Thursday, October 06, 2005

Terrorists: nihilists and/or mass murderers?

Christopher Hitchens, in a fine article in Slate entitled "Why Ask Why?", tries once again to tell the left that it's futile to imagine that terrorists such as the Bali bombers are rational actors responding to policies of the West:

The return of murderous nihilism to Bali is highly instructive. It shows, first, that the fanatics of Islamism don't know how to stop. And it also shows that they never learn. How can Jemaah Islamiyah, which almost ruined Indonesia's economy by its filthy attack three years ago, possibly have tried to repeat the same crime in the same place?

Hitchens goes on to demolish the left's policy-based explanations/excuses for terrorism, and explains the motive for JI's attacks instead as Islamicist fundamentalist anger. Anger at the relatively freer form of Islam practiced in Indonesia, hatred of the mostly Hindu population of Bali, and anger at the Australians for trying to help the Christian population of East Timor (originally a leftist cause, by the way). In other words, their "rational" motive is that this is an Islamicist religious fundamentalist war.

Hitchens uses the word "nihilism," (one I've used before, too) in connection with the terrorists. But I discovered when I looked it up that we are both using it somewhat incorrectly, at least in the historic sense of the word. Nihilism:

...rejected all religious and political authority, social traditions, and traditional morality as standing in opposition to freedom, the ultimate ideal. In this sense, it can be seen as an extreme form of anarchism. The state thus became the enemy, and the enemy was ferociously attacked. After gaining much momentum in Russia, the movement degenerated into what were essentially terrorist cells, barren of any real unifying philosophy beyond the call for destruction.

One can easily see that the first part of the definition doesn't fit Islamicist terrorists such as Jemaah Islamiyah; au contraire! Islamicist terrorists are for instituting more authority and less freedom--in fact, they'd like to maximize the former and abolish the latter. It is, however, the last part of the definition of nihilism that fits them like a glove: a love affair with destructiveness. And it is in this sense that both Hitchens and I use the term.

Hitchens is correct in locating the JI's policy motivations as being the establishment of a rigid theocracy, but one could have that goal and nevertheless shy away from blowing people up in restaurants and bars. To be a terrorist, these political and theocratic goals must be combined with a drive that is in the realm of the psychological rather than the political, and is actually more connected to the motives of the serial killer and mass murderer than the politician or even the true "insurgent."

Serial killers and mass murderers are not rational actors. They feel compelled to do what they do. Here is a description of their makeup and motives. Read it with terrorists in mind and see how well much of it seems to fit:

Mass Murderers are typically quite ordinary. They're reclusive, have few if any friends, and have no criminal record. However, they do not let go of past grievances and they tend to build and fester, with minor incidents being perceived as major offenses, and impersonal ones as personal. Some stress, such as a broken relationship, a loss, or unemployment, may be the trigger that sets everything in motion. They blame others for their failures and their motive is generally to strike back, to punish, and to exact as much damage as they can manage. The higher the death toll, the better they have succeeded. People who have been dismissing or ignoring them are not going to forget them now. Their choice of targets is typically irrational, and often does not even include the one against whom they wanted vengeance. Some...have shown signs of psychosis, but most have been judged sane at the time of the incident.

Every society on earth has a number of such individuals. Whether a person will actually act out as a mass murderer depends on a number of factors, many of them unknown. But if a society fosters and nurtures characteristics such as blaming others and holding grudges; if that society as a whole feels it's been slighted, ignored, and/or cheated; if violence in the cause of vengeance is glorified by that society; if there is a pervasive sense of failure, isolation, and frustration in that society; if people sharing these traits have the capacity, through modern communication, to get together, make plans, have easy access to powerful explosives, and are whipped into a frothing rage by inflammatory media and clerics exhorting them to murder in the name of holiness--well then, whatever number of people inclined to mass murder that society may have, such behavior is likely to be fully expressed.

Mass murderers tend to go back to the scene of the crime, or to target the same type of victim over and over again. In this, as in so many other things, terrorists resemble the compulsivity of the mass murderer. So we have another Bali bombing, and the World Trade Center was struck until it was finally destroyed.

Terrorists want power, and are frustrated that they don't have it. If you think about it, what weapons or power do they really have other than the power to blow innocent people--so-called "soft" targets--up? They can't win over an army; if they try to battle a conventional military or police force they are usually decimated. They also lack the power of argument and persuasion; only a small percentage of people on the face of the earth are going to convert to a rigid sect such as Wahabism or its ilk, since most people lack a natural temperament for and interest in fanaticism. Modern explosives have allowed a relatively small but determined group of power-hungry, frustrated, and otherwise impotent terrorists to make a relatively big bang, if they so desire--and terrorists do so desire, quite ardently.


At 2:08 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo-neo you are a pleasure to read - the use of logical analysis to disect the group behaviors of the increasingly irrational if not bizzar global left is instrutive. In this vane, you may find "True Believers" by Eric Hoffer of benefit. I re-read it after 9/11.

At 3:03 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Brad said...

(I haven’t read the Hitchens piece yet, so maybe he mentioned this) Another problem with asking "Why?" is that the answer is fluid. The immediate answer may have some elements that could, in theory, be addressed (a so called "justice" for Palestinians, Western troops out of the Middle East, etc); however, after those demands are satisfied, new ones will arise. Appeasement does not work at all if the demands are trivial compared to the actual goals (did Chamberlain read Mein Kamp?). If the endless expansion of Islam is the goal, then a Palestinian state is irrelevant. Although this is somewhat off topic, I think we make the same mistake in many, many ways in domestic politics too; e.g., if you read what William Kuntsler had in mind, you may find his arguments in various cases to be laughable. That is one of the interesting things about having been active on the Left: I heard many friends clearly state goals in private that they would never state in public (usually something along the lines of “…a radical restructuring of society by subversive means,,,” followed by a description of the ideal society). That is one of the reasons for the fear and loathing of apostasy.

At 3:33 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice job, Neo-neo. I'm new to this blogging stuff but I have to say you're out of the ordinary. Well stated, logical, fact-based arguments? Wow, that's not like a blog at all. I'll wait for the hate-mailers to respond by saying "you're one of those people" or "I just can't believe you're saying that," or "I live in la-la land."

At 4:06 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect a reason for the fluidity of "why" that Brad mentioned stems from their fundamental inability to accept responsibility for their own problems. If one must always blame others, no matter what they do it will never be enough. Hence, the ever-changing demands, as well as the refusal to acknowledge anything that the West has done right.

This parallels much of the views of the Left who blame Western beliefs for everything. Individual rights/responsibilities are the cornerstone of America, and both in foreign and domestic policy, the Left blames our ideals, no matter the evidence. The disadvantaged can always blame "society" or some other such nebulous evil for their inability to succeed, much like Israel is the reason why Morocco can't get its butt in gear.

That's why I view both Leftism and Islamism as "nihilist" in terms of the second part of the definition Neo quoted. It's always about the bad guy, never about oneself, the opposite of what this country stands for.

At 4:52 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a bit of thought, I realized that Islamism's desire to destroy and control are actually interrelated and both connected to the eternal blame of the "other."

In totalitarian societies (islamist, Fascist, Communist, or whatever else) there are always problems, and these problems are usually supposedly the result of remaining Jewish, bourgeois, or Western influence. Some guy reading evil books in his closet needs to be weeded out to reach the perfect society. Could Cuba's poverty have had anything to do with Castro's policies? Of course not. It's always "them."

I see parallels to this with even softer forms of liberalism, but won't go into it now.

Neo-neocon, I'm guessing here, but I suspect that you don't think of domestic issues as your strong suit. Nevertheless, I think that you have the insight to provide analyses just as fascinating if you build up your confidence a bit.

You may or may not agree with me, but despite the apparent contradictions on issues like gay rights, the Left and Islamists have more in common than either would like to admit. Furthermore, what the Left advocates here at home parallels the terrorists in their criticisms of individual rights and responsibilities. I hope someday you explore this in your blog, because I would be incredibly curious about what you have to say. (It could be in your archives somewhere, but I haven't found it.)

In the meantime, great job. (I've visited hundreds of blogs, and yours is one of only five I visit regularly.)

At 5:34 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger maryatexitzero said...

You write so well and so often. All I can say is thanks for your very precise analysis of the "pacifist" left.

About nihilism - Andre Glucksman used the word "nihilism" to describe terrorism of all sorts:

"I pose a philosophical question: what is the ‘idea’, the characteristic form of modern terrorism? And my answer is: nihilism.

Socrates asked: what do a beautiful woman, a beautiful vase and a beautiful bed have in common? His answer: the idea of beauty. My question is: what do extremist ideologies like the communism or Nazism of yesteryear and the Islamism of today have in common? After all, they support ostensibly very different ideals – the superior race, mankind united in socialism, the community of Muslim believers (the Umma). Tomorrow, it could be altogether different ideals: some theological, some scientific, others racist. But the common characteristic is nihilism.

The root element is the attitude that anything goes, particularly when with regard to ordinary people: I can do whatever I want, without scruples. Goehring put it like this: my consciousness is Adolf Hitler. Bolsheviks said: man is made of iron. And the Islamists whom I visited in Algeria said that you have the right to kill little Muslim children, in order to save them...

...The inner nature of this nihilistic terrorism is that everything is permissible, whether because God exists and I am his representative, or because God does not exist and I take his place."

Human civilization survives because most people are able to suppress their appetite for extreme, random violence (or belligerent hubris)

"..because Man is human: therefore, he can be civilised, even if he can’t read or write, because he can master this hubris. Wherever you go, this belligerent hubris is considered lethal. In the huts of the Amazon, young men are taught to conquer this capacity for excessive violence. You can fight together, but you cannot fight in any way that comes to hand, and you don’t set out to fight just anyone. The same idea occurs in the teachings of the Greeks, the paidera. All European education is based on the same principle.

Indeed, all civilisations have two essential taboos in common: the taboo on ‘total sexuality’, the incest taboo, different in individual cases, but ubiquitous, and the taboo on violence. You are not allowed to succumb to ‘absolute violence’. You have to master that hubris in one way or another. In every civilisation you can find the mastering of these two absolute, destructive impulses."

Islamists could be called nihilists because they believe that all of their actions are permissible as "God's representatives". Because of that belief, they're willing to indulge in the sort of violence rejects all traditions and norms - the violence that is taboo because it destroys societies.

At 5:52 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, maryatexitzero--what a wonderful set of quotes! Now I some some more reading to do--have to add Glucksman to the already way-too-lengthy list (actually, I think he may already be on it).

And thanks for the kind words, also.

At 6:04 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

Excellent post and one that answers well a debate I've been having with someone of the "It's all America's fault" school. I've linked here.

At 7:47 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

You tell the guy at the next table that his hair is on fire...and he argues the point. You are probably talking to somebody who buys "root causes" and reads and believes folks like Cole, Chomsky, and Gore.

The enemy published their declaration of war, and thoughtfully referenced their own root cause: the Koran.

They've been executing their war for generations.

They've recently branched into media with their own brand.

Some folks don't reach for the water glass until the flames burn down to bone. We all make choices.

At 9:13 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Michael Yon’s latest dispatch. If one reads Yon one realizes the war in Iraq is being won & real progress toward getting Iraq on its feet is being made yet the Democrats keep yammering about “no plan.” They are very careful now to stay away from the phrase “cut & run,” but “no plan” is evidently the main talking point.

Although they would never admit it I think the Democrats want Iraq to fall to the Jihadists simply to prevent the political capital they believe a victory there would bring to the Republicans. How short-sighted, how small-minded, how ultimately harmful.

The Democrats presently tread a delicate & narrow path because they realize past elections have been lost because they have been perceived as soft when it comes to the issue of war. Public opinion, which has been manipulated by the Bush-hating MSM, is turning against the war but the Democrats are not quite ready to be the “cut & run” party.

I read the Hitchens’ article as soon as it was posted. Hitchens always cheers me up – for awhile. But I keep coming back to the conclusion I came to some time ago: America is not capable of waging a sustained war. If it’s not quick & easy – forget it. America’s resolve was shattered in the 60’s & our country has never recovered the toughness to takes to wage a prolonged conflict. I don’t think even another large scale act of terror in the US would change that. The exception might be if we were invaded but the enemy can establish the Caliphate without resorting to such drastic action. Neo, your post “Recap: elections round the world” cited a nice trend but if Iraq falls …

At 12:42 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger M. Simon said...

Sounds a lot like an exagerated case of PTSD to me.

i.e. the expression of internalized anger.

Anger decays over time for most people. For some it gets embeded.

In the case of fear we have actual documentation. Google - Max Planck Institute Lutz CB1.

At 1:24 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger M. Simon said...

Max Planck Institute article on decay of fear memories in mice. Dealing with the role of the CB1 receptor.

At 6:35 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do write well Neo and I commend you. Terrorists are murderers. We can call them anythiing that we like, because they are beneath contempt. They take innocent lives for God knows what twisted reasons and then people on the Left try to put a good face on their actions and give every excuse in the book for them.

At 6:48 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger goesh said...

Killing is easy when approved by God. They are on a holy mission, simple as that. Note the foolish tactics when the invasion occured. They rushed at tanks with trucks and cars, knowing allah would either protect them or take them instantly into paradise. You can't lose either way with an ideology like that. God will even provide for the families after the bread winner has his head blown off. No wonder islam has contributed nothing to the arts and sciences and the general advancement of humanity that past 400 years.

It can't be very inspiring to the folks and neighbors back home when Ahmed doesn't come home after leaving to fight for God and to kill infidels and all the women and children that support the infidels. Why don't he write and why don't he send some money home!? It must get boring waiting for God to put bread on the table now that Ahmed is gone, his body parts put in the sand somewhere in Iraq. I'm not sure how comforting it is for the widow to be thinking of ahmed with 40 virgins 'up there'. I don't think we can apply Western terms to these guys. They are Godly - leave it at that.

At 8:26 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Great highlight of Hitchens's piece, gets to the heart of so much that is basic, Mary's link to the Andre Glucksmann interview was a great read as well.

At 10:49 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Neo,

I guess I'm a sucker for theory, so I believe the Islamic fanatics when they present their theory....

Marx said that a utopia would be possible when capital became the property of all (or no-one). Since Lenin and Stalin believed in this theory, their actions were rational. IE - they followed rationally from the assumption.

Hitler said that a utopia would be possible when the superior set of genes and nationality were the only set allowed. His actions followed rationally from that assumption.

The Islamic radicals believe that a utopia will be created when everyone converts to Islam and wealth, beyond subsistance, is no longer allowed. There actions follow rationally from this assumption.

When Islamic radicals are asked about Arab poverty, especially in Palestine, they always say the same thing (paraphrased a little): "Poverty makes a person closer to God, and therefore brings the world closer to the perfect world God envisions".

Given this assumption, the destruction in Bali is fairly rational. It decreases wealth with Muslims, making them closer to God, and also decreases their contact with Christians - who bring devotion to false idols, such as wine, woman and song - and of course wealth.

Since the basic assumption is rediculous, all the actions of the Islamic terrorists seems rediculous (and Nihilistic). Accept the rediculous assumption though, and the rest follows. Islamic millitants blew up a tourist destination in Egypt two months ago for the same reason.

In the end, all of this will collapse due to a fundamental contradiction. Since the assumption is rediculous its necessary to have a contradition to even start the process in the first place.

The contradiction: The preaching and conversion of people to the poverty/God assumption is very expensive - and requires large amounts of oil money. Eventually, one of two things will happen:

1) The oil money will be spent by normal people in normal ways, shutting off the conversion to Islamic radicalism elsewhere in the world. This is the process George Bush is pushing in Iraq.

2) The middle east states will run out of oil and oil money, and the extreme muslim fad will die. This is the much longer term, much bloodier choice.

James Becker

At 11:49 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree pretty much with your riff on Hitchen's article.

But I wonder, doesn't your conclusion that Jihadis are more like serial killers than politicians or "insurgents" lend credence to the idea that sometimes terrorists can be fought more effectively as criminals rather than as an army?

Hitchen is an engaging writer, so I can see why people enjoy him, but I think they tend to overlook his frequent rhetorical tricks.

For example, in his summary at the end, he writes:

(1) (...) Bin Ladenism wants not less of this killing and repression but more. Its demand to re-establish the caliphate is a pro-imperialist demand, not an anti-imperialist one.

Where have you come across anyone seriously arguing that Bin Laden wants less killing? Obviously the man is on a murderous rampage. The question is what set him on that course? And while yes, the demand to re-establish the caliphate is in fact pro-ISLAMIC-imperialist, it is also at the same time anti-WESTERN-imperialist.

(2) Random bombings are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of poverty and unemployment and of wider economic dislocation.

He makes it sound like the left is characterizing Jihad as some sort of Black-Power movement. Do you see how he twists the argument here? No one is arguing that Jihadis are "protesting against poverty and unemployment". They don't want "a piece of the pie." They don't want everybody to get a good job with benefits and a higher standard of living. That's clear. The argument is that poverty and unemployment (whatever the cause) provide the soil in which the seeds of Jihadist discontent take root. Is that really such a wild, dangerous concept?

(3) Hinduism is considered by Bin Ladenists to be a worse heresy even than Christianity or Judaism or Shiism, and its adherents, whether in Bali or Kashmir, are fit only for the edge of the sword. So, it is absurd to think of jihadism—which murders the poor and the brown without compunction—as a movement against the rich and the "white."

There he goes again with the Bin Laden as Huey Newton analogy. I wish he would point to someone who has written that Jihadism is a "movement against (only) the rich and the "white.""

Since when did "know thine enemy" become another wacky Quakerish-Ghandified lefty slogan? I think dismissing Jihadists as irrational looneys is unwise and we do so at our peril. Hitchens may be telling the peanut gallery not to think about it, but do you think the military and intelligence communities are following that advice?

I think with bombings like this one in Bali (or any of them really) it is a mistake to think the Jihadis are trying to send some kind of a message (like the church bombers in the South were doing), or acheive any immediate goal (like the abortion clinic bombers were doing), they are really just talking to each other, and to their followers (and potential followers).

I too am REALLY disgusted at the lack of outrage in the muslim world at murderous incidents like these and hope that at some point they will declare enough is enough. I just keep asking myself "when, already"??

At 2:09 PM, October 07, 2005, Blogger Sparky said...

This is absolutely freaky. I was thinking just this morning how the same thinking that blames the US government for all of the worlds problems, that has brought us radicals such as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore has also brought us terrorists, both domestic and foreign: the Unabomber, Eric Rudolph (Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber), Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City), and Osama bin Laden and the whole al Quaeda network with all of their Islamofascist thugs. Then I came here and found that you’ve written about this with more lucidity and in-depth analysis than I could hope for. Excellent work.

I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I think I’ll have to go write some more about this. I think the causes and solutions of disenfranchisement thinking that leads to terrorism and mass murder should be explored in more depth.

At 5:11 PM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unknown Blogger: As always, you ask some interesting questions. My responses:

A person's emotional makeup sometimes has nothing to do with what might be the best choice of method to fight them. Hitler may have been mentally ill, for example, but by the time he was Chancellor of Germany it was way too late to put him in a mental institution-- unfortunately for the rest of the world.

The jihadis share some of the emotional makeup of mass murderers, I believe. But they are not simply mass murderers. They are something quite different in style, method, goals, and their ability to affect other people and recruit them to their cause. Mass murderers don't have a cause; they are generally loners (or, at the most, duos) both in the emotional sense and in the actual sense, and thus they tend to leave no followers--certainly they don't network and recruit on the internet and set up training camps in Afghanistan, nor do they have global political aspirations. So the remedies are quite different, I believe.

In the first Hitchens quote, I think the point he's trying to make is that Bin Laden is an imperialist himself (something the left should condemn him for, but they don't, at least not often). He's not anti-imperialism--he's just anti-Western imperialism.

In Hitchens article he is addressing the left, of which he was (is?) a member. So the rest of the quotes are attempts to counter some of the more extreme beliefs of the left about Al Qaeda, etc., in which those excuses are indeed sometimes made.

At 5:14 PM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing: I know that the Columbine killers, who were mass murderers, did in fact have some aspirations to have a political effect by their actions (their original plan was more grandiose, by the way). But that's quite different from being a worldwide political movement with a global reach, which the jihadis are.

At 6:30 PM, October 07, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

Those interested in this topic should read Ralph Peters, the writer and former Army intelligence officer. He distinguishes between "practical terrorism" which is undertaken to achieve a particular political end, and "apocalyptic terrorism" in which violence becomes an end in its own right.

At 6:54 AM, October 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unknown Blogger: As always, you ask some interesting questions.

Aw, *shucks*! (blush)

A person's emotional makeup sometimes has nothing to do with what might be the best choice of method to fight them.

The thing is, it was not only the emotional make-up of Jihadis that led you to make that comparison, but also the tactics, or rather the "drive" which "leads one to blow up people in bars and restaurants."

The key difference between Hitler and the Jihadis is that Hitler was a madman in charge of an enormous modern army. He invades Poland, you declare war.

By all accounts, Jihadis have no such thing. Sure, "Islamofascism" is, as you say, "a worldwide political movement with a global reach", but it is made up of small groups of individuals working separately from one another, all over the world. It's like declaring war on Tupperware ladies.

We hear alot about "the insurgency" in Iraq, and I think the assumption is that the insurgency = Al Qaeda, for the most part. However The WSJ reported a few days ago that our military leadership estimates Zarqawi and his followers are responsible for only about 10% of insurgent attacks in Iraq. The rest come from any of a dozen or so groups that have nothing (organizationally speaking) to do with Al Qaeda.

At 7:52 AM, October 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The left is always comparing the Iraq conflict to Viet Nam, and I see one similarity, not in George Bush's approach to the problem, but on the left. LBJ & McNamara believed in calibrated response--bomb at a certain level, and you send a "message," which when received by the other side, of course responds in an expected way to the message received. It didn't work. Today, the left believes it can control the other side's responses. Change this policy, abandon this ally, support this foe, remove these troops, and the other side will receive the "message" and respond accordingly. It's inverse LBJ/McNamara, and it won't work now any more than it worked then.

At 10:48 AM, October 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1939, a few months before the start of WWII, Hermann Rauschning published a book about Nazism, "The Revolution of Nihilism: A Warning to the West."
The assumption then was that there was a West to be warned. The question today, I propose gloomily, is how much and what is left of the West? How many in Europe and the USA believe that the West should be saved? How many can tell you what values of the West need to to be conserved, or even what they are? I mean, beyond repeating "democracy" or "freedom" over and over.
Our elite universities have abandoned Western Civilization as the core of their education, our brightest and best snicker at Ancient Athens and guess that our constitutional freedoms are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (A recent survey of the hard-drinking frat boys and gals at Dartmouth.) What's to be warned or preserved?

At 10:55 AM, October 08, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

These words from Goethe seem apt:

"Our friends show us what we can do; our enemies teach us what we must do."

At 11:33 AM, October 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Erasmus, I guess they're not the best and brightest. And a university which lets them in can't be called elite.

Islamofascism is protean. It will take the forms it thinks are useful and it can manage. If it's supported by a nation state which won't stop supporting it, then one way to approach the problem is to war against that nation state. If it takes over a nation state, ditto.

One of the issues with non-democratic Islamic states is in the self-censorship of even thought that the ordinary citizen must force upon himself for fear of being ratted out to the secret police for an unwise observation upon his circumstances. Since living in an Islamic dictatorship is generally really, really bad economically and in terms of personal liberty, the opportunity to say something unwise probably presents itself fairly often. The governments of those states allow the righteous anger of the people expression hate for Israel and the US, and the west.
Even non al Q Islamic dictatorships, even those who won't support the terrorists, thus breed support among their people.

Bush is attempting to drain the swamp. One way in Afghanistan and Iraq, another in Libya. Another in Lebanon (closed out the Homs option by threat), and, using the war to excuse/force more and more contacts with the Gulf states, opening them to outside pressure.
The sight of a heavily-gunned Humvee being driven by a woman with long red hair coming out from under her helmet, while the gunner's blonde hair is only suggested by her skin and blue eyes impresses more than just the men. Contractors insist on transparency. Western civilians want to not be harassed by the old farts of the morals police. And journalists want stories of weird repressive practices to put on the world's newspapers.
And the locals see there might be a better way for them, too.
All one, as the lama used to say.

At 12:27 PM, October 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very impressive--on how many blogs can you find a Goethe quote?

Richard Aubrey: Swamp draining is good, but what I think is getting shoved aside in our WOT and left-right shouting matches is the one about the kind of society we want to build and prepare for in this country: economically, socially, culturally. Will we be more like a South American country (Argentina, Brazil, with their two-tier structure of rich and underclass and a small middle as a buffer between the two tiers)? What will become of the Anglo-Saxon and European heritage that shaped our culture? To whom does this still matter? After years of draining foreign swamps to save our country, what will we have saved?
Huntington and others have tried to open up such a discussion, but after a few reviews and exchanges in small-circulation magazines, we go back to news as entertainment and public discourse as personality clashes.
When you read a publication like "New Criterion," the overwhelming feeling you come away with is that thoughtful conservatives have given up on the culture war. Perhaps they concentrated too much on the offenses by leftists and not enough on crimes of dumbness and shallowness.

At 7:48 AM, October 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I favor western civ, especially the USA variety.
As, I think, Walter Williams said, not even the most fervent multicultis really want Mexican cops answering their 911 call, or have a Wahhabi gynecologist see their teenage daughter, or a PRC obstetrician their pregnant wife, or a Somali warlord ruling the US.
But they can't help themselves in the power of the self-loathing and hate for the west.

We fought a pretty sizable war in the early forties, and the society didn't turn out to be that bad. Most of the problems following it (garrison state, etc.) are attributable to the Cold War.
This war has a vanishingly small part of the GDP. Compared to many years of peace when the DOD cost us considerabley more as percentage of GDP.
Whether we get a tiered country a la Brazil (and when did the mellow, multiracial, laid-back Brazil get to be a BAD example?) or not has to do with other things than the WOT. Unless we lose. If al Q pops a nuke in an American city, the complainers about the Patriot Act will have a lot more to worry about than they do now. Also the relatives of the late residents of whatever Middle Eastern city just ceased to exist.

The economic future of the US is always about to fail. Sort of like the dark night of fascism is always descending toward the US--and would get here, too, if it didn't keep stopping in Europe.

There are three items here. One is that the folks over sixty-five dispose of a stupendous amount of money which, if it doesn't go to nursing homes, will make a huge number of the current middle-agers considerably more well-off than they are today. And, since the latter are probably managing to eat on a regular basis, they won't have to save the windfall under the mattress but will spend it, fueling the mulitplier effect, making lots more people prosperous. Some will leave some to the current youngsters just getting started, who will also not need to put it in the sock.
Those who are not so blessed will still have an opportunity to get the filthy lucre as it's spent.

The amountof discretionary income floating around almost without accounting is enormous. Why else would you be able to induce huge numbers of people to, effectively, put four bucks in the shredder to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks? Or why would a middle-class, or lower middle class teenager have the money to get her nails done every two or three weeks?
I recall the goodies I brought to college. I was right in the middle. I had a desk lamp and a small radio. Today....too long to list. But it's not new. It's reproducing the home amenities, the absence of which would not result in death by starvation or exposure.
Do you know how many CDs can fit in the usual CD holder? A hundred? And many kids I know, and homes I visit in my business, have those filled.
The money we spend on unnecessary crap may annoy the Calvinists among us, but it does not indicate any but the poorest lack resources.
And then, the more you look into it, the more you see the poorest are where they are because of poor behavior choices (drop out of school, get pregnant before marriage, criminal record) or the bad behavior choices of those around them (abandonment, crime in the neighborhood).
You perhaps noticed during the pix of the NO evacuations, how many of the evacuees had eaten themselves into near-immobility.
Our society is so prosperous that bad luck and bad economic luck don't put people permanently into the ranks of the poor. Even the laid-off from manufacturing find themselves working again. They may not be as well off as before, or they may be better off.
The rusting, heavily-unionized industries survived by a combination of force. Other manufuacturing jobs are going nicely. But the AFL-CIO, and the UAW get the ink and the congresscritters.
Anyway, we'll probably fail ourselves into even more prosperity, but whatever happens, it won't be because of the chump change we're using in the WOT

At 11:33 AM, October 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey + neo

You wrote in post # 28 about the "power of the self-loathing and hate for the west."

I have yet to see a thorough and convincing study (psycho-history?) of this phenomenon in Europe and the USA. Sure, some analyses of why intellectuals and/or academics drifted into this, but not why it became so strong and wide among middle-class, educated people.
Now, say you're a German-Jewish physician who survived Buchenwald, but whose parents were gassed by the Germans, siblings put on a train East by the French,uncle refused entry into the USA on a refugee ship...yes, he could say "If this is the West, if this is the result of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, then I loathe what it has produced."
But for a 25-year-old American grad student from Shaker Heights, who knows and understands little about European history and German "culture," where does his dismissal of or indifference to the west come from? Guilt? I doubt it. Ignorance and the constant search for comfort, maybe.
I'm not sure I'd say self-loathing and hate are still key ingredients of this phenom. They were for the white liberals post-WWII. What we have now is just indifference. They see nothing relevant in the history of western civilization. World War Two might as well be World War One or the Napoleonic wars.
I think there's no way out of this. America will come through, but as what? A Northern Brazil? Not "bad," as you say, laid-back and tolerant. But what of that energy, curiosity, those western ideas in conflict, those things that made Paris or Berlin or London so exciting? Going, going, gone...
The West is tired out. I suppose that is the fate of civilizations.

Id'd still like to see a solid book.

At 6:57 PM, October 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll try, looking at multicultis.
People try for distinction. People like to feel special.
As, I think, neo put it, conspiracy theories make it possible to know more than anybody else without having to do the work.

Those who despise western civ do so knowing intellectually that indoor plumbing really is superior and cholera is not such a nice annual visitor and so forth.
But if they admitted that to themselves, they'd be admitting they're like all the untermenschen, rednecks, patriots, capitalists, Norman Rockwell types.
Therefore, they must do the opposite. Wherever it leads them. I saw this on campus in the Sixties.

Now, rational or even partly rational people can't believe all this crap out of whole cloth. So they get and make and circle rationalizations. The genocide of the Native Americans and an idealized of view of the pre-Columbian lifestyle. The evil of big corporations overseas, which they are careful to avoid detailing, since that would ruin things.
The lefty profs are not the entire answer, but they sure help.
Upperclassmen and grad students who take advantage of the appalling ignorance of even superior high school graduates and their desperate need to feel "in" with the intellectuals. The older types get to eff around with younger students' minds. Power.
Lousy history and MSM reporting.
And a vicious sense that unfair disputation is the way to victory. If shouting down somebody who knows better than you is acceptable, then you don't hear things you don't like. If somebody can be found to feign offense at the prospect of a conservative speaker or club or column in the student paper, that's fine. Works.

I think that most of them get over it, but unfortunately, a disproportionate share get positions in which their opinions can influence public discourse.

At 8:14 AM, October 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever happens to the US isn't going to be the fault of the WOT, unless we lose.
But if you dislike the WOT, you can blame if for stuff that hasn't happened yet and be considered wise.

I was not being serious when I mentioned Brazil being an example.
"Multiracial", for example, is a mystery. What it means, exactly, is not defined. Rigorously not defined. If all it means is that there are many people of different races, then the US is multiracial. But nobody ever says that of the US. "Multiracial" is vaguely much nicer than and different from the US.
But that isn't true. I've had much to do with Latin Americans, including Brazilians, through travel, AFS exchange student programs, and family friends of, now, three generations in Mexico.
The upper crust is always European in phenotype.
I went to a wedding of a kid we'd had when she was in sixth grade. The families are well-off and well-connected. The reception was a sit-down dinner for six hundred and fifty. Each table had a couple of guys whose job was to make sure you never saw the bottom of your glass. The only people who looked Mexican were the help.

When a Brazilian kid (Scandinavian skin and brown hair and eyes) was graduating from a nearby high school, I talked with her parents (Brazil, not US). Ditto with the European look. Her dad was a physician
He asked me why American girls played soccer. To be strong, competitive, get some hitting. He was surprised. We apparently think Brazil is sophisticated with regard to women because they don't wear much on the beach or something. Nope.
Probably 95% of the kids from south of the Rio Grande who came to our area as exchange students were indistinguishable from Europeans.

In 1987, I went to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to see about my church's position on the war(s). (Picture the SDS with seminary degrees.)
Without fail, the leaders, even of the informal groups, had little or no Indian phenotype.
I heard it said, and I believe it could be true, that the reason the Sandalistas favored the FMLN in El Salvador was that the Salvadoran soldiers--not the officers--were Indian. Small, dark men with expressionless faces, armed, looking at you with impenetrable obsidian eyes. The urban resistance was European looking. More comfortable.
So, just to make one point, the idea of "multiracial" is bogus.

I really think Brazil would be a bad example, but I find it interesting to see a liberal think so, too.

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