Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Know Your Enemy

I thought this was a really interesting analysis of the mind and motives of your friendly neighborhood Islamist terrorist. Some of this is obvious, and is basically stuff we should have realized from even a casual review of who the 9/11 attackers were (as in, relatively affluent, college educated, etc.), but I think this guy gets to the heart of (1) why we should not dismiss these people as "crazy"; (2) why, given the number of people in the world who apparently hate us, such a tiny percentage of them actually get out of the house and come try to kill us; and (3) how far behind we are in framing and waging the war of ideas.

It seems to me that the Islamist movement is not as different from the other nihilistic, revolutionary ideologies of the last hundred years or so as we tend to believe. Like the communists, anarchists, fascists, and others, the Islamists are basically a small group of disaffected intellectual types with delusions of global domination through a bloody mass mobilization of the "people" (proletariat, whatever). All these groups have utopian fantasies-- whether a workers' paradise or a restored caliphate-- and all have strong notions of purification-- whether genetic or spiritual.

In defeating the other "-ists" it was as important to make the world understand why our way of doing things was better as it was to prove we were stronger. World War I defeated the Germans, but it did not discredit their nationalism, expansionism, or notions of being instruments of social Darwinism. To the contrary, the handling of the victory by the allies allowed all of these virulent strains to grow into the full-blown horrors of Nazism. The same mistakes were not repeated in WW II, and our post-war handling of the peace contributed to the total discrediting of the violent pathologies of Germany (and Japan, which had its own form of quasi-religious nationalism). Of course, during the Cold War, while it was America's nuclear umbrella that kept the Red Army at bay, it was in the marketplace of ideas (and the marketplace of, well, markets) that the battle was fought and won.

In our current struggle against the Islamists, we are doing well on the military front (leaving aside for the moment the controversies over going to war in Iraq in the first place and the ongoing deficiencies in securing our ports and borders), but we have barely joined the battle on the intellectual front, and where we have tried we seem to be failing. People keep talking about "losing the peace" in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that's wrong. What we are losing is another phase of warfare. War is the application of violence for political ends. How can a war be successful if the violence goes great, but we don't meet the political goals?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I Said MERRY CHRISTMAS, Godammit!

This is starting to really drive me crazy. Remember when we celebrated Christmas without worrying about whether it was Christmas enough? The people who want to make an issue of the "Happy Holidays" scandal (and the rise in sodomy and drug abuse that such a decadent phrase is clearly evidence of) obviously (1) have all their shopping done already, and (2) are a bunch of fucking morons. Now, let's be clear-- personally, I prefer Merry Christmas to any of the more inclusive phrases. I think saying Happy Holidays is a little disingenuous in the sense that what most people mean when they say that is "Merry Christmas, except you might be Jewish, so, uh, happy whatever you are having." It's kind of silly. And I don't think a person who is Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist should get offended if someone messes up and wishes them a merry holiday of a type they don't celebrate (or vice versa if a Muslim wishes a Christian Happy Ramadan-- that's a random example, since I have no idea if "Happy Ramadan" is the sort of thing a Muslim would actually say...work with me here).

All that being said, however, if a company or individual WANTS to use an inclusive phrase, and does not want to make it seem like they are saying "observe my lord and savior's birth or rot in hell," then how on earth can someone really have an issue with that? I mean, there are other holidays out there at roughly the same time of year-- including, even if you don't want to foray into other religions or quasi-faiths, New Year's-- so it's not like it's dishonest to throw a few extra into the mix. I think this sort of movement-- which Jon Stewart calls the "anger of the enfranchised"-- is of a piece with both the American cult of victimhood (now embraced even by so-called conservatives) and the right wing post-electoral orgasm of "It's our country now, byatches!!!!!!!!!"

Whatever else it is, it just ain't very Christmasy, is it?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Because the World Needs Another Blog

Why else would I start this? I mean, other than my wife wanting me to have an outlet-- instead of her, that is-- for my mostly obvious and highly derivative opinions and observations about life, politics, God, and college football?

Given the amount of free time I have (little), the usual degree of follow-through I bring to any task (none), and my past adventures in creative writing (abortive), this likely will be not only the first but also one of the last posts I make here. With that in mind, I will make it count by logging the following hot conversation starters, which may or may not be expanded upon in future posts:

1. Life is its own justification, explanation, and (if we are lucky) reward.

2. George Bush is a terrible president (and I am not a Democrat, "liberal," jihadist, journalist, devil worshiper, or resident of the state of Massachusetts).

3. It seems very unlikely that any of the prevalent theories on G(g)od(s)-- otherwise known as "religions"-- is 100% accurate.

4. College football does not need a playoff system.

See? Opinions! Controversial? You betcha. Staggering in scope? I like to think so. Sure to spark widespread debate and potentially violent (but ultimately therapeutic) uprisings? Well...stay tuned.