Rob generously gave me permission to cut-&-paste his entire blog, with the caveat I clarify he did not mean to demean the Arab people as a race or a genetically inferior people. It's their culture that stinks, not them. He wants to make it clear he is not a racist. OK, so noted. And Rob, we already knew that. Among conservatives, one is permitted to talk about such things without apologizing in advance or kowtowing to PC shrines. Being conservative means never having to say you're sorry ;-) Here's the beef:
Duffy and I were involved in an email exchange this morning stemming from reports that the logjam in forming a new Iraqi government might finally be breaking. My response was less than enthusiastic. The Shiite religious party won the election. Whoever they pick is going to be a problem.
Duffy writes back as follows:
How many times have you heard me say that this was not going to be pretty, that mistakes have and will be made, that post- war
experienced similar difficulties as those now being experienced in
? It took our own country 11 years and 200+ years(and much blood both then and later) to establish and then maintain our own form of government. There is no harder form of governance than democracy and no greater alternative. This will not happen overnight, and today's news certainly does not mean the end result is near.
But truly it is you that is in denial, denial that there can be any progress, any hope, any ultimate belief in the innate and personal human tendency to prefer freedom over tyranny that, as history has shown, will ultimately prevail, with our support, in
and throughout the world. I fear that you are so blinded by your disdain, to put it lightly, of Bush that you will denigrate any progress, any positive development, any evidence of political formation.
To me it's a shame that someone with as strong an intellect as you, someone who could offer so much in the way of constructive debate and thought, would be so uncompromising in your thinking, imho, because to do so would give an inch of credibility to Bush and his Doctrine. I only have to look as far as your recent Rumsfeld post to see how low the discussion has devolved.
Thankfully, in spite of great and vociferous opposition and at great cost, Bush has wisely begun us on this path of change, a path that may take one hundred years to reach its ultimate form, but it is the only path worth pursuing given the threats we face. Let's not forget that the fight against Radicalism extends well beyond what is going on in
, and it is in
where the primary battle is manifesting itself. And so much the better that it is happening there, in the den of radicalism, than over here, in NYC or
or Philly. That's my interpretation of reality. Concerned, yes, but unclouded by hate.
My reply, which was going to be the main point of this post, is as follows:
Once again, you assume that because I recognize the futility of our situation in
, I must be in favor of that futility. That’s like saying that because I tried to stop you from jumping out the window, I must not really believe you can fly.
The reason we have democracy in the West is because our culture, when it’s working properly, teaches us these assumptions:
- You can get ahead if you try hard and have talent
- People who judge you on criteria other than merit are unjust. Prejudice is a vice, not a virtue
- Our laws and customs are fundamentally fair and just, so I should accept outcomes even if they don’t always fit my beliefs
- The majority will insist on fair execution of the laws and expose and punish corruption
- Even if I am in the minority, laws protect me from unjust persecution
- Those who believe differently from me deserve respect, even if I don’t agree with them
- Violence is a last resort – it signifies the failure of civilization and social institutions
- Strangers can come together and do things in their common interest without being coerced
Here, by contrast, is a short list of the beliefs and assumptions that are drummed in to the minds of most people over there, through the religion, their culture, their historical experience, the teachings of their family, the experiences they see all around them, their media, their literature and all the examples they are taught to respect:
- The social system is rigged to benefit the powerful. There is no way to advance socially or economically without entering into a corrupt arrangement with the powerful or mounting a violent challenge to power
- Those with power will treat their opponents without mercy. Therefore, when you get power, it is both justified and necessary to treat your opponents with no mercy
- Those with power will never give it up without a fight, because they understand what will happen to them; anyone who gives up power voluntarily is a fool who deserves what he gets
- When power changes hands without an obvious fight or government acts in what appears to be the public interest, it must be the result of a corrupt bargain or a conspiracy and some hidden interest must be benefiting
- The people I trust are, as follows, in order:
1. Immediate family
2. Extended family
3. Guests/hosts under the code of hospitality
4. Clan/tribal group
5. Other Arabs of same flavor of Islam
6. Non-Arabs of same flavor of Islam
7. Non-threatening non-believers
8. Threatening or proselytizing non-believers
9. Islamic “heretics”
If I am especially liberal-minded, I will get down to 5 on this list before becoming violently suspicious.
- Acts of trust and selflessness between people who have no formal connection with one another are deception or hypocrisy.
- Human laws have no legitimacy beyond the ability of those in power to enforce them. If it is within your power to defy or ignore the laws, then you should do so, because laws only apply to the weak.
- Women have nothing to say in public affairs. Societies that allow their own women to participate as equals are weak, foolish and offensive to God. Societies who encourage our women to participate socially, economically or politically are diabolical and must be opposed.
- Those who believe differently than me offend God and have relinquished their rights to be treated with dignity. There is only reward, and no penalty, for punishing heretics
- My self-interested interpretation of my faith, or the interpretation given to me by religious authorities in whom I unconditionally trust, justifies anything I choose to do
- I will be lavishly rewarded in heaven for acts that are unjustifiable by normal human morality
- Efforts to convince me to the contrary on any of these subjects are the work of the devil. If you are more powerful than me, I will pretend to pay attention, but you cannot expect me to take your ideas seriously once you have lost the ability to compel me to obey.
If you think you can find your way to a functioning democracy from there, good luck. And good luck growing those wings before you hit the ground.
Rob has succeeded in doing what I originally set out to do in part, that is, he has created a space with as good a dialog between Left & Right as you can find. I don't know Duffy except through some of his comments on Rob's blog, but I tend to agree with him. What both these guys tend to ignore is the catastrophic consequences of failure to the Arab and Persian peoples. Their culture is literally stuck in the dark ages, and if they''re not reformed/subverted (take your pick) then an awful lot of them are going to get killed, along with the residents of Tel Aviv and New York. What Rob says here is mostly true, but not sufficient. It's a good list of explanations of why the job has been and will be so hard, but not proof that it can't be done. I don't understand why Rob and his ilk miss that point, not really -- I suspect a lot of it is just partisan politics. No doubt Rob would vehemently, eloquently, and esoterically disagree with me (complete with links).
I'd also like to point out that those who say democracy can't be established at gun point have it exactly wrong -- democracy is always established at gun point. There is usually a plurality that either doesn't care or wants the current regime to remain. The tyrants must be driven out or killed or beaten down until they give up; they don't go away willingly. The Soviet Union is the exception that proves the rule (although some think that jury is still out). Others say 80 years is too long to wait for liberty.