Monday, October 17, 2005

The Unbroken Circle

Since Arrafat's long overdue and most welcome demise I have believed that Israel should do what it appears to be doing now -- stop negotiating and create through military withdrawals and the construction of defenses a de facto Palestinian State. I favored this approach because I believed that it would lead to a Palestinian civil war pitting Arab clan against clan and tribe against tribe. That is what we now see in Gaza and the sooner the West Bank follows suit the better. Palestinians united are a far greater threat to the civilized world than Palestinians divided through bitter internecine warfare. Far better that their barbarous Bedouin culture and the murderous rage it fosters express themselves in the most self-destructive ways possible.

If there is to be any path to peace it must entail at some point the war weary pragmatism evident in Lebanon today. Israelis are not inclined to be the helpless victims of a genocidal Arab honor killing. Palestinians must abandon their hopes of exterminating the "Zionist Entity" if they are to ever to experience the personal security and prosperity enjoyed by the citizens of civilized nations. The more Palestinians brutalize and immiserate themselves the better. Only when they reach rock bottom will they find, as Iraqis are finding now, a different and more constructive way to restore their lost honor.

Will Abbas survive and prevail? I hope not. The only way to cut off the enormous flow of foreign donations, largely from the useful idiots of the EU, that form the ultimate prize for the next Palestinian dictator is to foster chaos. I hope Israel is wise enough to continuously destabilize the situation and America prudent enough to look the other way. If the bonfire of Arab vanity is ever to abate it must be fed with the lives of Arabs until the time that most Arabs firmly refuse to sacrifice themselves in order to keep it burning. In the meantime, burn, baby, burn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why the Wheels Fell Off

Democrats smell blood in the political water and seem to share the view that now is the time to strike as the enemy appears weak. Try as they may they don't seem to be able to exploit a situation that they regard as pregnant with wonderful possibilities. Some of them engage in “What do we really stand for?” navel gazing while others stew in the juices of their vindictive rage. A once great and powerful party seems enfeebled, divided, confused and indecisive? Why?

During its heyday the Democrat party was a grand coalition of Marxists, populists, left-leaning pragmatists, Big Labor and traditional party apparatchiks later supplemented by black grievance peddlers. The elements of the coalition were on the whole patient and flexible and with the exception of the Marxists no less patriotic than the average American. The interests of one group were not largely inimical to the interests of any other group. There was much common ground to be found. The programs, policies, initiatives and messages originating in this shared interest space were appealing enough to allow Democrats to dominate the political landscape. Then something changed and it all came tumbling down and before long it was the Republican fox frolicking in the political henhouse. What changed?

The civil rights movement won and blacks have more than equal opportunity and are no longer objects of pity or sympathy for most Americans. Reasonable feminists won and no plausible argument can be made to the electorate that women are victims of institutional oppression. Marxists lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their numbers were decimated and most of the remaining true believers left demoralized. Big labor declined in the private sector. Americans on the whole became wealthier thereby making them less susceptable to populism. Class warfare, never a popular cause for most Americans, became even less appealing. There was an onset of compassion fatigue for the poor, the homeless, unwed mothers, and whoever we were supposed to feel compassionate towards. "The War on Poverty", the most ambitious public policy initiative in America's history, proved to be a complete failure.

At the same time polymorphous leftist radicalism flourished. Environmentalist groups dedicated to the destruction of industrial civilization joined the party and their interests were inimical to almost all other interests. Multiculturalism blossomed and was hostile to the values of most Americans. Gay rights groups blossomed along with “Queer Theory” and their interests were inimical to those of blacks and Big Labor as well as most other Americans. Radical femininism flourished and it was inimical to the interests of everyone except militant lesbians. Postmodernist factions, claiming to be the avant garde of progressivism, declared war on objective reality thereby alienating every serious scholar or scientist in search of universal truth. Blatant anti-Americanism, once the exclusive province of communists, became a defining characteristic of the left with Noam Chomsky leading the charge. Anti-semitism flourished as the radical left made common cause with Islamists and Arab radicals. Those groups and others like them demanded seats at the Democrat political table and if they didn't get them they at least got standing room.

Building a political majority entails forming a coalition where everyone gets some of what they want while no one gets a lot of what they don't want. There has to be a net return on political investment. The common ground that once united the Democrat Party has shrunk to the point where I am not sure you can stand on it with both feet. Another word for this is chaos.

Political parties in the past have been torn apart, albeit briefly, due to irreconcilable differences between constituencies. Over the last 100 years we have seen the Republican Party twice divide and briefly spawn entities that called themselves progressive parties. Communists, Marxists, democratic socialists and their sympathizers bolted from the Democrat Party in 1948 and again formed a Progressive Party because their interests couldn't be harmonized with the Democrat mainstream. Southern Democrats bolted at the same time in the course of creating a racist Dixiecrat Party.

The bonds between the constituencies the Democrat Party caters to have not weakened to the point where they will cause a party split before the next presidential election. If Democrats can regain control of the Presidency or at least one house of congress in the next election their constituencies will be motivated to continue cooperating. If Democrats have their clocks cleaned once again there is a good chance that an increasingly fragile Democrat coalition will bifurcate and spawn yet another so called "progressive party" that will be so thoroughly trounced in the following election that it will attempt to return to the Democrat fold. If that were to happen I would advise the Democrat mainstream, for its own future health, to deny readmission.

Understanding Humanity's Problem Children

I have for the last several weeks been immersed in the study of Arab history and culture. I was looking for the answer to four questions. What is the cause of the violent irrationality characteristic of so many Arab thoughts, utterances and actions? How could a people so backward, primitive and ignorant by the standards of modern civilized peoples ever have had a medieval Golden Age? Why did the Arab world stagnate, decline and finally succumb to collective brain death in 1400 A.D. or thereabouts? Finally, is there any good reason to believe that Arabs can develop democratic, pluralistic and prosperous nation states?

There are two books that should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to understand 9/11, what some call Islamofascism, Israel’s struggle for survival and the current insurgency in Iraq. “The Closed Circle – An Interpretation of Arabs” by David Pryce-Jones is an invaluable introduction to how Arab culture shapes Arab politics. Pryce-Jones appears to have a great deal of sympathy for the suffering masses of the Arab world and a great deal of contempt for those aspects of Arab culture responsible for poverty, ignorance, oppression and hopelessness. His analysis is bleak, disheartening and pessimistic.

“The Arab Mind” by Raphael Patai is an analysis of how pre-Islamic Bedouin culture and Islam together shape Arab thoughts, feelings and actions. While Pryce-Jones is a journalist who studied Arab history and culture in the course of working a middle-eastern beat Patai is an academic Arabist with a deep affection for the Arab people and a profound appreciation of their cultural history. His analysis is broader, deeper and richer than that of Pryce-Jones. However, Patai provides no analysis of Arab politics and in that regard his book is incomplete.

The two books together provide a remarkably good examination of humanity’s Arab problem children. I now understand the factors that shape the Arab rhetoric that I very often find to be bizarre and incomprehensible. I understand why Arabs seem to have trouble distinguishing between the remote and recent past. I believe I understand the origin and nature of Arab irrationality, stagnation and violence. My contempt has been tempered with pity.

Is there any hope for the Arab world? Patai is optimistic while Pryce-Jones is not. Will America succeed as midwife in the birth a truly modern Arab state? I have no idea. Nevertheless, American intervention in Iraq is a noble and necessary experiment. If that experiment fails there is little reason to believe that Arab culture is capable of adapting to the modern world. Marsh Arabs will continue to live the same way they did 3,000 years ago, as will the Bedouin nomads who still roam the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. One Arab tyrant will violently depose another in the name of some convenient ideology and then with the help of family, clan and tribe oppress the masses in the course of robbing them blind. This vicious circle would continue unbroken and unbreakable.

There was a genuine medieval Muslim Golden Age that flourished during the reign of the Arab Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. However, one should ignore all Arab accounts of this period and its contributions to human knowledge. The honor, shame, revenge dynamic of Bedouin culture leads to gross exaggeration, credit stealing, flights of fancy and outright lying. Arabs did not invent algebra. That was a multicultural achievement. The brilliant mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi, did write a book that verbally described solutions to all first and second order algebraic equations and in so doing gave us the word “algebra”. He also refined and introduced the Indian number system to the Arab world. However, Al-Khwarizmi, like the poet and mathematician, Omar Khayyam, was Persian. Worse yet, Al-Khwarizmi very likely was not a Muslim but a Zoroastrian. Arabs claim for their own the best physicians of the time: Avicenna and Razi, both of whom were Persian. There are other brilliant Persians who have been retroactively made Arabs in order to pad the Arab intellectual resume. Nevertheless, Arab contributions to the intellectual achievements of the medieval Muslim world and later, indirectly, to the Western world are thoroughly impressive. So, what went wrong? Were successive conquests by Seljuk Turks, Mongols and Ottoman Turks enough extinguish every intellectual light in the Muslim world for six centuries? I don’t yet have the answer.