Monthly Archives: December 2015

Policy Perspectives from the World of Apocalyptic Honor-Shame

I recently received a challenge from one of my less avid fans on a list-serv that I participate in. He challenged me to answer a series of policy questions from the perspective I irritatingly espouse – namely current Western policy concerning the Middle East and Islamic nations is useless at best, self-defeating, even suicidal, at worst because it ignores what I call the HSJ paradigm that focuses on honor-shame dynamics and their current vehicle, apocalyptic Jihad.

I post here my answers.

Dealing with Islam:

Right now in the West, the reigning prime directive reads: “Don’t piss them off.” We think it’s the “vast majority of Muslims” that we thus soothe, but we also encourage the triumphalists, especially with the extent of our placation, our appeasement.

Instead of thus empowering triumphalist aggression, we should pick our fights and target triumphalism. There are so many places the cultural Maginot Line of a robust civil society have crumbled, so many places to start getting serious about what Muslims ask of us and we ask of Muslims. (For a good view of one of the early collapse see, alas, France after 2ooo in The Lost Territories of the Republic.) We need to arm progressive Muslims in their fight with the forces of triumphalism, not concede repeatedly (often with a post-colonial objective) to triumphalist aggression.

Without reciprocal relations, free societies cannot exist, much less aspire to the near utopian hopes of global progressives.

Educate about Islam, not just the masses but the policy folks. I’ve spoken to an audience of 400 people in homeland security and only 1/10 of them claimed they knew what dar al Islam and dar al Harb is. If you don’t know that, you’re historically and religiously illiterate about a crucial element of our current predicament. And 15 years after 9-11, and 26 years after Khoumeini’s fatwah against Rushdie extended Shari’a to the West?! We can’t afford that ignorance.

Right now, we are babes in the woods. As much as I want to believe what you [another list member] say about this administration [being fully aware of the problem], everything I see and hear indicates the opposite: it is overprotective of the “99.9%” of Muslims who, they tell us on their behalf, “reject the extremists.” Where does Obama come up with this stuff? How on earth can serious people take this seriously? Unless of course, they’re in such denial about the problem we face that they’ll take the pablum.

But part of our predicament has been we believed that these indulgences in moral posturing (PC) – Moral and Tolerant Europe Triumphant, The Passionate “cause” of the Palestinian Underdog – were somehow cost free. (If “tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’ecoute,” then how damaging is self-flattery, which can be endless?)

On the contrary, these moral postures have allowed the Jihadis to maneuver the progressives into suicidal positions, into a proleptic dhimmitude where the GPL sees itself salvific warriors bringing world peace through self-abnegation, even as it submits to Muslim triumphalist demands that they not only dare not criticize (triumphalist) Muslims, but, rather, they must adopt the Muslim enemy (Israel).

Syria

(Let’s just hope it’s better than criticizing the Obama Administration for not giving enough aid to the Free-Syrian Army).  American troops?  How about Israeli troops  (no, that wouldn’t work); Turks?  (strike that);  Iran (Never, never).

Syria is a symptom of a breakdown of a political culture. The Arab “Spring” was actually a quake that hit a very weak political culture – Lee Smith’s Strong Horse. Those political dynamics reflect a broader, heavily authoritarian (patriarchal honor-murders) culture, and these social dynamics make it virtually impossible to launch and sustain a democratic political culture.

Instead it was springtime for Jihad and tribal warfare.

As for policy, our our journalists and academics and talking heads, systematically misinformed us about the situation beforehand, as well as during. With foolish expectations borne of the “post-colonial” paradigm, we thought – and were encouraged to foresee – a wave, from Tunisia to Syria of more democratic, vibrant, civil societies. Muslim Brotherhood? “Moderate,” and “almost secular.”  So whether we intervene (Libya) or don’t (Syria), it works to the advantage of the Jihadis because they are the most brutal in a brutal culture, and we are clueless. And when they fail, as all such brutal efforts do, they – at least under current conditions – just prepare more wretched chaos to fuel the next round of violence.

To think differently about this means having an appreciation of the impact our behavior has on others (allegedly a Western specialty).

In 2003, when the GPL and European countries (led by Chirac) had such a grand time turning Bush into the Antichrist, I got an email from a medievalist who was in Tunisia. “The Arabs think the French are weak. They side with their enemies and humiliate their friends.” By that logic, I can assure you that triumphalist Muslims think the Left is weak.

I’m not saying, “don’t oppose the Iraq War just because you don’t want to look like a wuss,” but rather “be cognizant of the impact of what you’re doing in terms of how your enemy (triumphalist Islam) perceives you.” The public mutual contempt the Left and Right have expressed for each other has done terrible damage.

In the 11th century, it was emperor and pope attacking each other publicly for fifty years that loosened revolutionary forces; and among the beneficiaries of that open hostility, were the free towns, the urban communes of the later 11th and 12th centuries. In the 21st cn, however, by far the greatest benefactor of public hostilities between twin poles of public discourse (in this case right-left, rather than royal-papal) has been the Jihadis… by comparison with a progressive 11th cn, the 21st cn looks alarmingly regressive.

We can’t even begin to think strategy much less tactics as long as we can’t talk about this larger massive politico-cultural failure/dysfunction in the Arab and Muslim world. And yet, thru some alchemical process operated by a particularly irresponsible branch of post-modernism, it has become “racist” to address cultural and religious problems.

Iran –Let’s hear the deal/threats or  bombing policy that you recommend and why?

I’d go very strong on rallying collective hostility to Iranian claims, use every kind of pressure to get them to stand down. i wd have been blown away if you had told me in the 1980s that the nuclear disarmament crowd would not say a word in the 21st century about re-starting a nuclear arms race, this time in the highly volatile Muslim world, i’d have said, “don’t be absurd.”

Of course, if you told a signer of the Hamas Charter, with its genocidal paranoid participation in a movement for global Islamic dominion, that within twenty years, infidels would be marching in the streets with their banners, shouting “we are Hamas!” he would have responded, “Only Allah can make infidels that stupid.”

Iraq  (Can’t be working with Iranian, Shi’a militias, right?)

Landes on Islamism, Honor-Shame, and the Media

This is from a talk I gave in Berlin, Germany in 2011 (before Merkel’s Folly).

BBC program “What is IS?” with interview with me

What is IS?

What Explains Own-Goal War Journalism? Response to Jon Dyson

Jon Dyson who blogs at Arguement4Israel recently posted a long response to my BBC and Own-Goal Lethal Journalism piece. It is very important, and disagrees with me in valuable ways. So I’m posting it as a separate post, with commentary and response interspersed. (This is not a fisking.)

Lethal journalism undoubtedly threatens to disarm society in the face of lethal threats. But I fear that the explanation of lethal journalism provided in your text (and your speech at the recent meeting in London on the BBC) regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is misleading.

For sure, the dangerous anti-Israel bias and outrageous misreporting of the BBC and much of the international media presents the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a Palestinian-David-victim vs Israeli-Goliath-oppressor battle. And as a result, the ‘news’ they broadcast systematically promotes material that is bad about Israel and little that is good – and the reverse about the Palestinians – along with Palestinian propaganda presented as news, scandalous omissions, etc.

And let’s not leave out the self-destructive nature of the actions – the BBC, by taking on the Palestinian “narrative” as news, pumps Jihadi propaganda into its own public sphere, encouraging Jihadi hatreds both directly (BBC lethal journalism used as recruiting device for Jihad), and indirectly (promoting among Westerners hatred of a civilizational ally and friend whom the Jihadis hate).

Several reasons have been suggested to account for this, such as antisemitism or feelings of post-colonial guilt. But your article/speech suggests that these are inadequate to explain the pack mentality shown by the preponderance of pro-Palestinian views in the mass media. Instead, the main weight of the suggested explanation is placed elsewhere: on ‘the pervasive culture of intimidation’. Firstly, there is intimidation by the Palestinians, such as against the press-corps by Hamas in the war in Gaza last year. Secondly, there is peer pressure among reporters (and, presumably, corporate pressure from news organizations?) to ensure conformity to a pro-Palestinian narrative.

Nicely put. Can’t complain with your summary.

Such intimidation undoubtedly exists. But the issue is whether or not its presence is sufficient to explain the pro-Palestinian stance of so much of the international media. Unfortunately, the example used in the article/speech, BBC reports of a supposed IDF attack on Shiffa hospital,

Actually, Shati refugee camp, but they were both part of the same set of Hamas rockets gone astray.

did not demonstrate coercion at all. Instead, it was another demonstration of BBC misreporting that needs to be explained.

Not clear here. My explanation is that their “misreporting” was actually fully compliant with Palestinian demands. (Preparing something on this right now.) That compliance reflects a pervasive surrender to Palestinian demands, which in turn reflects an unstated fear of retaliation.

Studies in Cognitive Disarray: Fisking Michael Ignatieff on Refugees

I had a recent experience in London that led me to conclude that European leaders and intellectuals have fallen into a condition of such disorientation that it constitutes a full-blown cognitive disarray, with leaders making critical decision guided by deeply mistaken (inverted) understandings of the reality they face.

Among the decisions I find most astonishing are the decisions dealing with the tragic mass of millions of refugees created by the violence in the Middle East. It was clear from the beginning that this wave of “newcomers” were problematic, and not merely in terms of the possibilities of already-formed terrorists, but just in terms of the behavior and attitude of many. Western Europe opened its borders to refugees, and a large number of young male Muslims took advantage, creating enormous problems there where there already were enormous problems.

Now Michael Ignatieff, both a political leader )  (Canada, Liberal Party) and an intellectual has written a piece that so perfectly illustrates this cognitive disarray, that I have to fisk it.

The Refugees & the New War

Michael Ignatieff

December 17, 2015 Issue

1.

Strategists will tell you that it is a mistake to fight the battle your enemies want you to fight. You should impose your strategy on them, not let them impose theirs on you.

I agree entirely. But what follows is not a bold Western strategy that sets the battlefield according to our terms, it’s an elaborate justification for having the Jihadi enemy set the terms, and for us behaving in ways that help their cause immensely.

These lessons apply to the struggle with the leaders of ISIS. We have applied pressure upon them in Syria; they have replied with atrocious attacks in Ankara, Beirut, and now Paris. They are trying to provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with the Crusader infidels. We should deny them this opportunity.

Hmm. The history of apocalyptic movements suggests that, especially once they’ve reached a certain level of success (which ISIS and global Jihad have), any successful confrontation has to address their apocalyptic means and goals. If you think that by denying these issues we can frustrate them, you’ve deeply misunderstood the phenomenon.

ISIS wants to convince the world of the West’s indifference to the suffering of Muslims; so we should demonstrate the opposite.

This is amazing. This is so low down on ISIS’s list of “to-do’s” (for them, it’s something of a no brainer that we’re indifferent to Muslim suffering) that any effort on our part to disprove them would constitute a mad waste of effort. When that means extensively endangering our side in order to accomplish this “disproof,” it’s crazy to argue for such a response.

ISIS wants to drag Syria ever further into the inferno; so ending the Syrian war should become the first priority of the Obama administration’s final year in office.