Monday, June 25, 2007

Islam is not a threat

I have no love for Islam. None at all. As bad as Islam is, however, it is not a "threat" in any meaningful sense.

The Islamic cultures are to a greater or lesser degree, barbaric, misogynist, and fundamentally intellectually bankrupt. The only possible exception is Turkey with an explicitly secular, non-Islamic government. Even in Turkey, though, Islam has a negative effect on its national culture. Islam, unlike Christianity and Judaism, has not yet engaged in sufficient sophistry and bullshit to even partially insulate the daily life of individual believers from the absurd, barbaric and misogynist elements of its scripture.

I am opposed to Islam primarily because of the suffering endured by its believers, especially women. They suffer not because they actually believe the Islamic way is a good way of living, but because they falsely believe they will go to Hell if they do not sacrifice their happiness and well-being in this life. Only the threat of hell could possibly justify the human cost of Islam.

All this being said, Islam is not much of a threat to the West. Precisely because Islam is so horrific, so intellectually bankrupt, Islam has neither the political, social, technological or military power to directly threaten the West in any substantial way. The "threat" of Islam is indirect: Authoritarian, anti-democratic elements in the West are promulgating fear of Islam—as opposed to justified disgust and disapproval—to undermine the West's liberal, Enlightenment and democratic values. But there's little to fear, and what there is to fear is relatively easy to deal with.

The idea that Islam could use military power to invade and overthrow even a single Western nation is risible. Even if the Islamic nations were able to cooperate (and sectarian and nationalistic differences prevent such cooperation) it's doubtful that they could militarily defeat even tiny Israel. It's not enough to simply buy high-tech weaponry; you have to have a pervasive pro-technology attitude in the soldiery to effectively employ such weapons; the very nature of Islam excludes a pro-technology attitude. Fanaticism, too, is greatly overrated: Fanatics make great suicide bombers, but poor soldiers. The whole point of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the enemy die for his.

Nuclear weapons do not serve any offensive military purpose; they are useful only as a deterrent. It's instructive to note that there have been conflicts with almost every possible nuclear match-up, from the US vs. Iraq to Britain vs. Argentina and India vs. Pakistan, and nuclear weapons have never provided an offensive advantage. A nuclear armed Iran, for instance, does not in any way plausibly increase the military threat to the West, even Israel: Iran knows that if it were to use nuclear weapons against Israel, it would face certain retaliation and complete destruction. Not even an Islamic government would be so blatantly suicidal.

Terrorism (or what James might call "violent activity by non-state actors") and other forms of guerrilla action are very limited tactics, useful only for narrow political purposes. And the political targets that terrorism can actually affect are primarily those—such as imperialism and colonialism—which are ethically indefensible in the first place.

Islamist terrorism (or even Christianist terrorism) is still, of course, a matter of considerable concern. But the threat is not "existential": Terrorist activity does not have the power to destroy governments or democratic institutions. Terrorist activity can be effectively countered by modifying ethically indefensible foreign policy in conjunction with ordinary police work subject to traditional democratic, liberal constraints.

The threat of immigration and democratic "take-over from within forms" is hardly a threat. Even with massive immigration, the Muslim population of Europe (outside the Islamic nations of Turkey, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina) is less than 5%. Israel is the only liberal democratic country with a substantial number of Islamic residents, a problem which would be quickly solved by partition and Palestinian statehood[1].

The social problems caused by the level of immigration that does exist are difficult but solvable. Multicultural integration—focusing on second- and third-generation bilingualism, economic integration and uniformity of law while preserving benign components of immigrant culture—are strategies with a proven history of success in the West. Even the worst sorts of bullshit multiculturalism (notably ghettoization and separate law) merely exacerbate the social issues and show an indefensible indifference to the suffering of immigrants; they do not raise the threat of internal takeover of a few percent of the population in any meaningful time frame. The demographic landscape might well change in the next half-century, but it's impossible to make meaningful social prognostications on such a long-term time scale.

The only meaningful threat posed by Islam is indirect. By promulgating fear that is entirely rationally unjustified, authoritarian elements—especially Christian Dominionists—in Western cultures can scare the population into abandoning the liberal, democratic institutions and ideologies that are the basis of the West's scientific, technological, social and humanitarian success. Such fear can justify only authoritarianism and imperialism and bring out the worst elements of our own national character.

Islam is, in this respect, merely a decoy. The authoritarian measures "justified" by a response to Islam and Islamist terrorism will be immediately employed to suppress local, democratic dissent and impose ideological (probably Christianist) uniformity. If we do not panic, we can deal with the all the badness of Islam using the proven and ethically defensible ideals of Western liberal democracy and concern for individual human rights.


[1] Partition and statehood would admittedly create other problems.

34 comments:

  1. "Fanatics make great suicide bombers, but poor soldiers. The whole point of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the enemy die for his.

    Nuclear weapons do not serve any offensive military purpose; they are useful only as a deterrent."


    And what about the suicide bomber mentality coupled with nuclear weapons?

    If you have a fanatical desire to destroy something, and are willing to die to accomplish it, then nuclear weapons would seem to be a gift from Allah.

    Meanwhile, while we pontificate, Al Qaeda's nuclear weapons are already in place in the US....

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  2. Meanwhile, while we pontificate, Al Qaeda's nuclear weapons are already in place in the US....

    You crazy.

    No, really, this kind of crackpot fear-mongering just inflames the problem and prevents any kind of rational discussion about what to do about violent, Muslim non-state actors and to protect the U.S.

    I am ready, willing, and able to disabuse you of this crackpot idea, so long as you retain a shred of rationality. Which, admittedly, is asking for much.

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  3. Nevermind. Went to Yankee's blog. It's either a genius parody or the work of a fanatic.

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  4. Even in the worst-case scenario, however horrific, one or two nuclear weapons by themselves would not serve to conquer the West. And there are excellent reasons to consider the worst-case scenario unlikely.

    Although nuclear weapons—especially those of the former Soviet Union—are not nearly secure as we would like, you still can't make them in your garage or pick them up for a couple bucks at a flea market.

    Terrorist organizations with resources sufficient to acquire nuclear weapons are also well-organized enough that they would be sensitive to the strategic stupidity of using these weapons.

    The Islamic world—states as well as non-state actors—is not focused on mindless destruction; they have a definite political agenda: The supremacy of Islam. Offensive use of nuclear weapons, by state as well as non-state actors, would not promote this agenda.

    The nuclear threat of Islamic terrorism is insignificant compared to the threat of the United States arsenal falling into the hands of Armageddon-obsessed Christian Dominionists. And if they have not already in the person of George W. Bush, it is only because Cheney is too calculating and amoral to buy into such an agenda.

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  5. "The whole point of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the enemy die for his."

    The mark of a good writer is proper sourcing. The quote above is from Gen. George Patton. Failure to properly source raises all sorts of other questions which tend to dilute one's message.

    Not trying to be a dick, but there it is.

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  6. "Nuclear weapons do not serve any offensive military purpose; they are useful only as a deterrent."

    This statement is missing a qualifier, that being "Among equally nuclear-armed powers."

    I'm sure the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and all Japanese for that matter) can attest to the reality of the "offensive military purpose" of nuclear weapons.

    Similarly, a non-nuclear nation merely threatened by a nuclear power could attest the same.

    To the writer who believes that "Al-Qaeda" has nukes in place in the United State: were it true, then it's the CIA and Pentagon (who created "Al-Qaeda") that will effectuate their use should the need arise. Of course, it's possible that the CIA or Pentagon will have a convenient Muslim patsy lined up -- that's SOP.

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  7. "Terrorism (or what James might call "violent activity by non-state actors")..."

    Why restrict oneself to "non-state" actors? 99.9% of all terrorism is conducted by State actors. [Feel free to add as many "9s" after the decimal point as you like to bring it closer to reality.]

    What a marvelous magician the State is, that it can delude individuals into looking at the minutest detail while the big picture goes completely ignored!

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  8. Why restrict oneself to "non-state" actors?

    Because within the context of the discussion (i.e. "Islam is not a threat"), one is likely discussing al-Qaeda or the militant wings of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah; or sectarian militias; or, even more broadly, separatists like Jamal al-Islamiya in Indonesia.
    "Terrorism" is typically distinguished in vernacular conversation from "legitimate" guerrilla and psychological warfare, though the distinction ends up being little more than academic and semantic. It's not like I invented the term "violent non-state actor;" it was coined by Professor Jessica E. Stern of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, who is one of the U.S.'s foremost experts on the use of guerrilla methods to invoke psychological responses in order to accomplish political ends.(Is that precise enough, Mr. Semantic? Yeesh.)

    This statement is missing a qualifier, that being "Among equally nuclear-armed powers."

    This is not quite accurate; in a multi-polar world, such as during the Cold War, mutual defense treaties or entertwined systems (such as Soviet satellites belonging to the Warsaw Pact) fell under this nuclear umbrella. This is also why, today, countries like Iran and Venezuela, when confronted by a belligerent relationship with a nuclear-armed foe like the U.S., seek tight economic relationships with nuclear-armed countries, like China. Further, in the interconnected and democratic world, the use of or invocation of the threat of use of nuclear weapons are complex political matters. The ACTUAL risk of a Cold War-style exchange of nuclear weapons is largely overblown. The possession of nuclear weapons is primarily defensive; but in order to be defensive, they did require, under the cruel rules of realpolitik, a demonstration of efficacy. They are defensive precisely because of their demonstrated destructive (i.e. offensive) power.

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  9. Not trying to be a dick, but there it is.

    The mark of a true master is to succeed without appearing to be trying.

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  10. The weak intellects who believe in fantasies like 'American Hiroshima' were the kind of people who believed Hitler's tales of an international Jewish bloodsucking conspiracy. It's also interesting to note how the same physical stereotypes the Nazis used to denigrate Jews in the 1930s are used to denigrate Arabs and Muslims today. This is no accident.

    If the U.S. can remotely monitor the radiation emissions from North Korea's underground nuclear test sites, they sure as hell can locate the radiation signature of a suitcase nuke within the U.S. Therefore, if there IS a nuclear terrorist attack on these shores, you can be sure that the parties which stands to gain the most money and power - namely our own fearless leaders - are responsible though either outright collusion or deliberate inaction.

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  11. "The mark of a true master is to succeed without appearing to be trying."

    Did Patton say that too?

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  12. He might have, he was pretty much a dick.

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  13. "(Is that precise enough, Mr. Semantic? Yeesh.)"

    I know you jest, but if you think my point was "semantics," then we failed to connect. The point was substantive, i.e. why care about the infinitesimal amount of non-state sponsored terrorism when state-sponsored terrorism is the real threat?

    My point is that this discussion as framed is meaningless.

    Even the Founders knew that one's own government is the greatest threat to life and liberty. And they created the monstrosity that is the U.S. government anyway. Thanks a bunch!

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  14. "[Patton] was pretty much a dick."

    No argument from me here -- he was before my time. He certainly has been portrayed as a dick. Fine with me.

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  15. "State sponsored 'terrorism'" is an oxymoron. Violence used by the actual government of a state against the citizenry of another state is usually called war.

    "State sponsored 'terrorism'" just means "war where the enemy refuses to hand us the advantage."

    Just so you know, Anon, I'm calling you a dick (and stupid too).

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  16. "This is also why, today, countries like Iran and Venezuela, when confronted by a belligerent relationship with a nuclear-armed foe like the U.S., seek tight economic relationships with nuclear-armed countries, like China."

    We have tight economic relationships with China too -- China owns $1 Trillion in U.S. debt. Like they could do anything about it if the U.S. went into default anyway. The U.S. has a larger military than the next 20 nations on Earth combined.

    "Further, in the interconnected and democratic world, the use of or invocation of the threat of use of nuclear weapons are complex political matters."

    The Commander Guy seems to have no problem with the complexity of it all.

    The ACTUAL risk of a Cold War-style exchange of nuclear weapons is largely overblown."

    When did that Cold War-style exchange of nuclear weapons actually occur? It must have been before I was born, else I fell asleep in history class that day.

    Oh, yeah. It never did happen, I just realized. Some threat.

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  17. "Just so you know, Anon, I'm calling you a dick (and stupid too)."

    Wow, call me obtuse.

    Keep on ripping off one-liners from historical figures, Bum. I see quite a future in it for you.

    Cheers!

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  18. If the U.S. can remotely monitor the radiation emissions from North Korea's underground nuclear test sites, they sure as hell can locate the radiation signature of a suitcase nuke within the U.S.

    Yes and no. Certain types of isotopes are more detectable than others. Plutonium, for example, is very "hot" and easily detected -- an Australian cargo ship carrying roofing tiles that had accidentally been "tagged" with trace amounts of plutonium was tracked and boarded by the U.S. Navy (using satellites, no less) before ever entering U.S. waters. However, "dull" isotopes, like uranium, or those found in common medical equipment are not at all easily detectable but are equally useful in a dirty bomb.

    My point is that this discussion as framed is meaningless.

    Then I think your point is meaningless because you're definition of "terrorism" is expanded to a point of utter uselessness.

    We have tight economic relationships with China too -- China owns $1 Trillion in U.S. debt. Like they could do anything about it if the U.S. went into default anyway.

    Yes, but whereas we are important because we buy their shit and send them manufacturing contracts, Venezuela and Iran are important because they sell them the very fuel their economy runs on. And China is just one example: Russia (and just how great a pal has Putin been lately, really...) is another.

    The U.S. has a larger military than the next 20 nations on Earth combined.

    Yes, but the whole point of nuclear weapons is that they take the conventional military forces out of the equation. One carrier task force could pretty much eviscerate Iran's professional military (which is just a crappy Air Force and the land and sea units of the "elite" forces...); one carrier group can't defend you against even a single ICBM.

    The Commander Guy seems to have no problem with the complexity of it all.

    Anyone with a working knowledge of the military knows this isn't even an argument worth making.

    When did that Cold War-style exchange of nuclear weapons actually occur? It must have been before I was born, else I fell asleep in history class that day.

    Don't be an idiot. This isn't even an argument against my point; it's an attempt to score a rhetorical hit (and a bad one at that).

    Oh, yeah. It never did happen, I just realized. Some threat.

    Yes, because in a world where more than one nation has nuclear weapons, they become defensive in nature, a deterrent, not a tool of aggression. But thanks for leaving yourself wide open.

    Keep on ripping off one-liners from historical figures, Bum.

    I don't think you actually are accurately invoking the rules of attribution. By your logic, I've got to pause and attribute John Wayne whenever I say, "That'll be the day" as part of a greater soliloquy. They're phrases in common usage; that's basic cultural semiotics.

    Dick.

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  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  20. I can at least stop people from being idiots here; it doesn't take a whole army.

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  21. To be frank, I should have accurately quoted and attributed Patton. But, given that the phrase has wide currency, it was a solecism, merely lazy and not dishonest.

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  22. I'm curious as to what the deleted post said, if it wasn't just spam...

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  23. The anonymous idiot was whinging about being called an idiot and noting that we can't stop him from being an idiot.

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  24. "I can at least stop people from being idiots here; it doesn't take a whole army."

    True, but I can still be an idiot if I want to.

    "To be frank, I should have accurately quoted and attributed Patton."

    That's all you had to say in the first place. I understand that it takes a lot to admit one is wrong.

    "But, given that the phrase has wide currency, it was a solecism, merely lazy and not dishonest."

    Rationalizing, the phrase does not have wide currency, I doubt more than 1 in 10,000 could have identified Patton as the source. However, I never accused you of dishonesty. Ironically, I was accusing you of laziness and maybe, just maybe, taking advantage of the utter lack of currency of the phrase. In other words, from reading your posts I see you are an intelligent fellow with a strong message, a message that deserves the i's dotted and the t's crossed, so to speak.

    "I'm curious as to what the deleted post said, if it wasn't just spam..."

    It was an epithet-laced rant meant in complete satire. I demanded the right to be an idiot in no uncertain terms. It's just basic human decency to let someone be an idiot.

    "The anonymous idiot was whinging about being called an idiot and noting that we can't stop him from being an idiot."

    For the record, I was not "whinging," whatever that is. I was not whining either. That you cannot recognize brilliant satire is no fault of mine.

    And I still reserve the right to be an idiot, though in fairness, if you do not want me to be here, I shan't return.

    Good day!

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  25. solecism n. A nonstandard usage or grammatical construction. A violation of etiquette. An impropriety, mistake, or incongruity.

    OK, third definition. Got it.

    My deleted post was a solecism too! (2nd definition)

    "Hey, Honey, I just made a solecism!"

    "You better damn well clean it up yourself!"

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  26. "By your logic, I've got to pause and attribute John Wayne whenever I say, "That'll be the day" as part of a greater soliloquy."

    Not if you're doing a John Wayne impersonation as you say it.

    Harder to pull it off on paper. Better to attribute it. Also depends on the context. If you're making a joke, no one cares about the attribution. If you're making a point, it definitely helps.

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  27. "Whinging" is the completely counter-intuitive correct spelling of "whineing."

    Hey, I think being an idiot's all good. I do it quite frequently, just ask my wife.

    That said, I don't really see why the quote needed attribution at all. What a silly argument, though, on all parts (including me).

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  28. "Hey, Honey, I just made a solecism!"

    "You better damn well clean it up yourself!"


    Okay, now I hope you stick around!

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  29. I second James' exhortation: I'd like you to stick around as well. Keep in mind: If you're wrong, I won't be shy about pointing it out. If I'm wrong, you don't have to be shy either. Just be right.

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  30. That you cannot recognize brilliant satire is no fault of mine.

    I'm an engineer and philosopher. I sometimes have trouble getting beyond literal meanings. Here is Anonymous's original post in its satirical entirety:

    James F. Elliot, don't tell me not to be an idiot. I'll fucking be an idiot if I goddamn well want to be. You and some fucking army couldn't stop me if you fucking tried.

    Fucking cocksucker.


    Is everyone happy now?

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  31. That original comment is a riot. I love it. I now not only hope to interact with this anonymous fellow more, I also hope he at least gives us an alias to know him by!

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  32. "What a silly argument, though, on all parts (including me)."

    A bit Pythonesque? I'll be Cleese.

    James F. Elliott said... "Okay, now I hope you stick around!"

    Thanks for the warm welcome, fellas. I think I'll poke my nose around this joint for awhile, maybe take it for a test-drive.

    The Barefoot Bum said... "I second James' exhortation: I'd like you to stick around as well. Keep in mind: If you're wrong, I won't be shy about pointing it out. If I'm wrong, you don't have to be shy either. Just be right."

    Agreed. I appreciate your comments regarding Silber -- he's an ethical genius IMHO, really opened my eyes to radical tolerance. Except, of course, for his recent actions regarding Mr. Bum and his blog. Maybe I'll send Arthur an e-mail.

    The Barefoot Bum said... "I'm an engineer and philosopher. I sometimes have trouble getting beyond literal meanings."

    I knew there was a reason! I didn't figure that post would have a long half-life. It was meant to self-destruct in 10...9... Absolutely no offense intended, James.

    James F. Elliott said... "That original comment is a riot. I love it. I now not only hope to interact with this anonymous fellow more, I also hope he at least gives us an alias to know him by!"

    Glad it was received in the spirit in which it was intended. Call me ... nah, too obvious.

    "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." — Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca (1942)

    ;-)

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  33. english and ordinary7/7/07, 6:46 PM

    Can't believe that you folks consider yourselves intelligent.
    You come from a different planet to ANY religious fundamentalist extremists. Don't try to understand them because when you get close to understanding they will twist things just to prove you wrong.
    You will ALWAYS be wrong in their eyes because they do not want to be what we consider normal and human.
    If you don't agree with them you are a target for their twisted sense of justice.
    Maybe the time has come to say 'Enough is Enough' and pay them back.....if they want death and glory let us meet them half way.
    Death is more valuable to the fanatics than life so let us make their dreams come true

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  34. english and ordinary: I think you and I have very different ideas about what we consider "normal". Methinks you might have more in common with Islamic terrorists than you would care to admit.

    Maybe the time has come to say 'Enough is Enough' and pay them back...

    Precisely whom do you suggest we pay pack? How precisely do you recommend making such payment?

    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." (Gandhi)

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