Friday, July 29, 2005

Evil Speaks -- Will the Left Listen?

The must-read interview of the year is in the new issue of the British magazine, Prospect. According to the subhead, the subject is "Hassan Butt, a 25 year old from Manchester, [who] helped recruit Muslims to fight in Afghanistan [against the Allies]. Like most of the London bombers, he is a British Pakistani who journeyed from rootlessness to radical Islam."

This lengthy interview paints a portrait that is, by turns, chilling, banal, despicable, and pathetic. Conducted last year, well before the recent London subway attacks, it provides an insight into the terrorist mindset that resonates all the more strongly today. While I cannot more emphatically urge you to read the whole thing, here I want to highlight a few key quotes, and place them in conversation with ideas typically heard on the Left, some of them even put forward by the ambivalent, and at times clueless, interviewer.

Left: Terrorist acts are a reaction to specific policies, such as Tony Blair's role in the War in Iraq. They are not an attack on our values or way of life.

In Britain, the majority [of Islamic extremists] I know are of Pakistani descent and really are fed up with the British way of life, British standards; they are even fed up with un-Islamic Pakistani culture and traditions.
Left: Islamists merely want to be left alone in the Middle East, and are responding to the occupation of Iraq and other Arab countries by the West. They have no aggressive intent.

The idea is that Muslims in Britain need to keep to their Islamic identity and work for the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate, or khalifah as they would say, based upon the first four caliphates of Islam...I don't see why the rest of the world, the White House, 10 Downing Street, shouldn't come under the banner of Islam.
Left: The word "terrorist" is biased, judgemental, and racist. It is more respectful to use the term "insurgent," "bomber," or "radical."

I would agree to being called a radical and one day I may even be called a terrorist, if Allah permits me. That is something it would be an honour to be called...There is a speech by the Prophet in which he says: Allah gave me five things. One of them was the power to strike fear, to strike terror into the heart of the enemy from a mile's the Koran the word irhab is the root word for terror in Islam, and irhabiyun is the word for terrorist. Allah mentions the word in the Koran many times—the one who strikes terror into their hearts is an irhabiyun. If I could have that title Islamically then I would be more than happy to take it and be proud of it.

Left: The Patriot Act is an unjust infringement on civil liberties that doesn't even impact terrorist activities. The European model of civil liberties is preferable.

Britain is a very liberal country in comparison to America where Muslims don't have many rights. This is the type of country where you do have a lot more rights. Now with Afghanistan gone, the Muslims don't really have a place where they can come back to and regroup, have time to think and relax, without the authorities breathing down your neck.
Left: This rise of extremism among British Muslims is rooted in economic disadvantage.

I think that's a myth, pushed forward by so-called moderate Muslims. If you look at the 19 hijackers on 9/11, which one of them didn't have a degree? Muhammad Atta was an engineer [he was actually an architect and town planner] at the highest level. His Hamburg lecturer said, “I didn't have a student like him.” These people are not deprived or uneducated; they are the peak of society... Even Osama himself, Sheikh Osama, came from wealth that I could never dream of and he gave it all up because it had no value to him. Who can say he came from an economically deprived condition? It's rubbish.
Left: Suicide bombers are driven by unhappiness and desperation.

There is a difference between suicide and martyrdom. Suicide is about unhappiness, depression. That's not what these people are. These people have an urge to be with Allah, to be with the Prophet, live among him, to be close to him. They are happy before committing these actions. They are probably at the highest level any human being can be before doing this. They are the most peaceful and content.

Left: It is demeaning to suggest that suicide bombers are driven by crude visions of the afterlife.
I know that if I was to pass away in my sleep, then I would not have the mercy of Allah upon me because I have been such a bad person. And I don't see myself in any way as getting into heaven that easily, except through martyrdom.
Left: Immigration policy has no relationship to risk of terrorism.

Immigration is lax in Britain—you know as well as I do that London has more radical Muslims than anywhere in the Muslim world...There has to be a place we can come...America is much more difficult to get into than Britain—it's so far from the rest of the world.
Left: The media neutrally reports the facts about terrorist attacks and terror groups.

My role is someone who tries to use the western media to get our message across...I realised that the media was probably the most powerful tool, even more powerful than military warfare: using the media you can change nations, public opinion—you can get your message out there. Ayman al-Zawahiri actually propagates that: “Yes, you can be a martyr, but you've only done half your job unless you get your message out there.”
Left: Islam means peace.

And this is what we believe: we are going to set the foundation for Islam bringing true peace, true security to the world. [Interviewer: Will there be a lot of killing?] I can't see it not happening.

UPDATE: Welcome Watchers! I am honored and flattered to be nominated by the Council -- feel free to stick around and check out some of my follow-ups. I think you will also enjoy this fisking, if you haven't seen it already.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Physics Doesn't Lie

So says a NASA engineer in this NY Times account of the shuttle debris fiasco. By implication, this (necessarily anonymous) engineer suggests that perhaps humans at NASA were not as honest as the physics: "It's an ugly story. It's a mess." Unfortunately, the lengthy NYT article, which uses 55 words to describe the crew's wake-up music, does not dig much deeper into the "root cause" of this ugly story.

I'm a neuro-conservative, not an engineer (dammit Jim!), so I'll admit right up front that I might be wrong in the speculation that follows. But this story, which has circulated the right blogosphere for a while now, seems conspicuously absent from both the NYT article and NASA's official explanations. As summarized by Paul at Wizbang:

The 7 members of the Shuttle Columbia crew lost their lives because of a needless environmental 1997 NASA was forced by environmental regulations to use a different method to apply the foam to the tank. The old method used Freon...Following the change, the November 1997 mission had 308 ceramic tiles damaged. The usual number was 40.[emph in original]

According to this Reuters account, it was precisely the application of the foam, which caused bubbling (thereby causing weak points that detached as debris), that was at fault in the Columbia disaster.

While it is certainly possible that my understanding of the Columbia report is off, or that something else entirely caused Discovery's current foam problems, doesn't it seem strange that the NASA spokesman states "We'll put our best people on it, and we'll figure out something to do." Representative Sherwood Boehlert is quoted as saying "it's back to the drawing board." And most curiously of all, the intrepid NYT reporter allows these comments to sit there, floating in space if you will, without providing the reader with any of the background cited above.

Is it unspeakable to consider the possibility of returning to freon for the shuttle? How much ozone would be lost? Is it worth the lives of the crew and the costs involved with derailing the entire manned space program? Or is it unthinkable, because, as Michael Crichton has stated, "Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists...It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. "

Monday, July 25, 2005

Blogging Will Resume Tomorrow

My work project has overflowed its intended deadline (ie, I procrastinated).

In the meantime, please check out Irshad Manji's website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

(Not) Beyond Good and Evil

I have previously written that any functional philosophical structure must have, at its core, the understanding of evil as a powerful causative agent, a theme that Dymphna pursued further over at Gates of Vienna. This view stands in sharp contrast to the reductionistic vocabulary of the "root cause" Left, for whom the only causally-active motive forces in the world are Western racism, sexism, classism, and colonialism.

Today, Michael Ledeen reminds us that, beyond the fact that the 7/7 bombers were not poor, oppressed, indigenous peoples, they were not the first of their kind:
The executioner of Daniel Pearl was a textbook British Establishment sort, having been well raised and educated (he had studied at the prestigious London School of Economics) by a good family. He went to secular schools, he was exceedingly upward-mobile, he did not suffer any deprivations or traumatizing slights from infidels. One day, in a mosque, he made a free decision to become a terrorist.
Mohammed Bouyari, the assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was born and bred in the Netherlands. And our own "Johnny Jihad" was the product of wealthy families in a stylish neighborhood in San Francisco, who went to Afghanistan to kill fellow Americans.

Ledeen reminds us that millions of highly civilized Germans and Italians, lovers of Beethoven and Verdi, were gripped by the fascist impulse; thousands of educated Japanese students from normal families flew airplanes into American naval vessels on suicide missions. The lesson?
[The terrorists] are not misfits or sociopaths. They are people who find it fulfilling to kill us and destroy our society. As time passes, we will meet more and more of them. And, in the fullness of time, we will remember that Machiavelli warned us half a millennium ago that "man is more inclined to do evil than to do good," and that the primary role of statesmen and other leaders is to contain the dark forces of human nature.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Most Important Story of The Year

Might just be this. Prayers for Ganji and all the captive people of Iran.

Busy with "Real" Work

Check back later in the week -- I have several planned posts but no time right now to do them justice...

In the meantime, check out this piece by Michael Ledeen, providing evidence that the 7/7 terrorists were not intending to commit suicide in the course of their attack. It got me to thinking how the suicidal component serves to mystify the act, contributing to the search for "root causes." If they were just a bunch of murderous cowards, perhaps it is easier to recognize their naked evil?

Friday, July 15, 2005

None So Blind

ShrinkWrapped had an insightful post yesterday about the MSM's "blind spots" in its reportage of the 7/7 terrorists' backgrounds. As he watched two chattering heads on CNN trying to explain the bombers' motivations, he noticed that there was one word that they never mentioned. SW may not have seen this article in the NY Times, but it proves the point so achingly that you don't know whether to laugh or cry. This one sentence says it all:
Hasib Hussain, 18, who lived nearby, was the impressionable one, a charming young man who had been drifting into a reckless teenage life until religion set him straight. [emph added]

A complete takedown of the article is here. I will leave you with the question that the Times poses, yet is utterly unable to answer:
What kind of radical force threw the three men together, with another bomber, to commit such a heinous crime against their country, the one they rooted for in soccer matches, and their people?

Radical force indeed.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Thought Experiment

Imagine four ordinary-looking young men from a small town in central Texas, near Waco. Each one has a somewhat different background, and they live apparently separate lives: one is described a something of a loser, bullied by his older brother; a second was known for his love of sports; a third is an immigrant with a bit more shadowy background; and the last is a family man and a teacher.

Most people who know them don't realize their "hobby" -- they have each taken up membership in a "right-wing militia" group, and have participated in numerous "training" sessions in the woods, involving heavy weaponry. Their enthusiasm and zeal, while alarming some of their fellow militia men, bring them to the special attention of a mysterious "squad leader" with a German-sounding name. They are kicked out of the militia, but continue their affiliation with the squad leader.

In private sessions, this charismatic man drills them not only on the use of the weapons, but their ultimate purpose: to bring Heaven on earth by hastening the apocalypse as described in his idiosyncratic interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

After the horrific bombing of a federal office center in a nearby metropolitan center, killing over 100 people including children in a day care center, one of these four young men is reported missing by his family. A search of his apartment, and later those of his "buddies," turns up copies of the Left Behind series, as well as Nazi paraphernalia (including membership documents for the Aryan Nations).

What would the sophisticated classes say was the "root cause" of their behavior? Who would they condemn: the evil Nazi fundamentalists, or the government whose policies made them feel oppressed?

And wouldn't the leader of the Democratic Party say something like the following, and wouldn't his party and the media rally behind him?:
When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable. So exercise yours, my fellow Americans. Our country, our future,our way of life is at stake.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Root, Root, Root Against the Home Team

Normblog knocks it out of the park today (hat tip: Roger L. Simon), demolishing the (il)logic of the "root cause" doctrine promulgated by the enemy's apologists on the Left. Here's the play by play:

Rounding first, he points out how any true empathy for the victims of terrorism is crowded out by a self-congratulatory (dare I say narcissistic) intellectualism:
No words of dismay or regret, let alone sorrow, mourning, could be allowed to pass these people's lips without the accompaniment of a 'We told you so' and an exercise in blaming someone else than the perpetrators.
Sailing past second, he notes the "selectivity" of the apologists' empathy, which somehow never attaches itself to Westerners, especially Jews (Is there a word for that? Hmmm...):
Did you ever hear a Jenny Tonge who empathizes with the Palestinian suicide bomber also understanding the worries of Israeli and other Jews - after the Holocaust, after the decades-long hostility of the Arab world to the State of Israel and the teaching of hatred there against Jews, after the acts of war against that state and the acts of terrorism against its citizens?

In a previous post, I said that "evil cannot be reduced to a set of physical properties or sociological phenomena." Hot-dogging it around third, Norm makes an outstanding analogy to illustrate this point:

In circumstances he judges not too risky, Bob, an occasional but serial rapist, is drawn to women dressed in some particular way. One morning Elaine dresses in that particular way and she crosses Bob's path in circumstances he judges not too risky. He rapes her. Elaine's mode of dress is part of the causal chain which leads to her rape. But she is not at all to blame for being raped.

The fact that something someone else does contributes causally to a crime or atrocity, doesn't show that they, as well as the direct agent(s), are morally responsible for that crime or atrocity, if what they have contributed causally is not itself wrong and doesn't serve to justify it. [emph added]

As he charges home, Norm brings this critical philosophical point back to the familiar Bush-bashing ground of the Left (see here):
To shift part of the blame for the London killings and maimings on to Blair and further have to reckon that what was wrong about the war not merely caused the anger of those bombers but made their response, in some sort, morally appropriate rather than (what it in fact was) criminally excessive.

In the our Oprah-fied culture, we have seen all sorts of sociologic, economic, and psychological explanations of behavior, used as excuses for criminal and deviant behavior. These explanations may have some degree of relevance as description, but it is a fallacy to replace these descriptions for moral judgment. In the field of neuroscience, this form of fallacious reasoning actually requires two steps: first, the observed correlation between criminal behavior and certain biological variables (such as prefrontal brain volumes), must be seen as causal; second, this "causation" (which is really just a description of explained variance) is allowed to crowd out any conception of personal responsibility, free will, or moral agency.

As this has been a long post on a theme to which I will return, I will give the last word to the always-pithy Dr. Sanity:
Psychological health requires that adults take full responsibility for their behavior and actions.

Monday, July 11, 2005

War as Rorschach

Once again, I take the excellent work of The Belmont Club as my starting point. Wretchard contrasts several post-hoc analyses of the 7-7 bombings, each trying to understand how the attacks reflected the enemy's tactics, strategy, and (ultimately) worldview.

I will not reiterate the details of Wretchard's analysis here; read the whole thing, as they say. Instead, I want to take a step back and notice that the debate is much like a Rorschach, as each viewer struggles to make sense of the limited and conflicting data available to tell a coherent story. In this case, our own styles of manifesting anxiety might tend to lead us to give greater weight to the evidence suggesting a cunning enemy, or a blood-thirsty and unstoppable enemy, or an enemy with much reserve strength.

I do not write this to denigrate any of the views noted above; in fact, I find much of value in each of the three analyses. A commenter on The Belmont Club also noted that the enemy may be multifaceted, which makes a lot of sense to me. There may be key differences between an educated Jihadist from Hamburg and a 16-year Islamist fighter brought into Iraq from the West Bank by way of Syria. Most importantly, I am not taking such a "nuanced" view that there is no enemy, or that we merely misunderstand him and need to accomodate his grievances. I feel perfectly comfortable judging both types of terrorist to be equally evil, even if we understand them differently. By contrast, I think the explanatory mode of denial and self-blame manifest by the some on the Left misses the mark altogether, as I have written about previously.

I hope to have more to say about this tomorrow, for I feel that I am falling short of what I am trying to say. While I think these efforts to understand the enemy are important and necessary to decide on our next tactical move, I think the larger battle is still within our own society, as I discussed yesterday. Strategically, we are in the position of the poker player holding 4 aces, who can only lose if he convinces himself that his opponent has a straight flush. We will only lose this war if we fold, and I analyze the Battle of London as a tactical defeat for the enemy, as it (fortunately) has not led to a weakening of our resolve.

I might add that, even if we understand the vast difference in backgrounds of the educated Hamburg Jihadist from the 16-year old Palestinian, the same strategies might apply to fighting both: We must be both the physical (military) and ideological (memetic) "strong horse." A blood feud can only be maintained if both sides share the same horizon of imagination. What George Bush seeks is to open a new horizon of imagination to the Muslim mind, one that is more compatible with our continued existence.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Belief and Will

Wretchard at the Belmont Club describes the courage and dedication of our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, and suggests that bin Laden must be shocked that he is not refighting Mogadishu, but instead is facing another Guadalcanal.

In my undergraduate military history survey, the professor began the first lecture by stating: "The history of warfare is the history of technology." Throughout the semester, he elaborated his belief that technological innovations (from the crossbow to the atomic bomb) were the decisive factors in battle.

I think instead that the decisive factors are belief and will. Belief in the rightness of your cause, and the will to keep fighting. The atomic bomb only brought about the Japanese surrender after the second use, and required a successful bluff by Truman that there were more to come. Technological superiority, kill ratios, tactical maneuvers, and the rest are only relevant to the extent they impact the enemy's will to continue the fight.

Unfortunately, there are large segments of our society today that have neither belief nor will. Fortunately, the enemy is not monolithic in this regard either.

Still, I often think of the Battle of the Bulge, in which the Allies took 80,000 casualties (including 19,000 dead) in a 6-week period, just months away from final victory in Europe, and wonder how the media of today would have reported the outcome.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Moderate Muslims

In a followup to my first Fisking last night, ShrinkWrapped takes note of a key line in Robin Cook's appeasement plan:
The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation.
ShrinkW responds:
The sad fact remains that there are almost no Arab "Moderate Muslims" speaking out anywhere in the world. There are no "Moderate Muslim" governments willing to support and protect the semi-mythical "Moderate Muslim" who has the temerity to speak out against the terror murderers and enablers.
I think that this is a major goal of Operation Iraqi Freedom that is rarely remarked upon, as compared to the geo-political goal of creating the first democratic Arab state. Ayatollah Sistani and others of the "quietist" school of Shia thought can provide both religious guidance and political cover for the "silent majority" (or minority, if you think I am being overly optimistic) of moderate voices. These voices can hold international sway on Muslim opinion, just as the Iraqi elections had international ripple effects in the political sphere.

Of course, a critical goal for OIF is to see similar figures emerge from the Sunni camp. Here again, I think SW is correct in citing bin Laden's famous "stong horse" comments. If it is clear that the interim Iraqi government is to be the strong horse (with unwavering support of the US & allies), we will inevitably start to see Sunni leaders wanting to jump on board. This is why the British stiff upper lip is, for the immediate moment, the strongest weapon in our arsenal (and why Robin Cook is dead wrong).

Friday, July 08, 2005

My First Fisking

Last night I went to bed thinking I had been a bit harsh in my postings yesterday. Surely the Left would, at least temporarily, be sufficiently stung to turn away from their self-destructive path. Or at least take a moment for reflection along that path?

The answer to that question, a resounding no, arrived in this morning's Guardian, in a lengthy editorial from the former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. The title alone tells the tale: "The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means." Subhead: "The G8 must seize the opportunity to address the wider issues at the root of such atrocities." The article is exceptionally long(-winded), so I will use some judicious editing in this fisking.

The first two paragraphs describe the mood in the House of Commons and across England. I include below only the key adjectives and nouns. Notice that nowhere to be found are outrage, resolve, determination, nor any active verbs except "recoil":

silent...solemn...grave... united in shock and sorrow... empathy with the pain of those injured and the grief of those bereaved. We recoil ... unexpected disappearance of partners, children, and parents...pain...acute...affection.

Unexpected disappearance? Like losing your keys under the couch? (And we are sadly far beyond the point that any sophisticate could be caught dead using the more fluid-sounding "husbands and wives, children and parents".)

It is arbitrary and therefore an event that changes whole lives, which turn on the accident of momentary decisions. How many people this morning ask themselves how different it might have been if their partner had taken the next bus or caught an earlier tube?

Ah, I see, the events were arbitrary, like a tornado or natural disaster. An accident -- and yet perhaps it was truly, subtly, the fault of a bad decision by the victims to choose the wrong form of transportation.

But perhaps the loss is hardest to bear because it is so difficult to answer the question why it should have happened... What purpose is there to yesterday's senseless murders? Who could possibly imagine that they have a cause that might profit from such pointless carnage?

At the time of writing, no group has surfaced even to explain why they launched the assault. Sometime over the next few days we may be offered a website entry or a video message attempting to justify the impossible, but there is no language that can supply a rational basis for such arbitrary slaughter. The explanation, when it is offered, is likely to rely not on reason but on the declaration of an obsessive fundamentalist identity that leaves no room for pity for victims who do not share that identity.

Rarely does denial announce itself so clearly. Despite the fact that the terrorists have declared repeatedly (including yesterday) their goals and motives, these are to be ignored because they do not comport with what the Right Honourable Mr. Cook deems to be "rational." Such motives are not only irrational to Mr. Cook, but he deems them literally unimaginable ("who can imagine?) and unspeakable ("there is no language") and therefore unthinkable.

Yesterday the prime minister described the bombings as an attack on our values as a society. In the next few days we should remember that among those values are tolerance and mutual respect for those from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Only the day before, London was celebrating its coup in winning the Olympic Games, partly through demonstrating to the world the success of our multicultural credentials. Nothing would please better those who planted yesterday's bombs than for the atrocity to breed suspicion and hostility to minorities in our own community. Defeating the terrorists also means defeating their poisonous belief that peoples of different faiths and ethnic origins cannot coexist.

Wretchard handled this one very well yesterday. When multicultural tolerance extends to permitting the growth of a cryptofascists subculture seeking the institution of sharia law within the Queen's dominion, tolerance has hit the brick wall.

In the absence of anyone else owning up to yesterday's crimes, we will be subjected to a spate of articles analysing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically they will fall in the same week that we recall the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000 Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist act in Europe of the past generation.

This one is just bizarre. Why no mention of Western action in Kosovo, for which Cook patted himself on the back in his cabinet resignation speech?

Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian forces, could be held up as an example of Christianity.

But there were plenty of Christian leaders who denounced him, and no shortage of Western, mostly Christian forces who ultimately fought and defeated him.

After all, it is written in the Qur'an that we were made into different peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand each other.

And the Koran also says, "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks." (Sura 47:4)

Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan....

This hoary myth has been thoroughly debunked, but is necessary if you believe that only the US has the power of agency to bring evil into the world, as is further demonstrated in the next paragraph, which speaks from the essence of appeasement:

The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us..

Cook then spends the remaining paragraphs urging the West to provide more support and funds to exactly those governments that have bred the terrorists:

The G8 summit is not the best-designed forum in which to launch such a dialogue with Muslim countries, as none of them is included in the core membership. .. We are not going to address the sense of marginalisation among Muslim countries if we do not make more of an effort to be inclusive of them in the architecture of global governance.

But the G8 does have the opportunity in its communique today to give a forceful response to the latest terrorist attack. That should include a statement [issue a statement!--that will scare them!] of their joint resolve to hunt down those who bear responsibility for yesterday's crimes. But it must seize the opportunity to address the wider issues at the root of terrorism.[emph added]

In particular, it would be perverse if the focus of the G8 on making poverty history was now obscured by yesterday's bombings. The breeding grounds of terrorism are to be found in the poverty of back streets, where fundamentalism offers a false, easy sense of pride and identity to young men who feel denied of any hope or any economic opportunity for themselves. A war on world poverty may well do more for the security of the west than a war on terror.

Another hoary myth, debunked literally millions of times by each of the Africans who are not blowing up subways, and by each dollar bill plunked down by Mohammed Atta and his well-educated buddies at that strip club in Vegas. And, of course, the final myth is now the defining myth of the Left, Iraq=failure, which permits them to simultaneously wallow in defeatism and blame terrorism on its true root cause, namely George W. Bush:

And in the privacy of their extensive suites, yesterday's atrocities should prompt heart-searching among some of those present. President Bush is given to justifying the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that by fighting terrorism abroad, it protects the west from having to fight terrorists at home. Whatever else can be said in defence of the war in Iraq today, it cannot be claimed that it has protected us from terrorism on our soil.

As it is getting late (why did I pick such a long essay to fisk), I will let Wretchard handle this one as well. (And I hate to say I told you so, but there you have it...)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

From the Archives of the Belmont Club

One of Wretchard's darkly prophetic statements:
The Left will wake up one day, on the morning it is led down a dark corridor to a cell floored with rubber mats, sloping curiously down to a corner where a single drain waits to carry fluid away. The walls will be bare but for a banner with the words 'Allah is Great' opposite a video camera whose tripod legs are protected with a drop cloth. On a table will be a single knife. And then they will know. Then they will see.

I hope it does not have to come to that for all of us.

Root Cause

The contemporary Western mind has been conditioned by a century or two of scientific reductionism, coupled with decades of misapplications and inversions of this method in the social sciences, to look for root causes of terrorism. But such an endeavor is no more likely to succeed than the attempt to find the cause of violence in a brain scan, or the cause of George Bush's re-election in the quantum state of an electron in a voting machine in Ohio, or the cause of Hurricane Dennis in the attitudes of Floridians towards storm preparation. Any complex phenomenon can only be explained in the context of its relevant frame of reference.

And the one frame of reference that has been written out of Western scientistic discourse is the moral dimension, which is critical to understanding this fight.

The root cause of terrorism is evil. We must reclaim the ability to perceive evil as a motive force in the realm of human affairs; it is one of the oldest pieces of wisdom of our civilization, yet has been relentlessly denied by the most "civilized" in our intelligentsia. Evil can be characterized in somewhat more specific ways; for example, Lee Harris has written eloquently about the ruthlessness of our enemies, who take advantage of our civilized ways, which they perceive as timidity. But make no mistake: evil cannot be reduced to a set of physical properties or sociological phenomena.

Civilized men have long had difficulty accepting the presence of evil in the world; "the problem of evil" has literally bedevilled theology since its inception. But one recent example with devastating consequences: Before the Holocaust, many Jews could not accept the possibility that their compatriots would devour them; ever after, Jews have questioned how God could allow such evil into the world. This difficulty has reached the level of utter negation of the word in contemporary philosophy. I have previously referred to Mark Lilla's book, "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics," which documents how the most important philosophers of the 20th Century were not only intellectually unequipped to reject evil, but actually wholeheartedly embraced the most despicable totalitarianisms of all time. As I mentioned in that post, this was the first nonfiction work I read after 9/11. Since that time, I have come to the conclusion that any functional philosophical structure must have, at its core, the understanding of evil as a powerful causative agent.

We Stand Together

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Presidential IQ

One aspect of left/liberal thinking that is a pet peeve for me, especially around election time, is the notion that the more "intelligent" candidate would make the better president. There is, of course, a self-congratulatory air about this pronouncement coming from the intellegentsia, combined with a childishness in the put-down of the opponent's perceived deficits.

Let's take a look at the list of the 20th Century presidents who, by virtue of their verbal skills, academic record, or prior accomplishments, are generally agreed to have had the highest IQs:

T. Roosevelt
Contrast this with an equal number of presidents derided by their contemporaries as "amiable dunces" or worse (ignore for the moment whether the scorn was fair or accurate):

GW Bush
Which list would you choose?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Right on Left on Right

One of the most provocative (to me, anyway) topics in the blogosphere has been the attempt by the Right to understand why the Left demonizes us. Two important contributions have been offered today by ShrinkWrapped and neo-neocon. I will add a few observations:

1) I believe that part of the explanation is to be found at the sociological level. Within the intellectual class, the Left is the overwhelming majority, and acts like a bully because it can. It is far easier to demonize than to be challenged by an equal, and many on the left have had the luxury of never having to accept the challenge. So, they demonize because they can (the same excuse Clinton offered for his treatment of that woman, Miss Lewinsky). While not an admirable trait, it is very human.

2) Further, many on the left might not even recognize a conservative argument if they saw one (like Pauline Kael, who was baffled that Nixon could have won the 1972 election, since "nobody I know voted for him). By contrast, all conservative intellectuals have had long years of toughening themselves against best the Left has to offer; many even had been liberals or leftists before. (Notice that there are vanishingly few neo-liberals or neo-leftists -- almost everyone who migrates, migrates rightward).

3) The combined result of 1 & 2 might lead a liberal to quickly feel very threatened when forced to confront a conservative, or when confronting the reality of their own lack of power in the larger society. Shrinkwrapped put it well: "People have powerful emotional investments in their political arguments and often react with fury when they are on the losing end. We can see everyday in the arguments of many on the left that losing power is not easily and gracefully negotiated."

4) To the extent that there is a fundamental (as opposed to reactive) psychological component to the Left's demonization, I think that Dr. Sanity was on the right track with her Narcissism and Society series. Please read the whole series, but one aspect in particular is captured in this quote from Part II:
Narcissistic Idealism is a compensatory mechanism (usually later in the child's development) when an idealized person (such as the Parent) fails to live up to expectations (which inevitably occurs).Not able to adequately deal with this truth, the Self immediately transfers its idealization to a new SelfObject. Rage is kept at bay by focusing on the new person/SelfObject who now receives the excessive awe or admiration withdrawn from the previous Object.
My take is that the Left, which accuses conservatives of Manicheanism in our approach to the War on Terror ("Only a Sith deals in absolutes!"), actually has a complementary Manicheanism, based on this narcissistic rage at the imperfect Parent. Here, the rage is displaced onto the US Government, which takes on the role of the imperfect parent ("You didn't protect the Iraqi museums!") or even the abusive parent (Gitmo). The compensatory Narcissistic idealization is then directed outward towards the enemies of the US (Castro, Che, Ho Chi Minh, Michael Moore's "Minutemen", etc). This process is on Technicolor display in today's column by Ted Rall.

5) A related psychological phenomenon is envy, which has often been attributed to the Left. Again, we can see that envy is both displaced (from parent onto US gov't) and projected (from self onto Terrorists or other "Others"). Michael McCanles, a frequent commenter at the Belmont Club, had this to say:
The left's dominant narrative--what one might call "narrative template"--is the unfolding of the logic of envy: "whatever someone possesses that I don't possess has been taken away from me and is owed me. When the possessors are dispossessed and I get what I don't possess, then 'social justice' has been done." "Fear of envy" (i.e., the "evil eye") is for anthropologists a major embodiment of this narrative's central obsession. Thus: Islam must hate us because "we" have robbed them of something that they want: thus the incongruous overlay of the marxoid group-conflict model on top of terrorist motivations. The nice thing about this narratival explanation is that it allows the teller a hidden modicum of control. If we can say "they are attacking us because of something that we have done, then all we have to do is correct it by giving them what they want, and all will be well. Thus we control the situation because our actions are the root of the evil being done us." This is why leftists are so dedicated to scapegoating and fingerpointing.
6) Finally, I want to emphasize that even these psychological observations are not meant to be taken as pathologizing individuals on the Left. I actually am inclined to see points 4&5 as a sociological phenomenon that is analogous to the psychological concepts of narcissism and envy, or that calls upon the fundamental narcissism and envy that is part of all of us. (I think Dr. Sanity also stated a similar caveat). I am not attempting to argue that there is on average a greater level of psychopathology in liberals relative to conservatives.

Most of all, I am trying (very hard) not to engage in the very kind of demonization I am seeking to explain. I hope that I have at least been successful in that attempt.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Extremism in the Defense of Science

In my recent post on Elite political biases, I suggested (following from ShrinkWrapped) that a lack of common sense and a tendency to push rationalism to the extremes led to an embrace of Utopian political extremes. This tendency is also apparent in the approach to science taken recently by an increasing number of writers of popular nonfiction (for a common-sense review, see here). Whether this is out of a boost sales through sensationalism, or a genuinely unhinged (or misinformed) tendency to fall off of slippery slopes, I don't know. When I shake off this summer cold that has laid me low this weekend, I will discuss a more balanced book that I have just finished reading, in which an eminent neuroscientist tackles the intersection of the scientific and the political without (for the most part) going to extremes.

Happy 4th!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." ---T. Jefferson, July 4, 1776

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity." ---G.W. Bush, January 28, 2003

Unfortunately, these truths are not always evident to our enemies, and God's gift sometimes comes with a hefty delivery fee, so PLEASE VISIT HERE TODAY.