Saturday, March 31, 2007

Barnett on Clinton versus Bush

Something to consider.....deeply.

Both end up letting roughly the same number of locals die--to date.

But Clinton has America providing only 10% of the peackeepers while Bush has us at 90 percent.

Clinton manages to put 22-23 coalition troops on the ground per 1,000 local pop. Bush averages far less than half that number.

Clinton manages to pull off the Balkans with almost no casualties. Now, those states supply us with more peacekeepers than NATO's putting in, meaning they're already security exporters.

We've roughly at 3k in deaths in Iraq. It has become an exporter of terrorists.

Tell me which president gets judged by history as more effective and a better commander-in-chief?

Seriously, on record alone, who keeps things under control and who spins out of control?

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Postmodern Conservatism(s)

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By uniting the nations’ top conservative radio hosts with their millions of listeners, breaks down the barriers between news and opinion, journalism and political participation -- and enables conservatives to participate in the political process with unprecedented ease.

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OFK? Sen. Fred Reagan?

Bill Kristol in Time magazine on how this election could be (should be?) RFK Jr. (aka Obama) versus Reagan Jr. (Fred Thompson).

It's pure Kristol---interesting analogy, well argued and written--and mostly wrong I think.

Key passage:
The Democrats' situation is different. For them, recent history does not feature a grand triumph (Reagan) preceded and followed by mixed results (Nixon and the Bushes)--a narrative that yields the hope of reliving the moment of success. The modern Democrats are more a party of tragedy than of triumph: John F. Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson's presidency wrecked on the shoals of the Great Society and Vietnam; electoral defeats in the '70s and '80s interrupted only by the (failed) Carter Administration; Clinton's victories in the '90s accompanied by the Republican takeover of Congress. And at the heart of the Democrats' quasi-tragic account, at the very center of the wistful might-have-been-but-wasn't-quite-to-be narrative, is the leader who was cut down before he had the chance fully to lead: Robert Kennedy.
On Reagan and Republicanism as a narrative of triumph.

1.Both Democrats and Republicans share credit for the Cold War. Though in different forms (rollback Rep., containment Dems) there was a shared foreign vision from Truman through Nixon, Carter, and Reagan.

2.The Soviet Empire collapsed at least as equally if not more due to its own inherent weight. It was a shame, which is why it fell so quickly. Reagan it could be argued knew when to push, but without a Gorbachev it never happens. Nor would Reagan have ever been elected if the Iranian Hostage Crisis had not taken place. He was losing in the final week to Carter--Carter not exactly the greatest of presidents ever mind you.

3.Kristol recall is a neoconservative and when Reagan was busy "destroying" the Soviet empire, Kristol was busy creating the fantasy that the entire evil world order was controlled by Moscow. Kristol mentions this because for he has now changed his story to the evil world Islamic empire that is threatening all Western civilization---as sinisterly, if not more, as centrally co-ordinated as was the Soviet threat. Hence one man's true heroism (Reagan) alone brought down that evil empire. Hence also Kristol's backing of George W. Bush, who he even now must admit is no Reagan. Now Fred Thompson? Looks like straw pulling. Does Kristol really believe this or is this another "noble lie" neo-cons (via Strauss) are he falling for it himself. I just can't get this Fred Thompson thing.

4.Not mentioned is any dark side to Reagan. Those could include any of the following:

--Iran Contra
--Right wing death squads funded and trained by the US military and security establishments rampaging through Central/Latin America, killing civilians, nuns and priests.
--The 80s Junk Bond Scandals, lack of oversight of Wall Street
--The stripping of the social safety net and the massive rise of crack in the ghettos
--Anti-gay AIDS hysteria and his administration's hardline stance on the issue.

On the Democratic side, while I generally agree with the downward slope issue, Kristol wants to jump over the achievements of the Clinton years. Peace and prosperity. Kristol correctly points out Clinton left the White House with his Party in worse shape in Congress and state-wide across the country. Not to mention one of the key issues of that decade was not the Republican takeover of Congress--usually things work when the President and Congress are from different parties....Reagan in the 80s, Clinton in the 90s--but the insane and shooting your own foot impeachment trial over Lewinsky.

In other words, another narrative could be the stupidity of the Republican party and its increasingly destructive connection with social conservatives. As well as the Democratic Party's downfall through alliance with out of touch left-wing policies. Hence, the narrative might better be each party fails when it gets too extreme in either direction.

The Republicans to my mind would do better to have a much more nuanced vision of their own legacy. I think George HW Bush is underrated, Reagan overrated, and Nixon though a crook on some many fronts, with Kissinger, the man who has charted the course for the 21st century by going to China (something neocon Kristol loathes. hence his negative image of Tricky Dick). I guess that doesn't make for a good bumper sticker nor op-ed piece though. Every Republican candidate trying to convince the voters that he is the re-incarnation/disciple of Reagan is in my mind what is actually holding the Republicans back. See Giuliani hanging out with Steve Forbes this week.

Instead of the Reagan image, if the Republicans followed the Schwarzenneger model they would destroy Hillary.

Still while everyone has compared Obama to JFK, the RFK comparison is an interesting one.
Obama is, like Kennedy, a charismatic freshman Senator, running before his time but--supporters think--uniquely suited to the time. Obama follows Kennedy in being a bold liberal and a skeptic of simple ideological stances, a gifted politician and an antipolitician, a man familiar with the halls of power yet a charismatic critic of them.

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A Thought on Christianism

In the whole pro/con debate over the word Christianism, I've never seen anyone reference what seems to me a more fruitful (and obvious) method.

The Christianist trend, to the degree that it exists--and I think there is some but nothing anywhere near the Andrew Sullivan argued levels--has influence at state and local levels. Not on federal levels. The Terri Schiavo case showed the over-extension and the major hit the Republicans (see Bill Frist) as a result.

The Republican corruption, power play and traditional conservative critiques of the Republican (power corrupts, absolutely) would apply on the federal level. That individuals stripped from local contexts/knowledge, unaccountable, and sinful by nature led to hubris. Pride goes before the fall.

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The Ceasefire with Mahdi Army Over?

The surge is inching closer to the brink of collapse. In the last week 600 were killed, the government looks even more (if this is possible) unable to stop the violence. Condi's vague Middle East plan looks dead in the water. The waters of the Persian Gulf that is.

And now this on Moqtada al-Sadr:

From NYTimes.
Religious leaders commanded by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr delivered a searing speech at Friday Prayer condemning the American presence in Iraq, while militiamen loyal to Mr. Sadr engaged in street battles against Iraqi Army soldiers in southwestern Baghdad, signaling a possible resurgence of the militia. Mr. Sadr has ordered the Mahdi Army, the militia he controls, to lie low during the early days of the new Baghdad security plan so as not to provoke a direct confrontation with the Americans. With the speech on Friday, which the religious leaders attributed to Mr. Sadr, it appeared that he was continuing to walk a tightrope, not openly defying American and Iraqi government attempts to secure the capital, but still sharply criticizing the United States presence in Iraq.
Sadr has shrewdly called for a massive nonviolent street protest against the American occupation on April 9th, 4th anniversary of the war. Expect Sunni insurgents to target civilians--how easy it will be to get a suicide bomber in the crowd. I'm very worried about this development. The Shia are so close to rising up en masse once more, and this time no going back.

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The Hezbollah-ization of Hamas

From NyTimes:

Hamas, the dominant faction in the Palestinian government, is building its military capacity in the Gaza Strip, constructing tunnels and underground bunkers and smuggling in ground-to-air missiles and military-grade explosives, senior Israeli officials say.
Training via Hezbollah and possibly Iran. Moreover,

The strengthening of Hamas and its consolidation of power in Gaza, reflected politically in Fatah’s decision to join Hamas as a junior partner in a coalition government, is a prime reason that Mr. Olmert is resisting a push from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to talk seriously to the Palestinians about the substance of a peace treaty with Israel.

The continuing empowerment of Hamas is also behind Mr. Olmert’s reluctance to embrace the Arab League peace initiative reconfirmed Thursday at its summit meeting. Israelis may want peace in principle, but they are very reluctant to give up more territory in the occupied West Bank, as they have done in Gaza, to a Palestinian Authority dominated by a group unwilling to recognize Israel’s right to exist or to forswear the use of violence.

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Friday, March 30, 2007


The heterogenities of the Muslim Brotherhoods---many more than one.

A very good article on the history of the Brotherhood via RealClearPolitics. Not without criticisms, but overall echoes a view I find crucial. Some form of "moderate" Islamism is the only way forward in the Sunni world. It will be no doubt anti-American, and anti-Israeli to some degree or other. What is to be expected after the way the West (French, British, Americans, and Israelis) have treated the region and its citizens? But anti-American doesn't automatically equate with more planes into more US buildings. Russia's foreign policy is anti-American because American/EU and NATO since the fall of the Wall have been built to a large extent to keep Russia out of influence. But we aren't at war with Russia.

Similarly, US policy during the realism phase was to support dictators (Shah of Iran, Saudi Royals, even early support for Hussein) to exert pressure and open up oil lanes. Current US policy--in the failure of the democratic revolutions and Iraqi post-war conflict--seems to be without a vision or maybe simply to keep the arena as broken as possible. I really don't know.

As long as the only other choice are autocrats the re-entrenchment of which is in full flower right now---Hosni Mubarak following in the great lines of Egyptian Pharaohs is trying to pass power onto his son--then the response will be greater and greater lethality and radicalization outflanking groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood recall, for all their problems, publicly denounced the 9/11 attacks and al-Qaeda was formed in large part as a militant reaction against Muslim Brotherhood--thinking the Brotherhood was too weak for its promotion of democracy.

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Michael Hirsh on West/Iran

The latest round of sanctions was too much. Hirsh has got it---there was a moment after the first round of sanctions when Ahmadinejad was weakened and isolated. He was easy pickings if Khamenei (via Larijani and Rafsanjani) were given some carrots.

Now of course Khamenei is moving closer to Ahmad. Leaving me with that the question of whether Bush has wanted war this whole time. Certainly many in his administration have, and I know Bush did have them targeted, but I thought events might force something out of him. Now I'm worried.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia declined a White House invitation and publicly stated the US occupation in Iraq is illegal and that the government of Iraq is a Shia sectarian force. King Abdullah of Jordan, a major US ally, has similarly had to decline a White House invitation--he can't afford to be seen in public with our president who is beyond radioactive.

And now a this brinkmanship with Iran.....
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The problem is that the United States and Britain, along with their partners France and Germany, have successfully created a huge, powerful machine of coercion against Iran—economic, political, diplomatic. And now they don’t quite know what to do with it. Similarly, the Iranians are divided about how to react, with Ahmadinejad and now apparently Khamenei himself counseling defiance while Tehran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tries to find a way back to the table. Yes, pressure works. But exerting too much of it for too long, without offering the carrot of conciliation that can encourage moderates, usually gives the edge back to the hardliners.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sectarian Violence Coming Back?

From NYTimes:

As many as 50 people were killed in what appeared to be reprisal attacks in Tal Afar after a double suicide-vehicle bombing there on Tuesday killed 85 people and wounded 150, Iraqi officials and a witness said today. Armed attacks broke out against Sunnis in the Sunni neighborhood of Al Wahda, with Shiite Iraqi security forces suspected of taking part, they said.
Tal Afar recall was last year hailed as proof of the new clear, clean, and hold strategy. Reprisal killings mean Shia death squads, infiltrated through police/army units.

Word is out that Barry McCaffrey, retired Army General and pro-surge advocate has written a memo based on his recent trip to Iraq. Story here from Tom Ricks, Wapo. McCaffery does mention some positive outcomes of the surge and some small reasons for possible optimism, but overall it is very downbeat.
"The population is in despair," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. "Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate."

The government lacks dominance in every province, he added. One result is that "no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection." Militias and armed bands are "in some ways more capable of independent operations" than the Iraqi army, he added.

I'm not sure "some ways" as a qualifier is correct/necessary.

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Not so Fast...Mammals

From the NyTimes:

The mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and other life 65 million years ago apparently did not, contrary to conventional wisdom, immediately clear the way for the rise of today’s mammals. In fact, the ancestral branches of most mammals, including primates, rodents and hoofed animals, emerged long before the global extinction and survived it more or less intact. But it was not until at least 10 million to 15 million years afterward that the lineages of living mammals began to flourish in number and diversity.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Perspectives on Paul (I)

Been reading quite a bit on (St.) Paul and his theology of late.

[For a brief intro on some of these newer trends in Pauline theology here here and here].

These three links deal with the so-called New Perspective on Paul. The authors most associated with this trend are E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and NT Wright (the same Wright I wrote about on resurrection here).

The Old Perspective is the traditional Lutheran strict duality between the Law on one hand the Gospel on the other. Or Slavery/Freedom, Judaism/Christianity, Works/Faith, etc. The Law is a religion of slavery, works, oppressive hardship, while The Gospel is a religion of Grace, Freedom, and Joy.

These ideas come directly from Luther and set a major backdrop to the Holocaust and German anti-Semitism. Luther's writings are also prophetic, mystical, and use the language of paradox, emotionally charged.

The other great Reformer, John Calvin represented a different tradition. For him the main Biblical theme was election and covenant; Calvin had a much stronger sense of the unity of the Old and New Testaments. Luther and later Lutherans more especially at times bordered on Marcionism (the OT god=Evil, NT God=Good). Calvin and the Reformed (not Lutheran) brand of Protestantism also emphasized that after election, life in the Spirit was one of discipline and work (Protestant Ethic, Max Weber, etc.).

What the Old Perspective taught was the Post Exilic Judaism taught the Christian heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagianism taught that humans could achieve salvation by their own works--not instead by the grace of God alone.

Along came EP Sanders who in the late 70s argued that in fact Second Temple Judaism did not teach works-righteousness (works salvation, Pelagianism) but rather than God choose freely and graciously Israel and his chosen people and then gave the Commandments.

The Book of Exodus: "I am the Lord your God who led you of Egypt, you shall have no other gods before me." Gracious action of God then commandment. So for Sanders, the commandments and the Torah/Law (Torah is better translated as "Instruction" than "Law") were not a means of gaining salvation or adoption into the Jewish world but rather the way of expressing such covenant relationship. Sanders called this position "covenantal nomism". Nomos is the Greek word for Law/Custom. Interesting he choose a Greek word for Judaism, covenantal torah-ism might have been better, but so be it. So covenant + instruction law/commandment.

There are conservative theologians who do not accept the New Perspective on Paul--arguing for the Old. But Sanders has basically won the day. There are differences between Sanders, Wright, and Dunn, but that basic point unites them. So we see in covenantal nomism more the influence (in Christian terms) of Reformed Theology. Wright makes this point specifically. It is still negatively a Christian way of bringing Judaism back to a positive view--hence the Calvinist-like tone of covenantal nomism. Wright the cerebral professor much more Calvin-like than the fiery mystical-prone Luther.

It is still thinking in terms of grace/free will Augustinianism/Pelagianism; it has just said that it was incorrect to equate Pharisaic and Second Temple Judaisms with Pelagianism. It is right so far as it goes, but still is a fairly "from our point of view" view as it were.

And to the second (via Krister Stendahl, a Lutheran interestingly) major point in New Perspectives on Paul: sola fide (only by faith) or justification by grace through faith alone. What Paul meant by this according to Stendahl was that Gentiles who came to Christ needed only faith not to become Jews or take on Torah regulations. Stendahl further argued (correctly) that Augustine misread Paul adding a layer of introspective guilt and anxiety not in Paul at all.

That was broadened by the Reformers to mean that one needed only hear the proclamation of Christ and believe--not being held in by Roman Church--but it became a weapon used against other Christians, a had to believe in belief alone. Justification by faith nor justification by grace through faith. It was simply about God accepted all who believed in him. Period. No extras, no prerequisites.

Another point following up on those, stressed by Wright, is that the Gospel of Paul is not an abstract theory of salvation but a proclamation, a summons to obey and believe. Justification for Wright is not what happens at the moment one is saved, but rather happens after being saved. Or rather incorporated into Christ.

This goes down a whole long road about whether individuals-communities can fall away from Christ after being saved or not.....Methodism, Calvinism, perseverance of the saints, etc. Don't want to go there. But the main point is this from Dunn and Wright in their conversation linked above:

Wright: I am totally in agreement with that and I too have challenged my Roman Catholic friends with this. Justification by faith is not simply a doctrine about which we ought to be able to agree, it is the doctrine which says we are one in Christ, that all those who believe in Jesus belong at the same table. I do not see that as the El Dorado, the reward at the end of the ecumenical endeavor. I see it as a necessary step on the road of ecumenical endeavor, and I expect there will be warm agreement in some quarters in this room, and probably strong disagreement from other quarters.

Dunn: But I think the point has to be pressed even more. There is only the one thing necessary for us to worship together, to work together, to mission together, and that is that God accepts us, has accepted us, and accepts others on the same terms, by grace through faith.

Here's Wright once more on justification as vindication (and not conversion):

My proposal has been, and still is, that Paul uses ‘vindication’ language, i.e. the dikaioo word-group, when he is describing, not the moment when, or the process by which, someone comes from idolatry, sin and death to God, Christ and life, but rather the verdict which God pronounces consequent upon that event. dikaioo is after all a declarative word, declaring that something is the case, rather than a word for making something happen or changing the way something is.
The phrase "righteousness" then is about God not humans---it is God's faithful adherence to the covenant (covenantal nomism, Gentiles brought into covenant by faith in Christ not Law but Law still good for Jews, see Paul's Letter to the Romans). Wright and Dunn are right this is Paul for an ecumenical Christian (and Jewish-Christian dialogical) age.

All of this creates an important base for later explorations of other aspects of Paul. Topics to include: Paul as missionary to the Gentiles; Paul's Political edge (if Christ is Lord, Caesar is not); his apocalypticism.

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Bd. JP II?

She is coming to Rome this week for the anniversary of JPII's death.
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ROME - It's one of the Roman Catholic Church's closely guarded secrets: the identity of the French nun whose testimony of an inexplicable cure from Parkinson's disease is likely to be accepted as the miracle the
needs to beatify
Pope John Paul
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Worrisome Iraq

Violence is increasing.

From AP:
Iraqi police reported at least 109 people killed or found dead nationwide. The toll included two elderly sisters — both Chaldean Catholic nuns in the increasingly tense city of Kirkuk — who were stabbed multiple times in what appeared to be a sectarian killing.
100 bodies a day in the streets was the daily average count during the height of the sectarian violence. The pro-surge factions have talked about how the violence is down. Today is a particularly brutal day, but evidence is growing that the insurgents are finding their way around the surge. But that is not entirely clear at this point. If the violence does come back to 100 bodies a day for a month during the surge (I don't know if that will happen) then what becomes of the surge? Especially in the post-deadline vote and inevitable Bush veto coming.

And this:

Two truck bombs shattered markets in Tal Afar on Tuesday, killing at least 63 people and wounding dozens in the second assault in four days on a predominantly Shiite Muslim city hit by a resurgence in violence a year after it was held up as a symbol of U.S. success.
The group fighting an existential fight targeted the ambulances. Reverse Maslow hierarchy--attack the lowest needs on the chain. Food, health, security, oil, etc.

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Hmmm.....Republican Senate

Wondering why the Republican Senate Leadership is letting this go through. Is Bush really that isolated and they are letting him go down with this ship or they think the Democrats will be labeled the Defeat-ocrats? Or both?
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The key vote is over whether to strip from the Senate bill language that sets a U.S. troop withdrawal goal of March 31, 2008, and calls for that withdrawal to begin within four months of the bill's enactment.

Republican critics trying to remove the deadlines from the bill accused Democrats of micromanaging the war. But Republicans have also decided not to filibuster the bill.

Senate Republican leaders have decided to let the process move forward because it is likely that a negotiated compromise between the Senate and House will result in a bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal, and it is just as likely that the bill will ultimately be vetoed by President Bush.

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Denis Prager Article on Iraq

Where he argues that no one could have predicted the savagery (e.g. using children as shields for suicide bombings) in Iraq prior to the invasion of Saddam Hussein. Article here.

Prager writes (my emphasis):

But neither I nor anyone who predicted a civil war had so much as a premonition of this unprecedented mass murder of the men, women and children among one's own people as a military tactic to defeat an external enemy. It is, therefore, unfair to blame the Bush administration for not anticipating such a determined "insurgency." Without the mass murder of fellow Iraqis, there would hardly be any "insurgency." The combination of suicide terrorists and a theology of death has created an unprecedented form of "resistance" to an occupier: "We will murder as many men, women and children as we can until you leave." Nor is this a matter of Sunnis murdering Shiites and vice versa: college students, women shopping at a Baghdad market and hospital workers all belong to both groups. Truck bombs cannot distinguish among tribes or religious affiliations. If America had to fight an insurgency directed solely against us and coalition forces -- even including suicide bombers -- we would surely have succeeded. No one, right, left or center, could imagine a group of people so evil, so devoid of the most elementary and universal concepts of morality, that they would target their own people, especially the most vulnerable, for murder. That is why we have not yet prevailed in Iraq. Even without all the mistakes made by the Bush administration -- and what political or military leadership has not made many errors in prosecuting a war? -- it could not have foreseen this new form of evil we are witnessing in Iraq. That is why we have not won. There are respectable arguments to be made against America's initially going into Iraq. But intellectually honest opponents of the war have to acknowledge that no one could anticipate an "insurgency" that included people leaving children in a car and then blowing them up.
Statements like "no one could imagine a group so evil" immediately make a warning bell go off in my mind. Particularly from a professed religious believer. [edit note: MD pointed out Prager is Jewish; I thought he was Christian. My mistake]. Millions scream out in pain daily, the Earth itself is crucified.

But more practically how do we determine which is more evil---the insurgency described by Prager or the machete-achieved murders of 300,000 in days in Rwanda? Or the 4 million killed in the Congo during the 90s while the world sat around did nothing and no one ever thinks about it.

Even more specifically, the charge that such an insurgency never existed, not true. During the Vietnam War, the Vietcong put grenades in the hands of their own children and sent them up to hug soldiers. Insurgents since time immemorial (read the Bible for example) have been killing in the most brutal of ways their own people deemed "collaborators" with the enemy.

And in Iraq of all places. A country where Prager and others correctly pointed that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on his own country, sent Shia to kill their Shia cousins in the Iran-Iraq War, kept a police state where he lined up 300 Shia men and boys executed them on the spot and left them in ditches across the country. In this country, with that much violence in the history, and the US was letting off the lid on that---on a country reduced to rubble by 2 wars, sanctions, children and elderly dying--and not expect a rupture of violence.

What could be considered new is the form of radical Salafi jihadism represented by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the use of YouTube executions and so forth. But I imagine Ho Chi Minh would have used such techniques had he had them at his disposal. Or Mao. Or Pol Pot.

As well the one genuinely new thing is the emergence of open-source insurgencies--a point far more important than the brutality. The source of the "defeat" for the American army Prager points to is not the viciousness alone of the fighters but the strategy/techniques employed. (For more information here and especially here).

Consider John Robb:

The paradox is that in order to pacify Iraqis under the current US strategy, they need to be isolated from the surrounding community. However, they cannot be isolated, because the very political goods that the government needs to deliver to gain their loyalty are inextricably tied to this connectivity. In short, while this connectivity brings progress, it will also deliver mayhem. There's no easy way around it.
Prager believes in the myth of the invincibility of the American army. That does not square with the "facts on the ground" so he creates an epicycle to make the facts fix the pre-conceived notion: the utter immorality of the enemy. If it was only a regular insurgency even with suicide bombing the US Army would have won.

He should accept a simpler solution. The US Army won a commanding military victory in the war. The military was asked to do a job it was impossible for it to carry out: i.e. securing the peace with insufficient numbers, incompetent civilian leadership (both in Washington and Iraq). Not to mention that the overall goal of a democratically elected trans-partisan Iraq was not what the Iraqi people wanted. No one no matter how much power can enforce their will.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Fingers Crossed for Condi

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JERUSALEM - Under U.S. pressure to answer increasing Arab flexibility on Mideast peace,
has agreed to resume face-to-face talks with a moderate, Western-backed Palestinian leader who is sharing power with Islamic Hamas militants, a U.S. official said Monday.
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Liberal New Way in Quebec?

Results in on the Quebec Provincial Elections.

The federalist Liberal Party got 48 seats out of 125--giving them a minority coalition government. The separtist Parti Quebecois 36.

And the stunning results: The newer party--Action Democratique de Quebec 41 seats. They are a split between the liberals and the separatists.


Guru Nanak

(Icon of Guru Nanak founder of Sikhism 15th-16th c.)

Went to a Siki Gurdwara (Temple) today. Beautiful building and space. Sikhism is a fascinating religion to me.

1.Against the caste system of India (why it got in trouble).
2.Emphasizes (like Islam) monotheism but allows for many names/ways to the one God (more Hindu).
3.Emphasizes justice and work in the world. Devotion to God.
4.God as Self-Existent and Union with God (not dissolution).
5.Young religion, relatively speaking. Only 500 or so years old.

I read a sign on the wall that stated:

The Grace of the Guru alone can reveal the Lord within the Self.

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Seems right to me

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Some climates may disappear from Earth entirely, not just from their current locations, while new climates could develop if the planet continues to warm, a study says. Such changes would endanger some plants and animals while providing new opportunities for others, said John W. Williams, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
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joe p response

Got a good response from Joe P to my recent post on the Episcopal Church (USA).

Here's the response:

Hi Chris:

I agree with you 100% that it would be quite odd if the homosexuality issue breaks the Church whereas the slavery issue didn't.

Not to disagree, but honestly it's a pet peeve of mine when people discuss the homosexuality and Christianity issue by downplaying its significance. Spirit has chosen to make this issue absolutely vital to the unity issue in the Church right now, I believe. Failure to recognize its importance is really more of a failure to appreciate the mysterious workings of Spirit than anything else. What you or I feel are more important concerns that SHOULD be dividing the Church is irrelevant in the face of the workings of Spirit which has dictated that THIS issue right HERE and right NOW is going to divide or unite the Church.
Joe has a follow up thread here. He concludes:

My own intuition says that homosexuality is the BIG issue today not out of coincidence or meaningless chance, but because homosexuality is Christianity's biggest shadow. Christianity is a religion dominated by homophilic symbolism and a homophilic story about the Love of a Father and a Son and how one day it became creative and produced the Holy Spirit. Homophilia is the heart of the Christian message, more so than any other major religion on the planet. Christianity's failure to look at that issue square in the eye is the real reason why this issue has reached a boiling point in our time.
One slight correction. Joe mentions I am studying to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. Actually I am studying for the Anglican Church of Canada. While the two are in full communion with each other they are not just different branches of the same central bank/church as it were. The Anglican Church of Canada grows more out of the English experience while the Episcopal Church USA has closer historic ties to Scotland. Anyway not a big difference.

I'll respond to the piece that Joe wrote directly to me in his comment.

As a background comment, I realize thanks to Joe's comments given my life here and the circles I run in I assumed information I never shared on the blog. That being, that I am studying for the priesthood in the very diocese (New Westminster) that initiated same sex blessing rite that has along with the ordination of an openly gay (non-celibate) man Gene Robinson to the episcopacy of New Hampshire caused the current furor in the Anglican Communion.

So whatever had been my reservations and thoughts about how things might have turned out--which Joe correctly asked to shift to what is happening--the decisions about where I will be and which side I'll be on once the chips fall is clear.

The Canadian Church has its General Synod (its highest legislative body) meeting this summer. The first one since it put the same-sex rite on hold in response to the World Primates Request from Dromantine. It is very clear where the American church is headed. Not at all clear to me where the Canadian one is heading. Canadians being generally more compromise-seeking, pacific than the Americans (for good and bad).

As I've said before the break has already happened, it is just a matter of what the fallout is. My desire is that some decision just be reached, even if it is divorce, and let's just get on with it. The version of Anglicanism that has been in effect for the last 150 years since the Lambeth Quadrilateral is now dead. What the next iteration of Anglicanism will look like God only knows. I just want to know what it will be so we can start promoting the Gospel instead of these endless (in my mind) destructive debates where everybody loses.

The downplaying as it were, is my exhaustion with having to deal with something that for me is a non-issue. Full inclusion only occurs when it is no longer discussed--that is when it is no big deal to anybody anymore. When it is not discussed as if it is something "special"--i.e. not integral to the gospel proclamation and church ministry.

I'll have to sit longer with Joe's argument as to why this is the BIG issue as he calls it now (Trinitarian homophilia and equally large shadow). As I said before I think the issue of gay lesbian inclusion has actually broken the camel's back and that the camel had been weighed down in increasing distance over a long period of time. Certainly the last 20-30 years. The effects of women's ordination, divorce/remarriage, and so on have left wounds. Many of the US dioceses splitting or threatening to split from the leadership are still nursing wounds from the slavery debate.

And to be fair, as many bishops articulated at recent meetings, this issue is not on their radar screens (pro or con). For many issues like women's empowerment, clean water, massive poverty and environmental destruction---these are the realm of Sin & Death that impede the Gospel message. A group of 80 Anglican women from around the world drafted this statement at the UN in New York to say in effect this whole issue was a male problem and has nothing to do with the empowerment of women. Statement here. Don't know how or if that relates to the Father-Son beget Spirit homophilia argument or not.

As I also said there were ways around this issue I think. With any break down of a relationship, both sides have a part to play. But with the hardening of the lines that moment for the creative byways are lost. Partly I'm mourning that. And more practically as a seminarian I have no real influence in what is going to be decided for the Communion. I have my own moral, theological, and pastoral views, but the unclarity around the Church does cause me hurt and confusion. Only in so far as I said--the dead should be left to bury the dead. I'm interested in life and a movement, actually doing something. I don't care if given the post-Christian world there is only 12 people as it were.

Nevertheless Joe is right all that aside, once it is all out, I can't sit by. Inclusion of gays, lesbians, and transgendered (don't know what I think about bisexuals) is part of Spirit's evolution and the modernist (good) trend to human socio-political liberation.

But again I want to get that "over with", not to sound too disrespectful because once the socio-political liberation happens to a sufficient degree including the church (it is never 100% nor need be) gays, lesbians, straights still have massive sin and ignorance to deal with, all of us. All of the inclusion for me would only be a step to square one, the beginning of the race not the end. I feel in the meantime this thing is stuck at square zero.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Has the West overplayed its hand with Iran?

Don't know. Story here.

Iran has seized 15 British naval soldiers and now has downgraded co-operation with the IAEA and refuses to stop uranium enrichment.

I thought the previous round of sanctions were beginning to have effect--Ahmadeinjad looked weaker. Now he looks stronger again. I think the deal should have been cut after the last round of sanctions. We'll see. The brinkmanship on both sides is clearly worrying.

Sunni Iraqi Sheiks-US relations

Story on Sunni tribal leaders joining American/Iraqi Armies to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. AQI should really be re-named Salafi jihadism. The Salafis refuse to recognize the Shia--they are theologically heretical by the Salafi view. This brand of jihadism is from Abu Musab al Zarqawi and not bin Laden who never spent much time arguing against Shi'a Islam.

The Salafists are headed from Anbar (Western Province) to Baghdad suburbs. Hence the decrease in violence in the West and the uptick around Baghdad.

This trend of Sunnis joining the Iraqi Army/Police and tribal alliances is not without criticism even from other Sunni tribal groups. But this kind of connection is necessary because these are the only individuals/groups who have the legitimacy to take down AQI--if anyone has such authority--in the Sunni heartland. Men like this tribal leader Sheik al-Rishawi (only 36!!!) will be the future leaders in my estimation of the future Sunni country Anbaristan.

What is not clear is imaging a situation in which AQI is smashed--and it will forever be possible with the democratization and bazaar of violence--and the Americans have left. Will the Shia government of Baghdad and these Sunni tribal leaders fight?
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Episcopal Church Response

The American Episcopal Bishops responded to the Global Primates (heads of Anglican constituent churches, e.g. Church of Nigeria, Canada, New Zealand, Sudan, etc.) with a definite NEIN. Text here.

For the following four reasons:

First, it violates our church law in that it would call for a delegation of primatial authority not permissible under our Canons and a compromise of our autonomy as a Church not permissible under our Constitution.

Second, it fundamentally changes the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process in which we thought all the Anglican Churches were participating together.

Third, it violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England.

Fourth, it is a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage. It abandons the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition. It sacrifices the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.

#3 and 4 particularly stinging in an American and Anglican context--The Revolutionary War and the Reformation not bridge builder moments in history.

A good summary of the camps in the fight here.

Liberal camps will often argue for inclusion of homosexuals by analogy from the experience of the Christian church challenging both the Bible and Christian tradition on issues like divorce, slavery, and women's ordination.

The Bible from beginning to end assumes/supports slavery as an institution. Jesus said that divorce was forbidden--but even the Gospel of Matthew already concedes (for the community) certain cases.

Just so, the argument goes, the inclusion of gays & lesbians is a matter of justice and the love/mercy of God.

The counter-argument is that slavery, women's ordination, and divorce while serious matters and certainly the church has changed its position these issues were never a matter of doctrine or core issue to the faith. In that I agree with that argument. Those matters were not central to the faith.

The question of whether this issue is central is where the sides divide. The issue then is not the issue. The gay-lesbian issue is not the real issue it is deciding which teachings in the Bible are central to the faith and which are not. This issue--because while lesbians are mentioned is 99% focused on gay men--is the last vestige of these fights around sex or rather around patriarchy. Except perhaps for inter-religious issues.

Slavery, no contraception/abortion/divorce, imperial religious mentality, male only public authority roles, and anti-gay ("pro traditional family") are all hallmarks of a patriarchal order. The issue of gay men I think hits most closely at the heart of that order. The Anglican Church has allowed either/or across the board within the Communion. Polygamy is practiced and accepted in the church (another patriarchal structure) in areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

At some point there is a chasm--is this issue central to the faith as revealed in the Bible or not? With that question an entire world is assessed--one in which for some the answers of another do not and can never arise. Which is why for the traditionalist groups (blue), any moves towards inclusion of homosexuals can not be a matter of extending/widening the faith-praxis of the Church (i.e. can not recognize yellow/green belief), but rather must be a neo-pagan return (reversion to red/purple).

For whatever reasons this issue has become the one that will break the Church. While I understand in theory some of the arguments, it is hard to see this issue being more worthy of splitting over than slavery.

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Evidence is mounting that Sunni insurgents are beginning to understand where the weak spots are in the surge strategy. Story from USA Today here.

This week they exploded a bomb at the moment PM Maliki and UN Sec.Gen. Moon were meeting. Moon (understandably) ducked, while Maliki didn't even move. As in bombs going off is normal and people are numb to it.

Also a Sunni VP's own security entourage was infiltrated and the VP (Salman al-Zubaie) was seriously wounded. He is in a US hospital under such tight security because of fears of killing that his relatives are not allowed in to visit. Even relatives are not trustworthy these days in Iraq it seems sadly.

The surge strategy is predicated on embedding US soldiers in areas outlying Baghdad where the real fighting is taking place now. The weapons manufacturing house plants are in these remote rural "suburbs" of Baghdad. Insurgents are showing this week they can attack these installations--police hq, bunkers--almost at will.
The fighting in Baghdad started about 1:30 p.m. when gunmen attacked Iraqi army positions in the Fadhil neighborhood, on the east side of the Tigris River, police said.
And this concerning a roadside bomb in Diyala that killed 4 American soldiers (my emphasis):
The military sealed off all roads leading to the area, causing traffic jams, according to witnesses and police. Stores closed their doors as the streets emptied of people fleeing the fighting. "The gunmen were shooting at every moving object. The streets were deserted and all shops closed," said Ghaith Jassim, the 37-year-old owner of a textile store in the area. "These frequent clashes have affected our work. We cannot earn our living. People and traders are afraid of coming to our area." Jassim said the arrival of U.S. troops in the area briefly stopped the clashes but the fighting resumed when the Americans left.
The COIN (counter-insurgency) strategy assumes a rural agrarian society in which all roads can be shut down in order to isolate insurgents. Iraq has rural parts no doubt, but the fighting is urban and it is not clear to me that this strategy can hold in an urban zone. Sealing off the roads kills jobs and economics as the story mentions. Which in turn feeds the insurgency.

Violence had been down somewhat since the surge. However:

The clashes broke out a day after at least 74 people were killed or found dead in Iraq — 47 in suicide bombings — one of the deadliest days since a U.S.-Iraqi security sweep began in Baghdad on Feb. 14.
The surge will continue in the next few months, so the violence levels may increase/decrease relative to all that. The real question is whether the COIN itself is under attack. The Shia are on the sidelines watching the US fight out the Sunni. They are figuring out how they will fight the Sunni as soon as the Americans begin the eventual drawdown.

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Musharraf as Lame Duck?

That seems to be the going logic from a number of insiders and experts (including Ahmed Rashid). If Musharraf survives the current protests over the firing of a Judge--and that's an if in the minds of some--he will be forever wounded, perhaps mortally so.

Story from NYTimes here.

Money quote:
American officials who worry about General Musharraf’s longevity focus on whether he is fighting hard enough against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border. But the latest unrest suggests that his vulnerability may lie more in rising anger over accountability and democracy at home.

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France's Third Party Candidate...

Francois Bayrou is making a serious run, coming as the saying goes out of nowhere. Story here WashingtonPost.

Don't know about his politics but found this statement of his quite interesting:
With one candidate who would like France to be America and one who would like it to be Scandinavia, it is time to show France wants to be France!"
The American-phile candidate is Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate of the right (and ruling party), known for crackdowns on French Arab youth. The Scandinavian-phile is Segolene Royal, the leftist socialist candidate who in typical leftist fashion wants to expand massively the state infrastructure and welfare apparatus. Whatever the politics, that's a nifty slogan.

And this:

[Bayrou] says he doesn't want to spend as much money on social programs as the Socialists and doesn't want to be quite as draconian on immigration matters and security issues as the ruling party, the Union for a Popular Movement. "I am a centrist," Bayrou said in an interview. "Left and right is not the only reference for people anymore." Bayrou said he believes coalitions made up of ministers from several parties are "the way to govern modern societies."
The first round is April 22nd. Right now Bayrou is trailing Royal by about 3-4 points. But interestingly in every head to head poll--against either Royal or Sarkozy--Bayrou wins. He's looking like Crash....if he can only get nominated, the Oscar looks to be his.

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What Happens When you Don't Know Your Bible

You make comments like the following.

Memphis center Mike Dorsey said of his match up with vaunted Ohio State Center Greg Oden, "That it was like David and Goliath, and I'm Goliath."

What he meant was to put down Oden and be smart reversing the analogy--thinking of a 7 ft tall 260 lb. man as David not exactly the first thing that comes to mind.

Problem with analogy--who won that fight? David.

Dorsey words were indeed prophetic. Oden had 17 points and 9 rebounds and his team won a major victory while Dorsey scored 0 (that's goose-egg) points with 3 rebounds.

As Ohio State assistant coach Dan Peters said, "That was stupid. He didn't even know who won the fight between David and Goliath."

Has to go down in worst failed sports analogies along with Jason Kidd who upon being signed by the Dallas Mavericks said, "I'm going to turn this team around 360 degrees." Which is exactly what he did btw.

Zanu-PF inside coup time?

Praying that the tyrant Mugabe falls and Zimbabwe can open up its political process without descending into bloodshed. The country is a basket-case and he should be made to answer for his crimes. But I guess if a deal was cut where he got sanctuary somewhere for a peaceful transition post-Mugabe have to live with it.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Speaking of Creepy 24-like Surveillance

clipped from
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.
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500th Post

Half way to the millenium mark.


Read a great piece in the Vancouver Sun today--unfortunately it is behind a subscription wall--on 24.

Liberals often decry 24 for sanctioning torture. For that reason it was early on in the series applauded by America-first, America-always conservatives. But into season 6, Jack Bauer has become a living wraith, a dead man walking. His soul has been utterly corrupted by torturing human beings. He is stone dead inside. And he has found that often the line of who is torturing whom and whether the US gov't is always good has hit Jack.

The article rightly points out that the series should consider a thread where Jack tortures someone only to get bad information. But that aside, it has gone into interesting territory, no longer a clear eyed conservative pro-America take nor a reflexive anti-American anti-artistic, anti-intellectualism.

He should make both camps uncomfortable.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cardiac Kids

David Lighty contributes off the bench to spark the Buckeyes.  (AP)

My Buckeyes are giving me an ulcer. Last week they go down 9 to Xavier with 3 minutes to go and pull out a last second game-tying 3 pointer to go to overtime without Greg Oden to win. Then they go down 20 points by halftime to Tenn. Volunteers only to storm back and win the game on an Oden block on the last second of the game. Final 85-84.

Forget 9 lives, these dudes got about 15.

If they would actually play two full halves of basketball in a row (i.e. a full game), God only knows how far they could go. Til then, bring on another team from the great state of Tenn---Memphis. A very dangerous and well-coached team. OSU is going to have to show up for the full 40 minutes in that one or they'll be watching the Final Four from their couches.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Obama Rally in Oakland

Whatever else happens, I'm glad he draws these kinds of crowds. Hat tip:

Will Condi win?

Very good piece by Laura Rozen in WashingtonMonthly on whether Condi Rice will get "Powelled" as she calls it on Iran. Like former Sec. of State Colin Powell, will Rice be outmaneuvered by Cheney and Co?

Condi (through Chris Hill) scored a victory in North Korea. Plus the NKoreans had nukes.

But this is not good (and symptomatic of this administration's mo):

Rice knows how the system works. In February, she traveled to Jerusalem to attempt to restart the Middle East peace process. But while she was en route the neoconservative NSC adviser Elliott Abrams was, according to news reports, using contacts in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to arrange a phone call between Olmert and Bush. After the call, Olmert announced that Israel would not recognize the Palestinian unity government as a legitimate negotiating partner—an essential precondition for productive talks—and that Bush supported Israel’s stance. Her position fatally undercut, Rice returned to Washington empty-handed.
Elliott Abrams the last neo-con standing in this administration working to undercut (outside their knowledge) the State Dept. simultaneously. Why does Bush seem to get such jollies after letting his kiddies fight amongst each other?

As Rozen admits, it is too early to tell how Condi's gambit on Iranian diplomacy will play out. Keep your fingers crossed. If Cheney wins this argument, look out.

Boomers suck as politicians

Or: Why I'm more and more convinced I want Obama.

Read this from the American Spectator. Warning: It's just pure oozing hatred and it takes a sickened soul to write such words. Not all of them incorrect by any measure. Including many of the criticisms of Hillary Clinton. [And yes I have read as evil and hate-filled stuff from the left as well.]. It's ugly ideological stuff; it is a divide that will continue to tear my country apart.

In other words, I don't want these two wings of the Boomers (the coat and tie radicals as author R. Emmett Tyrell calls Clintonites pro-Revolution 60s-ers and the Reaganite Republicans on the other) fighting it out any longer. [Just look at how the Nationalreview is drooling over Fred Thompson possibly entering the race....Fred f'in Thompson? I love the guy on Law & Order but come on.].

Tyrrell quotes David Broder who fears the Boomers will never politically get over the 60s and unite. The Vast Left and Right Wing Conspiracies will never end, particularly the latter, with another Clinton Presidency.

Boomer presidencies need to go the way of dodo.

Giuliani who brings major baggage in terms of thugs and a penchant for extremely hardball tactics is perhaps the only other one who can psuedo-unite: republican but pro-gay, pro-choice.

Still, less necessarily for policy issues, I think this moment requires a fresh face, a major change, a generational takeover.

Bernard Lewis at AEI

Bernard Lewis giving the Irving Kristol Lecture at American Enterprise Institute on Islam and the West.

You can watch it here.
Read it here.

There is a great great deal covered in this lecture. I want to focus on only one aspect, which is right near the end, the question of tolerance in a European context.

[Sidenote: When referring to the "third time" Lewis is arguing that current Muslim migration to the West is the third phase in Islam's attempt to conquer Christendom. Phase 1: the invasion, conquering of Spain up into France repulsed at Battle of the Tours 711. Phase 2: Ottoman Turks reaching in 16th and 17th centuries, the walls of Vienna, only to be pushed back and then eventually to lose completely to European colonialism. Phase 3: Khomeni Revolution 1979 Iran, al-Qaeda, Mujihadeen in Afghanistan throwing off the Soviets, Mass Migration to Europe].

On the issue of tolerance, here is Lewis (my emphasis).
When Muslims came to Europe they had a certain expectation of tolerance, feeling that they were entitled to at least the degree of tolerance which they had accorded to non-Muslims in the great Muslim empires of the past. Both their expectations and their experience were very different. Coming to European countries, they got both more and less than they had expected: More in the sense that they got in theory and often in practice equal political rights, equal access to the professions, all the benefits of the welfare state, freedom of expression, and so on and so forth.

But they also got significantly less than they had given in traditional Islamic states. In the Ottoman Empire and other states before that--I mention the Ottoman Empire as the most recent--the non-Muslim communities had separate organizations and ran their own affairs. They collected their own taxes and enforced their own laws. There were several Christian communities, each living under its own leadership, recognized by the state. These communities were running their own schools, their own education systems, administering their own laws in such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the like. The Jews did the same. So you had a situation in which three men living in the same street could die and their estates would be distributed under three different legal systems if one happened to be Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim. A Jew could be punished by a rabbinical court and jailed for violating the Sabbath or eating on Yom Kippur. A Christian could be arrested and imprisoned for taking a second wife. Bigamy is a Christian offense; it was not an Islamic or an Ottoman offense.

They do not have that degree of independence in their own social and legal life in the modern state. It is quite unrealistic for them to expect it, given the nature of the modern state, but that is not how they see it. They feel that they are entitled to receive what they gave. As one Muslim friend of mine in Europe put it, "We allowed you to practice monogamy, why should you not allow us to practice polygamy?"
I highlight that not as an argument for sharia, separate legal codes and so on--which I do not believe in. In fact, I don't believe in laws against head-dresses for that very reason: it creates a separate legal standing for one group over another. It is meant to inform--to understand that the call for these institutions and separate communal running of affairs is not simply only about radicalization or overthrowing "Christendom" (really post-Christendom in Europe). It makes sense given the history. I still think it has to be moved beyond, but it is not insane.

Does the West have any resources to bring relationship, to persuade (which I like over the fight image)? Lewis points out two: knowledge and freedom. As a corrective to those who only point out demographic decline among Euros and increase among Muslim populations; Europeans being lost in deconstruction, Muslims feeling their own strength growing by the day.

Lewis on the latter, freedom (emphasis again mine):
Less obvious but also powerful is the appeal of freedom. In the past, in the Islamic world the word freedom was not used in a political sense. Freedom was a legal concept. You were free if you were not a slave. The institution of slavery existed. Free meant not slave. Unlike the West, they did not use freedom and slavery as a metaphor for good and bad government, as we have done for a long time in the Western world. The terms they used to denote good and bad government are justice and injustice. A good government is a just government, one in which the Holy Law, including its limitations on sovereign authority, is strictly enforced. The Islamic tradition, in theory and, until the onset of modernization, to a large degree in practice, emphatically rejects despotic and arbitrary government. Living under justice is the nearest approach to what we would call freedom. But the idea of freedom in its Western interpretation is making headway. It is becoming more and more understood, more and more appreciated and more and more desired. It is perhaps in the long run our best hope, perhaps even our only hope, of surviving this developing struggle.
What Lewis has properly done there is noted the goodness (though imperfection relative to modern standards) of the traditional Islamic world. The problem is not the historical existence of Caliphate. It is that the Islamic world has never entered modern political reality. It has, especially in the Arab and Central Asian world, fought that evolutionary current with despotism. But as Lewis notes, the best hope is the ideal of modern political freedom (orange meme) which is why deconstructionist (green) relativist impulses alone are hurting Europeans (both Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and secular) chances for the future.

The only future is integration.

Wright and Hirsh

A fantastic Bloggingheads between Robert Wright and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh. For foreign policy nerds like themselves, this is ambrosia.

Hirsh has some brilliant analysis behind the Treasury Department's mafia-like workings of bank to further sanctions against Iran. Amazing to learn someone in the Bush administration actually knows how to play ball.

The center of the piece is there discussion of Michael Hirsh's piece in the Washington Monthly on Obama and post-Bush foreign policy tradition.

Hirsh has criticized Wright, the post-neo con Francis Fukuyama, Anne Marie Slaughter, and Anatol Lieven/John Hulsman. All have called for in their separate ways, according to Hirsh, a post liberal international foreign policy. For Fukuyama it is realistic Wilsonianism, for Slaughter a world of liberty and law, for Hulsman/Lieven it is ethical realism, and Wright it is progressive realism. Though Hirsh doesn't mention him, Barnett could be figured in with the group of re-thinkers.

For Hirsh what all off these have gotten wrong is they have assumed due to the Iraq War, the UN and the liberal international order is broken and needs a major revamp/complete overhaul. For Hirsh, the real issue is Bush's incompetence and Jacobin radicalism and the overturning of the entire American stream from both Democrats (FDR, Truman, JFK) and Republicans (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I).

The piece is a call to Obama to fall into the trap of re-thinking the whole policy but simply returning to a pre-Bush II liberal-conservative international order. American stewardship of the order, as Hirsh calls it, not the system itself. Although to be fair, Hirsh does have his criticisms of the UN and so forth. But tinkering, even major reform, but not total overhaul.

And interestingly Hirsh positively mentions Bob Wright's pre 9/11 book NonZero, which along with Fukuyama's End of History are the two most important dialectical and progressive views of human political evolution since Hegel. So Hirsh's progressivism (and qualified hopefulness) is inversely proportional to his despondency/rage over Bush.

Hirsh sees 9/11 as a tragedy but could have been a go to Afghanistan, take out al-Qaeda, not invade Iraq, work diplomacy with Iran and Syria (which he smartly still favors imo), and the rest as he says would fall into place.

That is an argument I supported prior to the invasion of Iraq. I did not support the war, I thought it would bring these flaws that have occurred, damaged US esteem--also damaging Israel's which I didn't count on--undercutting the UN, furthering the divide of the Transatlantic alliance (NATO), and creating a failed state/training ground like Afghanistan for the original jihadis against the Soviets for future terrorism, creating massive blowback, not to mention the civil war that was bound to occur given the Shia/Sunni split, plus the rise of Iran (destroying their two biggest enemies for them).

Where I disagree with Hirsh is that one can go back to the way it was before Bush. Of course an Obama would get instantaneous love from the Europeans, the Russians could dig him I bet, but that has never really really been the issue as much as right-wing commentators tend to focus on those.

The issue is the existence of autocracies in the Middle East, the lack of freedom. This was the correct understanding imo of the neocons. But the Bush policies have bungled this beyond belief. The ideology of neoconservatism is what killed the ability of them to make hay on their own gains.

If we follow Hirsh's suggestion, then we will be back to markets and realism---i.e. hands off dictators as long as they don't attack us. There is an interesting alliance to be made between a Hirsh and John Robb and isolationists who want nothing to do with nation-state building.

Given how many failed states there are and that al-Qaeda's ideology is spreading virally, I think Hirsh is underestimating how hard it will be to just fly in and catch bad guys all over the world. al-Qaeda al-Qaeda, as in bin Laden and Zawahiri, their version of al-Qaeda an uber-Islamic neo-caliphate is not going to happen. al-Qaeda theology is spreading but as domestic/nationalized sharia jihads. The creation of "national" Islamic states.

Where I think Wright could have gone defending his call for an revamp is here. That with the ideology of al-Qaeda/jihadism/Islamism spreading, markets and realism alone will not work. That is my hypothesis. Hirsh is a very brilliant guy and of course every major change involves (negate and preserve) a great deal of continuity. He is emphasizing--as I would reframe it--the preserver/continuity aspect. The others emphasizing more the negation.

Where Barnett I think has a leg up here is that he is the one who realizes that the future of the international order systems/nation state building capacities comes from India, China, Brazil, Russia the "New Core" not the Old Core (Transatlantic Alliance, Japan, Israel?). So Barnett has the overhaul newness with the first crowd but primed to a neo-international order with Hirsh. The Europeans and Japanese will still play a large role in banking and finance.

A Hirsh-only position leaves the Arab world with this huge youth bubble of young men who are not going to have any hope for a future. The educated ones will find a revolutionary, communal, hero-based (red meme) vision existentially appealing. I see a pre-Bush II return with the sense of moving from Gap to Core as fairly cold. To be fair though Hirsh favors more the markets (liberal internationalist over pure realist) as well as interventions (as he wanted in Rwanda). But again we are left with the basic Barnett question: why do our interventions (see Somalia, Haiti) continue to fail?