Sunday, August 07, 2005

Making good, part 3

Continued from here.

The second of the "esr" articles to which my pledger asked me to respond is titled "Libertarian Realism" -- a pretty odd title for an article which contains almost nothing of either. Once again, "esr" in italics, my reply in plain text:

Our Islamist enemies want to kill us all -- starting with Jews and gays, but continuing to anyone who doesn’t convert to Islam and accept shari'a and the whole nine yards. That's not melodrama, it's reporting of the plain and simple statements Al-Qaeda uses in their recruiting videos.

This isn't inaccurate, but it misses the point.

Yes, the Islamists want everyone on the face of the earth to submit to Wahabbe Islamic law or die.

But so what? I want a million dollars, too. Shit in one hand and want in the other. See which one gets full first.

In order to raise money and recruit fighters, the Islamists need more than their wishes, because the vast majority of the world's one billion Muslims are not Wahabbe Muslims and are not Islamists. Islam is divided into two major branches, Sunni and Shiite -- the division is based on an argument going back to the succession after Mohammed's death. Wahabbism is a sect within the Sunni branch of Islam. Yes, there are Shiite Islamists. Yes, some of them seem to have worked with Wahabbe Islamists. But the Islamists in both branches combined are such a vanishingly small minority that they do not constitute a substantial foundation for implementing al Qaeda's aims. Most Sunnis are Sufis, not Wahabbe. Nearly all Sufis, and most Wahabbe, are not Islamists.

Most Muslims are just people. I've been to Saudi Arabia, the nerve center of Wahabbism. Even there, most of the population does what it has to do to get by, makes its minimum obeisances to religious authority, and tries to go about life unmolested. I've seen women wearing western clothes among the Bedouin out in the desert, who are supposed to be the most hardcore Muslims. I've seen women driving. I've seen truck drivers sneaking behind their rigs to grab a smoke during Ramadan when the Quran says they're supposed to abstain during the day. And one female friend of mine who spent ten years in Saudi Arabia when her husband worked for ARAMCO told me that several of her married Saudi friends carried on torrid affairs, safe in the knowledge that if they were seen, the chador would prevent them from being identified. One of my Brit comrades in Saudi Arabia, a driver with the King's Own Scottish Borderers (a regiment my unit worked with) made a claim that sounded truthful -- a claim that a Saudi woman had offered to make the beast with two backs with him if he'd give her his cool KOSB beret. Just people. Not cardboard cutouts of some kid's idea of what "Muslim" means.

In order to get the Muslim masses pulling for Osama and Co., a casus belli is required, and "Jihad for Worldwide Shari'a" doesn't fit the bill. What does? Well, the same casus belli that al Qaeda has been claiming to be pursuing for the last 14 years: The presence of US troops in the Middle East. The "Arab Street" isn't going to arouse itself to impose Islam on the globe, but foreign soldiers in their back yard is another sack of cats entirely.

For 14 years, al Qaeda has raised money and recruited operators on the eminently reasonable grounds that foreign troops are occupying their countries. The US response? Invade Iraq and add another 25 million people to their recruitment and fundraising pool. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

The choice between "support the war" and "allow the pressure off of enemies who want to kill us all" is not a difficult one.

Well, it shouldn't be ... but ESR comes down on the wrong side of it.

In 2001, the US spent six weeks "nation-building" in the Afghan lowlands before moving into Osama bin Laden's stronghold areas -- while al Qaeda yawned, stretched and commenced a leisurely evacuation of its leaders and assets from the country. Then, the US virtually dropped Iraq into al Qaeda's lap with its entirely unjustified invasion.

Letting your enemy get away, and then pushing recruits into his arms and stuffing money into his pockets doesn't strike me as much of a way to "keep the pressure on" him. Want a Global War on Terror? Well, okay then. Any time you're ready to get started. It's been almost four years already, so I'm not holding my breath or anything.

Though I've been accused of abandoning my libertarianism for a conservative position, I still believe in the non-initiation of force as strongly as I ever have. I saw one damn huge freaking initiation of force on 9/11 -- not just an attack on one city or one country but an assault on Western civilization. Everything al-Qaeda's propaganda organs have said since confirms that is what they intend.

I doubt that "esr" has actually seen any of al Qaeda's propaganda organs, but as the case may be ...

WTF does this have to do with Iraq?

Yes, there was one hell of an initiation of force on 9/11. The people who carried out that initiation of force died in doing so. Their leaders have since been given a free hand to continue to operate ... while the US settled an old score with a pitifully weak foe who, nonetheless, was still a mutual enemy of the people who attacked the US on 9/11. Not really very good strategy, is it?

Okay, I'm letting this go for now -- mystery pledger, let me know if you find this insufficient!

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