Monday, August 14, 2006
The latest terror scare is upsetting enough: It is bound to lead to havoc and chaos both domestically and internationally. It could damage the economy if fears on flying are sustained. It reopens the profound wounds of 9/11, a scab we should figure by now will never completely heal.
For the Daily News, therefore, terrorism is mostly a psychological problem; the greatest danger it poses is that it "upsets" us, that it "opens scabs." (I suppose Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl had scabs "opened" in a certain sense, so the DN may have a point).
And then they end with an entirely predictable point, as we duck from all the low-flying buzzwords:
Cheney's remarks underscore just how unsophisticated our understanding of terrorism is. We have no more understanding of the global forces at work that lead so many to want to bomb and destroy innocent lives than we did five years ago.
This is the "root causes" argument, and it never fails to sicken every time it's trotted out. There are major and minor forensic problems with the root causes argument, and I'll go into them here.
The major problem is that the argument is horses**t. No one ever wanted to examine the root causes of, say, why Timothy McVeigh wanted to blow up the Murrah building, nor should they have. But with anti-Western atrocities, we're supposed to take the murderers' arguments seriously, we're supposed to examine their grievances, not in the clinical way that Auden referred to in his famous line about Hitler
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
...but rather we are implicitly expected to view the terrorists' grievances with sympathy. The act of "addressing" the "root causes" requires us to treat these chimeras as if they were real. And that I refuse to do, any more than I would feel the need to fight Nazism by addressing "the evils of race-mixing" or "the pernicious influence of international Jewry" (though here again our friends in Iran would regard the latter as a legitimate "root cause," so perhaps I spoke too hastily).
Which brings us the the minor forensic problem with the root causes argument: No one seems to agree which "causes" are the most "root." Everyone seems to have a private root cause of his own, which he clings to with white knuckles, insisting that it and only it is the One True Root.
Shia terrorists will tell you that their root cause is when Ali was waylaid in 700-something AD. Sunni terrorists like Al Qaeda insist that it's because of the defilement of the holy Arabian peninsula with the presence of infidels. Liberals and Communists say that the root cause is poverty, internationalists say it's because we withdrew from the International Criminal Court, environmentalists say it's because we won't sign the Kyoto Treaty, etc., etc., etc. One of my most vivid memories from the morning of September 11th, 2001, was this stupid, stupid woman at work telling someone in the break room that the attacks were obviously due to our failure to attend the International Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa the week before. This idiot really, really believed that. And I think the Philadelphia Daily News editorialists believe it too.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
...on this of all weekends, when Jews are being mowed down by Muslims in Seattle, the ADL can find time to condemn an actor for things he said in a drunken haze.
I was surprised that people jumped on me for saying that ("That's where it starts, bonehead!" said one genius to me). But I am in good company:
Dennis Prager at townhall.com, August 8:
On July 28, 2006, a Muslim entered the building of the Seattle Jewish Federation and shot every Jew he saw, murdering one woman and wounding five others.
On the same day, Mel Gibson was arrested on DUI charges and while intoxicated let loose with anti-Semitic invective at the Jewish police officer who arrested him.
Question: Which story has most troubled the Left?
The answer is known to any American who can hear or read.
Or Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe, August 6:
By any rational calculus...[the Haq story in Seattle] was more significant.....after six days, a Nexis search turned up only 236 stories mentioning Haq -- one-fourth the number dealing with Gibson's drunken outburst.
Mark Steyn, August 6:
But let's say you're a northwestern American municipality -- Seattle, for example -- and you haven't lobbed missiles at anybody, but a Muslim male shows up anyway and shoots six Jewish women, one of whom tries to flee up the stairs, but he spots her, leans over the railing, fires again and kills her. He describes himself as "an American Muslim angry at Israel" and tells 911 dispatchers: ''These are Jews. I want these Jews to get out. I'm tired of getting pushed around, and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.''
Well, that's apparently entirely "proportionate," so "proportionate" that the event is barely reported in the American media, or (if it is) it's portrayed as some kind of random convenience-store drive-by shooting. Pamela Waechter's killer informed his victims that "I'm only doing this for a statement," but the world couldn't be less interested in his statement, not compared to his lawyer's statement that he's suffering from "bipolar disorder.'' And the local FBI guy, like the Mounties in Toronto a month or so back, took the usual no-jihad-to-see-here line. ''There's nothing to indicate it's terrorism related,'' said Special Assistant Agent-In-Charge David Gomez. In America, terrorism is like dentistry and hairdressing: It doesn't count unless you're officially credentialed.
On the other hand, when a drunk movie star gets pulled over and starts unburdening himself of various theories about "f---ing Jews," hold the front page! That is so totally "disproportionate" it's the biggest story of the moment. The head of America's most prominent Jewish organization will talk about nothing else for days on end, he and the media too tied up dealing with Mel Gibson's ruminations on "f---ing Jews" to bother with footling peripheral stories about actual f---ing Jews murdered for no other reason than because they're f---ing Jews.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The news analysis and op-ed pieces are coming in fast and furious. The one that opened the floodgates was the famous "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy" cover story in Time a few weeks ago
And now everyone's singing that tune. The alternative, of course is the reasoned, thoughtful approach of the Clinton administration--even the Bush 41 administration is mentioned positively here as well--which the pundits praise warmly in comparison to that of the present administration. Typical is Trudy Rubin's column in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, now offline, which hits all the right notes:
If the Lebanon tragedy is to be resoved without a victory for Hezbollah, and if there is any chance to save Iraq, the White House needs some kind of grip on realities in the region Yet...the rhetoric of the Bush team seems ever more removed from the facts on the ground.
Some in the administration, along with neocon pundits, see the Israel-Hezbollah battle as part of a global struggle that pits the West against "Islamofascists" But...combatting terrorists requires a far more sophisticated military and political approach.
An ungracious person would point out here that, to the contrary, the Hezbollah war has been one of the Bush administration's finest diplomatic hours, as the war goes on for weeks and weeks and weeks, and the much-discussed Muslim/Arab uprising never comes and the Western allies line up with the American hands-off position (less delicately known as the "Let Israel annihilate Hezbollah" position), to the total diplomatic isolation of the French. Which brings us back the the "realistic" and "sophisticated" position, since this was the French point of view all along, though they preferred the more French-sounding "nuance."
But there is a big problem with the "realistic" solution to the Middle East, and we all saw it together in one shared experience: 9/11. 9/11 was the offspring of decades of "realism" in Western policy toward the Arab world. Let's be clear: "Realism" meant and still means the maintenence of a worldview that pretends that Islamic fundamentalism doesn't exist, or at least doesn't exist as a problem for us, and if we just went back to leaving them alone and didn't meddle in their business, everything would go back to that way it was in 2000. No, scratch that, that was the year Mohamed Atta went to flight school. Let's say instead: Everything would go back to the way it was in 1998. Whoops, that was the year that two American embassies were blown up. What I meant to say was that everything would go back to the way it was in 1993. No, that was the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Damn.
But 9/11 is what it is, and can't be ignored the way those other terrorist acts were. We can't pretend it didn't happen. The only possible non-"Cowboy" responses to 9/11 are the exact opposite of "realism": Conspiracy theories, "controlled demolition" studies, etc., etc. The gradual mainstreaming of 9/11 revisionism--I watched in horros last Saturday as C-SPAN covered a 9/11 conspiracy convention from Los Angeles--is a symptom of the Left's unrealistic belief in "realism."