Munich, Yalta or Cambodia: What Year is It?

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What’s your vintage? [John Federico / Flickr]

If war in the Middle East is a battle for the control of images, right now in the US it’s a battle for control of the analogy.

(OK, it’s all a battle for the control of oil, but stay with us here.)

Ross Douthat, in an op-ed last week in The Wall Street Journal, took on the unenviable task of wading through yards of commentary — on Lebanon, on Iraq, on the UN, on Iran — to discover not what pundits think we should do but what year in history pundits believe the present most resembles. (You can read Douthat’s article on his blog.)

In the office we sometimes play a game called “appeasement or quagmire.” One of us will read a passage from a blog or a newspaper and Mary will yell “Appeasement!” or “Quagmire!” The idea is that almost any argument can be reduced to Vietnam or Munich, the Munich of 1938, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to the Germans and returned to predict that we would have “peace in our time.”

Douthat’s piece is a little more thorough. According to his research, the “1942ists” think we’re at the beginning of a long war. Ahmadinejad is Tojo; Bush is Truman or, as Tony Snow sometimes dreams at night, perhaps Churchill. The 1938ists — Douthat lists Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich among them — are thinking back to original appeaser Neville Chamberlain. They tend to be the ones suggesting we attack Iran.

1948ists — Peter Beinart, Francis Fukuyama — are chastened by Iraq but hope to stand resolute for the long struggle of containment. 1972ists believe we’re engaged in fruitless illegal wars (like the secret bombing of Cambodia) that are only making things worse.

And Douthat himself leaves open the possibility that it’s actually 1914, that we have our hand resting lightly on the lever that will unleash a hell we couldn’t begin to imagine. So what year is it? Extra points if you can come up with a year not in the twentieth century, and double extra points if you can suggest your favorite history prof from college to jump in on this.

Update, August 23 11:30 am

A belated thanks, by the way, to Chris Suellentrop’s Opinionator for pointing us to Douthat’s original article.

Ross Douthat

Associate editor, The Atlantic Monthly

Blogger, The American Scene

Author, What Year Is It?, The Wall Street Journal, 15 Aug 2006

Charles Maier

Professor of history, Harvard University. Author: Among Empires: American Ascendancy and its Predecessors

Thomas Barnett

Blogger, Thomas P.M. Barnett:: Weblog

Senior Managing Director, Enterra Solutions

Former strategist for the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Former professor, Naval War College

Author, The Pentagon’s New Map and Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating

Thanks to winston_dodson for suggesting Thomas Barnett, who was previously on our China: Watching from the Sidelines show.

Dominik Zaum

Fellow in international relations, Oxford University

Extra Credit Reading

Ross Douthat, What Year Is It? [Full Article], The Wall Street Journal, cross-posted on The American Scene, August 15, 2006: “For the moment at least, where you line up on any foreign-policy question has less to do with whether you’re Republican or Democrat, isolationist or internationalist-and more to do with what year you think it is.”

Thomas Barnett, Gulf Pundits: An Op-Ed Scorecard, The Washington Post, cross-posted on Thomas P. M. Barnett: Weblog, December 16, 1990: “The Persian Gulf debate is not a rerun of the pre-World War II debate between interventionists and isolationists. The multilateralist option offers a third alternative to ‘going all out’ or ‘sitting it out.'”

Chad the Elder, It’s Just Like _____ All Over Again, Fraters Libertas, August 16, 2006: [Check out the poll in the left column].

evanstonjew, What Year Is It?, Evanston Jew, August 20, 2006: “My view is that the appropriate historical analogy, if any, for Israel and the Jewish people, is the period of the Second Temple.”

Chris Suellentrop, Dubya Dubya Two, Slate Magazine, August 30, 2004: “If reflecting the glory of the Good War upon yourself is the only way you can make the case for combat, your case isn’t very good. Whenever the president is backed into a corner, he relies on a specious historical analogy to defend his policies.”

Rich Lowry, Bush’s Vietnam?, National Review Online, August 15, 2006: “It is not too late to tamp down that militia-directed violence, which hasn’t yet taken on an uncontrollable life of its own. But the clock is ticking, toward the hour when we will indeed suffer another Vietnam.”

Related Content


  • It’s actually 2004 and we are playing our Burnett’s strategies.

    PS Burnett was on CSPAM again this weekend.

    The Pentagon’s New Map

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jump to: navigation, search

    The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century is a 2004 book by Thomas Barnett based around an earlier article he wrote for Esquire magazine. It outlines a new grand strategy for American foreign policy. It is an iteration of a PowerPoint presentation that Barnett has been making for years that is known simply as “The Brief”. Interested parties include the public and private sectors, encompassing military organizations and foreign governments.

    At least two versions of Barnett’s presentation have aired on C-SPAN as of 2005. In December 2004, the network broadcast one of Barnett’s recent presentations followed with a live call-in program in which Barnett discussed his book and its effects. See the article on Barnett for an outline of his ideas.

    Barnett was asked by the United States Air Force to give the presentation to every new officer who attained the rank of General.

    # The world can be roughly divided into two groups: the Functioning Core, characterized by economic interdependence, and the Non-Integrated Gap, characterized by unstable leadership and absence from international trade. The Core can be sub-divided into Old Core (North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia) and New Core (China, India). The Disconnected Gap includes the Middle East, South Asia (except India), most of Africa, Southeast Asia, and northwest South America.

    # Integration of the Gap countries into the global economy will provide opportunities for individuals living in the Gap to improve their lives, thereby presenting a desirable alternative to violence and terrorism. The US military is the only force capable of providing the military support to facilitate this integration by serving as the last ditch rule-enforcer. Barnett argues that it has been doing so for over 20 years by “exporting” security (US spends about half of the world’s total in military spending).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pentagon's_New_Map

  • Burnett above should read Barnett. Anyway, his bio

    http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/biography.htm

    His blog

    http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/

  • It’s the beginning of a period that, if current events prevail, will be seen as having the opposite outcome of the year 1648.

    Principles of Westphalia

    The Treaty of Westphalia incorporated four basic principles:

    1—The principle of the sovereignty of nation-states and the concomitant fundamental right of political self-determination 2—the principle of (legal) equality between nation-states 3—the principle of internationally binding treaties between states 4—the principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of other states

    That is why the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) is so crucial in the history of international political relations. This important treaty formed the basis for the modern international system of independent nation-states. In fact, it marked the beginning of an international community of law between sovereign states of equal legal standing, guaranteeing each other their independence and the right of their peoples to political self-determination. The two most innovative principles being proclaimed were the principle of sovereignty and the principle of equality among nations. They were truly political and legal innovations for the time.

    Thus, the Treaty defined these new principles of sovereignty and equality among states in order to establish a durable (eternal) peace and friendship among them, within a mutually acceptable system of international law, based on internationally binding treaties. This was a revolutionary approach to international relations because, for the first time, it established a system that respected peoples’ rights and that relied on international law, rather than on brute force and the right of the strongest to regulate interactions between states.

    A fifth principle was also present in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, and it is the idea that in order to achieve an enduring peace, magnanimity, concessions and cooperation had to be shown by the victorious parties. It was the beginning of a genuine international constitution for humanity, the advent of a new international order and a big step forward for civilization.

    In short,the Peace of Westphalia believed that there is nothing more important than the sovereignty of states.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Westphalia

    If the “world” as represented by the UN / Europe continue to prove that they are unwilling / incapable of dealing with Islamic Fundementalism / Facism then the international order started at Westphalia will begin to crumble.

    As Supreme Court Justice Jackson said “The US Constituion is not a suicide pact” but this really applies to the entire set of international organizations and treaties. If they fail to deal with the realities of the modern world, then they will be left behind.

    Will there be one year that is a milstone when this happens? Hasn’t occured yet but what happens after a state like Iran obtains nuclear weapons while the entire international system stood by and watched? What happens after either they use one or give them to an internaional terrorist organization like the jsut gave weapons to Hezbulah?

    One cannot put the “Genie back in the bottle” but one can scrap the international traeaty that allowed it to escape and then attempt to use “terrible retribution” to sterilize portions of the world where the “Genie tread”.

  • jdyer

    As far as the war in Lebanon goes, I think the Spanish civil war of 1936 is the best analogy.

    In both cases you had a weak democratic government attacked by a radical fascist force which led to a proxy war between the supporters of democratic rule and those who supported Fascist or theocratic rule.

    Here are the notes of a debate on the subject in England:

    ” Eric Lee recently debated Sean Matgamna on this and has put an account on his website. It’s probably too long to copy here in its entirety, but I’ve made a summary. Others may well have selected different passages.

    The link is

    http://www.ericlee.info/2006/07/in_support_of_israel_notes_for.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    http://www.ericlee.info/2006/07/in_support_of_israel_notes_for.html

    In support of Israel: Notes for a debate

    Last night I debated Sean Matgamna of the Alliance for Workers Liberty at a central London pub in front of an audience of about 30 people. My notes for the debate follow.

    The main point:

    Israel is facing an existential threat and it is the responsibility of socialists to defend the Jewish state.

    Where we agree […]

    Where we disagree

    Here’s what you have been saying: […]

    The question facing socialists

    The question is – do we socialists support or oppose Israel in its war of self defense following the Hamas and Hizbollah attacks? […]

    An historic parallel […]

    “[The Spanish civil war] has been suggested as a model for the current fighting in the Middle East by Ephraim Sneh, a leader of the Israeli Labour Party and the son of the legendary Israeli Communist Moshe Sneh.

    Clearly the use of proxy forces (in this case, Hizbollah and Hamas, back then, the mutinous officers of the Spanish army) directed by fascist states (Italy and Germany then, Iran and Syria now) is one parallel.

    And there is another: today, most of you are appalled at the idea that we would be on the same side of a conflict as George Bush. But in 1936-39, if you backed the Spanish Republicans because you believed in democracy and freedom, you found yourself in the same camp as Stalin – at the peak of the Stalinist terror. I think that socialists were right to support the Spanish Republic in its struggle for survival. And today we should support the Israeli Republic for the same reasons.

    The analogy works for other reasons as well. In the Spanish Civil War, as in every war, both sides did terrible things. Many civilians were killed. Innocent blood was shed – and not only by the fascists.

    Socialists did not take the view then – a plague on both your houses, victory for the third camp, etc. Socialists supported the Spanish Republic as if there was no Stalin – and opposed Stalin as if there was no civil war in Spain. […]

    [W]hen a democratic republic is battling for survival against the black forces of fascist reaction, socialists are tested …

    (Has the AWL lost its way?) If you oppose Israel in this war, as the AWL does, you have two choices and only two choices:

    You can support its enemy, Hizbollah and Hamas, which is the view of the SWP, the Stop the War coalition, and others

    Or – you can propose an alternative strategy for the Jewish state and its working class

    If the latter, what is your strategy for Israel to survive as an independent state? What would you tell our comrade Amir Peretz to do? […]

    “[Y]ou do not have an alternative strategy, and [are] talking out of both sides of your mouth, trying not to burn bridges with the various organizations like the SWP with which you have tried repeatedly to form coalitions in the past (remember the ill-fated Socialist Alliance?)

    You have your principles – you support the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own land – but you are afraid to become even more unpopular by defending that principle in the real world.

    What is on the table here is an existential threat to the Jewish state, one which is recognized by the overwhelming majority of Israelis (including the peace movement) and by Jews everywhere, including here in Britain.

    That existential threat comes from Iran and Syria, two states run by brutal regimes which have killed tens of thousands of their own citizens and which are both committed to the destruction of Israel. You know this. You have talked about this and written about it.

    [You know that Iran and Syria have WMD but] you choose to ignore what you know, and you refuse to act upon your principles. The Jewish state faces the threat of annihilation by Islamo-fascist organizations that have sworn to do exactly that. But you act as if this is not happening – and you call upon Israel, and only Israel, to halt its attacks.

    Conclusion

    When Serbia launched its genocidal campaign against the Kosovars, the Left was tested. Here in Britain, the AWL played a magnificent role telling the truth – and nearly alone at that. Going so far as to say that surgical strikes by Nato against Serb forces might be justified.

    The Left was tested after the fall of the Saddam regime when reactionary, Baathist and Islamist forces attempted to break the back of the emerging Iraqi trade unions. The AWL stood up in defense of the elementary principle of working class solidarity – and found itself alone among the revolutionary Left organizations in doing so.

    But when Hizbollah and Hamas launched unprovoked aggression against Israeli, backed by the fascists in Tehran and Damascus, you chose to participate in pro-Hizbollah demonstrations, and to produce a cowardly leaflet denouncing Israel in the headline, not even calling on Hizbollah and Hamas to stop their aggression.

    __It was not your finest moment, comrades__.

    Sometimes we take unpopular stands because we have to.

    This is a critical moment for the left. We are being tested by events. We must have the courage to say what we truly believe, no matter how unpopular.

    We don’t pick up new members this way, we don’t sell more newspapers this way, we don’t make friends to our “leftâ€? and we don’t build new versions of the Socialist Alliance, but this is something we must do.

    Because telling the truth – even when it is unpopular — __is what makes us socialists__. ”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Biographical note on Eric Lee

    http://www.labourstart.org/ericlee/

  • silvio.rabioso

    Sorry to be the killjoy. It is 2006, we are on reality TV (so everyone uses his or her real name) and none of the contestants know what the fuck is going on. Just as in reality TV, reality is made in the editing room. I’m sure this entire community is aware that each one of these temporal analogies serves its maker’s ideological agenda; what we really should be focusing on (as many participants in other threads have mentioned) is that this all-out struggle for who gets to pick the analogy for our current global situation hides the fact that no one actually has any idea what is going on. As the US’s ‘ready to fight the Cold War version 2.0’ Armed Forces shows, even the military powers involved in these contemporary conflicts cannot conceive of them as anything but tired re-runs of past events. Please don’t tell me that Rummy’s ‘lean, mean fighting machine’ is the only example of novel political vision in power today…

    Perhaps if we were not so hopelessly lacking the imagination and reflective honesty to confront this crisis as what it really is, we would actually be moving closer to that ever-elusive dream of global peace.

    The gig is up. If global feminism, struggles for national liberation, universal civil rights, indigenous control of resources and other contemporary social justice movements are still not on your radar, then you are simply out of touch with global occurrences. We must confront global conflict from a global perspective: pure national greed will not be enough, as there is no longer any military boogyman who can keep all other states (and stateless populations) at bay. The first steps are US withdrawal from Iraq, Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Iran and Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Anything I miss?

  • scribe5

    rabioso missed the inconvenient fact that Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza six months ago and as a result got attacked by Hamas and by Hisbollah.

    You also missed Iran’s belligerent threats against Israel and North Korea against Japan.

  • pryoung

    ugh, this seems a pretty lame premise for a show. It must be late August.

    Sure, pundits do this kind of thing because of space limitations and the need to invoke history—however superficially or speciously—to provide ballast to their arguments. But can we agree that it’s at best a dodgy proposition?

    One danger is obvious in the dates chosen, which reflect a largely Eurocentric historical narrativization. Understanding our more globalized world more faithfully requires that we try to move beyond having the Western narrative as our exclusive point of reference, and try to accommodate multiple narratives and perspectives. The “defining historical moments” chosen by someone living in the Middle East, for example, will probably be rather different than the ones chosen by a resident of the West.

    That kind of knowledge would be far more useful as a basis for addressing current challenges than strained Hitler analogies.

    Why not do a show bringing together historians from different backgrounds (say, an Israeli, an Iranian, a European and an American) to discuss a single patch of history, and how its narration can be very differently influenced by national positioning? I know, far less interesting than whether Newt Gingrich thinks John Kerry is Neville Chamberlain in drag.

  • The year is 1187 and the United States is the main character in the third crusade. With a stable yet limited alliance with other western nations, just like Richard of England and Phillip of France had their shakey alliance. Just as they were then, this crusade is in many ways a result of the itense religious piety from the leadership of the most powerful kingdom on earth who claims his soldiers do the will of god while the enemies in the middle east as evil. Just as they did in trying to take Jeruslem, they are once again trying to convince the public that theirs is the just war. And just like in the third crusades, they seem to conquer with their military might and then deteriorate as they lack the adequate “supplies” to keep their foothold in that region. And just like in the 12th century, a new generation of middle easterners, primarily muslims, will continue the tradition of referring to all that is desctructive or bad as American or Western.

  • silvio.rabioso

    Pryoung explicitly expresses what I attempted to so in more convoluted language: a large part of this conflict stems from mutual misunderstanding at a deep and fundamental level. If we can only think of contemporary, European and/or contemporary European examples, we are demonstrating more ignorance than anything else. Douthat said it himself in his summary: too clever by half.

    Scouring history for a non-Western example that can be abused to fit whatever selected facts one chooses to represent the situation may be an interesting rhetorical exercise, but it is also fundamentally misguided. The point of understanding different cultures is not to warp those cultures and histories to fit a speaker’s ideological needs. The point is to open oneself to another tradition and another way to view the world.

    If we had the courage and imagination, we would not need to appeal to past conflicts in search of moral clarity. That does not mean that we should ignore history; on the contrary, we should LEARN from it (and perhaps bicyclemark’s Crusade analogy is the most useful in this department). Possible first lesson (repeated from above): any unilateral military occupation is undesirable, and any extended unilateral military occupation actual works against all goals of long-term peace and security.

  • pryoung

    Hi, silvio.rabioso.

    I like your use of the phrase “courage and imagination”, and your post leaves me wondering how history can actually be brought to bear more meaningfully on questions of current urgency. I am wholly in agreeement with your call for greater openness to the complexity of history and of another’s historical experience and culture. But what would make that the prelude to an actionable policy agenda rather than merely an endeavor of extended (if worthwhile) meditation?

    We seem to agree that programs like the one OpenSource is proposing for this evening might contribute more to trivializing history than to “opening it up” for listeners. It can be a fine line. But what is the means by which history can be made to matter in public discussion?

    I’ve always felt that a historically-informed citizenry would need to be most aggressively skeptical about attempts by political actors, and especially nation-states and their apologists, to mobilize partial pasts behind specific (and often violent) agendas. States have a power to mobilize the past, and with it public opinion, in ways historians cannot possibly hope to challenge in the here and now.

    Maybe my friendly challenge then is to Open Source instead: why don’t you try to figure out a way to creatively involve your listeners in the past, rather than aping the History Channel?

  • silvio.rabioso

    Pardon. A typo in the previous post. I meant to praise pryoung’s eloquence.

  • Ben

    I don’t know of any time in history that mirrors this present time. As long as this is a creative exercise, how about it’s around 1219 and the beginning of the establishment of the Il Khanate in Persia. With the amorphous relationships of commercial entities driving western national ‘interests’ in the region playing the role of a headless Khanate meritocracy. Except the surge moves from west to east, instead of east to west and Baghdad has already been sacked. It does seem to be something more along the lines of tribal control of regional resources and trade that’s not directly attached to or is outside our framework of contemporary nation states. The states are merely being played as the vessels of action in the game. Stretched?

  • jdyer

    I agree with Scribe above, but he too missed an important point in responding to

    Silvio,

    “If global feminism, struggles for national liberation, universal civil rights, indigenous control of resources and other contemporary social justice movements are still not on your radar, then you are simply out of touch with global occurrences.” silvio.rabioso August 22nd, 2006 at 12:43 am

    Feminism itself is being challenged today by the Jihadists and their response has been woefully inadequate as has been the responses of many national liberation movements as well as universal civil rights organizations.

    Moreover, national liberation often work against civil rights and feminism and to create and ideal balance is a utopian illusion.

    For the problems with contemporary feminists see the article in

    The Sunday Times August 13, 2006

    “Wimmin at War

    It is 25 years since the Greenham Common protests began. Sarah Baxter was there, but now asks why feminist ideals have become twisted into support for groups like Hezbollah…”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2309812,00.html

  • “don’t know of any time in history that mirrors this present time. As long as this is a creative exercise, how about it’s around 1219”

    No time mirrors the past. We can pick or choose any situtation or conflict to extract some detail the makes our point, but that doesn’t mean the situation is parallel. This exercise is like asking if Shanghai is more like Paris, Tokyo, or Montreal. It’s different from all of them.

    And there is no end of history, and there’s no paradigm shift so fundamental that it eliminates past realities. Sometimes strong, brutal violence and the deaths of many innocents DOES work to eliminate bad guys, secure borders, or bring about liberty.

    As I mentioned in another post, over 60,000 Frenchmen were killed by ALLIED bombing in WWII. But France is free and the NAZI’s defeated. History is full of good results achieved in ways that are morally troublesome.

    In another thread, when I mentioned this and the other horrors of defeating the Axis in WWII people responded that things have changed since then. Now we have treaties and diplomacy, they said, as if those things were modern wonders invented along with the transistor and velcro.

    But Rwanda, and Darfur and the killing fields of Cambodia and the UN’s current difficulties raising an army for Lebanon, do not provide empirical evidence that we have some new alternative in place.

  • Another point to consider is this:

    There’s a lot of violence in the world – individuals, small groups, large groups, stuggles for national liberation, terrorism, war, large national armies, border disputes, etc.

    Once of the principles of open source is that there is wisdom in the crowd. But this same crowd that can guess the weight of a prize bull to ounces also seems to endorse violence because at the moment one sort of violence or anther seems to be more popular than Coca Cola or Starbucks or rap music.

    When I look around the world I see a lot more violence than “worldwide feminism” – whatever that is, although presumably it includes the right to serve in the military and advance through the ranks by getting combat roles, or in the case of Islamic extremists, the right to blow up airplanes just like the boys, based on reports in the UK from today.

    If we truly believe in open source then we have to accept that the open source paradigm can be applied to many things, and can tell us many interesting things about ourselves.

  • Almanch

    I suppose this ends up more closely related to “Groundhog Day” and how many times do we have to repeat to reach the higher enlightenment?

    That said, can we look at these histories and NOT repeat them to completion?

    Personally, off the top of my head I see:

    – Robber barons in the division of American wealth

    – tools of WWI devestation (and greater with nuclear) available to individuals (particularly outside of the european sphere of experience)

    – Pre-depresion real estate speculation and dependence on the stock market

    There’s obviously more to it, but perhaps from each topic we can prevent the oft repeated results.

  • Michael Baker

    Why not a larger view.

    What year is it? It is 1429.

    The war has gone on for many years and will continue for many more.

    A region is invaded by a foe sharing many cultural and religious ties with the defenders. The invading foe lays claim to the region due to ethnic ties to the territory. The invading foe has fewer numbers but entered the conflict with superior military technology and organizational skills. Religion is being used both as an organizational tool to legitimize violence and to define ethnic boundaries.

    The invading foe is has divided the region by offering political and economic incentives to friendly leaders.

    After many defeats the defender evolves his organization, weapons, and tactics to meet the invaders superior technology.

    The invader foe is defeated in a key battle after many victories. A zealous religious leader leads the defenders in a desperate and ultimately successful battle.

    The victory for the defenders legitimises their political movement and ultimately changes the political map of the region.

    The Hundred Years War, the Siege of Orléans, and Joan of Arc did much to define French and ultimately European nationalism. One cannot escape the feeling that current events in the Middle East are leading to equally unpredictable and world shaking results.

    It appears that we are seeing the development of new identities in the Middle East. This development is powered by demographics, religion, communications developments, and the price of oil.

  • Almanch

    Three ideas I would like to throw out (in no particular order):

    I.

    Let’s not forget that the President used the analogies of Pearl Harbor to Sept. 11th and the “Axis of Evil” to Iran, Iraq and North Korea. I don’t believe the mass media did much to play down these analogies.

    For example, Al Qaeda vs. Japan:

    1) Al Qaeda had already attacked us on our land

    2) Al Qaeda is not a clearly defined country

    II.

    I am an arm chair anthropologist, but it is my understanding that cultures often codify safety lessons in their myths (similar to fairy tails teaching children important lessons). Is this not the same of modern international conventions, treaties and laws?

    In circumventing UN approval for Iraq and the Geneva Convention on torture (among other examples, like privatizing social security in the stock market), why does the current administration think that it is above the wisdom of those who traveled before us?

    III.

    (Regarding whether or not this discussion is just academic)

    In the physical sciences, you can often gain insight into one system through another. Most often used example is a spring-mass system, which is used as an analogy for a pendulum system, and in electrical circuits and even biological systems.

    Is it not true that in political and social sciences there are the same base systems which events may be broken down into. Not all break down to the same historic reference as not all political revolutions are reflections of the American Revolution. However, there is a “timeless” model of “revolutionâ€? and how can any one revolution be modeled?

    Or, to current events, how can actions in Iraq be modeled?

    I feel like there are people who understand the model (refined by the lessons of history) of the current situation, but they are not being listened to.

  • quincyunadams

    I often wonder how intellectuals of a certain ilk can determine what day it is, never mind what year it is.

    Nobody is mentioning basic GLOBAL factors in these debates. The human ability to become near-sighted always amazes. Al Gore may not be Mr. Media Majic, but he is focused on the core problems. I wish everone else would start paying more attention to them.

    The planet is overpopulated by the human species. The rush is on for economic and political control among those whose instincts rule them, despite the sublimation of these ‘dog-eat-dog’ instincts into Ivy-League claptrap. The hoarding of wealth by the most aggressive 5-10% of the population makes this glaringly obvious to any student of the sciences and human behavior.

    Global environmental deterioration is pressurizing the overpopulation reality and escalating the stress on the species as a whole. Your frontal lobe can dance around the panic all it wants. The animal brain can still smell the carbon monoxide and be aware that your feet are getting wet from the effects of global warming. Meanwhile, the intellectual lunatic fringe protest abortion, birth control and sex education. And the media reverently cover them. So now they have a great deal of power.

    So, what year is it? Well, it may count out as 2006, but it may actually be 2106 as far as these global issues are concerned. And our technology is still 2006 (or maybe 2008, if Bill Gates were to release a new version ahaead of the planned obsolescence curve) technology.

    As for historic precedents, I think it may well be 200 AD. Like the Romans, whose technology gave them the hubris of running water, we are drinking in too much lead from our super-sized environment, while the overpopulated poverty zones we have created with our choice of technology over the planet and our own species are writhing with suicidal rage and a determination to invade our privilege or tear it down.

    Focusing on low-mileage cars, NGOs, religious issues, national boundaries, and all those minutia, is simple arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • For some historical parallels from 1960, see:

    http://www.thisdayinthe60s.blogspot.com

  • Loay

    Christopher

    How can you do a show like this without Robert Fisk.

    His latest book, “The Great War for Civilization” begs for this treatment. And as for Barnett, never in the field of power point presentations has so little information, been so hyped, using such graphics while disguising such ignorance. He is walking proof of the dangers of Microsoft ppt. Amazon seems to think I want to see his “plog” every time I log in, and I can not figure out how to switch it off. They are slowly losing me to the competition.

    By the way instead of idle conjuncture, read Pity the Nation:The abduction of lebanon” by fisk to understand the back ground to teh last war

  • Michael Baker

    Quincyunadams uses a classic American put down, “An intellectual of a certian ilk”. This is hardly a good way to start a rich discussion. Let us do our best anyway.

    I agree with quincyunadams that the environment is the issue. However we are humans and regardless of how much we wish otherwise we contruct our social world around the concepts of ethnicity, nationality, religion as well as the concept of fairness. As quincyunadams hints at it the affect of that society on our natural world that is the problem.

    Given the USA’s central place militarily, culturally, environmentally and economically the question of what the USA’s relationship with the rest of the world is vital. “The question of what year is it?” is really just another way of asking the question, “What should the USA’s relationship with the world be?â€?

    This is of course the most relevant issue we Americans can address. What are our responsibilities and rights in terms of the rest of the world? I do not know what question quincyunadams wishes us to ask but I think we can just as well start here.

  • Old Nick

    I can’t take credit for this but will borrow (steal) it anyway.

    On KUOW’s Weekday ( http://www.kuow.org/programs/weekday.asp ) this morning, Noah Feldman was the guest, discussing his new What We Owe Iraq http://www.powells.com/biblio/72-0691121796-0 .

    The announcement for tonight’s ROS program aired at the hour’s first break, and Feldman expressed interest in addressing Chris’s Lydon’s question ‘What year is it?’ (although, if he ever got around to it, he said it so fast I missed it – he’s a fast talker with a staccato delivery).

    But one caller addressed it (accidentally) by comparing our situation in Iraq to the problem the British faced in 1775: attempting to control a region whose inhabitants want the colonialists out, and who want to ‘settle the score’ with those other inhabitants loyal to the old order (in this case, Western leaning Iraqis fearful of falling under Sharia, etc.).

    It seems to me that you can apply that ‘1775’ comparison to the whole region, and not just Iraq. In place of ‘Taxation without Representation’, you can substitute the so-called Arab Street’s rebellious resentment of their post-colonial, non-representative governments (Tories, after a fashion). In place of American nationalism striving to wrest control of the colonies’ collective future away from the Brits, you can substitute “Pan-Arabism’s� contemporary successor, Islamism, attempting to restore the purity and wholeness of the ummah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah

    Is it a perfect analogy?

    Of course not.

    None of the comparisons in this thread are ‘perfect’. None of them deserve application as operative guides– but all of them offer thought-provoking parallels. (I’m intrigued especially by Michael Baker’s 1429 offering.)

    I think it’s folly to attempt to reduce our palette of potential analyses to single ‘right choices’. It’s preferable, I’m certain, to use the ‘lessons of history’ in full, not via a tunnel-vision focus on one dogmatic ‘right analogy’.

    Such unimaginative reliance on dogma (like the jingoism thinly disguised in the national conceit called ‘American Exceptionalism’), and worsened by the ego-rivalries of each analogy’s champions, is the real problem. (I don’t mean the egos of we bloggers, but of think-tank types like Kristol and Gingrich.)

    This show has plenty of potential to enlighten us – but only if we’re open to the many lessons of all the possible analogies.

    I expect it will be a fine hour of ROS.

  • Old Nick

    II

    Regarding Winston’s opening post in this thread: it’s provocative and therefore (potentially) useful.

    However, this thread, from Brendan’s show-tease on down, hosts two concurrent themes:

    1) Can we use historical analogies to think our way toward a satisfactory policy in relation to the Islamic ‘ummah’ – a concept of community-under-threat that motivates the broad phenomenon we call Islamism (and its resort to jihad)? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah

    And, theme 2) the application of historical analogies is part and parcel of the true problem: unimaginative analyses that rely on the ‘wars of the past’ don’t clarify, but occlude our ability to see the problems for what they really are.

    Several contributors have offered this as a logical dissent to the premise of this ROS hour. (See my quibble in the post above this one.)

    From the thread’s first post:

    “Integration of the Gap countries into the global economy will provide opportunities for individuals living in the Gap to improve their lives, thereby presenting a desirable alternative to violence and terrorism.�

    What if this is yet another application of an unsuitable analogy?

    What if it represents not the yearnings of the “Gap’s� Islamic portion, but the yearnings of Westerners?

    What if those we lump together under the rubric “Islamists� don’t care about the chance to acquire video games, cell phones, and two-car-garaged-houses-in-the-burbs?

    Why do we consistently believe that offering the chance to acquire the objects of our culture’s peccadilloes will win the proverbial hearts and minds of other, less materialistic cultures?

    Why do we think the Islamic portion of the “Gap�, if only we offer them the chance, would ever want to mimic us?

    The division of the world into concepts like ‘Functioning Core’ and ‘Gap’ is an oversimplification. This is more or less the same unimaginative ‘reliance on dogma’ outlined in the post above this one.

    Worse, ‘Function’ in “Functioning Core� is a conceit that overlooks the many dysfunctional features of the so-called “Core� – especially in this country, from its appalling economic inequity to its growing undercurrent of religious fundamentalism that’s every bit as culturally xenophobic as the more notorious xenophobia of the Islamists.

    As far as I can tell, the republic born from the bloodshed of 1775 has evolved into a thinly disguised tyranny of corporations. The ‘Function’ of ‘Functioning Core’ serves corporate interests.

    Does it honestly serve anyone else’s?

    More to the point: how can it possibly offer anything genuinely appealing to the religious millions of the ‘Gap’, whose concerns are much more focused on proper behavior for admission to the afterlife than on earthly materialism?

  • The year is actually 2046. Jenna Bush is in the middle of her second term as President. The country is still embroiled in a war in Iraq, which President Bush invaded a few years earlier hoping to “get it right this time.” Sources in the government claim they are on the verge of capturing Osama Bin Ladin, who at 89 is still quite sprightly and rumored to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan. Israel has invaded Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah once and for all. The fundamentalist Christian government of Iran is said to be planning an invasion of Israel in order to bring about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In 2046 nothing ever changes.

  • siennaf1

    Looking back to History is just the problem.

    Every conflict going on in the world today, wheather in the western world, middle east, asia, africa any where, is a result of looking back and finding reasons to fight. Obviously we never LEARN from History, so maybe it is time to stop discussing it !

    lets make this year “0”, and solve the problems we face as best we can – anyone that mentions a date in History gets banish to the moon…..

  • nabobnico

    Watch out for that Sienna… It was Pol Pot who announced just after capturing Phenom Phen in 1975 that “this is year zero.” He went on to kill a quarter of the population by “banishing” them from the city—not quite the moon, but still…

    My point is that we have a vast amount to learn from history, and I think placing ourselves in a comparable point may explain a way out. Many of the posts have pointed to similarities in other epochs. Quincy Un Adams points to the environmental issue as what seperates us from any other time. Unfortunatly he’s right I think. never before have we faced a life without petroleum, at least since we became dependent on it. Petroleum is the link to everything. As an example, when politicians (like Pataki in a recent speech did) talk about ethanol as a substitute, they ignore the fact that to grow the damn corn in the first place, we need heaps of petroleum based fertilizer… I also think we are facing a world war coming out of the mid east this time, one in which we are already heavily involved in. Knowing what happened 92 years ago in the month of August could help.

    Bush doesn’t read history, nor the newspapers. He has no idea what epoch we are in and this could be the biggest problem we face. Couldn’t someone teach him to read, like, make a dvd for him to watch about reading, like they did for Katrina…?

  • lisaxxx

    Did the guest mean Sudentenland (sp?) when he said Rhineland, relating 1938 Germany to Iran of today?

  • Almanch

    1919 (League of Nation failure) is interesting, IMO, the US is currently pulling back from a realistic (sustainable) ecological-energy policy which could cause a lot of push-back from small groups around the world (or not so small – ie Chinese & Indian underclasses) which could now exercise much more physical power.

    Also interesting, does the 1914 model put the US == Germany? we know how that went, and the analogy should certainly cause us pause.

  • Twisty Cat

    I think that you’re looking at this through the wrong lens. The middle east is a region of social groups that were largely organized in tribal systems that have been controlled by one foriegn empire after another. The primary resource of interest there is of course oil and it’s much cheaper to pay one subset of people there for access to those resources than to pay enough that the entire population of the region would benefit in a meaningful way. The Ottomans, the British and then the Americans have all been there in succession, supporting autocrats who are willing to aid and abet the extraction of valuable resources. What’s happening there now is a populist movement expressed through the filter of religion which is the only real social organization that the majority of the population has access to.

  • old nick writes “What if those we lump together under the rubric “Islamistsâ€? don’t care about the chance to acquire video games, cell phones, and two-car-garaged-houses-in-the-burbs?”

    What I love is that this is so devoid of perspective about what the gap is. The Gap isn’t about the “nice to haves” that you mentioned its about little things like, education / litteracy, health care. I have sited this before but it is so fundemental to the understanding about what the Arab world is about you cannot understand it without these facts.

    How the Arabs Compare

    Arab Human Development Report 2002

    Middle East Quarterly

    Fall 2002

    On July 2, 2002, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released the Arab Human Development Report 2002. The report, compiled by a “group of distinguished Arab intellectuals” led by Egyptian statistician Nader Fergany, has resonated in the Western and Arab media. With uncommon candor and a battery of statistics, the report tells a sorry story of two decades of failed planning and developmental decline. One inescapable conclusion emerges from its sober pages of tables and charts: the Arab world is in decline, even relative to the developing world.

    “The report was written by Arabs for Arabs,” announced a U.N. official.[1] Arabs did read it (it was also released in Arabic), and Arab authorship made its arguments more palatable to Arab intellectuals and policymakers. A columnist in Al-Ahram Weekly urged “a serious, deep reading” of the report, since “no changes will occur without Arabs first facing the facts, however unpalatable they may be.”[2] The editor of the Saudi Arab News wrote that the report “should be distributed to all Arabs,” and “should be compulsory reading.”[3]

    But it was not just Arabs who read the report. “If you want to understand the milieu that produced bin Ladenism, and will reproduce it if nothing changes, read this report”—so wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.[4] From another direction, Independent correspondent Robert Fisk found that the report “all too accurately sums up the barren, ossified life of so many Arab countries.”[5] Historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote that the report’s findings “lend credence to almost everything brave scholars like Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes have been saying for years.”[6] Analysts who agree over very little else agreed that the report deserved close reading.

    The core assumption of the report is that poverty is not merely a matter of income. As Fergany put it: “A person who is not free is poor. A woman who is not empowered is poor. And a person who has no access to knowledge is poor.”[7] By all these criteria, the Arab region—even some of its wealthiest corners—could only be described as impoverished. In line with this approach, the report went beyond the U.N.’s standard Human Development Index (HDI)—an amalgam of four developmental measures[8]—to include other measures of political and social freedom.

    While many Arab intellectuals rail against globalization, the report accepts it as an inevitable consequence of modernity and measures Arab performance—economic, scientific, social, and political— by global standards. One of the most remarkable aspects of the report is its resort to explicit comparison of the Arab region with other regions. The report deliberately draws comparisons that emphasize the depth of the crisis, in a bid to shatter the complacency and denial that afflict the Arab discourse on development. The most provocative comparisons stack the Arab world against the so-called “Asian Tigers” and Israel. According to the report, it is comparison “with regions that have done better [than the Arab region], that matters in any discussion of enhancing human development in the Arab region. Comparing the region with those [regions] that have done less well could invite undesirable self-congratulation in the face of major challenges.”

    The following excerpts from the report include passages that explicitly compare the Arab world with other world regions. Middle East Quarterly has rearranged the excerpts around themes and omitted references to supporting tables and graphs. This constitutes only a small sampling of the 168-page report, which also contains in-depth analyses of trends, detailed statistical tables and graphs, methodological caveats, and policy recommendations. The full report is available at http://www.undp.org/rbas/ahdr/english.html. —The Editors

    http://www.meforum.org/article/513

  • Jon Swift is funny.

  • edyersh

    What about, like, 9/11 was the Reichstag burning down and we are, like, now on the verge of attacking Iran, so that will be like attacking Poland and so, like, there’s gonna be another false flag attack (perhaps an October surprise?) to, like, get the attack on Iran timeline accelerated. So that would make it, like, 1938/9, right?

  • old nick writes “especially in this country, from its appalling economic inequity to its growing undercurrent of religious fundamentalism that’s every bit as culturally xenophobic as the more notorious xenophobia of the Islamists.”

    If old Nick didn’t take this so seriously I would take it as a joke. Islamist are not merely xenophibic they are murders. Southern Baptists don’t behead women for sinning like Islamists do for not covering their faces. And these are the same women that they forbid education to. US Christian fundementalists don’t condon female circumcision

    ( Female genital cutting is practiced by Muslims and non-Muslims alike residing mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa in countries that include but are not limited to Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Chad. A more minor form of the procedure is also performed in some parts of the Middle East and South Asia. Degrees of mutilation exist ranging from excision of the hood of the clitoris or clitoris itself to complete infibulation which involves removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora, leaving a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. http://www.mwlusa.org/publications/positionpapers/fgm.html)

    nor do Western Religions support honor killings.

    (In various countries throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East and parts of South Asia, women who bring dishonor to their families because of sexual indiscretions are forced to pay a terrible price at the hands of male family members. http://www.mwlusa.org/publications/positionpapers/hk.html)

    Old Nick, the reason why they are in the “Gap” and we are in the “Functioning Core” is because confused muddle headed thinking doesn’t prevail in general in Western Societies like it does in the Gap countries . . . . . and many posts on OS.

  • old Nick writes “As far as I can tell, the republic born from the bloodshed of 1775 has evolved into a thinly disguised tyranny of corporations. The ‘Function’ of ‘Functioning Core’ serves corporate interests.

    Does it honestly serve anyone else’s?”

    The food you eat, the medicine that you take, the electricity used to run the PC that you typed your post on, and this show, are all provided to you courtesy of . . . . Corporations. That is why there is a Gap. They don’t have them and we do.

    They do serve you.

    If anyone anywhere can ever find a better organizing priciple than Western Freemarket Capitalism to provide what every likes then they will be the most famous economist in history. Marx failed.

    So, I’ve got an idea, ask all the people in the Gap if they’d like to trade places with you.

  • Ingrid

    Interesting viewpoints all of you. Much better and well read then I am even though some of the references ring a bell, it’s just been a (long) while that I read anything historical. I tend to be on the pessimistic side and say 1914. It’s not the leaderships in place in the US or Israel, it’s the people supporting them and the media that is not questioning them hard enough. Dahr Jamail interviewed Ray McGovern , a CIA veteran of 27yrs, who basically related how the neocons were referred to as ‘the crazies’.. so it’s not a case of the blind leading the blind, the crazies leading the crazies!

    Ingrid

  • As per mu post above talking about this being the beginning of the period opposite of the period that ended in 1648 with the signing of the treaty of Westfalia.

    This modern period of international laws is based upon the fact that adhering to those laws brings a benefit – like the concept of a “Social Contract” except between nations. What is this is proven to no longer provide any value? Like say, a long period where is is obvious that nations, acting through and with international / transnational organizations are incapable of providing any value to those who particiapte.

    I propose, that if we do not act in the manner described by Barnett and yes the dreaded NeoCons we are, in all likley hood, hastening this end.

    An extended period of conitinual delays and failures of the UN et al of stoping non-legitmate govts like Iran, in the post Cold War era, from obtaining Nuclear weapons followed by the use of those weapons will result in the wholesale abandonment of those structures / instituions organizations that allowed the failrue and the only thing left will be the lonely nation-state.

    By that time, many others will be “nuke armed” (ex: N Koreas actions are, everyday, giving Japan incentives to go nuclear and they can do it in 2-3 years – if they haven’t already secretly begun) and will refelxivley go defensive offensivley. If attacked by a rouge nulcear weapon the US will be the first to scrape the international structures to deal in the only way to stop those actoins and that is to remove the sub-portions of the civilization from the map that fostered those weapons and leave the remaining in such abject terror that they would die of fright if the US ever looked there way.

    I was one of the first to criticize Congressman Tancredo when he advocated threatening to “Nuke Mecca” but only because it is premature. The end-state, a nulcear armed “Gap” govt (non-legimate in that is wasn’t related to its general populace because it wasn’t elected by them, nor does it exhibit any ability to provide the basics of what that society deserves – see AHDF link above) is scary but what is even scarier is an internaional system that simply stood buy and watched while it happened. That is a systemic failure not a one-off.

    And you can’t blame it on GB. The UN / EU / international system is failing despite him and his backers. Just look at France backing down from sending troops into S Lebanon after leading the previous negotiations by promising to send Peace Keepers. Isreal got screwed but who really got screwed was Lebanon and the UN. Lebanon because they are left with an “internal occupation” on the UN becasue even its reflexive proponents can only make excuses / rationalize at its failures.

    The inability to stop this gradual decent into international chaos is a forming of passive, creeping Nhilism.

    GWB / NeoCons / Barnett maybe wrong in their methods but unless anyone actaully beleives that an international structure manned by people who beleive like Old Nick can pursuad the Gap countries that they don’t really want Nukes by “feeling their pain”, then you’d better get busy thinking up new philosophies / strategies because, I don’t think that anyone can come up with a plausible scenario where the post 1648 / Treaty of Westphalia internaional system survives if they do.

  • LionRock

    Here’s an oblique and worrisome comparison with the beginnings of WWI suggested in a quote from Thomas Levenson’s Einstein in Berlin:

    “Wilhelm II remains a poster child for all that is wrong with hereditary government. Vainglorious, desperately insecure, hugely ambitious, quick to take offense, ill-educated, boorish, narrow in his interests, knowledge and associations, the young kaiser was both a patsy for those in his government and in his army who were gripped by the lust for power.” (p. 53)

    History may or may not repeat itself; great minds never do, but a bad penny turns up easily enough!

  • v.lyubarsky

    the problem, i’m afraid, is that, in our times – given a combination of portable WMD’s and the idealist-suiciders, all the fundamental historic analogies can be instantly nullified in a moment. So that what would’ve been a paranoid fantasy just a decade ago may now be quite real and actually more real than any retro-analogy.

    Until then I’ll be listening to the open source – many thanks.

  • scribe5

    WHAT YEAR IS IT?

    fIGURE IT OUT:

    http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/

    Is It 1938 Again?

    RealClearPolitics;

    “This inability of Europe to get its act together is what suggests 1938. Back then, Churchill was hardly the only one who thought Hitler was intent on war. After all, the German leader was an ideological zealot — and a murderer to boot. Still, England did little.Similarly, you don’t have to have Churchillian prescience to see that what happened once in Lebanon can happen again. Hezbollah’s avowed aim is to eradicate Israel. Listen to what it says. Pay attention. It will renew its attacks the first chance it gets. This is why it exists.

    Or is it 2006?

    “Embattled Liberal MP Boris Wrzesnewskyj has resigned as deputy foreign affairs critic following the uproar over his comments suggesting Canada should negotiate with Hezbollah.

    Wrzesnewskyj found himself distanced from members of his own party when he made the statement during a fact-finding mission to Lebanon last week.

    CTV’s Graham Richardson told Newsnet that Wrzesnewskyj tendered his resignation on Wednesday and that his resignation was accepted.”

    THEN THERE IS THIS! MULTICULTURALISM AND GLOBALOZATION NAZI STYLE.

    http://torontotory.blogspot.com/2006/08/hitler-restaurant.html

    “THE HITLER RESTAURANT?

    Oh My God…

    MUMBAI (Reuters) – A new restaurant in India’s financial hub, named after Adolf Hitler and promoted with posters showing the German leader and Nazi swastikas, has infuriated the country’s small Jewish community.

    ‘Hitler’s Cross’, which opened last week, serves up a wide range of continental fare and a big helping of controversy, thanks to a name the owners say they chose to stand out among hundreds of Mumbai eateries.

    “We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people’s minds,” owner Punit Shablok told Reuters.

    “We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different.””

  • Loay

    Actually to the people of the Middle east it is August 11, 1947. A few days before the British empire loses control of India. Similarly it is the dying gasp of the American empire’s grip that resonates in the region and the dawn of a real independence. Sure there will warfare and violence and who knows what will be born of the mess, but it will be an indigenous mess and an indigenous solution.

  • scribe5

    Loay, you sound like a Fiskian!

  • moocowmoo

    I have to disagree with much of what is being said here. If there is a fruitful analogy to be made with our country and history, then it should be made with Athens, just prior to the Peloponnesian War. Like us, Athens was a democratic nation with a ‘global’ empire, which insisted on exporting democracy, by force, to the other nations in the Athenian world. Since the end of WW2 that is what we have been about. but unlike Athens, we actually subvert democracy (ex. Chile, Iran, etc) when it doesn’t suit our needs, so not only does the world see us as tyrants but also as hypocrits; that we greedily devour and seek to control the world’s resources only intensifies the world’s resistance to our forced outsourcing of Democracy. Many of the countries in the Middle East don’t want to be forced into Democracy any more than did Sparta, or Corinth, or Thebes, or any of the other Greek states which followed a different state philosophy (oligarchy). Like Athens, we too are feared for becoming far to large and imposing. It is only a matter of time before history repeats itself, and a new Sparta arrises for the rest of the world to rally behind. Democracy cannot be forced on other nations; others have to seek it for themselves, and obtain it themselves, and that is a lesson which our country has yet to learn.

  • pryoung

    moocowmoo—

    Great screen name!

    Yeah, that seems the least fanciful analogy of the bunch.

    Your post makes me long for the time when conservatives used to read Thucydides, and so had a ready grasp of the often-bitter irony of unintended consequences in international relations. Or of the perils to the souls of democracies that embark upon projects of imperial vainglory.

    Thucydides’ anguish at watching the brilliant democratic Athens he so loved decline into a bullying power adhering only to “the rule of the stronger” in its dealings with others, and turning even its admirers against it, is not so far from the feelings many of us have these days.

  • Old Nick

    Winston at 7:01 PM Aug. 23rd takes issue with my apparent ignorance:

    “What I love is that this is so devoid of perspective about what the gap is. The Gap isn’t about the ‘nice to haves’ that you mentioned its about little things like, education / litteracy, health care.�

    Aside from the personal nature of this response (we’re trying to elevate the tone around here these days, ol’ buddy), I found it fascinating that none other than Thomas Barnett (who to my pleasure was a greatly informative guest!) validated my original point:

    “…a globalization phenomenon that’s encroaching on seemingly off-grid, historically not well-connected and forcing a reaction, which is radical Sunni-based Salafi jihadism; which is an attempt to go ‘global’ against a problem that’s coming at its culture, and presents a future they find so reprehensible in terms of the social, political, and economic change implied that they’re gonna fight us ‘across the dial’…across the planet if they can…�

    T. Barnett at 18:50 (ROS podcast)

    It’s true that my characterization about contemporary Western ‘trinkets and beads’ might have been an over-dramatization that could be (mis)construed to suggest that the ‘Gap’ would rather have electronic trivia instead of life’s basic needs. But I was writing for the American ROS audience I am a part of.

    Besides, Winston, you know as well as I do that Islamism isn’t a “class struggle�. The men who inspire the jihad, organize it, and fly airliners into buildings aren’t poor kids from the slums of Gaza. They’re rich and/or middle class, and come from all over the ummah. They’ve witnessed firsthand the ‘empty materialism’ of the West, and despise it so much that they’re willing to trade in their lives to fight it (while gaining admission to the promised Paradise and its 72 virgins in the bargain).

    That’s the intended target of what you deem my “nice to have’s�.

    A secondary consideration is that the American republic you so lionize hasn’t, in comparison to genuinely representative democracies like those of Northern Europe, got much to crow about what it comes to delivering “…little things like, education / literacy (sic), health care.�

    You say:

    “Corporations. That is why there is a Gap. They don’t have them and we do.�

    (Winston D @ 7:19 PM, August 23rd)

    The issue I raised wasn’t whether we should have corporations, but the influence they exert over a government that’s supposed to be “of, for, and by the People.�

    The issue is: who serves who? We can agree to disagree. It’s obvious to me that so long as corporate lobbyists effectively write the legislation that (putatively) ‘regulates’ their industries, our elected representatives serve corporate interests before the interests of the voters they’re supposed to represent. “What’s good for GM is good for America� is the old saw whose implications you and I disagree on.

    But this isn’t the thread for this debate. It’s an election year: we’ll surely have ample opportunity in the coming weeks to fence over whether corporate culture has subsumed and corrupted the American political system.

    I’ve got one more response coming shortly. In the interim, I want to thank you for your role in the genesis of this ROS program. It was enlightening, and, as much as is possible considering the gravity of the issues, it was a lot of fun.

    It has also provided us with one of the most enjoyably provocative and thoughtful ROS threads since June 14th.

    Great contributions, everyone! Thanks!

  • Old Nick

    oOpS!

    Let’s get that quote right:

    “…a globalization phenomenon that’s encroaching on some very traditional, seemingly off-grid, historically not well-connected societies, and forcing a reaction, which is radical Sunni-based Salafi jihadism; which is an attempt to go ‘global’ against a problem that’s coming at its culture, and presents a future they find so reprehensible in terms of the social, political, and economic change implied that they’re gonna fight us ‘across the dial’…across the planet if they can…�

    T. Barnett at 18:50 (ROS podcast)

    (At least I learned—by accident—how to code for red font!)

  • jdyer

    moocowmoo Says:

    August 24th, 2006 at 10:56 am

    “I have to disagree with much of what is being said here. If there is a fruitful analogy to be made with our country and history, then it should be made with Athens, just prior to the Peloponnesian War. Like us, Athens was a democratic nation with a ‘global’ empire, which insisted on exporting democracy, by force, to the other nations in the Athenian world.”

    Interesting, but I don’t see the analogy since Athens didn’t “export democracy.”

    Rather they (and other Greek city states) set up colonies of Greek speakers all over the eastern Mediterranean. The Peloponnesian war as Thucydides makes clear was actually a civil war.

  • jdyer

    pryoung Says:

    August 24th, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    “moocowmoo—

    Yeah, that seems the least fanciful analogy of the bunch.

    Your post makes me long for the time when conservatives used to read Thucydides, and so had a ready grasp of the often-bitter irony of unintended consequences in international relations. Or of the perils to the souls of democracies that embark upon projects of imperial vainglory.”

    Well it’s the hated neo conservatives who read and still read Thucydides.

    I doubt that any single book has the answers to the world’s problems.

  • jdyer

    On Old Nicholas’ globalization we should acknowledge once and for all that there is more than one globalization process going on.

    There is of course the Western cooperate globalization, but there is also the “Eastern” Muslim globalization process as well which is also known as Jihadi politics or terrorism.

    The aim of Jihadist to establish a world wide Caliphate is their version of globalization.

    In fact most of what is alleged the US is supposed to be trying to do, namely spread Americanization, is actually being done by the Jihadists in their attempt to spread Islam.

    What we need to do is reject all projects of globalization. We need to defend “particularization” which is the integrity of local languages, customs and cultures.

  • Old Nick

    Winston @ 7:13 PM, Aug.23rd writes:

    “Islamist are not merely xenophibic they are murders. Southern Baptists don’t behead women for sinning like Islamists do for not covering their faces. And these are the same women that they forbid education to. US Christian fundementalists don’t condon female circumcision… nor do Western Religions support honor killings.�

    Yup. I agree with all of that. One big reason I (probably) raise many hackles here in the ROS threads with my persistent criticism of the Abrahamic ‘faith’ religions (the so-called ‘Revealed Religions – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revealed_religion ), and Islam in particular, is because the conceit that ‘God spoke directly through Prophet X’ means that whatever Prophet X proscribes as ‘sin’, and prescribes as punishment, can’t ever be questioned by humanistic reformers. Thus, 21st century Sharia still insists on death-by-stoning for girls guilty only of experiencing our natural, evolved human sexual urges and behaviors.

    The Islamist adoration of Sharia deserves every bit of criticism anyone can credibly compose and publish.

    I am more than willing to raise hackles and nudge my co-culturalists from their ‘see no evil’ attitude toward revealed religions in general and Islam in particular so long as ANY SINGLE human being is vulnerable to unconscionable barbarities like female genital mutilation, honor killings, and death by stoning for the ‘sin’ of being simply a healthily nubile person.

    But Winston, I wasn’t talking about the misogyny embedded in conservative Islamic societies. I was talking about the cultural xenophobia of Islamists (not of Muslims in general, who I rather doubt are any more xenophobic than most folks).

    They’re two different things:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophobia

    Regarding my comments about American religious fundamentalists: the very act of proselytizing is (religious) xenophobia in outward projection.

    The anti-liberal-culture ranting of religionists like Falwell and Robertson is religious xenophobia. Their declared intent to make the USA into a ‘Christian Nation’ is religious xenophobia.

    And since religion symbiotically informs and molds its host cultures, I’d say that American religious fundamentalists are inherently cultural xenophobes.

    I stand by my statement: American religious culture has just as much cultural xenophobia as that of the more notorious Islamists – even if our fundamentalists can’t, by threat of punishment by law, kill or torture their heretics and sinners anymore, as they did only a couple of centuries ago.

    And yet sometimes not even the law is enough to stop American fundamentalist intolerance. As an example, have a look at:

    Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-1400032806-20

  • jdyer

    For those interested in the revival and globalization of anti-Semitims here is a new book by the scholar Walter Laqueur.

    THE CHANGING FACE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

    From Ancient Times to the Present Day

    By Walter Laqueur

    228 pages. Oxford University Press. $22.00.

    tracing anti Zionism to the Stalinist period he says:

    “No one disputes that in the late Stalinist period anti-Zionism was merely a synonym for antisemitism. The same is true today for the extreme right which, for legal or political reasons, will opt for anti-Zionist rather than openly anti-Jewish slogans. It has been noted that in the Muslim and particularly the Arab world, the fine distinctions between Jews and Zionists hardly ever existed and are now less than ever in appearance.”

    He goes on to say that,

    “There is a great deal of evil in the world and millions have perished within the last decade or two as the result of civil wars, repression, racial and social persecution, and tribal conflicts, from Cambodia to much of Africa (Congo, Rwanda, and Darfur)…. In fact, it would be difficult to think of countries outside of Europe and North America that have been entirely free of such suffering; and even Europe has had such incidents on a massive scale, as in the Balkans. But there have been no protest demonstrations concerning the fate of the Dalets (Untouchables) in India even though there are more than 100 million of them. The fate of the Uighur in China, the Copts in Egypt, or the Bahai in Iran (to name but a few persecuted peoples) has not generated much indignation in the streets of Europe and America.

    According to peace researchers, 25 million people were killed in internal conflicts since World War Two, of them, 8,000 in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which ranks forty-sixth in the list of victims. But Israel has been more often condemned by the United Nations and other international organizations than all other nations taken together.

  • pryoung

    Not sure who, if anyone, you have in mind jdyer in suggesting it is “the hated neocons” who read Thucydides. He’s more the inspiration for the realist strain of thinking in international relations, which of course the neocons have expressly challenged with their vaunted Wilsonian idealism.

    They seem also to have heaved away Burke in their belief in the possibility of democratic deliverance through political violence.

    Don’t take it from me, though, Francis Fukuyama and others are making the same case around the chatter curcuit.

    Maybe you’ll explain as well for the benefit of Old Nick and others what you mean by the “Western cooperate globalization” model as well. Is that like Shell Oil in the Niger Delta?

  • Old Nick

    Jdyer, I have a response to you here:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/pga-peacekeeping/#comment-16065

    It’s the fifth comment in that thread.

  • jdyer

    pryoung Says:

    August 24th, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    “He’s more the inspiration for the realist strain of thinking in international relations, which of course the neocons have expressly challenged with their vaunted Wilsonian idealism.”

    True, young, but it is Strauss and the Straussians who introduced Thucydides into the modern curriculum.

    One of the best contemporary editions of his book is introduced by a die hard neo con

    “The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

    by Robert B. Strassler (Editor), Victor Davis Hanson (Introduction) “Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out, and believing…” (more)

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0684827905/sr=1-1/qid=1156452301/ref=sr_1_1/102-7504022-1156903?ie=UTF8&s=books

  • jdyer

    “Jdyer, I have a response to you here”

    Fair enough ON, I will go there.

  • Old Nick – There is a fundemental principle that ALWAYS assures relevence and that is the

    “Pareto Principle – The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that for many phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes. The idea has rule-of-thumb application in many places, ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

    yet you write “I stand by my statement: American religious culture has just as much cultural xenophobia as that of the more notorious Islamists – even if our fundamentalists can’t, by threat of punishment by law, kill or torture their heretics and sinners anymore, as they did only a couple of centuries ago.

    And yet sometimes not even the law is enough to stop American fundamentalist intolerance. As an example, have a look at:

    Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-1400032806-20

    So sure, ANYONE can find exceptions to the rule and so ensure all that there arguement is irrelevent.

    So touche, you got me – Christian intollerance is just as “common” but it is still IRRELEVENT when the Perato Principle is applied to the concequences of that intollerance.

  • Old Nick

    Winston, thanks for the link to the Pareto Principle. I hadn’t heard of it before. And I agree with the Wikipedia that it ought better be called “Juran’s Assumption�. Especially since it is an assumption and not a ‘law’, even though it might well be a handy guideline for those poor souls who so diligently dedicate their lives to the alchemy called ‘economics’.

    I invite you to explain to me how we can apply Juran’s Assumption to the consequences of Christian intolerance.

    To make it an easier challenge, I’ll tip my skeptic’s hand at the outset by stating that, although the Assumption might be generally useful as an analytical lens for parsing the bewildering puzzles of economics, human culture, as a subject for mathematical analysis, is a whole ’nother animal.

    Human beings possess far, far too much conscious choice to be mathematically predictable – although we try (even I) to reduce our species’ behavioral complexities to ‘formulas’ that should allow the successful application of some reliably predictive analytical measures.

    However, if the ROS threads this summer (in particular) and even (in general) since the show’s genesis 16 months ago suggest anything, it’s that human behavior is irreducibly complex. We’ve too much conscious choice to allow simple formulas like the 80/20 Assumption into anything remotely approaching ‘consistently reliable.’

    Now then, I’ve tipped my hand. Please feel free to disabuse me.

    The more important the subject and the closer it cuts to the bone of our hopes and needs, the more we are likely to err in establishing a framework for analysis.

    – Stephen Jay Gould, pg.30, Full House: The Spread of Excellence From Plato To Darwin, 1996 – http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-0609801406-0

    PS: Oh, and when considering the ‘consequences of Christian intolerance’, I invite you additionally to consider the Christian cultural phenomenon called ‘pogrom’ and its sordid American analogue called ‘lynchings’.

  • Old Nick writes – “it’s that human behavior is irreducibly complex. We’ve too much conscious choice to allow simple formulas like the 80/20 Assumption into anything remotely approaching ‘consistently reliable.’” After aknowleging reading the materials on the Pareto principle I find your insistence continuing wanting to discuss subejcts that are of little more than the euphemsitic term “acedemic” and indication of a probable record of being “of no consequence” and a desire to remain so. After all, isn’t that what concentrating on issues not included within the “vital few”.

    While the HISTORY of pogroms and lynchings are interesting I am fairly sure that neither have ANY infuence on ANY important discussion TODAY.

    And I don’t think nor waste much time in considering Christain Interance becasue I don’t see many Christians advocating cutting off the clitoris’ of thier duaghters, hijacking planes in order to fly them into buildings etc. Oh, but I did have a Seventh Day Adventists stop me on the street the other day and tell me that I was going to hell and I felt really “threatened” by that.

    Benjamin Franklin said “He who lives on hope, dies farting”. You are welcome to your diet – I’ll stick with reason.

    And I’ve got jsut one observation after one of your posts where you seemed to search for me to back off a bit after one of my previous posts where I was a bit “harsh”. Isn’t it interesting how many on these discussions seem to calm down after a few FACTS are interjected? I mean, jsut look at yours. Before I provided the UN Human Development report you were content with paroting the same old bilge waste about the Middle East. Its hard to do that after someone actually brings some reality hugh.

    Christianity is a religion and is thus intolerant but the degree to which it is is in no way comparable to Islam. In this statement I am not defending Christianity but only “practicing what I preach” in saying that in all discussions prespective as to the degree of all effects should be used. In order to understand the differences between the “Christian West” and the rest of the world I found the book “Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages (Paperback) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0156030098/sr=8-1/qid=1156661454/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-6089643-5276812?ie=UTF8

    to be very “enlightening” – no pun intended.

    This is the “fork” at which the modern version of Christianity departed from Islam. Christianity began to change in order to become compatible with reason / science and the philosophies of the rights of individuals and the seperation of Church and State while Islam contiued on it current of a degenrate knot of religon , its control of every aspect of daily life, politics and the state.

    The epherical facts of this are covered in the UN Human Developement fund.

    I offer no appologies for arguements that I do not think serioulsy take into account facts.

  • “the problem, i’m afraid, is that, in our times – given a combination of portable WMD’s and the idealist-suiciders, all the fundamental historic analogies can be instantly nullified in a moment”

    I agree. While it’s true that we shouldn’t ignore what lessons history might have to teach us, it’s a big mistake to think that ANY previous period is analogous to the present.

    If Kara Mustafa Pasha had not been defeated by Sobieski, et, al, in 1683 at the gates of Vienna, European civilization as we know it may never have happend. But all of that was a conventional military battle at a time when the best, strongest, most well-led army could still determine the course of history.

    Today we have technological power multipliers like 767’s that can be flown into buildings and WMD’s that can be created by otherwise third-rate nations. We also have the internet and global media which can focus and multiply the grievances and fanaticisms of small disparate groups of people who never before could coalesce so effectively. In addition, we are all FAR more economically dependent on global trade and manufacturing than we’eve ever been before, making us more sensitive to carefully planned disruptions thousands of miles away, compared to centuries past when almost everything needed to live was made or grown right in our own villages.

    So my point is that many things really ARE different today in ways for which history offers no precedent.

  • rc21

    Aint that the truth.

  • Pingback: Adding It Up « Disparate()

  • rc21

    The year could be 1936 in the USA. Today left wing activists held a death to Isreal rally in Salt Lake city. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the US.

    Every cause must start with a small first step.

  • Old Nick

    A short selection of insights from this program

    (all times given are from my ROS podcast)

    Ross Douthat at 5:50, of the 1948-ists: “…this is a fifty year (or longer) struggle.�

    This is the first of a couple of places in the 52 minutes when a guest mentioned that ‘the struggle (with twenty-first century jihadism)’ would be necessarily long but not eternal, because these things burn out over time. Charles Maier only moments later (at 8:52) reassured us that ‘terrorist movements have finite lifetimes’.

    My question is: Why?

    Why should we think that this ‘long, twilight cold war’ is somehow equivalent to the circumstances in, say, twentieth century Northern Ireland?

    Or alternatively, on what grounds should we deem it plausible that ‘Allah’ (or, for that matter, the same mythological character’s earlier incarnations as Yahweh or Ba’al) will see fit to retract the many Koranic passages that urge his faithful to jihad?

    It is a foundational tenet of Islamic dogma that Mohamed was the final prophet of the One God who was long appreciated, but imperfectly, in the sequence of deities from Ba’al ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal ) to Yahweh. This renders it exceedingly unlikely that any well-meaning reformer can ever modify or soften the literal messages in the Koran and hadith – although the prophesied Mahdi – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahdi – perhaps offers a bit of prophetic wiggle room.

    (For those unaware of the Mahdi: he is roughly equivalent to a messiah for Muslims. And like the prophecies within Revelations that were supposed to eventuate only a few dozen years after the death of Jesus—yet refuse to lose their appeal even two millennia after the prophecy’s abject failure to materialize—this prophecy doggedly lives on in the minds of its believers.)

    Charles Maier at 6:30: “…the trouble with analogies (is that although) they are wonderful games, they never come whole; history never repeats itself.�

    Right; and I wish we could apply something relevant from this to the eternally circular logic of failed religious prophecies.

    Charles Maier at 12:35: “…the trouble with these analogies is that we can argue them either way. And we’re now conflating Iraq with Iran…very different problems…�

    Yup.

    After Thomas Barnett joins the chorus of caution, agreeing that these various ‘world war’ analogies are perilously misleading, Charles Maier agrees and then (at 17:40) adds: “…they do serve one purpose: (to) caution (policymakers) to think that things can go massively awry, in ways they haven’t calculated; (these analogies) should breed a certain humility.�

    Should, yes. But are any members of the policymaking neocon club paying attention? (You wouldn’t think so listening to Rumsfeld these days.)

    Thomas Barnett and Charles Maier engage in a discussion over Barnett’s (at 18:50) analysis that ‘the problem’ is a traditional and, often, tribal society’s reaction against the process we call globalization:

    “…a globalization phenomenon that’s encroaching on some very traditional, seemingly off-grid, historically not well-connected societies, and forcing a reaction, which is radical Sunni-based Salafi jihadism; which is an attempt to go ‘global’ against a problem that’s coming at its culture, and presents a future they find so reprehensible in terms of the social, political, and economic change implied that they’re gonna fight us ‘across the dial’…across the planet if they can…�

    It’s a lively and illuminating exchange, but I worry it’s yet another application of our Western lens whose focus is ever and always:

    “ECONOMICS! The source of the problem has got to be economics! It’s always economics! How can it be anything but economics? Humans care only about their wallets and purses!�

    Which a Western-centric premise that I simply don’t buy. Worse yet, it contradicts several of Barnett’s other insights, like (at 20:05):

    “There’s a difference in the Middle East though…because of the religious overlay that really preaches, at its fundamental roots, a separation between the faithful and the unfaithful…� (That’s the concept of ummah I’d like us all to know more about, and have advocated as a ROS show-topic.) “…You don’t see that in Latin America, which is largely Catholic; (or) in East Asia (etc.)…�

    So, it isn’t just economics. It’s religion too (at least).

    Or, to be more precise: it’s how Islam is often preached and internalized by those we deem ‘fundamentalists’ – which is a distinction that misses the point, because those we deem ‘fundies’ think of themselves not as extremists, but as those who are truly and authentically faithful to the scriptures they worship. It misses the point because those we laud as ‘moderates’ aren’t similarly lauded by their more zealous coreligionists. The ‘fundies’, of course, deem the ‘moderates’ to be ‘weak in their faith’.

    I don’t think the economic bogeyman called ‘globalization’ is fueling Islamism. I think it has much more to do with the perceived ‘intrusion’ of Western values – like (relative) personal immodesty (an affront to Allah), (relative) female equality (in contradiction of the hadith and Koran, which seems to view women through the dichotomous ‘Mother/Whore’ lens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother/whore_dichotomy ), and free expressions of sexuality, which prudish Islamic cultures deem scandalous (at best) and worthy of eternal torture in hellfire (more typically).

    T. Barnett at 31:50, on ‘the Islamist Challenge’ (as Chris put it):

    “…fundamentalism within Islam, which is not really that much more pervasive than certain fundamentalist aspects within Christianity; it’s just been very cynically exploited by the dictators in the Middle East in order to keep a distant relationship to the outside world which ensures their power…any dictator (must) restrict the population’s access to the outside world because the more access to the outside world, the harder it is to be a dictator…�

    Hmmm… good stuff. But it seems to me that you could draw a parallel for this same dynamic (of keeping your population isolated inside a bubble of parochial belief, worldly ignorance, and concomitant jingoistic fears) to an aging Republic that has been subsumed by the world’s most octopus-like corporate culture…ah, but that’s another topic, now isn’t it?

    Anyway: “…this issue of Islamism is a harder nut to crack than (by) just waiting for the tides of globalization to take over.� – Charles Maier at 37: 45

    But the subsequent explanation doesn’t exactly fit tightly together with the insight. And why? Perhaps because, as Maier says only moments later (@ 39:20): “The problem with analogies is that any analogy can betray you if you stick to it without thinking about all of the differences (between the analogy and the its putative parallel).�

    That’s a glittering nugget, and a fine place to end this lengthy post-of-appreciation.

  • Old Nick

    So Winston (and sorry for the lateness of this reply), my point about American religious fundamentalists doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not ‘their fundies are worse than our fundies.’ (My overly simplistic paraphrase of our dispute.)

    My point is that any belief system that exclusively relies on faith in scripture carries within it the ingredients for xenophobia. And when the ‘prophets’ in question claim exclusive access to ‘God’ (like the Mormon nut Jeffs, and, yes, like Mohamed the founder of Islam), and claim in tandem that the ‘outsiders’ won’t accept ‘my exclusive access to God’s wisdom, so we must therefore overcome or conquer them’, the ingredients for violence exist within the xenophobia.

    I don’t care that ‘our fundies’ aren’t (currently) violent.

    Do you know when the last big witch-burning took place? It was the Mexican extension of the Spanish Inquisition, in the 1850’s. That may seem ages ago to you, but in the time scale of our species’s evolution, it wasn’t ‘last week’, or even ‘yesterday’, but more like 30 seconds ago.

    So long as ‘our fundies’ can’t accept that the world is billions of years old, and that Jesus ain’t coming to resurrect them up to Heaven just as soon as Israel conquers the whole Middle East, their intolerance to the rest of us (non-believers) poses a threat. Their open-door access to our shared political system is more than worrisome. I don’t want to be part of an intellectually benighted ‘Christian nation’. And I, like Kevin Phillips, deem it inexcusable that both Bush I & Bush II have sold out the GOP to the fundies.

    Since the game in this thread is ‘What Year Is It?’, I’ll play along too.

    Maybe we’re not the first republic possessing a global hegemony to face the internal quandary of resurgent belief in the unverifiable supernatural. Maybe we’re on the verge of something akin to an ancient tragedy: perhaps it’s the early 300’s. That’s when another great empire’s war-making ruler, in need of fresh servings of jingo, made a then minority faith into a political cause within his realm. Within a few decades, any disbelief in the elevated state faith was a capital crime. All perceived rivals to the elevated state faith were annihilated.

    And worse yet, before the end of the century (in 390), the world’s greatest accumulation of scientific, historical, and otherwise irreplaceable wisdom was burned by the recetnly empowered zealots. I’m talking, of course, about the great Library of Alexandria.

    You think it can’t happen again? If so, I hope you’re correct. But color me suspicious of faith, in general, and, especially, of cynical manipulation and cooption of unreasoning religionists by political leaders.

    So long as ‘faith’ is exalted instead of questioned, the threat it poses to reason will persist.

    And that was my original point a few posts back.

  • rc21

    To Old Nick; I read your post in response to Winston. Your deep concern with “Christian fundies” in the US is at best exagerated. You need to give some facts or at least present a realistic picture as to why we must fear the Fundies so much that we need to exclude them from having accsess to the political system. Witch burnings in Mexico during the 1850’s just isn’t enough to convince me.

    Someone on another thread was trying to compare The current actions of muslim extremists to the acts of a few abortion bombers and McVeigh. I’m not sure if this was you probably not but those statements as well as your post are so over the top it is hard to take them seriously.

    The points you make that are valid loose credibility when coupled with your extremist thoughts on Christian fundies.

    First this country has seperation of church and state laws that would prohibit your worst fears from taking place. I think the days of burning witches are over.Secondly most of your fears are unfounded Atheists and agnostics enjoy as much freedom as any one . There rights are constantly being affirmed many times at the cost of hurting religous groups.As an agnostic I have never once felt threatened or discriminated against by any Christian.(Fundie or non fundie).

    Some of your comments posted above are so intolerant I have a hard time thinking you really believe them. The comment that is most disturbing is ” Their open-door accsess to our shared political system is more than worrisome”

    Nick In this country every citizen even wild eyed, bible thumping christians have a right to the political system. It is what we like to call democracy.Even people whos ideas we dont agree with have a right to express those ideas and if possible have leaders elected who support there beliefs.To try and supress someones right to this process is unconstitutional. What you are advocating is something that we saw in soviet Russia and other dictatorships.

    If you dont like fundies and there canidates go campaign against them, but being worried about them having accsess is only another way of saying they shouldn’t be involved.

    Your case against the fundies and there threat is weak . I’m open to your thoughts but you have to give me more .Even then I dont think I would support suspending a persons right to organize politically. It just goes against the most important right that we have, the freedom of speech.

  • Old Nick

    rc21, thanks for noticing my rhetorical ineptness. (Not that it wasn’t easy to notice, and I’m not being sarcastic: I wasn’t happy with my latest response to WD. Too busy lately for clarity of thinking.) I want to respond to you in depth, but am worried that this thread shouldn’t host any more of this conversation, which is admittedly a tangent. So I’ll write up a thoughtful response and post it elsewhere, but link to it here.

    In the meantime, let me state that although I don’t think we can stop fundamentalists from open-door political access, I can’t for the life of me understand why any self-respecting politician should want to cater to people whose idea of a good science education centers (openly or covertly) on the fairy tale called Genesis. I don’t want religious nonsense like Creationism or Intelligent Design taught in science classes—and I resent the pandering and ethically empty political class that allows such initiatives to thrive long enough to actually reach adjudication in the courts.

    To me, the vaunted ‘separation of church and state’ is a culturally relative distinction: as the culture evolves toward greater and greater religiosity, the ‘separation barrier’ will inevitably thin. Moreover, conservative thinkers reckon this evolution both necessary and proper.

    Much more importantly, I don’t want women’s reproductive choices eliminated by the political pressure exerted by those so enthralled by their unverifiable beliefs that they feel it necessary to dictate their irrationality into the private lives of others.

    Think about this: the same people who want the teaching of evolutionary science to their children either banned or effectively neutered by a parallel teaching of the hoodoo called ‘I.D.’ want to control the sexual and reproductive lives of women they don’t know, who aren’t their children, and whose choice in this most life-changing prospect called ‘motherhood’ should be hers alone. That sort of double standard has a name: hypocrisy.

    Me? I don’t my kin affected by their beliefs. But my kind of secularism is in eclipse these days in our aging and undereducated republic. Consider this: you can’t get elected to any high (or low, ftm) office in this country without having to confess a belief in some version of unverifiable supernaturalism. It doesn’t matter what version of the unverifiable supernatural you admit to surrendering your credulity to: so long as you admit that you’ve given this adults’ version of Santa Claus a home in your mind and heart, you’ve got a chance to win office.

    And if you, rc21, ever choose to run as an agnostic, you can kiss your public reputation goodbye.

    I am APPALLED that atheists and agnostics are effectively barred from any meaningful political office. That’s utterly shameful. It says, in effect: “If you’re intellectually responsible enough to be openly skeptical of the unverifiable claims made by ancient faiths (claims made long before the advent and findings of modern science), you’re summarily disqualified from political office.�

    WHY?

    For the ‘bad taste’ of daring to employ your reasoning faculties?

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    By this standard, we ought allow only the most irrational minds into the corridors of power. Maybe that Mormon ‘prophet’ (nutcase) Warren Jeffs ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffs ) would make us an ideal President. Especially for an educationally challenged nation wherein upwards of 70% of the population actually believe that Satan is real.

    Hell, why stop with delusional fools like Jeffs? For a body politic this benighted, I suggest that none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would make an excellent President – and probably a more appropriate one for the good ol’ God-fearing USA than for youthfully restive Iran.

    Finally, please consider the recent history of religionists murdering doctors at abortion clinics. I know, you might pooh-pooh this as either ‘isolated’ or the doings of ‘deranged murderers’. That’s how the mainstream media has reported it – in service of the cultural taboo against criticizing religion. But an underreported sideline of this same story is that many religionists have consistently—if quietly—muttered their approval of the murders.

    In sum, I don’t think my worries over America’s increasingly influential religious fundamentalists are ‘exaggerated’, as you suggest. I think instead that we might instead be unknowingly teetering on a cusp: too much tilt in the direction of irrationality can begin to snowball into a new religious dark age. (Although we might have already begun the long slide down into that pit—excepting Europe, of course – but hey, we’re too arrogant to care what those pansy-ass European intellectuals think of us, right?)

    But I WANT to be wrong.

    I’ll try soon to better argue this viewpoint. In the meantime, consider giving a look at these: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0393327655-0

    and http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-0307265773-0 .

  • rc21

    Hi Old Nick. Good post I take your points,and I understand where you are coming from. The problem with your Theory that religon is becoming to powerfull in the US and threatens all us sceptics and atheists is this. Religiosity is going down in the US not up. Church attendance by all faiths(Not sure about muslims) has been on a slow but steady decline for decades.

    Yes the majority of the country still believes in god,but I dont see that as a problem.We are not teetering on a cusp.If anything I see religous expression being supressed and attacked especially by groups like the ACLU. I’m not going to go into wether I think this is good or bad. The fact that suits are filed on a daily basis should give you comfort . This is the beauty of our constitution.

    Nick I grew up in a very liberal house my father was a hard core atheist so I have heard all your concerns ten times over.Until the last few years I took them as gospel (maybe I shouldnt use that term) Anyway I have now become agnostic because I just cant allow myself to be filled with such hubris. To actually tell people that I know that there is no god, and that people who do believe are somehow inferior to me both intellectually and morally is just the height of arrogance. Liberals are always teaching tolerance and understanding, but this has to be a two way street. So I listen to both sides and try and keep a somewhat open mind.

    As to running for office anyone can run atheist,communist, devil worshiper, paganist,it doesnt matter. You have to convince the people that your ideas are better than the next guys.You cant just say this person or that person should not be allowed into the poitical system because his ideas are based on a philosophy that I dont agree with,and believe to be false. That is not your or anyone elses decision to make. We live in a free and open society all people have a right to express there opinions and views without fear of discrimmination or censorship.

    As to your fears about religon causing violence and death. Yes this is true although I’m not sure if it is religon or the people who use religon as a means to crush there enemies real or percieved. But you are correct on your general view and one must be vigalant in this regard. But i’m sure I dont need to remind you that the greatest mass murderers of all time were atheists who led governments that were anti religon. Hitler,Stalin,Mao, to name a few.These 3 alone are responsible for more deaths than all the religous crusades or wars put togeather.

    Hitler was an atheist as were many of his cohorts. Hitler courted the church only for pragmatic reasons, by gaining there support this was one less worry for him.

    So maybe it Is not fundimentalist christian govrnments we should worry about but atheistic state run socialistic/communist governments that are the true threat to freedom. What do you think? I saw your link to that nutjob it is funny because I just read about him the other day. There is no doubt that there are many people who use and distort religon for there own disturbing agendas.

    As to the abortion issue. This is a hot button issue. I will just say this I have tried to look at both sides of this issue. I think that there are rational defensible arguments to be made on both sides. I also think that extremists on both sides have made it diffucult for people to look for any kind of compromise.I wont go any further because as you know this is a seperate topic that could take days to properly articulate.

    In closing I see your points and am not dissmising them, I think the thing that bothered me the most and I guess it bothers me the most with most liberals(I guess I should not assume you are a liberal that isn’t fair) Is a certain intolerance to points of views or groups of people that they dont like or agree with to the point where they are willing to discriminate and supress there free speech and there other constitutional rights. This line of thought is what gave us communist Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China , etc. I see this happening on college campuses every day. Places that are run almost exclusively by liberals,where the free exchange of thought and ideas should be at the forefront. has become the opposite. Closed societies where only leftist ideas have merit free speech only exists for those who promote and support these ideas. Speech codes so arbitrary and draconian have been put in place, so that anyone who may have the audacity to disagree or question these teachings will immediately be branded a racist,sexist, homophobe,capitalistic, oppressor,etc. Dismissal from school ostracism, probation are just a few of the consequences.(sorry for the rant) My fear in reading some of your posts is that you may be leaninig in this direction .I hope this is not so. This is what turned me away from the teachings of my liberal family. Free speech is for everyone not just those who we agree with. It should be celebrated and supported. Dont fear the fundies. If we keep our society open and we allow for a free and unbiased press( Dont get me started,another pet peeve of mine)

    We wont have to worry about the fundies gaining so much power that they can change the country

    I enjoy your posts even though I probably dont agree with most of them.

    Having been brought up a liberal and only recently converting over to the evil right.( although my personal philosophy is of a libertarian nature) I understand that most people really want the same things,and have similar goals There just seems to be big differences in how best to achieve what we all want.

  • “…a globalization phenomenon that’s encroaching on some very traditional, seemingly off-grid, historically not well-connected societies, and forcing a reaction, which is radical Sunni-based Salafi jihadism; which is an attempt to go ‘global’ against a problem that’s coming at its culture, and presents a future they find so reprehensible in terms of the social, political, and economic change implied that they’re gonna fight us ‘across the dial’…across the planet if they can…â€?

    T. Barnett at 18:50 (ROS podcast)

    The quote contradicts the reality in the Middle East. Globalization is whole-heartedly embraced here, Dubai is a good example. The city is a symbol of globalization, people from all over the world trade in everything you can imagine. In fact 85% of the population are expats and you can go for days without seeing a single local. I don’t see them radicalized.

    Saudi Arabia had massive expat community for decades and there was no problem of radicalism. It only started with the stationing of US Military and the torture, jailing and execution of those who disagreed with the government. In Egypt it started in the 1950s with the government tortured and executed members of Islamic brotherhood.

    Practicing muslims don’t get radicalized where there is freedom (for example: UAE, Malaysia ..etc). The root cause I think is the oppressive regimes who use torture and summary executions to eliminate what they see as Islamic threat (to their absolute rule). Egypt and Jordan are prime examples where you could be jailed for having a beard.

    Radicals reason that America supports these authoritarian regimes, keeping them in power …etc

  • Old Nick

    rc21, thanks for your reply. I don’t want to clog this thread anymore than I already have, so I’ll try to keep this post brief.

    Regarding your belief that religion in the USA is in decline, have a look at:

    http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=167 , which includes this:

    “Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six-in-ten (59%) people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives. This is roughly twice the percentage of self-avowed religious people in Canada (30%), and an even higher proportion when compared with Japan and Western Europe. Americans’ views are closer to people in developing nations than to the publics of developed nations.�

    And,

    “The Global Attitudes study correlated views on religion with annual per capita income and found that wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion – with the exception of the United States. This is seen most clearly in Asia, where publics in the two wealthiest nations surveyed – Japan and South Korea – are far less likely to cite religion as personally important than those in poorer nations of the region. The lone exception is Vietnam, however, where just 24% of the public view religion as very important.�

    Lastly, I can’t say that “God� isn’t “real� (although I personally reckon the concept of ‘God’ to be an archetypal projection of human consciousness—which would explain rather neatly ‘His’ inability to affect earthly and human events, aside from ‘His’ influence on the ways ‘His’ believers interact with others).

    What I can say however is that no believer has ever been able to offer empirically obtained evidence of “God’s� existence. Until someone can do this (which is the obvious motivation behind the hoodoo called ‘Creation Science’), I suggest that religiously inspired and motivated tenets and dogmas be denied an operative role in public policy. To do otherwise is essentially to govern via a (quasi-)democratically-derived collective theocracy.

    (And I suspect we’ll have ample opportunity to carry this debate onwards as the elections draw near. In the meantime, thanks again.)

  • “If anything I see religous expression being supressed and attacked especially by groups like the ACLU. ”

    As a member of th ACLU, I’m wondering what you would cite as an example of this.

    As far as I know the ACLU has only taken action to block religious expression in the context of government or taxpayer -supported activities or institutions. I would go farther than the ACLU. I object to having chaplains in the military or the Congress. I strongly object to having money that says “In God We Trust”. What do you mean by “we”, Kemosabe?

    I’m all for religious freedom as long as it includes freedom FROM religion.

    In another thread in O.S. I raised the question of why religion gets a special pass. A religion is nothing but a set of ideas about how the universe/world works and what constitutes good or right behavior, along with an associated set of traditions and customs, and an iconography. And that describes LOTS of things, including social and political movements and philosophies.

    If we criticize, verbally attack, caricature, stereotype, deconstruct or satirize socialiasm, neo-conservatism, environmentalism, Republicans, Democrats, Converned Women of America, or PETA, we’re exercising free speech. If we give religions the same treatment wer’re racists or bigots.

  • Old Nick

    Right on, pl.

  • Old Nick

    I just now found a fantastic article in wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontheist

    It’s a ‘must read’, imho.

  • rc21

    My quick points are Yes Nick we are more religous than other western countries. This I am aware of. In my post if you go back and check I think I said religon was on the decline in the US.

    I liked your wikipedia post. I could buy into that theory I guess. The thing is religon doesn’t intrest me that much either pro or con. I will find out the real truth when I die. So I’m in no rush to get my answer.

    To plnelson my point about the ACLU was to reassure Nick that his fear of the country being taken over by religous zealots was unfounded. The ACLU is always ready to file suit when it deems necessary. My opinion of the ACLU is not relevent.

    I do agree with your opinion that religon should be criticized just like any other group. In the US any and all groups sould be fair game. I believe very strongly in the first amendment. Without it all other rights can be taken away quite easily. I reckon thats why the founding fathers placed it first. Your points on in god we trust, chaplains in the service etc are also well taken If we are gonna go lets go all the way. Do we need to change the part about our ”creator”

    Also does this mean I am going to have to work on Christmas. I am currently alloted 13 holidays. I hate the thought of giving one back.

    The seperation of church and state is quite interesting. This is one subject I need to do more reading on. I’m not sure what the constitution actually sais on this subject. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think there is some debate going on now as to what Madison really meant in relation to the establishment clause.

    I believe many scholars and lawyers are arguing that what was truley meant by Madison was that the state should not prefer one religon over another,and it forbade the establishment of a national religon.But the establishment clause did not require government neutrality between religon and irreligon nor did it prohibit the govt from providing non-discriminatory aid to religon. There is simply no historical foundation for the position that the framers intended to build the “Wall of Seperation” that was constitutionalized inEverson v board of ed 1947

    The feeling is by many that the SJC erred in its 1947 ruling .Even though Jefferson was not even in the country at the time the amendment was drafted, his metaphor about a ”Wall of Seperation” between church and state,written years later beame the touchstone for interpreting the establishment clause. Although the Court itself found it impossible to adhere to a doctrine of strict seperation, the myth and the metaphor detirmined what was doctrinally orthodox and accepted in argument.

    So it is quite possible that the court erred in its original decision.It certainly would not be the first time. I need to do more reading on this subject. Any ways I think it is a good topic to look into. If we go back and really start looking at original intent we may change our opinion. But as in all cases concerning the law Im sure that a strong case can be made from either side. It’s funny how 9 men/women can be the sole interpeters of what ultimately detirmines how we all lead our lives. When I think about that for a second I’m not sure I like the sound of what I just said. Well atleast I still have the freedom to say it.(for now)

  • elevine

    It’s 1815.

    During the preceding century, authoritarians and revolutionaries exhausted the West with fevered dreams. Those who survived collected the remains and put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

    After the enforced peace of the Congress of Vienna, we had 100 years of relative, increased trade, improved health, etc.

    Feuding ethnicities were baked into conglomerate states; nationalists, dissenters and terrorists were repressed; designer states buffered conflict zones; dramatically different political and social entities were forced to live war-free under supervision of the Great Powers.

    A small number of states dominated world politics, and ruthlessly suppressed efforts to interfere with their political and economic well-being.

    It’s 1815.

    gene levine

  • jazzman

    plnelson: If we criticize, verbally attack, caricature, stereotype, deconstruct or satirize socialiasm, neo-conservatism, environmentalism, Republicans, Democrats, Converned Women of America, or PETA, we’re exercising free speech. If we give religions the same treatment wer’re racists or bigots.

    The reason that religions generally get a free pass from your examples above is that polite people are reluctant (due to upbringing, social stigma and lately political correctness) to offend people with strong emotional faith based beliefs – besides the majority of those same people hold faith based beliefs to one extent or another and feel that they may be living in glass houses. Islam is not to be criticized as people fear violence from such a discourse, (the fatwa Salman Rushdie engendered made people aware of how free speech could have dire consequences.)

    Religious people in general (especially conservatives) have a severely limited sense of humor when it comes to matters of faith. Messing with a person’s religion is taken as a personal affront if not an attack or threat by many.

    Judaism, OTOH does get a passover as it is the only religion that I know of that is defined as both a hereditary group and a religion, (you can be born Jewish and choose not to practice Judaism but are still Jewish and non-hereditary conversion to Judaism by persons does not make them Jewish, but practitioners of the Jewish faith) as it is a one of a kind special case and criticism of the religious aspect is almost always conflated with the racial aspect whether intended or not as is evidenced in the recent threads here. BTW the plethora of Jewish comedians would argue that the sense of humor is far more widespread in that religion than many.

    Peace

    Jazzman

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