Vox Rodentae

Thursday, August 03, 2006

America Doesn't Raise Us For Death Cults...

In my travels of late, I've heard many a discussion that pulls me back to the Cold War days, as Iran With Nukes* looms on our collective horizon (*this could have been the name of a cool 80's garage band, if it wasn't such a sinister idea). The main question goes something along the lines of: "Do you think the Russians will use their nukes against us?", to which you'd get various answers such as "Probably", "Damn straight they would, commie bastards!!", and of course Sting's song immemorial "If The Russians Love Their Children, Too"(I'm not one for politics in music -with some notable exceptions- but I did like the music for this one). As the Cold War progressed through detente to its drawdown, I think we came to accept that neither party was particularly keen on the idea. Now as I hear the same questions posed about Iran, the answers don't seem quite so straightforward when you toss militant, death-loving jihadis into the equation.

There's a lot of hype (on one end of the pendulum, PC/pro-jihadist CAIR-type org's who insist Islam is the Religion of Peace {huh.yeah} and muslims are Victims of Islamophobia [of which more later], and a vicious smear campaign to suppress them; and on the other, hard-charging Christians and severely patriotic Americans -the love it or leave NOW!! crowd, who are seeing their First Amendment rights disappearing faster than a guinea pig can chew up a carrot) about all of this, which goes far toward obfuscating the real matter at stake here, which is basically this: 1) How are we to deal with the immediate situation between Israel/ Hizbollah, Hamas, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Iran? and 2) Can we come to an accurate estimate of the risk that Iran will or will not use whatever nuclear material (whether it be "dirty" or "clean" and fully developed) against either Israel or US/ Western interests? To answer what is basically one long question in a "to be continued" form, we have to be able to look at ourselves through the eyes of our foes, and therein lies our problem.

When we try to understand the people of the Arab and Persian worlds, both currently and in the recent past, we cannot ascribe our Western views and Judeo-Christian morality to a group of people of whom we have no understanding how they really think of or perceive the world.

Our foes (the muslims involved in this jihadi mindset) are effectively functioning as members of a cult. Their religion, especially as interpreted to them by their controllers (read: mullahs), teaches them that Death is the preferred end state for their current situation (ie. a world currently dominated by non-muslims, which can be won "back" to Islam through the sacrifice of their lives). In reading the Qur'an, or any of its many interpretations, Paradise is a lush and beautiful place, full of material rewards and comforts for the worthy warrior for Allah. For many people in the Arab/Persian worlds, this provides a vital meaning and context to lives that have been informed by little else than the misery of their material situation (face it; even the nicer parts of the Middle East are filthy and miserable, and look even worse from up close), a zero-sum mind-set, and a culture in which the jealousy of a "have-not" for the trappings of a "have" are designed to arouse not a sense of grievance, but an obligation to acquire those specific trappings from the "have" in question.

Nothing in our society or culture prepares us for dealing with an ideology this alien. The founding of our country is based on the diametrically opposite proposition; Ours is the only revolution in history generated to enable men to keep their own property, rather than to gain the property and positions of others.

Until you can really understand that the person who embraces you in love and friendship, looking you lovingly in the eyes and pledging eternal solidarity can also be conspiring with other people to bring about your destruction and probably your death at the very same time, you will never be able to begin to comprehend the Arab world, let alone deal with it, especially on its own terms. I mean this very literally - you really have to jump into the full thought and feeling of this with both feet; in my several brushes with politicking among Arabs and a lone Persian of once high standing (in many cases I was unaware I was even involved in such), there were a good several times I came out distinctly at the bottom for being unknowing, incapable of, or unwilling to indulge in the kind of behaviour that not only would have enabled me to come out on top, but is considered standard in Arab society. It's like meat and bread to them - the tapestry-like weaving in and out of family, social and political threads, coupled with a nearly invisible but highly distinct hierarchy of favours, gift-giving, hospitality, and of course, feuds. The average American has little if any experience with this type of culture, let alone the mindset behind it. Yet it's very important that we learn to decipher this dichotomy, because we're already behind the power curve in addressing our concerns.

In my view we're long overdue in acknowledging and working to fully comprehend this topic. We've tried the measured approach (ie. diplomacy, appeasement, conciliation, and baksheeshing huge amounts of "protection money" to suspicious men with a taste for strong cologne) for the last 30 some-odd years, and this is where it's gotten us. A new approach is obviously in order; might I suggest a trip to the attic to see if we can find where Teddy Roosevelt stashed that Big Stick of his?

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