February 21, 2008

The question is already decided, in my opinion...

This is a reply I was writing to comments by Bisaal at this post. But I'll just make it a post by itself, rough as it is, since I've already expended this morning's small reserve of time and energy on it...

Bisaal, I'm not ignoring you; your points deserve a longer reply than I have time for at the moment. Even their own post.

I don't agree with Mr Cella. I don't think there is some "thing" called "jihad" that exists. Or a thing called "Islam," so that one can say "Islam" is this or does that. The world of those who practice islam is as complex and varied as any other "world," and is made up of human beings with many motives besides those of religion.

I agree that "Mohamendanism is a Satanic perversion of Christianity," but I would say the same about all the modern revolutionary movements such as socialism and communism and fascism. And Islam is particularly nasty in the way it glorifies violence. But, people are still people.

Intelligent Musselmen (there's an old term I like) probably looked at 10th-Century Europe and saw a terrifying and evil movement called "Crusadism" that was surely unstoppable, and was beyond all reason. In fact we know now that the Crusades were a storm caused by the confluence of several different factors, which were unable to stay unified for very long. (One of them was the mix of French and Viking that became the Normans, one of the great conquering peoples of history. They embraced the Crusading movement, but also conquered England and Sicily and southern Italy at the same time. And their great military moment didn't last.)

"The war has been prosecuted on the proposition that the two are indeed incompatible: that building democracy will weaken the Jihad." --Paul Cella. Not exactly. The proposition is that the jihad is already weak, because most people are not fanatic death-ninjas ready to die for some cause. They have mixed motives, and mostly want to just get on with their lives. And IF they have a situation where they have hope of getting on with their ordinary lives, then they are going to strongly resent the brutal tyranny of groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially once they get a good stiff dose of them, as the Iraqis have.

And IF they have a strong and effective government that responds to their will, they will tend to turn against jihadists. I say we are seeing that right now in Iraq, on a huge scale.

Also, I think your idea that Iraq will become a puppet of Iran is not realistic. It is sort of like the assumption that Communist Russia and China were going to work together for "the Revolution". It looked good on paper, but never happened. They were just too different, and had different wants and needs. And both were internally much weaker and more divided than outsiders suspected. I grew up learning that communism was an international movement full of dedicated disciplined fanatics, which democracy was probably too decadent to oppose successfully. Ha!

Iran is a MESS. It has horrible internal problems, the regime is very unpopular, and is divided against itself. It is a major oil-producing country that has to ration gasoline!! A place where mothers often turn to prostitution to feed their children. Yet you assume that Iran will be the one spreading its influence. Think a minute. How about influence spreading the other way? Why is that somehow impossible?

The Iranian system is a big fat failure. The Taliban system was a failure. Al Qaeda is a failure, it can only rule places by brutal force, which is resented bitterly. Ask the people of Ramadi. All these jihadist groups can only rule people by force. That in itself says that democracy is incompatible with jihadism. In fact I'd say the question has already been decided, and Mr Cella is wrong.

Remember, President what's-his-name of Iran ran on a platform of economic reform! (And without a unified opposition.) If he had told the people his real desire was to spread the Revolution, he would not have been elected.

* Update: Also, thank you Bisaal, for stimulating my thoughts! And if you ever meet my dear wife, Charlene, you two will get on well together--she thinks of Moslems the way you do. (You of course have a more pressing reason, because of where you live.)

And I do not mean to imply that democracy will make anybody good. It just tends to keep people occupied in different ways. And it is quite likely that elections may result in thugs coming to power. Especially in places where the desire of the people is for some big nationalist grievance that can over-rule the desire for ordinary good government. ie, the Palestinians. But even with them, regular elections (if they happen) will tend to result in politicians who address bread-and-butter issues.

Posted by John Weidner at February 21, 2008 7:29 AM
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