Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thoughts On The Arab Mind

Some years back, when I actually listened seriously to those Liberals who could manage to make a statement or ask a question without sounding like they were doing a ‘Tony Montana’ impression from one of the last scenes in “Scarface”, I often heard the question, “Why do they hate us?”

Of course, being Liberals, they would usually answer their own question, blaming this Republican or that for all the ills of the world. “It’s War For Oil!” they cry, even though we do not seize oil fields, and send troops into countries which do not even have oil. “American aggression!” they shout, even when we were attacked first. “A rush to war!” they proclaim about Iraq, even though we invaded Iraq more than a year and a half after 9/11. It’s been a lot of fun watching Liberals try to explain their logic. I think they have finally figured out that their position is untenable by Logic, which would explain why they so quickly resort to insults and name-calling now. Seriously, no one expects a Liberal to be civil or reasonable anymore.

From the title of this article, you might think I have confused myself. What, after all, do the rants of Liberals have to do with the Arab mind? Quite a bit, actually. And that’s the first step in trying to understand what’s going on in their heads; you need to know who has been teaching them.

Most Americans do not know any more about Arabs than what they read or hear from the Media, and that has been neither balanced nor in-depth. It should hardly surprise anyone to consider that any group of people numbering in the tens of millions is far too complex to be considered in only one shade of mind or opinion. But it should also be understood that the environment of the Middle East also shapes the way people see things. As an obvious example, some Americans were surprised when the Iraqi people did not immediately cheer the Americans as their liberators. Yes, some did, but not many, and the media took that as a sign that the Iraqi people were unhappy with the removal of Saddam. In actual fact, anyone familiar with recent history - say 1991 and 1992, when Iraqis rose up against Saddam and believed the U.S. would support them, only to be brutally crushed by the Republican Guard - would understand that Iraqis were not about to put their own lives and families at risk by openly siding with the Americans, while so many Baathists and worse were rolling around, armed and bitter. This perspective greatly explains the wait and see attitude, and is supported by the slow but steady improvement in citizen cooperation as stability has become more assured.

The Middle East political condition is largely a creation of the Twentieth Century. Not only because of the World Wars and the creation of the State of Israel, but also because the Ottoman Empire (and other empires before it) dictated the condition of the region before that time. Also, most Arabs with direct experience with America come from privileged families, and so do not represent the average “street” opinion, which is sometimes surprising to the average American. For instance, most Americans were strongly surprised in 1978 to see violent protests against the Shah of Iran, in support of the renegade Ayatollah Khomeini. But in actual context, the protests were not surprising; most of the protests, as today, were orchestrated for the cameras, and represented extremist elements. Those extremists were in part promoting Jihad, which was Khomeini’s objective, while others were in desperate straits; the Shah’s “Land Reform” may have had the best intentions, but instead it most often left the poor starving and the former landowners rebellious. While government relations between the Muslim Revolutionaries and the United States was hostile, most Iranians had no particular dislike for Americans; those who had encountered Americans generally liked them, and a great many more had no contact with them, and so had no motive for hatred. The U.S. simply was not - and is not - a major influence in the personal lives of most Iranians or Arabs, and so they see no reason to hate someone they do not even know. Obviously, the reverse is also true: America is a strange and very alien land to most Arabs, so they are very unlikely to develop or express strong preference for American values, unless and until they have a chance to experience them directly and consider what they mean in real life.

This means that there are two sides to the coin for the Arabs; the past and the future. The past is written through the filter of non-representative governments, unchallenged Islamic hierarchies, and an unresponsive and archaic social order. The future is a forked road, either leading back to the past in continuity but also stagnation, or towards an unknown expanse as part of a living world. Let’s be clear; the American example both thrills and frightens the Arab who considers it. In Houston, for example, one can find churches, temples, and mosques in every neighborhood, for every known faith or belief, all equally respected and protected by a code of law which recognizes comprehensive freedoms. One can also find literally dozens of topless bars, gambling halls, and assorted locations for prostitution or drugs, which are less than effectively enforced by the police. Gang violence is a growing problem in every major city, as is racial strife. This is not to say, of course, that the caste system and sectarian violence in the Middle East is of no concern, but Arabs would be reasonable to worry about whether the American lifestyle is an improvement or a descent in morals.

Ironically, the Jihadists are helping Arabs become interested in Americans. Through draconian fatwas and the like, the extremists within Islam have created a backlash of sorts; not the Western-style immediate protest, but rather a slower but deeper examination of the Mullah’s motives, and the prima facie evidence of actual American behavior in contact. And the consensus among those who know American troops is a growing preference to at least consider what maner of nation produces men who would risk their lives for the freedom of others, and whose cause is strong enough to extend to opening the doors to freedom for people a world away. The rants and protests we see on Al-Jazeera are the echoes of the old generation; the future may be something altogether different, and better for everyone concerned.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi In Context

The terrorist leader Zarqawi is dead. Let’s start there, plain and simple. Whatever else someone wants to say about his death, the one thing we can say for sure, is that this very evil man will never kill again.

Some on the Left warn about making him a martyr. By that logic, it was a shame we got rid of Hitler, or that Stalin is dead. But when sanity looks in, it reminds us that we can’t force terrorists to be anything but monsters, and whether they make Zarqawi their idol, or Bin Laden, or someone else, it changes nothing on our side. The mission remains the same:

To protect the innocent, it is necessary to find and kill those who would kill the innocent.

Everything else is details

The Pilgrimage Of The Soul

I just finished reading what may be the weakest book C.S. Lewis ever wrote; ’The Pilgrim’s Regress. I debated about putting up a review here, because frankly it seems too many people today do not read to the necessary extent to understand context. What I mean is, people do not take use of the wealth of information and knowledge waiting to be claimed, but all too often simply accept the word of this leader or that advocate. Many people today have a college education, but never made use of the University, as it was meant to be gained. Even that basic distinction is lost on many folk.

As an example, most people today have never read John Bunyan’s signal masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and so would not recognize that Lewis’ work is an adaption of that tale in his own words and written from a different perspective, but in the intention of adding depth to the original work. Thus, I fear that I must seem to speak a strange language, the message lost in dialect, but even so I find the purpose worth the effort, and bid my readers pardon any confusion which may result from peculiar concepts or assumed familiarity.

Despite some disappointment with the story, I still found Lewis’ work worth discussing and recommending, though with some qualifications which I shall note.

To begin, then, I must acquaint the reader with both works in brief. Both Bunyan and Lewis meant to write an apologetic for the Church, which means not to speak of regret for an offense, but to defend Christianity through allegorical exposition. In both stories, a character, representing a universal or 'everyman’ sort of person – Lewis simply calls his protagonist “John” – who must face the religious and moral choices common to our own lives. Both books attempt to commend the Christian road, and do so through selective comparison to other choices a person might make.

Allegory used to be a favored method in such works, as it focused on the moral issues the author desired to portray, without all the trappings of a real life to weigh down the discussion. Absolutes not only exist as a given, but are active in the resolution of the discussion. These days, however, it is far more preferred to create a character with some depth to him, to better connect the reader to the story. And that is the first problem I found with “Regress”; Lewis’ character is wafer-thin in development and worse, as he moves along in the story he never faces any sort of permanent consequence for his actions. When he begins an affair of prolonged fornication with the girl in the woods for example, he simply deserts the resulting children, and flees both his erstwhile lover and his brood. While I recognize that Lewis probably meant the affair to symbolically represent any number of human temporal desires and appetites – like greed, gluttony, sloth, and all the other faults besides lust – and so never meant to suggest a real child (there is no pregnancy mentioned, for example), it still seems to me a poor indication of the man’s character that even when he is represented as having gained some character and changed his very heart, he still shows no remorse for past wickedness, nor does he show any inclination to think of others before himself. From the start, he does what he will, and he leaves his home and his parents in a selfish search to find what he desires most. When he finally returns home much, much later and finds his parents have passed away, his disappointment is not based on his neglect of them, but only because they were not there to hear him speak of his adventures. Perhaps Lewis meant to subtly remind us that when a man becomes Christian, he only begins a new stage in a long development, but the story seems to claim that once converted he is a finished product, in which case the argument has a serious defect.

Having said that, the book does have its virtues, which is why I recommend it, even with that stated reservation. In my experience, people who know Christians but are not Christian themselves, tend to one of three arguments against the Church; they argue that there is no God, or that any faith may be as good as the Christian one, or that there is a God, but the evidence shows He is quite cruel and hateful, so the image of the Loving God is a con game. Lewis addresses all those arguments, and reasonably well, in the book. Also, the now-common tactic of blurring truths through sophistry and pseudo-intellectualism is also handled well. Also, Lewis makes a fascinating case to imply that the traditional Western Anglo-American political framework is structurally the most compatible with Christianity, which would explain why Communist and other totalitarian regimes have always attacked Christians and churches with great hatred.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Case Study: Lamont versus Lieberman

Quinnipiac University has released a poll showing “Anti-war Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont” closing within 15 points of Senator Joseph Lieberman. The implied message seems to be ‘drop your jaw in amazement! The anti-War candidate is getting stronger!’. Actually, no, that would not be a fair reaction, at least if you consider the evidence.
First off, that same poll notes that in a matchup with Republican challenger Alan Schlesinger, Lamont would win by 17 percentage points, not bad, but Lieberman would win by 54 percentage points, a rout by any standard and since most Democrats are mostly concerned with keeping a Democrat’s butt in that Senate seat, this is a clear indicator that Lieberman is more than slightly stronger than Lamont.

So what makes Lamont look good in the poll? Quinnipiac plays a lot of the noise on the Iraq War, going to great lengths to note that Connecticut, which apparently can call itself “The Sheehan State” for its version of ‘supporting the troops’, is happy neither with the President nor the War in Iraq. I guess that means we can expect massive protests in Connecticut for violating Zarqawi’s rights by dropping a few 500-pound bombs on him, but in any case, it follows that the media in Con-state would be fascinated by anyone with the “political courage” to follow the East Coast herd in sliming the War, instead of someone with the real courage to find out the facts for himself and honestly report what he found.

The Democratic Primary is on August 8. That’s important, because even now the sense is that the vote is a way off. This means that poll respondents are thinking in terms of their mood at the moment, rather than how they really plan to vote. The primary date is also important because unlike normal spring primaries, the winner of the Connecticut Senate primary on August 8 will have only thirteen weeks, or three months, to run the general election race, which means that they will pretty much run on the same campaign theme, with a few tweaks. As I mentioned before, Lieberman’s much stronger results in the theoretical matchup demonstrate that he is generally thought-of as the party’s Strongman, which implies that the present poll results are more of an emotional backlash, but one which is not likely to help Lamont in the actual election.

Also, there is the problem of Lamont’s lack of depth. Lamont is best known for his opposition to the War in Iraq. Big woop. The War in Iraq is an established fact of history, not something which is going to come up for another vote, and even the decision on when we reduce or remove troops is not something a Democrat Senator is likely to have all that much effect on, especially in lamont’s case, where the best he can hope for is to be a brand-new, aka ‘no seniority, no influence’, Senator if he wins. So Lamont’s lack of thought and expression on any of the issues which will actually come up before the Senate, is a liability which is not considered now, but will be before August.

Zarqawi's Probate

In the name of Allah the Most Compassionate – except to infidels and apostates – we are gathered here to read the last will of our brother Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was brutally cornered and killed by the Crusader Fajarah. I read from the will, written in Abu’s own hand – this is strange ink?

- Brother Zarqawi found it useful to write in blood, Alim –

Ah. So, to continue. Abrar Abu writes, and so I read to you his disposition of his worldly possessions to you his friends and fellow Auliya.

I, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, being of sound doctrine and sharp knife, hereby bequeath my goods to my friends and confidants.

“To my good friend Muhammad Atef, I leave my prized mortars and machine guns

- Sorry, but he is dead already –

Ah. Well, this happens. Brother Zarqawi must have seen this as possible, for he writes,

If Muhammad does not live to receive this blessing, then the mortars and machine guns are to go to my close friend Abu Zubaydah

- The Fasiqun Iraqi army betrayed him to the infidels, and he was caught. Besides, the mortars and machine guns were destroyed in a Yankee ambush weeks ago. -

Pity. Well, no matter, we must continue.

To my brother Abu Hamza Rabia, whose leadership has advanced the cause –“

-They blew him up-

OK … “To Midhat Mursi, my close confidant and ally-“

- The Iblis Americans struck him down with a Ghaib werapon, that ‘predator’ of theirs -

That is Muttaqun! Well, there is no help for it …“To Kareen Altohami Mojata-“

- The Khabith Iraqi police shot him –

By the Sahaba, this is evil news!

To Haithem al-Yemeni, who is too skillful for any enemy to find

- Except the Qabiluhu ‘predator’; he’s dead too.

Saud Homood Obaid Otaibi?”

– Shot by the police -

Abu Asma?”

– Baghdad raid, killed by the Iraqi military -

Aiiiiiiiee! Who is left then?

- Us three, plus what Ahmadinejad and al-Assad send across the border –

That is all?

- It does not matter. We have all but run out of weapons, anyway, the foreign bastards will not share their tools with us anymore. –

What is there to do?

- We must depend on Allah, and on our greatest allies among men. -

You mean we should call on Osama?

- No, he is dead long ago, and the man playing him on the tapes is getting tired and frightened.-

Who then is our side?

- We have many friends left. This “Michael Moore”, the New York and Los Angeles Times, and of course Al-Jazeera and CBS. And we have heard that there are many asses working for our victory. -

Why would they do this?

- (shrugs) They all hate George W. Bush, and they hate America. This seems to be what unites us. -

Insh’Allah, we must do what we can. Well, that reminds me, we need a briefing. Tune in CNN, will you?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Polls - Voter Laziness, Party Sloth

Being the sort of person I am, I like to dig into polls to see on what they are basing their claims. More than a few fail to support their contentions. This is not necessarily because the pollsters are trying to mislead anyone, but in any case it matters that the reader should know what he is considering. And to that end, I am once again discussing why a poll is created, and how its results are reported.

Polling, you should know, is a business. Many people forget that, and as a consequence fall into thinking of pollsters as thoroughly objective and trustworthy people, the sort who should speak at Church on Sunday, and raise your children to learn all that is good and noble. Unless of course, that pollster is Zogby. John Zogby is a poster child for everything wrong with modern polling, whether it is his habit of mixing respondent pools from telephone and online polls, or his clearly partisan presentations. On the other hand, however, there is Gallup, which has a long and admirable record of trying to find the pulse and mood of the nation. In between the two extremes, are many useful polls, even when I disagree with their conclusions. The CBS News/New York Times poll, for example, tends in my opinion to oversample self-identified Democrats, but they also painstakingly report their internal demographics, so that anyone so inclined can take apart the poll and see how they got their conclusions. I find this is the foundation of any poll’s credibility; you have to be able to see their work. Otherwise, even if one likes the stated results, there is no basis for counting the claims to be sound.

But back to money. Someone, always, is paying for a poll. And while most polls will note the sponsor of the project in their release, most of the time the buyer can be discerned by the publisher. Neither CBS News for the New York Times, for example, is in the habit of giving over much credit to a Republican, much less a Conservative, and so the poll they produce has a similar mood in its direction. The reader may do well to recall that during the last several elections, every major candidate paid for his or her own internal polling, to be reported back privately to them. This condition implies that public polls cannot be wholly trusted on their face, and the student of the Public’s opinion should be aware of this point.

Another reason I am writing this column on polling, is the current practice of treating opinion polls as news events. If you think about it, you will realize this is very much putting the cart before the horse, as any responsible poll should be reporting on news through the focus of public opinion, not trying to drive opinion by implying a consensus already exists. The reader will note how polls often present one candidate as clearly ahead just before an election, how they will report a supposed support or resistance to a course of action before any such action is even in serious discussion in Congress or the White House. The fact that, so many months before the fall elections, the question of party control in Congress should be bandied about as anything sure or known, is to my mind no better than trying to ploy the decision in advance, tampering with the jury as it were. One expects this of known partisans, but self-described objective observers have no place in such behavior.

Someone Left A Door Open ...

By now, some of the more alert readers have noticed that I have found my way aboard Wizbang Politics. Actually, Lorie Byrd and Alexander McClure were kind enough to invite me there, so I will be posting there on politics, although I will be cross-posting here at Stolen Thunder as well. Non-political threads will be posted here, however, including my opinion on various and sundry topics.

My opinion of Wizbang! has grown with more familiarity. Wizbang! Is actually a set of blogs, whether one means the original Wizbang!, Wizbang Bomb Squad, Wizbang Pop!, Wizbang Sports, or of course Wizbang Politics.

Talk about your variety! I have to admit that I did not look closely enough at Wizbang earlier, or else I would have noted that these guys have a lot of the things I said would make a good blog into a Superblog; organization, input from multiple writers, direct comments and feedback from readers, and a wide range of interests to address. Frankly, I should have known that any blog Lorie chose to be part of was a winner! And working in tandem again with Lorie and Alexander is really good on a lot of levels.

So there it is; I will be posting political pieces on Wizbang Politics, reading the other Wizbang ’departments’ with interest, and as always I will continue to punch out my own unique stuff here at the Thunder.

Congress Foreseen?

"And every shrewd turn was exalted among men ... and simple goodness, wherein nobility doth ever most participate, was mocked away and clean vanished."

- Thucydides

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tribute And A Recommendation

Like many people, I like to listen to music while I work. Unlike many people, I rather like Techno, and have spent years trying to find the best stuff. For my opinion, the best stuff comes from a young man who worked under the name “Techno Kid Torley”, aka Torley Wong. The first piece of his I found was something called “Let’s Just Be Friends”, a brilliant piece of work whether you mean the melody, key, tempo, or how he brings it all together.

That got me hooked, frankly, and ever since I have tried to find his stuff. For some reason, it’s been all but impossible to find in Houston, especially at mainstream music stores. Of course, the other thing about Torley Wong, is that his music, while good enough to charge serious coin to hear, can be heard for free online; hours of full-length songs, of very high quality in composition and performance. The man is a true genius of music.

Sadly, Wong shares another trait in common with a certain musical genius; he is going deaf. Because of hyperacusis Wong can no longer produce the music he loves so much. Yet, as is typical of his character, Wong has chosen to give away his music for anyone to listen, as he writes:

Give it a chance to grow, to take hold, and see what my music means to you. I wish you well in your explorations, and now that I can't hold back, I open up and give this gift to you. In hopes that it will make your days happier, your nights dancier, and your life a little brighter (if I may be so bold). After all, what good is music if it isn't heard?”

“Even if I couldn't hear anymore, I'm grateful that you can

Try some of his stuff. If you like it, as I do, you will be delighted by this gift. And even if you find it not your flavor, still I would ask you to consider the measure of a man, who would work so hard simply to give some joy to others. I have to applaud that!

The Myth Of The Third Party

The self-proclaimed “base”, that minority of the Republican Party which demands its way in every issue or else, is now talking about forming a breakaway party. It just goes to prove that old saying, ‘those who don’t learn from History, are doomed to make dumb mistakes, which they will not learn from nor even acknowledge, but blame on someone else’. Or something like that.

Throughout American History, political groups have tried hard to coalesce into national parties. Only twice in 225 years has a group managed to create a substantial political party with staying power, and in both of those cases the new party did not merely join the existing order, but forced out an existing but weak predecessor. At various times, indignation or simple anger has driven popularity for a new party, but never to the point of turning national control over to that fad. Perhaps the best example would be Teddy Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” run for the Presidency in 1912. Roosevelt was more than slightly irked at Taft, whom he felt had betrayed the party’s trust. When the GOP chose Taft’s position ahead of Teddy’s, he chose to create his own party and run that way. This was a factor in Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1912. I mention this, because in TR’s case at least, the man was properly qualified and competent for the job, something I never believed about Jon Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992, or Ralph Nader in 2000.

But about ‘third-party’ politics. The most notable “successes” for third-party candidates is a small portion of the Popular Vote for President. While there are some independents who have made it to Congress over the years, in the past generation no one makes it unless they are a Republican or a Democrat. Not that I like either party 100% from their behavior in office, but one has to be realistic. And so, while I understand the mood, suggesting a ‘third party’ is simply how the delusional would help give power to the Democrats, whose responsibility with such control has been well-documented, enough to make me seriously question the sanity of anyone who would suggest it with a straight face.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Marine Family Sues Protesters

About time.

Arabia, Fantasy vs. Fact

Laurent Murawiec is a former RAND analyst and member of the Hudson Institute, who produced a 24-slide Powerpoint presentation in 2002 to the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon. The presentation was not only controversial, calling for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Saudi Arabian oilfields, but was so incorrect in its claims and invalid in its assumptions, that even four years later an overview of the claims versus the facts is important.

Slate magazine kindly provided a copy of the Powerpoint’s 24 slides and 59 points of presumptions and opinion, so that a refutation of the presentation’s many mistakes may be made. Don’t worry, I will not list all 59 points, only the ones which were significantly controversial and significantly wrong. I need to amend that; most of the points were significantly wrong, so I will break them down into general categories instead.

First, to understand Saudi Arabia, you have to understand the history of the Middle East, and in proper context. The statements made by Murawiec demonstrate serious error in that regard. They include:

Slide 4, point 1 - “The Arab World has been in a systemic crisis for the last 200 years."

Point 2 - “It missed out on the Industrial Revolution, it is missing out on the Digital Revolution.”

Slide 5, Point 7. [today we see] “A whole generation of violently anti-Western, anti-American, anti-modern shock-troops”.

Slide 6, Point 8 - “Since independence, wars have been the principal output of the Arab world.”

This is incorrect, because the political model for the Middle East can reasonably be said to have come from two sources; the recent nationalistic push following World War I, or else the traditional Sharia which was established by the Prophet Mohammad. Either way, the claim here ignores fundamental demographics, to say nothing of the effect of communications advances.

Next, while it is true that many Arabs have not embraced urban social planning, this hardly means that the Arab nations are to be dismissed as technologically backward. As for the ‘digital revolution’, Iran has more IP addresses than most European nations, as an obvious proof that this claim is wrong. While it is true that the Arab nations have not properly diversified, and this will cause them trouble in the future, and higher education in the Middle East is all too often no more than rote memorization of Islamic proverbs, the implied inability to interact with Europe and America and Asia is a false claim. As I have noted, the Middle East is highly advanced in its urban centers, and cooperative ventures are constantly being developed which demonstrate a savvy business sense in many Arab companies.

The mobs referenced are hardly the majority mood, much less ubiqitous to the region, and to call them “shock troops” is laughable. They are ill-organized beyond getting their chants in cadence, and represent no military ability worth note. As to wars, Egypt has troubles, but has managed to stabilize since Nasser. Jordan, Kuwait and the U.A.E. have established solid functional ties with other nations, both on the diplomatic and commercial levels. I could go on, but the fact is well-established that this claim is patently false.

Arabs have been in more or less a state of rebellion since the Ottomans ran the region, as anyone familiar with the name “Chinese Gordon” would remember. Frankly, the present “rage” in the Middle East is no worse than any time in a long while, and while it serves various regimes to blame ills on America as “The Great Satan”, in actual practice there is little fervor behind the words, especially as measured in trade and government agreements.

Murawiec even demonstrates a poor grasp of recent history, as the following statements in his presentation showed:

(From Slide 9) Point 19 - “Terror as an accepted, legitimate means of carrying out politics, has been incubated for 30 years ...”

(From slide 14) Point 29 - “1973: Saudi Arabia unleashes the Oil Shock, absorbs immense flows of resources”

Point 30 - “1978: Khomeiny [sic] challenges the Saudi’s Islamic credentials, provoking a radicalization and world-wide spread of Wahhabism in response”

Point 31 - “1979-1989: the anti-Soviet Jihad gives life and strength to the Wahhabi putsch within Sunni Islam ... the Taliban are the result”

(From Slide 15) Point 34 -“Shift from pragmatic oil policy to promotion of radical Islam”

The collective effect of those statements is to paint Saudi Arabia as a primary instigator of all bad things. But those statements are very far from true. For instance, the regular use of terror in the Middle East goes back to the Hashishim from more than a thousand years ago, and in regular practice certainly goes at least as far back as uprisings against the Ottomans.

Now as to oil embargoes, it should embarrass Mr. Murawiec to be reminded that OPEC announced an embargo to most Western nations after the 1967 Six-Day War, that Libya canceled contracts to many first-world countries after the junta which put Colonel Qaddafi in place in 1968, and that OPEC threatened yet another embargo in 1971, as a level to force across-the-board renegotiation of oil prices with American and European companies. The main instigators were Libya and Iran, more than Saudi Arabia. The notion that the sale of oil was ever anything but tied to religious and nationalistic goals is naive in the extreme.

Next, blaming this group or that country for the rise of the Taliban is easy, but wrong. The reader may remember that the United States aided the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet invaders, but that does not mean they helped the Taliban come to power. This is because the tribal nature of Afghan politics meant that rival factions were always looking for a way to increase or maintain control of a territory; the original Taliban played on those rivalries and assassinated their way to power in the vacuum left by the Soviet pull-out. Saudi Arabia quite reasonably did not like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan one bit, and their sponsorship of many Afghan rebel groups was intended to pursue resistance to the Soviets in the way which best supported Islamic allies while not committing the Kingdom to direct warfare.

Mr. Murawiec goes on like that all through his presentation, a display of false claims and unsupported allegations. Worse, Murawiec seems to think we would do well to turn Mecca and Medina, along with certain territory, to the Hashemites. Real bad idea, but again, Murawiec has not studied his history well enough to understand the tribalism which runs through the region, and the character of the Arab vendetta. For here, I will simply say it surprises me to hear this guy gets paid by a think tank, because this presentation showed some very poor thinking.

Anyway, cut through to the conclusion. What Mr. Murawiec thought the United States should do, was demand the following from Saudi Arabia:

(From Slide 21) Point 49 - “Stop any funding and support for any fundamentalist madrasa, mosque, ulama, predicator anywhere in the world”

Point 50 - “Stop all anti-U.S., anti-Israel, anti-Western predication, writings, etc. within Arabia”

Point 51 - “Dismantle, ban all the kingdom’s ‘Islamic charities’, confiscate their assets”

Point 52 - “Prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence service”

These demands are breath-taking in their arrogance and lack of consideration. First off, does anyone really think that the United States could compel the Saudi throne to issue these kinds of laws? And if the Saudis actually did, do you have any idea how repressive their government would have to be to enforce them? The only thing such demands could possibly do, is damage U.S.-Saudi relations and lend credence to other charges of American arrogance.

OK, so events since 2002 have shown that Murawiec was not a big influence in U.S. policy, but this presentation still warns us that this kind of thinking is out there, and one reason we see muddled decisions being made in D.C., is because there’s all kinds of suggestions being thrown around, some of which would be absolute disasters if put into practice. And naturally, when some of these people’s incredibly stupid ideas receive the answer they deserve, some of them become bitter enemies of the Administration, instead of considering their errors. That is why we see books by former State Department and CIA people, whose egos were far better developed than their actual service to the country.

In conclusion for this article, Saudi Arabia is not an ideal ally. Frankly, I do not trust the stability of the Saudi throne, nor the character of the political-religious alliances which feed careers and lead to intrigues and uprisings. But the notion that the United States can simply roll tanks into Riyadh and dictate terms, badly misses the hard-won reputation of the United States as a fair dealer, as well as the reactions of the other countries in the region. Despite the media claims, the United States actually enjoys great respect, because relative to other nations which have made agreements with Middle East nations, the United States does a good job of keeping its word. And despite a low opinion of the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East considers the country an honorable custodian of the holiest sites in Islam, and no action could be more incendiary than for a non-Muslim nation to invade that country. Accordingly, the most effective U.S. policy regarding Saudi Arabia avoids blatant confrontation, and uses the extant relationships to build cooperative agreements wherever possible. As to force, the fact that the United States hold strong forces in Iraq and Afghanistan sends all the message necessary, while the conduct of Iran’s leadership implicitly reminds the Saudi throne why they need to stay in line with America.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Topic For Discussion?

In my last post, I said that I believe most Congressmen actually start with good intentions, but are corrupted or lose sight of their ideals through time. Washington D.C. is not exactly a good moral influence on anyone spending time there.

USMC Pilot and a couple other readers doubt that claim. So my question is, do you think your own Congressman and Senators started with good intentions and ideals, or were they rotten from the beginning?

Why Anger Is The Road To Failure

It’s simple really. Angry people do stupid things. And that is very, very true in politics. Remember the last few emotional outbursts? They don’t make the man look too balanced, who commits to a yell, an extreme accusation, or undeserved derision of his colleagues. Remember the Wellstone funeral, where all those Democrats basically broadcast to the nation, 'We Are Unbalanced Idiots'? Call me silly, but I would kind of like to avoid a Republican version of that, you know?

Along those lines, I would also like to remind the good people here, that for the most part the members of the House and Senate got into politics, because they wanted to do some good, make a difference for their state and hometowns. Yes, some got absorbed in the perks and privileges, and some never cared about anything but winning their next term, but in the main, they really do want to do what’s right for America. It’s our job to respect that desire, and to remind them of where their duty lies.