Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why we shouldn't fear the (Muslim) fanatic (in the Muslim world)

Harris, L. 2007. Why we fear 'fanatic': The lesson of the red mosque. TCS Daily. July 12, 2007. Available online: http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=071207A (emailed in my Michael DeWitt of Spooky Action).

Joseph Goebbels was proud of being a fanatic. To him, fanaticism was a term of praise, and not abuse. The Hebrew Zealots looked with contempt on those who were unwilling either to die or to slaughter their own families. In the culture of the modern West, however, to call someone a fanatic is to insult, and not commend, him. Yet, as the incident at the Red Mosque makes clear, our own attitude toward fanaticism is simply an example of ethnocentricism. By refusing to use the word fanatic to describe Ghazi and his followers, we are approaching them through the standards and practices that are observed in our culture, but not in theirs.


Indeed. "Extremism in defense of liberty...."

At the Boyd Conference, William Lind made the good point that the Arab world has been in a cycle of corruption-internal reform movement-revolutionary-corruption. By supporting corrupt states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we interrupted this cycle, between the generation of the internal reform movement (primarily the Muslim Brothers) and the revolution which would bring on either their corruption... or possibly a way out of the cycle. Assuming the old governments of the Middle East have our, or their own people's, best interest at heart is foolish.

As I've said before, Islam is the answer. The governments of the Muslim world are the problem.

Of course, not all of Lind's points were so flattering or helpful...

Monday, August 21, 2006

A New Middle East, Part II: Iran

First, a worse-case scenario:


Iran's Maximal Objective


The above map shows the maximum extent of primary influence that is within Teheran's grasp. The best way to explain this map is to compare it to the map of actual influence directly before the Iraq War


Iran's Influence, 2003


Syria, while ruled by a national-secularist regime, is a client state of Iran when it comes to foreign policy. At the time of the Iraq War Lebanon was ruled as a colony by Syria, and so is also included. The origin of the Damascus-Tehran axis comes from both geopolitical necessity (Iraq was ruled by the territorially expansive Saddam Hussein) and natural sympathy (Syria, while mostly Sunni, is ruled by the quasi-Shia quasi-Muslim Alawite sect).

The Iraq War changed the region by throwing Iraq, a mostly Shia country, to Iran's influence. Despite American attempts to contest Iraq, the natural sympathies of the Iraqi Shia combined with the violent nihilism of the country's Sunni Arab population all but assure an orientation toward Tehran and Qom. A natural consequence of the liberation of Iraq is Shia assertiveness in East Arabia. East Arabia, the oil producing region of Saudi Arabia, is populated by Shia who suffer under the Riyadh-Wahhabi yoke. Iranian instigation of the local population, as seen in the recent "pro-Hezbollah" (actually, pro-Iran) rally, may blackmail the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away form American influence and to a subject's embrace of the Shia hegemon.

Yet, happily, merely be supporting the Bush doctrine for democracy we are able to address the honest aspiration of Shia while preventing such overpowering, regional country. As I already wrote, we should



Such a change would reorder the Middle East on democratic lines, allow Shia, religious Sunnis, tribal Sunnis, and global elements to live in a rational balance of power


A Democratic Middle East


Even the "Big Iran" scenario of the first map is a major improvement from the Arab National-Secularist sewer that existed before President Bush. But a democratic, rational Middle East still lays before us.




A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Good News from Iraq

"Iraq Violence May Provoke Shiite Backlash," by Patrick Quinn, Associated Press, 7 January 2005, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=SDSIO&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.

"Shiite Crowds Protest Bombings, US Support for Sunni Arabs; 11 GIs Killed," by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 7 January 2005, http://www.juancole.com/2006/01/shiite-crowds-protest-bombings-us.html#comments.

I've celebrated Iranian cooperation with Basra and the strength of Kurdish separatism. Now, more good news from Iraq:

The rallies and threats by the Iraq's largest Shiite religious party to react with force if the militant attacks continue have renewed fears that paramilitary militias - now thought to make up part of some elite police units- would take to the streets and carry out reprisals.

...

"We're going to crush Saleh al-Mutlaq with our slippers," they chanted, many armed with automatic weapons. "No, no to Zalmay. No, no to terrorism." It is an insult in Arab culture to touch someone with shoes, which are considered unclean.

...

The demonstration was organized after Friday prayers by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - one of two religious parties that makes up the governing Alliance.

SCIRI and Badr Brigade Secretary-General Hadi al-Amiri have both blamed hardline Sunni groups of inciting the violence, and said the Defense and Interior ministries - both dominated by Shiites - were being restrained by the U.S-led coalition and had to be unleashed.

He told the pan-Arab Al-Arabyia television that the government told the U.S. "that they should not give any cover to terrorism."


This is exactly what we need in Iraq. Iraq is an artificial country. We can spend blood and will trying to save this relic of British Colonialism, or we can focus on shrinking the gap and building connectivity.

The Kurds in the north make up about 20% of Iraq, and should be their own country. The Shia in the South make up about 60% of Iraq, and should be their own country. There is no reason why these two peoples, who both want connectivity, must be held back by the 15% of Iraqis who belong to a nation unready for the modern world.

If we can connect the 85% of Iraqis who want it by allowing them to defeat terrorist-infested Sunni Arab networks, we should do it.

The prize is bigger than just Iraq. Globalization spreads globalization: let the reverse domino theory work.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari complained while on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia about the poor quality of Saudi preparations for the event. Some 53 pilgrims died when their hostel collapsed. Tragedies during pilgrimage are so frequent that many observers believe the Saudis are neglecting their duties as hosts of the event.

The Saudi minister of the interior, Prince Naef, angrily rejected Jaafari's criticism, saying that he was just posturing in hopes of salvaging his fading political career. (In fact, Jaafari has a real shot of being the prime minister of Iraq again). The Saudis also said they had be nice enough to let the Iraqi delegation come in numbers greater than their allotted quota, implying that Jaafari was being ungracious.

Tension between the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq and the Wahhabi state in Saudi Arabia have been high since September, when a major Saudi prince castigated the United States for spreading Iranian influence in the region by installing Iraqi Shiites in power.


One of the great pay-offs of the Iraq War is permanently weakening Saudi power. The American liberation of Iraq freed Iraq, letting her join Iran as a sister Shia republic on the Persian Gulf. East Arabia, currently occupied by the Saudi Tyranny, is the third



Besides being Shia, East Arabia holds most of the the Saud family's oil. Saudi Arabia applauds terrorism, Saudi TV is as antisemitic as Hugo Chavez, and the Saudis run pro-terrorist camps for children. Helping the Shia in Iraq finally free themselves from the nuisance of Sunni terrorism would allow them to spread their connectivity to their imprisoned brothers in the Saudi south.

Shia Militias that attack terrorist-supporting Sunnis should be welcomed. They are part of a well-built Military-Industrial-SysAdminComplex just as much as firms like Blackwater, or the US Army for that matter. The Shia should rise up, free themselves from terror, and build their future. We shouldn't stop them,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Muslim Sisterhood

"Brotherhood Wins 20 Pct. of Egypt Vote," by Nadia Abou El-Magd, Associated Press, 16 November 2005, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051116/ap_on_re_mi_ea/egypt_election_2.

Good news from Egypt, as The Society of the Muslim Brothers fares well in the parliamentary elections

muslim_sister
An Egyptian woman shows her thumb, marked by red ink, after voting at a polling station in Cairo 15 November 2005. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it had won 34 seats in the first phase of legislative elections, in a breakthrough for the banned but tolerated Islamist group.


The Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the overall vote in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, according to initial official results released Wednesday after a day of intense runoff balloting.


The Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group, is officially banned as a political party in Egypt but fielded candidates as independents. It won 30 seats, while the ruling National Democratic Party won 50 seats, the semi-official Middle East News Agency reported, quoting judges in counting stations.

The results of Tuesday's runoffs and last week's polling — the first round in the four-week elections — mean the Brotherhood has already captured 34 seats in parliament, more than double the 15 it held in the outgoing assembly. This confirms its position as the biggest single opposition group to President
Hosni Mubarak's government.


muslim_tech_sisters
An Egyptian woman receives assistance on finding her voting station during the runoff election on 133 out of 164 seats that were not decided last week during the first phase of parliamentary elections in Cairo, 15 November 2005. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it had won 34 seats in the first phase of legislative elections, in a breakthrough for the banned but tolerated Islamist group


This in spite of widespread voter intimidation by the present government, Hosni Mubarrak's NDP....

Human rights groups and election monitors reported widespread irregularities, including ruling party supporters attacking and intimidating opposition supporters at polling stations and busing in voters from outside the constituency.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said it saw "increasing instances of election bribes ... collective voting, and in some cases assaults on voters for not supporting NDP candidates."


muslim_sister_crowd
A female Muslim Brotherhood supporter stands outside a polling station in Cairo's suburb of Nasr City before voting in Egypt's reruns parliamentary elections, Tuesday Nov. 15, 2005.


The Muslim Brothers are an important tool in defeating terrorism. They have a lot to gain from free-and-fair elections in Syria and in a federal Sunni Arab Iraq. As I wrote earlier

Every success in the Cold War came from using nationalists against ideologues. In China and Yugoslavia we helped turn a radical ideology into a patriotic party. We can do so against in Egypt.


muslim_sisters
Female Muslim Brotherhood supporters chat outside a polling station in Cairo's suburb of Nasr City before voting Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005, in Egypt's runoff parliamentary elections. The poster for Brotherhood candidates, Makarim el-Deeri, right, the only female Brotherhood candidate, and Issam Mukhtar, carries Brotherhood logo and their election campaign slogan 'Islam is the solution.'


The Muslim Brothers run, and, as much as they could, won.

Good.

16:00 Posted in Africa, Arabia, Faith, Women | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: muslim brothers

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fast and Rough

"Spreading the Fire," by Dan, tdaxp, 1 February 2005, http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/02/01/spreading_the_fire.html.

"The Big Bang spreads . . . the rough way," by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 7 October 2005, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/002427.html.

Is noted grand strategist Dr. TPM Barnett ripping me off again?

Compare, yesterday's blog post over at his blog:

It's not just Saudi Arabia where the locally-derived jihadists are returning home for the weekend and blowing up a police station or two.

Yes, Jordan's Abdullah and Egypt's Mubarek warned of this as an outflow of the Iraq takedown, and it worried them, because maybe they'd finally have to deal with all the angry young men in their respective systems.

Good thing or bad? Bad in content, of course, but very good in terms of speeding the killing. We can do this nice and slow, or we can do this fast and rough, as Tina Turner used to growl onstage before singing "Proud Mary."

Al Qaeda has been quite open about its strategy of stretching the Americans thin. But rather than stretching us out, this development incentivizes the locals to deal with this long-held hatreds and grudges, like the massive chip on Musab al Zarqawi over how Jordan's treated him in the past.

In the end, what will have to change for all this violence in the Middle East to stop is not our withdrawal, but political reform in the region. Keeping this fight suppressed, or having it exported to our shores like it was on 9/11 is certainly a safer route for the local authoritarian regimes. Then again, I think 9/11 put us past caring about those regimes' stability like we used to.

Bush basically runs a race with Osama: who can destabilize the region's regimes first? Both sides want change, but only one wants to replace the current autocracies with a religious dictatorship. What Bush wants solves the problem. What Osama wants merely extends it.

Bush may suck at execution, but his strategic instincts are sound. He's not looking to leave these problems to the next generation, and yet, unless his execution gets better, that's exactly what he'll end up doing.


And me, back in February

George Bush is a very brave man.

He talks of spreading the fire of freedom. He has destroyed the status quo ante bellum. But so are the Salafists.

It is ironic that so much of the Bush agenda for the Greater Middle East is coterminus with Osama bin Laden

...

Bush has removed the army from Saudi Arabia, pressed for rapid trade normalization with Iraq, and is seeing Ariel Sharon withdraw from the Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

While bin Laden and Bush have radically different views of "freedom," they both agree that the decrepit Arab states do not provide it. So it is no suprise that Bush is not the only one spreading the fire ...

...

In Iraq the Salafists and Ba'athis view each other as useful idiots. In the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Salafists and the Americans both wish transformation
. This is the nature of the Global War on Terrorism.


Of course, he writes a lot better than me...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Muslims Want to Destroy Mecca

" The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage," by , The Independent, 6 August 2005, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article304029.ece (from Radio Active Chief through Jim River Report).

A while ago I defending Representative Tancredo's remarks that the obliteration of Mecca may be a useful deterrent against al Qaeda.

I knew there were Americans who wanted to see destroyed. However, I didn't know that the Wahabi Muslim anti-Mecca movement is so strong!

Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.


Many commentators call Mecca "the most holy city in ." The Wahabis would call that idolatry. And kill anyone who believes that.

The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods.

The practice of idolatry in Saudi Arabia remains, in principle at least, punishable by beheading. This same literalism mandates that advertising posters can and need to be altered. The walls of Jeddah are adorned with ads featuring people deliberately missing an eye or with a foot painted over. These contrived imperfections are the most glaring sign of an orthodoxy that tolerates nothing which fosters adulation of the graven image. Nothing can, or can be seen to, interfere with a person's devotion to Allah.


If the Saudi Wahabis treat their own history like that, what hope is there for the Shia of Saudi-Occupied East Arabia?

Update: More thoughts at Riding Sun.

08:20 Posted in Arabia, Faith | Permalink | Comments (14) | Tags: islam, muslims, mecca

Friday, April 29, 2005

Saudis Oppose Religious Connectivity

"Saudis arrest 40 Christians in raid on secret church," Associated Press, 29 April 2005, http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-saudi29.html (from Democratic Underground).

Nothing surprising. Freedom, human rights, and connectivity have no place in the Saudis' despotate of Arabia.

Forty foreign Christians, children included, were arrested for proselytizing when police raided a clandestine church in suburban Riyadh. Convictions could result in harsh prison sentences, followed by deportation.


And we should tolerate this state as an ally why?

Members of other religions generally are allowed to practice their beliefs within private homes but may not seek converts or hold organized religious gatherings.


Way to shrink the Gap. Killing (often literally) connectivity isn't a recipe for success.

The Saudi's aren't friends to Shia Muslims in East Arabia, either.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Aljazeera Sell-Off Comes Closer

"Qatar draws up plan to sell off al-Jazeera," by Jane Kinninmont, The Guardian, 27 April 2005, http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1470981,00.html (from Democratic Underground).
Wednesday April 27, 2005

Following up my thoughts on Free Arabi Media and Free Egyptian Media, the privitization of al Jazeera is coming closer...

The Gulf state of Qatar is considering privatising its satellite TV channel, al-Jazeera, because of pressure from the US and a de facto advertising boycott by Arab countries offended by its critical coverage.

Reporters at the station fear that if the channel is privatised commercial pressures could force it to tone down its coverage.


Good. On the one hand, it makes no sense to subsidize a media outlet that encourages rebellion on war. On the other...

Some say the station represents a big step forward for Arab democracy, which Washington advocates. Mouafac Harb, director of al-Jazeera's less popular US-funded rival, al-Hurra, said: "Al-Jazeera has hijacked the role of the mosque as the primary source of information and views. Al-Jazeera is the only political process in the Middle East."

In a region where there is intense anti-US sentiment a private-sector al-Jazeera could well be more critical of the superpower.


Exactly right. Al Jazeera retards actual political debate in the Greater Middle East, because it looks at everything from an old-school secular Sunni Arab Nationalist perspective. Why? That is no longer a popular political philosophy in the Arab Middle East. Allow political discourse to develop, don't try to pre-empt the emergence of real popular voices because they might be more "critical," allow Arabs to have freedom too. The privitization of al Jazeera is a good step to those goals.

Update: Doug Petch weighs in

Given that al Jazeera has been plagued by controversy surrounding it's coverage of events in Iraq, I'm surprised it's taken this long for Qatar to move to sever its official ties to the network. Of course, I'm not naive enough to believe that they won't see increased pressure to avoid stepping on toes with their reporting once they lose the protection Qatar's Government. Nor will I be surprised should the network adopt a decidely more anti-US tone in its coverage. But, while some of the fears expressed in the article are no doubt well founded, if the network is putting out a credible product it should have no problem surviving in a free market environment. If not, its demise will be no great loss.


Perfectly said.

15:00 Posted in Arabia, Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: Aljazeera

Saturday, March 26, 2005

People Power Bahrain

"Mass March Urges Reform in Bahrain," Reuters, 26 March 2005, http://xtramsn.co.nz/news/0,,11965-4230769,00.html (from Informed Comment).

The Shia Nova rolls on, this time in an important U.S. ally. A large Shia demonstration against the government of Bahrain gathered a crowd of 80,000, this in a country as populous as South Dakota.

Tens of thousands have marched in one of Bahrain's largest opposition demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.

medium_locationbahrain.png
Bahrain is a small Kingdom in the Persian Gulf
Nearby are predominately Shia Iran, Iraq,
and Saudi-Occupied East Arabia


Friday's peaceful march, called by the Shi'ite-led opposition, follows unsuccessful talks with the government on constitutional reforms to give greater powers to parliament's elected assembly, which is on an equal footing with a state-appointed chamber.

Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the small Sunni-ruled island state.


As ghastly as it is, I have to agree with Ur-Left blogger Juan Cole. This is great news. Cole gives some background, showing it to be basically a disagreement over the last election and its rules. And the rally leaders seem like good guys.

Shaikh Ali Salman, the clerical leader for the rally, addressed the crowd and demanded that parliament be permitted to legislate on its own account and that there be a genuine separation of powers.


Downright Jeffersonian!

Salman emphasized that the reform movement is peaceful and has the best interests of the nation at heart. He said it wants Bahrain to go ahead with hosting the Formula 1 race early in April, and will refrain from demonstrating during it.


My kind of Muslims!

Now, how will America respond? Bahrain is a stable state and a good ally, so we have to treat the government well. But no one can deny the rights of the people. Dr. Cole explains

The US has a naval base in Bahrain and its king has been a helpful ally. Will George W. Bush support Shaikh
Salman or King Hamad? Bush spoke out forcefully against the Syrian presence in Lebanon and in favor of Lebanese democracy. Will he speak out in favor of majority rule and popular sovereignty in Bahrain?

medium_bahrain_map_tight.png
Big Dreams, Small Island


And if he doesn't, won't the rest of the Middle East assume he is just hypocritically hiding behind catch phrases like "democracy" to make trouble for the countries in the region like Syria and Iran, which Bush does not like, and which are seen as threats by his expansionist friends in Israel's Likud party?


I hope Bush uses this to further democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and East Arabia. This may be very good news.

Update: Dawn's Early Light links to Publius's reaction. Publius, in turn, sends his users over to Chan'ad Bahraini's protest pictures. Sadly, no Bahrain protest babes.


Not exactly Democracy Divas

18:40 Posted in Arabia, Juan Cole | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: people power, bahrain

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Free East Arabia

"Free the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia," by Max Singer, Hudson Institute, 16 May 2002, http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=1659.

I've written before on Saudi persecution in East Arabia, and how that occupied land is a natural ally of Iraq. Here's a classic article on the need to liberated the western shore of the Persian Gulf:

One essential measure will be to stop the flow of Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia. The great vulnerability of the Saudi regime that could make it possible for the U.S. to stop this flow is that the Wahhabis are only a small minority of the population of the EP of Saudi Arabia, from where all their money comes.

It is well within the power of the U.S. to make it possible for the EP to become independent from the Wahhabis, a new Muslim Republic of East Arabia. Especially if the independence of the people of the EP were gained in part by a promise to give half of the oil revenue to non-political Muslim charities throughout the world, instead of to the al Saud family, there would be no objection among Muslims around the world to ending the al Saud family’s obscene wealth and to relieve themselves of the Wahhabi preaching to their children that all other Muslims are infidels. The U.S. would neither seek nor gain control of oil policy or any oil profits. Its help to Muslims in the EP, like its help to Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, would be a result of U.S. resistance to oppression and pursuit of a safer world.

08:50 Posted in Arabia | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: east arabia, saudi arabia

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