Thursday, November 30, 2006

integral esotercisim pt2

Alan writes the following (summarizing his disagreements with Wilber):

Points of Disagreement:
--its restrictive exoteric (sect 1-ii) and agnostic (sect. 1-viii) perspective, which means that it cannot acknowledge or understand esoteric or occult realities without trying to water them down to serve the needs of some sort of pseudo-academic respectability (TLDI 2-ii - 2-iii), kow-towing to the standards of the present-day consensus paradigm, or buying into physical-mind-derived (sect. 1-ix) scepticism or limitation of insight
--and a widespread naïvity and religious and devotional attitude among many but by no means all of its representatives and members towards (pseudo-)spiritual and often abusive (TLDI 2-iv) authority figures.
--Wilberanity, by which I mean Ken Wilber as a religion: Wilber fundamentalism (sect. 1-xi) and the religious-devotional worship of Wilber himself as a bodhisattva or enlightened being (TLDI 2-x) (an attitude of excessive religiosity that Wilberians themselves show good humour in
referring to as "Wilberitis").

It's a good summation of Kazlev's views.

As to points 2 and 3, those are more moral-practical questions not necessarily theoretical in nature. As even Alan admits, not everyone who follows AQAL is a devotee of abusive gurus--which is codeword for Adi Da and Andrew Cohen. Wilber recommends reading their works, meditating on their ideas--which I think if we are advocating truly open and free integral thought than how could we not?--without advising becoming members of the community. Again, let the reader decide as s/he sees fit.

Certainly there is a great deal I agree with in terms of people who have unhealthy absorption in the messenger (Wilber) over the message (post-metaphysical integral). And as to the devotee question, I leave that up to the reader. I would highlight one (under the rubric of what Alan calls Wilber fundamentalism): taking the map for the territory (mean yellow/turquoise meme). Particularly this shows up in individuals reading Wilber's works as an end to thinking and not a beginning. Instead of giving them capacity to delve more deeply into thought, Wilber's version of any teacher, teaching, system because he said so. Wilber may be right (I often think he is) but he isn't right because he's Ken Wilber. He's right, if so, because he's right, because the analysis is sound, clarifying, illuminating.

But beyond all that, the issue I am interested in is point #1.

And back to esotericism. Alan writes:

As used in this essay, "Esoteric" refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or "wisdom tradition" that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge, is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness.

In post-metaphysical AQAL integral there are states and stages of consciousness. The states of consciousness if practiced through life and awoken to our become state-stages. States may or may not have an influence on promoting stage growth--perhaps in certain lines (cognitive)--although I'm less sanguine on that reality than Wilber. But either way, the point is that a simple dichtomy between esoteric and exoteric religion breaks down at a certain point.

A state/stage distinction allows more flexibility and conceptual power in my estimation. Kazlev writes that AQAL states that religion is exoteric blue and then jumps to scientistic orange. Only if seen from an exoteric/esoteric split. First off for p/m integral there are multiple stages of faith--the conveyor belt imagery, so there is orange, green, teal, turquoise, violet, etc. religion. And states at each of those stages--what Wilber calls horizontal enlightenment. And one awakens to those or not at each level and affects deeply how that level feels, what emerges, while the stage itself helps shape the experience itself--how experience is interpreted. Not to mention the other quadratic factors.

So Muslim fundamentalism might be exoteric and Sufism esoteric, but classical Sufi mystics tended to still accept many of the dominant Islamic revelation-"exoteric" teachings: the seal of all revelation in Islam, Muhammad flying past Moses and Jesus during his mystical trip to the third heaven as proof of him as the Seal of the Prophets. Not to mention their de facto assumption of the Islamic imperial regime.

And there is nothing particular about Islam in that. Meister Eckhart considered by many to be the greatest nondual Christian mystic still said repeatedly that all Muslims and Jews (and even Christian schismatics/heretics) were going to hell.

An exoteric/esoteric split does not give room to explain how these individuals could both be experiencing mystical wisdom and still have it translated through blue-meme mythic frames. A state/stage distinction does.

To me what Alan has done is confused the map as psychoactive (pointing to actual dimension-perspectives and simply begging people to take those perspectives, follow the appropriate methodologies/exemplars with the recognized communities of the adequate) versus the map as final reality. Many others who are pro-the map make this mistake. At least Alan actually practices and reads on his own.

The AQAL map only places markers to remind people to take perspectives. When it says state-stages or states of consciousness that it no one way reduces or even explains or gives access to nor what those realities are from within. Words like states, state-stages are just signifiers if their referents are not contacted, then Alan is right, it is the colonization of the spiritual by the mental which can not handle the mystical. The inner wisdom of spirit.

But for me that is the difference, which I stress repeatedly in my writings on this subject, between what (as I see it) post-metaphysical AQAL is and how it is used and sadly in many abused.

But that is a key difference between the two of us. AQAL is only a relative truth and therefore is never the Absolute, but the Absolute is nothing other than the ground/essence of relative truth, so having the best relative truth we can is important.

But even further AQAL only gives rise at its best to a turquoise or (low?)indigo worldspace. It is the wisdom of the centaur and will have its own version--as its best--of interpreting the states that will later be negated, elements thereof preserved.

And Alan's point about the lack of discussion in AQAL circles of the Psychic Being (Soul) in Aurobindo is valuable here I think. With the proviso that we are starting to see indigo/violet as co-constructed stages (again those are just signifiers not reducers) that are not set but are going to be shaped in part by the perspectives taken. Which is not the same as New Age talk about creating your own reality. Because the individual is only creating, as it were, at most 1/4 of their own reality. And even then there is no such thing as "yourself" but rather your-selves, up and down and across your own psychograph many with varying even conflicting agendas/missions "creating' multiple realities simultaneously in conjunction with all others.

In another way though esoteric can refer not only to mystical wisdom but to paranormal capacities. And here is one element where more Aurobindian emphasis would be helpful. In Integral Spirituality Wilber says that Mike Murphy's Future of the Body is the best book on the subject (which I agree, it is magisterial in my view) but that since it does not have a method for seeing the ways in which even paranormal capacities are (in part) co-constructed by the intersubjective spaces it is not given attention.

As an example, only Western Catholic mystics receive the stigmata: the physical wounds of Christ's resurrection on their bodies. And interestingly they do so on their palms typically because devotional paintings (the culture, LL) of the era depict the nails going through Jesus' hands. Modern scientific research shows that crucifixion nails went throught the wrists. They would not have held and ripped the hands apart if on the palms. The palms were not strong enough to hold the body up to be crucified. Modern scientific types (right-hand absolutists) say this proves that the stigmata are false. But of course the point is that they are influenced by the religious-cultural construction not the scientific evidence.

And again notice that is is only Western Catholic mystics and not Eastern Orthodox Christian mystics who receive the stigmata--and not all Catholic mystics do. Mysticism is union with God, stigmata is a paranormal manifestation. The Eastern Orthodox meditate on the Transfiguration of Chrsit on the Mountain and surprise, surprise their typical paranormal manifestation is radiant faces--they become walking icons, the most important devotional aspect of Eastern Orthodox Christian theology. Not to mention that none of them have visions of Krishna or the Buddha, nor Buddhists stigmata. Think that coincidence is just because of esoteric knowledge only?

AQAL Integral does leave room for what have been called paranormal capacities. It just wants to see the introduction of more sophisticated technology to test these claims (modern, right-hand) as well as recognition of the ways in which they are shaped by technology, economics, culture-religion (postmodern, lower left/right).

When we do not recognize the postmodern inter-subjective nature of truth construction, then esoteric paranormal as well as meta-physical realities simply have to be stated as truths. The only argument is the argument from authority. The authorities in his case being principally Aurobindo and the Mother.

And of course there is always more in this world than is ever dreamt up in our philosophies. The authorities may be right. Certain mystics may be gifted with sight that blows open systems. The agnosticism inherent in post-metaphysics should not become a closing off or de facto assumption of negation as to these realities. But nevertheless we have to live with choices and at the end of the day we have to work with our minds, so for general purposes of bringing spirituality back into the world (which is a deep passion of mine and not to be dismissed I think as "pseudo-academic respectability" so easily) I find it the beginning of the way forward. The beginning, not the final word, but certainly a new plateau from which to explore and work, with adjustments and additions no dobut to come.

We always have to be drawing boundaries. There are many spiritual seekers from different traditions who either do not believe outright or don't care about such realities. They care more about waking up, following what we already know and practice to that, and living with love in this world. As Alan calls for the acceptance of esotericism in integral, are these folks out? Will esoteric belief be demaned and imposed on all integralists?

AQAL post-metaphysics tries for me to build a bridge--in practice I don't know how well it succeeds--it can be applied by those who definitely do not hold to estoericism and well as those who do. Post-metaphysics is not New Age in my experience, in my practice. There's my boundary drawing. I think post-metaphysics calls for a deep letting go of the certainty that comes with an perennialist metaphysical (even New Age esoteric) position. It is to be stripped in many many ways and be left with less baggage as we journey in this world. The real question is of the baggage that is let go--was it unnecessary or essential. Likely some of both, but perhaps more of one than the other. That is the question that gives the answer to what position one takes more than anything else I find.

Part of this of course is a matter of personal choice and intuition on the path. For myself I do believe in the existence of life after death (as does Wilber btw) though I think it is a rather unimportant issue. At least while we are alive we should be alive. As Jesus said, this day has enough evil of its own; no need to worry about tomorrow or even future lives.

I think a little more emphasis on paranormal, bodily evolution could help, but would be on a spectrum not as strong (I suspect) as Alan. So I think there is something still really valuable in Alan's writings on the subject, particularly as he, like Aurobindo, stresses so much spiritual practice and exploration/experimentation. From the point of view I maintain, Alan may discover truths that would otherwise go unknown because his view allows him to. Even though there are some fundamental differences in spiritual philosophy, those truths whatever they may be, I would bet, could be re-formatted and fitted into a post-metaphysical frame. [Which is why even if someone holds a post-metaphysical spiritual view, s/he can still learn from AK's writings].

But whatever, if one does accept such a position than Alan is a wonderful guide. Even if one doesn't accept a more metaphysical view--as I don't--I still find I learn much from his writings.

And one more thing I forgot to mention. Alan does a good job of reclaiming some oft-forgotten names in the integral pantheon: Haskell, Thompson. He linked to my post on integralisms awhile back on openintegral. Check it out here. His list of thinkers is far more extensive and much better than mine.

estoeric integralism pt1

Another post in the thread on multiple integralisms. Alan Kazlev's integral esotericism. He has multiple posts on Visser's Integralworld site--click on his name under Reading Room link.

First off, the action is always in the difference, so while I focus on my differences vis a vis Alan's writings, I want to say I think he is a very intelligent soul. And there are a great deal of things we share in common--care for and dedication to the spiritual path probably being foremost. So the differences, whlie they do exist and are even fairly substantial I would say are not so different that we are completely worlds apart.

Alan refers to his position as Neo-Aurobindian. This title refers to his deep admiration and mystical connection to the writings/vision of the great masters of Pondicherry Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If you have never read any Aurobindo, I can't recommend it enough. The Life Divine is one of the greatest spiritual texts ever written.

Alan has correctly stated that Aurobindo's primary vision is about divinization of matter--what Aurobindo called the Descent of Supermind. The infusing of the spiritual into every crevice of the material world, lighting up the whole realiity.

Aurobindo did create a spiritual map/system and Wilber has criticized what he considers the partial elements of the map. Alan does not accept this criticism, but it is really important to remember that Aurobindo did focus principally on spiritual awakening and embodiment (what Aurobindo called integral yoga).

And it is important to remember that Aurobindo did not come from the Vedanta-Shankara-Ramana strain of Advaita Hinduism, but rather the Vedic-Upanishads. Aurobindo's spiritual practice was his writing, but his writings involve deeply devotional writings. And Wilber in his own spiritual life has been influenced more by Zen, Ramana, and Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism--though he does practice tonglen and deity yoga--and Wilber doesn't speak about Aurobindo's devotional writings. Not that I have no room in his integral scheme; just doesn't emphasize it. Michael Murphy is the Aurobindo devotee of the group.

Keeping in mind all of that, Aurobindo still has translated his spiritual insights into mental categories. And those interpretations are open to judgment, while not in any way criticizing Aurobindo's spiritual genius.

Which is what Wilber has done, particularly in his latest phase of writing post-metaphysics (Wilber-5). The key argument of Wilber's is that the higher stages/levels of consciousness are not pre-set but rather tetra-constructed through kosmic patterning. The tetra-construction is part of Wilber's assertion that the quadrants go all the way up and down through the Kosmos. In other words, for Wilber material objective world (3rd person objective pov) co-arise with the subjective. Wilber describes consciousness as being intra-physical (co-arising) to the material world, not meta-physical. As well as, following his (Wilber's) argument that spirituality has failed by not being able to answer the postmodern constructivist, contextualist nature of postmodern philosophy (the lower quadrants, particularly left intersubjective one).

Aurobindo, Wilber argues, had his stages of consciousness already set and the Descent of the Supermind was therefore a meta-physical reality. Aurobindo did unite nonduality with an evolutionary worldview, but one in which for Wilber the steps are already established, all we do is walk through them. There is more to it than that--at least in terms of the super-divinization of the planet--but that characterization is not I think as it is incorrect. Just again doesn't emphasize as much as Aurobindo did what happens when the end point is reached.

Along with meta-physical stages of consciousness for Aurobindo (and Alan K) there are esoteric realities. [More on that later].

For post-metaphysics it is not that one has to believe in the non-existence of metaphysical realities: e.g. heaven/hell, reincarnation, etc. Post-metaphysics is agnostic on the question of metaphysical issues. One is free to believe them or not as long as one admits that there is no proof--even comparable to the proof of phenomenological mystical evidence for this life--as to the existence, just as there is no proof against their existence as well. But for Kazlev (and Visser too I think) post-metaphysical is really more like anti-metaphysical and therefore by their lights physicalist, reductionist, and psychologizing. Post-metaphysical spirituality, in their view, essentailly throws up its hands and surrenders to the flatland world of modernism.

What we do know is that leading with such metaphysical realities is a complete non-starter in the world. I see post-metaphysics more in the light of wise evangelism adapted to the situation of the day rather than a final declaration of all reality.

Post-metaphysics is not a denail of supra-physical realities as Alan states but rather a bracketing of the question in phenomenological style. Post-metaphysics may be wrong--although since it does not take a position formally on the matter either way don't know how it could be considered wrong--but it may be unhelpful, it may have misread the need for adapting itself to the modern and postmodern worlds. That could be and people have to think these things through and make decisions for themselves. But I'd rather they do so with the right information at hand.

in the next section, i'll look more closely at Alan's main criticisms and his own esoteric integral thought.

Update on Bush's Unassail Isolation

The Baker-Hamilton Study Group has perhaps already deflated before its announcement.

It did not call for a timeline; The Democrats (Obama, Reed, Levin) are now rallied around this position. So the Democrats don't totally buy it.

And Bush, at least according his recent press statement is staying the course.

The Democratic talking point has already been decided upon--saw just now with a Dem. consultant on Joe Scarborough. The Dem. consultant Rich Masters said, I'm paraphrasing here: "We set dates: a date for the elections, a date for Constitution, and they followed through." So the Democrats are now using the constitution and elections timetable. Bush is so isolated now and the Republicans on the downslide that the Dems can co-opt Bush "successes" (whether they were successes or not, the elections intensified the sectarian divisions).

The Republican strategist was even harder on Bush than the Democratic one. This is going to be the trend. The Republicans are fast becoming Bush's biggest problem/enemy, the Democrats running a close second.

Bush's Unassilable Isolation

Bush Dismisses Calls for Drawdown in Iraq, reports the NYTimes.

NSA Condi Rice stooge Stephen Hadley's leaked memo that questioned the strength of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Moqtada al-Sadr's political appointees who Maliki is beholden to, has temporarily left the government in protest of Maliki's visit with Bush in Amman, Jordan.

I'm more concerned than I was a week ago that Bush will not listen to any of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. He will not, I fear, diplomatically engage Syria and Iran, nor move the American presence towards training and away from insurgency fighting, tamping down of sectarian violence. He will become increasingly isolated, particularly within his own party, and the domestic discourse will turn venomous.

We are at a point where we can not win under the Stay the Course model and any option of drawing down is going to give rise to a massive uptick in violence. I think we are only delaying and the inevitable the longer we stay. And this will be on our nation's conscience.

Whatever the political discourse in the US, our Army is deeply broken as an institution because of this war and can not sustain a 140,000 troop level for another 2 years. For Bush to drawdown means in some way or other he has to admit he was wrong. And I just don't see that happening. The only evidence to the contrary was how days before canning Rumsfield he publicly supported him. Theoretically he could do the same with the drawdown but I just don't see it.

Bush just doesn't f--king get it. He should have fired Condi and Hadley simultaneous to Rumsfield. They have failed and are continuing to fail with their pathetic replay of trying to take down Iran. They give no public anyway, understanding, that the primary issue is the daily rising of violence and instability.

This is one moment where our form of government is not helping the situation. When in an election in whch Bush himself was essentially defeated, he stays in power and technically (other than Democrats pulling the purse strings) can't be held accountable for this failed post-Saddam policy. It is very hard for me to imagine anyone being able to screw things up as badly as Bush has in this second term. The Constiution was written with a powerful legislative and fairly weak and isolationist-intending (George Washington's influence) executive. World events have moved the power to the executive and given that it was not the important branch at the founding, it's roles were not as clearly spelled out. Which has allowed over the centuries the executive to aggregate power unto itself. Bush is simply the (il)logical fruition of that movement. Especially when Congress has passed laws and Bush refuses to follow them with his executive signing orders. He is really unaccountable. He doesn't even care about his own political party which I thought would have been enough to force him to amend slightly. He can't be held accountable in this life.

I'm very very concerned he is going to pass the responsibility off on this one.

Nevertheless back to the events the even greater fear is the fallout from this rising violence. I don't know if even James Baker can prevent that now.

Saudi Arabia has quietly strengthened itself in the recent years but this new violence could upset that new strength. As soon as the US draws down, Saudi Arabia will enter to stem the rising influence of Iran. This could push the two towards war, with Israel acting as an interesting 3rd party.

Syria and Iran have obviously been strengthened, particularly the latter, in the wake of the Hussein and Taliban fall.

The two ME countries that have changed the least and therefore I fear are the most vulnerable are Egypt and Jordan. Hosni Mubarak is getting old and is clearly wanting to pass the reins on to his son who adroitly from a political sense is calling for Egypt to get a nuclear weapon. But Egypt has stayed out of the press recently but they are very vulnerable I think. I think their relative physical distance from Iraq has given them (falsely) the hope that they can keep out of these trends.

And Jordan. Jordan's King Abdullah could very well be their last king ever. He is young and could rule for quite sometime or be a figure of transition. But there also deep questions about Jordan as this recent trip has highlighted.

Of the two I still think Egypt is the more vulnerable, but Jordan has the challenge of being right next door to this Frankenstein's monster that is growing out of control as well as the pincer movement of Israel acting unilaterally and the rising Shia crescent (Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria).

Iraqi Exiles

A great piece on OpenSourceRadio on a very little covered story in Iraq--the massive refugee crisis and exodus to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran.

The piece interviews an Iraqi refugee who blogs here. It is truly heartbreaking to hear her story of fleeing to Jordan.

Nir Rosen, author of the best book on Iraq (in English) on the situation on the ground in Iraq is interviewed. His analysis is quite bleak and has been since the beginning.

Something like 8-10% of Iraq has left since the war (that would be in American terms 25-30 million fleeing the US in 3/4 years).

The richest have left long ago and the exodus now is more middle class. The US it seems has been putting influence to not call these groups refugees. Therefore they have no refugee camps, rights, or international advocacy in their new countries.

These groups may become radicalized due to lack of food, water, education, and job opportunities. Rosen calls them a new nation of Palestinians who won't really ever be able to return to Iraq. He sees these groups as people who "won't forget." Don't know what I think about this assertion but extremely dark if true. What I do think likely is they could form a fedayeen fighters based out of Jordan, if not Syria, who will continue to attack the Iraqi (soon to be Shia) government.

And that exodus is only perhaps half of the displacement. The other half is internal displacement. Neighborhoods are being cleansed and have been since the fall of Saddam. Shias fleeing to the Eastern Baghdad neighborhoods and the South; the Sunnis to W. Baghdad and Anbar. Christians are targeted, Turkomens, Iraqi Shia who supported the Baath party, secular types, anyway with money, Shia, Sunni, whatever.

Criminality, sectarian death squads, insurgency, occupation army. As one American soldier in Basra said, This is a war between gangs and we (the American army) are just the biggest gang. The US Army estimates something like 40-50 people are kidnapped daily, the ransom money helping to fund the insurgency and militias.

The key is none of these groups can win and can not topple the central government as long as the American stays. But their existence stops the US and the cetnral government from ever gaining control either.

As Newsweek has said Moqtada al-Sadr is perhaps the single most powerful man in the country. But even he can not control even his own militia, which nevertheless has exploded recentliy. Sadr's Mahdi Army now comprises 40-60,000 people. The Iraqi Army (battle ready to fight without the US battalions) is 10,000.

It is not a civil war in the traditional sense between two armies. The key issue is the devolution of power to the local (Global Guerillas), their ability to self-finance through global black market. There are wars within wars within wars within conflicts within Iraq.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saudis will intervene in Iraq

Important piece from Saudi advisor to Amb. Turki al-Faisal (himself the smoothest of operators) Nawaf Obaid.

If you want to know what King Abdullah said to VP Cheney in Riyadh last week, bet your back side it was something of the following:

One consequence of American withdrawal on American timeline will be: "massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."

Here's the key passage:

Because King Abdullah has been working to minimize sectarian tensions in Iraq and reconcile Sunni and Shiite communities, because he gave President Bush his word that he wouldn't meddle in Iraq (and because it would be impossible to ensure that Saudi-funded militias wouldn't attack U.S. troops), these requests have all been refused. They will, however, be heeded if American troops begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene.

The Saudis will start funding Sunni militias as self-defense and hopefully move to pincer the AQ in Iraq groups (which they certainly don't want next door).

There have been a chorus of voices arguing that engagement with Syria and Iran is no good bc they are the ones stirring trouble in Iraq. The Saudis will be as soon as the American starting drawing down troops levels (or even moving to more secure locations and work on training Iraqi Army). The whole argument about not talking to Iran and Syria then isn't about as short term and tunnel visioned as whether nor not that can stop violence in Iraq (less than we would hope I suppose) but the long term creation of a regional security and re-made Middle East.

The Iraqi Army is going to become essentially an all-Shia and Kurd institution once this happens--basically already is but the Sunnis are going to walk out on this goverment I imagine within 3 months give or take. The Saudis quietly have been undergoing a massive re-vamp of their military, education, and especially security. They have come to realize their long co-option of radical Islamic elements (since '73 when King Faisal allowed such elements in to the Saudi mosques and teaching faculties) has backfired and they need to extricate themselves from this relatonship. Their efforts in Iraq will win them praise from conservative ulemma (scholars) and tribal leaders who they hope to use to isolate the more radical elements I think.

The need for a regional security umbrella is the only thing that the Americans can still do positively in the region: prevent an all out regional war. The biggest gain that could come out of America's pullout and loss of prestige in the ME is that Iran and Saudi Arabia finally step up to the plate, get over their historic riff--and here Syria can become the kingmaker--and finally take up the work of securing their own region. America to be a good arbiter will have to come to security agreements with Iran. Turkey would of course be involved and for good behavior the carrot would EU membership.

That is the positive outlook. Not guaranteed by a long shot--Israel as the unknown X Variable in this whole equation--and even if it does come around it will be bloody in the meantime.

Hat tip to WashingtonNote for this one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christian Coalition in trouble

Their in-coming President Elect has decided to leave (before taking office). Read here.

His reason? According to the article he wanted to expand the agenda of the Coalition beyond abortion and gay marriage to (you might have guessed) poverty and the environment. I.e. in addition to not substitution for.

Christian Coalition is Pat Robertson's group. Robertson has been isolated for among other thing recently: saying Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans bc of their sin; the US should assassinate Hugo Chavez; and Ariel Sharon had a heart attack bc God was pissed he gave away the Gaza Strip.

The Moral Majority (Jerry Falwell's organization) is suffering right now. Ralph Reed, the golden boy of the movement in the 90s lost his bid for Lt. Gov of his homestate in the last election.

The National Evangelical Alliance within the last few weeks saw its Leader (Rev. Ted Haggard) accused of having ilicit sexual affairs plus drug use with a gay prostitue.

Not to mention the Republicans loss in the midterm elections.

In fact the only real hard core member of that crew left is Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. He is increasingly isolated and is himself very disappointed with the Republican party.

And now this. Yikes--bad year all around.

As I've said before I sense the evangelicals will return in cyclical fashion as per their history to a movement back towards personal conversion and social justice/mission and away from political involvement. [e.g. after the Scopes Monkey trial].

What evangelicals theologically have always known--in their best moments--is that political power corrupts and that humans are tempted by sin. Maybe they have forgotten their own wisdom for a bit--some anyway. Perhaps now a more honest humble recognition of needing to return to their core principles is in order.

Pope's Visit to Turkey

Interesting news out of Istanbul.

Pope Benedict has signaled his support for Turkey's bid to the European Union. Prior to his election (when Cardinal Ratzinger), he opposed Turkey's entrance. So, one good thing has now come out of the whole German-speech debacle.

Pressure is rising against Turkey's entrance--fear of Muslims being only one of many issues involved. Denying Turkey's bid would I think send a shivering effect and isolate Western Europe even further. The same voices that call W.Europe leftist secularism to the carpet--particularly right-wing voices in US--are the ones that need to be most vociferously supporting Turkey's entrance. That is if conservatives still believe that free markets are the best form of economics. Sometimes liberals for a variety of reasons show more trust in markets in terms of foreign policy than conservative elements, who are afraid (I think) of Islamic infiltration to the West.

Turkey's governing party is Islamist is the secular republic of Turkey. But they are actually a good example--as opposed to Hamas--of how an Islamist party can go about ruling in a conservative but not authoritarian sense. Cutting them out sends exactly the wrong signal--Europe is ghettozing itself and wants out. Combinations of conservative anti-globalization left wingers with nationalistic right (Europe-only) elements. Not a good combo especially given Europe's history of flirtation with far right and far left elements.

Cutting out Turkey of the EU would send the same signal that cutting off the funding to Hamas sent. All Islamist groups, by Western standards, are verboten. This is suicide. And I use that word on purpose, as in there will be more suicide/homicide bombings if carried through.

Hopefully HH Benedict's support will sway opinion in (what I think is) the right direction--although I'm honsetly a bit doubtful.

Hoagland's Heroes

Hat tip to Thomas Barnett for this one.

Brilliant op-ed by Jim Hoagland from WashingtonPost. Title has got it perfectly: Right Vision, Wrong Policy.

Right vision for Bush on ME, wrong policy. Says it all in a nutshell. Why the Democrats (minus Biden) offer nothing. They do not recognize the right vision only criticize the wrong policy. Republicans will now be the real bane for Bush as they want out before '08 election cycle. My worry is that the right vision will fall with Bush's inept policy and execution.

The piece involves a sharp and correct rebuke to the realist school of George HW Bush--Brent Scowcroft in particular, also Jim Baker III, and soon to be SecDef Robert Gates. What the realists did do well was the transition after the Soviet collapse--unification of Germany against Margaret Thatcher's early hesitation and the Madrid Conference which brought Jordan (and should have Syria) to recognize Israel. Both of those Baker initiatives.

On the negative side--they never handled the issue of our alliances with Sunni autocrats and gave us the isolation policy towards Iran (they move towards bomb) and the no fly/embargo on Iraq (killing children).

Key quote--my emphasis:

But even Baker will have to struggle to keep the faux realism of conventional thinking on the Middle East from making the study group's report instantly irrelevant. There was a time when let's-pretend policies -- championing regional or international peace conferences doomed to go nowhere, or naming special U.S. envoys to give Arab rulers a bone to toss to their publics -- usefully bought time, even though they were anything but realistic for the long term. For better and for worse, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, and the bloody breakdown of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians have accelerated a profound radicalization of the Middle East that had already been unleashed by the pressures of globalization. Trying to get back to the 1990s is another bridge to nowhere.

What I've always credited George W. Bush (43) with doing correctly was realizing that the old order in the ME was falling. Hoagland agrees but what according to him:

Bush's going on the defensive does not mean that the radical positive changes he had hoped for cannot come about on their own, even if on a different timetable and with much greater costs than he ever imagined. True realism lies in recognizing that his diagnosis of a crumbling order in the Middle East was sound, even if his prescriptions were not.

Whether or not the problem was the prescription (the war itself) is arguable, but what is not whether pro/anti invasion was the execution and total (and I'm mean TOTAL) mismanagement of the post Saddam fall occupation.

Bush has never gotten to realize that what is arising in the new Middle East is not secular democracy but the following:

--Iran and the Shia more generally. Even with rigged elections the Shia party gained 50% of the Parliamentary seats in Bahrain this week. Bahrain. Not Iran.
--Islamism. Not all Islamists are created equal. Some are amenable to economic openness and more or less regional stability.

Bush and particularly Condi Rice in her dual roles as previous NSA and now SecState have failed in not getting on with the business of deal-making with the new order that is arising and accelerated by the Saddam ouster.

The realists who are coming back will never get to be as completely amoral as they were at their worst from the 70s-90s. As Hoagland said, the real realism is visionary: to see the ME old order crumbling and get on with actually strategically placing ourselves to do this the best we can with the crazy transition that is only going to intensify in the coming years. Buckle up folks, gonna be a wild ride.

anbar lost

This report from the WashingtonPost is profoundly disturbing. It's a summary of a recently declassified internal Marine memo detailing how the Marine Corps now admits they can not win in Anbar (the Western Sunni province).

The beginning says it all--read the whole thing:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment
found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1.

But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country's Sunnis -- once dominant under Saddam Hussein -- now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq's Shiite majority, or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while "official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad."

Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says.

Global Guerillas has long talked about how al-Qaeda groups increasingly use the global black market to self-fund operations. The attack in Madrid was supported by sale of ecstasy of all things.

Also, not as much reported in the Western press is the massive exodus from the country. Nearly 10% of the population (2 million+ to date) have left the country, mostly Sunni, mostly well enough to leave. Leaving the Sunni provinces with even less in the way of administration capacity--the article also goes on to say that the Shia who control the purse strings in Baghdad have long since stopped paying the salaries of Anbari Sunnis.

What I think this will do will give support to the idea of a short-term (very short term) increase in troop buildup to be followed by a drawdown and a move towards training the Iraqi military and letting the Shia I fear have a free hand. The reason the Sunnis have moved towards AQ is they see it as their only means of protection. The Baathist Sunni insurgency for about a year now is profoundly scared. A buildup of the Iraqi Army at such a point can really only be, it seems, an essentialy Shia force. The police we know are totally infiltrated with the Shia death squads, but the army we've been told is non-partisan. Increasingly there is evidence that that is not the case--or at least not perceived to be the case by the Sunni, which in this case is all that matters, paranoid (to a degree) or not.

Frighteningly, this is exactly what Ayman al-Zawahiri, #2 for AQ said in his book (and letters to Zarqawi) was the next strategic goal: namely to create a haven/mini-state within the heart of the Arab world. Partisan force or not, the key will be its diminution. Once entrenched to the degree that is financially independent, no longer dependent on a figurehead (like Zarqawi), and weaved into the social fabric, al-Qaeda, or any Global Guerilla group, can never be fully extricated. The key will be to disrupt as much as possible their operational capacity.

But if these gruops have learned their technqiues fighting the most capable Army on the planet (American) and have played to a draw/won, then there is strong fear that the Iraqi Army however quickly trained is not going to be up to the task. Whether the Shia militias will want to take the fight to them remains to be seen. But I'm deeply worried about carnage either way.

Monday, November 27, 2006


meditating language. a growing awareness of the need for clarity in my speech, in my actions, in my daliy life.

It's a deepening of integral into the voice--the 5th chakra traditionally. the application to my spirit of the mental insight that language must become transparent (habermas) and more importantly the post-metaphysical nature of communication. Namely that truths and phenomena communicated are molded by the worldspace (perspective, level, typologies of various sorts, lines, etc.) of the one listening and speaking.

The realization that nothing is ever finally said or ever perfectly translated, either in my mind or through my vocal chords. That all speech is degrees (and incomplete at that) of intention. Learning to put more attnetion to the space between (inter-subjective) and its strangeness, theoretically but much more so experientially.

Lanugae like the AQAL map (or any similar map) must be psychoactive. The language, inherent in its expression, must reference its position within the Kosmos and the means by which can be seen.

But I mean that way beyond the technical-ese that conveys that message. It is actually a deep burning issue in my heart now. The WORD, the Word (Logos Incarnate for Xtian, Dictated miraculously to Muhammad for Muslim, the Instruction of Torah for Jew) is so profound.

As I think more and more and begin the early stages of research for an integrally-based Biblical theology, the obvious sucessor to a mystical theology, the issue of meaning and the formation of communities to which it gives birth is becoming more crucial every day.

Winter Wunder-land

NO SCHOOL TODAY!!! Nice Arctic Blast in late November means a wonderful Monday of sitting home reading, watching some videos, blogging. That shot on the right gives a good indication of the amount (5-6 inches I think) and it's still coming down though pretty lightly at this point.

Violence in the original meme of Islam?

A video of a HistoryChannel documentary Inside Islam.

It's a very positive take on the early history of Islam. That doesn't mean it is false, just that it gives a certain slant. It is historically accurate if, as I said, one-sided.

The question on violence in Islam and its origins is always a key issue. I've referenced it before but never I think shown arguments from both sides and tried to make a decent integral-ish determination.

Multi-perspectival thoughts (warning: this is long and detailed)

--Muhammad was known, prior to his revelations, as al-Amin "the faithful one". Muhammad was early on recognized as a faithful, wise tribal leader (sheyk) irrespective of his more unorthodox (by those days standards) intense religious introspection and concern for social justice already evident in his thirties and flowering with the revelations/mysticism in his 40th year.

--Muhammad was called to Yithraib (later named Medina) to arbitrate in a blood feud between two tribes. He successfully brokered peace and united his early followers with the later-named Helpers into one community, one faith.

--The rules of tribal warfare were brutal, as brutal as the harsh Arabian climate. Given the climate all energy had to be paid to the continunace of one's family-clan and secondarily tribe. There was no trans-tribal identity. The Muslim community alone introduced this radical idea--one God, one people.

--The Medina community was attacked by Mecca. Their first war was a defensive one. At the Battle of the Badr, the Muslims were outnumbered by 3 to 1 but were victorious. This victory in battle interpreted as a sign of God's favor is involved in some degree or another in the darker sides of Islam. Just as Jesus' death on the cross, when viewed through the lens of an omnipotent God meant that God ordained Jesus to die, hence you must beocme like Jesus hence the unhealthy at times evil glorifying of suffering in Christianity. To be a Muslim is to follow Muhammad and given the circumstances this victory--though necessary for their own survival--has I think created this meme which is bound to flourish in moments when Muslims are/feel under attack. Not whem dominant. Really key point.

--Muhammad did order the execution of 600-800 Jewish Arabian tribesman (Qanuqba). This tribe twice betrayed Muhammad in his war with the Meccan community. The first time, against all tribal custom and "right", he forgave them. The second time he abstained from judgment on the matter and his lieutenants followed the traditional tribal law of the ban. This attitude existed across the region: the books of Joshua and Judges repeatedly speak of God commanding the Israelites to put Canaanite tribes under the ban....kill the men, enslave/make concubines the women, sell off the children.

But this execution, though horrific and I'm not excusing it, was not an anti-Jewish act. It was a tribal attack. Whatever frustrations Muhammad was probably having with Jews (and Christians) not receiving his message in Arabia, the Jewish question was not involved here. The proof of that assertion is that the other Jewish tribes in the region did not protest at his execution of the Banu Qanuqba and continued to maintain alliance with Muhammad afterwards.
--Muhammad conquered Mecca and did not slaughter the city but forgave them. Again tribal custom would have called for their total extinction.

--The spread of Islam quickly through Arab lands, North Africa, Middle East was not under this image of convert or die with the sword. The conquered lands were generally corrupt and failing imperial powers. There is no way they could have so quickly demolished and conquered so much if the previous powers were not already crumbling. Impressive military strength and unity through faith notwithstanding.

In general the conquered populations did not massively convert to Islam. Hence no convert or die swords to the neck. Egypt likely remained a mostly Christian underclass country. Muslim rulers, in general, were much better about keeping the peace and allowing conquered populations to keep their own traditions, religion, rules.

--It was an imperial (blue meme) regime. It was unbalanced but so was every empire in the world. The Islamic world was the newest and strongest evolutionary force at that time in Eurasian history: the Chinese at an equal level we might say but not expansive beyond their borders. The Muslims were the leading thinkers, philosophers, text keepers, scientists, doctors of the day.

Conquered populations, like Christians and Jews, had to pay a special tax and were humilated in public ways by having to kneel before the ruler, but that again was common practice the world over, nothing particularly Muslim about that.

--As a mythic empire it of course created a vision of the world as the true believers and the damned: Dar al-Islam, Dar al Gharb. Again that was a universal pattern of blue-meme mythic ideology. It had an Islamic tint certainly, but was not unique in any regards to this religion. It certainly taught that the world would be peaceful once everyone converted (technically returned) to Islam. Again read any medieval Christian texts on the apocalypse, nothing really special here.

--The khalifas, successors to the Prophet, exiled Christians and Jews from Arabia but did not have to. Muhammad did not.

--Islamic society as the last great blue-meme empire (in fact probably the greatest), the last of the world's great religions (seal of revelation) has been the most difficult to transition to modern (orange) reality. For a number of reasons.

1. Because they were last and greatest, they are youngest AND most clearly impinges on their sense of identity to make the evolutionary leap.
2. They were brought into modernitiy under the racist humiliation of European colonialism. The West choose to undergo the great suffering of modern life--it enforced it on others.
3. The discovery of oil which allows states not to open up economically which then leads to middle class groups which bargain for political rights.

--Tribal and imperial backdrop very strong, perhaps stronger due to the harsh climate of Arabia as founding element, created soil for modern authoritarian, depostic rulership. Saddam Hussein, secularist used the Sunni tribal code to his advantage.

--European colonialism destroyed the imperial structure of Islamic history (blue) but because of the racist element within the European stream, did not seek participation/learning/evolution from the conquered populations. It was breakdown (to red) not breakthrough.

--The importation of foreign Western notions like nationalism and secularism as deeply destructive to the evolutionary drive of the regime. Actually stalled the drive as we see today. Qaddafi, Naser, Arafat, Asads, House of Saud, etc. The secularist and royalists crass co-option of Islamism to suppor their own regmies.

--Flirtation with Western fascism by authoritarian ME rulers as entrance of anti-Semitic ideology into Arab (and larger Muslim) holon.

--The Quran explicitly rejects suicide bombing, killing of civilians in war, targeting women and children, etc. The Quran also calls for--given the historical circumstance--struggle (jihad) against occupation and external militant enemies.

--The deep pain/horror in the Islamic psyche from the Crusades and worse the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. It was that latter experience and the inability of Muslim rulers to protect their peoples (blue morality) against the tribal warlords (red--raping, pillaging, desecration, idolatry from blue pov) that caused one radical scholar ibn Tamiya to declare that it was the duty of Muslims to overthrow their Muslim rulers, who had abandoned the faith and were not true Muslims. This as basis for Islamism, Sayid Qutb, assassination of Anwar Sadat and the rise of neo-puritannical Muslim ideology (Taliban).

--What the Crusades, Mongol invasion, Colonialism all speak to is the confusion and the non-answer (yet) within Islamic theology as to how God gave military victory to the Prophet and the flowering of the empire and yet that is not permanent. One ansewr of course, the rise of Islamism. We never lost. We simply strayed from the path and must return to the source. Qutb argued that the Quran was the handbook for the defeat of the jahiliyah ("ignorant', paganism) and not primarily a source for religious instruction. Or alternatively the argument that political victory is the religious duty (offensive jihad as religious duty for all a completely modern notion).

The answer yet to come--though there were moments of it in Asharite medieval Islamic theology and philosophy--God's ways are mysterious. God is one, the great Islamic confession, but God's ways in this world, by our human minds, appear many and varied. The deep existential letting go of the imperial mythology and the entrance into the pluralistic globalized modern world. Embraced in part (as for Catholics at Vatican II) as the gift of Al-lah but not all aspects. Not the isolation and meaningless of modernity.

--Last reason for difficulty of jump to orange Islam. The West's failure to bring make the leap into modernity correctly. Brilliantly pointed out by Wilber. In IS this is called the Level Line Fallacy. Spirit, Art, Morals, and Science as lines through each level/worldview. Spirit became associated completely--both by religion and secularists--with the blue meme. Science became identified solely with orange whereas there was lots of blue science, transcended and included in orange. The Fallacy is to mistake any level of a line with the line itself. Spirit/religion is blue, science orange. Once Spirit fell, the Big 4 became the Big Three--Art, Morals, Science, which then became the Big One: Science--unconsciously filled with Spirit and became scientism, a religion an ideology (Dawkins, Sam Harris as contemporary versions of this phenomena). Postmodernism then was the complete breakdown of even the Big One and the total fragmentation, exhaustion, and non-development of the Western (esp. European) mindset.

Islam has seen this and does not want this secular/religious split characteristic of the West, aided by Protestant individualistic theology.

--Martyrdom in battle grew directly out of their experience. Martyrdom in late Judaism and Christianity was standing up against a foreign godless system, refusing to recant in the face of political extermination. Marytrdom is therefore in Islam the hope that grows out of living in a situation of pain and violence. Every religion has its martyrs (witnesses) but Islam does have a special pain and shadow around this issue that it must confront. Only under perceived occupation/oppression.

--Islam in America is proto-orange. It shows that it is perfectly compatible with Western world in terms of politics and economics--and they choose their own moral-social-cultural-religious values.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Middle Eastern nor Middle Western

Fareed Zakaria calls for a Kissinger-like extrication from Iraq. The article here. Also watch this episode of ForeignExchange--dedicated entirely to Iraq. For a dissenting view to Zakaria's watch the first interview.

His first guest, a journalist from Al Hayat thinks the Syrian/Iranian negotations floated by the Baker-Hamilton Comm. are a no go. He is right that currently Syria and Iran have no aggenda in Iraq other than to further inflame the situation (as long as American remains) and gain influence. If the US pulls out and leaves the bag to Iran and Syria, et. al then the country will be shaped in a way the US does not want. All of which is true insofar as Syria and Iran are still on the hit list of the Bush administration. Remember Iraq was only the first step: the original three invasions planned were Iraq, Iran, Syria, which would then force Egypt and Saudi Arabia (our allies) to reform from within.

What Iraq has signalled is that Iran and Syria are in much much stronger positions than they were prior to Saddam Hussein (and the Taliban). Until the US is willing to take regime change off the table, Iran and Syria have no other recourse but to act as they do. There is no guarantee that overnight either country--given the politics of each--will become good guys. Nor that there won't be Iraqi resistances to each--particularly Iran--but to me it has to happen.

Syria wants the Tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri off the table. Iran the bomb. Those are big points. Probably best with the Iranians to start elsewhere. Turn over the AQ members under house arrest in Iran, works to stabilize not undermine Iraq. Iran gets into the WTO, mutual recognition, restoration of embassies, sanctions lifted, etc. The bomb later.

Don't know what I think about the Syrian-Lebanese issue. Much thornier, but Syria has put out lines about separating a tad from Iranian sphere if recognized. They are the key to Iranian supply of Hezbollah.

The regional diplomacy issue aside, it is clear that Bush wants for Iraq what the Iraqis and their leaders (democratic and otherwise) do not want. Both sides Sunni and Shia want a fight and are waiting for the US to leave. Zakaria a few weeks back outlined the plan for a national reconciliation, power devolution, oil revenue sharing, general amnesty to all parties, etc. He went to Iraq and his new pesimissm is born from his personal talks with Shia leaders.

Civil wars typically end when one side loses--and brutally so. Zakaria, with many Democrats and a rising Republican voice (Sen. Chuck Hagel) is calling for Bush to threaten Maliki that he will walk out. And to really be willing to pull that move when necessary.

It is interesting to me that a basic developmental scale, like Spiral Dynamics, predicted much of this outcome.

Iraq under Hussein was a tribal Sunni warlord, propped up by oil (red meme--no separate institutions, black market economy, tribal patronage). A Hussein deposition AND de-Baathification/disbanding of the army could only leave the Sunnis with the option (red) of insurgency and violent attempts to overthrow the occupation/government.

The Kurds were protected for a decade under the no-fly zone and had built a one-party structure that overall had the support of the people, was responsive, and let economics (right-hand) move towards modernism. They now have a proto-orange, functioning system: they can protect themselves, oil profits, and a future.

The Shia were the oppressed minority who stood the most to gani from an invasion. They had the change to make an emergent leap--in their case to blue. And it happened. And now the Shia are moving towards an Islamic state (blue). The Shia are veering towards a deeply pathological blue regime.

Iraq could only have moved towards a healthy blue had the Americans pulled off the post-Saddam transfer properly. That didn't happen--partly due to outside agitation, partly due to American negligence and stupidity, and also due to the Shia/Sunni divide in the country.

The only real question now is how in God's name to move the Sunni heartland to something even remotely approaching a stabilized blue. Haven't heard anything on that front, other than the Sunni control of water.

Which then leaves the question of US future involvement in the ME. Niall Ferguson argues that the 20th century was not principally about the victory of liberal democracy over totalitarianism but the rise of the East over the demise of the West.

The US alone stands astride those two movements and it has to start looking East. The Iraq War is the end of the dream of Western-style, specifically Anglo-American, liberal democracy. There will be a continued rise towards modernity in the East but not on the A.A. model I think. The sooner the Americans realize that the better. The sooner they realize the politics and economics--in terms of corruption, labor abuse, etc--is roughly equivalent to in the Gilded Age (late 19th century) when the US Army was ethnically cleansing Native Americans, barons bought and sold political office, the South was occupied only to be given back to the Segregationists, etc.

And if we don't get involved with these forces we will lose out to China in sub-Saharan Africa, where the real action of the 21st century will be.

An Iranian and Syrian talk, will not produce only beneficial fruit the first time around. What must happen though is something akin, as Thomas Barnett calls for, to a regional security umbrella for the ME akin to the European one of the 1970s where essentially the Soviets and their satellites and the Western NATO powers agreed that there wouldn't be another war on European soil. And then went about deciding how that would be done.

The road to such a regional security blanket for the ME of course runs through Jerusalem (coming from Damascus).

Saturday, November 25, 2006


This would be a version of what Joe Perez calls an external criticism of integral--from Jeff Meyerhoff.

A basic summary (6 points) of JM's criticisms of Wilber here.

But following the integral maxim of no one being 100% wrong, I'll apply in this case. Meyerhoff uses traditional deconstruction techniques and postmodern awareness-es, i.e. the relativity of all thoughts patterns (except the non-relativity of that statement), the local, the mixed, imperfect, etc.

I think his criticisms do help break open closed thought systems, congealed asumptions, but in no way deconstructs (as he sees it) the core integral methodologies or claims imo. Integral can be translated from its proper worldview (teal, turquoise) down to earlier value systems--at least in part if not in whole--so that there can become, as others have noted, a mythic dogmatic version of integral (of whatever variety). In this sense Meyerhoff, for me, can be helpful to criticize those mis-appropriation of the theory-practice.

The major problem for Meyerhoff, as a deconstructionist, is that he begins by criticizing orienting generalizations (from Wilber-4). Orienting generalizations, see Sex Ecology and Spirituality, is that in any discipline: dev. psychology, ethics, spirituality--we can arrive at basic orienting general statements by backing up to where all parties within the field agree.

The notion of og, however valid it may be in theory, is in practice I think a poor one. At least given the incredible inertia and emotional-intellectual closed nature of academic debate. It just sends up red flags immediately and I think causes more problems than it is worth. That is why Wilber, I imagine, has dropped the notion in Wilber-5.

Most of the rest of his criticisms fall into a similar pattern contra o.g.: his vision being one of a perspective instead of being aperspectival; the choice to select certain texts and hermeneutics as key over others, in essence saying there are better/worse readings, better/worse scholars on a subject; mysticism as bringing aspects of unity and convergence or diversity and divergence.

It could be easily argued that Meyerhoff commits the same errors he accuses Wilber of. For example, he selectively quotes Sheldon White (from 1983?) as proof that there is not unity (og) in developmental psychology.

But a more important critique to me is found relative to this quotation:

Social evolution, for which Habermas is used as an exemplar in SES, is a (small) minority position in the field (see Philosophy of Development by van Haaften et al).

That is true, but it might also that Habermas is right and is building a new platform, a new consensus (og?) that will be the dominant discourse going forward for years to come.

It's the guiding assumption--without self-question--that all diversity is primary. Of course any integral, any philosophical system in general, is seductive in its power to make us think that everything fits into neat compartments. As I said, a Meyerhoff type analysis, is always helpful for opening spaces in the mind. But there is no heterogeneous piece of evidence in the world that proves that heterogenity is ultimate (which is a non-plural statement).

But one other general point, a criticism generally leveled in this vein is the biological debate. Whether Ken in other words understands evolution. Biolgoical evolution that is.

Much is often made of Wilber recommending Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box to people. I've read Behe's book, saw him give a presentation when I was in college. The reason Wilber recommended (I don't know if he still does or not) the work was that it criticized fundamental mistakes within Neo-Darwinian thought. He in no way, repeatedly he emphasizes this point, was advocating Behe's own Intelligent Design (ID) position. Intelligent Design of course has no scientific evidence for a "designer" only elements that are not explained through materialistic neo-Darwinian thought.

But Neo-Darwinian thought--the merger of Darwin's ideas of evolution via natural selection with Mendel's Laws of Genetics--essentially says that evolution works through random genetic mutation. Though random is a definitely non-scientific value judgment. As Wilber says, the best science is agnostic.

There are some deficiencies in that theory--again it is fine as far as it goes but is incapable of explaining all data.

Areas of weakness with ND:

--Natural and sexual selection work through survival of the fittest. That was Darwin's idea of the mechanism of natural selection. It is relativized by science that shows co-operation through the natural world. Think it completely unconnected that Darwin is a man--individualistic, aggressive metaphors--and the co-operative models (Marguils) came mostly from women? Or that Darwin wrote at the same time as Marx when class conflict was on the rise, particulary in England?

--How entire populations arise in the fossil record at the same time. [In AQAL that is handled by tetra-creation, though it leaves open through EROS the question as to how evolutionary leaps are made].

--The evidence of long periods of relative stability broken by periods of massive change and transformation, which can not be accounted for mathematically through "random" chance mutation. ND picked up, again via Darwin, the philosphical (not scientific) notions of gradualism and uniformitarianism. Darwin got these from the geologist Charles Lyell. These are products of the modern worldview. Again, coincidental that Dawkins comes from the same economic and national background (English middle/upper middle class) as Darwin?

Goes on and on. No, none of that brought up, but how the Black Box was recommended [oh and bat wings].

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wilber commits Pre-trans fallacy?

So argues Mark Edwards in his alternate view on states (here and here).

I really have learned a great deal from Mark. He is the foremost thinker on social-collective holons and development in AQAL philosophy. In other post(s) I'll comment more on what I think are his really great contributions: Vygotsky, the mediating (social) nature of development in addition to its hierarchical individualistic elements, the 2nd person point of view as distinct from the We, etc.

But when it comes to the question of whether Wilber has sinned in a pre-trans fallacy I have to admit I just don't quite get it.

His (Edwards) argument which is well articulated (and should be read thoroughly), I'll try to summarize down as imperfectly as is possible.

Mark writes (emphasis mine):

Ken is making this PTF-2 error on a regular basis and his recent writings on states are full of the error. For several years now he has been proposing that the natural states that are available to all human beings – dreaming sleep and dreamless sleep - correspond with, are closely related to, and give full access to the psychic, subtle and the causal realms of the transpersonal.

Wilber's position is logically very clear and can be laid out in the classic syllogistic logic format:
Premise 1: The dream and deep sleep states are transpersonal states.
Premise 2: Everyone, including each infant, dreams and sleeps everyday.
Conclusion: Therefore, everyone has access to the great transpersonal states everyday of their lives.

The conclusion is, however, based on the very contestable (and I believe false) premise that the dream and deep sleep states are transpersonal states. In many ways Wilber's whole theory hangs on this one contention. However, particularly when equipped with the analytical tool of the pre/trans fallacy, I find no evidence whatsoever, that the dreaming and deep sleep states have any special capacity to provide "access" to the transpersonal orders of identity. I will go into this into further detail in the next section. For the moment, though, I want to further pursue aspects of Wilber's position.

In contrast, I am proposing that the sleep and dreaming states are involutionary states and that all the firm evidence we have on what people experience in those states supports this.

First off I think Mark's point about sleep and deep sleep functioning as regressive is in part true. I don't know why it has to be that sleep/dreamless sleep has to be either access to the so-called transpersonal OR regressive involutionary. Why can't the state be simultaneously in differing degrees doing both? Differing aspects of the self responding differently to the state?

Both and.

And yet further I would grant there is definitely some confusion and likely will always ever be around the relationship between states and stages. There's a couple related ideas to tease out.

1. The notion that states are horizontal at each level of development
2. The claim that repeated exposure to states leads to stage transformation
3. Whether the states when accessed in non altered (e.g. sleeping) ways give access to the higher realms.
4. The stages are variations on the 4 Natural States.
5. Does transpersonal make sense when states are horizontal?
6. Do states still give, however briefly and imperfectly, tastes of the higher stages of consciousness, particularly to stages like violet, ultraviolet, etc.?

I think in the waking state none of this is really at issue. I think Edwards would agree that post-metaphysical spirituality works in the waking state, to put it crudely. There are states available at the stages (Wilber-Combs Lattice) and the stages determine (in part) the contents of the states as well as their interpretation/meaning. And phenomena always arise as interpreted--Lower Left is all the way up and down. And that the higher atages are not predetermined but patterned a la Whitehead over time.

The issue then is sleep and the dreamless seems to me.

Edwards' notion that in sleep one regresses certainly leaves him clear of the charge of a pre-trans fallacy. An infant or toddler at beige-purple who sleeps just returns to beige and the sense in sleep of being free and non-divisive is just a return to the pleromatic-uroboros of beige that is not actually non-dual but rather pre-dual.

Edwards' argument is that by saying anyone has access to the 3 Great States/Identities, gives infants access to trans-rational states. On the other hand though Edwards then has to explain how and when(?) the Soul, Witness, and SELF arise? In Wilber's scheme, which in this sense exhibits a deep mystery and grace (involution), they are part of our makeup as humans.

In the Edwards scheme they have to arise at a certain point and be in a sense mastered, if I'm nto reading too much into it.

So Wilber has the benefit of the states being available from birth but is open to the charge of a pre-trans fallacy. Is there a defense?

One argument that Edwards early on dismisses, but I think too hastily is the distinction in Wilber between the natural states as experienced in sleep as conscious versus unconscious. While people in Wilber's understanding would every night have access to all the states (but not all the stages) but not in a way that they are aware of. Which to me means essentially nothing in terms of evolving into the consciousness of those states in one's life. Making them state-stages in the lingo.

Edwards writes:
According to Ken, all one need do is to go to sleep at night and drift off and, hey presto, we enter the great realms that only the most awakened souls of the millennia have ever experienced in the waking state. It seems hard to believe doesn't it?

It doesn't seem hard for me to believe that people when sleeping would be given the grace of being plopped into those states and that have the little-est effect on them. Although if there were not this grace (as I'm calling it) maybe our world would have already slit each other's throats or blown itself up. Maybe this minutest amount of a creak of a possibility of a window of depth is the only salvation we have so far as a species. For the mass of people that is.

Moreover the Zen masters who are meditating into the great realms have already developed through some stages (we assume at least cognitively up to rational)--so deeper states that are peaking into higher stages would be trans-rational/trans-personal.

To me it just speaks to how profoundly unconscious we are as beings.

Edwards elsewhere has referred to the pre-trans fallacy as the greatest contribution to human thought Wilber has made. I wouldn't go that far, but I agree it is profound. So I think given that background, it is not surprising that Edwards is on the lookout for any possible whiff of the fallacy.

I'm not as worried. Even if Edwards were completely right, so what? People are still going to go to sleep and they aren't going to become enlightened--which we knew anyway even from Wilber's version.

Infants aren't skipping stages not matter what the worry about transpersonal in the dream and dreamless worlds.

What would be a better question is what sense, if any, does it make anymore to speak of the States as deeper when they are conceived of horizontal to the stages?

In other words what does it mean to say that the Stages are variations on the State-realms?

thought on post-metaphysics & neo-perennialism

Frank Visser has a new post critical of Integral Spirituality (and Wilber-5 more generally).

The first half of the article criticizes stylistic elements of the work. Integral Spirituality was originally a letter written to teachers at the (then) upcoming Integral Spirituality Seminar. I think most (but not all) of the style criticisms can be seen in that light. I would have preferred IS as a letter be left as a draft accessible on the web perhaps and then published only in a more academic (along the lines of SES) type work. SES, the initiator of the so-called Wilber-4 was followed by the popularizations of that work--Brief History, Marriage of Sense and Soul. I think the vol 2 of the Kosmos Trilogy--excerpts of which are on the web as well--should have been published prior to this work, which to me is more along the lines of a Marriage, Brief History but with the chronology reversed.

That doesn't take care of all Frank's stylistic criticisms (even ones that are more in the eye of the beholder). Frank emphasizes the work as deficient work those interested in psychology. There is an important chapter on the relation of detachment in spiritual (good) and psychological (not good) circles, but overall the kind of work Frank would like I think remains to be the written. [The possibly never to be written mega-work on Psychology that is sometimes referenced, more as a joke I guess at this point maybe than anything].

I would rather focus on the second half of the work which gets down to what I think are the real intellectual issues at hand. First, to tip my hand....I do favor a post-metaphysical (Wilber-5) structure, with my own flavor of interpretation I suppose, but I still think Visser's position is well argued (Neo-Perennialist) and if one accepts such a viewpoint, then Frank is in my mind the best around on the subject.

That said, to the paper itself.

Frank writes:

The core thesis of Integral Spirituality is that, unless spirituality comes to terms with the demands of modernity and especially postmodernity, it is doomed. But it has to pay a price for this: it has to give up its metaphysics – for that is something both modernity and postmodernity "intensely dislike". But for Wilber, this isn't that much of a sacrifice, for as he confidently asserts, the essential truths of spirituality can be brought up to date with the findings of modernity and postmodernity. What is more, this "post-metaphysical" approach to spirituality is a "more adequate" treatment of the field.

According to Wilber, and contrary to popular belief, the greatest enemy of spirituality hasn't been science – these domains more or less ignore each other anyway – but cultural studies, a field which has been dominated by postmodernity for the past decades. And the one thing postmodernity brought to light, following Wilber, has been that spiritual traditions still stubbornly believe in "the myth of the given", meaning they take their beliefs to be the simple truth.

Many questions are raised by this strategy to "salvage" spirituality: how should this re-interpreted spirituality live together with the domains of science and cultural studies? And does this re-interpretation do justice to the depth of spirituality itself, not only psychologically but cosmologically as well? And is the accusation aimed at spirituality by cultural studies not a clear case of quadrant absolutism (taking one fourth of the truth to be the whole story)? Shouldn't spirituality ward off the attacks by cultural studies (and science) by stating openly and fearlessly that they have one big blind spot: the existence of interiority, the irreducible experience of being a self?

The reference to cosmological is a reference to the acceptance/disacceptance of realms beyond the material. Metaphysics according to Wilber is the proposing of realities beyond one's experience. Such as heaven for example, since none of us are in heaven (as a separate acutal territory) than none of us can comment upon it, without reference to an argument from authority. There may be such a reality and one is--even in post-metaphysics--free to believe in such a relaity as long as one admits that there is no proof (or disproof) for its existence.

Post-metaphysics takes the path of least resistance to the denunciation of all things spiritual by the modern and postmodern worlds. Wilber-5 shifts the argument to the field of the modern and especially postmodern, as Frank correctly observes, studies.

For Frank the key enemy is scientism--the belief in science and the loss of a metaphysical worldview characteristic of traditional soceities. I'll return to that in a moment.

After a brief interlude on perspectives and quadratns, Visser states: "In Wilber-5, the earlier emphasis on stages of development has been replaced by an emphasis on states of consciousness."

That assertion is up for argument--as stages of consciousness are still featured quite prominently in the work--but for the moment I'll run with it. Wilber-5, following the Wilber-Combs Lattice, argues that states are horizontal possibilities open to experience at every veritcal stage of consciousness.

The states then of psychic, subtle, causal, and nondual mysticism can be experienced at every level of development and will never concretely look the same--how those states manifest depends on the level of development, the quadratic factors (religion, historical time period, social status, education level, and personal psych/emotional factors).

When states and stages are thus aligned the combination of the two is state-stages. State-stages are the difference between a mystical state as a temporary peak experience (always available) and patterned regularized long-term spiritual practice and familiarity with the states (state-stages). They are not stages in the sense of developmental stages (now called structure-stages to distinguish) but are stage like in that the general pattern both historically and individually is psychic, subtle, causal to nondual.

Frank notes that the notion of states needs more work--a subject I'll work on in another post or two. Check out Mark Edwards and Edward Berge ( about how states are still too meta-physical and not have been (inter)subjected to the LL.

In the final paragraphs Visser recapitulates his arguments elsewhere (for example, here) for a perennialist viewpoint.

Visser writes,

I have argued on many occasions on this website, for example in "My Take on Wilber-5", that this hides the problem of the ontological status of interiority. For these physical correlates correlate with... precisely what? Rereading this quote several times over, I continue to be struck by one thing: even if it is true that modernity has pointed out some of the physical correlates of interior states of mind, it will not and cannot pass judgement on what these states are in themselves – completely inexplicable, literally meta-physical phenomena. Relabelling them as "intra-physical", as Wilber does, creates an illusory feeling of understanding, where in fact nothing is clarified. No physicist would subscribe to this notion of "intra-physicality", especially since it is so intimately connected to our thoughts and feelings, which are non-entities in the world of physics.

I agree that the notion of intra-physical (left and right quadrants, consciousness and matter co-arising) does not say what consciousness is--it's ontological status. My sense is that post-metaphysics is not interested in what consciousness is (which is a mystery) as it is in emobodying consciousness and building the higher stages of consciousness. My disagreement with a perennialist outlook is that it can undercut the urgency with which I think spirituality must come to grips. Especially as the technological-economic right-hand quadrants daily increase in speed and the world is in a crisis of consciousness.

Too much argumentation about the ontological status of consciousness pulls us away from actually experiencing it, participating in the life process seems to me.

Whatever the arguments about the modernist or postmodernist critique of spirituality-and I think both are deeply damaging and faulty but there nonetheless and both should be addressed which perennialism does not--there is still the questino of how to prove the existence of these spheres upon spheres, metaphysically situated in our universe?

To paraphrase Wilber: Why doesn't a Tibetan medieval meditator have dreams about genetic testing, radios, Derridian deconstruction, Salafi terrorism, even when the dream is of a lucid mystical nature? Or Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jewish, fill in the blank.

The argument is not that we can disprove the existence of the metaphysical spheres; it is just that as a notion it is a complete non-starter. It can't be proved either. The best there is evidence that could be considered (by some not all) "suggestive"--reincarnation, near death experiences, sayings of realizers, etc. [I will deal with the claims of estoericism separately when talking about Alan Kazlev's work].

Or to put the question in reverse....why is that the dream state experiences of medieval meditators only show (even in mystical states of lucidity) phenomena apparent from their everyday waking lives. Why do Tibetan meditators have Tibetan imagery--both religious and non-religious--and Christian ones Christian?

If the spheres upon spheres are true than why is the dream body (the Soul's vehicle which is built for the heavenly intermediate zone) only experiencing a rarefied version of waking day phenomena? Why does heaven look like medieval Tibet or France?

What if the purpose of existence is to be in this plane and not seek liberation through some other--at least for this lifeframe?

Bruising Op-ed from Ignatius

Here and right on the money imo (WashingtonPost).


A disease is eating away at the Middle East. It afflicts the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, even the Israelis. It is the idea that the only political determinant in the Arab world is raw force -- the power of physical intimidation. It is politics as assassination.

The sickness must end. The people of the Middle East are destroying themselves, literally and figuratively, with the politics of assassination. So many things are going right in the modern world -- until we reach the boundaries of the Middle East, where the gunmen hide in wait. Those who imagined they could stop the assassins' little guns with their big guns -- the United States and Israel come to mind -- have been undone by the howling gale of violence. In trying to fight the killers, they began to make their own arguments for assassination and torture. That should have been a sign that something had gone wrong.

This is a time of convulsive change in the region, and many doors are being pushed open. Syria has an opportunity to leave behind its drab Cold War trench coat and become a modern, prosperous Mediterranean nation; Hezbollah, the militia that represents Lebanon's dispossessed Shiite population, has a chance to lead its followers into political power and prosperity. But they won't realize these opportunities so long as the politics of assassination rules the region. If Syria and Hezbollah keep brandishing their power like a grenade, it will ultimately blow apart in their hands.

The Middle East needs the rule of law -- not an order preached by outsiders but one demanded by Arabs who will not tolerate more of this killing. Any leader or nation who aspires to play a constructive role in the region's future must embrace this idea of legal accountability. That is what the United Nations insisted this week, with a unanimous Security Council resolution demanding that the murderers be brought to justice.

The idea that America is going to save the Arab world from itself is seductive, but it's wrong. We have watched in Iraq an excruciating demonstration of our inability to stop the killers. We aren't tough enough for it or smart enough -- and in the end it isn't our problem. The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen. What would be unforgivable would be to assume that, in this part of the world, the rule of law is inherently impossible.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

God help the Iraqis.


Pray for Lebanon.

Hezbollah is on a mission to topple the Lebanese government. They will likely succeed.

Bush's democratization of the ME has not played out as he planned. He saw democracy as a stabilizing force, but never understood the tribal-ethnic-religious divides of the area. A pure democracy, quote unquote, of Lebanon would have Hezbollah (the Shia) control roughly 50% of the power. As they are now the dominant ethnic religious group.

It is the same problem Bush had with the Hamas democratic victory in Palestine as with Hezbollah. Democracy is a vote of pure mass in these lands. Democracy is not trust in institutions, constitutions, separate judiciaries in these lands. Only in those situations (classical liberal gov.) does democracy work.

Hezbollah wants power relative to its strength-power. I see no way around getting them involved. The issue is whether violence will erupt. Hezbollah is a state within a non-state.

This recent assassaination has already brought about a chorus (Hansen, Hitchens, neocons) of not following the Baker Comm.'s proposal to re-engage with Syria (and Iran). Bush's public negative reponse so far to the Report could be the prime reason behind the murder of Pierre Gemayel. The Syrians and Iranians still see (rightly I suspect) the policy be to overthrow them. Hence instead of waiting for us to pre-emptively attack them--militarily, diplomatically--they pre-empt us. They have learned the lessons of Iraq.

America's power in the ME is on the wane and the Shia are on the rise. No talk about Syria being Nazis is going to matter. We could destroy the Syrian government, but can not, as we have seen in Iraq, build a long-standing government.

It is going to take a containment strategy with the Shia which will take 30-50 years. Do everything within our now reduced prestige to protect minorities (Maronite Christians, Sunnis).

The Iranian rise I think, when co-opted, is the only thing that can bring a more lasting (long-lasting? permanent?) resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

Syria will want the Golan Heights. Iran the bomb. Iran major influence in Shia Iraq. Hezbollah the majority share (veto power on anything) of power in the Lebanese government.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Polygamy "Rights"

Polygamists "out of the closet" reads the link from this WashingtonPost article.

The article talks about how polygamy rights groups are using the same language and tactics of gay rights group to de-criminalize polygamy. [Technically polygny].

This is a difficult one for me. I generally support gay and lesbian rights. More properly I think politically states should handle the issue. Otherwise I fear, if forced from above either Supreme Court or Federal Amendment (in either direction pro or anti) then we would have a return to the divisiveness of the abortion debate. Which to me, more than anything, has destroyed our court systems and domestic policy in the last 30 years.

On the other hand, this argument that opening the door to gay rights would create an opening for other so-called alternative sexualities in, is a strong one. And I knew it would happen and it is gaining strength. In a purely pluralistic postmodern mindset, all of these "other" voices would be given reign.

Don't know how to deal with this counter-argument. It doesn't work to go to a position of complete and forever exclusion of gay groups, nor do I want to see a return to polygamy. If any one has thoughts on this, let me know.

Pentagon Report and Baker Commission

The Pentagon Report and the Baker Commission have both ruled out partioning.

Articles here on the new Pentagon Report. Three options being considered called Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home (football always uses war analogies now wars uses football ones--weird).

In typical Pentagon style, the first and the last option are so extreme that the middle option will of course be chosen. Giving no real debate to the question that needs to be asked: Partition or Go Long. The crux of that argument, as I will show in a moment is whether or not (and how quickly) we simply choose sides in the Civil War (SHIA) and let them crush the Sunnis.

Go Big is a massive increase in troops and one final push for "victory" in Iraq. This has no political backing domestically or internationally. Nor is it militarily feasible. Go Home is immediate (and total?) withdrawal. Civil War would explode in that case.

Go Long is a short term increase in troop levels and a shift from fighting the insurgency, which is of course now just a Sunni militia, to training Iraqi troops.

This option of course, whether Bush realizes it or not, de facto is an alliance with the Shia and by extension Iran. Last year we heard talk about only the police being infiltrated by Shia militias/death squads and that the Army was sufficiently non-partisan. Turns out that was incorrect. The Sunnis do not see the Iraqi Army as anything other than a front for Iranian control or at least long term Shia dominance.

This Go Long strategy would bring down the number of troops after the initial increase. Gen. John Abizaid said that the Army can not long sustain an increase in troops levels. The Dems will oppose it. McCain now gives Bush some cover for that option. Maybe Baker too?

But I have my doubts about this Go Long plan. Although to be fair I have my doubts about the federalist plan involved in the partioning. But the Go Long Plan does not fundamentally it seems to me question the premise of whether Iraq can stay together as a unified country.

If it can, seems to me, given recent research on civil wars which shows that negogiated settlements rarerly if ever hold and that civil wars of the last 50 years are ended by one side winnning. That one side is the Shia. Iraq could stay unified only under Shia control with the Kurds to their autonomous North.

1. Don't know if the Shia want that--or some elements at least. Certainly not from Baghdad. I'm thinking especially of the pro-Iranian SCIRI which rules in the South and has pushed for autonomous regions akin to the Kurdish north in the South. To get a hotel reservation in Southern Iraq you have to make the call in Farsi not Arabic. Farsi is the langague spoken in Iran.

2. Given the advent of global guerillas the Shia might be able to hold some control from Baghdad, once the country is completely divided up into ethnic chunks--mass destruction in the meantime--but there will be constant attacks from the Sunni heartland. Not just from an Al-Qaeda prototype but from a Sunni-based separtism movement. They will be able to supply themselves from symphatetic elements in Syria certainly Saudi Arabia/Jordan as well as through the use of the global black market.

So our stay the course the President should admit is Side with the Shia. It's the only way to get Iran to be the regional power it must (with an eventual bomb no doubt) as well as contain them like the Soviets. Also the Shia now hold the key to the Palestinian-Israel crisis which Bush has totally neglected during his term. I thought Tony Blair would have got somem more in return on Israel-Palestine for his support of the War. But sadly not so, he'll be gone from office in less than a year, leaving Brown to pull the British out of Iraq.

With this in place, it is unclear to me to what degree if any the US army can or will act to protect the Sunnis in this interim period. The Sunni buy-in plan of Ambd. Khalilzad has failed. The Sunnis do not trust the government and the Shia don't want them. [That's not to blame Khalilzad, he did everything and more than anybody else].

Real questions to be asked?

How to protect the Sunnis generally to their new depressed state and how to prevent training camps in Anbar province for trans-national attacks (esp. against Israel). What no one has pointed out yet, I think, is that the Iranians, however much hated by al-Qaeda in Iraq (and they are), will be able to find some group to fund to launch an attack against Israel as long as the US does not have them bought in. Even a whiff of Iranian influence would cause the meltdown....Israel against Iran.

Minus that awful outcome, which is possible, there will not be this mass victory for global international terrorism so feared by elements of the Right. If we stay we embolden anti-American setiment. If we leave, in the short term it will be a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda. So be it. That is the result of not planning the post-war aspect of this conflict. There is no good option, just versions of lesser evils.

The emotionalism of such sentiments are as off as during Vietnam where a "loss" in Vietnam was going to bring a domino effect of communism. The instabilty that is spreading in the Middle East is much more to do with demographics, influx of capital, too much oil lying around, and the US invasion of Iraq--or more precisely the lack of following up with diplomacy what was bound to occur with such an invasion.

A)the split up/splintering of Iraq, B)Rise of Shia, C)Need to push Israel to a non unilateral withdraw (negotiated withdrawal) in the settlements.

My main fear is that Bush has destroyed any support for interventino anywhere for whatever reasons (neocon, humanitarian liberal hawks, etc.).