Impervious horrors of a leeward shore (arpad) wrote,
Impervious horrors of a leeward shore
arpad

Condition: Red

Tony Blankley in his editorial in Washington Times hit the point square:

There is an historically fairly predictable pattern to the unfolding strategies and views of great wars. They often start with a morally ambiguous view of the enemy, a more limited conception of the war's magnitude and a restrained application of violent tactics.

Eventually, moral clarity is obtained, war objectives expand — often to grandiosity, and tactics become ferocious. For example at the start of our Civil War in 1861 at the Battle of First Manassas, spectators came out by carriage with picnic lunches to observe the event. By 1865, Gen. Sherman executed a campaign of civilian terror and material obliteration in his march to the sea. Likewise, the war started with the purpose of saving the union, but morally expanded to end slavery — north and south.
World War II started out in Europe first with the phony war and mutual thoughts of a negotiated peace, then with careful bombing (Hitler initially ordered that London not be bombed) and ended with the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo and the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even during his war on the Jews, as late as 1940, Hitler was thinking of deporting German Jews to Madagascar, and ended in rounding up Jews throughout Europe and perpetrating genocide in industrially designed death camps (although some historians believe the Madagascar plan may always have been a subterfuge for the Final Solution.)

Today, the West's struggle to resist radical Islamic aggression (both cultural and terroristic) is still in that early phase of moral confusion and limited tactics. Thus we continue to debate the ethical merits of minor intrusions into American civil liberties (such as NSA surveillance of some phone calls from foreign suspects), and even serious and patriotic men such as Sen. John McCain and Gen. Colin Powell challenge the need to permit psychologically rough — but nonviolent — interrogation of captured terrorists.

But there are some signs that the early stage of moral confusion is beginning to give way to greater clarity. Last week, two towering intellects — Pope Benedict XVI and Henry Kissinger — began to offer clarity. On Tuesday the pope gave his now famous, but still misunderstood, lecture at the University of Regensburg, and on WednesdayMr. Kissinger published in The Washington Post a half page seminal article on the risk of civilizational war.

Any fair and careful reading of the pope's lecture must conclude that it was not an inadvertent insult to Islam. Rather it was a firm assertion that the Judeo-Christian God acts in accordance with reason (In the beginning was the logos — word and reason.), and thus Christians and Jews can undertake a rational debate about the morality of violence. He quotes, now famously, Emperor Manuel II's assertion in 1391 that Islam spreads its faith through violence — which, he says, is unreasonable and incompatible with the nature of God. He then cites an 11th-century Arab Muslim theologian, Ibn Hazn, who argued that Allah is transcendent of reason.

After criticizing secular Christians for not giving reason its proper place in understanding faith and God, he concludes his lecture by again quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II on his same criticism of Islam. Then the pope finishes his lecture with the following words: "It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."

In other words, he is inviting Islam to explain whether its God is like ours — inherently understandable by reason (and thus, is their God opposed to violence, as ours is?)

He was also, I strongly suspect, speaking to his own flock, both to return to proper Christianity and to consider the nature of Islam. And, I suspect, the pope did not inadvertently quote the now inflammatory passage. If he had not included that quote, the world would not now be debating his lecture. While the pope surely did not want to see violence, he just as surely wanted to engage the world in this vital search for clarity.

While not the pope, Mr. Kissinger is the world's premier practitioner and scholar of real politic. So, it is consequential that in his article last week he warned the world that "we are witnessing a carefully conceived assault, not isolated terrorist attacks, on the international system of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. The creation of organizations such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda symbolizes the fact that transnational loyalties are replacing national ones. The driving force behind this challenge is the jihadist conviction that it is the existing order that is illegitimate."

He went on to warn that "The debate sparked by the Iraq war over American rashness vs. European escapism is dwarfed by what the world now faces...the common danger of a wider war merging into a war of civilizations against the backdrop of a nuclear-armed Middle East...We now know that we face the imperative of building a new world order or potential global catastrophe."

These are shocking words coming from the verbally impeccably careful diplomatist.

So, within 24 hours the pope raises the question whether Islam is inherently violent and unreasonable, while Henry Kissinger warns of a possibly emerging nuclear clash of civilizations.

Moral clarity, anyone?


And just today during routine news walk around Al-Jazeira site I found another article

The erosion of the Arab state by Soumaya Ghannoushi

Child of the colonial legacy, of Sykes/ Picot and the European powers' scramble for the Ottoman inheritance, the Arab state has always carried deficiency and impotence as part of its genetic make-up.

Official failure to provide adequate defence systems and maintain homeland security has generated a vacuum, which is being gradually filled by non-governmental socio-political movements with armed wings.

Disillusionment with the official political order and growing cynicism about its ability to preserve a semblance of sovereignty, liberate occupied land, or safeguard national interests has brought new actors onto the stage of Arab politics.

These non-state players, which include Hizbollah in Lebanon and several armed groups in Palestine, are increasingly occupying the centre of the public sphere in the Middle East, profiting from the declining legitimacy of the political elite tied to the stakes of foreign dominance in the region and lacking popular support to speak of.


Sunday 24 September 2006, 19:50 Makka Time, 16:50 GMT

The Israeli assault on Lebanon has poignantly brought two truths home: that some Arab states are unable to respond to ever- mounting external threats, and that the burden of homeland protection is increasingly shifting from the standard political order to non-state actors.

The Lebanese case offers a glimpse of the shape of the balance of powers in the Middle East in years to come.

The modern state, we should recall, derives its legitimacy from the right to monopolise and use the instruments of organised violence for the purpose of maintaining internal stability and civil peace on the one hand; and securing its borders, or what is conventionally referred to as national sovereignty, on the other.

Some Arab states have failed on either or both counts. Of these, the worst and most striking has been its impotence to confront external dangers, be it in Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.

Official failure to provide adequate defence systems and maintain homeland security has generated a vacuum, which is being gradually filled by non-governmental socio-political movements with armed wings. Lebanon and Palestine are two cases in point.

Increasingly, the Arab public feels that the political system is unfit to respond to the question of destiny and provide the basics for preserving sovereignty. There is a striking dichotomy at the heart of the Arab state.

While enormously powerful at home, it is pitifully weak in responding to foreign challenges. A number of inter-related factors have converged to produce this odd state of affairs, geopolitical and structural.

These are largely to do with perpetual interference in the affairs of the Middle East from the Western powers that continue to hold the reins of its fate, with the superiority of Israeli military capabilities propped up and backed by the US and its allies, as well as with the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Arab state itself.

Child of the colonial legacy, of Sykes/ Picot and the European powers' scramble for the Ottoman inheritance, the Arab state has always carried deficiency and impotence as part of its genetic make-up.

That the Arab region should have been divided into 22 entities is a measure of its significance for the relations of dominance that emerged towards the end of the eighteenth century with Napoleon's expedition to Egypt (1798), the first major European incursion into a central country of the Muslim world.

For Britain and France - just as it is for the United States today - control of the Middle East was important not only because of their interest in the region itself, but because it corroborated their position in the world.

Not only was the region rich in raw materials, with cotton from Egypt, oil from Iran and Iraq, minerals from the Arab Maghrib (North Africa), it was a vast field of investment, and a route to other continents.

For Britain, the sea route to India and the Far East ran through the Suez Canal. For France, routes by land, sea and air to French possessions in West and Central Africa passed through the Maghrib.

Presence in the region strengthened the two countries' position as Mediterranean powers and world powers. These vital interests were protected by a series of military bases like the port of Alexandria, military bases in Egypt and Palestine, and airfields in those countries and in Iraq and the Gulf.

The Arab state replaced the complex network of local elites, tribal chieftains and religious groupings through which the imperial authorities had maintained their grip over the territories they dominated.

Its mission was the regulation of the indigenous population's movement, a gigantic disciplinary, punitive and coercive apparatus designed for the purpose of imposing control over the local populations.

In an article published in the Guardian on September 2, Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy prime minister, said: "Israel should ... support the legitimisation of one single authority in the whole of Lebanon - indeed in all countries of the region ... The Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority have lost control of their territories and armed forces ... Israel must support the governments of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in their struggles for exclusive territorial and military control over their lands."

It might be reasonable to think it is illogical that a country frequently painted as a beleaguered entity in a hostile environment should be advocating a policy of strengthening its neighbours' authority over their territories.

Not so, for the system of indirect control over the region, which assumed its present shape in the aftermath of World War I, specifically requires a "state" that is capable of keeping the local populations under check and maintaining "stability" at home, but too weak to disrupt foreign influence or disturb the balance of powers in the region.

Disillusionment with the official political order and growing cynicism about its ability to preserve a semblance of sovereignty, liberate occupied land, or safeguard national interests has brought new actors onto the stage of Arab politics.

These non-state players, which include Hizbollah in Lebanon and several armed groups in Palestine, are increasingly occupying the centre of the public sphere in the Middle East, profiting from the declining legitimacy of the political elite tied to the stakes of foreign dominance in the region and lacking popular support to speak of.

While already fulfilling many of the state's conventional functions such as the provision of social services like health and education, in countries subjected to military occupation (such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine) they are increasingly taking on the state's defence responsibilities.

Child of the colonial legacy, of Sykes/ Picot and the European powers' scramble for the Ottoman inheritance, the Arab state has always carried deficiency and impotence as part of its genetic make-up.

This has earned these movements the admiration of the Arab public, which frequently contrasts their political and military performances in the face of the gigantic Israeli military machine with the redundancy of Arab armies permanently frozen in military stations and barracks.

In light of the turbulent situation in the region and receding allegiance to the political establishment, it is possible to predict that the coming years could see an extension of this popular model to neighbouring countries acutely sensitive to threats to their security.

Since the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has been evangelising about the "New Middle East". This rhetoric, which had retreated under the stench of burnt cities and piles of dead Iraqi bodies, has lately resurfaced once more.

Though certain to leave long-lasting marks on the region's map, the current frenzy of interventions is unlikely to engender the Middle East Washington and London desire.

The likelihood is that this new Middle East born in the womb of pre-emptive strikes and proxy wars will neither be American nor Israeli but will gravitate between "deconstructive chaos", and the rise of popular resistance movements.

The lesson we would do well to learn from Iraq's unfolding tragedy is that the Middle East is far too complex, far too unruly for the grand fantasies of conquest and subjugation.

[Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher in the history of ideas at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.] Ghannoushi is currently writing a book on Western Representations of Islam Past and Present.


I feel what Tony Blankley describes. I am still considering myself sane, but when I read news about killing in Ramalla or Iraq I don't have any emotional responce. Worse - I read about death of our own without emotional responce. It is already not "something that we could prevented". It is "something that happen", "something we should bear through".

And on other hand we have balance of a sort - a Western army can easily invade any of Middle-East states, but it can't suppress a popular uprisal. Sectarian violence in Iraq, Hizballa war with Israel in Lebanon, HAMAS victory in Palestinian Authority - owerwhelming advantage of Israel or US army can do nothing with it.

So the present bid of Islamists is like "the worse it is - the better we are" - deterioration of a state provide them both - freedom from hated government and non-symmetric defense from the West. And bid of Iran is fighting a war by proxy till nuclear shield allow them to take the West out of equation, consume neighboring states and become a regional superpower.

I easily can imagine several big war scenarios starting in this mess. I can imagine the war results too. But I don't want to talk about all that now.

Unfortunately I can't imagine any way to defuse this mess. And that scares me.
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