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« Open Thread | Main | So Like Pennsylvania's Democrat Candidate for Governor Used "Torture Porn" Actor In His Commercial »
September 11, 2014

Mollie Hemingway: Why Is Our Foreign Policy Debate Had Only At the Extremes?

Made me chuckle.

Reason.com editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie says everyone needs to calm down. What’s a little beheading in the course of massive territorial expansion, after all? "Why We Shouldn’t Be Scared of ISIS: Threat Inflation and Our Next Dumb War," is his argument for why ISIS is no big deal and nothing to get in a tizzy about. Similar commentary can be found among other people who frequently oppose intervening in other country’s affairs.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Wall Street Journal published the editorial "Dick Cheney Is Still Right." It’s sort of what we’ve come to expect from the never-admit-you-were-grievously-wrong, never-let-them-see-you-sweat bellicose right. Of course the rise of a terrorist group in the vacuum left by the Iraq War vindicates Dick Cheney! What other possible explanation could there be for the mess we’re seeing in Iraq and Syria right now!

And then you have President Barack Obama ping-ponging back and forth between these extremes, moving from dismissing ISIS as the JV squad to bombing them and calling them the worst thing he knows how to say: folks who are on the wrong side of history. (Yes, that left them quaking in their boots, I'm sure.)

That last line bit about "the wrong side of history" made me actually laugh.

Oh, snap! Obama really called them out.

Of course, when he uses the same formulation to describe non-belligerent domestic political opponents, it kind of loses some of its sting as regards IS.

I've been thinking about this jackass insistence on claiming the Islamic State is not Islamic. Bush did this sort of thing too (not with the Islamic State, obviously, but by constantly claiming that Islamist jihadists were not Islamic).

So this isn't a partisan thing, though it might be an ideological one.

I wonder about the practical, utilitarian consequences of this claim.

I don't like the idea that Muslims are so easily excused for the horrible actors among them. Note I also don't advise some kind of "group culpability" or the like.

However, most Muslim societies are, if I have the terms of categorization right, "shame-based." Social behavior is moderated and modified through the application of shame.

Given that, if one wants to reduce Muslim support -- ranging from quiet and tacit, to loud and tangible -- for Islamists, why would we take the Shame factor out of the equation entirely?

I think a more useful formulation would go something like this:

Do the world's Muslims want their contribution and legacy to the 21st century to be murder and rape?

That question does not call for collective punishment. However, it does leave open the question of whether or not Muslims should feel ashamed for the murderous impulses many of their coreligionists feel.

I just don't seem the purpose of forever reassuring the Muslim world that none of us think any ill of them for the army of psychopaths that keep marching out of their ranks.

First of all, it's plainly not true. Everyone wonders what's going on here, exactly. Everyone has concerns about Muslim society and ideation.

And when I say "everyone," I do mean everyone, from the frothiest actual Islamophobe to the most PC "Islam is a religion of peace" blatherer.

That last guy? Yeah, he's looking down on Muslim culture too. He's just placing a higher imperative on not saying so, to be polite and to be politically correct.

I grow increasing skeptical as I age at all these supposed advantages to saying things that are obviously not true. People are forever coming up with reasons to suppress the truth or affirmatively peddle a falsehood. "It's bad for the party to say that," "We have to show a united front," "If we're all on the same page the media will take us seriously," or, the medio-political class' favorite, "We have to lie about crimes and horrors to keep the American people from doing something terrible or descending into outright fascism."

I am underwhelmed by this multitude of reasons to not say the truth.

Apart from the simple notion that unless you have an incredibly powerful and demonstrably necessary reason to lie, you should probably just default to the truth -- I am interested in exploring whether employing Shaming language can have some marginal impact on Muslim support (soft or hard) for Islamism.

Maybe it will have no impact. Maybe it doesn't matter what we say, or what we do, and maybe Islam will continue producing psychopathic killers and rapists until the end of days.

But I'd be interested in giving another approach a go.

Yes yes yes yes yes: We know that most Muslims don't support this.

We've said so. We've said so a thousand times.

But we keep focusing on just that part without getting at the part that is more important: That many Muslims do support this, to one extent or another.

I think Islamism is largely a product of the damaged egos of the Muslim world. I think the Muslim world is well aware that it is lagging compared to the rest of the world. I think it knows it is backwards.

I think it looks at the wealth of the west, the innovation, the actual productivity, and it feels ashamed.

I think it deals with this shame on a psychological level by constructing an ideology -- rather a self-reassurance -- that western technology and wealth is "decadent."

This is the same as a five year old saying "Well I didn't want to win anyway" after losing at Sorry!

Well you did want to win, kid. But you lost, and you're a baby, so now you're making up fables to excuse your failure.

I think most of the Muslim animus against the West can be readily explained by this fairly simple psychological explanation. Simple, yes, but not simplistic -- some things really aren't that complicated.*

If I'm right about this, then the constant reassurance to the Muslim world -- "Hey! You guys are great! Awesome, even!" -- is in fact a very counterproductive condescension, because this feeling of aggrievement, of being losers left behind, will never go away, not until the Muslim world has something to be proud of apart from inventing algebra in the 11th century and blowing up the World Trade Center.

And the only way to spur someone into action is to activate his motivation centers. I'm told -- again, I'm not well-read on this -- that the Islamic world is largely shame-based.

So let's activate that shame. Or, at the very least, Let's not always be in a rush to dispel any sense of shame.

If I'm right, and this is mostly about cultural egotism, then let's use ego to our advantage and leverage that ego into prodding people into doing the right things, rather than constantly reassuring their egos when they do the wrong ones.

In a way, I agree with the Leftist narrative that Islamist terrorism arises from "poverty." I would expand this world "poverty" to include many poverties, such as poverty of cultural accomplishment and poverty of decent social ambition.

Shaming someone "impoverished" is not sufficient to make him rise from his status, of course. You can't yell at people until they start achieving, after all.

Nevertheless, making someone too comfortable to persist in a state of backwardness, aggreivement, blame-shifting, and self-pleasing conspiracy nuttery ("We'd all be working instead of arguing at this cafe if the Jews would stop interfering in the Egyptian industrial economy!") is very likely to encourage that condition.

So I'm not saying let's flip over to the extreme of hectoring the Islamic world at every turn and taunting them as regards their failure.

But let's stop reassuring them that we haven't noticed it, too.

Every neighborhood has that One House where the family keeps an untidy house and doesn't mow the lawn and doesn't fix minor damage like torn screens.

In a few neighborhoods, this house is mine.

Hi. I'm Ace. Yeah I know my place sucks. I don't care though.


But if you want that person to fix their house and stop dragging down your property values, you don't go up to him every day and tell him that his manner of house-maintenance is Every bit as good!!! as the others'.

You maybe should let him know you've at least noticed the eyesore from time to time.

* It occurs to me that the Islamic world's elevation to its rabid clerics to the top of the social/political pyramid constitutes a signal that they are afraid to compete on other grounds.

They don't want to compete on the fields of technology or economic growth; they'd lose.

So instead they compete in the field of "Who is the Most Macho Muslim?" Which is an easy contest for a Muslim to win, as no non-Muslims are competing in this particular derby.

This may be my secularist streak showing, but I think a society that places its clerics -- its talkers, its ranters, its charlatans, quite frankly -- at the top of the pecking order is a society that has prioritized therapy and egotistical reassurance above more important things, like doing productive work and generally increasing the bounty of the world.

And that will have consequences, because what people really want -- even the most metaphysical want this to some degree -- is material comfort or at least freedom from material want.

But a society that just continues to prioritize the talkers, the ranters, the reassurers, the thunderers, is a society that is just giving its people more talk.

Talk is cheap, and talk's impact on an economy is actually negative.

A guy who talks about doin' shit is a guy who actually isn't doin' shit.

The guy who talks about doin' shit, however, is convincing himself he is in fact doin' shit, which then excuses him (in his own mind) from actually doin' shit.

digg this
posted by Ace at 12:43 PM

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