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The global battle for ideas cannot be fought with guns

 
 
Reply Thu 10 Aug, 2006 11:09 pm
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The global battle for ideas cannot be fought with guns

Bush and Blair's belief that Islamism could be bombed into submission was deluded. We need to find a middle way

Jackie Ashley
Monday August 7, 2006
The Guardian

Tony Blair is right. Tony Blair is disastrously wrong. Where he is right is to insist, in his recent speech, that the tragedy of Lebanon is not a single one-off event but part of a much larger confrontation with an "arc of extremism". I have friends so angry about Israel's behaviour that they are beginning to fall for the idea that Hizbullah is an admirable resistance army, a movement of social workers, philosophers and urban guerrillas, to be supported "objectively", as the Marxists used to say - the Guardian in the sunshine with rockets. We read admiring reports about the wit and verbal brilliance of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who is sometimes portrayed as a mix of Che Guevara and Groucho Marx.

Then there are those who think we should support poor little underdog Iran against bullying America over nuclear weapons, while taking President Ahmadinejad's effusions about wiping Israel off the map as just amusing banter from downtown Tehran. And when it comes to Iraq, many feel the Shia resistance movement has had so much provocation that it too deserves to win.

So before going any further, let us remind ourselves just what fundamentalist Islam wants and what kind of society it aspires to. As a woman, I can't regard the compulsory veiling of sisters in the Middle East by men who threaten them with violence as just another cultural choice. Iran, the state that most eagerly supports Hizbullah and had come closest to achieving Shiaism in one country, is a place where women are hanged or stoned to death for adultery, where homosexuals are hunted by the religious police, and where an anti-Semitism that would have been regarded as a little extreme in late-30s Munich is daily fare.

And no, I don't think that because Hizbullah are protecting Lebanese Sunnis and Christians against the Israeli onslaught, and because its social service network helps non-Shias too, that makes it a genial or moderate organisation. It is spreading support, building its power base, as any revolutionary group would do in these circumstances. But its ultimate aim, apart from driving out the Jews, is to create a little Iran on the Mediterranean. That would, one day, involve driving out the same Lebanese Christians who currently thank their God for the fighters of Hizbullah.

It does come down to values. Just as I loathe the idea of separate Muslim schools in Britain, or forced marriages, or female genital mutilation, so I cannot swallow the notion of a rising Islamic world that despises western and liberal values. To be a liberal does not mean shrugging your shoulders at those who loathe you and hoping that somehow everyone will get on. A world divided between Christian bible-belt fundamentalists, powered by US military and oil interests, and Islamist Qur'an-belt fundamentalists, ruled by misogynistic mullahs, is a bad world, period.

The question is, what to do about it, and here is where Tony Blair has been proved so hopelessly, catastrophically wrong. Let's bend over backwards to be fair. He may not have known for certain what would happen when Iraq was invaded and Saddam toppled. But we all now know that the result has been to plunge the country into a civil war currently costing more lives per week than the American civil war. Anyone who still thinks this is hyperbole should be directed to the leaked assessment of the outgoing British ambassador in Baghdad.

The Bush-Blair belief was that Arab nationalism could be bombed into defeat. The past few years have shown how deluded that was. Even less plausible is the idea that Islamism will wane if the west flexes its military muscles. In a hearts-and-minds struggle, it does not win much leverage to bomb civilians and kill children. In this regard, Arab Shias are the same as anyone else: murder makes them angry, not conciliatory.

This is the real danger of Israel's actions in Lebanon. Israel has every right to exist, in security. Internally it is a democratic society and, as a non-Jew, I would infinitely prefer to live in Tel Aviv than Tehran. But Israel's vicious behaviour towards the Palestinians, and now in Lebanon, creates a new suicide bomber, a new resistance fighter and a new potential terrorist - in the Middle East and well beyond - every hour of the day. Yes, Hizbullah provoked the Israelis. But they reacted with all the calm deliberation of a maddened bull. They are not the only ones.

The depth of the stupidity shown by the White House and by No 10 is caricatured in the story that Jack Straw was fired as foreign secretary after Condoleezza Rice visited Blackburn and reported back to Bush on the strength of Muslim feeling in Straw's constituency. Put to one side the grotesque affront to British status implied by an American president being able to sack cabinet members by proxy (which Downing Street will doubtless deny) and ask this question: what kind of mind thinks the presence of angry Muslims in his constituency would hamper Straw's diplomacy, rather than sharpen it?

The kind of mind, presumably, that thinks Muslims are generally bad and rejects the battle of ideas in favour of battle. Straw was reaching out to Tehran. He said that nuking them was "nuts". He was, modestly, adopting a rhetoric which was not simply Washington's "Israel good, Palestinians bad" tone. Despite his involvement in the Iraq decision, he was trying to find a middle way. He knew he had to, because like most of us he lives among ordinary, non-extreme Muslims - drawn in some ways to western society, and currently infuriated and despairing. One day even the Americans will have to follow him, or we are all off to hell in a handcart.

We need that ceasefire. We need a rebuilt, protected Lebanon, given something of the outside support Israel has had. There should be no British troops in a peacekeeping force because they would be a provocation. By tamely following Bush into the biggest foreign policy mistake of modern times, Britain has too much blood on its hands to be taken seriously in the region, and Blair is seen as too one-sided. We can and should provide money, doctors and volunteers, but we should have the humility to recognise that others, such as the French, would be more acceptable as honest brokers.

There is a battle of ideas in the world today. We cannot escape it or walk away. But you cannot kill ideas with guns - only with better ideas, expressed through confident, open societies. Blair's words suggest that he realises this. His record, however, suggests this understanding has come too late.
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BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Aug, 2006 01:22 am
What a great article..from the Guardian...a totally unbiased middle of the road newspaper!!
LOLLOLLOLLOLLOLLOL
0 Replies
 
mysteryman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Aug, 2006 06:57 pm
Naziism was bombed into submission
Imperial Japan was bombed into submission
In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.

It can be done,and it has been done before.
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 12:45 am
Mysterman wrote:

Naziism was bombed into submission
Imperial Japan was bombed into submission
In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.

It can be done,and it has been done before.

end of quote

Absolutely correct, Mysteryman..Now let us go a bit farther----

Germany and Japan are now operating under a constitution and Germany is a Republic and Japan a constitutional Monarchy.

The old ideas of the Nazis( The Master Race) and of Japan( Greater East Asia Sphere) have been wiped out and replaced with a booming capitalism.

The same is quite possible for Iraq --with the better "idea" of capitalism. If China can move slowly into the capitalistic world, so can Iraq!!!
0 Replies
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 12:57 am
"Naziism was bombed into submission
Imperial Japan was bombed into submission
In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.

It can be done,and it has been done before"

Ridiculous! To compare the vulnerability of a stateless ideology to the vulnerability of a Nation State with concrete institutions and political hierarchy is tantamount to covering the board with intellectual diarrhea.

Was Communism defeated through military means? There was a military dimension of course, and there has to be in this war as well, however, Communism was defeated as an ideology mainly because it showed itself to be weaker than Western Democratic Capitalism at every level regarding the social well being it provides to the public.
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 01:13 am
Brookings wrote( Welcome Brookings)

quote

Was Communism defeated through military means? There was a military dimension of course, and there has to be in this war as well, however, Communism was defeated as an ideology mainly because it showed itself to be weaker than Western Democratic Capitalism at every level regarding the social well being it provides to the public.


You are correct,Brookings. But I hold that there are millions of people in the Middle East who would love to become more capitalistic--Just as the Chinese are becoming more capitalistic. The stateless ideology you reference( ISLAM) is, as you may be aware, capable of being interpreted in a great variety of ways( ISLAM has no Pope so every Imam is the ultimate authority). If you examine Iran, you will find a great many among the young who wish to break away from the rigidities of Islam as viewed by the present ruling clique.

If Shintoism and Buddhism have been muted in Japan after World War II, the same can happen to RADICAL Islam.

One has only to look at the religious practices of the European people before World War II and compare them with today's beliefs, to know that religious beliefs sometimes can be expunged by war and starvation!!!
0 Replies
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 02:07 am
'You are correct,Brookings. But I hold that there are millions of people in the Middle East who would love to become more capitalistic--Just as the Chinese are becoming more capitalistic."

Huh? Whats the point?

"The stateless ideology you reference( ISLAM) is, as you may be aware, capable of being interpreted in a great variety of ways( ISLAM has no Pope so every Imam is the ultimate authority)."

No, the stateless ideology i was talking about was Islamism (or fundamentalist Islam), not Islam itself. Islamism is the belief in the literal interpretation of the Koran, a desire to see the implementation of rule by Islamist jurisprudence, and the desire to reach those ends using violent means.

Your characterization as each Ulama being the ultimate authority is also patently incorrect for all the different sects of Islam (they have significant differences). It simply shows your complete ignorance of what you are talking about. The Shiites, for example, only hold the first Twelve Caliphs as incapable of error. Every imam or mullah since the twelfth calif is only interpreting gods word, and is capable of making mistakes.

Edit: Further, I should note that all Abrahamic religions are at there core authoritarian. The reality isnt about what Islam is or isnt, its about what MUSLIMS want.

"If you examine Iran, you will find a great many among the young who wish to break away from the rigidities of Islam as viewed by the present ruling clique. "

Iran is a country which has lived through Islamic rule and its society has learned, to a certain extent, that all their social ills are not caused by external forces (Ie. the USA) and that Islamist rule, unless manifested in an entirely different form, does not facilitate the growth of a happy and economically prosperous society.

HOWEVER, this does not mean that Polirical Islam has lost its resonance in the Middle East and Asia. Far from it. The reform movement in Iran has been emasculated for all intents and purposes by the hard liners (thanks in part to Iraq's disappearance as regional check), and unsurprisingly the rest of the Middle East seems not to have learned any lessons from Iran's experience.

Political Islam, Islamism, Fundamental Islam, whatever you want to call it, is and will be a potent international force for decades to come. It is an ideology which grows stronger with the rise in number of disaffected Muslim youths, and the demographics are only looking worse for those who seek to stem its influence.


"If Shintoism and Buddhism have been muted in Japan after World War II, the same can happen to RADICAL Islam"

I am unaware to the extent in which either Shintoism or Buddhism were used as ideological tools for the legitimation of Japans war effort (I'm pretty sure Japanese nationalism was the primary Ideology utilized, but regardless i'm sure they were not used nearly to the extent that political Islam is) But again, the nature of the conflict was entirely different, as I have already said.


"One has only to look at the religious practices of the European people before World War II and compare them with today's beliefs, to know that religious beliefs sometimes can be expunged by war and starvation!!! "

What on earth? You are either insane, or very young.
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 12:19 pm
mysteryman wrote:
Naziism was bombed into submission


For a short time, but it looks like the Nazis are front and center
again. Don't you think the skin heads could give the Islamic terrorists, a good run for their money? Razz Razz Razz
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 12:26 pm
Naziism was not bombed into submission. Far from it. Those American and international corporate fascists who invested in Hitler and armed and funded both his rise to power and invested heavily in his military industrial complex not only survived but went uncharged and have continued to persecute the human race ever since.
0 Replies
 
candidone1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Aug, 2006 11:54 pm
So it is true.
Inside every foreigner, there is an American waiting to blossom.

Fascinating.
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Aug, 2006 12:43 am
Yes, I agree with Hingehead- The global battle for ideas cannot be fought with guns.

That is why the idea of the Third Reich was not changed into the German Federated Republic by guns.

We talked them out of it>

LOL!!!
0 Replies
 
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 12:05 am
mysteryman wrote:

In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.



So why did it have to be re-invaded a decade later?
0 Replies
 
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 12:22 am
Let me give you an historical analogy.

The Roman Empire and early christianity. Which one had all the military might? Which one still exists?
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 12:41 am
Early Christianity does not still exist!!!

If you wish to do Historical Analogies, you have many good sources. One of them is, when you are talking of civilizations rather than countries, Arnold Toynbee's Study of History which points out that many "civilizations" once existed and have now "passed away" while still others can be classed, in his term, as "arrested".

Now, the general proposition that an "idea" resists extinction( since it is a mental concept) is a good one but it does not admit of the fact that many "ideas" are enhanced( some might say corrupted) by changing times and technology.

There is no one who would hold that Christianity has the same standing in Europe as it had a hundred years ago.

Paganism was rife in Europe until Christianity was accepted!

The radical Shiite concept of the Twelfth Imam, who will come after an Apocalypse of some kind, to restore the Caliphate so that the entire world can be ruled under Allah, is followed by only a small fringe group.

They might be compared with the fringe group of fundamentalists in the USA who believe in the Rapture.

Most would say that both of these groups are extremists!!!

Will the fundamentalists from either of these groups prevail?

Not likely!!!
0 Replies
 
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 01:00 am
BernardR wrote:


Most would say that both of these groups are extremists!!!

Will the fundamentalists from either of these groups prevail?

Not likely!!!


I wish I had your confidence, because the western world's actions in the middle east (past and present) are certainly promoting recruitment in those organisations, and/or resentment in individuals who then identify with those groups as a means to venting that resentment.
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 01:13 am
Of course they are promoting recruitment. In the middle ages, the idea that the Muslims were in Jerusalem was ONE of the reasons why many were recruited to "liberate" the Holy Land.

Because Germany viewed the Versailles Treaty as inimical to their interests and, in their opinion, the main cause for economic disaster in thier country in the 1930's , they were able to recruit Millions to the Nazi cause.

If we just let them alone and write off 9/11 as an unfortunate accident, along with the attack on the Cole and the first bombing of the WTC, there would be no problem?

You forget that Iran labeled the USA as the "Great Satin" while our fellow citizens were held by those maniacs during the abortive Jimmy Carter presidency.

We are not at war with a STATE. We are at war with the extremists in Islam. They do not operate rationally. The extremists believe that Islam will be brought to all countries of the world and will rule in all those countries!!

You obvioulsy do not know about the Twlefth Imam!!!
0 Replies
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 07:08 am
Bernard...what the hell are you talking about?


" If we just let them alone and write off 9/11 as an unfortunate accident, along with the attack on the Cole and the first bombing of the WTC, there would be no problem? "

No one ever mentioned anything about "writing it off", I dont see that argument made anywhere in this thread. The question is the nature of the threat, and the proper solutions to mitigating that threat. The choice between "writing it off" and :bombing it into submission" as you say, is a false dichotomy.

"You forget that Iran labeled the USA as the "Great Satin" while our fellow citizens were held by those maniacs during the abortive Jimmy Carter presidency"

Whats your point about being us being labeled the Great Satan? That Iranian society was polarized against the United States during the early 80's? Yeah, thats true. Would it have been appropriate to bomb that societal sentiment "into submission"?
.

"We are not at war with a STATE. We are at war with the extremists in Islam. They do not operate rationally."

Its because terrorists are not states and are not necessarily motivated by "rationality" that normal acts of deterrence are ineffective in preventing terrorist threats. Thats why a strictly military response WILL BE INEFFECTIVE. There is a strong military dimension, however the primary location of this conflict WILL be in the free market place of ideas.

"You obvioulsy do not know about the Twlefth Imam!!!"

Dont use exclamation points when you arent really making, nonetheless driving home, a point.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 07:25 am
Brookings wrote:
"Naziism was bombed into submission
Imperial Japan was bombed into submission
In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.

It can be done,and it has been done before"

Ridiculous! To compare the vulnerability of a stateless ideology to the vulnerability of a Nation State with concrete institutions and political hierarchy is tantamount to covering the board with intellectual diarrhea.

Was Communism defeated through military means? There was a military dimension of course, and there has to be in this war as well, however, Communism was defeated as an ideology mainly because it showed itself to be weaker than Western Democratic Capitalism at every level regarding the social well being it provides to the public.

So, you just let people attack you and murder your citizens, develop nukes or whatever, because they're hard to organize against. What a philosophy!
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 07:28 am
hingehead wrote:
mysteryman wrote:

In Desert Storm,Iraq was bombed into submission.



So why did it have to be re-invaded a decade later?

Because we didn't go into the capital.

Fighting them is better than letting them run amok and just talking at them as they pretended to negotiate, while secretly laughing at our naivite. At least we didn't let Saddam Hussein annex Kuwait.
0 Replies
 
Ticomaya
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 09:04 am
Brookings wrote:
Dont use exclamation points when you arent really making, nonetheless driving home, a point.


[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclamation_mark]Wikipedia[/url] wrote:
An exclamation mark, exclamation point or bang, "!", is usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feeling. An exclamation mark is a punctuation mark, and like the full stop (or period), it marks the end of a sentence. A sentence ending in an exclamation mark is either an actual exclamation ("Wow!", "Boo!"), a command ("Stop!"), or is intended to be astonishing in some way ("They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!").


Welcome, Brookings. Here is the link to A2K's English Forum.
0 Replies
 
 

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