Re: Politcal Views
....As serious threats go, gun and car accidents threaten more Amerians than islamist terrorism. Everybody in their right mind thinks that civil liberties take precedence over preventing car and gun accidents; preventing these accidents neither merit curbs on civil rights such as the PATRIOT act, nor the bending of international law as practiced in Guantanamo Bay, nor war. And since we're talking about bigger threats than islamic terrorism here, I think these measures aren't justified in the war on terror either.
I don't think there are clear either/or alternatives here. We try to both preserve civil liberties and limit deaths by vehicle accidents and shootings. There are inescapable cross connections with respect to both principles. In the main the Patriot Act removed restaints on government that were unique to the U.S., and do not exist in Europe. I don't consider this a disproportionate (or permanent) limit to our civil liberties.
I agree with you that the notion of a 'war on terror' is absurd. Terror is a technique, not an enduring identifiable set of nations or people. However I do beleive the West faces certain challenges that do threaten its security in a serious way, one that goes well beyond the damage so far inflicted on us. (Though it all began several generations ago after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire at the hands of Britain and France.)
Concerning what you think the point is, I agree about the backwardness of (some) Islamic nations, but I disagree that the United States' should -- or even can -- push them forward against their will. This is something the Arabians and Iranians have to figure out for themselves. And the examples of Turkey, Indonesia, Bahrein, Quatar, and the United Arab Emirates look encouraging enough to me to take a hands-off approach.
Your point about 'good examples' is well taken, though I would delete Indonesia from your list and replace it with Malaysia and Oman. With that change in mind, it is well worth noting that the serious unrest, instability and backward-looking anger towards the West is concentrated in the most populous Moslem states, from Indonesia to Pakistan, Iran, to most of the Arab world, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and parts of sub Saharan Africa. Though some are dealing well enough with modernism and developent, the overall lack of progress and any evident alternative to Jhad should - in my view - be a matter of enough concern to obviate any notion that 'everything will work out, if we ony give them the time to do it'. Europe, with the additional problems of accelerating depopulation and burdensome social welfare systems, faces an even more proximate social and economic threat.
Certainly the damage so far inflicted on the West is not great on an absolute scale, but neither was that inflicted on third century Rome by the early Goth incursions in Dacia. However a flaccid response by Rome encouraged far greater inroads that later devastated much of the empire for decades. One either rises to meet such challenges or is overcome by them.