell, but we can be sure that they will be significant.

What's the chief lesson of Iraq?

There are several.  Do not get into such senseless and unwinnable conflicts.  Use multilateral diplomacy instead of unilateral force.  Be more patient.  Be more honest and better informed.  Educate ourselves. 


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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Somewhere in this thread Mr Clarke expressed his, and certainly many many others', dismay at the proliferation of direct personal insults that has been patently increasing , here at HNN, in the last two or three months .
A charge that none of the frequent posters is free from.
That phenomenon is, objectively, an indication of a true step backward for all and NOT of an intensification of the ,supposedly ,dialogues of the concerned.
That is genuinely lamentable and shameful to each and everyone one of us who one time or another, some more often than most, vented his strong disagreement by hurling an insult or an uncivil remark.

Lamentable as it is insults could be brushed aside but a no less shameful development, and a patently much more seriously dishonest practice, is the tendency by some to put words , directly or indirectly,in other people's mouths. And /or make assumptions about the "expected", assumed, attidude/stand of a certain, usually, frequent poster who never tried to camouflage where he stands.

The two outstanding practioners of these practices are;
a- Professor Eckstein who whenever he reads or hears something "nasty" about Islam that displeases him , or rather innerly actually pleases him , cries out: "Omar has to explain this" or something to that effect effect.Assuming:
1- That that "nasty" thing is representative and valid Islam wise and
2- That "Omar" supports it to the point of having to "explain" it.
( I wrote a whole poster about his, to my knowledge, latest call for an explanation.)

b- The second , but immeasurabley craftier ( no insult or offense meant) is Mr Simon.
His latest foray is:

"Yes Peter, "literacy rates, per capita GDP, rights for women, technological advancement, internal stability and security, political accountability" are all being held back by what are expressed as grievances of completely Western causation. "(Simon #101525)

Which is, possibly, an implicit rejoinder to my post re Arab/Moslem grievances re the West in general and the USA in particular .

The question is:
-Who ever, be he, a person ,an institute , a club or a publication ever claimed that:
"literacy rates, per capita GDP, rights for women, technological advancement, internal stability and security, political accountability are rejected or rejectable or inacceptable by other
cultures,though the clear implication in this thread being Moslem culture, for being, or, more accurately, for supposedly being of Western provenance???
Who ever claimed that, irrespective of their provenance ,these universal parameters of human progress :"are all being held back by what are expressed as grievances of completely Western causation." ???

What we have here is more than an insinuation; it is a truly dishonourable mode of communication and a clear effort at brain washing the general reader by making unfounded statements and implicitly attributing them to a certain attitude or stand.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

The argument ;
" Had we done nothing, we would be the paper tiger."
is regularly reraising its head now that America is inexorably on its way to an expensive and failure ridden , except from the Israel/neocon angle,political and military defeat and retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The inanity of this argument is best seen if we, as we should, ask ourselves the obvious question:" Had we(the USA)had an obligation to do something?"
Obviously not if the fundamental ,vital interests of the USA were the sole criterion for American action or inaction in both countries.
None of the two was ever a source of danger to the US nor were they ever likely to become being what they are/were re the USA .
It is not only the LIES( WMD, democracy, OBL and the terrorist/jihadist threat )that carried the American public along in the pre conquest days but, seemingly, an ever present American public inner longing for an imperial America dominating the world.
As long as the USA and its public does NOT forgo that impossible dream the USA will go on committing the same mistake and paying dearly for it.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

According to Mr Friedman and, implicitly, the rest of the herd America has no options re the Arab/Moslem World except what it has been doing, par eccellence, under the Bush/Wolfowitz administration .
More of the same: aggression,destruction, interference in internal affairs, support of the, same, corrupt regimes and ultimately the total identification of American intersts with Israeli intersts!
For whatever America does, according to Mr Friedman, it is bound to displease both the Arab and Moslem worlds.
This is ,however, the False and Self serving , the self not being American, argument that has guided US policies lately to the present debacle.
An objective assessment will clearly show that there are no insurmountable differences or obstacles for better, ie normal, relations between the Arab/Moslem world and the USA nor is their enmity historically preordained as long as the USA is solely guided by US intersts and exercises and shows due respect for the aspirations, interests and heritage of the other party.
It is in the US's vital interest to recognize this obvious fact and forgo policies motivated by, other, non American ulterior interests.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"It would be up to the Iraq'a, if invaded to finally join together in defending their country"
With what?
American promises?


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

That Simon should consider what I have to say is "drivel" (#101453) re my post "The Friedman Impasse" is perfectly understandable and totally expected particularly that it touches on that most sensitive of Zionist nerves: the unAmerican, counter American total identification of American interests with Israeli interests particularly in the Middle East.

Nothing scares the Zionist movement as much as the approaching American public and establishment realization that this identification is a fallacy fostered and furthered by bodies and persons to whom American interests are, at best, second to Israel's.
However the objective facts are: there are no intrinsic insurmountable obstacles to better Arab-Moslem/American relations except for that anti American interests total identification of American interests with the interests of Israel .
That better Arab-Moslem/American relations are to the patent , undeniable benefit of both needs no further elaboration.
And herein lies the source of Simon's fears and his boyish reactions and absence of basic civility.

However Simon's image is too "erudite " and high brow sounding to stop at hurling personal insults.

To maintain this false image as an "intellectual", which he might well be but certainly not of an "honest intellectual", he embarks on a lies ridden, falsification and distortion studded Zionist serving tirade that has both truth and American interests at the bottom of his list of priorities.

HE claims:


"The fact is that it is difficult to discern any cogent grievance or argument coming out of the Middle East that can actually be identified as a real obstacle to the kind of progress the rest of the world has experienced. "

Obviously a false and deceptive statement that ignores the following facts about the region's genuine grievances vis a vis the West in general and the USA in particular; these being, inter alia:
a-The implantation of the aggressive, expansionist and racist state of Israel in the heartland of the Arab/Moslem world , Palestine.
An act that that led to huge regional insecurity and instability and and the inevitable reordering of priorities from development to attaining a reasonably deterrent military capacity .
The subsequent empowerment of Israel, by the USA, into the status of "regional super power"; a status that has enabled Israel to maintain its occupation of Arab lands in Palestine and Syria , wage wars and spread destruction at will and partake in Western imperialist adventures in the region directly (Suez 1956) and indirectly ( the recent conquest of Iraq )

b- The Bush/Wolfowitz led US conquest and wilful destruction of Iraq .

c-American total and uninterrupted support for the most reactionary and most corrupt regimes in the region.
All of the above , irrespective of what Simon and others think,are deeply felt "grievances " by the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the region .
And that is what matters for it is their, the public's, not Simon's , outlook that will decide the shape of the future .
Another, seemingly innocent but conflict arousing , point Simon makes is:

"Whether or not people in the Middle East care for that kind of progress, which would undoubtedly bring them closer to the rest of the world as a whole, is not clear"

The key words here are " that kind of progress"
That would undoubtedly be , according to Simon, "western" style "progress" as distinct from and in semi total, at best, negation of the native born and evolved, culture and heritage respecting mode of "progress" that the majority of the people envision as their road to the future.

Herein Simon is embarking on a new facet of an aggressive imperialist outlook :adopt "our" mode of progress or else!

And why "our " (his) mode? Because he thinks it is better.
In serving the interests of his primary allegiance, Israel, it (Simon's preferred mode of progress) is certainly better.
However he fails to note, though he undoubtedly knows, that that is NOT in our list of priorities nor is it our concern ;our main concern being , obviously, that mode of progress that serves us best and not his Israel.

Here again in his, and their insidious style, Simon has created an unexisting identity of interests between Israel and the USA by implicitly equating whatever is bad for Israel is bad for the USA and vice versa.

It is NOT necessarily so as any cool headed , American interests oriented analysis will show ; better, interactive, non hostile Arab-Moslem/American relations can be attained and maintained irrespective of our different visions of what is the better mode of "progress".
A vision that truly scares Simon &Co!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"....Although I didn't mention Zionism, let alone Israel ..."

You do not have to Mr Simon; it is allover your posts explicitly and implicitly, in your conscious and subconscious mind, dictating each and every word you utter.

Was not your responding post to my "The Friedman Impasse" centered on your negation of the possibility of better Arab-Moslem relations , hitherto marred and poisoned by US total support of Israel ?
Is not your recent post above (#101492) a defense of the present total US identification with Israeli policies?
People do read; understand and REMEMBER what they read.

They are no fools as you wish them to be!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

" am looking forward to your showing me which uncritically examined policies of the Israeli government have halted human development in the Arab world"(Simon#101535)

Its very existence through the dislocation, dispossession and disfranchisement of the Palestinian people in their homeland through Israel's denial of their inalienable right of return to their homeland.

The implantation of Israel by the Zionist movement , aided and enabled by imperialist Britain and maintained and empowered by imperialist USA led directly to the following:
1- The tragic catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people (AL NAQBA) in their homeland and in their diaspora
2-The disconnection and severe disruption of the only land link between al Mashreq and Al Maghreb
3-The very presence of an aggressive and expansionist alien state in their midst.
4-A deep and well founded sense of national insecurity and the resulting need for a deterrent military force to face it; thus empowering the military at the cost of development and democracy
5-The political instability that ensued from the presence of an aggressive, expansionist alien element in their environment and from the empowering the military
6-The presence of an ever ready assistant to all anti Arab imperialist moves; Suez 1956 and Iraq 2003.
7- Being the undeclared , but effective,guardian of the most reactionary and most corrupt regimes in the region with a virtual veto power over regional developments.

THAT in SHORT is the answer to your question Mr Simon


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are wrong about there being any anti-Semitism here. The barbaric eye for eye idiocy of the Israeli government this past summer in Lebanon, which should shame every Israeli with half a conscience, is in fact not supported by most of them, it seems. And only a minority of Jews are Israelis to begin with. I criticize my own government at least 10X as often as I do Israel's. That does mean I am anti-myself.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Correct last sentence of #101390 above:

...does NOT mean (I am anti-American)


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are way off in on the right wing edge of the page with Friedman. He will chase his tail around in circles until the cows come home. He does respond to repeated proof of his blunders on rare occasions. Not worth it usually. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving or whatever you celebrate this time of year.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"more deliberate barbarism of Israel's much more numerous and politically valuable enemies, whose claims - Peter will never admit - are just a tad more intransigent and unrealistic. And dangerous"

Hogwash Simon, you lazy fool.

I have said many times in so many words that the Arabs have been more barbaric than the Israelis and I am happy to repeat it to Omar or anyone else. This is a no-brainer. Israelis have a state to terrorize for them, and even in the Irgun days were not blowing up cafes and buses as a matter of routine everyday business.

I just happen to be enamoured of oh so western and decadent and monolithic "cultural norms," such as those learned by most Americans in Kindergarten, e.g. Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right.

When Israel's relations with America are on a par with Syria's or Yemen's then they can behave like barbarians if they feel so inclined. And rot in hell for it with their barbaric neighbors. If they want our money, our blood, our everlasting UN veto protection (not to mention the endless behind-licking of our moron president), then they'd better behave like people living in the 21st century AD and not BC or whatever the Jewish calendar equivalents are. Or expect to be critized. Which they of course DO (expect to be criticized): it is their blinded American robot-like supporters who have invisibly microscopic-thin skin and like preschoolers cannot ever ever EVER bear to NOT be the last to say something or to ever shut up.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Among the long list of topics here having little or nothing to do with the subject of US policy in Iraq, one historical error should be noted:

"taking Czechoslovakia involved settling a just grievance"

I don't think you could find a textbook written anywhere after 1945 that would advance such an interpretation.

The grievance addressed in the infamous Munich "summit" involved the ethnically-German dominated fragment of that Republic, the Sudetenland, which (contrary to Wilsonian principles) was not assigned to Austria or Germany upon the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire after 1918. It was precisely the NON-grievance nature of the seizure of the rest of Czechloslovakia by the Third Reich which ensured that the immediately following Polish (Danzig) crisis would lead to war, probably world war, unless Hitler backed down.

ON the topic: You have repeatedly made statements, to John and me, along the lines of " I never supported the Iraq war." Why do you have to say this again and again? Where did we ever say you DID support the Iraq operation?

I think you repeat this, not because you ever explicitly supported Bush on Iraq, but because the whole import of your many long posts in this page is to try to EXCUSE the Iraq fiasco, by saying, it doesn't really matter much anyway, the "Jihadists" are winning no matter whether the foreign policies of the US government now are the most clever of the last 60 years or the most bone-headed.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Perhaps" the Rove administration has been using scare tactics. And "perhaps" this propagandizing asssociated with these scare tactics (and the botched policies they are designed to distract from) has primarily had the effect of improving the appeal of those Islamic fanatics who fantasize about restoring Mohammed's empire (for religious reasons, more than "nationalism").


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Friedman, You have "no clue" as to what America should do about the threat of fanatical Islam, yet you fill up this page (which is supposed to be about US policy in Iraq) with long endless post after long endless post about the threat of Islam to America. This is strange behavior.

And what's with this lame straw man who keeps popping up like rotten toadstool:

"our ability thus far to affect things is much less than we believe"

That is really NOT the point here. The topic is NOT "What can America do to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic "street? " An interesting issue, to be sure, but not the topic here, regardless of whether it appears as part of the permanent front page lead article on NFriedmanNewsNetwork about the futility of resistance against the dire and evil Caliphatian takeover of the world.

The main issue here, as it concerns Moslems in the Mideast, is how to NOT affect things.

No matador tries to win the heart or mind of the bull, but he pays close attention to when and how he waves the red flag in front of the bull's face.
Or he is gored.

Milton (no relation of yours, I suppose), who died today, would have said something along the lines of when in doubt leave the federal government out: More likely than not their intervention will make matters worse.

And what exactly is "half-baked" about 60,000 or 600,000 Iraq civilians dying as a result of Cheney's failed cakewalk? If someone were to say that Jewish grievances against Germany in 1945 were "half-baked" would you give them the time of day? Compared to the 20 million or so deaths in the Drang Nach Osten on the colossal eastern front, a couple of million dying at Auschwitz are practically "collateral damage." Therefore a half-baked grievance? Germany should never have tried to "appease" the Jews after '45, and should ask to have its many billions of dollars of reparations paid back?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I guess this question is in response to my comment (#101200) at the top of the page about how Polk's proposals in the interview here

"won't rescue the US of A from the flawed leadership and flawed system that produced this 'greatest American foreign policy disaster ever' in the first place. It is time for HNN and others to stop pussyfooting around, and face this historical disaster squarely."


This is a Big Topic. I was really only pleading for an end to the incessant sweeping of it under the rug.

Certainly a lack of political accountability is a major aspect of the problem. Case in point: The Democrats in the Senate are now falling over themselves to lick the undersides of the shoes of Joe Lieberman. He is seen by these sound-bite-happy caricatures of political leaders as "Kingmaker" in split Senate. If he joins the Republicans (whose candidate he became in the recent race), poof, there goes the Dems control of Congress.

Having a majority. Standing up like stupid cheerleaders before TV cameras. Smiling, shouting (and utterly bereft of workable ideas or policy proposals addressing substantive problems). That's what they care about. And nobody stands up to these clowns.

No one remembers that Lieberman has walked lockstep with the worst president in living memory, from the imminent mushroom clouds, to the mission accomplished, to the non-torture at Abu Ghraib. No one seems aware that without the votes of Dem senators like Lieberman, the resolution authorizing the war on Iraq (Why has that never been discussed here !!?) which has to rank with Austria's ultimatum to Serbia as one of the most idiotic acts of foreign policy ever (Giving a blank check to a president with zero military combat or foreign experience) would not have passed in October, 2002.

There is much more. Our press, the so-called "Antiwar movement," intellectuals, foreign policy pundits, religious leaders. 95% of them failed -and atrociously so- to speak up and properly protest (not oil pipelines in the Caucauses, or space aliens on 9-11, or UN helicopters injecting AIDS into us so that Saddam bin Laden could march down Broadway past our weakened selves) but to protest this very clearly predicted and self-inflicted disaster for America in Iraq concoted by the Republican Chickenhawks, and rubberstamped by the Democowards. Byrd was not the only, or the most prescient, warning voice.

It is a matter of shame, not just learning lessons, and it is matter for deep long-term reform, not moving-on short-term bandaids, or exercises in facile Vietnam unilateral withdrawal nostalgia. And it is a topic for another day.




Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Mocker

Can you post an excerpt or working link to the NYT book review item you referred to?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. F,

When did America ever have a conscious policy on Islam? Should it?

The next time a Jewish or Christian financier or lobbyist is convicted of dirty financial dealings should we adopt a policy on those religions? The framers of the Bill of Rights were fairly clear about this were they not?

Were "Islamists" stronger in Iran in 1982 or 1999?
Were they stronger in Palestine in 1990 or 1995?
Were they stronger in Pakistan in 1948 or 1970?

How many females in Saudi Arabia have college educations versus males?
How different is this ratio from that of Moslems in America?
How would the same comparison (Saudi Arabia vs US) look for rates of family planning?
What is the birth rate among Moslems in the Mideast versus Moslems in Europe or the US?

Before you fill up another page with dozens of very long posts, how about considering some of these questions?

You can do artithmetic and not die.
You can open your mind and not die.
You can do your day job and not die
(although I may if I keep neglecting mine to come here).


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


1. Where are the historical facts?

"When the British finally got out in 1783, the war...didn’t completely stop"

Really? Where? Did Cornwallis come back to retake Yorktown in 1784?


"...when the foreign intruder is gone...the fighting will die down"

What?! Is that what happened to Afghanistan after the Russians pulled out?


2. Where is the accountability that is fundamental to a functioning democracy?

"...in Iraq, Mr. Polk, suggests, “We’re achieving Ben Laden’s ends.”

Undeniably so, but we have also ACHIEVED many of B.L.'s ends REGARDLESS of what happens next.

One of these days, months, or years, Americans are going to have to finally wake up and face up to the monumental foreign policy disaster that is the bungled Iraq cakewalk to disarm Saddam/defeat a tactic/bring democracy to Arabia/insert next Rovian deception. This colossal squandering of American power has made Iraq and the world more dangerous and costly to the US than before. Iraq is now a cesspool of terrorism, murderous lawlessness and chaos. Iran and North Korea are going full-speed towards nukedom. Others will surely follow unless we act fast.

There WERE alternatives in 2001-03. Having let Saddam play cat and mouse for 12 years, we could have waited another six months to let Blix & his inspectors discover that there were no WMD. Or waited six months while he failed prove this, and then gone in with a truly multinational force as in '91. Or simply done nothing on Iraq and focused on cleaning up Afghanistan which is now on its way back to the Taliban instead. These alternatives did not conform to Karl Rove's strategy for the 2004 campaign to legitimately elect W president for the first time.

There can be no true "moving on" in America until those responsible for this self-inflicted Iraq disaster are properly held to account. The recent election hands our hamhanded president a long overdue partial come-uppance, but solves none of the underlying issues. Global instability, terrorism, and antagonism towards America are on the rise, and we have wasted 6 years and hundreds of billions of dollars under Cheney-Bush making things worse. With key Democrats complicit in having massively, cravenly, and myopically rubberstamped most of this folly. Major neocon lap poodles such as Lieberman were reelected so that they can now proceed to cover up their role in making this diasaster possible. One of the few decent Republicans willing to stand up to it, Chafee, is out.

Maybe the proposals outlined in Polk's book are, after all, the least horrible remaining available choice. But they won't rescue the US of A from the flawed leadership and flawed system that produced this "greatest American foreign policy disaster ever" in the first place. It is time for HNN and others to stop pussyfooting around, and face this historical disaster squarely.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. I don't know what you are talking about my not "addressing your points." How about you addressing the topic of the page, first? This is not FNN.

2. I have addressed many of your points, despite their being off topic.
As you have some of mine. This excercise in mutual irrelevancy is at least fair. Don't you agree?

3. If we are to go off topic, and you have hardly ever been on it here at all, then I have as much right as you to pose questions I think are interesting and revealing.

4. Your dodge on the strength of Islamists in Iran is really quite lame. You suggest that all that matters is being in power or not. Well, GW Bush was in power in 2003 and is still there now. Does mean that he is as strong now as 3-4 years ago, or that he can now have his way with Congress as he quite often did then? Of course not.

5. You dodge on the Islamists in Pakistan and Palestine susggest either an ignorance for or contempt of history. History is not A uniform PAST. Changes, ups and downs, turning points, slow trends, sudden reversals. These are among the interesting and tangible facets of history, whether or not those raping history for propaganda purposes (not you, Friedman, of course, but others) want to acknowledge them.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When he thinks he is right, such as on the difficulties of achieving a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Friedman is prone to categorical and dogmatic statements, such as :


Re: Morals have nothing to do with this. (#101461)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 9:04 PM

There really is no peace with Palestinian Arabs that are represented by HAMAS. It is not possible.


When his crass nonhistorical slams such as


The Friedman Impasse (#101440)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 2:50 PM

whatever policy the US has adopted, the Islamists have grown stronger.


or


Dancing around the facts (#101438)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 2:29 PM

Muslim regions have followed the same path - if we look back during your life time and mine - for as long as I can recall and without regard to what policy the US or any other country took

The imperialistic attitude of the Muslim regions is a constant over more than a thousand years. It is driven by religion, not by our policy. The reason we are attacked now is that the time is perceived by large numbers of Muslims to be ripe due to changes in the world which they perceive to favor them.


or his wholesale stereotyping and making monoliths out of diversity such as


Re: Morals have nothing to do with this. (#101428)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 11:50 AM

European position is to take the Arab side


are shown to be the silly non-historical nonsense that they are
(see any general textbook of 20th century European history or my earlier examples of waning Islamism during the 1990s in Iran, or in Pakistan during the Bangladesh crisis, or among Palestinians during the Olso process),


Friedman retreats to evasive or nihilistic or misattributing equivocation ala



Re: Dancing around the facts (#101438)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 2:29 PM

I have no clue what policy would work.

or

Re: excuses, dodges (#101460)
by N. Friedman on November 16, 2006 at 9:02 PM

no easy way to know for sure



His long soap boxing here on HNN amounts to the following polemic:

1. Islam is inherently warlike, dangerous, and oppressive of human rights [True but it is not the only religion with such disagreeable tendencies]

2. Islam is monolithic and on the rise monotonically [Obviously not true, but stayed tuned for evasive, self-contradictory denials of his prior statements along such lines cited earlier in this post]

3. Western leaders are in denial about the threat posed by radical Islam [Also true to an extent, but that does not mean that the policies of the most powerful countries in the world do not have powerful effects on many aspects of life in Moslem countries, including whether they are ruled by medieval Madrass students or Baathist mass-murderers or whether the main result of the deployment of American military power is to sacrifice tens or hundreds of thousands of Moslems without any compensating positive achievement]

4. Friedman will sound the alarm bell by pointing out how every HNN article about the Mideast and every discussion about every such article only feeds that denial if it does not talk in stark one-sided terms about THE Jihad and its overriding goal of the Caliphate and its support among [unqualified or quantified] Moslems [Has he ever convinced a single soul here?]


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Thanks for checking. I expect we will hear more on this topic in the future.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The key choices of 2001-03 were between (a) cautious deliberate actions which probably would have improved things for America only slowly versus (b) reckless unplanned and inept "shock and awe" which were obviously (already THEN) highly likely to make matters much worse.

Bin Laden was clearly hoping for a bungled response to 9-11 by America and he got all he could have dreamed of and more. His main beef was always the presence of infidel troops in his "holy land." And now we have been there for years, like never before in our history, bumbling around with even less of a strategy than we had in Vietnam. The hypocrisy, shame, disgrace, serial ineptitude and deceit-laden wolfcrying are going to be remembered by the world for a long time to come, and everything we try to do internationally has become more difficult than before, no matter how difficult it was already.

The "breathing room" that has now opened up is going to be wasted, if America cuts and runs from Iraq without facing up to the mass stupidity by which it decided to go in there in the first place.

The first priority of Hippocrates applies. Do no harm. America violated this monumentally after 9-11. It sleptwalked in 2001-03, let the Cheney ites shoot it in the foot, and still has not woken up. As this interview shows.

The fact that Islamic terrorism or Jihadism, (or nuclear proliferation) are intractable long term problems not easily solved is no excuse for squandering and utterly mucking up one of the best chances we ever had (in the immediate wake of 9-11), no matter how limited, for formulating effective international strategies against them.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Crocker has said some of this already but

1) Kabul is much much further from Mecca than Baghdad
2) Afghanistan is much smaller than Iraq
3) Afghanistan and the Taliban were clearly linked to 9-11 whereas Saddam never was despite all the Rovian trickery insinuating this
4) We did not need to do "nation-building" in Afghanistan to the extent required, and never easy, and now -thanks to the Cheneyites' blunders- all but impossible, in Iran
5) We had the rest of the world behind us and with us going into Afghanistan
6) Despite many limitations and unsolved problems, we have not had anything like the endless horrors, disasters and lame inept excusing making in Afghanistan where there is no oil and no Abu Ghraib.
7) Bush did not get his ass kicked in last week's election because of Afghanistan
8) There are no blue ribbon commissions, front page headlines, or HNN interviews and debates about how to "get out now" or "stay the course" or find a "new direction" in Afghanistan

We know that Afghanistan and Iraq are both Moslem countries. And that Bin Laden would berate America for doing anything to help the people of either place. And that, on the fringes, neo-con chickenhawks were in favor of both invasions and pacifist feel-gooders against both, but the recent histories of the two and of American involvement therein are otherwise as different as night and day.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

in IRAQ.

I meant to say (above)

Not Iran!


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Baker did indeed get into an extraneous, though hardly irrelevant, rant about US-Israel relations. But, he also skewered your evasion of the grievance question, Simon.

It seems to me that you and Friedman are using out-dated propaganda books here on this page. In the 1990s one might have talked about how Arab and Moslem grievances against the West were overblown excuses used by local tyrants and terrorists to oppress and restrict Arabs and Moslems. Thanks to the barbaric blunders of Bush and Sharon, that is no longer the case, and Baker highlights the glaring hypocrisy of pots calling kettles black.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Simon, put your insult motormouth in to low gear for a moment and look at what has been written here above.

In response to Baker's predictable stock complaint about America being hoodwinked by nefarious unspecified Zionists, you went onto an extended comparative analysis of African and Mideastern modernization/globalization trajectories.

Along the way, making the boneheaded (at least in the context OF THE ISSUE OF THIS PAGE!!) statement that

"The Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa both have grievances regarding colonialism"

thereby utterly ignoring the very tangible and current grievance of the IRAQ FIASCO.

Which Baker correctly nailed you for.


All this business about literacy rates and crooked oil sheiks, and God knows what else is highly interesting, but it has ZERO relevance to the problems created for the world, for Moslems, for Israel, for the future ecology of the oceans, and the cost of driving SUVs, AND FOR THE LONG TERM SECURITY OF THE USA, of Cheney and Bush's Iraq occupation disaster.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Al Qaeda is perhaps more motivated by religion than by specific grievances.

But, the ability of America and the rest of the world to thwart, contain and combat Al Qaeda etc. depends vitally on whether such groups have widespread and deep support among masses of Moslems or not. And THAT, in turn, most assuredly DOES depend on whether American troops and bombs are slaughtering thousands of innocent Moslems for what amounts ultimately to no effect.

The Iraq fiasco (aka Operation W to Win 51% in 2004) we have not brought stability or democracy or real human rights protection to Iraq or anywhere else in the Mideast, we have not retarded the global proliferation of WMD, we have not enhanced the security of America, Europe, or Israel, we have not stopped Islamic fundamentalism from spreading or recruiting new members or carrying out repeated acts of terrorism. Other than removing Saddam, no progress has been made towards any of the supposed goals of the Cheney-Bush administration, and it is not all clear that, after the now increasingly inevitable looking cut and run, that Iraq won't end up becoming just as ugly and dangerous a threat to us as it was under Saddam. And millions of Moslems who had little use for America one way or the other, are now going to hate us for life, because of the ultimately futile sacrifice of their family members, relaitves, neighbors, colleagues, friends etc. Bin Laden won, and big time. And we better stop kidding ourselves and face the reality of how badly we Americans (under this president who has 1/4 of his total tenure in office remaining to try to show a modicum of competence), have screwed things up. It is time to look in the mirror of recent history. This disaster was quite clearly predicted, and Americans were too lazy to listen, think straight, and act responsibly to avert it. And the denial continues.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Why not prove that to be the case"

I already have here. And dozens of times before and you know so shut the H up already. Any nitwit could tell you than more Moslems know about what is going on in Iraq than what happened in Kahlenberg in 1683 even if it was 9-11-1683. But of course your Islamophobic history rapers writing in the 1990s did not predict 9-11-01.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

..to presume that it is presumptious of me to think that Moslems might care about the useless slaughter of thousands of Iraqis and trashing their country thanks to the bumbling chickenhawk neoconartists (endlessly excused by Friedman and yourself, out of some weird paranoid loyalty to kneejerk Islamophobia) having smashed the "pottery barn" to high hell.

The ultimate composition of motivations of Mideasterners over millenia is your feeble evasion tactic to begin with. This issue here is the dilemma facing America in Iraq. Now.
Would you care to address it, on the side, or are you too scared to say anything beyond non-committal wish- washy remarks about "breathing room"?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"As for the view that what held us back was the world's moral revulsion, I think that is nonsense."

You have a point, Friedman, but it is also nonsense to speak about

(a) any path America might have taken re Iraq or 9-11 irritating "Muslims" [without qualification]

(b) "large numbers" of Muslims wanting to be "irritated" [a facile attempt to evade the obvious fact that a "large number" can still be a miniscule minority]

(c) "Muslim power" [what, like that exhibited when Muslim Iraq and Muslim Iran killed a million of their people fighting the long bloody war of the 1980s?]

As if one billion Muslims were a monolith.

Yes, you have been saying this for years on HNN, and yes it is still as ridiculous as ever. As is the silly fearmongering implication that Bin Laden = Hitler. Or that if our leaders don't act like paranoid pre-emptive bungling Israeli ministers rubbling Lebanon last summer, we must be like Chamberlain at Munich.

Clearly there common beliefs held by all Muslims.

Clearly the overwhelming majority are not working for Bin Laden.

Clearly the minority who are sympathetic to Bin Laden has been growing and will continute to grow because America has acted in a manner tailored-made to substantiate his complaints WITHOUT that substantiation doing ANYTHING to improve the security and interests of the Non-Muslim "West." As has been the case in Iraq for the past 3 1/2 years, due to the folly there which will hurt America for years after Bin Laden is gone. Whether we wake up too late to this now, or wait until later when the cost to us will be even higher.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The ultimate futility of Polk's Vietnam Rerun position is visible in his final "lessons":

"1. Do not get into such senseless and unwinnable conflicts.
2. Use multilateral diplomacy instead of unilateral force.
3. Be more patient.
4. Be more honest and better informed. 5. Educate ourselves."

3-5 are, of course, as unobjectionable, and meaningless for foreign policy purposes, as motherhood and apple pie.

RE (1): This is a travesty favored by Vietnam Rerunners. It WAS a mistake for America to get involved in the EXISTING conflict in Vietnam
in 1960s. It was a VERY DIFFERENT kind of mistake to throw Iraq to the dogs and permit the INITIATION OF NEW conflicts in 2003. Honestly, how senile does one have to be not to recognize this distinction three years after the non-"cakewalk" to Baghdad became a proven catalyst for endless failure and catastrophe?

2. "Use multilateral diplomacy instead of unilateral force" is pitiful. Of course, diplomacy should be the first resort. AND IT WAS IN 1990 when Baker met Aziz. What kind of laziness wants to pretend that the last 16 years of history don't exist? The choice, to any but a blind pacifist, was clearly, in 2002-03 already, and long before, between multilateral FORCE and unilateral FORCE, among MANY OTHER choices (relying on incompetents, trusting incompetents, allowing spineless rubberstampers like Kerry to avoid owning up to their complicity in this historic disaster, OR not, etc. etc.)


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Give your computer glared eyes and open up a newspaper, Simon.

Al Qaeda has not moved major recruitment efforts into eastern Austria.

Bin Laden is not talking about avenging the defeat of the Ottomans 323 years ago.

The Danubian plain has not been proclaimed the "central front" in the "war on terror"

Habsburgian policies of the 1680s are did not have decisive effects on the 2006 midterm elections in the US.

You know it would not kill you to admit a mistake, once in a blue moon.
Or shut up your pompous ignorant-of-history trap for once EVER, instead retorting without end, like a spoiled child.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Unfortunately for you, Simon, some of us here remember you from prior pages.

You have made hundreds of posts on HNN in recent months. Most of the minority that have NOT been focused on irrelevant, cowardly-interjection insults concern the Mideast.

When have YOU EVER criticized the policies of the Israeli government? I can recall only one occasion where you cited an Israeli doing so. But taking care not stick your own arrogant but frightened neck out. Maybe there were a handle of others. But a small timid handful at best, which I doubt you could even track down yourself.

Baker is off base accusing you of right-wing Israeli bias on this page, and making a repeat fool of himself by recycling maniacal garbage about "Zionists," but he is forgiven because your kneejerk bias in favor of the most idiotic Israeli actions and careless disregard for the interests of America has plentiful all over HNN as they are absent here. Even as a non-nativist American, you should be ashamed.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You seem to have difficulty, Mr. Friedman, with the idea of multiple causation, e.g. that the widespread antipathy of Moslems to America (or America's government at least) has more than one origin, and results from a shifting mixtures of different factors.

(1) There are some Moslem leaders who are and will always be fiercely opposed to any country run by non-Moslems. Clearly the causes of THEIR beliefs and behavior cannot and will not be altered by anything America does or does not do. (This is an interesting topic but it is not the topic of this page).

(2) It should also be quite obvious that if America occupies a foreign country, against the wishes of its people, and with no real or credible plan for what to do once it has taken over, and no substantive international support or legitimacy, and turns that country from a brutal dictatorship into a lawless killing field, the people of that country will be MORE resentful of America than before. Especially if, in the process of this bungled occupation, their country has been changed but not improved overall, and hundreds of thousands of them have died while the most incompetent and pigheaded U.S. president in many decades learns a few basics about foreign relations and the history of foreign occupations. And, if the people of that occupied country are mostly Moslem, more of them than before will be inclined to support the particular subset of Moslem leaders described in (1) above.

(1) and (2) can be and are both true simultaneously. It is not an either/or situation.

Point 2 is more directly relevant than Point 1 to the topic of this page: What has America done to itself as a result of the failed Iraq adventure and how should its policy there be changed in the future?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Okay, Friedman. Mostly. But Al Qaeda did not recruit Germans, but only used Hamburg as a way station. And, they certainly haven't been carrying out regular car bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings there.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am not Williams's aide-de-camp. For all I know he is in hyperspace with Heuisler, Eckstein and other horrors of HNN. Maybe the Great Pumpkin ate them all.

I have had my share of disagreements with all of them, and with Baker and Friedman too. But the tendency of the thread towards degeneration into tirades of insults seems highest when you jump in. Your ideas are actually not as absurd as those of these other characters. But none of them is as arrogantly full of himself.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

They probably are recruiting in Western Europe for the reason you suggest. But there is no sign that they are making any meaningful headway. When hundreds of Germans or French or Dutch are kidnapped or blown up per week, and practically every citizen of any means or intelligence there is in hiding or trying to flee the country, or at major risk of early death, or when American troops are occupying those countries, then you can mention European countries and Iraq in the same breath.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Every tendency has exceptions. A discussion consisting of a post and reply cannot degenerate until at least a third comment is included. Maybe this is "inconsistent" to you. Not to me. Que sera. I look forward to your first serious "engagement" with the "ideas" that are the subject of this page.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Ahmedinejad (GOD I HATE HAVING to transliterate EVERY syllable of his name, there has to be an abbreviation someone can make-up)"

how about "I'mJihad" ?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Most people anywhere would support a big house with a four-car gargage, swimming pool, tennis court, and indoor movie theatre them and each of their friends. Beliefs about possibilities with non-negligible mean more than fantasies.

Don't the same dubious polls you guys are going on and on about (selectively cherry picking the ones whose outcomes you like) also indicate that most Palestinians want a end to the occupation by Israel and are willing to accept Israel if they can get their state too?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

First gibberish sentence above edited:

Most people anywhere would support a big house with a four-car GARAGE, swimming pool, tennis court, and indoor movie theatre FOR them and each of their friends. Beliefs about possibilities with non-negligible PROBABILITIES mean more than DO fantasies.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

There are long term trends here and they have not been going in an advantageous way for US since Bush and Cheney came in.

There were not successful attacks by Isamlic terrorists in the US in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

There were not huge angry demonstrations around the whole world (by members of all religions) about US policies towards Isamlic countries in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

America did not have much of its military and most of its reserves tied down in a bungled losing "war" in an Islamic country in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

One of America's two political parties did not suffer noticeable electoral losses due to its foreign policy vis a vis Islamic countries in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

Bin Laden, who until the late 1980s was basically aligned with the US, has said over and over again that US policies are the main issue for him. He talks more about this than anything else in his tapes. In different words, with different emphases, and with different intentions, most other Islamic leaders also seem to have major complaints about US policy. Are they all simply lying? Do YOU somehow know better what they "really" want? If you were a Moslem and hundreds of thousands of your co-religionists were being slain as the result of a bungled operation that has accomplished nothing of positive value to anyone EXCEPT that extremist fringe such as Bin Laden, wouldn't YOU be upset at the inept two-faced perpretrators of that deadly and bungled operation?

The ultimate fantasy of Bin Laden and his ilk is a major "clash of civilizations" war between Islam and the rest of the world. This IS absolutely NOT in ANYBODY's interest except Bin Laden, his ilk among Moslems, and a few other odd assorted extremists of other religions.

Cheney and Bush, with Democratic rubberstamping, have done more to move the world towards Bin Laden's fantasy than anything Al Qaeda et al could have hoped to accomplish on their own.
(See the first five points above).

We had better wake up to this horror.
Islamophobi and fearmongering, recklessly and hypocritically mouthed, by neo-con chickenhawks, and aped, at least in the latter case, by Cheney and Bush, are a recipe for more sleepwalking, more loss of security, and a postponement of the necessary waking-up.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I'm with Friedman on this one, to an extent at least. What the heck is "Saudi nationalism" anyway? Does anyone feel pride iin being part of the "House of Saud nation"? All Bin Laden et al's talk about ousting infidels from Afghanistan, from Iraq, and lately from Palestine too, not just from the domains of the House of Saud, suggest that religion is a central excuse if not a central motivation. That does not mean, however, that U.S. policy is not also playing a very big role in shaping the views of Moslems. And in a way very detrimental to the interests of Americans.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Bin Laden...has stated repeatedly that his aim is to create a Caliphate."

"Repeatedly" is defined by my Webster's as "again and again" which I would say means at least three times. Can you find three separate statements by Bin Laden about "creating a Caliphate." I think if you are honest about it and research it objectively, you will find many more statements from his and his imitators about US policy than about caliphates. But this is a minor detail. We both agree that Islamic fundamentalists are both keen on Caliphates and against US policy in the Mideast. The main question remains: how much damage is that policy -in particular re Iraq- doing to U.S. interests and security, how to start limiting that damage, and how to best start facing up to the extent of such damage already done over the past 4 years?

Practically everybody with any serious expertise seems to agree that these Islamic terrorists will soon or later manage to strike us again. That next attack may well be even nastier than on 9-11, possibly much nastier. Will the non-American and non-Moslem world stand behind the US as one, as it did after 9-11? Unlikely. And is that unfortunate scenario really mainly the result of Caliphitians infiltrating the governments of Europe? The wolf who didn't come is the reason why the village doesn't believe the boy who deceitfully cries wolf?

And what kind of paranoid poppycock is "the Jihad"? Dozens of warring feuding tribes of Shias and Sunnis blowing each other and kidnapping each other, and slitting each other throats in all directions all over central Iraq? This is A movement? Come on, Friedman, you can think for yourself. If there ever was a new transnational "Caliphate" established it would shred itself to pieces as likely as not. The Nazis were 100 times better organized and coordinated that these messianic suicide bombers in the caves of Pakistan and their deranged confused 20-something followers in the slums of Britain, etc. (not to mentioning a towering plethora of other night and day differences to modern Islamic terrorists) but even the Nazis self-destructed eventually.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

So your idea of a strategy is to wait, teeth-chattering and nail-biting, until Britain or America is nuked by Allah knows which fiendishly clever band of Islamic mass-murder suicide bombers. And then turn around and nuke thousands or millions of Moslems who almost surely had nothing to do with the that nuclear terrorism. In order to "teach them a lesson" !!!!

Did you say something about lunacy?

Have you now gone beyond reading Islamphobe tracts, and started ingesting them along with some product distilled from the poppy fields of Afghanistan?

Your remarks would be music to the ears of Al Qaeda. One little dirty nuke = instant Argamgeddon. A nuclear holocaust in which a handful of nobodies craters one or two cities of western civilization and western civilization responds by unleashing the genocide to end all genocides...

After this hallucination passes...


There are good reasons why nuclear weapons, which have been around longer than most of us here, except maybe Polk, have never being used or even possessed by anything other than governments of sizable and long-lasting countries. They are not Saturday night specials.

Al Qaeda taking over Pakistan say, maybe together with Kzahkstan, or doing some high-level deal with some son of A-Jihad in Iran. THAT would be a very dangerous situation. And what have Cheney-Bush done to avert such scenarios? You guessed it. Jacks--t!
And WHY haven't they done squat?

Because of "THE JIHAD!" ???

A five year-old could tell us better ghost stories than that.

Now guess what might allow an entire country to seriously contemplate nuking another country.
How about "poor foreign policy" that "only" angers millions of people. Preemptive and deceptive acts of aggression which slaughter innocents and then backfire. Can you say Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki?

Come out from under your bed with your thinking cap on, Mr. F. Then maybe we can finally talk sensibly about the topic of the page: What America should about its mess in Iraq.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Are you capable of internalizing anything that does not fit into your preconceved notions?"

Rarely. The track record at HNN is very long.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Who is going to hire, who is going to train, and who is going to pay for this million man army?
Even if it somehow were done, and the million cannon fodder mercenaries rounded up, this would surely not "put off" dreams of Bin Laden. This WWII-like invasion IS his dream. To the the inspiration for global war rather than merely a miserable mass murder conspirator hiding or dying in a dirty cave.

Not only is this not "a solution", is it is problem worse than what we have now.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Instead of
To the the inspiration

To BE the inspiration


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

A suicide attacker dies during his attack. And expects to. That is why the term suicide is used. There can be no "retaliation" against someone who is dead. Killing people of the same religion as a suicide attacker, in response to his suicide attack, just because they have the same religion as the attacker is not retaliation, it is murder. Entire countries cannot retaliate against dead bodies. They can retalitate against other countries, however.

The only way for a country like America to retaliate for something like 9-11 is trough some long perverse process by which such mass murder by gangs of fanatical and suicidal thugs morophs into "war." That is precisely what Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have been striving to accomplish, with tremendous help from the policies of the Cheney-Bush administration in Iraq, which I know you don't defend, you only try to belittle them, over and over. Nothing, nothing can ever be more important than being scared of Islam.

Islamic concepts like Jihad and Sharia are a real problem for the world. That is why is is important to talk sensibly about them. And not to try to inject fear of the Caliphatian takeover into every discussion having anything to do with Mideast. Or US policy towards it.

A supposed belief that "the various policies adopted by our government have not stopped the basic direction of thought among Muslims" is a vague confused generality that cannot be proven "right" or "wrong" by "facts."

What the H is a "basic direction of thought" ? And who in America's government ever tried "change" such a ephemeral animal?

Ultimately, you seem to think that one billion Moslems are all enemies of America no matter what we do. You squirm and dance around in circle of evasion and denial, but cannot bring yourself to admit that America killing hundreds of thousands of foreigners for a whole set of shifting bogus reasons, for causes that are deceits, and with zero accomplished on behalf of America, has made us some lasting enemies. One way or another we are some day we going to get out of Iraq, and the people there are not going to feel the same about America as they did before 2003, regardless of what their "basic direction of thought" may or may not be. Under some new future Saddam, that will be to our detriment.
You cannot escape the disaster of Iraq by indulging in endless nihilism about the great Islamic bogeyman.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Your friend, whatever his other merits, is a raving madman when it comes to Afghanistan. 99.99% of the people there had absolutely nothing to do with 9-11. Wanting to destroy them in revenge for what others did is the thinking of a juvenile brain.

We did the right thing, albeit clumsily and certainly incompletely, by going in with full international support to liberate the Afghas from the medieval barbaric Taliban. There must be some other topic you could discuss with your friend without having to indulge his childish lunacies.

You may be right about deafening "cries for revenge" in kind, in the event of truly major attack on the U.S.. You assume, however, that the US president would be such an idiot as to heed such cries even if there were "no return address" to take revenge upon. I doubt it. America has not yet become eye-for-an-eye-no-matter-whose-eye Israel.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

A little history knowledge can be a weird thing.

Which "grievance" bothers Moslems in the Mideast more: the defeat of the Turks at Vienna three centuries ago, or the slaughter of tens of thousands of Moslems in Iraq over the past three years, as a direct consequence of Bush wanting ot be elected in 2004 as a "war president" and to "stay the course" of his idiocy in Iraq thereafter?

If you don't want to be "insulted" Friedman, try not to be so dumb.


john crocker - 11/24/2006

Again, I understood your point, but disagree and given the categorical statements you have made I think that my assessment of your assumptions is more or less accurate. When defending your point you tend to move to a more nuanced explanation, but your initial statements tend to be more stark.


N. Friedman - 11/24/2006

John,

I was creating an illustration to explain a point you did not understand. I was, so far as carrier waves are concerned, thinking about their use in an ordinary, AM radio, of the kind I use to build with my children.


N. Friedman - 11/24/2006

John,

The attack was directed against Indonesia. The victims were chosen to discourage tourism in Indonesia and because it is easier to explain killing infidel foreigners than the local population. The same sort of thing occurred in Egypt when tourists at Luxor were massacred. The actual target then was the Egyptian government but Western, infidel, tourists were the immediate victims. Killing infidel tourists is a better strategy - being easier to explain to the local population - than killing local Egyptian Muslims.

I have read about the alliance between Leftists and Islamists in left leaning publications. For example, read this excellent article from Zeek Magazine - which is clearly left wing in its point of view:

http://zeek.net/politics_0304.shtml

The article seems to show something pretty clear to me.

And, then there is the Respect party in Britain. That party explicitly allies Islamists and Leftists.

Moreover, the authors and topics in publications like The Nation and CounterPunch - not to mention the selection of authors, points to an informal alliance among people of like minds.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

The definition you use is too limited. Carrier waves are also used to transmit digital data and in that case the information carried is not in the form of a wave.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

The attack intentionally targeted Western, primarily Australian tourists. Every statement made in regards to the bombing directly referenced the US or Australia.

"Maybe you have not read it but it the tacit alliance between the anti-imperialist left and Islamists is well known."
This is your opinion and a BS right wing talking point and nothing more.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

You write: "Do you not see how attacking Australian citizens has a potential to effect Australian public opinion? "

I see the attack as being on Indonesia, not on Australia. I am quite sure that the attacks, which killed many Australians, as well as others, had an impact on Australia. It reinforced the public to stand behind its government's policy. Was that the intention of the Islamists? Again, the attacks were intended to undermine the Indonesian government.

As for your comment about The Nation and CounterPunch, I suggest you consider their anti-Imperialist point of view. They, whether or not directly, provide intellectual cover for Islamists. And, this has been rather well covered in the media. Maybe you have not read it but it the tacit alliance between the anti-imperialist left and Islamists is well known.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

The carrier wave is at a specific frequency. You are correct that such wave is modulated - meaning that it is combined with a different wave -. The resulting wave is transmitted. A receiver eliminates the carrier wave element, leaving the modulated element. That element is capable of being information. That is how a radio works.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

You write: "Do you not see how attacking Australian citizens has a potential to effect Australian public opinion? "

I see the attack as being on Indonesia, not on Australia. I am quite sure that the attacks, which killed many Australians, as well as others, had an impact on Australia. It reinforced the public to stand behind its government's policy. Was that the intention of the Islamists? Again, the attacks were intended to undermine the Indonesian government.

As for your comment about The Nation and CounterPunch, I suggest you consider their anti-Imperialist point of view. They, whether or not directly, provide intellectual cover for Islamists. And, this has been rather well covered in the media. Maybe you have not read it but it the tacit alliance between the anti-imperialist left and Islamists is well known.



john crocker - 11/23/2006

The carrier wave does not carry another wave it carries information. A carrier wave is a wave that is modulated to carry informantion. The wave can carry information based on modulating the amplitude of the wave, as is done for AM (amplitude modulation) radio. Alternately the wave can carry information by modulating the frequency of the wave , as is done for FM (frequency modulation) radio or your cordless phone. In some sense this could be considered carrying a wave if the information carried is a wave form, but the information carried need not be in the form of a wave.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

"On your telling, he attacks Indonesia - not Australia"
Australians in Indonesia were targeted as was the American consulate in Indonesia. I can only assume that you are being deliberately obtuse. Do you not see how attacking Australian citizens has a potential to effect Australian public opinion?

Indonesia is an old empire that cobbles together diverse ethnic and cultural groups and is coming apart at the edges. East Timor is not the only non-Muslim seperatist movement. Destabilizing the Indonesian government would increase rather than decrease the likelyhood of further loss of territority to non-Muslims by this Muslim nation.

Jemaah Islamiyah has no realistic chance of taking control of the Indonesian government in the foreseeable future. If this is their aim they are doomed to futility.

I have heard no one in anything approaching the political mainstream in the West providing any type of cover for the Bali bombers, intellectual or otherwise.
Can you provide any evidence of this?
When has the Nation stated or implied that the Bali bombings were justified?
When has an article on CounterPunch stated or implied that the Bali bombings were justified?
In fact when has anyone in the West that has any political capital stated or implied that the Bali bombings were justified?


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

Correction: Strike the sentence:

I do not claim that Western acts can have an impact.

Substitute:

I do not claim that Western acts cannot have an impact.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

Again, you have misstated my theory. Again, I have basically said that Islamism has been on the general rise over the course of the last 80 years and outside forces have not much affected the rise of Islamism (i.e. both being facts) because Islamism is driven by internal forces.

Now, you have transformed this all into an iron law of nature, which I have not claimed.

Now, Islamism is a threat to the West. Under appropriate circumstances, it would be an existential threat. And, to Israel, it already is an existential threat.

I do tie Islamism to Islam. I claim that Islamism is basically classical Islam under new circumstances. In other words, it is well within the Islamic tradition. By contrast, the view that Islam is harmless, as an ideology, to non-Islamic regions is contradicted by 1400 years of history.

Note, I do not claim that Islam is a bad thing. I claim that it a different, rival tradition to the tradition we live under. And, to the extent that traditional Islamic principles govern a society, the more hostile to non-Islamic regions that society is likely to be.

As for radio waves, you are partially correct. The carrier wave is not a separate wave. It "carries" another wave, with the two being combined to form a wave. A radio receiver filters that resultant wave by, in effect, removing the carrier signal.

I do not claim that Western acts can have an impact. I claim they have not had much of an impact to the extent that the basic trajectory of the rise of Islamism has continued regardless of Western actions. And again: this is because the West is not the causal agent.

I suggest that you explain how it is that Islamism rises notwithstanding different policies carried out by the West.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

You write: "He is fighting Western countries in Afghanistan. He then targets civilians of the countries he is fighting elsewhere. Do you really not understand why he would do this?"

On your telling, he attacks Indonesia - not Australia - and helps wreck Indonesia's economy because Australia is peripherally involved with the events in Afghanistan. How does that help his cause? How is that even logical?

My version: he attacks Indonesia in order to destabilize its government with the main excuse being that the government did the bidding of infidel regarding East Timor. The reason for destabilizing Indonesia is to help the local Islamists take over the country in their bid to create an Islamic empire (i.e. Caliphate).

You write: "Which quarters in teh West? Who does he have credibility with in the West?"

The anti-Imperialist crowd will provide intellectual cover for any party that appears to attack imperialists. I suggest you try reading publications such as CounterPunch or The Nation.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

You have stated that the goals of Islamism are inexorably and legitimately connected to the tenets of Islam. (If this is so the Islamists will remain a segment of the Muslim population for as long as Muslims respect their holy books and
traditions.)
You have stated that Islamism is on the rise and has been inexorabley on the rise for about 80 years.
(Rather than eposidically rising and falling over that time, with a peak in its activity now.)
You have stated that Islamism is an existential threat to the West and Israel.
You have also stated that we in the West are incapable of altering its trajectory in any meaningful way.

If these premises are accepted, all of which you have espoused, Islamism is and will remain an existential to Israel and the West for as long as there are Muslims.

You refuse to acknowledge that actions by the West (short of bombing Mecca) can have any meaningful impact on the popularity and thus influence of that movement within Muslim culture. That perhaps legitimate grievances with the West could lead to greater popularity and influence of an anti-Western movement is treated by you as inconsequential. This is in my opinion - no offense - really dumb.

BTW the carrier wave is the wave that is modulated (either its amplitude or frequency) to carry information, not parallel to that wave. In the analogy you offered either there are multiple competing carrier waves and or multiple competing information streams modulating that/those carrier wave/s. One set of information streams deals with religion and it must compete with all other information streams. It is stronger than some and weaker than others. Peoples day to day lives are generally more central and effect them more than any of the other information streams they are bombarded with. Things that impact their day to day life also impact how those data streams are interpreted and even if they are recieved.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

"Your first comment makes no sense. The US invades, so he makes an attack that wrecks Indonesia's economy. He does that instead of attacking the party that is fighting. I find it difficult to imagine you believe your own words."
He is fighting Western countries in Afghanistan. He then targets civilians of the countries he is fighting elsewhere. Do you really not understand why he would do this?

"Saying it is against the West provides intellectual cover from certain quarters in the West. Saying that he is attacking a third world nation to destabilize it gets him no credibility outside of Jihadists."
Which quarters in teh West? Who does he have credibility with in the West?


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

If you actually understood my point, then your questions are - no offense - really dumb.


N. Friedman - 11/23/2006

John,

Your first comment makes no sense. The US invades, so he makes an attack that wrecks Indonesia's economy. He does that instead of attacking the party that is fighting. I find it difficult to imagine you believe your own words.

You write: "And I ask yet again, if the attack was really about East Timor, how would saying it was really about the US in the Middle East or Australia in Afghanistan further their cause in East Timor?"

Saying it is against the West provides intellectual cover from certain quarters in the West. Saying that he is attacking a third world nation to destabilize it gets him no credibility outside of Jihadists.



john crocker - 11/23/2006

I don't miss your point. I simply disagree with it.


john crocker - 11/23/2006

"If he had wanted revenge regarding Afghanistan, he certainly knew where to seek it and that is not in Bali or Australia."
It seems to me that he seeks to do violence to Western interests wherever he can, whether that is Bali, Australia, London, Afghanistan or anywhere else.

The bombers referenced the Middle East and the US as a reason for the attack. A bomb covered in feces was detonated in front of the US consulate as part of the attack.
Some of the bombers actually went to Afghanistan to fight against the US.
The bombers are closely tied to Al Qaeda, who are certainly concerned with the US and the West in general.
First you make the ridiculous claim that there was no imaginable connection between the bombings and the West and still you somehow see no connection between this attack and the West.

And I ask yet again, if the attack was really about East Timor, how would saying it was really about the US in the Middle East or Australia in Afghanistan further their cause in East Timor?

"Events involving what is normally called the West are not involved, in this instance."
By any interpretation events involving Australia (normally considered part of the West) are involved in this instance, either Australia's involvement in Afghanistan, East Timor, or both. When you initially made the argument that this had nothing to do with the West, you stated that the target was the Indonesian government, not Australia.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

I shall ignore all but your last statement, which is really a good and interest point. Your first on this set of posts.

My answer: bin Laden is part of a movement. He does not speak for himself - no matter what battles he personally is engaged in. His movement is dedicated to creating a new Muslim empire (i.e. Caliphate) - not seeking revenge. If he had wanted revenge regarding Afghanistan, he certainly knew where to seek it and that is not in Bali or Australia.

The group in Indonesia has it in mind to set up an empire (i.e. Caliphate) in that part of the world. The Indonesian government ceded land, namely, East Timor, that might have formed part of that land. That is the surface reason for what occurred. Beneath that reason is its place in setting up a Caliphate.

I do not deny that Australia is part of the West. I said that what occurred has nothing to do with the West. The stated reason, I repeat, related to East Timor - where Australia and Indonesia's paths cross. That, not bin Laden's personal battles, are important and central to understanding what is involved. Events involving what is normally called the West are not involved, in this instance.



john crocker - 11/21/2006

"In the case of Bali, there were stated reasons for the attack. They had nothing at all to do with the US. THEY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WEST. I suggest you read a bit about this since you are, in this case, wrong."

Note that you categorically denied that the attacks had anything to do with the West. You have at no point in several comments objected to my characterization of Australia as part of the West.
Is it your contention that Australia is not a part of the West?

Now you say, "...you have no explanation for dismissing the one part of the statement which actually has something to do with Bali and Australia."

At a bare minimum on this relatively small point you are wrong. Now, on to more substantial matters.

I have shown a number of connections between the terrorists and Afghanistan and the Middle East in general. Two of them faught in Afghanistan. Yet you think their statements about the Middle East and Afghanistan, where they faught against the US, are just boilerplate.

I am astounded that you would think that someone returning from a war would not have strong feelings about the people he was fighting in that war. When someone who returns from war,then acts out violently towards the people he was fighting while saying beligerent things about the people he was fighting in that war; doesn't that tell you something. How can you call that boilerplate and irrelevent to the meaning of the attack, not to mention the recruitment and training. On that level at least this has something to do with the West. I think that is a rather important connection, you apparently disagree.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

CORRECTION: Strike the sentence that reads:

"I do not think that point seems rather obvious since Islamism is a radically violent ideology."


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

I find it difficult to believe that you still do not understand my position. Consider that Mr. Simon got the point on reading one post. You, by contrast, have been at this for nearly a weak yet you miss the point again and again.

Let us try this from a different angle. Islamism have been rising since the 1920's. And, it has been a significant factor in the politics of the Middle East since before Nasser's time. And, it has been growing in significance since that time. And it seems, still, to be growing in important and influence. Such, notwithstanding the policies put in place by the US, by Britain, by France, by Russia, etc. And, notwithstanding adjustments to policy.

Islamism became a bigger factor to the US when the Shah was overthrown and again when Islamists killed Sadat and potentially undermined US policy in the region. (I may, no doubt, be overlooking some other event(s).) In response to the rise of Islamism, the US has tried numerous different policies in the hope of currying favor with such movement or, at other times, in the hope of suppressing the movement. We have tried to bring peace to the region and we have fought the enemies of the Islamists. And, we have stood up to Islamists and have, at other times, retreated when attacked by Islamists. And, Europeans have tried, more often than not, to curry favor with Islamists. The Russians have done the same, at times.

Notwithstanding changes in policy and supporting Muslim causes at times, Islamism's influence continues to grow. From that I reach the conclusion that we have not significantly affected the course of events pertaining Islamism. I think that to be a fact.

Now, I take matters a step further. I attempt to explain why we do not have that much impact. And, I surmise the reason to be that the rise of Islamism is caused by internal issues, not by the US or Europe or Russia, etc., etc.

On the other hand, I have no idea what the future will bring. I do note that if trends remain the same, the influence of Islamism points to greater belligerency. I do not think that point seems rather obvious since Islamism is a radically violent ideology. At the same time, another trend - mostly internal also, in my view - is that Muslims do not seem too often to rise up against their governments, which may, in the end, limit Islamism's ultimate spread.

What I think is arrogant is the belief that our doings are the only or even the main cause of what others think and do. That, to me, is hubris.

Now, I do not know what the future will bring. Do you? I can only note the current trend which does not seem very encouraging. And, as I said, the Jihad bug may peter out. Or, Jihad violence may turn internal - as in civil war between religious factions -. Or, the local governments in the Middle East may decide to clamp down on the Jihadists more effectively. In any event, it does not follow that war against us will follow or that the only hope will be to wipe whole peoples out. Again, I am not a prophet. Are you?


john crocker - 11/21/2006

So you believe that there is a growing menace that there is no way to stop, or for us to meaningfully impact, while Muslims live. We must just sit and hope that a religious genocide isn't necessary to stop them. And you believe that it would be arogant to think otherwise?


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

There are two issues here. Perhaps you are familiar somewhat with radio technology. One wave is called the carrier wave. Along with the carrier wave there can be embedded another wave that has variable characteristics - which is what we discern when we listen to the radio.

My principle point has been directed to the carrier wave, so to speak. While this is an is a very inexact analogy, I am using it to communicate my point. We do not have that much ability to impact on the carrier wave. It is driven by internal forces. We do, however, have some modest ability to impact on the modulated portion of the signal but impacting on the modulated part of the signal does not change much the carrier wave.

Now, I would not consider an attack on Mecca even to be part of this equation. That would be an unique event that, if it occurs, would presumably have to be part of an attack that brings the Muslim regions to their end. I certainly hope that things do not come to that.

You write: "Would any provocation short of this lead to increased support for the Islamists among the general population of Muslims and lead to increased recruitment by the Islamists."

That is really the wrong question, at least within my interpretation of things. I note that the cartoon affair increased recruitment for the Islamists. And, likely so did the Pope's speech. And, quite clearly - but from the opposite angle - so did Clinton's efforts to end the Arab Israeli dispute. And, so did, evidently, our effort on behalf of people from Kosovo - which were apparently considered bogus and insincere -.

In my view, the issue is not so much recruitment or non-recruitment. There are no shortage of recruits and there have not been for a very long time. The issue is what direction the Muslim regions are directed toward. If they are directed to the creation of a theocratic society, there will be war in our future - as that is what the religious groups are openly pushing towards and that, as I noted, is largely, albeit not exclusively, driven by religious fanaticism -. And, we really do not have all that much leverage to affect the general direction of this general trend, in my view. And to think otherwise is, I think, to be arrogant, filled with hubris. I consider it no different a view in essence than what the Bushites pushed.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

You keep telling me what I must do and must think and must believe and what I can conclude from evidence. You then cite a statement by bin Laden which, to you, is his complete word on the topic. Gospel. It is not. I do not accept your presentation nor do I accept your characterization thereof. And, regarding the statement you do supply, you have no explanation for dismissing the one part of the statement which actually has something to do with Bali and Australia.

Note: bin Laden includes all sorts of boilerplate in his pronouncements. East Timor is not boilerplate. So that part of his statement is worth examining, as it is far more important, by any rational accounting, than his restatement of boilerplate language. I am sorry that you and your colleagues do not appreciate the difference between boilerplate language and the message being communicated.


john crocker - 11/21/2006

Would any provocation short of this lead to increased support for the Islamists among the general population of Muslims and lead to increased recruitment by the Islamists.


john crocker - 11/21/2006

"Another point, you brought up the quote and claimed it was the basis for my opinion."
I said it was the basis of your argument, which it was.
"First, regarding Bali - and I had in mind the 2002 attack -, bin Laden stated explicitly that the issue was East Timor."
The bulk of your defense of your position has been arguing for your interpretation of his statement.

I ask you again, If the attack was really about East Timor, how would saying it was really about the US in the Middle East or Australia in Afghanistan further their cause in East Timor?

Even if one were to accept your new position, Australia is generally accepted to be a part of "the West" due to its political, military, economic and social ties and you explicitly stated that the attacks had nothing to do with the West.

Samudra's rambling statement also accused Bush and his supporters of being "vampires" and "the real terrorists."

Any rational viewing of the evidence indicates that the attacks had at the very least something, and probably quite a bit, to do with the US and the West and the East Timor was at most a secondary issue. This is counter to your assertion that the bombing had NOTHING to do with the US or the West and was primarily directed towards the Indonesian government in relation to East Timor.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

Well, an attack on Mecca would, in Islamic jurisprudence, clearly require a Jihad in response. This would not be an issue of people manipulating the meaning of what occurs. The meaning would be plain. So, when I used the word "aggravate things" I may have understated the issue.


john crocker - 11/21/2006

Is it fair to interpret "aggravate things" to mean increase support for Islamists among the general population of Muslims and help recruiting efforts by Islamists?


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

Note that other non-specific causes are mentioned but East Timor is mentioned specifically.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

Another point, you brought up the quote and claimed it was the basis for my opinion. Other people involved said they were concerned with East Timor. See e.g. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/11/1060588321968.html

As the article states: Samudra, 33, a former textile salesman, read from hand-written notes and used Australia's "invasion" of East Timor as part of his ideological rationale for the bombings.

"You should remember what was done by Australia and its allies over two years, or do you agree with the aggression against East Timor, that removed it from Indonesia," he said.


Now, I was not actually relying on any statement. I was relying on several articles I had read years ago about the topic. And, I do not take the word of Jihadis. However, I note statements consistent with what I have read.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

You write: "By your logic the next generation should be worse, not better."

What I argued is that the growth of Jihadism is not primarily dependent upon us. Rather, it is a product driven by internal causes. That does not mean that Jihadism will continue to grow.

You write: "Earlier you stated that our policy in Iraq and our policies in general did not much matter to the growth and support to the Islamists. Which is it?"

I said that our policy in Iraq aggravated things but did not change their general direction.

You write: "Which intermediaries, and how would they be targeted?"

The intermediaries would be clerics and opinion makers and Jihadists. I do not understand what the rest of your question asks. Obviously, their lives would be threatened.

You write: "Let's say we carpet bomb Mecca at the height of the Haj. How do you think that would effect Islamist support and recruiting?"

I trust that it would aggravate things.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

A careful reading of the article notes that the bombing was about the part of the world it took place in.


john crocker - 11/21/2006

"Now, there are many possible outcomes here. For example, the children involved in the Jihad will tend to grow older and interest in violence will tend, with that process, to abate considerably. So, the Jihad may eventually just peter out."
This does not work with your overall view that this movement has been inexorably growing for generations. By your logic the next generation should be worse, not better. We can only hope the growth is linear rather than exponential otherwise when the curve shifts all of Islam will be Islamist in short order. Maybe we should kill them now just in case.

"I propose not giving in to demands by Jihadists (e.g. HAMAS) as that obviously feeds Jihad - just as much as starting unnecessary wars, ala Iraq, does"
Earlier you stated that our policy in Iraq and our policies in general did not much matter to the growth and support to the Islamists. Which is it?

"...making it clear to the intermediaries who determine opinion for average Muslims that the intermediaries themselves and the Islamist politicians will themselves be our targets unless they calm things down."
Which intermediaries, and how would they be targeted?

A hypothetical.
Let's say we carpet bomb Mecca at the height of the Haj. How do you think that would effect Islamist support and recruiting?


john crocker - 11/21/2006

If you don't trust the word of a terrorist on this point, why cite it repeatedly? I guess terrorist statements are like polling data. If you think they support your position you cite them, if not they can't be trusted.

Your initial argument rested on a tortured reading of Bin Laden's statement. I have shown this statement to several people and every one of them interpreted it as meaning that the bombing was related to Australian participation in Afghanistan. The meaning of Mukhlas statement was never in question.

If the attack was really about East Timor, how would saying it was really about the US in the Middle East or Australia in Afghanistan further their cause in East Timor?

"As for your statement that I was trying to pull a fast one on you, you flatter yourself."
I don't think it is about me. I think it is about your stubborn insistence on clinging to a point regardless of the evidence.

A careful reading of the article you cited indicates that the author would disagree with your initial assertion that the Bali bombing had nothing to do with the West, as he mentions the desired effect on the West and Westerners several times.

Further, the article provides zero support for your assertion that the attack was about East Timor.


N. Friedman - 11/21/2006

John,

The first casualty in a war is truth. So, I do not think you can believe what terrorists claim. I would say that even if the terrorist group was secular or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Fascist or Communist, etc.

As it so happens, in the case of Islam, there is an actual doctrine describing deceiving opponents. Other religions may doctrines such as this but, in any event, Islam is rather open about it. The doctrine is called taqqiya.

For Shi'a, taqqiya is a mandatory doctrine as Shi'ism grew up in an environment where disguising true intentions was necessary for survival, as noted by famed Islamicist Ignaz Goldhizer. On the other hand, as he also notes, the doctrine applies for Sunnis as well but, for them, it is not mandatory. As Muhammad is purported to have said, "War is deceit." As Bernard Lewis notes in The Political Language of Islam, Islam has more realistic notions about war than do most other people. This is because war is an accepted and even desireable part of life - as it serves Allah's goal to bring the entire world under the authority of Muslim rule under Islamic law. It might be worth your consideration that people raised in such a religious ideology will have different ideas about the world than you have.

So, if there were a room of Jihadis telling me this or that, I would not believe them. I believe instead what they say to each other. As Walid Phares, who spends his time studying their internal dialogue says, they have rather clear ideas about what they seek and it is our existence as an infidel power, not our behavior as supposed oppressor, that is in issue. As he notes, in their internal dialogue we play the role of the Byzantine Empire and they see themselves in a struggle to replace us as the dominant power, just as the Muslim empire of ancient times marched against the Byzantine Empire.

As for your statement that I was trying to pull a fast one on you, you flatter yourself. You are not that important to me that I might care to win a debate by trickery. If the article I cited is too early - at least for you -, it was an oversight.

Among those who more or less agree with me and disagree with you is Walid Phares - whom I hold in high regard. Here is an article written after the second Bali bombing that, in part, rehashes his position on what is going on. http://counterterror.typepad.com/the_counterterrorism_blog/2005/10/blood_in_bali_t.html


john crocker - 11/20/2006

Can you cite any of these "numerous experts" that agree with your interpretation after the bombers were captured and statements were made?
Speculation about the nature of the attack by the Guardian before the suspects were captured or any statements were made is a weak attempt. Did you think that I wouldn't notice the date or read the article?

Here is something from after they caught the terrorists.
"He (Mukhlas) branded the US president, George Bush, a terrorist, and said that the Bali bombings - the bloodiest terrorist atrocity since the September 11 2001 attacks on the US - were carried out to avenge the suffering of Muslims at the hands of the US and Israel."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/alqaida/story/0,,1054223,00.html

Also consider that a third bomb coated in excrement was also detonated in front of the American consulate.

Another thing to consider. At least 2 of the bombers fought against the US in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden could come to your home and explain at length to you that the Bali bombings were planned as a response to US and Australian invovlement in the Middle East and you would just say that he was trying to mask his real agenda.
Each and every terrorist expert on earth could parade before you one by one, each one telling you that the bombing was related to the Middle East and you would cling to your opinion as though the world would cease to exist should you let go.
You simply cannot admit this mistake. Feel free to talk more nonsense in response, I am done.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

Again, your interpretation of the event differs markedly from that which numerous experts on terrorism who have examined the statements involved have included. The gist of my point is that you have latched onto boilerplate language that has basically nothing to do with the matter.

Even The Guardian disagrees with your view:

The Bali bombing, the world's worst terrorist attack since September 11, bears the hallmark of the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah - the only Indonesian group that has the intention and capability to conduct a mass casualty attack against a predominantly western target. The group forms a central part of al-Qaida's south-east Asian network.

Al-Qaida provides the experts, training, and resources to Islamist political and military organisations towards a common goal: the creation of a caliphate or Islamic regime covering southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia and southern Philippines.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/indonesia/Story/0,2763,812161,00.html

So, if you are asking me to concede nonsense, you are looking in the wrong place. I shall merely add that I think you are misinformed.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

You write: Your position offers no hope of a desireable or even non apocalyptic outcome. According to you we cannot slow or speed the growth of a movement violently opposed to our existence. We could rebuild all infrasture in the Middle East and provide jobs for all Muslims who desire work, or we could carpet bomb Mecca, but either way recruitment and support would remain constant.
If your position is correct the only way to stop or even contain this inexorably growing movement is the end of Islam. Is this your prescription? If not, what do you propose?


Why is it important that a position offer hope? Is it not better to have an opinion that responds to the actual circumstances that exist? My view is that holding out the false hope that there is an easy remedy to all of this will lead to a worse outcome.

Now, there are many possible outcomes here. For example, the children involved in the Jihad will tend to grow older and interest in violence will tend, with that process, to abate considerably. So, the Jihad may eventually just peter out.

My position is not that there is only one possibility for the future but that our ability to affect the direction thereof is greatly exaggerated. And, thus far, those loving Jihad have been on the rise for a good long time and without much regard to the policy we have adopted. And, as I noted, that is because our message is interpreted by an intermediary who, unlike us, has the ears of large numbers of Muslims.

For what I propose: I propose patience. I propose not giving in to demands by Jihadists (e.g. HAMAS) as that obviously feeds Jihad - just as much as starting unnecessary wars, ala Iraq, does -. I propose chasing Jihadis where we can find them. I propose treating the Islamist movement no differently than we have (or ought to have, since we did not do so for the Nazis) treated other totalitarian movements, making it clear to the intermediaries who determine opinion for average Muslims that the intermediaries themselves and the Islamist politicians will themselves be our targets unless they calm things down. Such, it seems to me, is probably the most that can be done. And, I think that goes only so far since, as I said, we must not have hubris about what we can accomplish.


john crocker - 11/20/2006

"I trust that your point is intended to show justification for the interpretation of why Bali - not Australia, mind you, but Bali - was bombed with respect to Australia's minuscule provision of support in Afghanistan."
I do not intend to justify the bombing, just to highlight the motives claimed by those who did it.
The terrorists did not target Indonesian government buildings they targeted Western, primarily Australian, tourists. The statements that followed targeted Western (US and Australian) actions. From this most would conclude that the intended target of the bombing was Western.

Keep in mind that the people who actually planned and executed the bombing did not mention East Timor. They state it was in response to US action in the Middle East. Bin Laden made a comment in support of the action that laid blame primarily on Australia's involvement in Afghanistan.

I notice that you completely ignore the signifigance of the statement of the bombers. When determining the motives of an attack, I think the statements of the attackers are more illuminating than the statements of the leader of an allied group.

In any case you stated categorically that the bombing had nothing to do with the Middle East or the US. That is false based on any logical interpretation of the statements of the bombers combined with Bin Laden's statement.

Let us try a little excercise here. Tell me what you think I am trying to say with the following statement.
"I have warned you before that you are loosing credibility by continuing to argue that the Bali bombing had nothing to do with the Middle East. Not to mention your continued insistence on bringing Israel into every conversation. You ignored my warning, and now you have no credibility left."
By your logic this comment would mean that your credibility is gone due to your inclusion of Israel in this thead.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

It would help if your characterization of the matter were accurate. It is not.

The offer here is not a cease fire but a proposal that Israel cede land in exchange for a temporary cease fire. Ceding land is a permanent state of affairs and it is Israel's leverage to obtain a settlement. By contrast, a hudna is, by definition, a temporary thing. Do you see the difference?

You say that it is the best Israel can obtain just now. So what? The proposal amounts to nothing, as in give something in exchange for nothing.

As I see it, you fail to address the issue I raised.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

While this is not really that important, I note that Afghanistan is not ordinarily considered part of the Middle East although, according to my copy of Britannica, Afghanistan is sometimes included. However, that source indicates that the area is basically defined by its being the meeting place of three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia.

In any event, you note - and this is also an unimportant point but I note it nonetheless - that Australia supported the invasion and "occupation" of Afghanistan. I do not recall any occupation. I recall a loya jurga which installed a government. I recall that government setting up a rather successful election that appeared, to all the observers I read, to be rather popular. In that such was likely not your main point, I shall not comment further about such aspect of your point.

I trust that your point is intended to show justification for the interpretation of why Bali - not Australia, mind you, but Bali - was bombed with respect to Australia's minuscule provision of support in Afghanistan. Did bin Laden forget how to aim? And, I am supposed to believe that such is a serious opinion? I do not.

Somehow, the logical interpretation of the event is that it was directed at the Indonesian government - as hinted at by bin Laden when he mentioned East Timor.

Consider the events of that period a bit more carefully. Consider that in May of 2002, East Timor became an independent country that was previously part of a Muslim country, to wit, Indonesia. Consider that East Timor is predominantly Roman Catholic. Might not the relinquishing of land to infidel forces be front and center to the Indonesian Muslim radicals involved? Such ceding of land to an infidel state violates rather central provisions of Islamic law and classical Islamic theology.

And, given that most people care most about their own neighborhood, is not the relinquishment of East Timor the most likely explanation, especially since bin Laden basically said - and that is how I read the statement - that such is the case?

You correctly note that there is no widespread support for the bombing. Indonesians are famously friendly and not particularly belligerent - except when religion gets the better of them.

You note again and again that bin Laden mentions the Middle East. You even make a grammatical argument - and I shall assume that the grammar of the origin was retained in translation (although that is hardly assured) -. The question to explain is whether the noted language is boilerplate or whether it is central.

My suggestion is that it is boilerplate, since it does not make that much sense to bomb Bali regarding the Middle East. It does not send that message and it harms Indonesia. By contrast, what appears in the subordinate clause - as you call it - strikes me as directly connected with Indonesia and, to a lessor extent, Australia.

In answer to your last question, I think I am entirely correct here. I think your position is contrary to logic and common sense. I think you have latched onto some boilerplate language that is of minor consequence.


john crocker - 11/20/2006

At present the possibilties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is cease fire or continued open hostility.
You apparently prefer the latter, while I prefer the former.

Both sides in this conflict have launched provacative actions that derailed the peace process. The leaders of both sides have failed their people in this.

A ten year cease fire with religious implications for breaking it would, in my opinion, be a good start towards a lasting peace. Your all or nothing approach does not seem realistic at present and will only lead to more death and terror for Israelis and Palestinians.

"Let Palestinian Arabs grow up and accept the hand dealt...When the Palestinian Arabs act like civilized people, they can have a state."
These sweeping, condescending and bigoted statements are in no way constructive and this attitude on the part of some Israeli leaders is part of the reason that no lasting peace is likely to be negotiated any time soom. (The other being the unreasonableness on the other side.) When one side in a negotiation labels the other barbarians and the other side labels the first infidels hope for peace dwindles and both sides share the blame.

We have discussed Israel at length in this and other threads and we will not change each others opinions, so why don't we get back to the original topic.


john crocker - 11/20/2006

We have discussed the Israeli Palestinian issue at length in previous threads. We are not likely to cover any new ground here. All we are likely to do is add more hits to a future Yehudi search attempting to prove the anti-Israel bias of this site.

The question I asked and am interested in hearing your answer to is dealing with the situation in the broader Middle East and with the Muslim world in general. So I repeat:

Your position offers no hope of a desireable or even non apocalyptic outcome. According to you we cannot slow or speed the growth of a movement violently opposed to our existence. We could rebuild all infrasture in the Middle East and provide jobs for all Muslims who desire work, or we could carpet bomb Mecca, but either way recruitment and support would remain constant.
If your position is correct the only way to stop or even contain this inexorably growing movement is the end of Islam. Is this your prescription? If not, what do you propose?


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

Your comment that a cease fire is the best that Israel can get is no answer. Are the Israelis desperate and have no choice? My view is that when the Palestinian Arab side makes the mature decision to end the dispute - and that includes accepting the moral legitimacy of the other party and entering into a peace treaty -, the dispute will end. Unless they want to end it, they can continue to rot - a perfectly moral position to take against a party which makes war its default position -. Ending the dispute, to me, is a choice available to Palestinian Arabs and it is perfectly moral to insist that a condition of Palestinian Arabs being allowed to enter the family of nations is that they accept the system. And, the UN system requires that UN member states accept the other member states, of which Israel is among.

Are the Israelis in such a weak position that they need to cede land in order to remain a viable country? I do not think such is the case. And what is the emergency here? Let Palestinian Arabs grow up and accept the hand dealt. I just do not see what you have in mind. When the Palestinian Arabs act like civilized people, they can have a state. But, that means ending the dispute with Israel and accepting Israel's moral legitimacy.



N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

Somehow, my comment posted before it was done and without my knowledge. Please strike the last sentence of my comment.

As I was saying... So, when there is a party, such as Israel, facing a regime ruled by a strict religious party in power, that does not bode well for peace.

On this point, you might do some research on peace treaties ending disputes entered into by more theocratic Islamic regimes. They are few and rare and entered into in circumstances where the Muslim side basically had no choice.




N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

Borders are normally decided based on the results of wars. However, some form of agreement normally ends hostilities and that end normally comes by means of a peace treaty.

In the case of Islam, if a country operates strictly in accordance with classical Islamic theology, there can never be a peace treaty with a state ruled by infidels. So, when there is a party, such as Israel, facing a regime ruled by a strict religious party, ala


john crocker - 11/20/2006

Who made the final decision about placement of borders and put pen to paper?

"In other words, what you wrote before about these being serious grievances was and is not so."
No. Past grievances are still grievances are still grievances. Certainly if people feel wounded by a 320 year old grievance, as you contend, they can also feel wounded by much more recent grievances.
Current actions in the Middle East bring to mind past imperial actions by the West in the region.

"Well, I do not remember - although somewhere I might have so stated - that Indonesian Muslims do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel."
This topic began with your comment:
"Perhaps, if a Muslim from Indonesia thinks that Israel is an offense to Islam, then such means that the issue is the unwillingness of Muslims to break with the concept that non-Muslim rule is illegitimate" (#101556)
President Wahid pursued improved relations with Israel, and met with former Israeli Prime Minister Peres. Formal diplomacy between the countries ended earlier this year. There is no indication that Indonesia or its Muslim community denies the legitimacy of Israel, though it is possible, even likely that a or even some Indonesian Muslims believe this.

Your position offers no hope of a desireable or even non apocalyptic outcome. According to you we cannot slow or speed the growth of a movement violently opposed to our existence. We could rebuild all infrasture in the Middle East and provide jobs for all Muslims who desire work, or we could carpet bomb Mecca, but either way recruitment and support would remain constant.
If your position is correct the only way to stop or even contain this inexorably growing movement is the end of Islam. Is this your prescription? If not, what do you propose?


john crocker - 11/20/2006

I presume that this is the statement that you are talking about.
"It is not a ten year cease fire. Read the proposal. The Israelis are being asked to cede land for a ten year cease fire."
I did not respond because it makes no sense.
This is not a response. Read it. It is a response to your assertion.

Criticize me all you like, but you are categorically wrong and an adult would not be afraid to admit it.


john crocker - 11/20/2006

Take a look at the last few comments above and tell us what you think.


john crocker - 11/20/2006

(a) Australia supported and participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (considered by many to be a part of the Middle East, due to cultural, historical, ethnic and religious connections).
(b) The statement by the bombers related to the Middle East and Bin Laden begins his statement citing Australia's involvlement in Afghanistan.
(c) The statement about East Timor is a subordinate clause (or a sentence fragment). This is not where one puts the gist of a sentence.
(d)"In any event, if we go by your logic, then all Muslims are together and we might as well bomb Indonesia for what Pakistan does."
Jemaah Islamiyah is a terrorist organization allied to Al Qaeda, as Australia is a government allied to the US and there is no reliable evidence pointing to widespread support of the bombing by the Muslim community in Indonesia or its government.
(e) You categorically denied that the bombing had ANYTHING to do with the Middle East.
This is categorically wrong. The bombers state explicitly that it is about the Middle East and Bin Laden states explicitly that it is about Afghanistan.
(f) You categorically denied that the bombing had ANYTHING to do with the US.
The bombers explicitly stated that it did and Bin Laden stated that it was in response to Australia's participation in a US led military operation, so again you are wrong.
(g) Any objective reader of the statements:
(the attack was) "an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East."
and
"Australia is the one that we have warned before not to participate in Afghanistan. Not to mention its continued awful chapter in East Timor. They ignored our warning, and they woke up to the sound of explosions in Bali but the government pretended that they were not the target."
must conclude that those who made them intended to link the bombings to what is going on in the broader Middle East (which includes Afghanistan) and that this does have something to do with America.
(h) Do you really believe that you are right here, or are you just seein if you can wiggle out of this position without admitting that you are wrong?


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

Mr. Simon,

You never responded to my arguments. Have I missed something here?


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

Peter,

John, you will note, only responds to points where he thinks he can score points. He does not engage in a discussion.

In this case, note that he does not address my Hudna point at all. He dropped the subject when I noted that the Palestinian position was for Israel to cede land in exchange for a cease fire. Or, in simple terms, the proposal was, to any one interested in settling the dispute, more or less a joke.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

You write: "The Europeans decided which demands to accept and which to ignore. Some people were capable, either with threats or promises, to have more of their demands met, but when it came time to put pen to paper it was the West that decided."

That is your interpretation. The interpretation I have read differs. I do not plan to debate which view is the correct. I shall only note that having influence in a negotiation does not determine how it comes out. And Europeans had a say but not the only say - assuming that Karsh is correct - and they did not really have the ability to dictate the terms, on his telling. So, he would not accept your rendition of the events.

Next topic: I have no memory of citing to Dan Rather. If you have material regarding Mosadegh's overthrow, please set it down so I can read it. I might add: you provide no information about the context of what is said or the reason that such is said. Do such people say, for example, that they want revenge on the US or the UK - countries which Iranians allegedly like - for overthrowing Mosadegh. Somehow, that would not be consistent, now would it?

You write: Afghanistan and Iran-Iraq are good examples of suffering by Muslims in proxy conflicts. As you mentioned mush of South and Central America and Korea are others as is Vietnam. None of these are islands of stability and the US is not generally held in high regard in these regions (excepting sections of South Korea).

Most Arab countries have secured control of their oil wealth at this point, the exploitation of resources to which I was refering effectively ended or was at least was severly limited with waning Western influence in the region and later with the formation of OPEC.


In other words, what you wrote before about these being serious grievances was and is not so.

You write: "I made no claim as to the legitimacy of Israel, I merely asked how you came to be so sure that Indonesian Muslims do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel. A question you dodged with this rant."

Well, I do not remember - although somewhere I might have so stated - that Indonesian Muslims do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel. Now, that is likely true since Indonesia has no diplomatic relations with Israel and since claiming Israel's lack of legitimacy is a common position taken by Muslim countries - Turkey being a notable exception -.

You write: "First you say it has been in decline for 323 years now at least 600 years. So apparently the Middle East was in steady decline as the Ottoman Empire expanded its strength and reach. Is it the defeat of Constantinople that signals the beginning of the decline? Perhaps later you can explain how the decline of the Middle East began 1000 years ago or with the birth of Muhammad."

Here is my suggestion to you. Read the seminal book on the subject, The Muslim discovery of Europe, by Bernard Lewis. If you can find anything wrong in his scholarship, let me know. In any event, he disagrees with you and agrees with me. And, he is the world's foremost scholar of that part of the world.

You write: "My point has been and continues to be that Western and in particular US foreign policy effects how we are viewed in the world. Ignoring this in favor of religious determinism is not a wise manner in which to consider future foreign policy. Religion is AN issue not THE issue."

No. Religion is the THE issue in this dispute. And, so far as we are perceived, when we act weak, we are perceived as weak. When we act strong, we are perceived as strong. And, the interpretation otherwise given to such acts are: when we are perceived to be strong, we act unjustly and, when we are perceived as weak, we are perceived as a paper tiger.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

The trend is toward Islamism. Islamists will not settle most especially when their predecessors would not settlement. And, their predecessors would not settle.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2006

John,

Well, my view is (a) that a warning to Australia not to participate had nothing to do with what happened. Australia's participation - if you can call it that - amounted to basically nothing. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Slipper#Afghanistan . In my view, that is a nonsense assertion that is made as part of the statement. The gist of the statement related to East Timor.

Is that better. Moreover, I would repeat what I said before. In any event, if we go by your logic, then all Muslims are together and we might as well bomb Indonesia for what Pakistan does. That, after all, is what you are saying in reverse. So, no: Australia is not the US.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

Explain.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

That is quite possibly the lamest attempt at evasion I have seen on this board.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

John,

Did you notice that Afghanistan is not in the Middle East?


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

John,

My point exactly.


Carl Becker - 11/19/2006

I didn’t think anyone would respond to my ridiculous post.

The key word in it was “fantasy”.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

"Certainly, the European countries had considerable say. But, not as much as is typically noted."
Who sat around the table and decided where to draw the lines. There was input from people in the region and many demands were made. The Europeans decided which demands to accept and which to ignore. Some people were capable, either with threats or promises, to have more of their demands met, but when it came time to put pen to paper it was the West that decided.

You previously mentioned the Dan Rather piece. I have not yet seen it, but have heard him interviewed on the subject and he related several anecdotes about people talking about the overthrow of Mosadegh. The overthrow is frequently mentioned in Persian blogs. Also mentioned in both is the US sale of the precursors to the chemical weapons used by Saddam.

Afghanistan and Iran-Iraq are good examples of suffering by Muslims in proxy conflicts. As you mentioned mush of South and Central America and Korea are others as is Vietnam. None of these are islands of stability and the US is not generally held in high regard in these regions (excepting sections of South Korea).

Most Arab countries have secured control of their oil wealth at this point, the exploitation of resources to which I was refering effectively ended or was at least was severly limited with waning Western influence in the region and later with the formation of OPEC.

"You write: "Perhaps he Muslims in Indonesia do not feel that Israel is legitimate."
What makes a country legitimate? Find me a definition which makes Israel, but not all the countries in the Americas, illegitimate."
I made no claim as to the legitimacy of Israel, I merely asked how you came to be so sure that Indonesian Muslims do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel. A question you dodged with this rant.

"Now, the Middle East is a mess. It has been in serious decline for at least 600 years"
First you say it has been in decline for 323 years now at least 600 years. So apparently the Middle East was in steady decline as the Ottoman Empire expanded its strength and reach. Is it the defeat of Constantinople that signals the beginning of the decline? Perhaps later you can explain how the decline of the Middle East began 1000 years ago or with the birth of Muhammad.

"I merely note the significance of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire as it is generally considered the point at which the fortunes of the Muslim region began to decline both noticeably and obviously."
No, you stated that it is a central grievance of the Islamists.

My point has been and continues to be that Western and in particular US foreign policy effects how we are viewed in the world. Ignoring this in favor of religious determinism is not a wise manner in which to consider future foreign policy. Religion is AN issue not THE issue.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

Israel proclaimed its independence 58 years ago, HAMAS was formed 19 years ago and gained power less than 1 year ago.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

"Regarding Bali, was not your argument that it related to the US and the Middle East? You noted that it was "'an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East.'"
First, quoting the terrorist that I quoted as though you were quoting me rather than a quote internal to my comment is a sleazy maneuver. The full context of the quote you excerpted follows. "The 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings both targeted western tourists, primarliy Australians. Mukhlas, the cleric who was deemed a mastermind of the 2002 bombing in Bali said the attack was 'an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East.'"
I quoted one of the planners of the bombing and made it clear that the majority of victims were Australian from the beginning.
When you stated that Bin Laden said THE REASON for the bombng was East Timor, I found the Bin Laden quote and showed that you were/are mistaken.

"The issue has nothing to do with the US. It has nothing to do with the Middle East. It has to do with East Timor and, according to your quote, Australia. None of those names sound like either the US or the Middle East."
Are you capable of internalizing anything that does not fit into your preconceved notions?
The quote again follows with emphasis added to the part you seem uncapable of understanding.
"AUSTRALIA IS THE ONE THAT WE WARNED BEFORE NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN AFGHANISTAN. Not to mention its continued awful chapter in East Timor. They (Australia) ignored our warning, and they woke up to the sound of explosions in Bali but the government pretended that they were not the target."
I made no personal assertion as to the cause of the attacks until later in the conversation and then I said it likely had more to do with Jemaah Islamiyah's relationship with Al Qaeda than anything else.

"The issue has nothing to do with the US."
As long as we consider the invasion of Afghanistan having noting to do with the US.

"It has nothing to do with the Middle East."
As long as Afghanistan is not considered part of the Middle East.

"It has to do with East Timor"
Perhaps to a secondary degree as an added grievance, as its position in the quote would indicate.

The evidence clearly shows your assertion is false. You only hurt your credibility in the eyes of anyone reading this by continually asserting the contrary.


Carl Becker - 11/19/2006

All these discussions on HNN about the history and possible causes of human screw-ups is nice but offers no solutions. What you need is a real effing-Walt-Disney-Peter-Pan fantasy to pull it off. To extricate our troops out by 2008, if that’s what the Bush tribe and what America sincerely wants, the US needs to, militarily, go for broke; send in a million-man army (highly unlikely) similar to the WWII invasion of Europe. Bin Laden and his terrorists, Hamas, Iran, as well as the Saudis, adore the US presence in Iraq but would not adore THAT big a presence; this might aggravate them so much they’d choke in their own bile and put off dreams, for some groups, for a Caliphate for another 500 years. While this is happening, PM al-Maliki might try to get it together with the warring Shiite militias, get the leaders of fragmented Sunni communities from the Euphrates Valley and Baghdad to form a national compact for Iraq. After Iraq is totally “flattened” and economically dependent on the West, its oil sucked out by Europe and the US and all the money the contractors might be able to make made, troops could gradually pull out. When it is all over, the eggheads can write about it to their heart’s content about how this wouldn’t have been necessary if the idiots in the White House had got it right the first time.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

John,

You write: "The West carved the region into countries with little regard for ethnic, religious and cultural identity after the Wars. "

There is certainly propaganda that says that is the case. The reality is not that simple. Certainly, the European countries had considerable say. But, not as much as is typically noted. I might suggest that you read one of Ephraim Karsh's books on the topic in which he rather convincingly shows that the West did not, by itself, carve up anything.

In fact, the carve up arrived at was done to meet specific demands made by local Arab leaders including, most specifically, the family of Hussein bin Ali, King of Hejaz, Sharif and Emir of Mecca. They got what they wanted.

You write: "The US and European powers have supported/propped up many corrupt tyrants (the Shah etc.) in the region to staunch the tide of communism that was feared would sweep the region and destroy the West, much as many of those same people are convinced that Islamism will sweep the region and destroy the West."

I am not writing in support of coups. However, it must be said that the Shah was, nonetheless, likely the most forward thinking and progressive rulers that country has ever had. He was also among its most - if not the most - tolerant leaders ever, far more so than the current group of thugs. And that is so even though the Shah had thuggish secret police. At the same time, his regime treated minorities as equals, something the current thugs will not do on religious principles - and, in fact, they terrorize the country's minorities. Ask the Baha'i what it is like that they are considered infidel apostates without a dhimma.

Again, this is not said to suggest that I think the US and the UK were right to help those Iranians who wanted to undermine Mossadegh - and I do not think that -. And it is not to note the obvious, namely, that support for Mossadegh was very weak, which is why he was so easy to undermine.

Rather, my only point is that this is not the case of a country ruled intolerantly after a coup. And, in that part of the world, coups are, whatever the US may or may not want, commonplace and most result in thugs taking over - as occurred time and again, during that period, all over the region. Likely, the Shah's rule was more tolerant and progressive, which is probably why he ran into problems.

Now, I do think that overthrowing Mossadegh would be a legitimate grievance. But, that is an Iranian grievance, one that I have heard almost no Iranians make. I have heard lots of Westerners assert that grievance. But, when Iranian leaders speak, I hear them talk about different matters. So, I am not sure that this legitimate grievance is the grievance that Iranians care about.

Do you have evidence that Iranians care about the noted grievance? Please provide it.

You write: "Western governments and businesses exploited the natural resources of the region through the puppet dictators they installed."

It is my distinct impression that people in the region have benefited substantially, if we think in terms of money, from the resources "exploited" by the West. And, money is the only thing that oil taken from the ground can bring. I am hard pressed to imagine what other benefit might be had, especially considering the amount of money paid to people in that part of the world for their resources and the extraordinary wealthy countries it has created.

Perhaps, it might occur to you that the problem with countries like Saudi Arabia is that they have not figured out how to run oil fields without outside assistance. That is not due to US policy. Witness that people in other parts of the world dig up their own oil to even less benefit than runs to Arabs. Yet, they figure out how to do it themselves.

You write: "They suffered as pawns in proxy armies in the Cold War."

How did they suffer worse than Europe did during the Cold War? How did they suffer, to make a more exact parallel, more than Israel suffered? How did they suffer worse than South Korea suffered? Given that the whole world suffered from the Cold War - and many parts far more than the Arab regions - I think you are dreamland if you think that is a special problem, somehow special to Arab Muslims.

You write: "The US armed both sides in the Iran Iraq war."

We were not alone and we were hardly the major supplier of Iraq. Iraq was primarily supplied by its major ally, the USSR. In fact, the USSR supplied substantially more than all other countries put together. And there were no shortage of such suppliers. Iran was supplied by the US, by Syria, by Libya, by North Korea and by China, probably among others.

So, I think what you write here is basically nonsense. Everyone was selling to everyone and the US was not the major supplier to both sides, only to one side.

You write: "Then consider that we are dealing with a relatively poorly educated people and a couple legitimate hurts that have been felt by the people make them much more likely to believe grievances that have little or no basis in fact."

Well, hurts to Iran are not hurts to Iraq. Hurts to Iraq are not hurts to Egypt. Unless, of course, you think that these are one people.

You write: "We share responsibility for the state of this region and willfull ignorance of that fact (or percieved reality if you prefer) does not help us to deal with it."

So far, you have noted a bunch of bogus propaganda put out by Islamists. Now, you say we share responsibility for the state of the region. You have not given any cogent reasons for your position.

It seems to me that the US has its fingers all over the world. It seems to me that your theory is that US meddling means a bad state of affairs. I think that view makes no sense at all and is contradicted by any remotely careful examination of the facts.

Consider that Kuwait has done rather well, notwithstanding US meddling over many, many decades. The same for Qatar, Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. These countries all thrive and the US has its fingers deeply involved in all of them.

By contrast, the US has had much more limited contact with Syria. Syria does not thrive. It is a backwards dictatorship and was going back for many centuries. And, it is probably even worse off than Egypt, which we do provide substantial assistance and support.

Now, the Middle East is a mess. It has been in serious decline for at least 600 years and, ever more so, after its rulers began to lose wars. The problems did not begin when the current group of countries were created.

And, the problems are homegrown, not imported. It is not our doing that Iranians still can not fix the machinery for Iranian oil fields. It is not our doing that Saudis cannot do so either. These are the product of very deep societal issues, not the fact that the US prefers this ruler to that one.

Consider: the Israelis have already figured out how to dig oil out of the ground. So, have the Russians - who certainly suffered from US policy far more during the Cold War than did any Arab countries. But, Russians, thus far, are not flying planes into buildings to kill as many innocent people as they can.

You write: "Perhaps he Muslims in Indonesia do not feel that Israel is legitimate."

What makes a country legitimate? Find me a definition which makes Israel, but not all the countries in the Americas, illegitimate. In fact, find me a definition which makes any country, other than Arabia, claiming to be an Arab country legitimate but the countries of the Americas illegitimate.

You write: "If Islam had really been in steady decline for the past 300+ years it would not be viable today. "

You might read Bernard Lewis on this topic. The decline is longstanding and ongoing. It is not recent.

You write: "Equating the Ottoman Empire with Islam is not entirely or even mostly accurate and certainly holds little relevance to Shi'a. Our problems with them (at least as large as those with the Sunni) must stem from some other source.
Even when only considering the Ottoman Empire there was more or less steady decline from the 1683 until 1918. After this either you consider it ceasing to exist or accept that it is now Turkey and has experienced ups and downs from then until now."

I do not see your point. The decline was not limited to the Ottoman Empire. I merely note the significance of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire as it is generally considered the point at which the fortunes of the Muslim region began to decline both noticeably and obviously.

You write: "The abating of outside influence (control) often leads to violent reaction against those responsible for that control, particularly if it was onerous."

The US was not a colonial power in the Muslim regions. Europeans were. Perhaps, Arabs should point their guns to their actual oppressors. Maybe some honest Europeans would note that fact.

Note: I do not think your theory explains what is occurring. I think it is logical but not supported by the facts. Were we speaking of, for example, Mexico, Nicaragua or Panama, what you say could make sense. There, the US has actually interfered and with a very, very heavy hand. In the case of Mexico, there is an actual grievance, namely, we obtained land in a war. And, that remains an actual open wound. But, Mexicans do not blow up buildings in the US.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

Correction. Strike the last sentence and substitute:

None of those names sound like either the US or the Middle East.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

John,

You write: "A ten year of cease in hostilities would go a long way towards making life better for both Israelis and Palestinians."

It is not a ten year cease fire. Read the proposal. The Israelis are being asked to cede land for a ten year cease fire. That is traditional Islamic Hudna, used throughout the history of Islam. It basically always leads to more war. I suggest you read a book about Hudnas and Jihad, etc. It would make you think differently about the matter.

Regarding polling... You are the one who thinks there is peace here. And, on all other topics, so far as I know, you keep looking to polling. An examination of the polling of Palestinian Arabs that anyone might use shows interest by Palestinian Arabs in an interim arrangement - exactly as is being offered. While I do not rely on polling ever - as I think it highly questionable as it is not a free society but a society where wrong opinions have serious negative societal consequences, I note that even if you do, the same result is reached in this case.

You write: "You can read Mr. Simon's argument on this above, he seems to think this is a bit less simple than you would characterize it."

Well, I do not think it simple. I just think your view is basically to stick it to the Israelis. It is not Israel which benefits from ceding land for a truce. That is a joke of an opinion.

Regarding Bali, was not your argument that it related to the US and the Middle East? You noted that it was "'an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East.'" http://hnn.us/comments/101424.html Now, you have it being Australia. I think you have switched targets. So, it is you who needs to admit a mistake.

The issue has nothing to do with the US. It has nothing to do with the Middle East. It has to do with East Timor and, according to your quote, Australia. None of those names sound like either the US or Australia.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

The last 80 years.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

What evidence do you have that they will not?


john crocker - 11/19/2006

We would be the US and Israel, as these are generally the parties involved in the negotiations with the Palestinians. A ten year of cease in hostilities would go a long way towards making life better for both Israelis and Palestinians.

"The polling I have read suggests that they want an interim arrangement "
Again, either state that you will accept the results of all polls with which you cannot show a methodological flaw not present in the polls you chose to highlight or stop using them to support your arguments. As long as you reserve the right to deny the results of the polls I present (absent the above caveat) I will choose to ignore the results of any pollig you present.

"And p-l-e-a-s-e-----, do not tell me why they voted as they did. I have heard it all before."
Well if you have heard it all before, I guess I don't need to repeat it. You can read Mr. Simon's argument on this above, he seems to think this is a bit less simple than you would characterize it.

"Now, you want me to admit I am wrong about Bali. As I said before, bin Laden disagrees."
You said, "In the case of Bali, there were stated reasons for the attack. They had nothing at all to do with the US. They had nothing to do with the West. I suggest you read a bit about this since you are, in this case, wrong."
You then said, "First, regarding Bali - and I had in mind the 2002 attack -, bin Laden stated explicitly that THE issue was East Timor. " (emphasis mine)
Bin Laden said, "Australia is the one that we have warned before not to participate in Afghanistan. Not to mention its continued awful chapter in East Timor. They ignored our warning, and they woke up to the sound of explosions in Bali but the government pretended that they were not the target."
If this is not the Bin Laden quote to which you were refering please provide it. Your argument here I guess rests on Australia not being part of "the West," the invasion of Afghanistan not having anything to do with the US, or ignoring the first cause Bin Laden gives for the attack; Australia's involvement in the US led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. East Timor was not THE or even the primary reason cited by Bin Laden for the bombing. It was not even mentioned by those directly involved in the bombing who said the cause was, "an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East."
If you are too stubborn to admit you are wrong when the evidence is so clearly laid out in front of you there is very little point in continuing this conversation with you as you will not be swayed no matter the strength ot the evidence or logic.


john crocker - 11/19/2006

"What is that connection? I do not see it."
Countries A,B,C, and D attack country E that terrorist group F sees as an ally. Terrorist group F then targets citizens of countries A, B, C, and D. The act is unconscionable, but the connection is obvious.

"Wounds of the last 50 odd years? And those wounds are?"
I believe at the time we were discussing Iran. You do know what happened in Iran in '53 don't you, how about '41.
The West carved the region into countries with little regard for ethnic, religious and cultural identity after the Wars. The US and European powers have supported/propped up many corrupt tyrants (the Shah etc.) in the region to staunch the tide of communism that was feared would sweep the region and destroy the West, much as many of those same people are convinced that Islamism will sweep the region and destroy the West. Western governments and businesses exploited the natural resources of the region through the puppet dictators they installed. They suffered as pawns in proxy armies in the Cold War. (We are the only real remaining power from that war and so recieve the bulk of the animosity for that use.) The US armed both sides in the Iran Iraq war. The US sold Saddam the precursors for the chemical weapons he used on the Iranians and the Kurds.
Then consider that we are dealing with a relatively poorly educated people and a couple legitimate hurts that have been felt by the people make them much more likely to believe grievances that have little or no basis in fact.

We share responsibility for the state of this region and willfull ignorance of that fact (or percieved reality if you prefer) does not help us to deal with it.

Perhaps he Muslims in Indonesia do not feel that Israel is legitimate. How would you know this?
What spurred the Islamist terrorists among them to act, by their own account, was the invasion of a Muslim nation (Afghanistan) by Western forces. Likely more important, though not by their account, was the targeting of an allied terrorist organization (Al Qaeda) within that country. I have seen no indication that the bombing enjoyed wide support among Muslims within Indonesia. There were no large demonstrations when Samudra or Mukhlas were sentenced to death for their part in the bombing or when Imron was sentenced to life in prison for his part. If there had been support it seems there would have been noteable demonstrations. There were not.

Certainly leaders do deflect criticism from themselves by directing towards foreign sources, but that is hardly unique to Muslim nations. Looking to past glories when the current situation is or seems poor is also common to most. Current comfort can go a long way towards lulling the desire for past glory.

If Islam had really been in steady decline for the past 300+ years it would not be viable today.
Equating the Ottoman Empire with Islam is not entirely or even mostly accurate and certainly holds little relevance to Shi'a. Our problems with them (at least as large as those with the Sunni) must stem from some other source.
Even when only considering the Ottoman Empire there was more or less steady decline from the 1683 until 1918. After this either you consider it ceasing to exist or accept that it is now Turkey and has experienced ups and downs from then until now.

"And, I see the resumption of traditional values rising with the abating of non-Muslim political influence while non-Muslim cultural influences continue."
The abating of outside influence (control) often leads to violent reaction against those responsible for that control, particularly if it was onerous.


E. Simon - 11/19/2006

The polls, sorry to have not addressed this, indicate that accepting Israel can only go as an "interim measure," and their actions in Gaza seem to back that up.


E. Simon - 11/19/2006

You know this thread could have ended, but seeing as how you've decided to respond, Peter, I'll take that as a judgment on your part as to not consider this deviation from the article a form of "degeneration."

In any event, getting back to your contention, if occupation in Gaza has not ended, then what are the Israelis supposed to feel about the ensuing missile attacks into their Southern cities in the aftermath of that withdrawal? Gratitude? A show of good faith in your assumption that the end of occupation would not lead to more violence, instead of to the perception of a better possibility at aiming for that four-car garage?

By aiming I mean with RPGs.

You see Peter, the Israelis have this funny attitude. They expect that agreements will be taken sincerely, as the Jordanians and Egyptians have taken them. Oh I'm sure you'll fault the Israelis for breaches of the Oslo accords going yea back, but when it comes to actions that speak louder than words, they really do appreciate that whole non-violence thing, as well as a government that has enough credibility to control that non-violence, and I'm sure they wouldn't have trouble reciprocating in any reasonable way requested, if that were the case. That's because the "greater Israel" movement does not have the kind of popular support that the "greater Palestine" movement does. Just ask Omar. And ask HIM how many of his relatives, friends, acquaintances, and Palestinians in general, agree. But to do so would require taking efforts at historiography - no matter how small - seriously.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2006

Mr. Simon,

I see the Iranian government - and its various factions -reacting to the same sort of circumstances that occurred in the US regarding Communism.

The dynamics I see are a quasi-secularizing, modernizing force perceived to be allied in opposition to Islamic governance with an outside hostile force - to wit, the West or, as they call us, the Great Satan. The force against the governing ideology is rather small - but has importance among the intellectual classes -. This ideology and group are viewed as a threat to the governing ideology.

Khatemi is representative of the group which thinks, contrary to what we would call the McCarthyite types allied with Ahmadinejad, that co-opting the modernizing forces is the best way to preserve the Islamic revolution. Ahmadinejad prefers to demonize those who look to the West.

I do not see either group heading toward modernization in any sense we would understand.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

John,

Oh, I see, you think that if Israel cedes land, Palestinian Arabs will tire of fighting. And, you think HAMAS will deliver peace or lose in elections. What makes you think they will agree to another election?


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Very cute.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

John,

You write: "A Hudna may be all we can get; but if that leads to comfort, safety, and relative prosperity for many Palestinians, they will not likely be so hungry to go back to armed struggle."

Who is this "we" who will get something? Perhaps it is Europeans who think a hudna is good enough for Europe. After all, Europeans will not have to live with the results. Clearly, John, helping the Israelis is not on your list.

Why should the Israelis cede land based on a hudna to make Palestinians comfortable? What does that do for Israelis?

This is a two sided dispute and both side's interests must be addressed or the dispute will never be resolved. And, the Israelis want the dispute to end and that is their bottom line on the matter. And, they have good reason for that view.

Again: what does your proposal do to help Israelis? Why would a hudna lead to peace? What makes you think Palestinian Arabs want peace?

The polling I have read suggests that they want an interim arrangement - which people who spin findings claim means they want peace. In this case, I have read the polling data carefully.

Note, particularly, the answers to questions about whether they seek a permanent end to the dispute with Israel in tact. They overwhelmingly say no. And, they overwhelmingly want to continue, after a treaty, to continue inciting violence and continue to teach that Israel should be eliminated. That means they do not accept Israel which, in time, means they will try to destroy Israel - exactly in line with what a hudna means.

Here is my suggestion: peace comes when people want peace. That means both sides. Pretending that people want to end a dispute when they say otherwise - and have never said anything else - is dishonest.

But let us assume, for argument's sake, that you are correct. Palestinian Arabs are not morons. If they really wanted peace, voting for a group which rejects peace as a religious principle - and not merely as a practical issue - signals they really do not want peace.

And p-l-e-a-s-e-----, do not tell me why they voted as they did. I have heard it all before. It might even be true although I highly doubt it - there being a substantial body of evidence, as noted by scholar Martin Kramer and by The Boston Globe, to the contrary -, but even if it is so, that means that Palestinian Arabs do not rank making peace very high on their list. Otherwise, they would never vote for HAMAS - the party which rejects peace as a matter of religious principle.

It is as if one might vote for Mussolini while claiming to want peace. No one is that stupid. The bottom line here is that Palestinian Arabs knew full well what HAMAS stands for. Everyone does. So, peace could really not be their big priority.

Now, you want me to admit I am wrong about Bali. As I said before, bin Laden disagrees.


john crocker - 11/18/2006

HAMAS will do what the Palestinians want or will be replaced. Taking a hardline in the ham-handed way that has been done so far will only increase their zeal and their support. Perhaps HAMAS is limited in how far toward lasting peace they can go, but they can go further than nowhere, which is were our current stance is likely to lead. A Hudna may be all we can get; but if that leads to comfort, safety, and relative prosperity for many Palestinians, they will not likely be so hungry to go back to armed struggle. From there a lasting peace may be negotiated.

Perhaps you would now care to respond to the bulk of my comment above. We're only adding fuel to Yehudi's google searches here.

You could start by admitting you were wrong about Bali.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

John,

You write: "The attack was unconscionable, but the targets were western tourists, primarily Australians. The other victims were primarily European and American tourists. The connection is not so difficult to imagine. Bin Laden voiced that connection in the quote that I think you referenced."

What is that connection? I do not see it. I see an attack on Y alleged to be revenge against X, with the connection between the X and Y group being that neither is Muslim. I cannot imagine anything lower, assuming that your understanding of what occurred is correct.

I might add that if you are correct, that suggests that the Munich theory is correct, namely, that you cannot appease the movement because it has become non-specific.

You write: "The events of 1683 may have a formative effect on the Islamists, but the common man is more likely upset by things that have effected him or his family personally. The wounds of the 50s to the present are fresh and so still hurt more. They may remind him of old scars, but the fresh wound will hold his attention much better. If that fresh wound is an actual wound to himself or a friend or family member it holds his attention all the better."

Wounds of the last 50 odd years? And those wounds are? My recollection is that Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden comes from, has prospered in the last 50 years more than anytime during the last 500 years. That country has become rich and very politically influential all over the world.

There is certainly propaganda that Muslims have suffered but, frankly, we must distinguish propaganda from reality.

Now, I think you need to distinguish between whether Muslims are one nation or are a group of different nations. If the latter, Saudi Arabia has benefited substantially from its association with the US. If you mean that Muslims are divided into competing nations, then they have been prevented by at least the West - but also, if we are to be remotely honest, by internal forces - from taking on tasks as a group endeavor under a common ideology. Or, in simple term, the West has, in fact, stood against Islamic imperial politics (or, for that matter, pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic [which was a quasi-secular movement] politics). In Western parlance, that means we have opposed the establishment of a transnational empire. Is that really a bad thing?

Is it really bad for Muslims as a whole that Jews obtained political rights in a tiny country and that Palestinian Arabs, who rejected extending rights to Jews, fought a war to prevent the sharing of power and suffered and lost their homes as a result? Does Israel really make people suffer in Egypt - rather than, for example, the high birthrate, lack of literacy, lack of medical advancement, lack of intellectual stimulus in the form of book production, etc. -? Or, is thet "hurt" felt by Muslims something implanted by politicians in order to deflect attention from their political intrigues? Perhaps, if a Muslim from Indonesia thinks that Israel is an offense to Islam, then such means that the issue is the unwillingness of Muslims to break with the concept that non-Muslim rule is illegitimate, especially if such is established on land once ruled by Muslims. In any event, you explain this grave hurt over the last 50 years or so.

What I see, by contrast, is a reaction to modernity fed by the events of Islam's long decline as a political, economic, cultural and social force and as a scientific contributor. But, all of that long pre-dates the last 50 years or even the last 100 years. And, I see the resumption of traditional values rising with the abating of non-Muslim political influence while non-Muslim cultural influences continue.










E. Simon - 11/18/2006

So - (sorry!) - my point was that Khatami NEEDED to come from within. (Maybe you were touching on the same point?) Reform cannot change the nature of the iron-clad, structural grip of religion on state unless that movement for reform comes from within one of those branches which maintains that grip. The only other foreseeable alternative is a revolution, and that has never really looked all that likely.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Peter,

You are mixing apples with oranges. People from Europe are being actively recruited. There are substantial networks of these recruits in Europe.

Cells have been broken up all over Europe. Moreover, there have been killings and bombings and attempted mass terror attacks - most, but not all of which, have been thwarted, in Europe.

No, you are correct that the recruitment is not like in Iraq although, interestingly, some of those killed in Iraq have been from Europe. But, the recruitment in Europe is active and serious.



E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Mr. Friedman I promise I will try to get around to reading the rest of your post but I ABSOLUTELY MUST get to Best Buy right now on this weekend day of near Holiday Season shopping to check out the coolest new piece of technology I've got my eyes on.

In the meantime, I think that - having got about half-way through your post, yes, Khatami came from within the religious establishment, and that yes, he was a reformer, and that yes, that is important because the way the Iranian government is structured allows for at least 2 more, explicitly theologically-oriented branches of government (Council of Guardians and Assembly of Experts) than any other electoral democracy I can think of. A third branch, the Expediency Council, is meant to adjudicate disputes between the former and the actual parliament. This structure is somewhat unique among world governments and we must pepper our analyses of what religiously-oriented developments occur in Iranian politics through that political and structural lens when discussing how those developments are regarded by the population. This Wikipedia article gives a basic idea, and I have another primer also. It's a pretty unique situation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran#Government_and_politics


Actually, this internal link gives a good schematic, representative of the other review I had in mind:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Iran#The_closed_loop_of_power


I will read the rest and discuss as we can when I get back. Later!


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Again Peter,

You are saying that my ideas, as absurd as they apparently are not, do not redeem my apparent character flaws. In other words, what I have to say matters less to you than the baggage of what kind of a person I supposedly am. Yet at the same time you pin the degeneration of threads into personally-directed insults on me, as if I am the one who insists on focusing on people at the cost of engaging ideas. This is an inconsistent line of reasoning. And furthermore, you'll note that the exchange with Omar below into something more cogent than he's contributed so far in this thread is one for which I am in large measure responsible for catalyzing.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

CORRECTION. Strike this sentence:

And, even free regimes, when there is an enemy associated with internal opposition, are pre-occupied with what to do about that opposition - compare the 1950's (McCarthyism) vs. the path taken thereafter in the US regarding the Communists -.

Substitute:

And, even free regimes, when there is an enemy associated with external opposition, are pre-occupied with what to do about that opposition - compare the 1950's (McCarthyism) vs. the path taken thereafter in the US regarding the Communists -.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Peter,

I do not think what you are saying is correct. I think al Qaida actively recruits in Europe. It is rather central to them as these recruits are the people able to move around the West.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Mr. Simon,

I thank you for your comment.

My reading of the situation is a bit different but I have certainly read the same sorts of things you have read.

I note a few particulars which stand out to me.

First, Mohammad Khatemi, while being a reformer was, in fact, part of the religious establishment. He evidently studied theology in Qom and Esfahan and was and is a cleric. I rather doubt that he was a Shevardnadze-like character seeking perestroika.

Consider the possibility that we are not dealing so much with a fight between secular modernists and religious people but between different factions of the religious establishment, both being Islamist and neither looking for radical change. One faction prefers open confrontation to preserve Islam and power while the other sees opening to the West and Western influences to do the same.

Of course, you are correct to the extent you would point out that there is a reformist faction and it obviously does respond to a perceived problem as seen by those in the Khatemi faction.

So, no doubt there are societal forces - and there clearly are - in opposition to tradition and the government and some of it might, in fact, be secular or at least much more secular. I rather doubt that the truly secular group is very large. [Recall Irving Howe's words about Jews who arrived to the US from Europe carrying Marx in one hand and the Torah in the other.]

In any event, these more secular people are very important and they are, in a sense, a genuine threat to the regime - perhaps as the Communists were during the Cold War in the US. Such people may be, as perhaps seen by the regime, in league with the enemies of the revolution - the US and it allied secular regimes.

One difference here being that less free regimes like Iran tend to feel even more threatened by the existence of undermining elements than do free regimes. And, even free regimes, when there is an enemy associated with internal opposition, are pre-occupied with what to do about that opposition - compare the 1950's (McCarthyism) vs. the path taken thereafter in the US regarding the Communists -.

Which is to say, you may be seeing the over-magnification of the more secular opposition, with the regime unclear how to deal with its "communist" aka Westernizing or secularizing opposition. Some may want to co opt it and some to confront it.

Second, recall that during the Iran Iraq war, children - and this was certainly known inside Iran - were given keys to heaven and used in wave attacks and to clear minefields. Imagine something similar to that happening in Europe or America. What sort of society follows that path? (And, note, I am well aware that there have and are children in armies and children's armies of sorts and I know that, for example, in WWII, comparatively young people fought in the Russian army). But, we are dealing with a suicide army of children, armed only with faith, not generally with weapons. "Countless waves of untrained Iranian boy-soldiers armed only with plastic keys purportedly guaranteeing entry to heaven blew themselves up by the tens of thousands clearing mine fields or died charging into artillery barrages worthy of Verdun or Stalingrad." http://www.crimesofwar.org/thebook/iran-iraq-war.html

Iran did not modernize into a post-Islamic society with some Islamic influence under the rule of the Mullahs. And, such did not occur magically in the last 25 years.

Now, I agree with the possibility that there has been substantial opposition to the policies of the Mullahs. That is different from saying that the society has a Western underlay.

Now, my main point, in any event, is about the rise of Islamism, not its acceptance. It does not take the majority to control things. It takes a hard core of dedicated fanatics that can control the reigns of power, by government (as in Iran) or by thuggish behavior, as exists elsewhere. And, such has resulted in a population where Islamism is ascending.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Peter,

Al Qaida has, in fact, engaged in substantial amount of recruitment work all over Europe. No doubt, he has recruited substantially in Austria as well. And, if not Austria, do you recall where some of the leaders - including Atta - hung out before 9/11? Does the name Hamburg, Germany ring a bell?

You write: "Bin Laden is not talking about avenging the defeat of the Ottomans 323 years ago."

This may technically be so; but Mr. Ahmadinejad certainly does. And, he is not alone.

I might make an observation that my reading over these years has noted from books written by people of rather different points of view. People from the Muslim regions, whether they have a learned knowledge of history or not are taught, at the very least in mosque and whatever schooling they may have, a perspective about Islam's glorious history and its long slide. Such is a form of living religious history - of a tradition that remains alive -. So, to a religious Muslim, this historical sense really is very important and pertinent.

There really is a reason, as I noted, why long histories find there way into things said.

Now, if you are saying that the events of 1683 are not the events Muslims have in mind, consider Mr. Ahmadinejad's rather infamous speech about Israel, where he stated:

The creation of the regime occupying Al-Qods (Jerusalem) was a heavy move by the globally dominant system and Global Arrogance against the Islamic world. There is a historic battle going on between the Oppressor World and the Islamic world and the roots of this conflict goes back hundreds of years.

In this historic conflict, the fronts have shifted many times. There were times when the Muslims had the upper hand and were active and forward-moving, while the Oppressor World was on retreat.

Unfortunately, in the past three hundred years, the Islamic world has been on retreat in the face of the Oppressor World.

I do not intend to go to the roots of the issue and I concentrate on a historical review of the events. In the past one hundred years, the last trenches of the Islamic world fell and the Oppressor World created the regime occupying Al-Qods as the bridgehead for its domination of the Islamic world. Bridgehead is a military term in warfare. When two divisions or armies are fighting each other, if one side advances and breaks through the front and captures a piece of enemy territory and builds up fortifications and strengthens its hold to make it a base for further territorial expansion, then we call this a bridgehead.

The occupying state (Israel) is the bridgehead of the Oppressor World in the heart of the Islamic world. They have built a base to expand their domination to the entire Islamic world. There is no other raison d’etre for this entity without this objective.

The battle that is going on in Palestine today, therefore, is the frontline of the conflict between the Islamic world and the Oppressor World. It is a battle of destiny that will determine the fate of hundreds of years of conflict in Palestine.


You might also read Dr. Mahathir's infamous speech. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/20/1066502121884.html . That same sense of history appears in his speech. And, he is far from being alone.

Now, al Qaida, in fact, tends to focus more on 1924 - i.e. the elimination of the Caliphate. Al Qaida sees that as the critical date, to judge from its training manual, which has an introduction which reads:

Introduction

Martyrs were killed, women were widowed, children were orphaned,
men were handcuffed, chaste women's heads were shaved, harlots'
heads were crowned, atrocities were inflicted on the innocent,
gifts were given to the wicked, virgins were raped on the
prostitution alter . . .

After the fall of our orthodox caliphates on March 3 , 1924 and
after expelling the colonialists, our Islamic nation was
afflicted with apostate rulers who took over in the Moslem
nation. These rulers turned out to be more infidel and criminal
than the colonialists themselves. Moslems have endured all kinds
of harm, oppression, and torture at their hands.


http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/aqmanual.pdf [the ... is in the online document.]

So, if you are claiming that bin Laden is not motivated by acts long ago, I think you are off base. The manual does, after all, refer to events in 1924 rather clearly. And, that event is the direct line from the event in 1683, although the training manual claims that the post Colonial era is even worse than Colonialism.

You next comment that the Danubian plain is not a front in the "war on terror" is correct, at least from our perspective. However, it is part of the war by some Muslims to gain power in Europe.

I agree with your next comment about the US election.

If we are speaking about causes, then your view is wrong. If we are speaking about motivation for Jihad, the central motivations are religious which, in turn, is tied to the noted historical "sense" that is taught and that is part of a living faith. If we are saying that the events in Iraq have fanned flames that already exist and were and are widespread, I do not that much disagree with your point.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Peter,

I do not excuse the government's behavior or policy. I mean, instead, to set it into perspective. And, as I have said repeatedly, it is one of a long string of failed policies that have coincided with the rise of Islamism. And I have said that the current policy has stirred things up.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

John,

The chances that HAMAS will change its position are not much different than the chances that the Pope will endorse abortion. HAMAS is not merely a political party that holds a hard line. HAMAS is a religio/political movement that ties Israel's destruction to Allah's will. To accept Israel would amount to saying that Islam is not Allah's religion.

Do you understand what it means to hold a position for religious reasons? Do you understand what it means when a person asserts that their religion teaches something?


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

1. Has merit but must be viewed in the context of the fact that none of these things were occuring in Palestine and when they did occur started only with the Zionists.

2. I'm not sure of what you're talking about here. If in terms of trade, shipping routes through the Red Sea haven't been stopped and I'm wondering to what degree over land shipping was affected. If in terms of communication, you'll have to allow for developments such as the telegraph, telephone, television, and cable wire which have made physical "displacement" by the tiny point at Israel's south a negligible deteriment to Arab communications that most Israeli or Palestinian TVs and computers can pick up quite readily.

3. This is just more of your boilerplate garbage in search of a real point that it can't be tagged onto without some superglue.

4. Wiping others off the map and living in peace in exchange for their recognition of your right to a political existence are different things that put a higher burden for national security on those advocating the former.

5. This is more an excuse than a real reason and would be evident as such if more people in the Arab world had the courage to admit that fact rather than toeing their government's blame-shifting propoganda line on the matter.

6. Maybe with regards to Suez in 1956. Israeli involvement in Iraq in 2003 is something that perhaps the perceptive Mr. Baker could enlighten us on.

7. This point is disproven by the fact that Israel is at Peace w/Jordan, and enjoys better relations with Morocco and w/the Gulf states than it does w/Saudi Arabia or w/Syria.

Back to you, Mr. Baker. Stay topical and avoid insults if you can, even if it's difficult to offer reasonable rebuttals.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

John, what I would add, is that, from my recollection, HAMAS won because of the appearance of less corruption as viewed against the incumbent FATAH regime. But a significant majority of Palestinians (with a grain salt, it is difficult to poll accurately in undemocratic/authoritarian areas) do indeed still support the replacement of Israel with their own state.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

If these are your contentions, Mr. Crocker, then I certainly do not disagree with you. My comments in response to Mr. Friedman's post I have posted above. Thanks -


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Please Peter, I am looking forward to your showing me which uncritically examined policies of the Israeli government have halted human development in the Arab world. OUT WITH IT! I must be missing something. Wouldn't want to half-ass the argument.

Your balance-over-bias canard, that you cling to like a dying man to a ventilator, just goes to show THAT YOU CANNOT EVEN FOLLOW A BASIC ARGUMENT! An easily confused man, rejoicing over his juggling of multiple points of view (which I can do as well, of course), but using it as his only point of pride because he can barely manage to follow a single one to its logical conclusions. How pitiful you are!

Gordon Wood spoke about the American distrust for things intellectual, including intelligent discourse, and if you're an example of what he had in mind, then extol your blind nativism all you want. Some of us have had the experience of Americans actually appreciating the injection of intelligence into discussions informing the formulation of their ideas, but I must express my regret that for you this seems to unfortunately NOT be the case. Again, too bad for Peter. But not for Zionists with a brain. There's no shame in that. No matter how "kneejerk" their "bias."

No wonder your irrelevant criticisms of Israel (and no, not all criticisms of Israel are irrelevant, I've certainly never said they were) don't seem to ever go anywhere with any appreciable segment of the American public, except for bunker-dwelling gun hugging Jewish/Holocaust conspiracy types like Williams. Where is he today?


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Why would they need to, Peter? Given that 25% of British Muslims support suicide bombings, the number of European cells, the number of successful attacks, the force and challenge that they represent in French politics, why would they need to? Right now the British government is struggling with what legal definitions should pertain to openly proclaiming support for suicide-bombings. The "Magnificent 19" 9/11 hijackers are proudly extolled on the streets of London.

European society is being challenged from within Peter, but your computer glared eyes would need to apparently open up a newspaper to understand that, you "pompous ignorant-of-history" "spoiled child."

It's funny that the points I made on human development included literacy. You are the undisputed, hands-down master champion of not only not reading, but of not remembering what argument you made in taking issue with the argument you didn't remember not properly identifying in taking issue with it.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

I disagree with you, starting right from the very first point.

I don't know the full details of Iranian voting systems - the dynamics of disqualifying candidates aside - but fully expect based on everything I'd read from the late 1990's onward that the reformers were a sufficiently significant force in the legislature that it would be quite impractical to believe that there weren't strong grass-roots support for them.

In fact, one prominent figure - Khatami? - seemed like a good hope for translating those sentiments into real reform of the Iranian system, but the clerical branches of government squelched him until his tenure ended.

What Ahmedinejad (GOD I HATE HAVING to transliterate EVERY syllable of his name, there has to be an abbreviation someone can make-up) is doing, he is trying to tie widespread economic disaffection with the smaller degree of support that exists for traditional/fundamentalist candidates that he does indeed enjoy. He is also trying to link both of those things with widespread support for nuclear development as a point of national pride. In this sense, he seems to know how to build /popular/ support beyond the narrow parochial echo in the Iranian population. Of course the establishment/Iranian gov't at large seems to like him because his firebrand/trashtalk on the international stage puts him up as a lightning rod for anti-nuclear sentiment among the Western powers, when in reality he is not really in charge of much anyway. He's basically a diplomatic pimple that provides the gov't the cover they need to go about God knows what business they are pursuing, while not really being available to engage international dissatisfaction for their actions.

All the Nazis needed to gain power was a plurality (around just over ~ 33% for them). This is not unusual, even in presidential systems such as in the U.S. where in 1992 less than a majority of voters chose Clinton to accede to the presidency.

Peter should take this as a model for how to conduct a debate where two people can disagree in a civil way.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Peter, I didn't take issue with anything Polk stated. My taking issue with Omar's bullshit doesn't change that. Somehow such a realization has managed to elude your tiny brain and instead activated your overgrown limbic system.

No one said that Iraq wasn't a REAL grievance, you lying little puppy dog. BAD DOG! BAD DOG! What was debated was what was the confusion between excuses and grievances. You created a discrete cut-off and said that what "Moslems" (sic) complained about prior to 2003 were excuses (including starving Iraqi children through sanctions, BTW?... Hmmm...), while that observation can't now somehow apply to complaints thereafter. I took issue with that by illustrating that the Arab world is not a monolith and giving examples of continued economic development of the gulf.

That's as far as the discussion stands, Brainiac. Because other things were discussed you can't cry about how they didn't have everything to do with the article. If you DON't like where it veered off then don't stick your FAT ass and FAT head into the discussion by trying, failingly to disprove those "extraneous" points that you didn't think should have been discussed in the first place.

You really do give new meaning to unintelligent, Peter - especially when mixed with your condescension and confidence, it's a really brutally self-deprecating mix. Future linguists may indeed struggle to create new adjectives to appropriately describe the level of Quixotic self-parody of which only you seem capable.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Thanks for admitting Peter, that the 9/11 hijackers cared more (or to the West, practically as much, given their actions) about what was happening in Iraq prior to 2003 as they do now. But the effects on Middle Eastern perceptions of starving Iraqi children through sanctions prior to the American invasion is not something you'd apparently care to put into historical perspective. I understand completely. Invading Iraq is the only REAL grievance anyone could have had because that's the thing that your friend BUSH did. Isn't that self-evident? Just wish you could explain that better because I have friends that require evidence for all these things that superior beings like you and I just happen to divinely KNOW to be true.

It's hard being a historiographically superior being.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

It is truly a fool who claims that anyone, and therefore, everyone, who is interested in "literacy rates, per capita GDP, rights for women, technological advancement, internal stability and security, political accountability" is doing so out of interest in helping Israel. Surely every country that advances those goals advances the interests of nearly every other. But it takes a truly astounding kind of idiocy - that I can only find in guys like Omar - to claim that encouraging Arab countries to pursue their own, inherent self-interests in advancing standard benchmarks of human development is a suspicious approach for Arab countries to take since that would just benefit Israel. I guess now the majority of the world that also, incidentally, cares for such things must also, by extension, be a part of this apparent Zionist conspiracy.

The friend of Omar's enemy's is truly his enemy in every regard. Too bad for him that his "enemy" is into reading, empowering women, voting, developing economically and socially, as that apparently now makes all those things off-limits to this idiot/lunatic.


john crocker - 11/18/2006

You have yet to respond to the bulk of the comment I made.

What about Bali? etc.


john crocker - 11/18/2006

In regards to the election I refer you to the posts of Mr. Simon, whose opinions, you have said, helped to shape your own. I add to those that there are still charges that the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council acted outside of the law to promote the cantidacy of Ahmadinejad.

"And the known facts are that Iran is a deeply traditional society"
How precisely do you know that the Iranian people are deeply traditional?
Is it perhaps polling data that say among other things that they support Shari'a (which you have repeated ad nauseum)? Is it books written by people who could have the same criticisms levelled at them as you level at the writers you disagree with?

Once again either show a methodological flaw in the polls you reject that is not present in the polls you accept or stop picking and choosing which polls to accept and reject. This is the only intellectually honest position.

"That suggests a major reason why HAMAS, not FATAH, won that election."
FATAH won in a landslide in 2005 (62.52%, next closest 19.48%). HAMAS won a slight plurality of the vote in 2006 (44.45% vs 41.43% for FATAH). Did the Palestinian people suddenly become far more traditional in this one year or was their some other factor or factors that shifted support? Isn't it likely that the state of Israeli Palestinian relations had more to do with a more anti-Israel party being elected?

"In any event, my general point about the Muslim regions is not based on the view that majorities rule. I do not think it matters what the majority think."
This is a large part of what we have been arguing. Why do you constantly bring up polls purporting to show that a majority of citizens support Shari'a if you don not think it matters what the majority thinks? Why do you strenuously argue against the validity of polling that shows an alternate view in the majority if you don't think it matters what the majority thinks?
What the majority thinks does not, at this point, determine the governing structure in most of the Middle East. It is, however, vitally important in the support for and recruitment of non-governmental terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Polling showing support for Shari'a may indicate some support for their objectives, however if you accept this polling you must also accept the polling that runs counter to your assertions.

Please indicate in your next comment the position you are taking on the issue of polls. Will you reject them all and stop parading the xx% support Shari'a, or will you accept them all unless you can show a clear methodological reason why one should be accepted and the other not?


john crocker - 11/18/2006

I am not sure why you are arguing with me. My point was that the Iranian elections did not show the will of the people, contrary to Mr. Friedman's contention. I was the one who brought up the disqualification of reform cantidates and the subsequent student protests and boycott of the election (won by Ahmadinejad).

In short, on this issue you are preaching to the choir. You should direct your comments to Mr. Friedman as he is the one with whom you disagree.


john crocker - 11/18/2006

HAMAS' position could change, as Sharon's position changed.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Omar,

If Mr. Simon's motives are an open book, what about yours?


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

I think anyone who has read both a) a book, and b) Peter's rants, knows the answer to that one.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

John,

What would be the compromise position that the Israelis might offer when HAMAS claims that Israel has no right to exist?


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Mr. Simon,

Do you really think that the people in Iran would pick a candidate that different than those not eliminated by the Mullahs?

In any event, my general point about the Muslim regions is not based on the view that majorities rule. I do not think it matters what the majority think. My position is that Islamists have the ability - thus far an increasing ability - to assert their influence.

Not to make a complete analogy to the Nazis but, by my recollection, they were not the majority when they found a way to control things.

On the other hand, I do note that Iran is a very traditional society in which religion remains, for the vast majority, the main thing.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2006

Peter,

You write: "It seems to me that you and Friedman are using out-dated propaganda books here on this page."

If my ideas are outdated, why not prove that to be the case.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Thanks Peter, for reminding me of the problem of Iraq. I almost forgot about it, Oh Great and Topical One. What would be nice is if you could put it into perspective, by accounting for its effects in comparison to previous grievances, seeing as how you butted in by addressing that point (which no one asked you to do). According to you, the previous grievances which grip the mind of your model Middle Eastern balancing act, Omar, don't matter, but this one does. One could ask why, but that would presume that you think it important to take into account what motivates the same Middle Easterners you are so concerned about Bush having pissed off/let down. But then again, it wouldn't be like you to let personal accounts of relevant witnesses impinge on your historiographical research methods, so I understand the dismay you will now direct at me for having pointed out this discrepancy on your part.


E. Simon - 11/18/2006

Oh, and Peter, Omar The (Unassumingly Brilliant) Lunatic - in whose ramblings only you seem to find coherently expressed arguments - rejects those very measures of human development as tainted by presumptions of Western imperialism as to what constitutes human development. So go ahead and and blame the West for supposedly crashing the opportunities to develop those measures (which the rest of the world doesn't reject). Omar doesn't accept them anyway. Did he care for them before? I doubt it. So instead you side with him in supposedly eviserating me of arguments in favor of things that he doesn't think he should want anyway. Such incoherence - of which only the two of you seem to be capable - only proves my point. It's a matter of lack of will that the West is up against; a lack of will to develop. And according to Peter (but not Omar?) Lebanon in 2006 and Baghdad from 2003 to 2006 made it so. Except when it didn't (see [History of Middle East Prior to 2003] for details).

But I'm sure you won't. Your condescending self-image makes you too good to do something like THAT!


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

Yes Peter, "literacy rates, per capita GDP, rights for women, technological advancement, internal stability and security, political accountability" are all being held back by what are expressed as grievances of completely Western causation. And questioning that dogmatic view which you think we should, I expect, bow down to, is just "out-dated propaganda." Bravo, Peter. You've done it again. You've proven nothing through mere assertion. And certainly it is not barbaric to legitimize a man's self-perpetuating grievances by ascribing permanence to 2 examples out of 17. I sure don't see the emirs of the gulf complaining that the destruction of Baghdad and Hizbullah - for which the West is 100% responsible, of course - is preventing them from creating islands of wealth and investment, and enough real estate to attract even David Beckham to buy a plot, but sshhhh, don't tell it to them. It will ruin the secret of how important it is to hold their Western-caused impotence in as powerful a sense of esteem as they should. We wouldn't want that, now, would we Mr. Clarke?

Keep looking back, not forward. You're really going places. That's what skewering does for you, I suppose. So I wouldn't dare prevent you from trying it here. You can do it. Or something like that.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

My bad. Freedom of political representation leaves a marginal degree of more wiggle room than the Soviets had. In any case, a corrective is important. I remember hearing former CIA director James Woolsey using it after visibly wincing in response to Christiane Amanpour, who, as a journalist - you would think - would have the brains or information to criticize those taking issue with the Iranian system with another rejoinder than it being a "democracy", just not the kind of democracy we would like, or similar drivel to that effect.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?col=&;section=middleeast&xfile=data/middleeast/2006/November/middleeast_November296.xml

http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/1817.cfm

http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2000/issue1/jv4n1a1.html

Respective excerpts below (3 of the first 4 returns).

Would you like more, John? Just type "iranian elections rates of disqualification" into the GOOGLE search bar and let me know what comes up.

--------------------------------------

Abbasali Kadkhodaie, spokesman for the Guardians Council, said Tuesday that some 100 of the registered candidates had pulled out of the race while 244 had been disqualified, leaving just 144 to stand.
-------------------------------------
The letter goes on to say “While it is your duty to oversee these matters, the Council of Guardians, in a series of unprecedented steps, has founded a system on the defense of eligibility, which led to the disqualification of two fifths of the candidates.
-------------------------------------
The Iranian constitution's Article 99 was a particularly acute issue in the 1999 campaign phase. The article states: "The Guardians Council has the responsibility of supervising the elections of the Assembly of Experts for Leadership, the President of the Republic, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the direct recourse to popular opinion and referenda." Questions over the meaning and interpretation of "advisory supervision" were hotly debated in 1999, as the law was used to disqualify about 600 potential candidates in what had come to be a highly politicized process. Perhaps what reflected this most strongly was President Khatami's apology to disqualified candidates during a February 8 speech. (10)


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

Mr. Simon,

They have some say. They eliminate candidates they do not like. That is different than in the USSR where who knows where the candidates came from or whether they even were real people.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

Some say? They have all the say! John should really look into the rates of disqualifying candidates for elected Iranian office. It's as free a system as was the Soviet Union. First belong to the party or conform to the mullahs' prescriptions and everything's fine. Problem is, that doesn't leave much wiggle room for being able to appeal to the kinds of credible and workable concerns of the electorate of any modern society.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

While it might be a universal negative to say that peace cannot be brokered with a party that doesn't recognize your right to exist, John, I'd be happy to entertain an argument that sees its way around such unfortunate conclusions. I guess I'm old-fashioned and see peace and a goal of destroying one's peace partner as a bit mutually exclusive.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

Although I didn't mention Zionism, let alone Israel, one time in the previous post, Omar rambles and bumbles along and along like a gassy, deflating balloon without once mentioning any measure of development or human progress; understandable given that that was actually the crux of my post. So in other words, he's incapable of responding to such undeniably important concerns when it comes to prioritizing relations among nations, and instead says that there are indecent elements (I guess I must be one of them) who prevent the U.S. from being more closely allied to much of the Middle East. One could believe this as easily as they could believe that literacy rates, per capita GDP, rights for women, technological advancement, internal stability and security, political accountability, are the meaningless, imperialistic, "my way or the highway" abstraction that only someone as warped as Omar could argue them to be. The rest of the world has a life to get on with and credible benchmarks for deciding which countries have something actually worthwhile to offer them in their relationships.


E. Simon - 11/17/2006

It's really too bad as this would indicate that he thinks that ideas are can never be as important as whether people are (whether he condones it or condemns it) expressing them. Too bad for Peter.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

John,

On the election, there were candidates on the ballot. Large numbers of people cast votes.

The election was not a fraud. Under the Iranian system, the Mullahs have some say in who could be a candidate, which they exercised. That is the system that exists, not a European system.

Some people in universities did not like that and protested. But, in the end, there was an election that ran smoothly. The polling predicted the loser would be an easy winner, by my recollection. The polling was wrong.

You claim to know why people voted. That is, perhaps, based on polling by the people who got the results wrong. Why should their theory and polling that was wrong about the results be trusted regarding the reasons people voted?

I recall that in the US, Truman was predicted to lose his election in a landslide. Needless to say, the pollsters were wrong. They, as it turned out, selected the wrong universe (i.e. they did a telephone poll at a time that large parts of the electorate did not have phones and, evidently, that flaw tilted toward the GOP) and hence they got things wrong. Presumably, when they lost they had justifications based on their existing universe but, in time, it became understood that the issue was the selection of the relevant universe.

I am skeptical, as I have said, about polling which contradicts known facts about Iran. And the known facts are that Iran is a deeply traditional society, not a sophisticated Western society; people are deeply religious in traditional societies. To religious people, religion is not a thing, it is the main thing. Hence, polling that does not reflect that fact is not likely to be very valuable.

I remind you that the world is not a monolith. Iran is not the same as the West. Hence, you must consider that part of the world as it is, not as if it were a suburb of Philadelphia.

Polling that is directed to examining the intensity of feeling about Shari'a seems to be consistent with how people in that part of the world actually vote. In the PA, polling shows that 65% of Palestinian Arab Muslims want to live under Shari'a. Not surprising, candidates who advocate such line of thinking were likely to be more attractive candidates. That suggests a major reason why HAMAS, not FATAH, won that election. It may not be the only reason but it is likely a major, if not the main, reason.


john crocker - 11/17/2006

"No one blocked anything."
This statement is false. The clerics blocked many reformers from appearing on the ballot. This sparked protests at Tehran University and the boycott of the election in protest of the removal of these cantidates from consideration. The boycott was widely debated before the election. It is not an excuse made up after the fact as you seem to imply.

Ahmadinejad won the support among the poor largely due to his economic populism. He also had the support of the clerics who pushed his cantidacy, some say illegally. There was the controversial statement by Kermani as well as suspect actions by the Guardian Council and the Ministry of the Interior.

"I agree entirely but do note that different pollsters use different criteria and assumptions in their questioning. Those who examined interest in Shari'a may have a different methodology from other pollsters."
Unless you can show that the methodology of the polls you reject is inferior the the methodology of the polls you accept your picking and choosing which polls to accept or reject is not valid.

Peoples voting is a complicated thing. The votes for more hard-line cantidates is also supported by my reasoning and so does not support yor interpretation over mine.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

Peter,

I hardly know where to begin with your comments. However, I say things with more certainty when there are, in my opinion, good reasons to believe what I say is true. Other things, I say that there are good reasons, in my opinion, to doubt based on the evidence I know about; you are obviously free to disagree - and I would, if you can convince me change my mind if you have evidence to suggest I am wrong.

Please note, however, exactly where we disagree. I think we both agree that the policies thus far tried by the US related to the Middle East have coincided with the rise of Islamism and have not contained that rise. I think that includes the Bush policies which, if anything, have aggravated the situation considerably.

Where we disagree is that I do not believe those policies have aggravated things as much as the critics - who want to have their policies followed instead - assert. And, I do not believe that the critics have a policy for altering the basic dynamics of that region.

Regarding Islam...

I think you misunderstanding my view to some extent. I shall, to illustrate my view, assume (although this is not true but it is nonetheless helpful) that there are two ways to look at Islam.

One. We could judge classical Islam against classical Christianity. By that measure, Islam and the society organized under Islamic principles had a lot going for them, in my humble view. It allowed considered intellectual fervor despite its own more than occasional fanaticism and despite its aggressive tendencies. Its religious rivals in the world were aggressive and fanatical as well.

Two. We could examine Islamic culture and the religion in today's world as if it were part of the quasi-secular Western paradigm. Islam and the culture thereunder differs markedly from that paradigm. By that standard and as seen by a rational person believing in our paradigm, Islam and the societies related to it are Medieval in outlook, in an intellectually straitjacket, intolerant, uncompromising, aggressive and hostile. In disputes with non-Muslims, those of that religious bent continue to employ notions from Islam's classical period such as "Jihad" and "hudna," which such people probably actually mean quite literally.

I think that both paradigms should be used. When dealing with today's world, it is important to understand that the Muslim regions appear still to operate, to considerable degree, as if the classical paradigms exist.

And, further, now that the colonial period has ended and enough time has passed for the Muslim regions to regain their identity apart from the West, use of classical paradigms are not only taken seriously but, in fact, with extraordinary fervor. That means, those who use such paradigms do so not only because their upbringing taught and teach such paradigms to be just and "the truth" but because such are important politically (as we understand that term) in societies and cultures attempting to re-assert themselves.

The classical paradigm into which terms like "Jihad" and "hudna" fit are basically as follows... The world divides into two main zones, the zone of Islam and the zone of war. The zone of war is inherently unjust because it does not live according to the civilized principles set down by Islam. That zone is illegitimate in the eyes of Allah and Muslims are, if they are to live in accordance with Allah's commands, to attempt to right that injustice, by persuasion (e.g. a letter written by the leader to the leader of the infidels, as done recently by Ahmadinejad), if permitted, by proselytizing and, if such things fails, by struggle in the path of Allah (i.e. Jihad as war or, literally, struggle in the path of Allah).

In classical theology, Jihad must continue indefinitely, halted only due to the negative circumstances (e.g. being weaker than the adversary), in which case Muslims are permitted to propose a hudna (i.e. a temporary truce of no longer than ten years but renewable for ten year periods as necessary until the Muslim side is strong enough to resume Jihad).

In classical theology, peace treaties, as we understand them, are simply not permitted ias that would amount to recognizing illegitimate, unjust rule while Islam not only enjoins what is wrong but also what is right, meaning that you are compelled to do the right thing.

My take on the matter is that the use of classical Islamic terms by Muslims in a battle with non-Muslims must be taken seriously. They are not terms akin to Western terms that are flexibly used to paper over differences.

Hence, the term "hudna" which Hamas proposes, is not a way out for Palestinian Arabs. Such instead signals that they would use a hudna not only to re-arm but, when it becomes possible thereafter to resume Jihad, to make war. So, in simple terms, they are offering that Israel cede land in order to allow the Palestinian Arab side to improve its ability to make war.

Now, I do think that the world does not take the threat of Islam's revival seriously enough. And I do think that it is important to bring out the nature of it as it is, not by means of semi-translated into Western terminology that might be easier for non-Muslim in the West to understand.

My view is - and Mr. Simon has helped me with my thinking on this point - we cannot view the world as a monolith. The Muslim regions are really different and not part of the Western world but have retained their own ways. Yes, as you say, they are not a monolith any more than we are but: that does not mean that there are not notions which distinguish the on the rise way of thinking there from our way of thinking or the basic differences between their cultures and ours.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

John,

You write: The headlines in 2000 were about the landslide of the reformists and a new direction for Iran. The clerics who hold real power prevented any real change. The refromers disgust with the current system and their subsequent boycott of the election has a lot to do with the more conservative nature of those recently elected. Some even think the the US invasion of another member of the "Axis of Evil" and similar rhetoric being directed toward Iran may drive more support to more reactionary anti-US cantidates. Others think the colapse of the Safavid state in 1722 was more responsible.

Again, John, that is a theory put forth by people whose predictions proved wrong. The election pitted a comparative reformer against the lunatic Ahmadinejad. It was a comparatively clean election. No one blocked anything. Ahmadinejad won hands down, notwithstanding predictions to the contrary.

You write: Either the polls should be paid attention to or not.

I agree entirely but do note that different pollsters use different criteria and assumptions in their questioning. Those who examined interest in Shari'a may have a different methodology from other pollsters.

My point in mentioning the poll I mentioned is that such polling is consistent with how people vote, to wit, people are voting for parties taht want to implement Shari'a. That is shown in the election in Egypt, in the PA and in Iran. It is the direction taken by a great many governments across the Arab and Muslim regions. So, I think interest in Shari'a is a good way to measure what is going on there.

I my note that I am not alone is so believing. Such view was put forward by Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, not to mention a well respected Boston Globe reporter (noted by Martin Kramer).


Paul Mocker - 11/17/2006

Mr. Clarke,

I can't find it on the web.

I saw it in the print edition of the NY Times Review of Books published last Sunday, Nov. 12. It was a review of many of the latest books on our political system. I can't remember the author.

I'll look more later.


john crocker - 11/17/2006

"My view is that there is no easy way to know for sure, except that Iranians elected the most reactionary, religious person they could find and, in fact, Islamists control the country and have not been overthrown - nor is there a serious effort to do so."
The headlines in 2000 were about the landslide of the reformists and a new direction for Iran. The clerics who hold real power prevented any real change. The refromers disgust with the current system and their subsequent boycott of the election has a lot to do with the more conservative nature of those recently elected. Some even think the the US invasion of another member of the "Axis of Evil" and similar rhetoric being directed toward Iran may drive more support to more reactionary anti-US cantidates. Others think the colapse of the Safavid state in 1722 was more responsible.

"Islamism is on the rise. I do note one public opinion poll which showed the 65% of Palestinian Arabs want Shari'a to be the law. Polling in Jordan and Egypt showed the same thing."
"There is no way to be sure as polling in that part of the world is notoriously inaccurate."
Just thought I would let you respond to your own point.
Either the polls should be paid attention to or not. If you are going to pick and chose which polls you give value to it should be on the basis of methodology not on whether or not they support your point of view.


john crocker - 11/17/2006

"There really is no peace with Palestinian Arabs that are represented by HAMAS. It is not possible."
You should really avoid universal negatives. Suffice it to say that you believe that peace is extremely unlikely to be negotiated while Hamas holds power. We have conversed at length on the Israeli Palestinian situation in other threads, unless you have something new and different to say on the topic let us return to the primary point of this conversation.

Do you have no response to the rest of my above comment?




N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

John,

There really is no peace with Palestinian Arabs that are represented by HAMAS. It is not possible.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

Peter,

I shall not address the bulk of your rant. You speak of dodges on questions that cannot be answered with precision. There is no way to be sure as polling in that part of the world is notoriously inaccurate. Perhaps you recall the expected near landslide win for Fatah in the Palestinian Arab election. And the polling which saw Ahmadinejad being easily beaten.

Some analysts claim that interest in Islam has declined in Iran over the years. Were that true, it would signal a decrease in influence in Islamism. My view is that there is no easy way to know for sure, except that Iranians elected the most reactionary, religious person they could find and, in fact, Islamists control the country and have not been overthrown - nor is there a serious effort to do so.

And, as noted by Ted Koppel, Iranians have disdain for Ahmadinejad except for those of lower economic and educational attainment, where he is rather popular. Or, considering the actual numbers of the poor or uneducated, the vast, vast majority supports the Islamists.

Koppel, to note, unconsciously presented his point the way that Americans usually do, namely, he looked at Iran as he would America - that is, as if there were a huge middle class -. However, his point basically makes my point.

In the case of Palestinian Arabs, what is known is that the influence of HAMAS has grown over the years. And, as of late, HAMAS is now the largest political party for Palestinian Arabs. So, I think I answered your question to the extent that it can honestly be answered,namely, Islamism is on the rise. I do note one public opinion poll which showed the 65% of Palestinian Arabs want Shari'a to be the law. Polling in Jordan and Egypt showed the same thing.

In Pakistan, the influence of Islamism on the government is substantial. The influence has been growing over the years. Islamists are important in the ISI - the government's spy apparatus - and there are links to al Qa'ida in that agency, it has been reported. Islamists dominated the country's nuclear program. Every since the time of General Haq, the country's policies have been more and more Islamist. So, I have to take a leap of faith that Islamism is an important and, thus far, growing feature of life in Pakistan. You might read Mary Anne Weaver's book on Pakistan in which she notes a fair amount about the Islamists. Or, you might read Bernard-Henri Lévy's book about Pakistan.

Last point: this is not a question about majorities. We are not dealing, in any real sense, with democracy. We are dealing with traditional societies where the mindset is largely medieval. The most thuggish elements - and that includes the Islamists - get a big say. However, it is certainly true that as champions of traditional society in traditional societies, the Islamists have a genuine appeal to the masses as, in fact, their politics are the politics associated by the masses with traditional Islam.



john crocker - 11/17/2006

"First, regarding Bali - and I had in mind the 2002 attack -, bin Laden stated explicitly that the issue was East Timor. "
The quote I provided, by one of the orgainzers of the plot, was in regards to the 2002 bombing. I could find no claim of responsibility or statement as to cause for the 2005 bombing.
Is this the Bin Laden quote you refer to?
"Australia is the one that we have warned before not to participate in Afghanistan. Not to mention its continued awful chapter in East Timor. They ignored our warning, and they woke up to the sound of explosions in Bali but the government pretended that they were not the target."

"In other words, the attack, if your theory is correct, was not only on innocent people but on people with no imaginable connection to what you claim it concerns."
The attack was unconscionable, but the targets were western tourists, primarily Australians. The other victims were primarily European and American tourists. The connection is not so difficult to imagine. Bin Laden voiced that connection in the quote that I think you referenced.

"Nonetheless, the events of 1683 were really more significant to what became of the Muslim regions than the events of the 1950's."
The events of 1774 are more signifigant to what has become of America than Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement, yet people get much more worked up about them. The events of 1683 may have a formative effect on the Islamists, but the common man is more likely upset by things that have effected him or his family personally. The wounds of the 50s to the present are fresh and so still hurt more. They may remind him of old scars, but the fresh wound will hold his attention much better. If that fresh wound is an actual wound to himself or a friend or family member it holds his attention all the better.

"No. The US position is on the matter is that there is no peace with Islamists of the HAMAS stripe."
Unfortunately the administration apparently believes that this means there is no peace with Palestine, so they put forth only occasional symbolic effort. It also apparently means that there can be no peace with Iran, as there could be no peace with Iraq. The list can grow from here.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

Mr. Simon,

Peter's problem is that he does not have the knowledge to refute opinions. Hence, he decides, when an argument is not going his way, to refute the person stating the opinion.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2006

Peter,

You write: When did America ever have a conscious policy on Islam? Should it?

So far as I can tell, the US does have a policy on Islam. The policy on Islam is that Islamists hijacked the religion. People in or close to the administration have said such is the case repeatedly. I have heard that said since shortly after 9/11.

My view: I do not think the US should have a policy about Islam. I do think the US should have a policy against those involved in Jihad against the US. That is as far as I go.

You write: Were "Islamists" stronger in Iran in 1982 or 1999?
Were they stronger in Palestine in 1990 or 1995?
Were they stronger in Pakistan in 1948 or 1970?


In Iran, Islamists are in power. They have been in power since the revolution so your question about Iran is a non-question.

In "Palestine," Islamists are a greater force now than in the past, just as they are across the Muslim regions generally speaking - probably also including Iran -. The same is true in Pakistan.

The rest of your questions are rather odd and most of them are stupid.

I do know that the fertility rate of Muslims in Europe is roughly 3 times that of non-Muslim Europeans (and the European rate, even with the Muslim rate added in, is not sufficient to maintain the current level of population). The birthrate in the Muslim regions is among the highest on Earth. By way of example, the median age in Gaza is around 15 years old. A large number of youths is a major one reason for conflict between Muslims and everyone else. Such, it should be noted, is Huntington's position in his famous book.

I note that you have failed to address my points. Instead, you insult them. As a presumably bright person, I would have thought you could do better. Evidently, I was wrong.


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

Peter,

We all get to have our opinions. Given that, thus far, the batting average for policies for the Middle East is around zero, we can all play NSA advisor also.

Bush's policy might even be less than zero although it is really too early, in my opinion, to make such a conclusive judgment. On your theory, he has caused a lot of people to die - which is certainly true - while striking out, which, if correct, places his policy rather low on the list of failing policies.

Anyway, I do not believe in hubris especially given the long chain of failed policies. But, I do agree with you that so many people dying for something that is likely to fail was a bad bet and unfair to the dead.


E. Simon - 11/16/2006

Omar's drivel is self-delusional propagandistic taqqiya of the highest order. The fact is that there are really only two regions of the world that lag behind totally on nearly every measure of effective responses to globalization and modernization: The Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Both have grievances regarding colonialism but sub-Saharan Africa's grievances in this regard are more profound as they delayed the evolution and growth of (and coping with) the sense of national consciousness that other countries have already confronted. The Middle East has never been as unfortunate with regards to attacks on cultural identity. Further, if anything, the former not only colonial, but apartheid regime of South Africa is leading the way toward progressive and modernizing trends working their way Northward through the continent. You also have the dialogue and organizational framework (how effective it will be is yet to be determined) provided by what has become of that brainchild of Qaddafi's - The African Union.

The fact is that it is difficult to discern any cogent grievance or argument coming out of the Middle East that can actually be identified as a real obstacle to the kind of progress the rest of the world has experienced. Whether or not people in the Middle East care for that kind of progress, which would undoubtedly bring them closer to the rest of the world as a whole, is not clear. What is clear is that their interest or capacity for accepting many of these norms is in doubt. But relations with other countries outside of a rapproachement that is synergistic with the global dynamic that are not only better, but more stable, is not likely. The capacity to sell oil alone does not further the development of societies to move closer together in the direction that the rest of the world already has. This is why Omar's proposals come across as a "Middle-Eastern alternative" reason for better relations that sound good and yet have nothing to do with furthering U.S. interests economically or even more importantly, with global stability in mind. IF they can find a model for economic growth that mirrors their population growth then it will have to come outside of oil, and will likely have to involve the kind of human development that would pose direct challenges to the movements favored by both conservative theocrats and autocrats that run the show in the Middle East, as well as, of course, Islamists and Omar the lunatic.


E. Simon - 11/16/2006

There is nothing wrong with identifying a likely problem and discussing it in detail before coming to a conclusive decision outlining the best course of action in dealing with it. What's strange is demanding that one not discuss problems unless one is sure of how to solve them. And non-intervention is still included among those potential responses, as wise a "default" course of action as you might, a priori and without reasonable supporting arguments, define it to be.


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

Omar,

But, in fact, whatever policy the US has adopted, the Islamists have grown stronger.


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

Glen,

Here, we disagree. Muslims do take the restoration of the Caliphate seriously but the political effort to recreate it runs into the political reality of existing governments which, in the light of a Muslim ideal, are illegitimate - or, in the terminology of the Islamists, hypocrites.


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

Peter,

About Czechoslovakia, the British government of Chamberlain, et al, thought exactly that, as shown in voluminous detail by Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott. In this, the British thought they could appease Hitler by addressing concerns about the alleged mistreatment of Germans in Czechoslovakia.

To the extent that I suggested - and, in this case, my language was not sufficiently precise - the taking of all of Czechoslovakia, I misspoke.

Now, turning to the topic you next address, I raise the point about Iraq repeatedly as I am, for reasons I do not understand, lumped in with supporters of that war.

I am not saying that we cannot do anything. I am saying that no one, at present, has any good ideas about what to do. And, again, I remind you that the Muslim regions have followed the same path - if we look back during your life time and mine - for as long as I can recall and without regard to what policy the US or any other country took. So, clearly, our ability thus far to affect things is much less than we believe.

And, I suggested some good reasons why that is the case, namely, that the issues that cause the Jihad are primarily generated internally and not much by us.

Now, our country having made the mistake of hubris with Mr. Bush, what version of hubris do think we should follow? My own view is that we should think long and hard before we think we can resolve the problem by means of settling dispute or by making war or by divide and conquer or by being nasty, etc., etc. - or some combination of the above.

I would state the matter this way. The imperialistic attitude of the Muslim regions is a constant over more than a thousand years. It is driven by religion, not by our policy. The reason we are attacked now is that the time is perceived by large numbers of Muslims to be ripe due to changes in the world which they perceive to favor them (e.g. the Internet, oil money and widespread migration of Muslims out of the Muslim regions, which some Muslims perceive to be a form of colonization). That is the problem we face - not the fantasy of half-baked grievances which are, in fact, rather endless in number and, hence, excuses.

Now, I would favor a policy which is directed to the reality and not to feeding an appetite that will not be sated (i.e. appeasement) and that does not kill large numbers of innocent people (i.e. Bushism). But, thus far, I have no clue what policy would work. And, I know for a fact that we are where we are notwithstanding the stupid Bush policies, whether or not - and I believe he has - aggravated the situation to some degree, albeit a degree exaggerated by many for political reasons.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 11/16/2006

I understand the concept of the Caliphate, but I am questioning how it would be implemented and what impact it would have. As you correctly pointed out, Mullah Omar is claiming that he is a Caliph, but few Muslims care.

My basic point is that I do not see Muslims uniting under the leadership of a single leader (Caliph or not). The talk about establishing a Caliphate is propganda which is taken seriously by few Muslims, but oddly seems to be taken more serious by the Bush administration than anyone else. Perhaps Bush and his advisors actually believe Al Queda propaganda, but perhaps they are using that propganda to scare people into backing his "global war on terrorism."


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

John,

First, regarding Bali - and I had in mind the 2002 attack -, bin Laden stated explicitly that the issue was East Timor.

I might add: it would be even worse than it was if what you claimed were true, namely, that tourists - and not even American tourists - in a nightclub are blown up in Bali due to the sins of the US and its tyranny in the Middle East. In other words, the attack, if your theory is correct, was not only on innocent people but on people with no imaginable connection to what you claim it concerns.

You write, with reference to India and Pakistan, "Do you not think that there are grievances, both legitimate and illegitimate between India and Pakistan? Are not these territorial disputes likely the cause of this violence?"

Yes, I think there are issues between the countries. I do not know how an outside might determine whether or not they are legitimate or illegitimate grievances. But, the dispute has multiple dimensions, including most particularly, for Pakistan, India's role in dislodging and creating Bangladesh.

And, then there is the issue regarding Kashmir in which Pakistan evidently funds Jihadis to kill Indians. How that dispute legitimately involves Pakistan - since the Kashmiris are not Pakistanis - is less than clear if the issue is not thought of as involving religion.

In any event, the Jihadis who attacked the Indian Parliament were probably part of Lashkar-e-Taiba and/or Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is connected with al Qa'ida and probably the Pakistani secret service (i.e. the ISI). So, we have attacks on India that almost set off a nuclear war that likely involve al Qa'ida but do not concern the US.

You write: "If the draconian measures imposed on Germany after WWI had been ameliorated prior to the rise of the Nazis within Germany perhaps they would not have found enough allies among the German people to rise to power."

Indeed. But, my point concerns the fact that the Nazis did gain power in a country. And, after they gained power, the British determined that the thing to do was to address what may have been legitimate grievances but which were being used by the Nazis as a political tool to help them conquer territory with less outside opposition. After all, taking Czechoslovakia involved settling a just grievance.

In the case of the Islamists, they have, in fact, gained power in numerous countries, most particularly Iran, Sudan, Somalia and, previously, Afghanistan. Moreover, elements of the Pakistani government, elements of the Egyptian government and much of the Saudi government are radically Islamist.

Which is to say, we are long past the point where addressing grievances - that go back hundreds of years - might mean anything. And, frankly, it is not clear that the grievances that exist are our doing or that they could be satisfied in any event or that they are anything, when they are raised, but excuses, directed to the West, in order to thwart resistance to their advances - which is to say, they are used very much the way Hitler exploited grievances.

You write: "The point is that they are parallel situations. One situation was exploited by Islamists the other by Communists."

I do not think we have remotely parallel situations. You, however, are free to explain the parallel you see. Please, however, do not forget to point out the glaring differences (e.g. that Saudi Arabia - which is almost certainly, at the center of the Jihad, providing funding and ideological support -, among other Arab countries, is rich beyond all imagination and has certainly benefited beyond all imagination from its contact with the US).

You write: "The revolution in Iran had far more to do with US and UK derailing a fledgling democracy in Iran and replacing it with a puppet dictatorship than 9/11/1683."

I do not deny that the US and UK helped foment a coup in Iran. And that is a more immediate event than the events of 1683. I might also note that Iran's history is somewhat different from much of the Muslim regions as Iran had its own empire. It was the Ottoman Empire which was defeated at the Gates of Vienna.

Nonetheless, the events of 1683 were really more significant to what became of the Muslim regions than the events of the 1950's. This is because those events signaled and were part and parcel of the beginning of the great decline of Muslim political power. And, if anything is involved in this, we are dealing with a region in decline due to its own political, military, ideological, social and economic problems.

And, it is not just me but Muslims who site to the long decline of Islamic power as being critical. These are words of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia at Tenth Islamic Summit Conference, October 16, 2003:

With all these developments over the centuries the ummah and the Muslim civilisation became so weak that at one time there was not a single Muslim country which was not colonised or hegemonised by the Europeans.

Also, famed historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis, says much the same thing. I might add: unlike those who site to grievances by Arabs, Lewis actually spent years predicting that the Islamists were dangerous and that we would be attacked by them. By contrast, the Saidist and other schools of "thought" regarding the Arab regions thought that the Islamists were Islamic advocates for democracy - when, in fact, as Lewis showed, they wanted power.

I might also add: bad as the Shah was, his regime was among the most tolerant in the history of that rather intolerant, but highly civilized, country. The regime in place now persecutes religious minorities rather terribly.

You write: "Our current foreign policy seems to be to adding fuel rather than removing it."

I do not deny that our current policy is problematic. I never supported the Iraq war. However, all the fuel necessary for a world-historic conflagration was added to the fire long before Iraq. It might better be said that Iraq has helped fan an existing conflagration that has been burning - but denied by people who have a political or economic reason to deny the obvious - for many, many decades.


Which is to say, I think you are confused.

You write: "The current US position seems to be Israel and the US are always right and the Muslims are always wrong."

No. The US position is on the matter is that there is no peace with Islamists of the HAMAS stripe.

I suggest you read the HAMAS covenant. And, HAMAS says that it is not interested in settling the dispute, since that would, as it sees the matter, be un-Islamic. Moreover, it takes Israel's destruction as not a political goal but something required by religion. Only a lunatic would think there is peace to be had with HAMAS.

The European position is to take the Arab side in the dispute in order to secure lucrative construction contracts and to maintain a steady supply of oil and to keep terrorist violence out of Europe. Such has fueled the view taken by European governments and, by extension, Europeans across the political divide.

And I do not see the Europeans taking an egalitarian view of the dispute at all. There are 300 million Arabs and they refuse to settle a few million of their own people. That, while Germany settled millions of Sudetens dumped into Germany at gunpoint after WWII. I do not hear Europeans siding with Sudeten demands (which, in fact, exist) to return to their homes. Do you? I do not hear Europeans siding with Muslims booted out of India when the country was partitioned? Yet, Indian law does not permit such people to return.

Moreover, the leadership of the Palestinian side - with apparent support of Palestinian Arabs (there being no evident protest about the position, after all) - refuses to accept a two state solution under any circumstances - as they have stated explicitly. Yet, to Europeans, Israel is the problem.

What I see is the Arab and Muslim side doing good math and determining that if they hold out long enough and make a big enough mess, they can destroy Israel. Hence, they (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and wealthy and not so wealthy people from all over the region who fund HAMAS and the other terror groups who try to prevent any settlement) support terror groups in order to sap Israel's will with the idea that someday Israel will collapse. Hence, they attempt to exploit divisions between Christians and Jews so that Christians stop siding with Israelis. Such, to note, works well with Europeans who have a long history of turning against things involving Jews, especially when there are economic and political advantages promised in exchange.

I think Arabs and Muslims are likely correct in their assessment - and it is their actual assessment of the matter as stated by numerous leaders in that part of the world on repeated occasions over the course of decades -.

Hence, the notion that Europeans see a more egalitarian position is, to me, nonsense. European leaders push the Arab side in order primarily to advance European political (e.g. such is a way to counter US political power and influence) and economic advantages (oil and lucrative contracts).




Paul Mocker - 11/16/2006

flawed system...

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Last Sunday, I read an NYT Book Review in which the author asserted that the only deep flaw in our system is the lack of accountability for those politicians who don't mean what they say...and say what they mean. Since reading that I've been more interested in knowing about any flaws in our democracy.


john crocker - 11/16/2006

First an answer to your previous comments.

"In the case of Bali, there were stated reasons for the attack. They had nothing at all to do with the US. They had nothing to do with the West. I suggest you read a bit about this since you are, in this case, wrong."

The 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings both targeted western tourists, primarliy Australians. Mukhlas, the cleric who was deemed a mastermind of the 2002 bombing in Bali said the attack was "an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East." As for the 2005 bombing no group has officially taken responsibility or made any official statement that I can find. They did occur near the third anniversary of the 2005 attacks and were almost certainly also perpetrated by Jemaah Islamiyah (reportedly tied to Al Qaeda), one could assume for similar reasons.

"Similarly, the attack on the Indian parliament had exactly nothing to do with the US or the West. It had a lot to do with India and Pakistan and, perhaps, Kashmir."
My contention was not that the ONLY grievances were with the US or even the West. Do you not think that there are grievances, both legitimate and illegitimate between India and Pakistan? Are not these territorial disputes likely the cause of this violence?

"The Nazis, whether they had or played on legitimate grievances or not, wanted not only to undue perceived injustices but to conquer."
Since we are in the realm of speculation here, the desperate economic situation in Germany and the percieved injustice of the Treaty of Versailles had very much to do with the rise to power of the Nazis. If the draconian measures imposed on Germany after WWI had been ameliorated prior to the rise of the Nazis within Germany perhaps they would not have found enough allies among the German people to rise to power.

"You refer to people in South America. But, we are speaking about Muslims, not about South American revolutionaries. Two different groups with very different agendas. So, I do not see your point."
The point is that they are parallel situations. One situation was exploited by Islamists the other by Communists.

"If there is an argument about grievance, it likely best can be traced back to September 11, 1683"
There are much more immediate grievances and among the general populace it is more likely that current and more historically recent grievances are more viscerally felt than a 350 yr old battle. The revolution in Iran had far more to do with US and UK derailing a fledgling democracy in Iran and replacing it with a puppet dictatorship than 9/11/1683.

"But, I do not take this all as a great injustice, as your argument would have it."
Quite a straw man you have constructed.

We may not be able to heal the region and we cannot prevent some level of regional violence, but we can make the situation better or worse. Our actions can provide fuel for the fires the terrorists are trying to stoke, or we can remove fuel from that fire. Our current foreign policy seems to be to adding fuel rather than removing it.

The Europeans are in favor of taking what they see as a more egalitarian view of the situation. The current US position seems to be Israel and the US are always right and the Muslims are always wrong. Compared to this view a more egalitarian position can seem like siding with the Muslims.

"I think the best point to consider is that modesty about possibilities makes a lot of sense when dealing with people with a tradition that is more than one thousand years old."
On this point we agree.

BTW By productive I meant not circular.


E. Simon - 11/16/2006

Is Friedman, with whom you've been happily dialoguing, also a "robot-like supporter?" If not, you still manage to insult him as if you think he is.

There's nothing wrong with expecting higher standards as a consequence of closer U.S. relations. And there's also nothing wrong with being enamored of Western cultural norms. And yet, there's still nothing wrong with accepting that Israel acts within the context of being part of a milieu that largely doesn't, and that its actions might be based on that realization, and not necessarily based merely on revenge. Maybe you disagree. But you surely don't provide evidence for why such a view, with which you would obviously disagree, is WRONG. And that kind of behavior is surely not very mature either, to say the least.

You should be mature enough to accept that other people's motives might go beyond needing to get the last word in or not wanting to shut up. Surely someone who thinks that Israel can improve its own situation and the larger situation regionally by providing a better example, can be generous enough to improve his own dialogues by providing a good enough example that he avoids so negatively misreading the motives of others.

You're welcome.


N. Friedman - 11/16/2006

Glen,

The Caliphate is a Sunni thing. The Caliphate is a religious and political person - head of state and Pope rolled into one. Such a person typically gained the job by inheritance, most often during the religion's imperial periods, but occasionally when there were divisions, more than one person would claim the title, with war or some other mechanism determining the matter.

I believe - but could be wrong - that Mullah Omar of Taliban Afghanistan claimed (or claims) to be a Caliph. Or, at least that was the view of some of his followers.

Shi'a do not have a Caliph. They refer to the imamate - a rightly guided one. Such is the reason for the talk by Ahmadinejad about the hidden imam who is, in reality, the Mahdi that will bring about an end of the world as we know it, in violent battle, along with Jesus (playing the role of a warrior type character) and ending up with a world wide Islam.

In any event, there are different considerations for Shi'a. They split originally with the Sunnis over who leadership of the umma would be. They're leader should be from Muhammad's family or the like.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 11/15/2006

Friedman:

I realize that Bin Laden has spoken about the rebirth of a Caliphate, but how would that work? Who would be in charge of the new Caliphate? Would that person be Sunni or Shiite? I respect Dr. Furnish's research on this subject, but I do not see Muslims uniting behind anyone one leader in the near future. If you do, please tell us how.

Mr. Clarke:

Of course Bin Laden does not want to become a part of nation run by the House of Saud. He wants to overthrow the House of Saud and replace it with a regime under his control. That has been his objective since 1990 when the House of Saud rejected his offer to lead an army against the Iraqi army that was in Kuwait. Then Bin Laden start talking about removing infidels from Saudia Arabia.


E. Simon - 11/15/2006

Actually they are upset that for all that effort AND humanitarian cost (which ALL wars bear to some degree), the benefits were less tangible than they were led to believe they could be. So Peter might as well just up and say that Israelis are a bunch of barbarians, even though doing so is just that much more politically expedient than criticizing the much more deliberate barbarism of Israel's much more numerous and politically valuable enemies, whose claims - Peter will never admit - are just a tad more intransigent and unrealistic. And dangerous. And prone to humanitarian concerns.


N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

Peter,

It was your choice of words. I have no issue with criticism.

On the other hand, I do not think that Israelis hold the view that the war they fought was unjust - which is what you assert. They mostly hold the view that they did not accomplish all of their war aims and led to the Muslim side overestimating its one success (i.e. Hezbollah still exists).


E. Simon - 11/15/2006

Well, if answering that question involves getting personal accounts of those affected by those events, I'm sure Peter will sidestep it, as it brings into question his demonstrated interest in constantly speaking for others. Or failing that, he will contend that what they have to say about it doesn't matter much anyway. Was Bush even around in 1683? If not, how can you expect Peter to care?


N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

Peter,

I do not take kindly to Antisemitic slurs and I do not, as you know full well, use that word willy nilly either. However, you stepped way, way over the line. In other words, drop the eye for an eye talk, which is basically bigoted nonsense that somehow was foisted into your way of thinking, perhaps during your upbringing.

As for my friend, his position is that the lens through which best to understand the region is that of Tamerlane, whose influence, he informs me (and he spent years in the various "stans"), remains substantial to this day. He says that you cannot understand that part of the world unless you understand his influence.

Note, I do not recall saying I wanted to destroy anyone. I merely questioned your position which, as I see it, has no likelihood of success, whether or not it brings the Europeans along for the ride.

I also question your view that what we are seeing is only the work of a very small minority - with which the people have no acceptance of or agreement with -. I do not think that the available evidence supports your view. I think the evidence shows that people want Shari'a. That tells me that such people align themselves with those who have traditional Islamic aims, which includes Jihad. Hence, such people likely cheered when they heard about 9/11.

Time will tell if we did the right thing by invading Afghanistan as we did. I think it is rather much too early to make such a judgment.


N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

Peter,

You ask the wrong question. The issue is which event has had more impact. And that, clearly, is the events in 1683. They were the most conspicuous representation of a long series of historical events.



N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

John,

I am not quite sure what you mean by productive.

By productive, I generally look for an exchange of ideas, whether or not I agree with my interlocutor. In fact, you can sometimes learn more from people with very different mind sets than you can from people who share your views. In that regard, I find Omar to be among the most interesting posters on this website - although we agree upon almost no assumptions, much less facts.

In any event, you write: "You seem to argue that no policy decision we make will have an effect on the power of this movement within the Muslim community. The Islamists will spin everything to their advantage and the Muslim populace will follow their lead. We can do nothing to help or hurt recruitment. We can do nothing to help or hurt or credibility with the average Muslim. Our foreign policy has little or no effect on the opinions of those it involves. We could invade Iraq or bomb Mecca and the effect would be the same as building infrastructure in Afghanistan."

My assessment is that, if we consider the Muslim regions as a whole - which, for some purposes, but not all, is useful -, US and Western policy, following the creation of the state structure following the end of WWI, has not all that much changed the overall direction of what is happening to the Muslim regions. Whether or not the US supported reformers or traditional groups, dictators or democrats, the traditionalists have slowly but surely increased their influence and, whether or not religiously led, forces favoring transnational imperialism have remained a constant. I think that there are powerful forces that push religious revival and retrograde imperialist forces, the most obvious one being that average people in the region are deeply religious and the political forces embody or are playing catch up to what people want. In this regard, note that the political elites - who have had substantial exposure to the West - were, at one time, more secular in outlook - but often rather imperial (e.g. pan-Arabist, Baathist or Nasserite) in outlook - but the next generation is less secular - but as imperial or more so but employing more traditional language and aims -.

The Jihadist activity is a by-product of religious revival. I also do not think we can greatly affect the direction of that revival as our opinions are trumped by those of spiritual leaders. And, the spiritual leaders are looking, as is the case anywhere else on Earth, for a way to increase their power. And that means that the forces for Jihad are very strong, likely stronger than our pleas for tolerance, democracy, secularism, peace, war or whatnot.

Please note: I am not saying that we have no influence. I am saying that we are not going to heal the region or alter the basic outlook of people in that region. The issue is not this or that conflict.

The issue, in terms that are rather simple, is that people have a rather Medieval mindset and respond to religion; so long as preachers have the people's ears, we shall not. The secularization process in Europe occurred over centuries. My suspicion is that the same will be true for the Muslim regions which have the benefit of also seeing - or, to be more exact, the leaders have the advantage of seeing - that secularization is not necessarily a greener pasture. Our secular values, after all, are why we are the great Satan - who, in Islamic thought, is the great seducer (as Lewis notes) -.

On the other hand, I certainly do not favor the Iraq war. I think its goals are not now achievable - although the long term is a different matter -; nor would a policy of solving disputes by taking, as Europeans seem to prefer, the Muslim side of things. Such would be portrayed as victories for those pushing the religious agenda. And, that would, I think, lead to more, not less, Jihad.

That does not mean that we should not try to settle disputes. We should. Such is the right thing to do. Such is just not going to alter the basic direction that the Muslim regions are taking.

I think the best point to consider is that modesty about possibilities makes a lot of sense when dealing with people with a tradition that is more than one thousand years old.


E. Simon - 11/15/2006

To answer the question, we could always ask persons from the region. But in the absence of that, Peter here informs us that we can assume he speaks for the general sentiments of Moslems in the Mideast. Thanks Peter for appointing yourself to this representative post. Much appreciated. Can you say "condescension?" I knew you could.


E. Simon - 11/15/2006

Peter, in the event that the area of the world in question transforms from honor-based societies where the likelihood of revenge is considered an appropriate disincentive to hostile actions, then your prescriptions apply. In the absence of that, you are applying Western legal and cultural norms in the assumption that they will be respected. Perhaps you are right; I personally favor application, or at least the proliferation, of non-honor-based (i.e. legal) codes of behavior, but you are also working against the fact that leaders of the kinds of movements we were in conflict with - and who have become resurgent - don't, and accordingly see mercy as a sign of weakness. If modernizing, moderating, liberalizing norms take root in transforming and defining these cultures at large, then your approach has merit; if not, then you are speaking as if out of a cultural monolith and would be well advised to avoid making the blanket proclamations you do without addressing that discrepancy. Also the idea of revenge can be applied without killing every man, woman, child, but by other means, such as ideas that were considered more often than they were applied in the American South following the Civil War. I think you are misinterpreting Friedman.

I think we did the right thing, but it would be nice if every now and then you could address cultural differences in a mature way and stop assuming that your implicit appeals to falsely universalized Western norms have any kind of realistic authority. If you are arguing that by doing so they will be reciprocated and replicated, fine - just show some evidence and stop berating others and making assumptions.


john crocker - 11/15/2006

I have specific answers to each of your points, but no time at the moment. I would like you to respond to the paragraph below repeated from my previous comment as your response to this will determine if any further conversion has any chance of being productive.

You seem to argue that no policy decision we make will have an effect on the power of this movement within the Muslim community. The Islamists will spin everything to their advantage and the Muslim populace will follow their lead. We can do nothing to help or hurt recruitment. We can do nothing to help or hurt or credibility with the average Muslim. Our foreign policy has little or no effect on the opinions of those it involves. We could invade Iraq or bomb Mecca and the effect would be the same as building infrastructure in Afghanistan.

This seems to follow from the arguments you have made. Please clarify.

If you really do believe this, what do you propose be done?


N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

John,

In the case of Bali, there were stated reasons for the attack. They had nothing at all to do with the US. They had nothing to do with the West. I suggest you read a bit about this since you are, in this case, wrong.

Similarly, the attack on the Indian parliament had exactly nothing to do with the US or the West. It had a lot to do with India and Pakistan and, perhaps, Kashmir. But, the US had zero to do with it.

I have no idea if they hate us. I note that Professor LeVine says they do not. MJ Akbar, whom I have higher regard for than the noted professor, also says that Muslims do not hate us. So, I do not know if you misperceive what you are watching. You may be witnessing staged events. You may be witnessing a great many things. Again, I am not sure it follows that they hate us.

But, let us assume you are correct. Why should I care? People fussed about the Nazis hating and sought to satisfy their grievances. See e.g. Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott's excellent book The Appeasers. As they note and their evidence shows, the view that resolving the injustice of the Versaille Treaty would abate their agressive policy was wrong headed. The Nazis, whether they had or played on legitimate grievances or not, wanted not only to undue perceived injustices but to conquer. And attempting to satify their grievances actually was seen by the Nazis as a sign that they could and should continue their policies, not reign in their behavior.

Moreover,your theory is non-specific. You refer to people in South America. But, we are speaking about Muslims, not about South American revolutionaries. Two different groups with very different agendas. So, I do not see your point.

If there is an argument about grievance, it likely best can be traced back to September 11, 1683, when the Ottoman army was defeated and the slow retreat and decline of Muslim power began. After that came defeat after defeat. And that arguably was a source of resentment, not to mention creating the problem that Islamic theology holds Islam as the ruling force in the world while the reality was that Islam was declining until it was largely powerless against Western armies.

But, I do not take this all as a great injustice, as your argument would have it. I think that is not very historical. In fact, up until defeat, the Ottoman Empire was agressive and imperialistic, with colonies in Europe and control of a vast empire. It made war to expand Muslim territory, pushing up into Poland before being defeated at Vienna. Even after that, it continued to be agressive and imperial, although its power declined and declined. So, what we really have are various agressive forces, with the West, at least for the moment, being dominant.

Note: you can say, logically speaking, that people logically have grievances and behave a particular way. But, the issue is whether such are - not could be - their grievances. In this case, the concerns, as stated by Muslims, are not grievances in any sense that is significant. Instead, we have a religious movement, not people manipulating religion. In this regard, read Omar's posts. He is rather representative of the view of people who think "Islam is the way," which is the slogan of the Islamists.


N. Friedman - 11/15/2006

Peter,

Two points: I am predicting what will happen, not what ought to happen. As for what ought to happen - and terrible circumstances rarely lead to nice solutions -, I do not know what the right thing to do is. I do not pretend to know.

But, I do know that if a major American city is destroyed, the cry for revenge will be impossible to contain and when, which is inevitable, the TV shows crowds of cheering Muslims across the world - which will occur -, the cries for revenge will so overwhelm that the US will unleash an unforgettable response.

The other point here is that your assumption is that we are witnessing the acts of a very few with no backing for the mass of Muslims. I am really not sure that is so. The polling on the issue is unclear and polling is, as I have said, not that good in the Muslim regions in any event.

However, from what can be discerned, support for the goals, if not the means, of the Jihadists is rather substantial - maybe even a majority if we count those who want Shari'a to be the law which, to note, would include restoration of the Caliphate, but, in any event, not a small group -. In fact, it is probably at least as substantial - and likely more substantial - than was the support for the Nazis by average Germans. So, I am not sure that it is wrong to treat an attack as an attack made by individual deranged Muslims. At the same time, I am not sure it would be right. I am just not sure.

Again, I do not know what would be the correct thing to do. I merely point out that I do not buy your view that this should all be seen as the act of a very few deranged people (given the large group which tacitly supports the goals - and think our friend Omar, who really holds commonly held views -, if not necessarily the means). So, I am not sure how wide responsibility goes but I doubt that only a few are implicated, with no wider responsibility.

A friend of mine - who is rather knowledgeable about historical things - holds the view the US made a mistake of mythic proportions following 9/11. He thinks we should have destroyed Afghanistan. His view is that such would have sent a message to Muslims to bug off and that, in the end, such would have saved lives by ending the Jihad - then and there - sending the message that Jihad equals destruction of the dar al-Islam. I do not hold that view, for what it is worth. On the other hand, if we do face nuclear attacks in our future, I have to wonder whether my friend has a point.


john crocker - 11/15/2006

"I, for one, do not subscribe to the "why do they hate us" thinking. I do not think this is about hate. I think it is about religion and power."
For the masses burning effigies and flags and for those few who strap on or drive in a bomb, what may have begun as something else has largely become visceral. At the time they are doing this they do hate us and it is valid to ask why.
To the extent it is about religion and power, religion is the means and power is the end of those manipulating religion, as it ever has been.

"In any event, my bet is that most Iranians worry a lot more about their own lives than about the US and that love or hate has little to do with their thinking. That's just me."
This has largely been my point. People tend to care about what is immediate, their family, friends, job etc. Something must motivate people to abandon these things and die in an effort to kill as many people as possible in the most spectacular way they can manage. Something must happen to make this an attractive option.

The internet, satellite and cellular technology boom has allowed better communication and organization for those with access. It allows what may otherwise have been disparate groups with similar objectives to come together to achieve their ends, good or bad. Those groups must still have some reason to pursue those ends. The colonial past of the West has provided that reason for many. Look to South America. They have many of the same grievances and anti-Western and anti-American opinions. It is not religion that drives them to demonstrate and even kidnap or kill. The communists effectively exploited their discontent as the Islamists are exploiting the discontent in the Muslim world.

"But, your approach does not explain remotely why Jihadists are, for example, active in Indonesia, blowing up people in Bali for something, according to the available testimony, allegedly done to Muslims by non-Americans and having nothing to do with the Middle East."
Really? Is it your contention that Indonesia has no legitimate grievances with the West?

Iraq is merely the largest and most recent action to further alienate the Islamic world from the West.

Our past actions and those of European powers have created resentments and our current actions are creating more. It is much easier to convince people who resent the West to attack the West.

It is not possible to act in our best interests without creating some resentments, but a casual disregard for those resentments and a failure to address legitimate grievances does not help us and it lends credibility to the grievances that are not legitimate.

You seem to argue that no policy decision we make will have an effect on the power of this movement within the Muslim community. The Islamists will spin everything to their advantage and the Muslim populace will follow their lead. We can do nothing to help or hurt recruitment. We can do nothing to help or hurt or credibility with the average Muslim. Our foreign policy has little or no effect on the opinions of those it involves. We could invade Iraq or bomb Mecca and the effect would be the same as building infrastructure in Afghanistan.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

You write: "So your idea of a strategy is to wait, teeth-chattering and nail-biting, until Britain or America is nuked by Allah knows which fiendishly clever band of Islamic mass-murder suicide bombers."

I never said anything of the sort. I said that our policy in the Middle East is unlikely to much alter the direction of what occurs. And I evidenced that point by noting that the prior policies did not work well either.

You write: "Your remarks would be music to the ears of Al Qaeda. One little dirty nuke = instant Argamgeddon. A nuclear holocaust in which a handful of nobodies craters one or two cities of western civilization and western civilization responds by unleashing the genocide to end all genocides..."

I said that what would likely come were we to be hit with a nuclear weapon would be a devastating counter attack. I stated such to be what I thought would happen. Maybe I am wrong but I do not think so.

You write: "There are good reasons why nuclear weapons, which have been around longer than most of us here, except maybe Polk, have never being used or even possessed by anything other than governments of sizable and long-lasting countries. They are not Saturday night specials."

I do not disagree. I merely note that a nuclear or similar attack will be met in kind and, likely, more than kind.

You write: Al Qaeda taking over Pakistan say, maybe together with Kzahkstan, or doing some high-level deal with some son of A-Jihad in Iran. THAT would be a very dangerous situation. And what have Cheney-Bush done to avert such scenarios? You guessed it. Jacks--t!
And WHY haven't they done squat?


I do not recall defending the Bushites. That is in your head. I said my view that the various policies adopted by our government have not stopped the basic direction of thought among Muslims. Find me some facts that suggest I am wrong or, in the alternative, stop insulting me.

I guess I should ask you: what do you think will be the response if New York is destroyed? I really think you are smoking something if you think the response will be anything other than one of severe retaliation.


Barrie Lambert - 11/14/2006

Very helpful. Thanks.


Barrie Lambert - 11/14/2006

Very helpful. Thanks.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

More about loonies and their efforts to attack the UK and Europe and elsewhere, from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/10/terror/printable2170878.shtml

According to the article:

Intelligence agencies have been warned that al Qaeda may be planning to attack air and rail travel in Europe in actions that may occur during the busy holiday travel season, CBS News has learned exclusively.


In separate interviews with Arab and other intelligence sources, CBS News has been told that the warnings come from interrogations of al Qaeda suspects who recently left Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"One suspect said plans for repeating the Heathrow attempt (a reference to the failed 'liquid bomb' plot interrupted in August) were all prepared. It is now a matter of taking action," said one Arab official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. "Al Qaeda's strategy appears to be raising the pressure in Europe."


I think these people are worth taking seriously. I think they are a much worse problem than getting the Middle East right - something that, at the moment, is not possible in any event.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

Again, you do not address my comment. You create a straw man and then knock it down.

I refer to a religious revival movement. You refer to people in-fighting between sects. That has nothing to do with my comment.

You do write something interesting. You write: "Will the non-American and non-Moslem world stand behind the US as one, as it did after 9-11? Unlikely."

Somehow, you act as if I defend the Iraq war when I do not. It has been divisive in the extreme. I certainly agree with you on that.

But, if the issue is will the world stand with us when - assuming, as I do, it is when - we are again attacked, I think it depends on what happens. But, in the scheme of things, I do not think it will much matter if the world stands with the US, at that point, at least if the attack is truly devastating.

The assumption I have is that in such event the US will remove any remaining gloves it has on and respond more than in kind to what is done. Such, more than likely, is what holds back any attack on us, with the more likely target, at least for now, being Britain. See, "Al-Qaida plotting nuclear attack on UK, officials warn," The Guardian, November 14, 2006. http://politics.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1947295,00.html

If there is a similar plot afoot regarding the US, the authorities have been mute thus far about it. But, regarding the UK, The Guardian reports - and, I really do hate to quote what I believe to be a hateful rag of a newspaper -:

British intelligence officials believe that al-Qaida is determined to attack the UK with a nuclear weapon, it emerged yesterday. The announcement, from an officially organised Foreign Office counter-terrorism briefing for the media, was the latest in a series of bleak assessments by senior officials and ministers about the terrorist threat facing Britain.

UK officials have detected "an awful lot of chatter" on jihadi websites expressing the desire to acquire chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons.


*********

For al-Qaida and jihadis, a devastating nuclear attack on Britain, not just the use of a "dirty bomb', would be part of the desire and agenda to cripple the west, sources said.

Now, will the world stand with Britain, even if it stood with the US? I have no idea. My suspicion is that such a devastating attack wherever it may come will tend, at least for a while, to unite the West. And, the reaction from the West, I suspect, will no longer be along the lines of reforming the Muslim regions or satisfying the demands of Muslims. The discussion will turn to teaching them a lesson the survivors never forget. Mass deaths tends to have that sort of reaction.

If the Jihadis will attack us with devastating attacks but poor foreign policy will only anger Muslims who do not attack us, which should be of more concern? I, for one, think it is the people who will do us devastating harm, even if they in-fight, even if they are disorganized and even if they seem rather bizarre in their pronouncements.

But, you can try to get it right with the Arab and Muslim regions - while, at the same time, loonies plot to kill us. Yours is another mirror mirror on the wall delusion.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Professor Furnish's evidence suggests that quite a number of Muslims view bin Laden as the Mahdi. Whether or not such is bin Laden's view is another matter. I do not think that the good professor so indicated.

There is no "a" Mahdi. There is only "the" Mahdi. History has had proclaimed "Mahdis" - often not self-proclaimed, by the way - but, so far, they have all been false ones, since the world would be a very different place if any of them were the real thing.

These false ones, believed by their followers to be real ones, have been an interesting group. One, Ibn Tumart, started an empire that was rather severe and brutal, but which, in time, had some solid cultural achievements (i.e. the Almohads). Another, Muhammad Ahmad, carved out a fairly short lived empire in Sudan in opposition to the Ottoman Empire. And there were other less successful claimants.


Barrie Lambert - 11/14/2006

2 questions on points of information: does Furnish suggest that Bin Laden believes himself to be a Mahdi, or even the Mahdi?

Do Furnish's "other Muslims" believe Bin Laden to be the Mahdi or just a Mahdi?


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

Bin Laden's view are inaccurately presented by you. He has stated repeatedly that his aim is to create a Caliphate, which I take to mean, to restore Islamic political and military and religious power. He certainly objects to US troops in Arabia, etc., but the goal for these people is to create a Caliphate. And, according to him, the opposition to US troops is their presence near the holy places, not their presence in the Middle East - although he objects to that as well.

He was never really allied with the US although he took money and support from us - which is a very different thing. We were always one of two enemies, with the atheistic Soviets being target number One. And - while you will not like who I cite - I note that Wallid Phares has produced substantial evidence that the West was always one of the two enemies to the Jihadists. Moreover, Phares produced substantial evidence that the Jihadis perceived the matter, from early on, akin to the distinction between the Byzantine Empire (and the West plays that role) and the Persian Empire (and the Soviets played that role), with the goal being to overcome both groups. He indicates that such references are overt and they see the present with that blindness which religion allows - meaning, as if they were among the companion generation.

As for the notion of allies, consider that Stalin made a treaty with Hitler but I doubt you would view both of them as ever really being allied. That is about as likely as the view that bin Laden and Saddam were really "allies" - whether or not they acted in concert and, maybe, if the Bushite claims were somehow true, even occasionally in coordination.

As for Iraq, how many different ways can I say that Iraq has been an irritant before you read what I wrote. Of course, the irritant of Iraq occurred after 9/11, after 12/13 (i.e. in India), after October 2002 (in Bali), etc., etc. And, as I said, most of these had nothing to do with the US. So, stop confusing apples with oranges.

Now, the issue is what would have happened, going forward from 2003, if the US had taken a different course of action. Would the Jihad have intensified anyway? It was, after all, intensifying most especially after the 9/11 and December 13 attacks. So, would there not have been an acceleration, driven one way or the other, latching onto whatever response the West had made.

My view: The Jihad is one thing. The opposition to US policy is another thing. They sometimes overlap but they are different phenomena. There is a relationship between them but it is not as strong as your writing suggests.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Mr. Rodden,

Bin Laden has also spoke about restoring the Caliphate. In fact, such is generally believed to be the central near term aim of his movement. And, other Muslims have spoken about his possibly being - according to Professor Furnish' research - a Mahdi. Bin Laden may be a secular or a religious man, I have no idea. But, he has pushed a religious movement along and the aims are rather religiously directed.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

John,

I forgot. There is also the infusion of oil money which led to the spread of Wahhabism by means of religious schools all over the Muslim regions and in the West. And, that oil money also represented, to some, a means to increasing the power of Muslims, as a nation, existed. Further, the power of oil money declined which, if you check your sources, led to an economic decline, most particularly in Saudi Arabia, while the population rose dramatically, thus causing a substantial decline in living standards. And, steep economic declines also tend sometimes to play out with violence. So, oil money is likely also a factor.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

John,

Note that I did not use the word "Hate." You did. Then, you created a straw man to knock down, namely, that Iranians do not hate us. That was not my argument and your argument is irrelevant to my point. I, for one, do not subscribe to the "why do they hate us" thinking. I do not think this is about hate. I think it is about religion and power.

In fact, I have no idea whether Muslims and, since you mention them, Iranians mostly hate or love us. If you look back, I have said such repeatedly on this website. Was there a public opinion poll by which you reach your conclusion about Iran? Was it the same poll (or by the same polling company) which predicted that a "pragmatist" would win the presidency (in fact, the very pragmatist now under indictment in Argentina for bombing a community center there which killed, if I recall correctly, more than 100 people), not the lunatic, Armageddon believing, Holocaust denying, Mr. Ahmadinejad?

If you were to ask my view, the only polling that counts here is the one which registers interest in implementing Shari'a, and not only polling but actual elections show that Muslims in the Muslim regions want Shari'a to be implemented. In fact, evidently Muslims in Great Britain in large numbers want Shari'a implemented in Britain.

In any event, my bet is that most Iranians worry a lot more about their own lives than about the US and that love or hate has little to do with their thinking. That's just me.

Now, I have read reporters who say what you say. I question how they reach their conclusions. And, I note that reporters in countries like Iran probably have little means to penetrate what average people really think. This is likely because the actual, ongoing access of reporters is primarily to an elite few. And, in the case of Iran, such elites have a tradition that is modernist so reporters would, I suspect, tend to project the views of the elite onto people with very different backgrounds - thus misinterpreting the situation. In short, I am skeptical about such reports, believing them either inaccurate or, in some instances, politically motivated. In any event, I do not think this is about love or hate.

You write: "The question you fail to address is, what has made a radically anti-Western movement so attractive to so many people now? The movement is not new, but this rise in popularity is. This did not happen in a religious vaccuum."

I thought I did address this previously. In any event, the main reason that things have come to a head is that the opportunity for Jihad is more present now than in the recent past. The 1990's saw the computer revolution, which led to the ability to communicate, propagandize and organize much more effectively and much more broadly than in the past. That is critical to Jihadists, most especially outside of countries where the Internet is more tightly controlled. Then, there is the TV revolution in Muslim countries where the topic of Jihad is debated at length and where interest in unity is pushed by transnational networks. Then, there is the failure of more secular parties in the Arab and other Muslim regions to unite the Arab and Muslims regions and restore the political dominance of Arab and other Muslims. Then, there is the birth of an extraordinarily large generation of people, which has now come of age and has the spirit that young people bring to things (i.e. idealism). And, there has been an unprecedented migration of Muslims from the Muslim regions, primarily into Europe, who have not been well integrated into society and who are prime candidates for Islamism and who are connected, for example, by the Internet and have access to the agenda of the transnational Arab TV networks.

There may be other factors. But, your approach does not explain remotely why Jihadists are, for example, active in Indonesia, blowing up people in Bali for something, according to the available testimony, allegedly done to Muslims by non-Americans and having nothing to do with the Middle East. My theory explains such facts. Your theory cannot.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 11/14/2006

Mr. Schoenberg:

I am not sure what the point of your previous post is, but Osama bin Laden is not a Shiia Muslim he is a devout Sunni Muslim.

Mr. Clarke:

You seemed to be confused about what motivates Osama bin Laden and his followers. You stated that "Al Qaeda is perhaps more motivated by religion than by specific grievances."

Not so. First, bin Laden is not a religious leader. Second, bin Laden is a Saudia nationalist. Third, since 1990 has stated his goals in numerous rambling speeches. They are: 1. the overthrow of the current Saudi regime and the installation of a regime that is run by bin Laden; 2. the removal of infidels (US forces) from Saudi Arabian soil; 3. the overthrow of the Saddam regime in Iraq.

Bin Laden has accomplished two of those three goals. And foolishly, the Bush administation talked openly in 2001 about accomplishing his final goal.


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

You did not read me as carefully as you might have and often do. I did not deny multiple causation and I did not deny that US policy in Iraq was anything but an irritant.

What I said, and I quote, was: "I instead suggest that the cause of the Jihad is not us but religious revival which is spreading, not primarily because of us but because it is an attractive religious/political movement." (Emphasis added). Note the word "primarily." That word means - and it was meant to mean - multiple causation for the rise of religious revivalism aka Islamism.

Now, I sought something from you suggesting that other action by the US would not have been viewed as an irritant. My point is that whatever tactics are adopted by the US, Jihadists play it well to their advantage. That is because they have the ear of Muslims, we do not. Islamists are an elite and they control what the masses hear and how they interpret things.

You, instead, basically switched topics on me, discussing the fact - which I do not deny - that US policy is unpopular in the Muslim regions. You, however, assume that the unpopularity of US policy is the main motive force here when, so far as I can discern, it is not even close to being the main issue. It is, instead, something which creates its own set of problems - and they need to be addressed but not with the expectation that we can undermine the Jihad thereby.

I might add: yours is basically the same error as the Bushies, who thought - again, using a mirror, not a microscope - that by interjecting democracy into the Arab debate, Jihad might thereby be undermined. Such was a nonsense theory - as we both agree. However, you compound the same error, believing that a different policy would really have a different impact, when, in fact, we have no control over how our policies are portrayed to Muslims (who, instead, listen to preachers and other elites who are seeking power for themselves) -. Consider that the Jihadism was taking roots despite Carter's allowing the Shah to be overthrown, under Reagan (stability, by injecting troops into Lebanon and then withdraw under fire - now we are a paper tiger), under the realist foreign policy (Bush, during which time WTC bombing was planned), which placed US troops in Saudi Arabia to protect that Kingdom (helping us and them, which they saw as violating Islamic principles), Clinton (withdraw, in Somalia - were a paper tiger -, heal the region and satisfy Islamic demands - but we did not do so in the way demanded -, for example, in Bosnia and efforts to make peace in Israel - which, to Islamists, was an abomination) and the Bushite II policy (wishful thinking, confrontation, naivety and contradictions galore). Now, you really think - with every single administration with a new policy, during which time love of Jihad has grown and grown, that the issue is whether our policy is this or that. Nonsense.

Perhaps the best of these policies, if one were merely a cynic and Machiavellian, would be to get Shi'a and Sunnis to fight it out, as followed by Reagan. But, that policy did not work out the way people thought it would. If anything, love of Jihad grew.

Now, our policy is a problem, but not for the Jihad. My evidence for this is that the focus of Jihadi activity is not limited to the US or to US policy.

My evidence for my point. The attempted attacks on Canada, the attempted attacks on France and Germany. The attacks in Indonesia, in Morocco, in Turkey, in Egypt (multiple attacks), in Argentina (in which the former President of Iran, Mr. Rasfanjani has an outstanding arrest summons), in India, in Beslan, etc., etc.




Mike Schoenberg - 11/14/2006

It would be up to the Iraq'a, if invaded to finally join together in defending their country. One thing I would love to see on HNN is a discussion between Mr. Polk and Bernard Lewis.


Mike Schoenberg - 11/14/2006

One other point about Bin Laden and Iraq. Bin Laden is Shia while Saddam is from the Sunni area. We can see how well they are getting along. There probably is a reason that there are dictators required for certain countries. And until another strong man comes along Iraq will be a mess.


john crocker - 11/14/2006

Your contention seems to be that American foreign policy is irrelevent to Muslims and Europeans opinions about America. (They will hate us no matter what we do.)

People say Muslims hate the West because they are Muslims (if not completely at least primarily), yet these same people point to the popularity of America in Iran, a Muslim theocratic republic.

To assume that what motivates peoples opinions about America is entirely independent of America's actions is at least as foolish, in my opinion much more so, than to assume it is the sole cause.

There has been a rapid rise in anti-American sentiment in the past 3-4 years (as measured by polling, demonstrations, and terrorist attacks among other things). This has corresponded with the growth of and growth in support for anti-Western terror groups.
The question you fail to address is, what has made a radically anti-Western movement so attractive to so many people now? The movement is not new, but this rise in popularity is. This did not happen in a religious vaccuum.

European opinions about America have shifted over this time. To assume that the average European citizen has a negative view of the current American administration simply because of lost oil contracts or because of jealousy is simplistic at best.

Certainly interests are what drives governments. People are driven in more complicated ways. Interests and moral revulsion can both shape people's opinions. Several European governments realized there was profit to be made in support of the US invasion and so supported it for a time. Yet the populace of these countries that saw economic advantage here still opposed the war.

Like it or not, American actions matter in shaping world opinion about America.

You have said that you think the Iraq war was a mistake, yet you don't seem to acknowledge the difficulties that it has caused. Given this, why do you think that the war was a mistake?


N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Peter,

You write: Clearly the minority who are sympathetic to Bin Laden has been growing and will continute to grow because America has acted in a manner tailored-made to substantiate his complaints WITHOUT that substantiation doing ANYTHING to improve the security and interests of the Non-Muslim "West."

Please provide some hard evidence regarding the percentage that is sympathetic to bin Laden. The statistics I have read suggest a rather large percent is sympathetic to Jihad.

As for the rest of your comments in this post, I never said that Muslims are a monolith. I never said anything of the sort. I instead suggest that the cause of the Jihad is not us but religious revival which is spreading, not primarily because of us but because it is an attractive religious/political movement. Why is it that you cannot imagine someone joining the movement due to belief in it? Why does everything need to be a reflection or a reaction to us? I cannot imagine a violent movement that has large numbers of supporters all over the globe that is not itself attractive on its own terms - just like Marxism was. And, Islam is a thousand times more interesting than Marxism and Jihad is central to any real understanding of Islam. So, frankly, I think you are talking nonsense.

Now, the Iraq move was a mistake. However, you need to provide a realistic picture of what might have been had we taken a different path. I, thus far, think that the driving force of the Jihad depends less on what we do than you imagine. I think it is hubris which makes people think that we are the main cause and that our behavior is anything other than a foil used by people who find Jihad an attractive agenda.


N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

John,

As I said - and have said repeatedly for years on this site -, the Iraq war was (and still is) not a good idea and it has been an irritant. However, my contention is that any path we would have chosen would have irritated Muslims. And, large numbers of Muslims really wanted and still do want to be irritated because such is an effective means to an end, namely, increasing Muslim power, something which is promised by the classical Muslim interpretation of Muslim holy books and something that, for young people, seems rather cool.

In fact, the very fact we are powerful is the biggest irritant here as it is contradicted by the classical Islamic theological notion of how world power is legitimately ranked. And, a non-Muslim dominated world is contrary to the classical Islamic view. And, given the opportunity to reverse the Islamic world's fortunes - a large number of young people, migration of Muslims outside the Muslim regions, oil money, the Internet, etc. - is the main thing driving the Jihadis.

As for the view that what held us back was the world's moral revulsion, I think that is nonsense. I think what held and holds us back was and is that some countries - most especially European countries - have economic (i.e. oil and lucrative construction contracts) and political ties with Arab countries (i.e. alliances forged in order to create a counterweight to the US) and our policy placed those ties at risk. That was something that our country's leaders overlooked - fools that they are.


Interests, not morals, are the main driving forces in foreign affairs. They are what created the collision course between the US and, on the other hand, France, Germany and Russia, before the Iraq war. They were the main issues and always were. And that collision course is what really drove the protests, not morals. One could hardly take a moral stand in favor of keeping Saddam in power although you could raise perfectly practical questions such as: why should my son die to help Iraqis? That, I bet, was issue number one for most people. Or why should we risk destabilizing Iraq? Or, will it not stir up a hornet's nest? But, the notion that it would be immoral to overthrow a vicious, murderous dictator is nuts. It just is not worth my son's life and the reasons asserted were not sound, on perfectly practical grounds.


john crocker - 11/13/2006

"But, the assumption that Iraq caused all of this is nonsense. It was an irritant but any policy we would have pursued would have been seen as an irritant."

The assumption was never that Iraq was the cause. Iraq did not give birth to the jihadist movement any more than 9/11 gave birth to Cheney et al's desire to go into Iraq. Iraq was/is a major irritant and a massively effective rallying cry. Iraq and all of the mistakes surrounding it are more effective for the jihadists than anything they could have engineered on their own. It has effectively isolated us from many of our traditional allies. It has strengthened and united opposition to the US in the Middle East and the developing world. And it has acted as a recruitment campaign and training ground.

Had we acted responsibly and ethically our allies would be with us as would much more of the Muslim world. Those who are willing to strap on bombs and go to war are a minority. Our actions have expanded their ranks and the ranks of those who actively and tacitly support them. You seem to assume that the size of the ranks of our opposition is independent of our actions. This is a fundamental disconnect that seems to be at the core of many of our foreign policy mistakes of late. They hate us and they will hate us no matter what we do. That is true of some, but there are others who join their ranks for other purposes. When our actions are at best morally ambiguous and are easily painted as nakedly imperialistic and aimed at stealing the wealth of Muslim people, we do not help ourselves. In fact we have made our position much more tenuous by our actions in Iraq. At the very least we have pinned down a substantial fraction of our military and have made an effective military threat to any other danger dubious. Is the timing of the provocative actions of Iran and North Korea a coincidence?

Just because not all of the people are acting due to a set of grievances does not mean that all greivances have no value. We are responsible for the state of Afghanistan and Iraq. To the extent that life in those places is percieved as worse by the people living there we are the ones who will be blamed. A small fraction of what has been spent on Iraq would have done wonders for quality of life in Afghanistan. If people's lives are better it is more difficult to convince people that those who made them better are evil and should be killed. At the very least we would have won the public relations battle on the world stage. As it is we are losing the PR battle to suicide bombers. The bar could not be set much lower.

It is not right to blame America first, but neither is it right to blame America never.


N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

Peter,

All of this is true. However, we are not dealing with a set of grievances. And the distance to Mecca is irrelevant. And those involved are from all over the world - and that was the case even before 9/11. And it was the case in post 9/11 pre-Iraq war events.

Note that throwing the word neo-con does not change the reality. They have their agenda, which is not mine. And, a different policy approach would not have addressed the reality of a religious revival movement dedicated to obtaining power, not a political movement that concerns specific grievances.


N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

John,

I have never argued for the Iraq war. I have argued that it was one of many possible bad choices where there were no good choices. And, it is not a choice I would have made, which is something I have been saying consistently since before the war.

You write: "It seems that you are implying that not attacking Iraq would somehow leave us in virtually the same position as attacking Iraq."

It is not at all clear that we would have been in a better position. We just would face similar problems from different angles.

My point is that we have a movement of Muslims living all over the world, not just Muslims living in Afghanistan. If you need proof on that point, consider that those involved in 9/11 lived in Europe (in Hamburg) and, evidently, in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among other places. Those involved in the London bombing were from Britain. Those involved in blowing up Mike's Place in Israel were from Britain. Those caught in potential terror and kidnapping (of the Prime Minister) in Canada were Canadians. Those involved in Bali were Indonesians. Those involved in Southern Thailand were Thai. Those fighting India are from India, Pakistan and Kashmir - and not all of it relates to Kashmir.

Now, you can say, we should act in Afghanistan and that may be a good strategy. But, the assumption that Iraq caused all of this is nonsense. It was an irritant but any policy we would have pursued would have been seen as an irritant.

And the assumption that Afghanistan would not also be an effective rallying cry were the US to throw more eggs into that basket is a fundamental misunderstanding. The group of Muslims seeking utilitarian improvement is an nebulous group which differs markedly from those who want to kill us.

The movement we are dealing with is a religious movement. It is not a movement related to a specific grievance. And satisfying a specific grievance will have the same impact as Munich had before WWII.

You write: "If the invasion had led to a visibly better life for Afghans, modern infrastucture, safety and security then we would likely be viewed differently by many Muslims."

I do not think that is correct. I do not think that those joining the Jihadist movement want to improve life in the sense you understand. I think they wish to restructure the International order to their perceived benefit, not make a better life. Or, in simple terms, this is about power, not about justice or equity.


Hala Fattah - 11/13/2006

How does Mr. Polk think Iraq will keep its neighbors at bay without a strong army? Develop a self-policing, civil society with democratic safeguards overnight? This is one of the silliest recommendations of the plan.I'm sure Mr. Polk proposed that to remain on good terms with the politically correct crowd, who are still enamoured of the idea that any future Iraqi army will be poised to attack Israel!


john crocker - 11/13/2006

"Now, I do think that Iraq was likely a step backwards. But, I am not as sure that there were any good moves or non-moves available at the time."
What are you arguing for or against?

It seems that you are implying that not attacking Iraq would somehow leave us in virtually the same position as attacking Iraq. That the US would be in substantially the same place if we had not shifted our attention away from Afghanistan onto Iraq, if we had spent the time money and troop commitment necessary to rebuild old and install new infrastucture in Afghanistan, we would be viewed the same by the majority of the Muslim world.

"Had we done nothing, we would be the paper tiger."
The choices were not between nothing and attacking Iraq. The invasion of Afghanistan was justified and supported by the international community including many Muslims. If the invasion had led to a visibly better life for Afghans, modern infrastucture, safety and security then we would likely be viewed differently by many Muslims. That opportunity, unfortunately, has largely passed and so that will never be known for certain.
The bungling of Iraq has led, by all accounts, to more terrorists and broader support of terrorists in the Muslim community.
There is a substantive difference in doing one thing as well as possible and two things poorly.

You are correct that in our current position we must look for the least bad of what seem to be only bad options, but we must look carefully at how we came to this point as well as where we go from here.


N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

Peter,

By your logic, we should not have invaded Afghanistan, which is also the "holy land." In fact, it was not only the "holy land," it was somewhat of an Utopian prototype.

Now, I do think that Iraq was likely a step backwards. But, I am not as sure that there were any good moves or non-moves available at the time. Had we done nothing but attack Afghanistan, there would have been the same argument and it would have been played, eventually, the same way that Iraq was played by his movement.

Had we done nothing, we would be the paper tiger. And, there would have been more attacks - perhaps. And more attacks not responded to would lead to more attacks, on the theory that it would excite his own people.

So, I do not think that we have an either or situation. I think we have a lose/lose scenario. And, in such a circumstance, the question is what is the least bad thing to do.


N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

Peter,

I mostly agree with you. I would note that there were no good choices available in 2003. Iraq is not a move I would have made but, all things considered, the world would still be suffering from Jihadist violence today no matter what we did or did not do.

Presumably, if we had stuck to Afghanistan, the Jihadis would have found a different haven to work from. And, we would likely have had the Pakistanis playing us for fools while they claimed to support us while really supporting the Jihadis. So, Afghanistan might have been for the US what it had been for the USSR - a disaster.

The real issue with the Jihad is that it is truly a worldwide movement and not something limited to Afghanistan. Such is the lesson being learned the hard way in Europe. See e.g. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/10/terror/main2170878.shtml . Not all of the mess in Europe (or anywhere else) is a reaction to the US presence in Iraq. Surely, the ongoing disaster in France is homegrown. Surely, Britain's decision to allow radical Jihadists to make Britain home has been its own disaster - now a home growing one.

That, however does not diminish your point that Iraq is, on its own terms, a disaster. My only points are that there were no good choices and that any choice would not likely have altered the basic trajectory of the global Jihad - just its operational incidentals.


E. Simon - 11/13/2006

Peter, I was going to comment on this since Shenkman's interview w/Polk seemed pretty interesting and cogent overall, at least when it comes to tying the whole analysis together. You seem to agree, at least with the words "the least horrible remaining available choice." As for it being a disaster, well, it certainly seems like a huge setback, and you cite some current developments that are problematic. But with the hopeful possibility of a change in policy, if not in executive leadership, we should start looking at longer-term trends, and how those might shape up. The political dymanic created by the war in Iraq has already indefinitely shaped some of those - changes in senate make-up, for instance; if a different policy dynamic truly takes shape - and I am skeptical that Bush will allow one to without kicking and screaming - then what longer-term trends do you envision according to such a scenario? I think we shouldn't look askance of the possibility that we might have some breathing room for looking at how we might now more positively impact the longer-term picture.