"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Thursday, August 19, 2004
  Podhoretz on World War IV
I just today finished reading Norman Podhoretz's essay World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win. In many ways it is a good article. Coverage of American appeasement towards the Middle East from Carter to the present is accurately covered and shown to have led to the present crisis we are now in. His coverage of the 4 Pillars of the Bush doctrine displays many of the proper principles that should be applied in foreign policy (now if we could only get Bush to consistently practice them...).

What I found wanting in the article was his coverage of the long term strategy, or more correctly, how to advance Middle Eastern society from the dark ages into the bosom of civilization. Podhoretz notes the doubts of those he dubs "realists" regarding such efforts:
they questioned the idea that democratization represented the best and perhaps even the only way to defeat militant Islam and the terrorism it was using as its main weapon against us. Bush had placed his bet on a belief in the universality of the desire for freedom and the prosperity that freedom brought with it. But what if he was wrong? What if the Middle East was incapable of democratization? What if the peoples of that region did not wish to be as free and as prosperous as we were? And what if Islam as a religion was by its very nature incompatible with democracy?

While bowing to the validity of those asking such questions (which certainly are relevant), Podhoretz expresses his own "set of doubts about the doubts of the realists". He points out that the Arab dictatorships we are faced with today weren't created in the 7th century; they are relatively modern, having only existed since the end of WWI, when the British and French arbitrarily drew up new maps. As he puts it, "the miserable despotisms there had not evolved through some inexorable historical process powered entirely by internal cultural forces". While this certainly is true on the face of it, it overlooks the fact that the Middle East for the most part has known nothing but dictatorship for the last 1000 years. The fact that the French and British handed different groups to different dictators certainly didn't help matters, but it certainly wasn't equivalent to handing Alaska to Soviet Russia or Hawaii to Imperial Japan.

Continuing on, Podhoretz expresses more doubts, which point to the crux of the problem with his article:
Mindful of this history, we backers of the Bush Doctrine wondered why it should have been taken as axiomatic that these states would and/or should last forever in their present forms, and why the political configuration of the Middle East should be eternally immune from the democratizing forces that had been sweeping the rest of the world.

And we wondered, too, whether it could really be true that Muslims were so different from most of their fellow human beings that they liked being pushed around and repressed and beaten and killed by thugs—even if the thugs wore clerical garb or went around quoting from the Quran. We wondered whether Muslims really preferred being poor and hungry and ill-housed to enjoying the comforts and conveniences that we in the West took so totally for granted that we no longer remembered to be grateful for them. And we wondered why, if all this were the case, there had been so great an outburst of relief and happiness among the people of Kabul after we drove out their Taliban oppressors.

Podhoretz is unable to see why Middle East Dictatorships could remain "forever in their present forms" because he doesn't explicitly identify the fact that civilization is not possible while the veil of religious dogma and tyranny controls a culture. History has given us dramatic examples: In our own history, we need only look at the period we know as the dark ages, when religious dogma reigned supreme, and then to contrast that with Renaissance and the nation it gave birth to, the USA. And today we need only look at the Middle East, to see how unmitigated religion and tyranny have left a culture in the throws of rigarmortis for a thousand years. Podhoretz is not alone in his failure to see Islam as the problem. This has been President Bush's problem as well, ever since he warmly received the prayers of Muslims after 9/11. People in the Middle East are not inherently different than those in West; those that have immigrated and assimilated here belie that idea eloquently. But until they choose to value reason, freedom, science and secularism over religious dogma and the Islamic state, they are as different from us as night is from day. There is no inbuilt, universal desire for freedom, especially when you have a religion and society which desires a society of "virtue" over and above a free society. (and in all fairness, Bush is not the epitome of freedom, with his dogmatic opposition to abortion and stem cell research). There is no compromising with those who seek to impose their religion on us; if they refuse to deal with others by reason and resort to force, then we have no choice but to respect their choice, and treat them like the savage animals they have become.

If the Middle East is ever to advance out of the dungeon it currently resides in, it must start where America did over 200 years ago - with a man's inalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness

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