Duly Noted: A Conflict Is Upon Us
By George Handlery
Created 2008-07-19 11:52
George Handlery on the week that was. There is a hook at the end of the safety rope. The clash of religions: is it about culture? How to make equalitarian projects fail? Disarmament: is there a plan “B”? Fiction: North Korean food aid to South Korea. From Mugabeland to Somalia. Where good news are obligatory. Whose business is Flanders?
1. By the choice of the Islamists, a conflict is upon us. No one here had wanted it. This is consoling but also irrelevant. Some prefer to view the confrontation as being between religions. On the surface, this is true. Religion might be, as it is in this case, merely an expression of culture. After all, the implication of what a religious duty amounts to is a matter of interpretation. This does not reduce the weight of the issues but it does change their context from “religion” to “culture” and “tradition”.
2. Regardless of soothingly emphasized similarities, (monotheism, a Good Book of revelations and their acknowledged interrelationship,) there is a significant difference between Islam and the Judeo-Christian tradition. The manifold mutations of the latter have retreated from their once extreme positions. This meant a withdrawal from the worldly into the spiritual realm. Concurrently, a pull-back from politics took place and the ambition to control daily lives was dropped. This facilitated the democratization of politics: rulers could not convincingly assert that they are acting on a mandate of heaven. Parallel to this, modern science and a society that admitted that its order is not God-imposed but the product of men, could unfold. A modern, inventive political, economic and social order and its derivate, the “good life”, emerged. Considering the current radical version that defines it, Islam seems to have developed in the opposite direction. The roots of the current conflict grew in this soil.
3. Sometimes, you hear that we are not to over-react as we face the Islamist challenge. Allegedly, the movement’s prospects are limited as it has no state. Hold it! In 1848, when the Communist Manifesto came out, that movement was also a ragtag, landless internationalists association.
4. The problem with the underdevelopment of some world regions is not that their population rejects the achievements of leading areas. All seem to want to share in the wealth of advanced societies. The barrier that separates the desire from reality is that some laggard societies refuse to apply the methods that propelled the achievers to success.
5. Social justice is – already because of diverging definitions – too elusive to be fully achieved. However, failure is guaranteed if it is pursued through institutionalized government policy that is administered by a specially created state agency.
6. Limits apply even to democratically created institutionalized power. The red line is the basic freedom of the individual. Institutions – such as the state – are created for their protection. Laws have the function of defining and defending the spheres reserved to be the private domain of individuals.
7. Conventional wisdom depicts agreements on nuclear disarmament as guarantees of security. Overall, this approach might, indeed, enhance the safety we love to attribute to such deals. However, in the case of some potential contracting parties, caveats are called for. Some concrete accords appear in a new light if an unpleasant question regarding the unthinkable – but not unlikely – is raised. It is: what course of action is foreseen if, after the initial implementation of the agreement, a party to it is unmasked as violating it?
8. South Korea keeps giving humanitarian aid to starving North Korea. Never has the communist North been asked to help the South. It was not only too destitute for that: there was, mysteriously, no humanitarian emergency. What differentiates these related but in their performance so different states? The simple answer: decades of Communism. This circumstance helped the South to escape Socialism which is the greatest man-made misfortune of all times. South Korea’s donations might be “atonement ‘ for having avoided a theory for mankind’s improvement that, also in Korea, did not fail to fail as it did everywhere else. If you think of this aid as a payment made for having avoided damage then the sum is well worth it.
9. Rising fuel prices have consequences. One is to confirm the Great Green Hope of Capitalism’s impending collapse. We are running out of oil, coal, and dried camel dung. The way out is to submit to their collectivism. Which would lead to worse than “nowhere” because they reject practical solutions that go beyond making us squat again around the fire in the cave. (Alternatively, perhaps even less than that should be offered because BBQs are carcinogenic.) The real way out suggests that we have to rely on two instruments the frog-colored problem solvers reject. They are nuclear-generated electric power and drilling/exploration. This brings to mind that Green solutions are mutations of their socialist, that is “dirigistic” convictions. Those, who resist concessions to PC and have therefore not forgotten the past know that, in this case, the remedy is worse (more North Korean) than the original ailment.
10. A Russian-Chinese veto in the SecCouncil (July 11) has saved Mugabe from the sanctions watered down to avoid the veto. Now that their fellow dictator is saved and “American Imperialism” defeated, we have an observation and a question. The finding: to rely on the UN to guarantee freedom and rights that your national means cannot secure is of limited benefit. The question: who will save the future victims of just-rescued Comrade Bob’s rule? While we ponder that one Peking is making the world safer for dictatorship by supporting Somalia’s strong man (July 15).
11. Russia can only afford an army that is half the size of the one she is currently fielding. The military resists the quality-enhancing shrinkage. There is a partial explanation. In the past, the Russian way to wage war was to throw her superior mass against a numerically limited but technologically more advanced enemy. In the wars of the past, the mass of the hey Russia stuffed into the chopper eventually clogged the machine. Realistic scenarios suggest that this strategy, the advantage of “mass” being lost, is bound to fail.
12. The 1989 Romanian revolution that overthrew Ceausescu was a state security coup to remove an embarrassing icon. It is a sign of success that, while the system went, its beneficiaries and its essentials could be smuggled into the future -and recently in the EU. An amusing symptom of this is that the legislature in Bucharest decided that the health of the nation demands more good news. For this reason, half of the news must be “good”. The experienced Chairman of the committee to implement the policy is no other than Ceausescu’s old “court poet”.
13. What makes defunct movements and their ideas attractive? The case of the neo-Nazis, of old-line as well as of “reconstructed” Communists and Guevara-fans prompt the question. Such associations offer membership in a community of brothers. An attraction of joining the bond is that it extends hope that some day all men (namely the surviving elect) will also become brothers. The ideology of such movements is irrational. This enables them to override the evidence that contradicts their tenets. Thereby failure is reduced to a past stumble as one marches on the road to destiny. The “idea” is good, although its past implementation might have been sub-optimal. In the possession of the ultimate truth, the member is part of a force that has the moral right to guide mankind to achieve bliss even without its consent. This means having the right to apply the might that once made the world tremble and also to uphold the faith till the ultimate – albeit delayed – victory. Such mobilizing concepts are attractive to the failing, the misunderstood and the insecure.
14. Sort this out. The idea came while reading that in Georgia the USA is, as the reception of Condi Rice had demonstrated, popular. In countries that are in trouble or suspect that they could be, America is likely to be liked. Countries that for some reason are not fully aware of their potential security problems (much of Old and surprisingly some of New Europe are examples) the US is unpopular. Partly the purpose is to convince the source of the publicly denied threat that one is OK and “flexible”. Those who presume themselves to be safe confront the States. Once, when after all, one is undeniably in trouble, the antecedents are disregarded. Therefore, one counts on being able to ask the US to become part of the solution. A hook dangles at the end of this safety-rope. The more opposing the US had, as intended, weakened her, the lesser the motivation and her ability to be of help.
15. Flanders has a people, a territory and a language. Therefore, if it has the will to become a nation, why does it need the permission of “Europe”? As in all comparable cases where borders drawn by outsiders and the wishes of the indigenous collide, the people should be allowed to decide.