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Old 07-05-2004, 05:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Promoting Reform in the Middle East -or- Deceptive Imperialism

There is another important angle to this war that I don't think enough attention has been paid to, that I'd like to bring up:

Reform in the Middle East.

These articles go a long way, imo, in maybe helping understand the more important reason(s) for US military intervention in the Middle East.

Quote:
Broaden the Road Map
By Saad Eddin Ibrahim

The Washington Post, Monday, May 12, 2003; Page A19


The doors are opening for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. The yearning for peace is unmistakable and the aspiration for development universal. The post-Saddam Hussein era offers a momentous opportunity to achieve these objectives.

But a regional road map is needed. It is time for a forceful -- not arrogant -- message from the United States to the people and rulers of the region -- a message that America will be a reliable partner in the pursuit of democracy, peace and development. Only with such a vision, and a carefully drawn map, can the United States avoid being dragged into repeated armed intervention. And only with it can the long-suffering peoples of the region finally join the community of open democratic societies.

With less than 10 percent of the world's population, this area has accounted for more than 30 percent of the armed conflicts since 1945. Its vital strategic location and valuable oil resources made the region, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, "the most expensive piece of real estate in the world." This, rather than lofty ideals, may explain why the United States has deployed its armed forces in the Middle East more often than in any other region since World War II.

A prime reason for repeated military intervention there, by the United States and others, is the weak state systems in the region, created in the aftermath of World War I and later confounded by the establishment of Israel. Drawn by Britain and France, the artificial and arbitrary boundaries of most Middle Eastern states gave rise to both interstate conflict and protracted civil wars. Neither nation-building nor state institutions have had adequate time or stability to properly mature. Cold War rivalry and the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict generated frequent military coups and autocratic regimes. To hold on to power, these regimes espoused a mix of "national liberation," socialist economics and the assertion of cultural authenticity. This package came to be known as the "populist social contract," which promised every desirable goal -- except democracy, which had to wait until all other objectives were attained.

Despite early signs that it was not working, autocracies that espoused the populist social contract so perfected their technologies of repression that the populace was subdued and intimidated. The few who dared voice their dissent were co-opted, thrown in prison as "traitors," forced to flee the country or simply killed.

By the turn of the 21st century, it became clear that the populist social contract was not just a dismal failure but was dragging the region and the world into repeated wars. The term "failed state" aptly describes most if not all of the states in the region. These failed states have not only betrayed the hopes of their own people but have given rise to a variety of discontented Islamic activism, the events of 9/11 being the most horrific example.

The regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban represented clear examples of the worst failed secular and theocratic states, which explains the relative ease with which they were brought down. The bulk of the population in both countries welcomed their demise. Whether those who brought that about will be perceived as benevolent forces of liberation or imperial armies of occupation will depend on whether promises of peace, democracy and justice are seriously pursued.

It will be more difficult dealing with other states in the region whose regimes are as hated at home as Iraq's but which are not seen in an equally bad light by the international community. Examples include Syria, Libya, Sudan and Iran. Yet more problematic are those the Western powers have long considered "friendly" regimes -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia. These states have generated a disproportionate share of domestic and international terrorism, arguably on account of thwarted democracy and draconian emergency laws.

The concept of a road map has gained currency since the U.S.-led "Quartet" agreed last fall on broad outlines for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The implementation of this plan is a sine qua non for any prospect of American success in Iraq or of the implementation of Secretary of State Colin Powell's December initiative for educational and political reform in the region.

The emotive power of the Palestinian question for Arabs and Muslims need not be reiterated. Much of the anti-American sentiment generated by the war in Iraq is traceable to it. It has become the prism through which much of what the United States does or says is viewed.

A forceful and sustainable effort by the United States to bring about an equitable resolution to the Palestinian question will make its other major tasks in the region much easier. Most Israelis, with one real or imagined threat removed by the fall of Hussein's regime, would be willing to endorse a historic compromise equally acceptable to most Palestinians. The United States must seize the moment before extremists on both sides manage, as they have so many times in the past, to ruin this opportunity.

But more is needed than a settlement of the Palestinian question. Democracy and development are two important requisites for a dynamic, peaceful regional equilibrium. Democracy must provide greater inclusiveness of the hitherto disenfranchised, such as women, the young and minority groups. Open and free debates are essential. Doing away with the infamous emergency laws and national state security courts must be parts of the democratic reform process. So should constitutional amendments setting strict term limits for presidents and prime ministers. Competitive presidential elections, not plebiscites, must be enshrined, in clear terms.

In the post-Hussein era, every dictator in the region must be nervously recalculating his options. No doubt each would like to convey the notion that he is different, or at least was never as bad. There will be dire warnings that "forcing democracy" on their people will backfire. The specter of an Iranian-style Islamic takeover may be raised. False cultural arguments that certain groups are not suited to democratic institutions may be used.

We know better. There is an abundance of social science literature that documents the transition to democratic systems across national, cultural, racial and religious lines in some 100 countries. We know it is a matter of commitment by the elites to democratic rules of the political game, constitutional craftsmanship, a supportive regional neighborhood and a nurturing community of older democracies. A growing and eager, modern, educated Arab middle class has been clamoring for liberal democracy. It is only when repeatedly rebuffed by entrenched autocracies at home and ignored by established democracies abroad that segments of that class may defect to Islamic activism.

The countries of the Middle East and North Africa have varying but substantial degrees of willingness, readiness and eagerness for democracy and peace. Peoples of the region have suffered enough from armed conflicts, brutal despotism and economic privation. With a measure of patience and the active engagement of indigenous forces, the United States and other Western powers can assist the democratic transformation of the region.

The writer is an Egyptian American professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo who has been active in promoting democracy in Egypt.
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Old 07-05-2004, 07:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Interesting article. Thanks for posting it. I offer this as some additional food for thought.

Ten timeless lessons of an earlier reform

In a recent press conference on June 10, 2004, as he was leaving the G8 summit in Georgia, President Bush said that reform in the Middle East is not easy and will take time. He also pointed out that each nation in the Middle East would look different culturally and politically from the US, as the reforms progress. He was talking mostly about political and economic reforms. However, since Islam embraces all of society, it would be instructive to examine another reform that embraced all of society.

In order to promote peaceful East-West relations and to engage in open Christian-Muslim dialogue -- and not to look down on one culture or religion -- we can learn a lot from the Christian Reformation that gained momentum in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries in Europe and culminated in the founding of America in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Christian reformers enjoyed success, but they also made terrible mistakes. No religion is exempt from the fatal flaw: humans. Therefore, we must not ignore their story and the lessons of the past as we observe the monumental Islamic reforms inching along (and sometimes regressing) now in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Some lessons transcend time and culture.

1. Seeing a need: Early reformers like John Wycliffe (c. 1329-1384) and Jan Hus (1373-1414) and later reformers like Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) perceived a great need to reform both the church at first, and then areas of society, like promoting the dignity of the merchant class, once considered dirty. Moreover, once they communicated the need for reformation, thousands saw the same need and gradually followed their leaders. The key is to win over the vast middle of the religious spectrum.

According to the radicals in Islamic countries, reform is needed, yes, but in a radical direction. Thus, they see a need that opposes modernist reforms. However, the reformers of Christianity teach us that a battle was (and is) onging for the minds of the people, and they succeeded in winning countless converts. So if modernist Islamic reformers use religion wisely, they can bring the ordinary citizen over to the moderate side. Fortunately, reformers in the past like Muhammad Iqbal (1875-1938) have provided a worthy precedent for a moderate interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith.

2. Cooperating with political leaders: Though the Reformation broke with many political leaders (notably Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and Francis I of France), it still needed the right ones. Luther depended heavily on Duke Frederick of Saxony, and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) cooperated with less-famous city leaders in Zurich. The leaders provided them with protection and clout, but the reformers did not base their doctrines and reforms on the whims and ideas of the leaders. There was, though, a symbiosis.

Some political leaders in Islamic lands see the need for reform (e.g. Musharraf in Pakistan and Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, so said President Bush), but they are frightened of the radicals (two assassination attempts on Musharraf and bombings in Saudi Arabia). This is the perfect opportunity for the moderates to select leaders with whom they can cooperate. This is especially true in Iraq.

However, the Sixteenth Century reformers never let nationalism become excessive. The ultimate, true goal of reform is always spiritual. People’s hearts must be reformed before government can be. The two are not identical. Since Islam is intended to cover all of society (and that intention will not be negotiated away, it seems), reformers can at least start with people’s hearts. One cannot impose holiness; change begins on the inside, and only then will the outside (society) change.

3. Starting small: When a pebble is thrown in a pond, waves ripple out from the epicenter. Calvin set up a home base in Geneva (the epicenter), and he welcomed many visitors from all over Europe, who then spread his ideas back to their home (the ripples). The President was right: Reform begins slowly and gains momentum over many years.

The news media in the US, Europe, and in the Middle East (al-Jazeera) have not allowed enough time for the reforms to take root in Iraq (perhaps the epicenter). The goal is to see similar reforms spread in other Middle Eastern countries (perhaps the ripples) over the next several decades and even into the 22nd Century.

4. Avoiding infighting: Not everything about the Reformation was positive. Zwingli and Luther held a sharp debate over the meaning of the Eucharist, the supreme ritual of unity. Reformers also persecuted and killed the breakaway Anabaptists, so the overall message of the Reformation was diluted and misdirected. More cooperation and unity among living humans goes much farther than 100% doctrinal purity. The reformers agreed more often on the essentials, and in unity they were never more influential.

Islamic reform today must above all avoid the mistake of infighting among its leaders. Islam honors Jesus, and he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” When moderate Shi’ite and Sunni leaders unite, they can more easily resist the radicals and teach all Muslims the milder way because, again, no one group can impose doctrinal conformity and personal holiness on members of their own group, let alone society.

5. Avoiding careless language: Too often, past Christian reformers referred to the Pope as the Antichrist. This irrational obsession hurt their cause terribly. In the same way, it is important for Islamic reformers to avoid a similar trap: irrational obsession over Israel and larger-than-life metaphysical “Zionism.” It is better to redirect all energy to solving problems in individual Islamic nations and not to expend it on useless name-calling, like equating Israel with Satan.

6. Breathing economic freedom: Regardless of the debate over the details of economic ideas that the reformers espoused, two things are clear: (A) The Protestant work ethic spread all over reformed Europe, which gradually led to prosperity in later centuries; (B) this work ethic traveled across the Atlantic into early America, where citizens engaged in entrepreneurship and free-market capitalism with minimal taxes. America has largely stayed this course and has prospered.

Per contra, many nations in the Arab world and beyond have dabbled in and experimented with socialist European hierarchies and policies (the Baath Party in Iraq was socialist, and Saddam admired Stalin). It is time to throw off these older ways and to open new markets and perhaps other political ideologies. Colonialism is a negative in the past, but globalization is a positive for the future, as we see in secular China. There is nothing immoral or irreligious or exclusively American (and hence evil) in adding other exports to oil, such as manufactured and agricultural products. We can hope that Islamic reformers today do not tilt so far to the left that they refuse to endorse global free markets and new epicenters of economic and political growth.

7. Avoiding religious wars: The aftermath of the Reformation sank to absurd depths in the Thirty Years War (1618-48), during which Protestants killed Catholics and other Protestants, and Catholics killed Protestants and other Catholics -- a free-for-all. Exhausted, Europe moved into the Enlightenment, which the church has been trying to understand and reconcile with dogma for nearly four hundred years now. The Enlightenment brought skepticism, yes, but it also brought tolerance. Thankfully, many segments of the church in America and elsewhere thus have learned to behave themselves and no longer to persecute or kill one another and unbelievers over doctrine and faith. Protestants and Catholics, fundamentalists and liberals, the Religious Right and the Religious Left can now disagree without violence.

Since religion permeates all of life in Islamic civilization (as it did in Europe in the late Medieval Age when the Reformation began), it is easy to fall into the temptation of religious war. However, unlike the Christian reformers, the present Islamic reformers must realize that no one group within any religion can claim total and pure understanding of the sacred texts. Therefore, it is safer to err on the side of tolerance than rigidity which may lead to violence. The trick is to teach this message to the average citizens, so they will join the moderates.

It is heartening to see Iraqis saying no to radicals like Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric. Also, the Iraqis have largely ignored Jordanian terrorist al-Zarqawi’s call for civil war (Sunni v. Shi’ite). Thus, despite the news reports, 24+ million Iraqis welcome the reforms that will lead their nation into the 21st century. It is to these millions the moderates must appeal. There is no need to radicalize Islam in order for it to embrace all of society. People can be holy and pious without being harsh and violent; moreover peaceful Islam does not need to be marginalized to reform a society -- a marginalization that the devout and the radical fear, as happened in Turkey.

8. Learning at Home: The earlier reformers enjoyed a high reputation in the church before they began their reforms: Luther had a doctorate in theology from his own region, and Calvin had a degree in law from a college in Paris.

Islamic reformers often get their education in the West, and this does sit well with the conservatives in the ulama (the religious guardians of the “right” interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith), since they are all too quick to judge Western ideas as “enemies of Islam.” Thus, as impossible as it may seem, more moderate reformers must emerge from the ulama, like Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) in Egypt. His success was not as widespread as one would hope, leaving much more work to be done today. Thus, gradually control must be won for moderation over the madrassas, schools of learning; it is here where moderate reform must concentrate.

9. Overcoming a high obstacle: The Christian reformers called people back to the Bible because church tradition had been encrusted over it. In this regard the Reformation was conservative. Unfortunately, modernist Islamic reformers have to move the conservatives in the opposite direction with “new-fangled” interpretations of the Qur’an, and with adopting and adapting Western notions, which are often viewed as Satanic.

If there is an insurmountable obstacle to reforming radical Islam and the wider society, this is it.

However, Christian reformers were also quick to adopt and adapt “New Learning,” even though it bothered the traditionalists, since it entailed some skepticism of the old way of scholarship. So these obstacles can be overcome. The Christian Reformation was both a conservative movement (in doctrine) and a “liberal” movement (in new ideas).

Islam in the Middle Ages had a proud tradition of intellectual advancements, so they can use this tradition without any violation of piety (see “The True Source of Islamic Terrorism,” June 9, 2004, for a survey).

10. Peacefully combine a religious society and an enlightened society: Finally, in the early US, itself a direct product of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, religion and new ideas blended without much trouble for the government or citizens. Revivals swept through the colonies and the early Republic, all the way through the Nineteenth Century. It may come as a shock to the average Muslim in the greater Middle East who watches MTV or the commercials on CNN that America is still deeply religious, unlike Europe. Today many mega-churches dot the landscape, and countless smaller ones are everywhere.

Yet, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others, while respecting religion, saw the need for the Enlightenment ideas coming over from Europe. The religious wars in Europe opened their eyes to the new ideas, and the science that the Enlightenment produced was too enticing to ignore.

Islam in the Medieval Age underwent a parallel trend: Muslims accepted early science and technology, and, indeed, they led the way past Europe, but did not lose their piety. More recently, Muhammad Abduh believed there was no contradiction between religion and science. It did not pose a threat to piety back then, so why should it today? Thus, the Enlightenment and religion can peacefully co-exist without violence.

In an earlier essay I argued that we must eliminate all violent fanatics to deter future ones. However, along with that prophylaxis, the long-range solution is to work with, support (even financially), and open a dialogue with the Islamic moderates. I have written from a Protestant point of view, but that does not imply that we have nothing to learn from Islam because Islamic reformers are re-emerging now. The Christian Reformation occurred long before the present reforms in Islamic civilizations, so all can learn from the successes and mistakes of the earlier reformers, even of other religions.
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Old 07-06-2004, 09:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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We left them speechless wonderwench, lol.
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Old 07-06-2004, 09:57 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Which is a shame.

This is The Topic for this day and age.
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Old 07-07-2004, 08:53 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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these are two almost unrelated articles.

the first is interesting....that it points to the centrality of the israel-palestinian conflict is useful is these benighted times---that it makes the argument for the importance of that conflict in refracting opposition to american actions is a good thing---because there has to be a link between statements and actions for american ideology to not appear as obviously nothing more than that.

what is interesting in it is the assumption that one can simply wish away other modes of thinking about the what defines the collective--that the abstract notion of collective particular to capitalist-style nation-states is somehow natural or obvious--that the abandonment of say clan or kinship ties as the primary space for identifcation is inevitable.

the writer undermines the import of his analysis by simply referring to an abundant literature without saying anything about the complexities raised by the historical materials presumably collected there. i think the transition to american-style pseudo-democracy sits on particular conditions--people like to pretend those conditions are universal--but the sad fact of the matter is that they are not.

but i suppose it is in its vagueness that the article can be seen as a support for wolfowitz-style arguments concerning iraq. vagueness--imprecision--seems key to it at every step.
so as a normative argument about what would be nice in principle, the article seems innocuous enough--as prescriptive, it is useless.


the second article is far more problematic--first because there is no source--second because the idea of "timeless lessons" is ridiculous--third because it indulges a screwy protestant triumphalism that is wholly without foundation--fourth because it leaves out consideration of capitalism--fifth because it sits on only vague, stereotypical information about islam (the kind of junk you might glean from time magazine), it lends itself to the implicit argument that the real nub lies in the religion itself. which in turn leads to the fatuous clash of cultures interpretation advanced by the likes of samuel huntington.

as an example: the article throws around enlightenment in an indefensible way, shifting back and forth between an adjective and a traditional historical periodization that much recent scholarship has shown to be rooted in illusion---an illusion of unity, an illusion that history moves in stages that sweep all segments of a society along at once--the problems go on and on.

you should read max weber's protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, and think about what he says there, if you really want to make any argument of the kind outlined in this article operational. there are critiques of weber as well, which i think are sometimes interesting--like colin campbell's work.

but i suspect that a starting assumption is that capitalism is above critique....

now i should say that i am not interested in finding myself in yet another of these situations where there is no debate. so if defense of the articles (which are very different) are to be mounted, please route them through arguments. and reply as though there is an actual engagement going on.
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Old 07-07-2004, 09:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Here'a an interesting snippet from the second article:
Quote:

7. Avoiding religious wars: The aftermath of the Reformation sank to absurd depths in the Thirty Years War (1618-48), during which Protestants killed Catholics and other Protestants, and Catholics killed Protestants and other Catholics -- a free-for-all. Exhausted, Europe moved into the Enlightenment, which the church has been trying to understand and reconcile with dogma for nearly four hundred years now. The Enlightenment brought skepticism, yes, but it also brought tolerance. Thankfully, many segments of the church in America and elsewhere thus have learned to behave themselves and no longer to persecute or kill one another and unbelievers over doctrine and faith. Protestants and Catholics, fundamentalists and liberals, the Religious Right and the Religious Left can now disagree without violence.

Since religion permeates all of life in Islamic civilization (as it did in Europe in the late Medieval Age when the Reformation began), it is easy to fall into the temptation of religious war. However, unlike the Christian reformers, the present Islamic reformers must realize that no one group within any religion can claim total and pure understanding of the sacred texts. Therefore, it is safer to err on the side of tolerance than rigidity which may lead to violence. The trick is to teach this message to the average citizens, so they will join the moderates.
There is a lesson here for Americans, as well. If we continue to express our conflict with certain Middle Eastern factions as an intractable battle between cultures than we are in agreement with the same radical elements that we wish to stop. Use of the term "crusade" to describe our military actions is just a small example of the type of language and thinking that we must avoid lest we add fuel to the religious war fire. Ethnocentric arrogance, always a mistake in global politics, will only serve the needs of bin Laden and his ilk.
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Old 07-07-2004, 10:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Good points, rb.

I've heard it said before that blaming the problems of the Middle East on Israel is like blaming the problems of the United States on Rhode Island. The Arab world is sitting on huge quantities of valuable natural resources, and if they are poor, it's because they allow themselves to be run by tribal kleptocracies and be hobbled by medieval interpretations of their religious beliefs that prevent them from joining the modern world. As well, the governments of the Middle Eastern countries avoid scrutiny of their corruption and pillaging by blaming Israel and the US for all their problems.

It is a double-edged sword isn't it? Isolationism vs. Intervention. Im sure most know the arguments for and against both, so I won't rehash. Obviously because the world is so technolgically inter-related (Didn't Andrew Grove of Intel refer to this new technology as "Opening Pandora's Box", ie., as something evil for the world, and something he regretted introducing?) civilizations are inevitably going to clash.

So, if civilizations are going to clash, does that mean there must be a dominant and a submissive? Is there a way to get on so that both partners retain their dignity?

Last edited by powerclown; 07-07-2004 at 10:30 AM..
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Old 07-07-2004, 12:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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you know, the problems start with this abstraction called "islamic civilization"--islam (i posted this before elsewhere, i feel like i am repeating myself) is a belief system shared by a huge number of people around the world--indonesia to pakistan to the middle east to north and subsaharan africa to everywhere else...this belief system has certain common features--as would any belilef system--but it has turned out to be amazingly adapted to the contexts in which it has flourished---extraordinarily complicated kinds of syncretism---

it is **not** anything that can be coherently argued to be a discrete "civilization"---because the notion of a "civilization" as a self-enclosed, self-referential whole is incoherent--and even if it was not, the degree of variation would force you to generalize the encompassing category to the point of meaninglessness were you to try to make it do anything. so you loose either way.

this sounds like 19th century theories of the category, which more often than not sat on top of theories of racial "development" which is a way of domesticating racism by spreading it out as a history.

in the quote above, you have an exact replica of the old arguments: islam can be lined up against western european history as a repetition of a stage that the europeans have transcended (this writer seems to thank the reformation--on its own--for this--presumably this fuckwit would consider catholicism to be in itself midaeval and a childs version of protestant ideology)...this is a typical colonial outlook, a bit of debris floating free of the 1890s--according to this kind of argument, your own space is understood as adult---everything you do not understand is like a child--so all of history leads to you---and everything different is less than you---the argument is just bullshit.

as is the clash of civilization argument---it is the argument of folk like bin laden make too--but they use it as a kind of marketing tool--what amazes me is that you have people in the us who eagerly lap up the mirror image of this line to market their own war.

kinda make you think about the ways in which other actions are equivalent, doesnt it?

you live in 2004.
isolationism assumes the continued self-enclosedness of nation-states--not even a question, at best, it is a nostalgic dream that appeals to nationalists only---the proof of the total interconnectedness of the states with the world around it can be had by even opening your closet and looking at the labels on your clothes. the political adjustments to what is obviously already and increasingly a multilateral world economically are lagging well behind---the argument seems more to be between a kind of reactionary nationalism and an openness to a future---bewteen categories that let you deny that the world is changing over positions that cause you to face the massive uncertainties that the mutations is capitalism are causing for all units, economic, political, cultural and otherwise....

these posts get too long too fast....
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Old 07-07-2004, 01:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by powerclown
Good points, rb.

I've heard it said before that blaming the problems of the Middle East on Israel is like blaming the problems of the United States on Rhode Island. The Arab world is sitting on huge quantities of valuable natural resources, and if they are poor, it's because they allow themselves to be run by tribal kleptocracies and be hobbled by medieval interpretations of their religious beliefs that prevent them from joining the modern world. As well, the governments of the Middle Eastern countries avoid scrutiny of their corruption and pillaging by blaming Israel and the US for all their problems.
The issue of Israel does have very little to do with the state of Middle Eastern economics, but your assessment completely ignores the role of colonial powers in shaping the modern arab states, as well as the continued western support for the very same "kleptocracies" that you mention. I'm not trying to lay all of the blame on outside forces, but we shouldn't ignore the effect of historical and economic forces on the region. As always, subjects of such complexity do not lend themselves to simple explanations.

Quote:
It is a double-edged sword isn't it? Isolationism vs. Intervention. Im sure most know the arguments for and against both, so I won't rehash. Obviously because the world is so technolgically inter-related (Didn't Andrew Grove of Intel refer to this new technology as "Opening Pandora's Box", ie., as something evil for the world, and something he regretted introducing?) civilizations are inevitably going to clash.

So, if civilizations are going to clash, does that mean there must be a dominant and a submissive? Is there a way to get on so that both partners retain their dignity?
Isolation is not really an option any more. It never was a very good solution to anything and is impossible for a society like the modern United States. I don't know that I would say that "intervention" is what we need to replace isolation with. Perhaps "engagement" has a less aggressive tone.

I think that our dealings with China illustrate how very differnet cultures can function together in the globe with a minimum of clashing. This is not a soft-pedal on any of China's faults, just an acknowledgement that we can avoid war with radically different cultures.
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Old 07-07-2004, 07:19 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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here is a quote from a book i am reading that sums up another level of the problem with this "clash of civilizations" foolishness:

"the moral attribute of proximity is responsibility; teh moral attribute of social distance is a lack of moral relationship, or heterophobia Responsibility is silenced once proximity is eroded; it may eventually be replaced with resentment once the fellow human subject is transformed into an Other."
--zygmunt `bauman, "modernity and the holocaust"

or: the clash of civilzations argument is a mechanisms for distancing, which is the political correlate of making individuals easier to kill.
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Old 07-07-2004, 09:18 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
I'm not trying to lay all of the blame on outside forces, but we shouldn't ignore the effect of historical and economic forces on the region. As always, subjects of such complexity do not lend themselves to simple explanations.
I also believe that some of the trouble in the ME today can be in part be attributed to the ill-conceived partitioning of the land by Britain & France. This can be contrasted with Europe, which also has a majority single religion and relatively homogenous population.
Quote:
or: the clash of civilzations argument is a mechanisms for distancing, which is the political correlate of making individuals easier to kill.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but is it not true that Fundamentalist Islam in the M.E. have stated time and again the desire for a pure Islamic world by means of the destruction of the West? I don't know of any religious or military group in the West that promotes a Christian or Jewish world by means of the destruction of the Islamic world. I would argue that this scenario is not an abstract concept.

Regarding China, I couldn't agree more. 2 completely different societies managing to co-exist in peace.
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Old 07-07-2004, 11:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
it is **not** anything that can be coherently argued to be a discrete "civilization"---because the notion of a "civilization" as a self-enclosed, self-referential whole is incoherent--and even if it was not, the degree of variation would force you to generalize the encompassing category to the point of meaninglessness were you to try to make it do anything. so you loose either way.
Maybe it's late and I'm tired, but did you just argue that "civilization," as a conceptual way of encapsulating a generally consistent set of beliefs, morals, and practices over a body of people doesn't really exist?

Additionally, how is "Islam" not a civilization or culture? They define themselves that way, it's not something that the media puts on them. I'm under the opinion that people are allowed to call themselves whatever they want, no matter how technically inexact their choice.
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Old 07-08-2004, 05:54 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but is it not true that Fundamentalist Islam in the M.E. have stated time and again the desire for a pure Islamic world by means of the destruction of the West? I don't know of any religious or military group in the West that promotes a Christian or Jewish world by means of the destruction of the Islamic world. I would argue that this scenario is not an abstract concept.

Regarding China, I couldn't agree more. 2 completely different societies managing to co-exist in peace.
To be completely honest, there are plenty of fringe Christian groups that do advocate global racial purity, such as the Christian Identity "movement." I don't have numbers to back this up, but I don't think that ALL Muslim fundamentalists want to destroy the western world. Much of the anger against the West comes from our perceived incursions into the Middle East.
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Old 07-08-2004, 06:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
 
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i get tangled up sometimes if i try to bring too much stuff forward post to post---so i have to leave elements spread around the thread--even so, the posts sometimes get really really long--my apologies if this gets confusing.


----when i started rattling on about these articles, i made the parallel between folk like bin laden and the argument in the article wonderwench posted---i think both are on the same level.

-----second---i wasnt talking about how people might name themselves--i was talking about the domestic political function of arguments like the "clash of civilizations" argument--which i find to be untenable politically, dubious descriptively, and kind of funny morally (the bauman quote says it on on this level).

you "could" group people using any common feature--people who like hats, for example, could be the hat civilization, a vast diaspora of hat people....people who are left handed....proust seems to have thought that gay folk are a vast diaspora from sodom and gomorroah---you can in principle make categories that group any number of features--that is what categories/classifications do....whether that grouping has other effects...?
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Old 07-08-2004, 10:29 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by powerclown

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but is it not true that Fundamentalist Islam in the M.E. have stated time and again the desire for a pure Islamic world by means of the destruction of the West? I don't know of any religious or military group in the West that promotes a Christian or Jewish world by means of the destruction of the Islamic world. I would argue that this scenario is not an abstract concept.

It is not abstract. This is what makes Islamic Fundamental Terrorism a global concern and a national security interest for the U.S. Christians for the most part are content that they will go to heaven while the unbelievers burn in hell. The terrorists intend to give us an active assist to get there sooner.
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Old 07-08-2004, 10:54 AM   #16 (permalink)
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It is not abstract. This is what makes Islamic Fundamental Terrorism a global concern and a national security interest for the U.S. Christians for the most part are content that they will go to heaven while the unbelievers burn in hell. The terrorists intend to give us an active assist to get there sooner.
Ann Coulter called for America to "invade their countries and convert them to christianity," so there are a few christians who support proactively murdering Muslims.

Nut jobs aside, almost no one would argue that terrorism by Islamic extremists doesn't constitute a threat. The tricky part is agreeing on the severity, causes of and solutions to this threat.

Last edited by cthulu23; 07-08-2004 at 12:23 PM..
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Old 07-08-2004, 12:08 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Ann Coulter engaged in a form of sarcastic rhetoric - that is her zeitgeist. She is not raising financing to engage in such a crusade.
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Old 07-08-2004, 12:24 PM   #18 (permalink)
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No, she's influencing the citizens of this country to follow her inflammatory lead. That is what pundits do. But this is all besides the point....
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Old 07-08-2004, 12:53 PM   #19 (permalink)
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It is not beside the point. Citizens see her comments for what they are: extreme rhetoric. I know of nobody who takes them as a serious call to arms to commit genocide against Muslims.

The same cannot be said for the exhortations of certain mullahs.
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Old 07-08-2004, 01:08 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by wonderwench
It is not beside the point. Citizens see her comments for what they are: extreme rhetoric. I know of nobody who takes them as a serious call to arms to commit genocide against Muslims.

The same cannot be said for the exhortations of certain mullahs.
Have you actually witnessed the exhortations of the mullahs? Have you actually witnessed what some listen of Coulter or what not?

Or, better yet, have you seen first hand in a Middle East country?

And people don't have to listen to others of those levels to follow similar messages - there are neo-nazi's and others out there who would love nothing more than a "white non-catholic non-jewsh non-black non-minority" heck "non-tainted" nation. Doesn't mean they follow such figures in media but they still suggest similar things.
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Old 07-08-2004, 01:11 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Given the biases of much of the global media, if Christian terrorists were engaged in suicide bombing missions against innocent Muslim civilians, I am very certain we would have heard of it by now.

I have not witnessed the mullahs in person, but have read extensively about the jihad in a large variety of periodicals. The connection between radial Islamic ideology and the terrorists is quite clear.
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Old 07-08-2004, 01:27 PM   #22 (permalink)
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A 'large variety of periodicals' and the statement 'biases of much of the global media' isn't exactly the best place to put those statements together.

Then again, wait a second, what were we talking about again?
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Old 07-08-2004, 01:32 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Wonderwench,

Several Muslims and non-Muslims have been murdered in this country since 9-11 (including Sikhs...not Muslims, but I guess the turban is crime enough). The violence is not on the scale of Muslim extremists by a long shot, but let's not pretend that Christians haven't perpetrated murder or that vile right wing rhetoric doesn't have an effect
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Old 07-08-2004, 01:32 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Only if one cannot identify and adjust for the biases of the various sources.

The purpose of this thread was originally to discuss the situation in the Mid-East and what reforms could bring them into the modern age of civilized nations.

The typical moral relativistic red herrings concerning Fundamental Christians were tossed in to try to muddle our thinking. Comparing Tammy Faye Baker to al Sadr is a bit silly.
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:01 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Only if one cannot identify and adjust for the biases of the various sources.

The purpose of this thread was originally to discuss the situation in the Mid-East and what reforms could bring them into the modern age of civilized nations.

The typical moral relativistic red herrings concerning Fundamental Christians were tossed in to try to muddle our thinking. Comparing Tammy Faye Baker to al Sadr is a bit silly.
Actually, you and Powerclown brought the topic of christianity into the picture when you stated that there were no christians who wanted to purify the world in the manner of radical muslims. Several people, myself included, were only countering that claim.

I would think that an inability to see that there are parallels between both christian and muslim fundamentalists is a better example of moral relativism.
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:03 PM   #26 (permalink)
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I'm still awaiting a valid example of a Christian terrorist movement engaged in a global crusade to commit genocide against Muslims.
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:08 PM   #27 (permalink)
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No one ever said that there was a global crusade. Ive been careful to use terms like "fringe" or "a few" to describe the christians Ive used in my examples.
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:10 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Then where are the references to fringe Christian Fundamentalist suicide bombers killing Muslim school children or some other such acts?
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:17 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Does one have to commit the very same terroristic acts as another to have something in common with them? Murder is murder.

What do you want me to believe? That Muslim society must be forcibly altered, that they are philosophically corrupt and irredeemable? Or is it as simple as "we are better than them?"
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:25 PM   #30 (permalink)
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I don't want you to believe anything. I am merely engaged in dialogue on this topic and am expressing my beliefs, one of which is that Islam has not evolved with the modern world. The proof of this is the condition of Muslim countries, which are overwhelmingly totalitarian in nature. The reformation article I posted earlier in the thread contains a good diagnosis of the problems and possible solutions.

You are free to agree or disagree as you will; just as I am free to contradict the moral equivalency of American Bible Thumpers to suicide bombers.

Last edited by wonderwench; 07-08-2004 at 02:27 PM..
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:25 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Old 07-08-2004, 02:36 PM   #32 (permalink)
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You seem to want to bring bible thumpers into this....I'm talking about extremists like the Army of God or Christian Identity. These people are morally equivalent to an islamic terrorist.

I've already commented on the reformation article, where I stated that we Americans must also be cautious when fanning the fires of cultural hatred. The passages about resisting the call to religious war apply to us as well as our opposition.

Last edited by cthulu23; 07-08-2004 at 02:46 PM..
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Old 07-08-2004, 03:31 PM   #33 (permalink)
 
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wonder--are you seriously arguing that you think christianity is better than islam?
on the basis of that goofball article you posted?
you cannot possibly be serious....

care to explain your position?
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Old 07-08-2004, 09:23 PM   #34 (permalink)
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I don't see wonderwench saying that <strike>Gatorade</strike> "Islam sucks, Christianity's better!" at all. She has pointed out that they are different, and that Christianity has, in her eyes, adapted better over time to changes in the world and its people than Islam has.

As far as fringe Christian groups splintering into terrorist cells bent on killing Muslims, that hasn't happened that I'm aware of. However, there certainly have been more than a few taking pot shots at women's clinic workers and doctors, killng many. And there's also the countless Muslims that have been bombed and counterbombed by the Israelis stricly in the name of religion as well. My point here is that Muslims aren't the only ones in the world killing in good numbers over ridiculous reasons under the guise of a religious mandate.

An aside: as far as Sikhs and Muslims being beaten and/or killed here in the US since (and especially just after) 9/11, the only group you can solidly blame for those acts are <b>idiots</b>. I seriously doubt that any religious group in the US, no matter how far right, would organize or condone 'rag-bashings'.

On a lighter note, even though I probably would fuck Ann Coulter, I wouldn't put it past her to be raising a secret ninja mercenary army to do the bidding of Ridge & Ashcroft in the name of her hallowed Shrubbite masters. She might be hot for an older chick, but the bitch is psycho!

Once I finish having someone read the original articles in this thread to me, I'll try to give a well-thought and rational response. For now, I just wanted to put down a few of my thoughts from reading all other posts.
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Old 07-09-2004, 03:55 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Interesting thread, well at least the beginning of it was. Right about the Ann Coulter point it started going way downhill.

Anyway, the title of the thread made me avoid reading it until now. "Promoting Reform in the Middle East -or- Deceptive Imperialism" seemed to portray the typical rant of "The US is out to colonize anyone with valuable resources." Thankfully that's not the case.

The big hiccup in all this is those who would lose power if such a road map were put in place. Just as we're seeing in Iraq they will take up armed resistance with no concern about killing their own countrymen/women/children. It would take a tremendous commitment from the US and the political/social polarization taking place in our country right now over the costs of our entry into Iraq (in $, human life, and interruption of civilian lives) make it unlikely that we could garner enough public support to get the ball rolling. That could change if substantial success is seen in Iraq but it's far too early to tell which way it will go.
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Old 07-09-2004, 06:28 AM   #36 (permalink)
 
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my objection to the articles that began the thread have been consistent--on the first article: what it has to say is normative--and at that level innocuous---but ut says nothing about the practical dimensions--and because it does that, it sounds quite alot like a slightly more sane version of the wolfowitz notion of the war.

as for the second: the clash of civilization argument is absurd--the religious war argument is absurd--the "history" that builds these arguments into a timeline is ideological---and the effects of these arguments are to my mind summed up by the quote from zygmunt bauman that i posted above.

pulling out of the intermediate conversation, arguing that there is still stuff to be discussed at a more interesting level, i remain your humble servant etc etc etc
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Old 07-09-2004, 07:17 AM   #37 (permalink)
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The big hiccup in all this is those who would lose power if such a road map were put in place. Just as we're seeing in Iraq they will take up armed resistance with no concern about killing their own countrymen/women/children. It would take a tremendous commitment from the US and the political/social polarization taking place in our country right now over the costs of our entry into Iraq (in $, human life, and interruption of civilian lives) make it unlikely that we could garner enough public support to get the ball rolling. That could change if substantial success is seen in Iraq but it's far too early to tell which way it will go.

The only way I see reform happening is for The West (led by the U.S.) to support moderate Muslims so that they may take control away from the fundamental fanatics.

The fanatics are a small minority compared to the moderates who just want to go about living their own lives (sounds familiar, doesn't it?).
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Old 07-09-2004, 07:49 AM   #38 (permalink)
 
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if you think that way, wonder, then why do you at the same time post an article about the "clash of civilizations"--which would militate against your own position by lumping all muslims into a distant, abstract category of Other?

how do these two elements fit together?
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Old 07-09-2004, 07:57 AM   #39 (permalink)
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They are perfectly consistent with one another.

Islam has yet to undergo the transformation which Christianity and Judaism accomplished centuries ago: reconciliation with modern society and the separation of church and state.

Moderate Muslims are subjugated by the fanatics who seize control of religion for political purposes. The fact that the religion has not evolved ideologically since the 7th century is an obstacle. We should help break down that barrier so that they can modernize.
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Old 07-09-2004, 08:43 AM   #40 (permalink)
 
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you obviously know nothing about islam.
and you recapitulate all the problems i outlined above with reference to the article you posted, but in your own voice.

btw--where did the article come from?
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