Why Elections in Iraq Are No Panacea





Mr. Schaar, a Professor of History at Brooklyn College, CUNY, is a member of Historians Against the War and co-editor of The Middle East and Islamic World Reader (New York: Grove Press, 2003).

All empires have their rationales for expansion and conquest. The British had their “White Man’s Burden,” the French had a “Civilizing Mission,” and the United States has preached “Manifest Destiny,” or the God-given right to spread democracy. Nowadays, in the rush to legitimize handpicked officials in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, U.S. rulers have backed elections, which they seem to equate with democracy. Certainly elections, if candidates are fairly chosen, would constitute a major component of democracy, but in the rush to legitimate new moderate heads of state and form malleable parliaments, all the other usual trappings of democratic polity have faded from view. These include the need to have an organic development of democratic practice, a strong civic society, as well as allowing for orderly give and take of competing political and social forces. These important ingredients of democracy no longer seem necessary in the rush to place loyalists in power with a mandate to rule. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, all three in the throes of war, elections have emerged as the panacea for establishing local legitimacy, while all other festering problems continue to plague the populations who have been called to the polls.

But behind imperial rationales there lurk more pertinent reasons for intrusion into other people’s lives, such as the desire for scarce resources, markets, control of strategic locations and wishes to demonstrate raw power. In more recent times, global crises, in terms of the Cold War and the War on Terrorism, have provided the United States with reasons to fight regional wars and have helped explain to a gullible population raw conquest and armed intervention and have given the United States blank checks to unleash its weapons of mass destruction. The most recent target of U.S. intervention is the Middle East, which happens to sit on the largest energy reserves in the world.

9/11 mobilized a war-weary U.S. public. The American administration, which we now know already began laying plans for overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, almost from the moment Mr. Bush took power, had to bide their time. Instead they launched retaliation against the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, which harbored the Al-Qaeda network of terrorists. Clobbering together a coalition and aided by soldiers from the Afghan Northern Alliance, the U.S.-led forces defeated the Taliban, which vanished into the general population and took refuge along with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in the inaccessible mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. The U.S. then created a puppet government, led by Hamid Karzai, and held the country precariously with 18,000 foreign troops. Even elections at the end of 2004, which gave Karzai 55 percent of the vote, did little to legitimize his regime. Warlords and Taliban-Al Qaeda forces still control much of Afghanistan and the opium trade, which dominates the country’s economy. The Bush administration wants us to believe that Afghanistan’s elections somehow have created a stable regime.

Once Afghanistan, a strategic crossroad between South and Central Asia, was under U.S. control, the Bush administration then concocted rationales for invading Iraq, claiming that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction that could reach the United States and allied Israel. It added that Saddam Hussein’s regime was also co-responsible for 9/11. Later investigations by Bush’s own handpicked officials proved that Saddam had destroyed his WMD and that there was little connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq on or before 9/11. Yet, a majority of the American population bought the arguments and backed the president in his 2003 war against Iraq. Amazingly, many Americans still believe these myths, despite proof to the contrary.

The war has bogged down. Over 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives. Some 1300 American troops have been killed and a fierce insurgency takes lives of Americans and Iraqis each day. We hear little of U.S. plans for the Iraqi oil industry, an important question since the country contains the world’s second largest energy reserves after Saudi Arabia. Also, the unexplored eastern desert probably contains vast additional untapped oil and natural gas. Probably because of these reserves, the Bush administration has no workable exit strategy for their quagmire. They have set up elaborate preparations for elections in a country at war, containing 150,000 U.S. occupying troops plus 20,000 outsourced civilians and mercenaries working on the ground. Four provinces of Iraq are so unstable that election workers there fear for their lives and wonder how voting may be held on January 30. Like Afghanistan, the occupiers hope to gain a semblance of legitimacy for their handpicked government and also implicate the cooperating majority of Shiites, 65 percent of the population, in the future of the resulting regime. The Arab Sunni population (20 percent of the total) fears for its future in a Shi’ite dominated Iraq and northern Kurds (about 15 percent) look forward to greater autonomy and control of the Kirkuk oil fields as a price for their adhesion to the post-election state.

In another part of the Middle East, the Palestinians just elected Mahmoud Abbas as their president, but already the new leader faces opposition on the part of radical Hamas and from within Abbas’s own faction, Fatah, over the issue of continuing attacks against Israelis or laying down arms. U.S. ally Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, knowing that Abbas has neither the power to control Hamas and other armed groups, nor the necessary political legitimacy, despite the election results which put him in power, to force his opponents to stop attacking Israel, has predictably thrown down the gauntlet, telling the Palestinian leader that he will not talk to him as long as violence continues. Instead of working together in a gesture of good will to Mr. Abbas, who has gone on record in opposition to violence and terror and favors a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the new Palestinian president has been placed in a position between a rock (his internal foes) and a hard place (Sharon’s truculence). Elections, again, cannot solve the deep long-lasting crisis that has made enemies out of these two neighbors.

Democracy entails long nurturing and cannot come about as a result of a quick fix. Other problems must be addressed before the democratic process can bear any fruit. Elections may sell well in Congress and Peoria, but they alone do not make a democratic regime. In the short term they may help, however, to maintain foreign control.


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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Adam,

I think you are not quite correct in saying that this website is "discussing politics just as surely as history". Historians are a distinct minority, and professional historians an even smaller minority, here. Even the author at the top of this page (according to google) though a professor of history, writes books that are about politics, culture, and ideology, more than about history.

Having failed with your first definition of "mainstream" (i.e. something that has been thoroughly aired out in public followed by a clear general consensus -to rephrase slightly what I think you meant earlier), you have now switched to second definition that is not as viable as the first, indeed not very viable at all. You now want to claim that any policy, no matter how unprecedented, is "mainstream" if it is "accepted as mainstream by the public" and that any perversion of vocabulary by the press reflects "mainstream" values and desires of the populace as long that perversion is consistent with a temporary fad of the day. By this definition, the No-Nothings of the 1850s, the slaughter of sleeping women and children at Wounded Knee, the Red Scare of 1919, the forced sterilization of southern blacks in the 1920s, the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry in the 1940s, and the tremendous over-valuation of internet stocks in the late 1990s were all just little ripples in the direction of the main stream of American history.

You can call a fish a fowl, but you won't persuade a zoologist, and if you call the Bush administration's proclamations and actions "in synch" with general long term trends of popular aspiration, you will not convince historians (whom, however, you would have to reach in a forum other than this). We do not, thank God, yet live in Orwell's 1984, even if words like Patriot Act, Healthy Forests Initiative, and Ownership Society, would fit right in with "War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery".



Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Your final point is very well taken, Edward but not your opening remark.

Of course, the Rove-coached administration would never be as foolish as to call any policy a "panacea", just as they were careful not say explicitly that Saddam was involved in 9-11 or to state categorically that all we had to do was to catch Saddam and paradise would reign down across the Mideast. They only implied the hell out of it.

The reality remains, that the "we don't do nation-building" candidate of 2000 is not now hyping elections all around the world only because he has flipped flopped for the umpteenth time, but also because he needs to generate cover for his next desperate attempt to distract attention from the great disaster that Iraq has become thanks to his arrogant blunders. The non-panacea worshipping of elections by the Administrtion is certainly NOT happening because Bush or anyone else on his team is under any illusion that a great many other things don't have to also happen in order for these elections (even if "truly free" - an unlikely outcome if large segments can't vote) to be part of a successful turnaround. They just don't want the press and public to think about the messy realities there.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Give the FULL citation. How do I know you aren't making it up or misquoting ? Take an introductory course in history and learn these basics. I am tired of you failing to read what I write and complaining about the opposite (as you have done dozens of times, although thankfully not in this thread, maybe you are starting to learn something).

In any case your quote does not support your claim that Bat Y'eor is a historian, great or small. Again, stop complaining about others not reading and fix your own obvious problem in this regard.

All Ferguson is saying (if your quote is real) is that Islamic extremism is a serious problem and that Bat Y'eor has been useful in pointing that out and providing some details. I don't know why she deserves such credit for something so obvious that has been noted a million times before, but I have never disputed the reality that there is a serious problem with fanatical Islam. The question is what to do about it. Acting paranoid and making claims that all Moslems are inherently prone to mass-murder merely by virtue of their religion is not a solution: such brainless hatred is indeed the PROBLEM of Islamic extremism.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


I "note" the "pattern" of wide scale massacres throughout human history. There is no major religion or culture innocent of such atrocities.

It is probably true, from an objective point of view, that the greatest risk to world peace and security from religious fundamentalism today, is posed by fanatical groups espousing various extreme forms of Islam. But, how other more powerful groups respond to that risk is vitally important. If we in the "Judeo-Christian West" conflate Moslem extremists with all Moslems, then we are doing exactly what the lunatic fringe within Islam is hoping for. For all his copious deception and blundering, G.W. Bush has at least avoided going full barrel over that cliff.

I think it is also true, objectively, that Islam generally has features making it more difficult to peacefully co-exist with other religions and groups in today's interdependent world, such as a tendency towards group-think, and teaching based on rote memorization (readily turned into a kind of brainwashing) and the relative lack of any tradition of what we in America would call "separation of church and state".

If, however, we confront these genuine challenges by adopting the rhetoric and ideology of the Medieval crusaders, or the tactics of the Sharon government (prior to its recent turn towards common sense) against Islamic based Palestinian fanatics, i.e. by imposing collective punishment and wholesale oppression on entire groups (and such approaches were heavily laden with the sorts of vocabulary used by the first poster in this comment thread), then we are not only behaving like the Nazis in the 1930s, we are also delivering to the likes of Al Qaeda a far, far greater victory than they could ever hope to achieve on their own.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


If you want to "bash Bush" credibly (rather than excuse him, as it would seem), you will need to do more than simply expose the fallacies in the kneejerk Anti-Amerika critiques of him made by folks like Schaar, as necessary as that exposure undoubtedly is (see my earlier posts).

Bush does not give a flying flipped bird about elections. He torpedoed UN efforts to hold them in Iraq over a year ago.The Bushies sanctioned the sabotaging of democracy in Haiti, and some of their best buddies overseas are the notorious autocratic tyrants of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The election in Palestine was 99% a consequence of the death of Arafat, and cannot be attributed in slightest to a Bush Admin. Mideast "policy" amounting to little more than craven obeisance to Sharon. The elections in Afghanistan were largely the work of parties other than the U.S., and the Iraq elections are being hyped by W for reasons having nothing to do with the long term interests of Iraq or America, and everything to do with covering his posterior in the history books (which won't work, unless a great deal more phony history like that on HNN is promulagated in America, over many many years to come, but blind dry-drunk faith can do wonders for the art of denial in the meantime).


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


1. "it uses the term to define itself" How so ?

2. If you think the Red Scare and the Japanese internment were not aberrations from the main trends of American history, I suggest you sign up for a refresher course in that subject. A people are not generally "scared" by something "mainstream".

3. 51% is winning "handily" ??? So 52% would be, what, a landslide ? On second thought, first buy a good dictionary, then study American history. Meanwhile, next time you meet a German or a Russian try convincing him that Hitler (or Stalin) was just a manifestation of mainstream German (Russian) history. If he agrees with you, then invite him to join you in taking a course together in European history.



Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Your uninformed blanket statements about Islam are without support.

"Islam requires its adherents to make war against all infidel"

What rot. Clean up your grammar and your sweeping generalizations and give us some facts. You are hurling an invidious and useless insult at roughly 1,000,000,000 people living in hundreds of countries around the globe.

Exactly contrary to your final claim, YOU barged into the discussion and are now exhibiting exactly the sort of blind, mindless prejudice that was and remains THE TOPIC. You could be a writer for Bin Laden, following his script for the "infidel".

As for Sharon, he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian women and children who had absolutely nothing to do with "killing his people" whatever that third-grade expression might mean.The idea that this well-known international war criminal is a "man of peace" would be laughable were it not so tragically false. You managed to get one thing right, however: Sharon is a pragmatist. So is Abbas. So there is a chance now at implementing something like the Geneva deal that the huge Israeli and Palestinian propaganda machines will probably try to pretend never happened, in order to maximize the glory for the current rulers of any “interim settlement” eventually reached. Nevertheless, common sense is now finally and thankfully coming to that miserable part of the world, unlike this thread, where I am up against blind hatred of the sort Al Qaeda dreams of.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


A string of isolated quotes proves nothing. You apparently forgot that from your college history classes, if indeed you ever took one. You could make the same worthless argument using quotes from isolated Christians, Jews, Hindus, or Druids. All Jews are not money-grubbing crooks, just because a few notorious ones have been, all Christians do not practice genocide just because a few have rationalized it, and with catastrophic results, and all blacks are not crack addicts, just because the average incidence of drug addiction is higher there than for other ethnic groups in turn of the 21st century America. We have discussed your bigotry before. You are blind to your absurd prejudices. Civilized adults learn to speak in terms of general trends, and of specific issues, without engaging in prejudicial stereotypes against hundreds of millions of people based solely on their religion or their geographic region. You have seem to have been asleep when that message was communicated in your high school, and have a deaf ear now. I don't know where your blind hatred against all Moslems comes from but it serves no purpose here. Read Bernard Lewis, and find a quote from him that you like, and maybe we can talk further. But, I have no interest in unrepresentative google garbage nor in demagogical bigotry. It is one thing to be naive and ill-informed (as in the comments which began this thread). It is another to be so paranoid and pigheaded as to argue incessantly in scores of comments on a website over a period of months, that an entire system of beliefs extending over millennia, dozens of languages, millions of locations, and billions of people, can be condemned using language that you would not dare to use against blacks in Harlem, or that would subject you to possible criminal prosecution if you used it against Jews in Germany today. It is unfortunate that the threat posed to global civilization by radical Islamic cults is a genuine and serious one, because this means that your comments which repeatedly support it (by exemplifying the stereotypes about Americans propagated by it) cannot be dismissed as simple lunacy.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Your evident belief that "history has nothing to do with" whether the actions of a political ruler are an aberration or a reflection of deeply held "attitudes, values, and practices" of the ruled is the main problem here, at least as far as I can see.

Even Goldhagen (whose shaky theories are quite far from those of most historians of Germany, by the way) would not try to claim that most Germans TODAY are mostly eliminationist anti-Semites. That is very relevant to this discussion, because (according to nearly all indicators) most Americans have no desire to have the federal government run huge deficits indefinitely, or to commit unprovoked and unprecedented acts of foreign aggression based on official deceit as a matter of permanent policy. Most Americans have been deluded over the last few years, as were most Germans in the 1930s. I really don't care how you want to define mainstream, but I object to your historically unfounded attempts to pooh pooh the significance of the Cheney-Bush disaster or the depth of their deliberate deception.

I do not overlook the culpability of the German people in the crimes of the Nazis, nor do I ignore the deep-rooted ignorant prejudices of Americans who could not find their country on a map of the world, and who then voted for Bush because Fox News told them so, or because they were convinced that Saddam bin Laden would march into their living room if Kerry were to have become president. But, to make one final analogy, the fact that hundreds of millions of people globally have willingly allowed themselves to get hooked on nicotine does not excuse the lies of cigarette companies. "Prevalent attitudes" are certainly not a sufficient explanation for sudden surges of alternative addictions like crack cocaine.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Correct the word "hero" in the final line to "traitor" and I am in complete agreement with your last post. If you have no interest in excusing Bush's manifold blunders, then "hero" (without the quotes that would properly indicate sarcasm) can only have been a typo.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


You have a point, but you negate it with your vocabulary.

Among the advantages offered by western civilization are the encouragement of nuance, distinction, tolerance, objectivity, and respect for truth and complexity. If you are going to tar a billion people, including many law-abiding citizens of Europe and the United States, with one ill-informed stereotypical brush, then you may as well sign up for Al Qaeda or some similar closed-minded circle of mind-numbing hatred within the "Muslim culture" (whatever that new age buzz word is supposed to mean). There is no useful role for blind prejudice in either democracy or Christianity.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


I am not going to reprise 200 years of American foreign policy, but nearly every case of foreign intervention, certainly all the big ones involving tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers for many years, had at least some believable excuse; "American blood has been shed on American soil" in the Mexican War, for example. The Spanish-American War and the Philippines occupation comes perhaps closest to W's Iraq fiasco, but not very close. In 1898 there had been a long fight already there and in Cuba against the Spanish, intervening to get European powers out of America's sphere of influence had a long track record behind it, and the Maine exploded.

No sensible person could believe in 2003 that Saddam's nuclear capacity could be drastically stronger than during the previous two decades of his reign, where it was first ignored by the U.S. and then contained with inspections. There was no overt provocation from him in 2003, and alternatives to immediate invasion were not discarded because of a clamor for foreign invasion on the part of the American public, but because, having waited until after Labor Day to "launch the new product", the War President, Rove and his strategists could not wait longer, in March of 2003, without (a) the WMD hype unraveling or (if they had waited until the 2004 invasion season) (b) risking a lot of U.S. causalities on the eve of the presidential election (which was their overwhelming concern and focus all along).

Notwithstanding dozens of laughably preposterous fantasies on this bogus history website, there simply is no good historical parallel between the Cheney-Rove Iraq invasion of 2003 and past American foreign policy misadventures. Domestic politics has always played a role in overseas interventions, but never before in such a blatantly hypocritical manner and with such predictable and inexcusably disastrous effects on America's long run national security


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Show me where Ferguson "considers" Bat Y'eor a "great historian",
citing date and page number, as historians do. I am skeptical to say the least. Nowhere in your latest steaming mound of childish google garbage is there the slightest evidence for your bigoted nonsense that "Islam requires the massacre of infidels". You ought to be ashamed.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


1. I did not mean to even imply that Afghanistan is now a model of democratic stability under rule of law. My objection was to the author's ignoring of the several significant differences (which I pointed out) between Iraq and Afghanistan, which he certainly did at least in part in order to not have to seriously qualify any sort of expressed or implied notion of an overarching agenda of empire ("imperial" terms being used repeatedly by Schaar).

2. I could not disagree more re the supposed "representativeness" of the Bush administration. It is true that Republicans have gained seats in Congress and state legislatures in the last few years, and that conservative media outlets are more successful now than even 10 years ago during the "Gingrich revolt". But, Adam, you make the erroneous assumption, endemic to a website riddled with mostly irrelevant and often plain silly "left-right" dichotomies, that Bush and his crew are part of that undeniable, though rather mindless, conservative drift.

Bush and Cheney are in reality RADICALS, not conservatives, in two key senses. (a) mainstream American policies are to a considerable degree based on unsustainable economic and environmental policies (expect to hear more about that for the rest of your life, though probably not here) - in that sense W's team are mainstream radicals.

My point was a different one, however: about the administration 's nonmainstream radicalism. Running budget deficits to attempt to bankrupt the federal government, and wild nonsense about preemptive attacks in a "war on terrorism" are not only unworkable crap, and utterly against American traditions, they are also out of kilter with underlying (more truly conservative !) desires of the American public. The fact that something like 30% of registered voters (certainly drawn from the lower percentiles of IQs) voted for Bush last November proves zilch about "endorsement" of his "policies", first because he had almost none in the campaign (run was run mainly using a lot of banal slogans) and second (& more crucially) it is quite clear that mistrust of Kerry was much more important than enthusiasm for Bush in deciding the election outcome (which, by the way, was not as close as in 2000, but still quite close). Cheney, Rove, and Bush’s radical agenda has not been a success for America (which they could care less about) and a great many of their crazier ideas have been shot down, because, in fact, America still is a CONSTITUTIONAL democracy. We have the founding fathers to thank that nobody, not even Rove, not even with millions of brainwashed phony “Christians” temporarily marching to his tune can permanently take over this country, without first getting past a whole lot of checks and balances, which will take years if not decades. In any event, however, Bush does not want to seize permanent power: his radicalism has actually been mainly tactical. He wanted electoral legitimacy. He got it, thanks partly to a lot of deception and trickery, and now he has four years to try to cover up the bungling failures of his first four years. Thanks now to kneejerk so-called progressives, eager as ever to view the world through an outdated, and never very credible to begin with neo-Marxist-pacifistic dichotomy of capitalist-imperialists versus the oppressed masses (a category of intellectual into which the above author may or may not fall), the chances of Bush’s cover-up succeeding for at least a few years are not bad. The more Bush Junior is thrown in together with FDR, JFK, Reagan , Bush Senior, etc. the easier it will be to obfuscate the real long term implications of his miserable track record in office. It will be up to historians (a rarity on this website) to set that record straight. Hitler was pretty popular too in Germany circa 1941. Probably had even more than 51% of voters ready to “endorse” him.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Taking your definition of mainstream, "any policy that has entered the national debate as legitimate alternative",

where was the national debate on entering a mostly bogus and patently unwinnable and oxymoronic "war on terror", thus betraying America’s interests and helping Al Qaeda ?

where was the national debate on new policies of torturing prisoners ?

where was the national debate on the WMD evidence in Iraq ?

where was the national debate on a Nazi-like policy of preemptive attack ?

where was the national debate on arrogantly insulting France and Germany, for no good reason at all ?

where was the national debate on gutting the civil service and using litmus tests to fill it with incompetent hacks ?

where was the national debate on making permanent an unsustainable (at least according to "mainstream" economists) series of federal deficits in ad infinitum (a very unconservative policy, by the way), in order to benefit high income campaign donors ?


None of these reckless affronts to America has in fact has been subjected to a genuine national debate, because Bush & Co know that they would have lost those debates, and would have had to develop genuine policies rather than use deceit and fearmongering to win legitimacy in November 2004.

The fact the most Republican politicians and voters have foolishly, and many Democratic politicians and like Feinstein and Lieberman spinelessly rubberstamped these horrors does not mean at all, that the reflect any deep mainstream popular desire.

Social security "reform" (most likely a convenient distraction, otherwise why not feature it in the campaign last fall ?) may become a case in point, since Dems and even some Republicans are not likely to to listen to those who cried wolf already once before (on Iraq when there was no imminent threat). In this case there actually is a genuine problem, albeit long term (which politicians famously don't care about), but Bush's smoke and mirrors schemes would not do jack to address it.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


"One could argue that what is “mainstream” is, in fact, based on lies or deceit, but that is beyond the purpose of this discussion."

I guess we have different views about the purpose of the discussion in this thread. My original point -in a different thread- which you took exception to at the outset of this thread, was that it is historically false, and practically foolish to excuse the aberrant and deceit-based Bush administration as just another in a long series of episodes of "American imperialism". Where a main stream does or does not overflow its banks, and temporarily run perpendicular to its long term course, and how to semantically define such a catastrophic or aberrant event, for use in riparian metaphors or mixed watercourse-climate metaphors about politics and history may be of prime interest to you, but it is not to me. I am sorry if my earlier remarks gave a different impression.
I do wonder, though, about your willingness to call a spade a spade.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Well, Adam, your point by point listing doesn't get you very far, in your apparent quest to excuse Bush as just a garden variety right of center politician reflecting the aspirations of his right of center electoral supporters.

You seem to agree that (1) the so-called "war on terrorism" (3) the WMD evidence and (6) the sabotaging of the civil bureaucracy have not been seriously debated nationally. As for the other four examples, I think you misunderstoodd most of them. Re Torture (2) and unlawful detainment, there was, of course, a debate about the Abu Ghraib torture scandal ONCE THE STORY BROKE precisely because the policy of torture was so OUT of the mainstream. The "debate" since has been about whether it was a few bad apples behind it or it reached higher up, not about whether piling up naked Iraqis to humiliate them with dogs was a wise policy. Same problem with (5) Rummy et al's insults to European allies. They were a subject of debate BECAUSE they were so unprecedented, e.g. NON-mainstream.


I suppose you remember the Clinton impeachment "debate". Was all the hue and cry about whether it was good idea for the President of the U.S. to sit in the Oval Office, legs spread in front of a kneeling barely-of-age female intern ? Of course not. There was a big debate about whether the whole country had to be turned upside down (and some particularly nasty trickery by Saddam at the time, ignored, for example) in order to go on and on and on with an obsessive and ultimately pointless crucifixion of Clinton. I don't recall any major politician saying what Clinton did was okay.THAT was not debated, BECAUSE it was out of the mainstream. In other words, a debate about how to handle an unacceptably abnormal policy or action is totally different than debating such a Non-Mainstream policy or action itself.


(4) is a subject for another time. For now, I will simply agree to disagree about preemptive attacks as a GENERAL POLICY having the slightest shred of adherence to American traditions (or common sense, except possibly for inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943).

(7) The deficits, I would agree, have been debated regularly, but not much by the Bushies themselves. They pretend that there is no problem, a totally hypocritical stance now given their doomsaying over Social Security which is only a future deficit, albeit a serious one.

Let's cut to the chase here.

There are a set of vested interests, apparently including the architects of this website, and most contributors to it, who would like everyone to believe that the old Right-Left dichotomy between hard-headed gutsy conservatives versus sensitive caring liberals that applied tolerably well as a general characterization of American politics from about 1930 up to roughly the early 1980s is not only alive and well today, but that every bizarre twist of societal experience, unprecedented new economic trend or out-of-the-box political development can still be shoehorned into that obsolete paradigm. It won't work. Just because most Americans are deluded on this point does not render their delusions true (it is hardly the first example of mass delusion in U.S. history) and thinking citizens need not accept myths constantly-recycled by those who thrive on perpetuating such outdated stereotyped thinking and ignoring real issues. I am not a believer in doomsday predictions, but it occurs to me that the left wing of a lemming horde might well be very obsessively worried about what it sees as the untrustworthy right wing, and vice versa. The cliff could not care less.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The author is undoubtedly on the right track in judging the new Iraq election to be much more about creating a political fig leaf in America than a lasting viable democracy in the Mideast.

I cannot, however, go along with lumping Afghanistan and Iraq into one facile chapter of so-called American Imperialism, a concept almost as trite and meaningless as "war on terrorism". The overthrow of the Taliban (from whose midst the U.S. was indeed attacked) was carried out by the Northern Alliance, welcomed by most Afghans, and endorsed by a near unanimous United Nations. This regime change was vastly more legitimate (or at least vastly less illegitimate) than the Saddam-Garner-Bremer-Chalabi-Allawi-? fiasco in Iraq.

I have made the point here before, but it bears repeating, repeatedly:

The Cheney-Bush administration is NOT a manifestation of mainstream American politics. It is a abnormal aberration. It bogus "policies" amounting to voodoo economics at home and a Faux-Pax America abroad, cannot possibly endure, but its track record of blunders and disasters can never be erased. The "war on terrorism" whatever that idiocy really means is no more likely to ever be "won" than death, taxes, or the common cold are likely to be abolished.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. Read the history of the first crusade. Moslems are not the only group guilty of massacring unbelievers.

2. Read the bible where it talks about who should cast the first stone.

3. Read my first post again, because you seem to have completely missed the main point of it, namely that your original post -as written- (and the second too) condemns all Moslems for the sins of a few. That is exactly the mentality used by Bin Laden to justify blowing up the World Trade Center. Repent and rephrase, and you will be forgiven (maybe).


Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Adam:

I take your point, but I think you are being too charitable with Prof Schaar. He clearly wants to associate Iraq with Palestine as a means of denigrating the Palestinian elections. Many on the left (sorry) have chosen to take an attitude of suspicion towards these elections, clearly because they reveal that Palestinian society was just as capable of responsible political choice as any others. Having been accustomed to infantalizing the Palestinians as noble suffering children who have no choice but to blow people up, it is disheartening (to some) to realize they, too, are responsible for their actions, can make free choices, etc.


Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

"Elections may sell well in Congress and Peoria, but they alone do not make a democratic regime. In the short term they may help, however, to maintain foreign control."

It's gratifying to find a leftist who doesn't even bother to hide his contempt for democracy.


Rachel Anderson - 2/4/2005

Indeed. But then, why bother hide this contempt? Collective amnesia, rhetoric and "academese" are enough to mask the fascist foundations of our good professor's thoughts on democracy. He doesn't say it with the vehemence and the spittle spray as Hitler, Stalin or Zarkawi did, but the message is substantially the same: Democracy is a ruse by the capitalists and imperialists to enslave the simple people (a.k.a., the *volk,* the proletariat, the good Muslims).


Rachel Anderson - 2/3/2005

Prof. Schaar's touching lament for good old dictators, those guarantees of "stability," should receive a golden oldie award, what with all the familiar coffee house cliches and barber shop conspiracy theories he peppered his article with.

As an aside, I wonder if he once applied the same "analysis" (i.e., vintage doctrinal mantra) to the situation in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa. I wonder if he is as critical about the end of White rule there. After all, Rhodesia, one of the bread baskets of Africa is now a hungry trash pile, and South Africa is turning into one big crime-ridden slum. Perhaps we should bring back the White "baas" with the pass until the Black Africans can have an "organic development of democratic practice, a strong civic society, as well as allowing for orderly give and take of competing political and social forces"?

Well, professor, we have no reason to believe that the Iraqis will be less capable of ruling themselves, or that they will be less prone to violence than the Africans are now. We have no reason to bemoan the end of Suni hegemony, whose vicious and incompetent minority rule made the old White regimes look like church steering committees.

Most of all, we have no reason to believe the tired old-school cant you peddle about the Middle East, especially now that we have witnessed the courage of the ordinary Iraqis in participating in a real election, in spite of "insurgents" (i.e., Suni Ba'athists, Iranian agents and Wah'habi killers) not to mention the uselessness of "goodwill gestures" to terrorists-in-a-suit like Abbas, crowned in a bogus election.

Bottom line number one: the Iraqis expressed their desire for democracy...such as it may be...not by just hoisting themselves out of the couch and away from the tv to cast their ballots two blocks down the street (as we are "challenged" to do), but by facing desperate mass murderers. As "developments of democratic practice" go, we should be impressed. Bottom line number two: the security fence and the clear message that terorists, be they gussied-up in ties or kaffiyehs, will have no sanctuary did more than decades of mob pay-offs billed as "goodwill gestures" to the "Palestinian leadership."

So, "D" for political analysis, "F" for prediction, and a definite "B" for bet-hedging, with all that humming and hawing. In the end, we're left with the revolutionary argument that "elections are no panacea." Gee wiz, professor.


Arnold Shcherban - 2/2/2005

<...the US would get out of Iraq when and as the Iraqi government asked it to.>
Oh, is it phat, or what?
The Soviets did much better than this: they actually invaded Afghanistan at the continuous requests of the
Afghan goverment at the time, and for ten years maintained
the exactly same position: to leave, as soon as asked for
by that goverment...
Bravo, Mr. Lederer, this excerpt fully deserves to be
written with golden letters in the annals of political
humor.


N. Friedman - 2/1/2005

Peter,

One other point. Thus far you have argued that Islam does not require Jihad. I showed you that you were wrong. You, as usual, sought to deflect your error.

Then you argued that I was shameful for noting that the rules of Jihad require massacres. I, again, showed you were wrong. Again, you sought to deflect your error.

So far, I have no reason to believe you have read a single book about the history of Islam. I know you have read popular titles like Richard Clarke's book or Imperial Hubris. However, the notion that Jihad is a requirement of Islam is Islam 101 and the basic rules are well known to anyone who has read a book about Islam other than a table top decoration. You, however, hope to transpose Islam into a form of Christianity. It is not.

Please note: I am ***not*** anti-Muslim. I am anti-Jihad. And I am anti-Jihad because the impact of Jihad has been terrible for its victims - millions of them have died in massacres -. And, moreover, in our time, the notion of a Jihad directed against the US is, given the history of that form of warfare, frightening.

When I hear you claim that massacres are not a required part of the Jihad, I am sickened by your ignorance. Have you not read about the Armenian massacres or the massacre of the Indians or the massacres in historic Palestine, etc., etc.? Have you not wondered how it is that Turkey, which was almost all Christian, came to have almost no Christians living in it? The same for North Africa? The same for what is now Iraq? Note: it was not because millions of people voluntarily converted.

On the other hand, the contribution of the Muslims has, historically, been very, very great. One of the great pieces of that contribution has been in the field of history. Hence, the monumental contribution of the Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun - someone who you evidently had never heard of since you dismissed his explanation of Jihad when I quoted it even though it is considered a fairly definitive account of the subject (at least by scholars of Islam) -.

Are you beginning to see my problem with your manner of arguing?


N. Friedman - 2/1/2005

Peter,

If you read articles by Ferguson, you will find that he commonly quotes Bat Ye'or. In fact, he cites her in his February, 2005 article in The Atlantic. He also cited her in his 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine.

My suggestion is that you find any quote suggesting that he has any doubts about her scholarship. In fact, you will find if you look that he supports her expressly regarding Eurabia (a topic he also writes about) with the exception that he believes that things may possibly not be quite as bad, at least so far, as she argues.

In any event, he is a major advocate for her position on that topic. And he has evidently allowed her to use his name to endorse her book. Which is to say, you are smoking things as usual.

In any event, the list of famous scholars who are Ye'or enthusiasts is very, very long. Such is even more remarkable since her books are written in French, no English. Note Sir Martin Gilbert and Montgomery Watt, among others, are fans of hers.

In any event, on the topic of Jihad, there is no better authority on the topic to judge the matter than her. Which is to say, people who write on Jihad quote her, not the other way around. Note that Daniel Pipes in his article this week quotes her on the topic.

I am at a loss to understand your problem with her scholarship.


N. Friedman - 1/31/2005

Peter,

Read this article:

"Dhimmitude Past and Present : An Invented or Real History?," by Bat Ye'or, at http://www.dhimmitude.org/archive/by_lecture_10oct2002.htm

From the article:

“The second thing that might occur is that Allah gives victory over them but they remain mushrikun, in which case their women and children are taken prisoner, and their wealth is taken as booty, and those who are not made captive are put to death. As for the captives, the amir has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favour to them and pardon them.”

Sounds like a massacre to me. And this is from a topic on which she is widely considered to be the world's foremost expert, namely, the history of the non-Muslim people captured by the Muslim armies.

I might add, the details appear in her famous book "The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude: 7th - 20th Century." The book is worth your time.


N. Friedman - 1/31/2005

“ This is a provocative and disturbing book. With all the drama of a master writer, Bat Ye’or presents a wide range of historical and contemporary documents and facts to tell the story of how the European Union is being subverted by Islamic hostility to the very ethics and values of Europe itself. Readers who seek a fair resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict will be shocked by the evidence produced in these pages of unfair pressures and deliberate distortions. Europe’s independence of spirit is shown in the process of being undermined. This book challenges the current demonization of Israel and should be essential reading (and re-reading) for everyone interested in true peace in the Middle East. It is also a warning to Europe not to allow the anti-American and anti-Israel pressures of Islam to subvert Europe’s true values: vibrant democracy, humanitarian free thinking, and social fair dealing.”


- Sir Martin Gilbert, on Eurabia


N. Friedman - 1/31/2005

" No writer has done more than Bat Ye’or to draw attention to the menacing character of Islamic extremism. Future historians will one day regard her coinage of the term ‘Eurabia’ as prophetic. Those who wish to live in a free society must be eternally vigilant. Bat Ye’or vigilance is unrivalled.”

- Niall Ferguson


N. Friedman - 1/31/2005

See his article on Eurabia.


N. Friedman - 1/31/2005

Peter,

I add one last person to the list of people who agree with my opinion about Jihad. Daniel Pipes. See his article of 1-31-05 (i.e. right now), "Historians/History, So Now I Am Being Taken to Task for Being Soft on Islam?" in HNN at http://hnn.us/articles/9896.html.

He refers to an article (http://www.danielpipes.org/article/498) in which he writes:

"Instead, the classic notion of jihad continues to resonate with vast numbers of them, as Alfred Morabia, a foremost French scholar of the topic, noted in 1993:

"Offensive, bellicose jihad, the one codified by the specialists and theologians, has not ceased to awaken an echo in the Muslim consciousness, both individual and collective. . . . To be sure, contemporary apologists present a picture of this religious obligation that conforms well to the contemporary norms of human rights, . . . but the people are not convinced by this. . . . The overwhelming majority of Muslims remain under the spiritual sway of a law . . . whose key requirement is the demand, not to speak of the hope, to make the Word of God triumph everywhere in the world.

"In brief, jihad in the raw remains a powerful force in the Muslim world, and this goes far to explain the immense appeal of a figure like Osama bin Laden in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.

"Contrary to the graduating Harvard senior who assured his audience that 'Jihad is not something that should make someone feel uncomfortable,' this concept has caused and continues to cause not merely discomfort but untold human suffering: in the words of the Swiss specialist Bat Ye'or, 'war, dispossession, dhimmitude [subordination], slavery, and death.'" As Bat Ye'or points out, Muslims 'have the right as Muslims to say that jihad is just and spiritual' if they so wish; but by the same token, any truly honest accounting would have to give voice to the countless 'infidels who were and are the victims of jihad' and who, no less than the victims of Nazism or Communism, have 'their own opinion of the jihad that targets them.'"

Interesting to see, Peter, that Pipes quotes the great Bat Ye'or - one of the world's foremost historians, an historian you call a crack pot, an historian who is considered among the greats by historians such as Sir Martin Gilbert and Niall Ferguson.


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2005

The Shiite/Sunni difference can be compared to the difference between Cathloics and Protestants.

In Madison, Wisconsin it is a small deal. In N. Ireland it is a very big deal.

Those I have talked with from Baghdad say it is a small deal -- most will immediately rattle off relatives in intermarriages. I think it may be a larger deal in less cosmopolitan areas.

Bush recently emphasized that the US would get out of Iraq when and as the Iraqi government asked it to.

Asking for a dated schedule seems a bit over the top to me. Were I an insurgent I would mark in red on my calendar the day after withdrawal.









N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Vernon,

I think that Peter lives in denial. He views Islam as being somewhat the equivalent of Christianity when, in fact, Islam is not. Islam is surely a great religion but that does not make it much like Christianity. Islam has a sort of very, very superficial similarity to early classical, not modern, Judaism (i.e. both have a sacred people and both employ a sacred form of law and much of Islamic relgiosity is borrowed from Judaism - a religion which Mohammed was evidently fascinated by -). On the other hand, Judaism never called for eternal warfare or anything of the sort and Judaism's distinction between believers and infidel was of less significance than is the distinction in Islam. Which is to say, Judaism considers the Jewish people to be a light among the nations (i.e. a leader by example) while Islam considers its people a tool to conquer the world.


Jonathan Pine - 1/30/2005

I have no argument with your statements. But the fact that these elections are right and just and could, if successful, represent a defeat of Al-Qaeda doesn’t mean the odds are necessarily great of getting a successful form "democratic government" established in Iraq.

When I say that the elections are irrelevant I mean it in the sense of its outcome during the next few years. If, by chance, hard Islamic fundamentalists are voted into power there may not be any democracy - at least not the kind the Bush administration has envisioned.

Today, according to the Aljazeera news network Iraq's influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) has told them that the low turnout by Sunni Arabs in elections was due to a lack of real choice and military occupation

This means there's already a big conflict here that could lead to more fighting

The AMS also said that it would be wrong for the US to assume that any new government could legitimize the continued US military presence in the region, that the elections are not a solution to the Iraqi problem, because this problem is not an internal dispute to be resolved through accords and elections … it lies in the presence of a foreign power that occupies this country and refuses even the mere scheduling of the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq.

The election has happened but probably the "relevant" one begins later and US forces should get out by then.


Jonathan Pine - 1/30/2005

I agree with your viewpoints - all valid, as are the posts here of all others on this particular subject. I know this election is the first step and I wish it well. I've seen the coverage of the success stories on election day so far and they are heartwarming to see. But I have a feeling that in the end there'll be 3 major states in Iraq (something like The United States Against America). Sometimes I focus on coverage, written and visual, that comes strictly from Arab news sources (sometimes also biased, but with their points)and from CNN Europeans editions, and other European channels and newspapers (mostly derided by Americans of course) but nevertheless another perception. There's coverage over here that fails to make the rounds in America when I am back here. Thanks for the CSIS reference I've read it.


Vernon Clayson - 1/30/2005

It appears my comment started something interesting. I enjoyed reading the comments of both Mr. Clarke and Mr. Friedman who seem to be of the same opinion, that we need to understand more about Islam, the exception being that Mr. Clarke tends to worry about the feelings of one billion Muslims, of which, to my knowledge, not one expressed sympathy for the 9/11 attacks. I pretend no expertise, other than extended reading on Islam and its precepts, but I find it difficult to understand a religion that preaches hate and sacrifice, mostly of the infidel but also of their own if it will change minds. Their method of proselytizing is fear, with some secondary promises of a paradise with virgins. I think the requirement to visit Mecca at least once in a lifetime is kind of quaint, especially the part about throwing 7 pebbles at pillars is an act of devotion. Okay, okay, the pillar represents the devil. By the way, our Democrat politicians do something like that here except they do it electronically, didn't anyone else see Ted Kennedy and Jhn Kerry and their ilk hurl 7 insults, at least, at our pillars, the President and our service people doing a difficult job in difficult circumstances.


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

One last quote, from the great French writer Jacques Ellul:

"But a major, twofold fact transforms the jihad into something quite different from traditional wars, waged for ambition and self-interest, with limited objectives, where the "normal" situation is peace between peoples - war, in itself, constituting a dramatic event which must end in a return to peace. This twofold factor is first the religious nature, then the fact that war has become an institution (and no longer an "event"). Jihad is generally translated as "holy war" (this term is not satisfactory): and this suggests both that this war is provoked by strong religious feeling, and then that its first object is not so much to conquer land as to Islamize the populations. This war is a religious duty. It will probably be said that every religion in its expanding phase carries the risks of war, that history records hundreds of religious wars and it is now a commonplace to make this connection. (3) Hence, religious passion is thus sometimes expressed in this manner. But it is, in fact, "passion" - it concerns mainly a fact which it would be easy to demonstrate does not correspond to the fundamental message of the religion. This disjuncture is obvious for Christianity. In Islam, on the contrary, jihad is a religious obligation. It forms part of the duties that the believer must fulfil; it is Islam's normal path to expansion. And this is found repeatedly dozens of times in the Koran. Therefore, the believer is not denying the religious message. Quite the reverse, jihad is the way he best obeys it. And the facts which are recorded meticulously and analyzed clearly show that the jihad is not a "spiritual war" but a real military war of conquest. It expresses the agreement between the "fundamental book" and the believers' practical strivings. But Bat Ye'or shows that things are not so simple. Since the jihad is not solely an external war, it can break out within the Muslim world itself - and wars among Muslims have been numerous, but always with the same features.

"Hence, the second important specific characteristic is that the jihad is an institution and not an event, that is to say it is part of the normal functioning of the Muslim world. This is so on two counts. First, this war creates the institutions which are its consequence. Of course, all wars bring institutional changes merely by the fact that there are victors and vanquished, but here we are faced with a very different situation. The conquered populations change status (they became dhimmis), and the shari'a tends to be put into effect integrally, overthrowing the former law of the country. The conquered territories do not simply change "owners". Rather they are brought into a binding collective (religious) ideology - with the exception of the dhimmi condition - and are controlled by a highly perfected administrative machinery. (4)

"Lastly, in this perspective the jihad is an institution in the sense that it participates extensively in the economic life of the Islamic world. Like dhimmitude does, which involves a specific conception of this economic life, as the author clearly shows. But it is most essential to grasp that the jihad is an institution in itself; that is to say, an organic piece of Muslim society. As a religious duty, it fits into the religious organization, like pilgrimages, and so on. However, this is not the essential factor, which derives from the division of the world in the (religious) thought of Islam."

From Jacques Ellul, Forward to Bat Ye'or most famous book, "The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude: 7th - 20th Century."


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

Some more wisdom on Jihad. It comes from Al-Ahram Weekly, an organ of the Egyptian government:

"The other form of jihad is directed against those who live outside the umma (the Muslim community); that is, against non-Muslim countries and peoples. In both types of jihad, a Muslim may choose among four weapons: the heart, speech, the hand, and the sword.

Jihad against those outside the umma is of two types: defensive and offensive. The first is the duty of all Muslims: to defend their faith, life, land, and honour against attacks by non-Muslims. Offensive jihad is the duty of the "Muslim state": to try and integrate non-Muslim peoples and zones into the land of Islam -- that is, to convert people to the monotheistic faith of Islam and bring them into the umma. ..."

Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 6 - 12 December 2001, Issue No.563, at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/563/op11.htm .


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

My apology. Here is the citation for the last material: http://63.175.194.25/index.php?ln=eng&;QR=34830 from the website Islamaqa.com


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

Here is a bit more wisdom on Jihad from a website set up by Muslim writers: I quote the page:

Question :

Is it obligatory for every Muslim to go out for jihad? Or is jihad mustahabb and not obligatory?.


Answer :

Praise be to Allaah.

Physical jihad is the pinnacle of Islam, and some scholars regarded it as the sixth pillar of Islam.

The Muslims have neglected jihad for a long time, so they deserve the punishment of Allaah, to be humiliated, belittled and defeated. That humiliation will never be lifted from them until they come back to their religion as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When you enter into the ‘aynah transaction, hold the tails of oxen, are content with farming, and give up jihad, Allaah will cause humiliation to prevail over you, and will not withdraw it until you return to your commitment to Islam.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2956; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.

[Translator’s note: ‘Aynah transaction means to sell a product for a known price with deferred payment and then buy it back from the purchaser for a lesser price, so the purchaser will still have to pay the difference in the future]

One of the strangest things to note is that we are living in a time when some of the Muslims are embarrassed to quote the verses and ahaadeeth on jihad in front of their kaafir friends. Their faces turn red because they are too shy to mention the rulings on the jizyah, slavery and killing prisoners of war. They wish that they could erase these verses and ahaadeeth from the Qur’aan and Sunnah so that they would not be criticized by this world with its backward principles despite its claims to be civilized. If they cannot erase them then they try to misinterpret them and distort their meanings so that they suit the whims and desires of their masters. I will not say so that they suit their whims and desires, for they are too weak to have their own whims and desires, and too ignorant. Rather it is the whims and desires of their masters and teachers among the missionaries and colonialists, the enemies of Islam.”

‘Umdat al-Tafseer, 1/46.

The result of that is that we hardly hear anything nowadays apart from the following phrases: world peace … peaceful coexistence … safe borders … a new world order … the calamities of war…

Those who proclaim the verses and ahaadeeth of jihad nowadays are subject to a number of accusations. They are called terrorists, extremists, enemies of peace and bloodthirsty, and are accused of wanting to destroy twentieth century civilization.

This is the unfortunate reality in which the Muslim ummah is living nowadays. That is because we have given up supporting our religion and doing the duties that Allaah has enjoined upon us.

Allaah has commanded us to support His religion and to wage jihad against His enemies.

There are so many verses that enjoin jihad against the mushrikeen and fighting them until all submission is for Allaah alone; they clearly state that it is obligatory and is prescribed and is compulsory. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Jihaad holy fighting in Allaah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allaah knows but you do not know”

[al-Baqarah 2:216]

Rulings on jihad

The scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) have mentioned the rulings on jihad and have stated that jihad is of two types:

1 – Taking the initiative in fighting

This means pursuing the kaafirs in their lands and calling them to Islam and fighting them if they do not agree to submit to the rule of Islam.

This kind of jihad is fard kifaayah (a communal obligation) upon the Muslims. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allaah), and the religion (worship) will all be for Allaah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allaah), then certainly, Allaah is All-Seer of what they do”

[al-Anfaal 8:39]

“Then when the Sacred Months (the Ist, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikoon (see V.2:105) wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent [by rejecting Shirk (polytheism) and accept Islamic Monotheism] and perform As&#8209;Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah), and give Zakaah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”

[al-Tawbah 9:5]

“and fight against the Mushrikoon (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allaah) collectively as they fight against you collectively. But know that Allaah is with those who are Al&#8209;Muttaqoon (the pious”

[al-Tawbah 9:36]

“March forth, whether you are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor), and strive hard with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allaah. This is better for you, if you but knew”
[al-Tawbah 9:41]

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I have been commanded to fight the people until they bear witness that there is no god but Allaah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, and establish regular prayer, and pay zakaah, If they do that then their blood and wealth is safe from me, except by the laws of Islam, and their reckoning will be with Allaah.”

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 24; Muslim, 29.

Muslim (3533) narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies without having fought or thought to himself about fighting has died following one of the branches of hypocrisy.”

All of these texts – and many others in the Qur’aan and Sunnah – mean that it is obligatory for the Muslims to wage jihad against the kuffaar and take the initiative in that. The scholars are unanimously agreed that jihad against the kuffar, and seeking them in their own lands, and calling them to Islam, and waging jihad against them if they do not accept Islam or accept paying the jizyah, is obligatory and has not been abrogated.

Shaykh al-Islam (28/249) said:

Everyone who hears the call of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to the religion of Allaah with which he was sent and does not respond to it must be fought so that there will be no fitnah and so that submission will all be for Allaah.

Ibn ‘Atiyah said (2/43): There remains scholarly consensus that jihad is a communal obligation upon the ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and if some of the Muslims undertake this duty the rest are absolved of responsibility.

2 – Jihad in self-defence.

If the kuffaar attack and occupy a Muslim country, or they prepare to attack the Muslims, then it is obligatory for the Muslims to fight them so as to ward off their evil and foil their plots. Jihad in self-defence is fard ‘ayn (an individual obligation) upon the Muslims, according to scholarly consensus.

Al-Qurtubi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his Tafseer (8/15):

When jihad becomes inevitable because the enemy has overrun one of the (Muslim) regions, then it becomes obligatory for all the people of that region to mobilize and to go out to fight, whether they are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor), each according to his abilities, with or without the permission of his parents. No one who is able to go out, warrior or helper, should stay behind. If the people of that country are unable to fight their enemy, then those in nearby and neighbouring countries have to go out to fight, in whatever numbers are required to show support, so that they will know that they have the strength to stand up to them and ward them off. Similarly everyone who knows of their weakness in the face of their enemies and knows that he can go and help them must also go out and fight. All of the Muslims should be united against their enemies. If the people of the area where the enemy has invaded and occupied fight off the enemy themselves, then the others are relieved of that duty. If the enemy approaches the Muslim lands but does not enter, the Muslims must still go out to confront them so that the religion of Allaah will prevail and in order to protect the Muslim homeland and humiliate the enemy. There is no scholarly dispute on this point.

Shaykh al-Islam (28/358-359) said:

If the enemy wants to attack the Muslims then resisting becomes obligatory on all those who are under threat, and those who are not under threat are obliged to help them, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“but if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them except against a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance”

[al-Anfaal 8:72]

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also commanded us to help other Muslims. This is obligatory upon each person as much as possible, by fighting himself or by giving financial support, as was the case at the time of al-Khandaq, when Allaah did not grant any concession to anyone not to fight. Rather the Qur’aan condemns those who asked the Prophet for permission [not to fight] on the grounds that their houses were vulnerable when that was not the case, rather they just wanted to flee the battle. This fighting is in order to protect the relihion, and protect lives and honour, and this is absolutely essential.

This is the ruling on physical jihad in Islam, whether that is taking the initiative to call the kuffaar to enter this religion and subjugate them to the rule of Islam, or jihad to defend the religion and honour of the Muslims.

We ask Allaah to bring the Muslims back to their religion.

And Allaah knows best.


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

One other point. My presentation regarding Jihad came, in the first instance, from my study of books written by Bernard Lewis. One other point, Ibn Khaldun is considered one of the greatest historians who ever lived. His quote on Jihad is considered authoritative by anyone who studies the history of Islam.


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2005

In 1998 Congress passed a resolution, unanimously in the Senate and opposed by only 35 in the houss (9 Republicans and 29 Democrats) that provided, inter alia,:

"It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime," (Public Law 105-338).

These elections are not quite "a democratic government" but they will place in the hands of the Iraqis the power to create one, with elections for the members of that government by October.

They represent a huge defeat for those who claim that democracy itself is the enemy:

"America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by the people via legislating laws that contradict the way of Allah and permit what Allah has prohibited." Al-Qaeda, "Why We Fight",, June 12 2002

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology. Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it..Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion [and that is] against the rule of God."
***
"Anyone who participates in these elections … has committed apostasy against Allah" Al-Zarqawi, January 2005 tape





N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

More of Lewis (from http://www.culturekiosque.com/minisites/terrorism/worldtradecenter/islamjihad.htm):

"Bernard Lewis: The literal meaning of the Arabic word Jihad is "striving," but it is commonly used to denote armed struggle for Islam against infidels and apostates. This is elaborately regulated in shari'a law. In offensive war, Jihad is a collective obligation of the Muslim community as a whole, and may be discharged by volunteers and professionals. In defensive war it is an individual obligation of every male Muslim. Osama Bin Laden specifically invokes this rule in his declaration."


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

This is what Bernard Lewis says (from http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses01/rrtw/Lewis01.htm):

"The literal meaning of the Arabic word "jihad" is striving,
and its common use derives from the Koranic phrase "striving
in the path of God." Some Muslims, particularly in modern
times, have interpreted the duty of jihad in a spiritual and
moral sense. The more common interpretation, and that of the
overwhelming majority of the classical jurists and
commentators, presents jihad as armed struggle for Islam
against infidels and apostates. Unlike "crusade," it has
retained its religious and military connotation into modern
times.

Being a religious obligation, jihad is elaborately regulated
in sharia law, which discusses in minute detail such matters
as the opening, conduct, interruption and cessation of
hostilities, the treatment of prisoners and non-combatants,
the use of weapons, etc. In an offensive war, jihad is a
collective obligation of the entire community, and may
therefore be discharged by volunteers and professionals. In a
defensive war, it is an individual obligation of every
able-bodied Muslim."

Which is to say, Bernard Lewis agrees with me.


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

Bernard Lewis says that Jihad is central to Islam. Try reading his book, the Political Language of Islam.


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2005



" Baghdad, Iraq (AP) Iraqis danced and clapped with joy Sunday as they voted in their country's first free election in a half-century, defying insurgents who launched eight deadly suicide bombings and mortar strikes at polling stations. The attacks killed at least 31 people. After a slow start, men and women in flowing black abayas often holding babies formed long lines, although there were pockets of Iraq where the streets and polling stations were deserted. Iraqis prohibited from using private cars walked streets crowded in a few places nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with voters, hitched rides on military buses and trucks, and some even carried the elderly in their arms.

''This is democracy,'' said Karfia Abbasi, holding up a thumb stained with purple ink to prove she had voted."


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

I said nothing about all Muslims. I said that such is the precept of the religion. And these are not isolated quotes. And, moreover, most historians of Islam say that Jihad is central to Islam.

Do you understand now? If not, then read a book.


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

In fact, if you would read a few serious books (and not apologia) about Islam - and I can make a few excellent suggestions for you -, you would see that you are misinformed. The fact is that Jihad, as in offensive war, is central to Islam and has always been. To not understand that is either to be ignorant or to be in dream land.

And again, I note that Islam has many virtues. It produced a brilliant civilization. Its contributions are magnificent and many. But - and I reiterate - the religion does not counsel peace toward non-Muslims. That is a fact and, as the above quoted material shows, such is the case for basically all of Islam's major sects - and has been through the ages -.

Again, the basic precept is that war against the infidel is required. The goal is to bring the entire world under the domain of Shari'a. For non-Muslims, they must convert or must submit to a dhimma or, if they are strong and can resist Muslims, a temporary truce, called a hudna, is permitted. Any other relationship violates the basic tenets of the religion.

Now, Islam was much more peaceful during the age of Colonialism because the Muslim dominated countries were conquered. As a result, life for non-Muslims improved substantially. However, now that colonial rule is over, traditional Islam as a political force has slowly re-emerged. As a result, the rule of Shari'a has spread and where it has spread, the life for non-Muslims has been helllike. Read this symposium about the plight of Christians today in Muslim countries: http://www.frontpagemag.com/articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10242


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

I stand by my comment. It is historically valid. It is supported by, among other, the greatest of all Muslim historians, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) who stated:


"In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. Therefore, caliphate and royal authority are united (in Islam), so that the person in charge can devote the available strength to both of them (religion and politics) at the same time.

The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defense. It has thus come about that the person in charge of religious affairs (in other religious groups) is not concerned with power politics at all. (Among them) royal authority comes to those who have it, by accident and in some way that has nothing to do with religion. It comes to them as the necessary result of group feeling, which by its very nature seeks to obtain royal authority, as we have mentioned before, and not because they are under obligation to gain power over other nations, as is the case with Islam. They are merely required to establish their religion among their own (people).

This is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority for about four hundred years. Their only concern was to establish their religion (1:473).

Thereafter, there were dissensions among the Christians with regard to their religion and to Christology. They split into groups and sects, which secured the support of the various Christian rulers against each other. At different times there appeared different sects. Finally, these sects crystallized into three groups, which constitute the (Christian) sects. Others have no significance. These are the Melchites, the Jacobites, and the Nestorians. We do not think that we should blacken the pages of this book with discussion of their dogmas of unbelief. In general, they are well known. All of them are unbelief. This is clearly stated in the noble Qur'an. (To) discuss or argue those things with them is not up to us. It is (for them to choose between) conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death (1: 480)."

What follows is from pp's xv - xvi of the book "Shade of Swords" by Indian Muslim scholar M.J. Akbar:

"... There are Muslims today, for instance, who will convert jihad into a holy bath rather than a holy war, as if it is nothing more than an injunction to cleanse yourself within.

"It is true that the Prophet insisted that a greater jihad was the struggle to cleanse impurity within, but that does not take away from the fact that the lesser jihad inspired the spirit that once made Muslim armies all-conquering, enabled Muslims to protect their holy places, and ensured that most of the community lived with the protection of Muslim power despite formidable challenge from Christian alliances in a world war that was virtually coterminous with the birth of Islam. So often did Muslim armies, whether in the west or the east, triumph against odds that it conjured up a sense of a self-replicating miracle. Faith in Allah's bargain was reinforced by each victory, particularly against Christian armies who mobilized repeatedly not only to destroy Muslim empires but also Islam, which they called a heresy against Christ.

"Jihad is the signature tune of Islamic history. If today's Muslim rulers are reluctant to sound that note, it is often because they are concerned about the consequences of failure. As in every bargain, there are two sides. Allah promised victory to the Muslim, but only if the believer kept faith with him. Defeat becomes an indictment of the ruler, and is therefore risky, particularly as Muslims have a long tradition of holding their rulers accountable. They are enjoined to do so."

A few more quotes, from an online source:

Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 996), Maliki jurist:

"Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis [one of the four schools of Muslim jurisprudence] maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them."



Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), Hanbali jurist:

"Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare)."

From (primarily) the Hanafi school (as given in the Hidayah):

"It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war… If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do."



From al-Mawardi (d. 1058 ), Shafi’i jurist:

"The mushrikun [infidels] of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting them…in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and most harmful to the mushrikun… Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his Messenger…[I]t is forbidden to…begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached…."

All of the above quotes from http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=14439

What follows is quoted from an article entitled "An exegesis on ‘Jihad in Islam’," by Syed Kamran Mirza (http://www.secularislam.org/jihad/exegesis.htm):

---In his book, “ Jurisprudence in Muhammad’s Biography” the Azhar scholar, Dr. Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti wrote the following: “The Holy War (Islamic Jihad), as it is known in Islamic Jurisprudence, is basically an offensive war. This is the duty of Muslims in every age when the needed military power becomes available to them. This is the phase in which the meaning of Holy war has taken its final form. Thus the apostle of God said: ' I was commanded to fight the people until they believe in Allah and his messages…..(page 134, 7th edition) ”.---


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,

I agree that massacres are commonplace in history. What I said is that Islam requires such massacres to be committed as a matter of principle. In that, Islam is very, very different that Christianity.

Now, you comment is that Islam is particularly dangerous today. My view differs. Which is to say, Islamdom had many great, great achievements but peace with non-Muslims has never been one of them because, as I noted, Islam requires its adherents to make war against all infidel who do not submit to a dhimma or who are not covered by a treaty of convenience.

Until the time that the Muslims were defeated decisively, they made unceasing war against their non-Muslim neighbors, employing more or less the same tactics we associate with radical Muslims today as well as massacres committed with great pride - as occurred to the Armenians (i.e. the genocide which was and still is thought to be justified by Muslims). Hence, there were endless razzias against infidel and endless massacres.

Now, razzias - which are akin to terrorism ala bin Laden - were not mindless activity any more than terrorism is today. In fact, it is a very shrewd form of warfare which causes comparatively few casualties. And, you will note that such technique was a major factor in the spread of the rule of Muslims - particular in the capture of places such as Constantinople.

Regarding your comment about Sharon, I think you are mistaken. He has always been a pragmatist. Anyone who knows him knows that he seeks peace (as Shimon Peres said many years ago). However, his view is that the Palestinian Arabs need to be convinced that they cannot destroy Israel.

I might add that his tactics have, by world standards, been rather tame. Compare his reaction to the massacres of March 2002 to the US response to the September 11 attack. The US conquered a country and dropped MOAB's on Afghani soldiers who, for the most part, had nothing at all - and may have known nothing at all about - the September 11 attacks. Sharon, by contrast, attacked the groups who had attacked his people. There were very, very few casualties - and compare the US response to the death of 4 soldiers in Fallujah where we killed several hundred Iraqis, mostly civilians -. Which is to say, I think you have no idea what you are talking about.

In any event, my post regarded your comment about massacres. It was intended as a historical comment. It was an accurate comment which I stand by. You, as usual, changed the topic.


N. Friedman - 1/30/2005

Peter,


Robert F. Koehler - 1/29/2005

It should be understood that what the Iraqi's are voting for on Sunday is not a government, but a Transitional National Authority (TNA) that will hopefully clobber together an Iraqi constitution sometime in June that's acceptable to all, under which Iraqi's can than elect a government sometime in late 05 or early 06. This is going to be an uncertain, tough, messy and unfortunately continuing bloody affair for all involved. Sunday will not miraculously transform Iraq into Switzerland, which nobody expects, but its an important step to a hopeful goal.

I won't deny that this administration has massively screwed s**t up from the get-go and is responsible for a lot that is wrong about this electoral process itself, heck, practically everyone recognizes that anyway, including the Iraqis. But though George continues opening his big mouth and trumpeting glorious crusades about democracy, freedom and liberty, it has become increasingly clear to me that he is no longer the "I'm in charge" kinda guy he wants everyone to believe. The neo's thought they had the run of the farm after the election, but than suffered the horror of seeing Condi surrounded by a body-guard of realists in the State Department. They also lost influence in the Pentagon when top dogs like Feith got the polite boot and Rumsfeld tinkering with policies that makes them see red. About the only place in the administration they are concentrated are in the vice presidency under Cheney. And when Cheney shot his mouth off about how wonderful it was that Bush has reasserted & increased the powers of the Presidency, Bush quickly corrected him that he had enough powers, thank you...Dick! Got a feeling that relationship has soured too. Daddy George has recently been around a lot also, and I would give anything, in all the world, to be a fly on the wall when those two have a conversation. It wasn't 24 hours after Junior's Inaugural Speech that Dad was on the White House steps doing damage control.

I don't agree with the position that we should bail out of Iraq and let the place go all to hell. If people think we got a problem now than I advise that such get a good, solid guerrilla's grip on their panties for the whirlwinds that will blow after we bail. Like Powell said, "we break it, we own it." I am heartened that many of the critics within the foreign policy establishment, State Department, Intelligence community and other agencies across the government, who were initially opposed to this administrations policies, are now being heard and involved in the formulation and implementation of policies in Iraq. Though neo's are still around their wings have been severely clipped.

I would go to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) website, one of the most vocally and viscerally opposed foreign policy think tanks to Bush's policies, and click the pdf file "Iraq Elections: Violence, Public Support, Regional Impact" at the top of the page. The analyst's, experts and senior fellows at this particular institute have some heavy bona-fides, and warned Junior in advance of every boo-boo in the book that would befall and haunt him. He didn't listen and wound up making them into prophets. It's my sense of the matter that he is listening now, though he can't help that big mouth of his and why Daddy is around to help him.

http://www.csis.org/


Jonathan Pine - 1/29/2005

Common sense dictates that you can’t have an election in a country that has been invaded and controlled by foreign troops to be regarded as free and fair. The vote on January 30 is part of a process imposed earlier by Bush's proconsul Paul Bremer, and designed to entrench US plans for Iraq and the wider Middle East; all the main politicians and parties taking part owe their position and physical survival to US protection and power; and the voting taking place will be in a country under martial law, where a full-scale guerrilla war is raging and whose heartlands are daily bombarded.

Falluja, has been blown to hell and its people expelled to refugee camps, where they have even less chance to vote (even if they wanted to) than Iraqi refugees living in Britain or elsewhere. The US-appointed government has cracked down on any critical press and expelled the independent al-Jazeera TV station. Meanwhile the hands of any future administration have been tied by a US-imposed neoliberal economic program. The relative votes can’t really reflect the popular will over the most important issue facing the country: the occupation.

The only way to hold free and fair elections in Iraq is for the US to withdraw their forces and let the Iraqis run their own affairs - it’s a mess and the occupation is making it worse.


Robert F. Koehler - 1/29/2005

The UK Guardian has reported that Rumsfeld and his British counterpart Mr. Hoon have agreed to an unspecified exit strategy for Iraq. The article remarks that this process will follow retired Lt. Gen. Gary Luck's recommendations from his observations and consultations with combat commanders on the ground in Iraq, that has been reported on several websites this previous week. Luck's report either hasn't been finalized or is currently not publically available at this time, but sooner or later it will be released or pirated. Bet that one will be good reading. Apparently the US militaries mission in Iraq is to change from combating insurgents to ultimately a secondary & support role after the 30 January elections. This reportedly involves massively speeding up the training of Iraq's security & armed forces.

Alleged quotes from the report:

"The aim would be to double or even triple the number of trainers now at work with Iraqi security forces, up to as many as 8,000 or 10,000, though General Luck has not mentioned a specific number," the report said.

"American forces would work closely with Iraqis in the most dangerous parts of the country, but would still take the lead combat role there" in the foreseeable future, the report said...The report said the training of more Iraqi troops could also free up US troops to beef up security along Iraq's borders amid fears foreign insurgents continue to flow into the country.

The Bush administration has been getting a spanking by foreign policy analysts these past few months, who in some cases have viscerally taken him to task for not seriously expending the resources and training on Iraq's nascent police and armed forces. He has been charged with recklessly recruiting Iraqis for US domestic propaganda purposes, while deploying these Iraqi's without proper equipment or American support. In other words, senselessly sending them on suicide missions that is behind their poor performance & lack of capabilities.

It's also recommended by foreign policy analysts that American forces must attain a lower profile in country to reduce casualties and conflict. One of the means in accomplishing this is to remove the troops into the western deserts along the borders of Jordan, Syria and Kurdistan where there are less Sunnis & Shiites who want to attack & kill American soldiers. Desert installations separated from urban areas would also be much easier to defend and our strong suit in electronic surveillance more effective. From these safer havens US forces can easily deploy to assist Iraq's fledgling security forces when needed, and as those forces become more competent they can be drawn down and sent home.

The key to this working are Iraq's elections. No matter how much I despise Bush, for Iraq's sake and ours I hope they turn out well, or at least well enough so as to create the vital legitimacy an Iraqi government needs among their people.


Jonathan Pine - 1/29/2005

1. The Independent Election Commission memebrs were selected by the UN.


This is based on CNN interview of Iraqi officials on 28 jan . There is also no visible UN presence to monitor the elections.



2. There will be 7,000 election monitors in Iraq representing the candidates. IEMI has elected to observe from Jordan. The actual vote counting will be done in Abu Dabai by IEMI.

Yes, but the monitors are about as effective h.s. hall monitors. The election committee is safely staying put in Jordan.


3. Candidates are to reveal their names today. The Iraqi blogs have had pictures of campaigning candidates and campaign posters and tv ads-- they campain by number, though I admit "Vote for coalition 169" seems a bit odd-- but mno more than the common practice in many countries of indicating candidates by icon -- "Vote for the moon party"

Not true. Again, according to the CNN interviews of Iraqis officials on 28 Jan and according to Arab and British news sources Iraqis will not be voting for individual politicians themselves but candidates representing a party or coalition for the assembly.


4. Dunno about Baathists, only "senior" Batthists are porhibited from running.

Senior Baathists? Why would that be?


5. Burials in Fallujah were completed, according to Centcom some time ago. Water service was 50% restored about a week ago according to centcom. Few residents of Fallujah have returned, There is a massive rebuild going one. I assume, but don't know, that they can vote in their temporary locations.

According to Centcom but not according to the people and journalists who live or report there. Gen. John Abizaid at US Central Command, you should remember, is working for Mr. Bush and he wants it all nice and neat (at least for the US media)

6. We did have a vote in this country under far worse conditions when half the country (rather than some portion of the 20% Sunni's) declined to vote. Lincoln was re-elected.

I was referring the present, the year 2005.


The people of Iraq will be voting for a Transitional National Assembly comprised of 275 members. The entire country will be considered a single constituency. Political parties have submitted lists of candidates but doesn’t mean the voters know who they are or what they stand for.

Also, all candidates must be over the age of 30 to run for a parliamentary seat and that includes the Baathists, even senior ones. Former senior Baathists or current members of the armed forces, and parties or groups with militias - such as Muqtada al-Sadr and his al-Mahdi Army - have been formally banned from running in the election but many are running anyway by changing names and addresses and using other tactics.

I still stand by what I have said, the Iraq elections are not a pivotal at this point, they're just a cover for the time being while the political players retrench to acquire or maintain political ranking for when the real elections happen.





John H. Lederer - 1/29/2005

The Independent Election Commission memebrs were selected by the UN.

There will be 7,000 election monitors in Iraq representing the candidates. IEMI has elected to observe from Jordan. The actual vote counting will be done in Abu Dabai by IEMI.

Candidates are to reveal their names today. The Iraqi blogs have had pictures of campaigning candidates and campaign posters and tv ads-- they campain by number, though I admit "Vote for coalition 169" seems a bit odd-- but mno more than the common practice in many countries of indicating candidates by icon -- "Vote for the moon party"

Dunno about Baathists, only "senior" Batthists are porhibited from running.

Burials in Fallujah were completed, according to Centcom some time ago. Water service was 50% restored about a week ago according to centcom. Few residents of Fallujah have returned, There is a massive rebuild going one. I assume, but don't know, that they can vote in their temporary locations.

We did have a vote in this country under far worse conditions when half the country (rather than some portion of the 20% Sunni's) declined to vote. Lincoln was re-elected.


N. Friedman - 1/29/2005

Peter,

Your point one is an important point and quite correct. Which is to say, Muslims are not alone in having massacred infidel.

On the other hand, the matter is not quite as simple as you claim. Christianity, so far as I know, does not require that infidel be massacred. Islam, traditionally speaking, does. Which is to say, Muslims are called to spread the realm of the dar al-islam (the realm of Islam) and the Islamic faith by making war against the dar al-harb (the realm of War or, in plain English, any region of the world which is not ruled by Shari'a [Islamic law]).

That war is known as Jihad. The manner by which Jihad comes to an end is either a temporary treaty (i.e. hudna or treaty of convenience) or by a dhimma (i.e. agreement with the vanquished). Absent such treaty or agreement, the Jihad ***must*** continue and the infidel are properly massacred since they resist what Allah desires.

Which is to say, Jihad and its requirements, including the obligation to deal one way or the other with the infidel, play a more important role in Islam - it being a matter of belief - than do massacres in Christianity. Hence, there has always been protest within Christiandom regarding massacres.

Such, by contrast, has not much occurred with Islamdom. In fact, there is hardly a word of protest from the Muslim world regarding massacres including, for example, the massacre (i.e. genocide) of the Armenians or the Christians and animists of Sudan. In the case of the Armenians, they broke the dhimma agreement and, per Islamic law, were properly massacred and such breach was, in fact, sited as a reason for the Jihad prosecuted by the Turks with the assistance of Muslim Arabs.

You will note that such pattern of wide scale massacre is a feature throughout the history of the Islamic dominated regions.


Robert F. Koehler - 1/29/2005

The troop strength ratio is not my own. I acquired it from the Task Force Report - "Transitions to and from Hostilities" by the Defense Science Board, an agency within the Pentagon.

quote:
"The United States will sometimes have ambitious goals for transforming a society in a conflicted environment. Those goals may well demand 20 troops per 1000 inhabitants—whether U.S. military and government civilians, U.S. civilian contractors, UN, allies, coalition partners, or indigenous constabulary—working for five to eight years. Given that we may have three to five stabilization and reconstruction activities underway concurrently, it is clear that very substantial resources are needed to accomplish national objectives."

Rumsfeld ordered this report and was likely not happy with its findings, or most especially its recommendations. The above is but one gem of many within a document that spans a 198 pages. Rumsfeldian concepts of RMA, or reform in military affairs where technology & material are the decisive factors as opposed to the human element in war, takes a serious beating and thrown right out the window, lock, stock & barrel. I suspect Rumy is much smarter than neo-cons and will probably implement the report, which is a consensus view of the many sub-agencies & departments within the Pentagon, State Department and Intelligence communities. I believe that is why some of the extremists in the neo-clan have been so hard on Rummy. The last paragraph, which is not only emphasized repeatedly throughout the report, but also warns of dangerous consequences if the report is not taken seriously and implemented.

quote:
"In any large organization things change slowly. If our recommendations were to be implemented in DOD and across the executive branch in, say, five years, it would be an unprecedented display of speed and urgency. However, if the nation continues its habit of engaging in new and additional stabilization and reconstruction operations every two years, during that period the United States will begin two new commitments—unprepared. And something started wrong tends to stay wrong. We urge greater than usual speed in implementing the recommendations in our study."

I enjoy very much the dialogs on HNN, but forums and bulletin boards, let alone the media are not my principal sources of information. I dig through the websites of foreign policy think tanks, US departments and agencies to find out what is going on in the heads of those who influence and ultimately shape US foreign & domestic policy. After all, its where the neo-con's nested before George brought them wholesale into his administration. Nor did I need George to introduce me to these idiots since I was previously aware of their insane doctrines & policy proscriptions.

If you haven't read the report than I recommend it. That, other reports and developments informs that the worm is again turning, though its results and where it leads is an altogether other matter.


Jonathan Pine - 1/29/2005

The 9 members that run the election committein Iraq have been selected by the US

The elections are being monitored in Jordan where it is safe

The candidates, most of them, are running in secret and most of them are not campaigning which means no one knows who they are voting for.


Saddma's former Baath party members are changing their addresses or names and putting themselves up for election.

People in Fallujha and other cities are still lying around dead and unburied, there are problems just getting water to drink too.

If these kind of elections were attempted in the U.S. or Europe under such unstable conditions I doubt most of us would bother to vote since we could be voting for someone who's like to kill us or worse.


Jonathan Pine - 1/29/2005

Nearly half the people in America had a reason to vote to John Kerry, as boring as is. Bushites are in power today because of the way our nationalism developed over the last half century. After 9/11 there was an unwillingness in American culture and life to challenge governmental authority. The media was asleep and still are. Now it's walk the straight line, fly the flag, don't criticize government and don't subscribed to any unauthorized magazines.


Vernon Clayson - 1/28/2005

Peter Clarke, despite my vocabulary shortcomings I have to say you aren't exactly on the mark yourself. There is no useful role for blind prejudice in either democracy or Christianity, as you say, and most of us understand that, what we find mystifying is the really blind prejudice of the Muslims. If there is a more intractible and unyielding religion I am unaware of it and it's the only one I know of that insists on killing unbelievers. It's your serve.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/28/2005

1) “Even Goldhagen (whose shaky theories are quite far from those of most historians of Germany, by the way) would not try to claim that most Germans TODAY are mostly eliminationist anti-Semites.”

Of course, that is exactly my point, that what is acceptable and “mainstream” to a society are not some abstract unchanging principles, but the constantly changing mood of the population. It was once mainstream to dance to disco and wear plaid. Today, it is no longer mainstream.

2) “I really don't care how you want to define mainstream, but I object to your historically unfounded attempts to pooh pooh the significance of the Cheney-Bush disaster or the depth of their deliberate deception.”

With due respect Peter, and I am not trying to be coy, but I honestly do not know in what way I have done as you say. The “truth” about what Iraq had or did not have was already known when American went to the polls. One could argue that what is “mainstream” is, in fact, based on lies or deceit, but that is beyond the purpose of this discussion.

3) “But, to make one final analogy, the fact that hundreds of millions of people globally have willingly allowed themselves to get hooked on nicotine does not excuse the lies of cigarette companies. "Prevalent attitudes" are certainly not a sufficient explanation for sudden surges of alternative addictions like crack cocaine.”

It was never my attempt to “excuse the lies of” anyone, particularly the administration. My position was, and is, simply that the administration’s policies, particularly broad themes, cannot be considered out of mainstream given the current political climate. I go no further.


John H. Lederer - 1/27/2005

I have trouble with facile estimates of needed troop strength based on past experiences.

The troop strength used to take Baghdad was totally inadequate by past experience. Most military commentators believed they had seen something, if not revolutionary, a big step evolutionarily.

So..do some of the same factors apply to fighting a guerrila war?

If we had more troops in Iraq, precisely what would we do with them? If one ask that question one seems to either conclude that we would have bigger reaction forces, or would have them doing tasks for which 500,000 would be clearly inadequate.

The military itself seems to beleive that the critical need is more and better intelligence-- which seems to be improving.


Edward Siegler - 1/27/2005

Bashing Bush credibly is not an interest of mine, nor is exusing his mistakes. The one thing Schaar does get right is the distinction between elections and democracy. It is democracy, not just elections, that has been presented as a panecea and here is the important question: Is this true? Is the establishment of democracy world-wide a realistic goal and if so how to go about it? Will it really help eliminate many problems? There are book-length answers required here so I don't think we're going to sort this one out over the course of a few posts on the History News Network, but I was dissapointed that the article didn't address this core issue which has been brought to the fore by our hero's inaugural address.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/27/2005

1) “it uses the term to define itself" How so ?”

The new definition we are working with is the following: “any policy, no matter how unprecedented, is "mainstream" if it is "accepted as mainstream by the public." While useful, this definition uses the word “mainstream” and a principle ingredient on what it is. It would be like me defining popular as whatever is popular to people. That is what I meant in my comment. Nevertheless, it does have a certain logic to it. Mainstream really is what the public accepts.

2) “If you think the Red Scare and the Japanese internment were not aberrations from the main trends of American history, I suggest you sign up for a refresher course in that subject. A people are not generally "scared" by something "mainstream".

First of all, you again accuse me of something that I have never claimed. As I said in my first post on this subject, we need to figure out what we are talking about here. I do not define it in terms of “main trends in American history” (whatever that means). I define it on what is accepted by the public AT THAT TIME. Friends and Seinfeld, and the Simpsons, these are TV shows that have no relation to overall “trends in American history.” But at one time or another, they were all extremely popular and I would be hard-pressed not to consider them a part of American pop-culture, like McDonalds, and thus not “main-stream.” The fact that so many Americans may despise these shows or does not like McD. Does not change that.

As for your statement that people are not scared by something "mainstream," I assume you mean this to suggest that anti-communism was NOT part of mainstream culture? If this is correct, we are operating on very different understanding of what the term means indeed.

3) “51% is winning "handily" ??? So 52% would be, what, a landslide ? On second thought, first buy a good dictionary, then study American history. Meanwhile, next time you meet a German or a Russian try convincing him that Hitler (or Stalin) was just a manifestation of mainstream German (Russian) history. If he agrees with you, then invite him to join you in taking a course together in European history.”

Peter, it is clear at this point in your post that your frustration has overcome your ability to reason and debate thoughtfully. Although you obviously have no interest in having a civilized disagreement, I will respond to your points nonetheless, for anyone who is interested. I used the term “handily” to indicate that the margin of victory was large enough that there was no doubt on the winner. It does not refer to the amount Bush won by.

Hitler never won a majority of the votes, but he came close enough that the argument of Hitler’s representation of German culture has been made (I would recommend Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners for more on this point). As for Stalin, since there was nothing democratic about his rise to power and hold on power, there is way to judge how “mainstream” he was, although I would suspect, not much.

Tow final points: Since we are talking about American “mainstream” which is fundamentally tied to the institutions and systems of government that we have, pulling out of your hat Hitler and Stalin have no relevance to this discussion, and then, why do you continuously use terms like “mainstream history” when the definition that I provided gives no indication that history has anything to do with this. If you disagree with my definition, then by all means say so, or even better, provide one of your own. However, thus far, you seem satisfied merely to question my command of the English language, or my knowledge of history, neither of which have any relevance to this discussion.

P.S. Webster agrees with me. Observe his definition: "Representing the prevalent attitudes, values, and practices of a society or group."


N. Friedman - 1/27/2005

Adam,

I could not agree more.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/27/2005

1) “You now want to claim that any policy, no matter how unprecedented, is "mainstream" if it is "accepted as mainstream by the public" and that any perversion of vocabulary by the press reflects "mainstream" values and desires of the populace as long that perversion is consistent with a temporary fad of the day.”

Although I had not originally intended any inconsistency with my earlier definition, I believe that one you attribute to me is actually a pretty good one (except for the fact that it uses the term to define itself). I do believe that what “the public” (if we can define that) believes and values in fundamental to any discussion of what is mainstream.

2) “By this definition, the No-Nothings of the 1850s, the slaughter of sleeping women and children at Wounded Knee, the Red Scare of 1919, the forced sterilization of southern blacks in the 1920s, the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry in the 1940s, and the tremendous over-valuation of internet stocks in the late 1990s were all just little ripples in the direction of the main stream of American history.”

I would say yes to all of the above. At one time, racism was mainstream as was the genocide of the Native Americans. Being mainstream does not make something morally right (or wrong for that matter), only popularly acceptable.

3) “You can call a fish a fowl, but you won't persuade a zoologist, and if you call the Bush administration's proclamations and actions "in synch" with general long term trends of popular aspiration, you will not convince historians”

I agree. However, I have never done this. I do not claim, nor have I ever claimed on this site, that Bush’s policies are consistent with “general long term trends” at all. I claim that his administration should not be dismissed as out of mainstream with America after winning a second term handily, and having many of his policies adopted by an increasingly popular Republican party.


Vernon Clayson - 1/27/2005

"Clobbering" together an coalition? I think you meant cobbling or cobbled unless you think that the president bullied or battered a few countries into joining the coalition. Elections in that area are doomed to fail, the only way to maintain even a facade of civilization there is to have leaders or policies they fear. Marx said that "Religion...is the opiate of the people." Nowhere does this fit better than in the Muslim world, a culture where religion is the basis and control for all aspects of life. They, of course, take it too far in their zeal, beheadings and bombs are hardly a civilized way to proselytize. I think Marx meant that people turned to religion to endure their miserable lives, the Muslims want their lives to be miserable to endure their beliefs.


Edward Siegler - 1/26/2005

...or at least implies the hell out of it, to borrow your phrase. In Afghanistan, he calls Kharzai a "puppet" who's installation placed the country "under U.S. control" (even though he claims the country is also largely controlled by warlords), and says "elections at the end of 2004...did little to legitimize his regime", which is hogwash. Iraq's elections are seen as an attempt to legitimize an illegitimate situation - a conclusion that most Iraqis will disagree with by risking their lives to vote on Sunday. It surely won't be an ideal election, but that's because of the determined efforts of the insurgency to prevent it, not any effort by the U.S. to determine the outcome. In Palestine elections are said to be an attempt to create the "necessary political legitimacy" for another bad situation, as though the will of the Palestinian people counts for nothing. He concludes by saying that elections "sell well in Congress and Peoria" and "may help to maintain foreign control." Blast Bush all you want, man, but I can't take Schaar very seriously.


Edward Siegler - 1/26/2005

...and there is no question that they are only one element of democracy. There is also no question that they are a major step towards democracy. If truly free (as the elections in Afghanistan and Palestine have been according to international monitors)it can't be maintained that they allow a foreign power to control a country. It's amazing that Schaar can't see this, but the people of Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq can. These people don't have the institutions that we in the West take for granted and are obviously in the position of having to build them from scratch. American foreign policy is certainly in need of criticism but employing all the tired cliches about "imperialism" and control of oil without offering any constructive ideas makes this rant an empty and useless one.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/26/2005

Robert,
I could not agree more with both of your posts. All excellent points!


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/26/2005

1) “Well, Adam, your point by point listing doesn't get you very far, in your apparent quest to excuse Bush as just a garden variety right of center politician reflecting the aspirations of his right of center electoral supporters.”

For the record, it was not my list, but your own. I was merely responding to each one. Furthermore, I do not seek to “excuse” Bush by any means, merely to point out that his policies (and they are HIS policies, not the policies of the electoral supporters who voted him into office) have been endorsed by the so-called “mainstream” public.

I will not go over the examples point by point, all I will say is that I am not familiar with any Bush policy during his first term of office that has generated enough raised eyebrows or condemned as “radical” that would justify calling his 2-term administration “out of sync” so to speak, with “mainstream” America.

2) “In other words, a debate about how to handle an unacceptably abnormal policy or action is totally different than debating such a Non-Mainstream policy or action itself.”

I would agree. However, since no one in the administration is arguing that what happened at Abu Graib was good or should be national policy, I do not consider that to be a “mainstream” idea. As for many other Bush policies, I am not suggesting that he is a “mainstream” Republican. Merely that his policies, however unprecedented, have been accepted AS mainstream by the public.

3) “There are a set of vested interests…who would like everyone to believe that the old Right-Left dichotomy … is not only alive and well today, but that every bizarre twist of societal experience, unprecedented new economic trend or out-of-the-box political development can still be shoehorned into that obsolete paradigm.”

I do not believe this to be the case at all, nor do I see any reason why it need by. In the political world, however (as opposed to the historical or philosophical) the meanings liberal and conservative change in the popular lexicon. John Kerry is considered a liberal and George Bush is a conservative. Are they really? Certainly not by the traditional meanings of the term, but since this web-site is discussing politics just as surely as history, I believe that it is not unfair to continue using those terms both as their conventional usage, as well as their actual denotation.

In any event, this discussion need not interfere with the debate over whether Bush’s policies are “mainstream” or not, regardless of what you call them. I would argue that neither “true” conservatism, nor “true” liberalism is at all mainstream today.


Robert F. Koehler - 1/26/2005

I believe both views are correct, but the polarity of your perspectives have both of you clashing in a circular argument around the issues. One of you is aghast at the operational characteristics & processes of republican governance, and the other sees essentially nothing abnormal about those processes within the current version of republican governance that exists today. You are both right but tend to go wrong when the other refuses to see the merits in the opposite argument.


Robert F. Koehler - 1/26/2005

All interesting comments & points of view, but I perceive the republican surge these past 3 years is buried more in the emotions of immediate shock, the fear it inspired and the desire for revenge among the general populace due to 9-11. Bush, Cheney & co. deftly exploited & massaged this national mood with good old fashioned demagoguery such as "evil doers, axis of evil," WMD, aluminum tubes, anthrax scares, etc. Much of it is now known to be either false or manufactured, but at the time the populace were vulnerable & easily whipped into a war frenzy by an incessant stream of war mongering & propaganda. It was not a time for the truth, let alone for it to be told. It also helped that the fall of Afghanistan and Iraq were easy, quick, and nearly bloodless affairs for America's armed forces. These early success's reinforced the public's faith & support for this administrations handling of the war on terror.

Regardless of how one views the utility of public polling George still gets a favorable rating from 53 to 58% (depending on the poll) of the public as concerns his management of the war on terror, though a majority now perceives the invasion of Iraq a mistake. Paradoxically, this negative almost exactly mirrors Georges positive ratings in handling the war. Until now Bush has had a good run of it, but the gas gauge is running near empty. The American people have lately been hearing that the US military is a broken force, mounting KIA's & wounded, Abu Garib, infighting in the administration, rumors of a draft, disturbed & perplexed by the strong disapproval of world opinion and much more. None of this news is doing Bush any good, no matter how many syrupy interviews and soft balls from a Barbara Walters.

As for Iraq Bush can't just bail due to the real fear of the country descending into a blood bath, destabilization of the region and wider war. Bush can't pacify the country because the armed forces require at least a minimum of 20 boots per 1,000 Iraqis, or about 500,000 troops in country. America's armed forces have doctrine, organization, training and material needs geared for conventional war on the plains of Europe. This makes it the worst possible instrument for combating insurgency/guerrilla warfare and the vital concurrent & follow on operations of stabilization & reconstruction. Bush has no option but to acquiesce to Ali Sistani & the Shiite's or risk a vastly wider insurgency, a threat the Shiites will keep. Bush is flying on a wing and a prayer hoping that the elections will work.

If the Iraqi insurgency worsens, or escalates into civil war with no benefit arising out of the elections in Iraq, than this aversion among the public against the war is the first sign of a crack that will inevitably broaden into an unbridgeable chasm. Public fury will turn against this president and by extension will likely jeopardize or liquidate recent republican electoral gains, or worse. The only thing that may possibly save George would be a mushroom cloud rising over some city in America's heartland.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/26/2005

1) “where was the national debate on entering a mostly bogus and patently unwinnable and oxymoronic "war on terror", thus betraying America’s interests and helping Al Qaeda?”

The decision to wage a war on terror had no serious opposition to the best of my memory. Can you point out any national public figure who can be said to represent “mainstream America” that spoke out against it? Can you identify any coalition in the legislature, any national political pundit, even a single major national political figure who opposed the war on terror? The war on terror has become the proverbial “earth is flat” debate, with massive debate over how the war should be fought, but very little on whether we should wage one at all.

2) “where was the national debate on new policies of torturing prisoners ?”

That debate has been waged on TV, on the radio, and in newspapers across the country. The confirmation hearing of Gonzales was perhaps the most recent, although I recall several years ago Alan Dershowitz writing a book advocating the institutionalization and codification of torture.

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/politics/10732627.htm?1c

3) “where was the national debate on the WMD evidence in Iraq ?”

The greatest problem leading up to the war was, in my opinion, the lack of debate (at least in the United States) of Iraq’s threat. The idea that Iraq did NOT have WMD was an idea that was out of the mainstream mostly because it never (or rarely) entered the national debate as a viable alternative. Even so-called radical anti-war groups (which were out of the mainstream) rarely used the argument that Iraq had no WMD, but instead often asserted that even if it did have them, the US was wrong to act.

4) “where was the national debate on a Nazi-like policy of preemptive attack ?”

Although no one in the mainstream has called the war in Iraq to something akin to the Nazis, and rightfully so, the debate over the doctrine of preemption has been ever-present ever since the president declared it as a policy. Since both the doctrine and its alternative have entered the national debate as viable alternatives, I would say that either side of the issue constitutes the mainstream, as do most issues of controversy (whether or not it is like the Nazis, however, is not controversial in any real sense).

5) “where was the national debate on arrogantly insulting France and Germany, for no good reason at all ?”

That too, has been debated on the pages of national editorials, and the halls of Congress. Thus, no problem there.

6) “where was the national debate on gutting the civil service and using litmus tests to fill it with incompetent hacks ?”

As I do not recall anyone calling for such an action, I would say that such a decision is indeed out of the mainstream.

7) “where was the national debate on making permanent an unsustainable (at least according to "mainstream" economists) series of federal deficits in ad infinitum (a very unconservative policy, by the way), in order to benefit high income campaign donors ?”

That too, has been a part of the national debate at least since the 2000 election. It continues every day.

8) “None of these reckless affronts to America has in fact has been subjected to a genuine national debate, because Bush & Co know that they would have lost those debates, and would have had to develop genuine policies rather than use deceit and fearmongering to win legitimacy in November 2004.”

I would argue that my definition of “mainstream” fits quite well with your examples. Those issues that have received genuine debate as a viable alternative (such as the national deficit) were mainstream and those issues not subject to national debate or not considered a viable option (such as ending the war on terror) are out of the “mainstream.”

9) “The fact the most Republican politicians and voters have foolishly, and many Democratic politicians and like Feinstein and Lieberman spinelessly rubberstamped these horrors does not mean at all, that the reflect any deep mainstream popular desire.”

I disagree. I would argue that the fact that both parties as well as the voters have agreed to those so-called “horrors” makes them, almost by definition, “mainstream.” I would point out that what we are discussing here is not what is intelligent, cogent, or beneficial to our long term interests. We are discussing what constitutes as a “mainstream president.”

10) “Social security "reform"…”

An interesting case. I would argue that since no specific plan has been presented and I have seen data showing that up to 60% of Americans oppose any dramatic change in the system, supporting Bush’s proposals are probably out of the mainstream. However, as it gets more and more media attention and the president continues to advocate it, it may very well enter the mainstream very soon.


P.S. I like your subject heading :)


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/25/2005

1) “My objection was to the author's ignoring of the several significant differences (which I pointed out) between Iraq and Afghanistan”

I take your point.

2) “But, Adam, you make the erroneous assumption, endemic to a website riddled with mostly irrelevant and often plain silly "left-right" dichotomies, that Bush and his crew are part of that undeniable, though rather mindless, conservative drift.”

I make no such assumption. I would agree with you that Bush and his administration are not conservative in any traditional meaning of the term. However, I would contend that just as the Democratic party realigned itself to FDR’s vision of politics, and realigned the traditional meaning of “liberal,” Bush has done the same, generating intense loyalty to him from fellow Republicans as well as rank-and-file conservatives.

3) “Running budget deficits to attempt to bankrupt the federal government, and wild nonsense about preemptive attacks in a "war on terrorism" are not only unworkable crap, and utterly against American traditions, they are also out of kilter with underlying (more truly conservative !) desires of the American public.”

I would agree that Bush policies are unworkable (and I also would agree that they are mostly “crap”) but many people disagree with us. It is not just Bush’s victory in November that attests to this, but the huge success of legislators hanging on his coattails.

As for the rest of your analysis, I suppose the question is, what do we consider “mainstream”? How is it defined? Before we answer this question, any discussion of whether Bush and his policies are mainstream remains meaningless. Allow me to postulate my own definition and then perhaps we can debate that definition rather than the amorphous term “mainstream.” To me, the United States government is, by definition, the “establishment.” So long as overall ideology and direction of policy is known by the American people, I would define a “mainstream issue” to be any policy that has entered the national debate as legitimate alternative. For example, social security reform has become “mainstream” in that it is seriously debated by pundits, journalists, and politicians. Whether or not the earth is flat is not, because it is not consider legitimate debate. A “mainstream president” is one who has been democratically elected and is able to amass a large coalition of legislators to implement his or her policy. By this definition, Bush and his policies are indeed “mainstream.” I do not mean for my definition to be exhaustive or perfect, and I welcome any constructive alteration of it.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/25/2005

Sandor,
I would agree 100% with your post, perhaps I am being a bit too generous towards the article.

For example, one of the criticisms that I have noticed but failed to include in my last post is the change of direction the article takes with regards to the Palestinians. The beginning of the article discusses how elections alone need not translate into democracy, but then when discussing the Palestinians, the issue of democracy is ignored and the author’s point changes. Now, he says that elections will not “solve the deep long-lasting crisis that has made enemies out of these two neighbors.” So which is it? Is the problem with elections that they are not enough to ensure democracy, or is it that democracy or not, elections cannot solve problems or conflicts? Those are 2 different hypotheses and should not have been compressed into one article as the author has done.

Personally, I believe that generally speaking, elections are almost never a bad thing, and the Palestinian elections are the best news the region has seen in a very long time.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 1/24/2005

Although I may not agree with the general tone of the article, or the use of such loaded and undefined words such as “empire” and “imperialism,” I agree with the general point of the article, which I gleaned to be the following: “In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, all three in the throes of war, elections have emerged as the panacea for establishing local legitimacy, while all other festering problems continue to plague the populations who have been called to the polls.”

In other, words, let us not view elections as interchangeable with democracy. Although all Democracies, in my opinion, have free and open elections, not all countries who have elections are democracies. The goal in Iraq right now, in my humble opinion, would be better served by emphasizing stability and control and then slowly introducing elections, a free press, and other necessary institutions, rather than simply holding an election to validate a democracy and then getting the hell out.

The part of the article that I found the most disagreeable was the last sentence, when the author says that elections may help “to maintain foreign control.” This blanket statement does not seem very consistent with the rest of the article, and leaves one to wonder if the author thinks that the alternative (no elections) would be MORE democratic or more likely to end foreign control? I find this puzzling.

I also would like the opportunity to respond to some other posters here on some comments:

Peter,
1) “The overthrow of the Taliban (from whose midst the U.S. was indeed attacked) was carried out by the Northern Alliance, welcomed by most Afghans, and endorsed by a near unanimous United Nations. This regime change was vastly more legitimate (or at least vastly less illegitimate) than the Saddam-Garner-Bremer-Chalabi-Allawi-? fiasco in Iraq.”

I do not believe that the author is arguing that our motivation for entering Afghanistan was imperialistic (although there is perhaps a subtle implication), only that our actions once seem to focus on installing puppet governments, not democratic ones. His comments on Afghanistan focus almost entirely on after the war, when, he says “the U.S. then created a puppet government, led by Hamid Karzai, and held the country precariously with 18,000 foreign troops. Even elections at the end of 2004, which gave Karzai 55 percent of the vote, did little to legitimize his regime. Warlords and Taliban-Al Qaeda forces still control much of Afghanistan and the opium trade, which dominates the country’s economy. The Bush administration wants us to believe that Afghanistan’s elections somehow have created a stable regime.”

In other words, the point with Afghanistan and Iraq is that both include the assumption that elections will “solve” the problem. Afghanistan, for example, has become the model of nation-building, and frequently cited by administration officials as an example of what Iraq could be, despite the fact that the situation on the ground is still not completely stable, as the following, pre-election article discusses.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5069264/

2) “The Cheney-Bush administration is NOT a manifestation of mainstream American politics.”

I agree with Mr. Friedman and Mr. Dresner. Bush won re-election and the Republican influence on this country continues to grow. America may be uncertain of the outcome of Bush’s policies, but it clearly endorses them, and have continued to endorse them in every election since 2000. As a Democrat and vocal opponent of this administration, I may not like his policies or public statements, but I had my chance to express that opposition and the majority of Americans disagreed with me. To me, his re-election, combined with the continuing success of Republican candidates, and the immense popularity of conservative media outlets, lead me to disagree with the contention that the administration is not representative.

Sandor,
“It's gratifying to find a leftist who doesn't even bother to hide his contempt for democracy.”

At no time in the article did I read anything that could be construed to indicate that the author has contempt for democracy. Indeed, the author makes the exact opposite argument, that the mere fact there are elections will not guarantee democracy, indicating his support, not contempt, for it. As for being a “leftist,” since I only know this term as a pejorative accusation, I am not sure what relevance it has to the article. Until someone can define what a “leftist” actually is, I prefer to stick to the traditional “liberal/conservative” labels, which are themselves often problematic.


John H. Lederer - 1/24/2005

Schaar's piece is so riddled with errors (the figure of 100,000 Iraqi dead has been well debunked, for instance) that one can reasonably doubt his conslusions to be rationally arrived at.

"Elections may sell well in Congress and Peoria, but they alone do not make a democratic regime. In the short term they may help, however, to maintain foreign control."

It seem to me that the gold standard question is "once the Iraqis have an elected government, can that government order the Americans out if it chooses?". If the answer to that is "yes", then this hoary "imperialist" stuff is bunk.


N. Friedman - 1/24/2005

Sandor,

That is a good point.


N. Friedman - 1/24/2005

Peter,

"The Cheney-Bush administration is NOT a manifestation of mainstream American politics. It is a abnormal aberration..."

Whether or not one likes Bush or not, the fact is that a president twice elected is not an aberration. Given that the control of Republicans over US politics continues to expand (e.g. more and more states have come under Republican control and Congress has come more under Republican control and the US Court system has come more under Republican control) while the role of the Democrats continues to contract (i.e. losing people not only to Republicans but to the Independents), you must have been smoking something when you wrote your comment.

Perhaps you meant to say that you think Iraq is a fiasco and that, in due course, the country will come to see that the Republicans are making us worse off than might the Democrats.

If you want my view, I think that the reason the Republicans are winning is not love for Mr. Bush's policy but, instead, the &#65279;inconsequentiality of what the Democrats have to say. One need only listen to the last campaign where Kerry offered no real reason to vote for him.

Which is to say, the Democrats have yet to come to grips with the fact that the global Jihad is a reality. Until the Democrats do and have a substantial program - one that is not perceived merely to be appeasement (and it might also help if the policy proposal is actually not appeasement) akin to what Europeans propose, which is mere appeasement -, the Democrats will be sitting home.

To me, that is a tragedy but it is the truth.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/24/2005

Whether the Bush administrations are outliers depends very much on the scale of the question and what happens next. In the 20th century the US interfered in the affairs of many a sovereign nation, sometimes by invitation and sometimes without anything resembling a causus belli. True, since the mid-70s we have only invaded a few small countries, mostly with humanitarian primary missions, but that could well be considered the abberation.

If we never repudiate this strategy, then we have to consider it generally acceptable to the mainstream. I don't like it myself, but it doesn't seem to have provoked the depth of outrage (yet) that would justify considering it abnormal.

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