Obama on Lebanon: Cognitive Egocentric Porridge

Noah Pollak has an interesting piece on Barack Obama’s position on the Lebanese crisis. One could hardly imagine a better definition of liberal cognitive egocentrism: define the problem in terms for which we liberals have a solution. (Hat tip: oao)

Obama Stares Down Hezbollah
NOAH POLLAK – 05.11.2008 – 2:19 PM
Yesterday Barack Obama released a statement about the crisis in Lebanon that surely must be cause for celebration in Tehran, Damascus, and Bint Jbeil. First of all, there is the alternate-reality feel to it:

    This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.

Does Obama understand that the people who “have influence with Hezbollah” happen to be the same people on whose behalf Hezbollah is rampaging through Lebanon?

Then there is the absurd prescription:

    It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

So that’s the problem in Lebanon? Economics and the electoral system? As Lee Smith points out in a scathing post,

    Obama’s language is derived from those corners of the left that claim Hezbollah is only interested in winning the Shia a larger share of the political process. Never mind the guns, it’s essentially a social welfare movement, with schools and clinics! — and its own foreign policy, intelligence services and terror apparatus, used at the regional, international and now domestic level. But the solution, says Obama, channeling the man he fired for talking to Hamas, is diplomacy.

In the Lebanon crisis, Obama is rhetorically cornered. Since his only prescription for the Middle East is diplomatic engagement, every disease gets re-diagnosed as something curable through talking.

The full Obama statement is only slightly less absurd than Pollak’s cherry-picked quotes suggest. Actually it seems like he has a kind of PC playbook from which he can select three problems from column A and three moves towards a solution from problem B, and when you’ve reached the end of the laundry lists, he’s covered most everything. Lee Smith quotes another trenchant comment from Abu Kais over at From Beirut to the Beltway:

Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizbullah all those years with rockets, invasions of their homes and shutting down their media outlets. If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy, instead of just sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago.

“As Tony Badran wrote me [Lee Smith] this morning: ‘I think Obama’s statement is counterproductive in that it will be read by Syria as confirming their hope that there might be a chance with an Obama presidency to get back Lebanon.’”

No wonder so many fine folk in the Middle East are rooting for Obama. (Apparently the electricity problems have not interfered with the internet campaign for Obama in Gaza.)

Update: More excellent analysis from Barry Rubin on Lebanon and the folly of Obama’s “negotiated” strategy. Rubin argues that Lebanon is the Spain of 1936 (implication, Israel is the Czechoslovakia of 1938):

What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today.

Does anyone remember the Spanish Civil War? Briefly, a fascist revolt took place against the democratic government. The rebels were motivated by several factors, including anger that their religion had not been given enough respect and regional grievances, but essentially they sought to put their ideology and themselves into power. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy backed the rebels with money and guns. The Western democracies stood by and did nothing.

Guess who won? And guess whether that outcome led to peace or world war.

(Bold in original.) From there he dissects Obama’s folly and concludes.

Obama is endorsing the Hizballah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. What’s needed is not consensus (the equivalent being getting Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences, or bringing in Iran and Syria to determine Iraq’s future) but the willingness to fight a battle. In effect, Obama without realizing it, is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair.

Oh the travails of the Western liberal who wants to believe that “War is not the answer precisely at the moment where it is the answer. People who do believe that war is the answer (despite how badly the odds don’t favor them — e.g., Germany against the world, Islam against the West, Japan against the Pacific world), can “level the odds” by pushing aggressively precisely where and when those who don’t like war will back down.

The point is not to get easily provoked, but to respond decisively when the time comes. Of course, to adopt such a policy would mean keeping one’s eye on the ball. I don’t get the sense that Obama even knows what the game us, much less what kinds of balls are in play. Malley’s facile solutions to the Middle East conflict — get Israel to stop humiliatiing the Palestinians — are recipes for disaster precisely because the encourage the belligerents.

Thus, as Rubin points out, Obama has a specific appeal in the Middle East:

Note that this does not make Obama the candidate favored by Arabs in general but only by the radicals. Egyptians, Jordanians, Gulf Arabs, and the majorities in Lebanon and Iraq are very worried. This is not just an Israel problem; it is one for all non-extremists in the region.

If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.

These war mongers see a natural ally in Obama’s progressive, kind politics, in his willingness to engage anyone and listen to their grievances. In the Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism, they can pursue their plans for world domination while Obama and his advisors insist that no one would be that base and inhuman (except, maybe, the Zionists), and that if these folks are violent, it’s probably because they’re less fortunate than we are, and have legitimate grievances. What more could a demopath ask for as president of the United States?

23 Responses to Obama on Lebanon: Cognitive Egocentric Porridge

  1. [...] agree that Obama’s Lebanon policy may be a hammer of diplomacy and envision nails everywhere. Landes calls this liberal cognitive egocentrism: define the problem in terms for which we liberals [...]

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Let’s be kinder to Obama than all that, RL. After all, the drivel coming out of his mouth as quoted above is the same sort of drivel that has been issuing forth from the mouths of top State Dept diplomats and official spokespersons for years. Indeed, the same drivel has regularly stained NYTimes editorials over the years, although I admit that I stopped reading the NYT regularly back in 1973 or 1974. But the creepy, slimey feel of those drivellng editorials has never left me.

  3. Lynne T says:

    Also worth a read on the situation in Lebanon, http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com/

    where Anton Bey notes, among other things, that Hezbollah is shutting down various liberal media in Lebanon and in one case erected a photo of Bashir Al-Assad in place of photos of the TV station owners (the Hsriri family).

  4. Rich Rostrom says:

    Rubin is unfair to the Spanish rebels of 1936. The trigger for the rebellion was not an insistence on imposing fascist or reactionary ideology. It was a well-justified fear of the forcible imposition of Communist/anarchist ideology by violence, with the collaboration of the increasingly subverted Spanish state.

    If important Christian factions openly pledged to wipe out Shi’ism in Lebanon and proclaimed their support of regimes which had done just that, If Hezbollah’s parliamentary leader had been kidnapped and murdered by police and Christian gunmen together, if there were continual bombings and assassinations by both sides… And the President of Lebanon persisted in denouncing Hezbollah alone for the violence, then Hezbollah would be in the same position as the Spanish rebels.

    In fact Hezbollah is more like the Spanish Reds – a private army subverting the state for the goal of imposing its own dictatorial rule.

    I won’t even comment on Obama’s nonsense.

  5. Michael B says:

    Well, Barry Rubin omits the fact that Uncle Joe Stalin, via the COMINTERN, was directly involved in Spain and not on behalf of Spain in the least, so it was more multi-dimensional than Rubin is suggesting, beyond that, yes, we need a thoughtful rather than a head-in-the-sand approach.

  6. oao says:

    I won’t even comment on Obama’s nonsense.

    the point RL was making is cognitive egocentrism. that is a nonsense that is common in the west and, often subconscious in even those who are not of the left. so it is very damaging nonsense.

    there are many roots to the tragic decline of the west, but one of the most critical is the inability to conceive the nature of 7th century non-western societies and to project its own thinking on them. that’s one reason the MSM refrains from publishing the barbarity and atrocities committed in arab/muslim societies, because to a western mind they are inconceivable and, therefore, cannot possibly be true. it is a form of denial, because the truth is too difficult to contemplate.

  7. Eliyahu says:

    oao, I think that some of those who guide the MSM are very well aware of the inclination toward barbarity among Muslim societies, factions, etc. Maybe they want to cover up reality in order to promote Islam, Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism, as well as to hurt the Jews. As you know, I’m sure, Arab grievances against Israel, true, exaggerated or totally false, are used to conceal Western Judeophobia. The question or objection arises, of course, of Why the UK govt –for one– endangers its own population by covering up for Islam, Arab nationalism, the ethnic cleansing by Muslims of Hindus in Kashmir, etc. Why does the UK allow seditious mass murder agitation to go on in mosques in England’s Green and Pleasant Land, as Blake called it??

  8. Eliyahu says:

    These war mongers see a natural ally in Obama’s progressive, kind politics, in his willingness to engage anyone and listen to their grievances. In the Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism, they can pursue their plans for world domination while Obama and his advisors insist that no one would be that base and inhuman (except, maybe, the Zionists), and that if these folks are violent, it’s probably because they’re less fortunate than we are, and have legitimate grievances. What more could a demopath ask for as president of the United States?

    RL, you end by pointing out that pacifists and appeasers may make war more likely by encouraging warmongers that they can attack unopposed. This has been said before and has to be repeated over and over, because, as Orwell once wrote –in so many words– a generation that has not learned the historical reality of the past is like an albatross around our necks, leading us into the next war. This is what Chamberlain –representing “appeasement”– did at Munich, wittingly or unwittingly. This is part of what Barry Rubin was saying.

    Rick, there is something to what you say about Spain in the 1930s before the civil war. A Cuban friend of mine, whose parents had gone to Cuba from Asturias in Spain, told me that many Spaniards felt great bitterness over the Asturian miners’ strike in 1934. This event involved, he told me, massacres of Catholic clergy, priests, monks, nuns, as well as of non-clergy, by the strikers. However, Franco was hardly a cure for the massacre of Spaniards. Just to refresh your memory, Franco brought in many troops from Morocco who felt little inhibition in slaughtering Spanish infidels, albeit in behalf of Franco’s faction of infidels. Recall the line in the Spanish Republican civil war song: Lucharon contra los moros!! Ay Manuela!!! [= They fought against the Moors...].
    To confirm the character of the Moroccan troops, when the Western Allies brought Moroccan troops into Italy late in WW2, they became notorious for abusing Italian civilians. This was graphically protrayed in the film Two Women [the mass rape of Sophia Loren's character by Moroccan rroops]. The film was based on a book or story by Alberto Moravia, who just happened to be a Communist. I add that detail in case some “leftist” would like to disbelieve that such an episode occurred or was common, on the grounds that it’s “right-wing” propaganda.
    Anyhow, Rick, just recall that Franco brought Moorish troops into his own country to kill his own people. The cure may have been worse than the disease. This reminds me that Zbig Brzezinski not only helped Khomeini take power in Iran, but helped Osama ben L to get started in Afghanistan. Zbig worked to set up a resistance movement to the Red Russians in Afghanista made up of Islamic fanatics. Zbig wanted the mujahidin to kill the Ruskis, his Slavic brethren. Which they did.
    Now the mujahidin are killing just about anybody, even fellow Muslims. This brings us back to BH Obama. Zbig is said to be his chief foreign policy advisor. Robert Malley, mentioned in RL’s post above, was another of BHO’s foreign policy advisors until he was ostensibly fired about a week ago for being pro-Hamas. But Zbig is pro-Hamas, is he not? Zbig visited the political HQ of Hamas, which is Damascus, a few months ago. That could only encourage Assad Junior to give the Hizbullah the green light to start what is a civil war again in Lebanon. So far just a mini-civil war.

    The fact that Zbig & robert malley are/”were” on Obama’s team, even if only lurking in the background, shows that Obama is very much part of the corrupt, old Washington crowd, which Obama pretends that he is not. This fakery of innocence on Obama’s part shows that he is a much more dangerous faker than Hilary with her Bosnian “sniper fire” imposture.

  9. oao says:

    I think that some of those who guide the MSM are very well aware of the inclination toward barbarity among Muslim societies, factions, etc.

    What denial means is that they are certainly aware of the reality, but refuse to accept it.

    Maybe they want to cover up reality in order to promote Islam, Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism, as well as to hurt the Jews.

    I doubt many are promoting pan-arabism (they don’t give a damn about the arabs, except when it comes to funds) although many are explicitly or inherently antisemitic. my guess is that a vast majority of them suffer from cognitive egocentrism and project their own, distorted leftist values on the arabs (jews are the capitalist colonialists oppressors, tools of america and the arabs are the oppressed). this is induced and reinforced by ignorance of the history and culture of the ME and cowardice in the face of jihadism and terror.

    if you look, for example, at the MSM coverage of israel’s anniversary, most of it is essentially mutual regurgitation of what is culled for the arab and leftist propaganda, without any attempt to acquire serious historical knowledge or question it. it’s a combination of ignorance, lazyness, desire to promote career by repeating what is popular and fashionable and fear, both personal and institutional.

    in this framework when they are made aware of barbarism and atrocity of the arabs, they are incapable of accepting it, because if they did they would be forced to cover it and that would spell disaster for (a) their career (b) possibly their life (c) their society.

  10. oao says:

    there is an additional aspect to the CE: if they are prepared to kill and die for their cause then their grievances must be huge and, therefore, understandable and justifiable.

    This is, of course, a projection of western values. The arab culture and religion which are totally at odds with those of the west are ignored, because they induce behavior which to the western left’s mind is incomprehensible. so it must be rationalized by projection.

  11. Submitted for Your Approval…

    First off…  any spambots reading this should immediately go here, here, here,  and here.  Die spambots, die!  And now…  here are all the links submitted by members of the Watcher’s Council for this week’s vote. Council li…

  12. Eliyahu says:

    if they are prepared to kill and die for their cause then their grievances must be huge and, therefore, [the atrocity must be] understandable and justifiable.

    Precisely, oao. I have heard that argument made many times on the MSM, by fake do-gooders, fake humanitarians, etc. To wit, if the poor wawabs commit a really BIG atrocity [like 9-11], then they must have been VERY oppressed, exploited, etc. But there comes a problem which this brand of creep does not deal with. How do we judge a situation when Arabs or Muslims commit immense atrocities against fellow Arabs or Muslims or whatever, against anybody who isn’t Jewish (or even American)??? How about the Islamofanatic rebellion in Algeria?? Or the mutual atrocities in Iraq?? Or Lebanon [atrocities against the Lebanese Christians were justified on the grounds that they had supposedly kept down the poor Muslims --especially Shi`ites-- there, especially since Lebanon's independence.]?? Of course the whole history of Lebanon in the 19th century gets forgotten, erased or buried as it were, in the process of making these moral judgements based on lies. The massacres of Christians in 1860 in what is today Lebanon and in today’s Syria are conveniently forgotten or not even known from the beginning.

    But getting back to the argument. If we can judge the extent to which some group has been oppressed, exploited, humiliated, etc., by the size of its attacks on the allegedly oppressing groups, then how do we explain why the members of the Sunni majority in Pakistan regularly massacre Shi`ites there??? Were the Shi`ites in Pakistan historically oppressing Sunnis??? How about the 130,000 more or less Muslims massacred in Algeria since 1990 by fellow Muslims, some of whom had been to Afghanistan to fight for the Cause there?? Can we attribute it all to Zionist-Israeli malevolence?? Does even the bbc dare to be so frankly Judeophobic??

    Well, the other day I watched some of their goons and guests talking about Israel’s 60th anniversary. The subject of the Hizbullah’s assault on Lebanon came up. One of their dimwits, the discussion leader, revealed that he had been told that it was Israel that was really at fault for the creation of the Hizb. Now, he added, this was BECAUSE of what Israel had done. Although the speaker was a male person, he reminded me of some dowager matrons in a New Yorker cartoon sitting at a table playing bridge. One says to the others: Do you know what I heard from someone who works for the BBC?? Well, if you won’t spread this around, HE said that ISRAEL was really responsible for creating the Hizbull or whatever you call it.

    No factual proof or argumentation for this claim was provided by our BBC discussion leader, just like the bridge-playing matron provided her friends with hearsay. Of course, the other British discussants nodded in sage agreement.

    So you’re right oao that this is an old and very favorite argument in the MSM and among “leftists,” but bear in mind that when they can’t get the argument to fit even with their habitually credulous audience, then they overlook it or even overlook the atrocities. How much coverage did the Muslim on Muslim massacres in Algeria get in the USA??

  13. oao says:

    eliyahu,

    but bear in mind that when they can’t get the argument to fit even with their habitually credulous audience, then they overlook it or even overlook the atrocities

    I keep stressing that anti-semitism rises during crises, when there is a need for a scapegoat. scapegoating is a form of denial, of avoiding cognitive dissonance between an inconvenient reality and one’s theory.

    the worse the crisis and the discrepancy between reality and theory become, the more intense the need for denial and scapegoating and the more overt, common and rabid the anti-semitism. Like, for example:

    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/29924_The_Protocols_of_the_Daily_Kos

    The arabs/muslims are constantly scapegoating because they are routinely in self-inflicted crisis, out of which their culture and religion does not allow exit.
    for they are indoctrinated with supremacy, dominance and success and reality thoroughly contradicts this.

    one of the best discussion of this is

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JE13Ak01.html

    a must read.

  14. The Council Has Spoken!…

    First off…  any spambots reading this should immediately go here, here, here,  and here.  Die spambots, die!  And now…  the winning entries in the Watcher’s Council vote for this week are “Evolution” = “Growth” by Socc…

  15. Watcher’s Council results…

    And now…  the winning entries in the Watcher’s Council vote for this week are “Evolution” = “Growth” by Soccer Dad, and Numb by Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal.  Here are the full tallies of all votes cast:VotesCouncil link2  1/3…

  16. [...] idea, quite similar to the one suggested by Obama in Lebanon, presumes that if we’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to us. The only problem, of [...]

  17. Watcher’s Council Results — And An Announcement…

    The winning entries in the Watcher’s Council vote for this week are “Evolution” = “Growth” by Soccer Dad, and Numb by Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal. Here is your link to the full results of the vote:VotesCouncil link2  1/3″Evolution…

  18. oao says:

    clear evidence that CE is crappola and that progressing the life quality of the pals will not resolve the conflict:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/984673.html

    but if your whole being is invested in dogma, contrary evidence evokes hatred of those who produced the evidence, rather than renounce the dogma.

    hence a lot of leftist anti-semitism.

  19. rl says:

    interesting point. i think i want to push the idea of the left as the serpents sent by poseidon to kill laocoon, so that the trojans would take the horse into the city. their attack mode is characteristically narcissistic — they attack their own family and curry favor with those they fear.

  20. Eliyahu says:

    oao and RL, I think that often dogmatists/ideologues and their fanatical followers are aroused to intensified hatred by the cognitive dissonance that ensues when they are clearly proven wrong.

  21. vb says:

    oao, The point you made at comment 14 applies equally to anti-Americanism in Europe. The Euros are scared to death of the jihadis in their midst. The deny the problem, deny their fear, and blame Bush.

  22. oao says:

    this is common to secular and religious faith systems.

    if you BELIEVE in something contrary evidence pulls the rug from under your feet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>