Caroline Glick's "Caution: Storm Approaching" looks at the economic convulsions that underpin the Arab world's current political convulsions. Her conclusion is that those convulsions are about the get worse before they get better. It doesn't help that the same hate-spawning, dysfunctional political systems are big contributors to the Arabs' lack of economic progress as well. Nor does it help that key economies around the world cannot pretend away problems forever, but appear to be trying. The reckoning always comes, and the fallout from each side is about to affect the other.
Of course, replacing current governance in Arab/Islamic countries with an even more hate-filled and more dysfunctional system of Islamic theocracy - all that does is double down on human disaster and misery. It remains to be seen which way things tip. Revolution =/= progress; they are linked but ultimately separate variables.
On which topic, Brett Stephens had a useful reminder the other day, about courage...
"The Face of Pakistan's Courage" is about Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Punjab's governor. He's the man who was assassinated for suggesting the repeal of Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws, whose legal and socio-cultural framework effectively sanctions torture and death for non-Muslims on a whim. I wish that was an exaggeration, but the evidence suggests otherwise: Asia Bibi currently sits on death row in Pakistan for nothing more than being a Christian, courtesy of the whim of a spiteful local villager. She isn't the first. She won't be the last.
Shehrbano Taseer is staying in Pakistan, and will continue fighting for her father's vision of the country. As Stephens correctly notes:
"Nearly a decade after 9/11, the West's exhaustion with the war on terror - at least in its more grandly conceived, nation-building and culture-shifting versions - can be traced to episodes like the Taseer killing and the underlying, politically incorrect question they prompt: What is it with these people? It's not an entirely unfair question.... [At the same time, people like Ms. Taseer, and the protesters in Syria] are exercising the virtue of courage as Aristotle would have understood it. And they are a rebuke to cultural pessimists in the West who often feel vindicated by the perfidies of the Muslim world but could stand, on occasion, to be humbled by examples of its courage."
The nature of Islam ensures that we'll be asking "What is it with these people?" for some time. The cultural disconnect is profound, and no, everyone does not want to be like us. Glick's realism - the genuine kind, not the school of foreign policy thought that calls itself realist because we wouldn't notice otherwise - is a necessary component. The very first thing is to look at what we see, and then not lie to ourselves. To date, it seems we've done little except lie to ourselves. That has to end.
While we keep that in mind, we must remember that Shehrbano Taseer is also real. As are the people Michael Totten talks to and writes about, here and elsewhere. There is a human element in all of this, and it's important to see it. That, too, is part of looking at reality and not lying to ourselves. People like Ms. Taseer matter in both a moral and political sense, and are worth our support.
Even if our realism doesn't think they're going to win in the near term, and urges us to prepare accordingly.
"In a September 2007 video, al-Qaeda's third-highest leader, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, published a strategy, largely based on al-Qaeda errors in Iraq, showing how the West can fight and win its "war of ideas." Why would he do this? That is unclear. Al-Libi may have believed that the United States lags so far behind the global jihadist movement that al-Qaeda has little to fear.6 In any event, his six-part strategy for the West focuses almost exclusively on countering al-Qaeda's narrative:
- Amplify cases of ex-jihadis who have renounced armed action;
- Fabricate stories about jihadi mistakes and exaggerate actual mistakes;
- Prompt Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the jihadi movement;
- Support Islamic movements that disavow terrorist violence, particularly those with a democratic approach;
- Aggressively neutralize or discredit the jihadi movement's guiding thinkers; and
- Spin minor disagreements among jihadi leaders into major doctrinal or methodological disputes.
This actually strikes me as a pretty good list. As to why a jihadist cleric would issue this, it seems pretty simple to me. I've seen more than a few "beware of the following dirty tricks from the other side, so you're prepared" pieces among political partisans. Why not among theocrats, for whom religion is politics and vice-versa?
Next, our counterterror adviser evokes the perverse logic behind the administration's recent decision to censor words offensive to Muslims (which I closely explored in this PJM article):Nor do we describe our enemy as "jihadists" or "Islamists" because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.Inasmuch as he is correct in the first clause of that sentence -- "jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community" -- he greatly errs in the latter clause, by projecting his own notions of what constitutes "holy," "legitimate," and "innocent" onto Islam. In Islam, such terms are often antithetical to the Judeo-Christian/Western understanding. Indeed, the institution of jihad, according to every authoritative Muslim book on Islamic jurisprudence, is nothing less than offensive warfare to spread Sharia law, a cause seen as both "legitimate" and "holy" in Islam. As for "innocence," by simply being a non-Muslim infidel, one is already guilty in Islam. Brennan understands the definition of jihad; he just has no clue of its application. So he is left fumbling about with a square peg that simply refuses to pass through a round hole.
In recent times Muslim spokesmen working in conjunction with the usual suspects of PoMo intellectuals/pseudo-scholars and progressives have attempted to re-define the term. But one needs only to pick up any book from the previous era that even tangentially touches on the subject to see the term used in its proper historic meaning. As a student of ByzantinoRoman history I know this full well. Thus Ibrahim is actually wrong when he says, almost reflecting the thinking of Edward Said, that his "dual Middle-East/Western background gives me the advantage to understand both the Islamicate and American mindsets equally." Previous generations of Westerners also understood the term Jihad properly. The ethnocentric projection Ibrahim rightly condemns is actually a post-modern and multiculturalist phenomenon, and thus a rather recent innovation. This might seem like a minor quibble, but it's critical to our understanding of the problems we face.
It would be more proper to say that the word "Crusade" has transformed from its original meaning than it is to say "Jihad" has. After all, we have such things as "crusades for peace" and "The Billy Graham Crusade," neither of which involve mobilizing armies to recover1 lands from Islam by military means. Jihad has never ceased to mean what it means, however, up through the mobilization of Arabs to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets and down through the present, though we are asked to believe otherwise. But we are told we cannot use the word "Crusade" because it is inflamatory, while also being instructed to re-conceive our understanding of calls for Jihad. This is a form of mental manipulation inflicted upon us not by our enemies, but by ourselves - or at any rate one wing of our own civilization.
And of course many young people, knowing little, having come of age in this era of degenerate pseudo-scholarship, educated by the instructors they have been educated, sincerely believe Jihad does not mean what it means. This is one means of intellectually disarming us, and leading people into accepting the received wisdom of progressivism on the sources and causes of this conflict, rather than connecting it to history. It helps open them to the conclusions of a Said or a Fisk or even their slightly-less-radical imitators: That we are to blame.
Redfining terms by those with an ideological axe to grind is almost invariably aimed at controling the thinking of others.
1Yes, recover: Crusades, aweful as many Crusaders behaved, were launched as counter-attacks. To call any but the 4th agqressive is akin to calling D-Day agressive. But, in this degenerate age, that history, however bad it was even told "straight," has been corrupted for ideological ends.
That certainly seems to fit reports from the field - and it would neatly sidestep the central military-political problem created by conventional anti-poppy efforts, while providing a boost for programs aimed at a farmer-centric approach to counterinsurgency.
Well, well, isn't that convenient? Then again...
The fungus is found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, so it could be natural. Especially given the Taliban's kick-up of cross-border people flows who handle poppies on both side of the border.
On the other hand, it could also be introduced; the American strategy does indeed seem to quietly revolve around sitting on the poppy growers in Helmland, per Staretgy Page's "This Is The Plan". On the contra side, George W. Bush reportedly considered using pleospora in Afghanistan, but firmly rejected it. It's possible that Obama has decided to use biological warfare, I suppose, and the recent outbreak reflects that.
But how would we know?
That's the thing with biological attacks. Unless you're dealing with clearly unnatural mutations, like chimera viruses, you can't be sure it isn't natural. It doesn't take many people to implement. And even if it clearly isn't natural, you can't usually tell where it's from with any certainty.
Something to contemplate, as we face a religion for whom suicide-murder attacks on civilians have become, among many, the highest moral example. The pushback created in places like Iraq, where they were forced to engage and endanger their own co-religionists on a regular basis, has blunted that thirst - but not removed it. The Islamic civil war for the religion's soul continues. The winning side is very much in doubt. And the clock of falling technology curves still ticks....
The police discovered a car bomb in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers from the area on a warm and busy Saturday evening.The ineptitude of the bombmaker mirrors the squib car bomb in the UK a year ago...
...Last week, at least 30 Mexicans from the town of El Porvenir walked to the border crossing post at Fort Hancock, Texas, and asked for political asylum. Ordinarily, their claim would be denied as groundless, and they would be turned back. Instead, they were taken to El Paso, where they expect to have their cases heard.
No one doubts that they have a strong claim. Their town on the Mexican side of the border is under siege by one or more drug cartels battling for control of the key border crossing. According to Mike Doyle, the chief deputy sheriff of Hudspeth County, Texas, one of the cartels has ordered all residents of the town of 10,000 to abandon the city within the next month.
"They came in and put up a sign in the plaza telling everyone to leave or pay with their own blood," Doyle said. Since then there has been a steady stream of El Porvenir residents seeking safety on the American side of the border, both legally and illegally. Among them are the 30 who are seeking political asylum.
There's nothing magical about geographic proximity to the United States that would prevent this tactic, if applied widely and backed by lethal examples, from working. What has been done in the villages of Bosnia or Dar Fur can be done in towns of northern Mexico.Chris Van Avery, one of his commenters writes:
In watching the world, it looks more and more like the lawless among mankind are beginning to figure out that order hangs on the most tenuous of strings. With enough violence and coordinated effort, criminal organizations are discovering they can become a law unto themselves and governments just don't have the resources to deal with the problem.It's going to be an interesting decade...
The Times of London talks about the large roster of foreign fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt. They serve as shock troops that consolidate al-Qaeda's local control over the tribes in Pakistan, and also conduct operations in Afghanistan.
"First-hand accounts from locals in the lawless areas of Pakistan close to the Afghan border, combined with those of Pakistani officers in the region, suggest that there is no shortage of Islamic foreigners willing to join the fray. Britain claims that these fighters are still the source of 75 per cent of terror plots against it.
Among this disparate group are al-Qaeda's Arab fighters, with a reputation for being well heeled and well mannered; Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), regarded as tough, rough and poor; and the Punjabis of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), viewed by their hosts as arrogant but militarily competent."
That said, Islamic paradise has its drawbacks. If we're clever enough to exploit them. Right now, we're doing the exact reverse:
"It's because of them that the army has come to our land and destroyed our homes," one local tribesman said. "Because of them our businesses are wrecked. Because of them we live as internal refugees.
"I've met ordinary people who say that they'd even welcome Israel or India if they helped us get rid of these Arabs and their friends."
The lameness of airport security in the USA - or security theater, as it should be called - is difficult to properly express. It will end when people consistently demand better - and not one second of useless inconvenience before.
Before I forget, and for future reference, here's a fine post about the contrasting way the Israelis do it. With far less inconvenience, and a better security record.
"In Somalia's main pirate lair of Haradheere [about 400 km/ 250 miles NE of Mogadishu], the sea gangs have set up a cooperative to fund their hijackings offshore, a sort of stock exchange meets criminal syndicate.... "Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 'maritime companies' and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking," Mohammed said.
"The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials ... we've made piracy a community activity.".... "Piracy-related business has become the main profitable economic activity in our area and as locals we depend on their output," said Mohamed Adam, the town's deputy security officer.
This is just the beginning of the true cost of the dithering and ineffective measures demanded by the UN and its enablers. Large sections of the Indian Ocean, far beyond Somalia, are already becoming dangerous for shipping and trade. And the forces on land will continue to morph toward more sophisticated - and hostile - models, the longer they're left alone. This is far too good a racket not to attract interest from al-Qaeda, which already has reliable proxies in the area - and a long Islamic history of piracy and slavery to use as justification and rallying call.