Note: I am exploiting Brandon Christensen to whom this response is addressed. I am using him as a proxy to have a debate with the many libertarians who I suspect, want to disarm the Republic The piece to which this is a response is can be found here.
Please, spread this series of exchanges around.
Dear Brandon: Your shameless flatteries area good start, for sure. Nevertheless, I need to bring a correction to the introduction of your rebuttal: I am not a really old guy. It’s still common for women to check me out when I walk on Pacific Avenue. Why, it happened less than three years ago!
Now, the rules of engagement I respect unilaterally:
Good ideas must defer to facts;
Many conventional ideas have no connection to facts (e.g. “catching a cold” has nothing to do with cold weather.)
Nevertheless, some perceptions are so self-evidently correct that the burden of proof belongs to those who would question them. (e.g. bullets in the heart will kill some people.);
Causal reasoning must respect the rules of logic enunciated by the Greeks before 500 BC;
I don’t assert anything I don’t believe just to sound right. Sometimes, I speculate. I try to tell the reader/listener when I am doing so.
If my viewpoint is defensible on its own merits, I don’t ever need to tell untruths to support it, not even little white lies. Same goes for everyone’s viewpoint
Avoid smirking. (That’s the hardest rule for me to follow, of course.)
I will not follow your narrative point by point because some of them are not supported or do not deserve a discussion, according to me, of course. Some other points I have no big quarrel with.
First a confession for once and forever so we don’t have to waste time on it ever again:
I am fully aware that there is a seeming incongruity in both supporting libertarian ideas and being a hawk to any degree. There is no doubt that most wars enlarge the domain of the state, of the government, at the expense of civil society. Many such enlargements prove to be irreversible. Thus, wars usually reduce the freedom of those who win them.
First, you build a straw-man, hang a sing with my name around its neck and then you burn it. Of course, I agree that very few Muslims want to wage violent jihad and that the number of those willing to take the risk to do so is even smaller. I have never said or written anything else. I have commented at length about the silence of Muslims in general, of Muslim religious authorities, and of American Muslim organizations, with regard to atrocities committed in the name of Islam. I include atrocities committed against Muslims ( most of them). I include 9/11 but also the routine, grotesque sexual mutilation of little girls in Muslim countries (not an Islamic requirement I know, but practiced on a wide scale with the complicity of clerics.)
I am concerned about the handful of violent jihadists willing to engage in Islamist terrorism for two reasons. First, 19 of them can deliberately murder 3,000 innocent people and depress the largest economy in the world, and change our society for the worse in a lasting way. And, it would take fewer than 10 to blow up a dirty bomb on a major sports event. Second, the successes of the few often trigger imitation, sometimes on a large scale.
On the subject of Muslims in France, you just ought to defer to me, I think. I read French newspaper six days a week; I watch French television every day; I am in touch with intelligent French people in France and in North Africa; I go to France fairly often, and I know the language.
The working-class periphery of Paris is seething with resentment, as you say. This is exactly what you would expect in a society where 10% general unemployment has, for thirty years, been the norm, (20% for younger people), and a 1.5% growth rate in the economy is a cause for celebration. Expressions of this resentment are numerous, fairly violent and also ecumenic in who participates. They have never taken an Islamist form. So, France is in the line fire of violent Islamists in spite of its Muslim situation being the reverse of apartheid. In fact, it could be because of this. (The main firing is many kidnappings of French citizens, specifically.)
You are minimizing a great deal the bellicosity of Muslim Scriptures as if they were just a couple of zits on a beautiful face. The Koran and the Hadiths contain numerous warlike, inciting statements (and not only such, it’s true) against infidels, including permission to put them to death and to enslave them. Want to bet? I defy you to show me anything of the kind in the Gospels or any other part of the New Testament. It’s easy to find calls to jihad in latter and mostly forgotten Christian writings. The Crusades did happen, after all. And that’s part of my point: I understand Islamist aggression because those who have it on their mind are much like my ancestors (and yours) a thousand years ago. It’s a familiar ugly face, not difficult to recognize.
Connection between the role of the state and the role of Islam in a list of Muslim countries: I get your point. The answer is “no direct link” except in Saudi Arabia and formerly in Taliban Afghanistan. The sad truth is that today, the world, including us, seems to have a choice between murderous violent jihadists and modernizing fascist regimes in Muslim countries. That’s a subject worth discussing. Libertarians don’t. Myself, I chose the fascists because they are not as willing to die to kill us. Also fascist systems sometimes become more representative.
In general, I think you are in denial on two broad fronts. Either denial is enough to make your militarily isolationist position untenable, in my humble opinion:
You contend that we provoked violent jihadist attacks because of our military presence in the holy lands of Islam. Ignoring the fact that none of those places, save perhaps Saudi Arabia, are holy, have ever been holy except by Al Qaida pronouncement, you would have to defend the following propositions:
When violent jihadists murder Argentinean Jews in Buenos Aires, it’s because Americans have a military presence in Muslim holy lands;
When violent jihadists murder Iraqi Christians in Iraq, Egyptian Christians in Egypt, and Pakistani Christians in Pakistan, it’s because of American military presence in Muslim holy lands.
When violent jihadists murder other Muslims in Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, it’s because of American military presence in Muslim holy lands.
Your argument about “minorities” is special pleading and it does not stand the barest scrutiny: Kurds are much more numerous than Sunnis in Iraq; the victims of violent Islamists in Algeria were specifically not ethnic minorities. The slaughtered “minorities” of Pakistan have one thing I common: The are not Sunni Muslims. Could be a coincidence. Do you really think so?
Second front: You seem to say that war is futile as a solution to the problem of aggression by others, in general and in particular. If you are not saying or implying this, I stand corrected and then, nothing of what follows applies to what you wrote.
In general, historically war does not solve anything except: British despotism, Barbary Pirates’ exactions, slavery, Fascism, Nazism. and Communism (the later, to a large extent, was solved through the mere the mere threat of war). Yes, I stole most of this from a bumper-sticker.
Even if you were right that fighting violent jihadism militarily were ineffective, I would insist that we do. It’s a matter of dignity and it’s a condition of future safety. You can be sure other evil-doers and potential evil-doers are watching to see what happens when you kill Americans. I want them to think it’s risky, at least.
In the particular: You cast a disdainful look at Iraqi democracy, a pure product of President Bush’s war of choice, and a child of the US and allies’s military invasion. I think you need to do this lest nation-building appears not to be a silly endeavor. Here is what I see:
Iraq has a properly elected government. It results from Iraqi citizens voting in larger percentages than Americans usually do. Sometimes, they do this under threat of death. This democratic government is sure enough of itself to affirm that its protector and genitor, the US armed forces must leave. That is, it’s exactly like any other self-assured sovereign entity. There has been no coup, no attempted coup and the rule of law prevails there better than in most less-developed countries. (Obviously, terrorist actions against that government have nothing to do with my claim that it is applying the rule of law.) With all this, Iraq is not Switzerland. As far as corruption is concerned, it’s more like New Orleans or Illinois. In terms of representativity, it’s probably significantly better than either. All in all, it compares favorably with this Republic in 1785.
This success in nation-building should not surprise you because it conforms to what always happens when the US wins a war. It happened with Italy, with Germany, with Japan, and by the way, with France to an extent. It half happened with South Korea where we did not really win. It did not happen with Vietnam where we lost. Your sage doubts about whether or not the “Sunni factions” will continue to support democracy in Iraq does not cost you much. And the Republican Party might split into two or three factions, and the rational wing of the Democratic Party might join en masse the Republican Party. And, as the French say so colorfully, “If my aunt had balls, we would call her ‘Uncle’.” You can always hypothesize new catastrophes. It’s a Santa Cruz specialty: If the world does not come to and end in 2012, it will probably come in 2014. (And, here I am, smirking; I could not resist; I am ashamed!)
Your faith in the efficacy of clandestine operations, like your faith in high-tech weapons, leaves me non-plussed. Is it possible that we could do everything we need to do without boots on the ground and that our governments (plural) have decided perversely to ignore alternative means?
Contrary to your musings in your introduction, you could change my mind or, at least, create a line crack in my conviction, but it would have to be done with logical assertions based on good facts. I think you have not done so. Too many of your facts are putative and too many of your reasonings are tortuous and too gratuitous (though not necessarily illogical). Show me good, direct stuff enough and I will eventually turn around. I will do it publicly. As I said as an opening statement, my position lacks consistency. It’s uncomfortable. The cohabitation of facts and ideology often is.
In the final analysis, whether we persuade each other may not matter much. Others are reading this exchange. Some may be induced to think about those issues, or to think differently. You and I are doing the fine stitching of democracy.
Again, the rebuttal of an earlier piece to which this is my reply is here.
[Editor's note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix's blog, Facts Matter, on January 9th 2011]