Monday, May 23, 2005

The wrong reading

One of my readers, and a fellow blogger (albeit to the right of me), commented that we are too sensitive to the Arab world, and later blogged that the press has been whining that we should return to the pre-9/11 days.

First off, my reply comment, which I shall repost in the body here.

Perhaps you missed the point. It's not so much being sensitive as it is understanding them. And yes, it damn well matters to understand them, because knowing the psychology of any opponent is how you beat them. You can't win just by simply playing your game, because you have to know how they play theirs. Getting the information necessary out of the people we interrogate happens by showing an understanding of their culture, not just insulting them all the time. Not all Arabs and Muslims are extremists, but you can't ignore their psychology just because they don't act the way we want them to. You can't get them there just by force.

This isn't the Soviet Union, where force was the only thing they understood. Religious motivation is the strongest and most dangerous force around. It can be used for immense good or immense evil. The British say religious wars are the nastiest, and while we think this is just a good vs. evil conflict, it's not. To them, it's a religious war, and they aren't going to back down, no matter how many we kill. This is why we should've had other Muslim nations when we went into Iraq: it would've taken away part of their recruiting factor. The way we've insulted key portions of their religion, whether deliberately or accidently (remember Bush's "crusade"?), have been a motivating factor, and it's part of why they won't go away. It's not capitulation to terrorists. It's being smart.

Not every death blow to a twisted force was done with a blunt instrument, which is what we've done for the past four years. This is where I admire Reagan, because he used sharp, pointed words and shadow actions to take down the Soviet Union. How I only wish Bush could show the same ability, but he does everything with brute force, and that's not how we're going to win this war. It's a police war, it's a funding war, it's a military war, and by God, it is a psychological war.

As long as they believe it's a religious war, and we ignore that because we think they're stupid and hypocritical, we aren't going to win. There's a difference between sensitivity and understanding. Not, "Oh, I understand, I'm sorry," but instead "I understand how they think, and this is what we need to do to win."

Yes, their reactionism is ridiculous and wishing another September 11 is heinous. It doesn't mean we can ignore their motivation, because to do so risks losing more people than necessary, and is that a price you really want to pay? If we fight this smart, we can cut down our losses. If we don't, we will sacrifice more soldiers to the tar pit that Iraq remains.

Secondly, I haven't seen the press cheering for anything. They've been booing because Ron Ziegler's reincarnation, Scott McClellan, has been trying to pull a Ziegler and tell a media outlet what it should do. And it's quite possible such a line might never have run had it not become clear that we have shown the penchant for abuse and disregard of Muslim prisoners. The simple fact that most people in Guantanamo have eventually been cleared and released says something. The fact that we're sending people to regimes who torture says something. The fact that a new DOJ report came out on how badly guards abused people rounded up in the post-9/11 sweep, and yet not one of them has been prosecuted or disciplined says something.

Like I say in my comment, blunt force doesn't always get us the results we want, and beating the hell out of prisoners, satisfying as it might be to some guards or interrogators, isn't making our security better. I don't believe for a second we should pamper any of these people. Can't we be humane, though? Treat them like the humans they are, or hell, treat them like your dog, because our pets got better treatment than a lot of these detainees.

I don't want a 1990's-style deal, where it took forever to get action on Bosnia. At the same time, I don't want a 2003 deal where we just piss off the world, do what we want, and then ask for help when things are going to shit. I don't want a policy that allows for rendition, or doesn't punish torture, because Lord knows Abu Ghraib would still be going on if it hadn't gone public, because that had been going on for months, and no one did anything until the media put it out there.

And the Arab and Muslim world is pissed because Abu Ghraib showed that anything was possible and perhaps likely, and that's why they blew up. Not because of Newsweek, but because it fit their idea of a pattern. Like it or not, we gave them that idea. It's probably too late, but maybe making a Muslim the deputy to Karen Hughes might not be such a bad idea. We could use the help.


Blogger E. M. Zanotti said...

It useless to argue this point to nauseum, and I certainly do not want to start a blogwar, or something like that.

I have a very different opinion of the way things went down. Frankly, I don't look at the picture so narrowly as to say that we're "losing" the war or that we need to change our outlook.

I think Newsweek went with a bad story because it fit what their editorial staff wants to say about the war--like Dan Rather and the CBS memos. It doesn't matter how bad the story is or how unsubstantiated--it fit with what they wanted to believe. And that's not just ideology talking. Take a look at Time this week. Even the staff there believes that this lacked integrity.

I think the Arab world pounced on this as an "I told ya so." There's a lot of speculation that they were just waiting for something like this to launch the unrest, and Newseek played right into their hands. Abu Ghireb was over a year ago, and the people responsible have faced punishment.

As for understanding them? What is there to understand? They want to kill us. To do what you propose would be tantamount to appeasement. Terrorism isn't like the kind of war we've seen--to give those who use terror any ground or any legitimacy is to elevate thier cause to one that is on par with reality.

Finally, I don't see this "war," for lack of a better word, as one simply in Iraq-and I don't see us losing either, unless all I watch is CNN or read Rolling Stone.

It is not a legitimate goal--they are not fighting for a legitimate purpose. The way to defeat them is to de-establish the anomie that has been created, the anomie that is their recruting factor--they manage to keep their own countries in the 15th century, while using that fact, then as a sword against western culture. To say that we influence that is tantamount to saying that high taxes led to the Holocaust. You miss the real point. This wasn't caused by one simple problem, or by the United States being who they are. It was caused by the fact that these people are kept in abject poverty by their leaders, and then they are told that it is America's fault.

The spread of democracy is the way to curb that. Let the people speak. Let the people decide the direction of thier countries. Seeing Iraq as the only front in this war is tunneled vision--because of what the Bush doctrine has accomplished, because of the death of Yassar Arafat, because of the free elections in Iraq and in Palestine, the Middle East has seen radical change. Syria has left Lebanon. Egypt will hold elections, even Cuba's citizens are rising up. This is not a war that is fought on the battlefields of Iraq--which is not a tar pit, unless the only news you watch is CNN--its a war fought in the Parliaments of this area. The victories will NOT be body count. The victories will be vote counting.

Is it s psychological war? No. This is a war to free an entire portion of the world from the clutches of disaster. What is there to understand? These people want nothing more than to kill us.

People who have legitimate concens do not massacre millions of people in justification for them. These are not people that we must seek to understand, because it is quite obvious how they think and how they react. It is QUITE apparant what their strategy is--defeat democracy and the evil United States as representative of that democracy at ALL costs.

If this is a religious war, then we should fight it like a religious war. But its not strictly a religious war, and I beleive that so long as they pervert their own religion to fit their own cause, we have no reason to endeavour to understand their motivation.

9:04 AM  

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