Tom Friedman: Americans send their children to fight and die against enemy militias because we are decent, generous people who love freedom. Iraqis send their children to fight and die against enemy militias because they do not love their children.
The “Surge is Working” campaign of lies kicked into gear in mid-July with propaganda appearances by military figures, Administration officials, and pliable Congressmen. Conservative-controlled media organizations also have their marching orders.
WASHINGTON — It is up to the Iraqi parliament and public to determine the fate of the government led by Nouri al-Maliki, President Bush said Tuesday, responding to calls by war critics who now acknowledge the military surge in Iraq is working but say the prime minister must go.
The campaign is somewhat remarkable for its brazenness, since, in fact, the surge is failing, and there is absolutely nothing behind the entire campaign. It’s not necessary to have access to classified information; casual perusal of the newspapers makes it clear that the surge is having no more than a negligible effect on security for Iraqis. And, of course, it has not resulted in any political progress: Iraq is still in the midst of civil war, and the Iraqi government remains a powerless fiction.
Sunni Arab extremists were suspected in the afternoon kidnapping of Samir Salim Attar, the deputy minister for science and technology. He and five bodyguards were abducted in Baghdad by armed men who intercepted Attar’s heavily defended convoy.
Recent assassinations and kidnappings have coincided with a burst of attacks in Baghdad and central Iraq that have killed dozens of civilians in recent days. On Monday, five people died in a car bombing in the capital’s Sadr City neighborhood. A motorcycle bomb killed two Iraqis at central Baghdad’s Shorja Market.
A roadside bomb detonated when an Iraqi army patrol passed in Mafraq, near Samarra, killing four soldiers and provoking retaliatory gunfire that killed four nearby civilians. In Ad Dawr, a Sunni city near Samarra, four carloads of gunmen attacked the head of the tribal defense force, killing two guards.
Andrew Sullivan semi-approvingly quotes Reuel Marc Gerecht, criticizing Obama for his failure to acknowledge that the struggles of the Islamic world in coping with modernity drive them inevitably to hate and attack the U.S.
What he does not seem to grasp – and the Bush administration is no better – is that America is the cutting edge of a modernity that has convulsed Islam as a faith and a civilization. This collision will likely become more violent, not less, as Muslims more completely enter the ethical free fall that comes as modernity pulverizes the world of our ancestors. Barack Obama’s newly devised “Mobile Development Teams,” which will bring together “personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID … to turn the tide against extremism” are unlikely to make America more attractive to devout Muslims who know that America is the leading force in destroying the world that they love.
This is nonsense. Americans equate “modernity” with “Americanness” out of jingoism. The rest of the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way at all. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the country that symbolizes modernization is increasingly China; that’s where the new infrastructure and consumer technology is coming from. Islam may be wracked by its confrontation with post-industrial consumer society, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Muslims will identify the US as the source of the problem — unless we help them do it. The best thing for the US to do, to defuse hostility driven by the aporia of postmodern third-world dislocations, is to stop equating “freedom”, “democracy”, “capitalism”, “science”, “development” etc. with “America”. Secular democracy is as much French, Indian and Turkish as it is American. The Sony-and-Sushi lifestyle is Japanese. Why should a Muslim upset at his generation’s craving for BMW’s and Wii players direct his hatred at the US? For one reason: because the troops stationed in his neighborhood, blowing shit up in the name of democracy, aren’t German or Japanese — they’re American.
Capitalism, science, reason, and democracy need no defense by American troops. They will win the confrontation with reactionary Islam by themselves. The best thing the US can do is to tone down its act: lend a careful helping hand here and there, but, for the most part, stay out of the way.
Amazingly, Brooks has a good column today. He thinks the GOP needs to abandon the legacies of Goldwater and Reagan, because the anti-statist, “liberty vs. power” worldview is no longer relevant in the decentralized post-cold war world, where the chief threats come from devolution and chaos and security — be it security from violence, secure access to health care, what have you — is a prerequisite for freedom.
I have nothing to add. Read the column. It’s good. I can’t believe I’m saying this.
In a couple of recent threads, I’ve encountered people saying things along the lines of “as the whole world knows,” “as anyone can see,” etc. Invariably they are invoking these claims in support of theses which are in fact rather tortuous and unlikely, and which a large number of people would find quite far-fetched. And this put me in mind of something I read some months ago in a communique by the People’s Republic of China regarding religious freedom issues; I can no longer find the exact quote, but I believe it asserted that international human rights law cannot trump issues of national security, “as everyone in the world agrees”.
Totalitarian governments, vanguard political parties, and extremist cranks of all stripes are quite fond of such phrases. I’m not entirely sure why. I think it reflects a combination of intellectual laziness and authoritarian fury at the presumption of anyone who might question one’s assertions. In any case, here a sampling of examples of what I am announcing as Dezinformatsiya Technique 1: the assertion that one’s claim is universally agreed with and impervious to contention by anyone, anywhere, on any grounds, ever.
“And yet the ROC is a functioning sovereign state, a reality that cannot be denied by anyone.” – ROC (Taiwan) press communique
“How can you connect with it? With the love circle. The concept we are talking about cannot be denied by anyone.” – Rev. Sun Yung Moon, “Let Us Inherit the Realm of Victory of Our True Parents”
“In our country, 80 percent of the land already is included in state farms that have their own self-supporting collectives. Cooperatives also produce enough for their own consumption… Our revolution cannot be denied by anyone. It has maintained itself with a tremendous ideological strength, because here who can defend us? If imperialism attacks us, who is going to defend the island?” – Speech by President Fidel Castro at rally to mark the 35th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks held in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, Santiago de Cuba, July 25 1988
“DURING the last twenty-five years the Fabian Society has made it its professed object to preach Socialism in England, yet we have very little Socialism in England to-day. This cannot be denied by anyone who has his finger on the pulse of the public.” – J.M. Kennedy, in “The New Age” magazine, 1911
“The New Flag has broken the isolation and censorship that sought the RCP with regard the Party materials. This fact cannot be denied by anyone including charlatan Olaechea. As all those know who have followed the recent debate on the open capitulationism of the “CoRIM” and on the important call for a World Wide Mobilisation Commission to defend the revolution in Peru, this mendacious attack tries to put everything upside-down.” – some incoherent ranting by someone named Quisp from the Communist Party of Peru which I have been unable to decipher
David Brooks, with his usual perspicacity, advances the proposition that the American people must decide whether they want leaders who are honest idiots, or leaders who are clever liars. Because he has been to see a movie recently, he believes this question has something to do with the Battle of Thermopylae.
When we Americans pick a leader, we usually look for the Leonidas type: direct, faithful and upright. We usually pick someone we hope is uplifting. Especially since Watergate, Americans have sought presidents uncorrupted by capital intrigue…But I wonder if this will be the election in which voters seek out a Themistocles, an election in which they put aside dreams of finding somebody pure and good, and select somebody they think will be wily and effective.
Hm. On the other hand, what if we tried exchanging our current leader, who is a lying idiot, for somebody smart and honest? Several candidates come to mind, though none who happen to be Republicans.