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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Jackson Now, Wilson Maybe Later
posted by Bathus

Although I don't quite agree with his conclusions, I would rate Rich Lowry's recent NRO piece, The "To Hell with Them" Hawks (subscription required, but an edited version is available here), as the most insightful thing I've read on the current positions and movements of conservative attitudes about the Global War on Terror. (Or should I now say the Global War on Islamism?)

For all the reasons Lowry recounts, more and more conservatives now wish to abandon Bush's attempt to blend Jacksonian and Wilsonian foreign policies (policies manifested respectively in the theories of preemption and nation-building). As Lowry explains, THWT Hawks
are comfortable using force abroad but have little patience for a deep entanglement with the Muslim world, which they consider unredeemable or at least not worth the strenuous effort of trying to redeem. To put their departure from Mr. Bush in terms associated with foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, they want to detach Mr. Bush's Jacksonianism (the hardheaded, somewhat bloody-minded nationalism) from his Wilsonianism (the crusading democratic idealism).
But among conservatives I speak with, what it's come down to is not really a question of striking the right balance of idealism and hardheadedness.

What it's come down to is a threshold question of trust. Can we trust Muslim peoples not to turn our humanitarian inclinations against us?

Conservatives, and the American people collectively, are beginning to conclude that Muslim peoples cannot be trusted, that our every attempt to assist and accommodate them they will eventually interpret as either overweening malevolence or contemptible weakness, claiming revenge for the former or advantage from the latter. That, in a nutshell, is why the Dubai Port Deal could never go through. The American people don't trust Dubai or any Muslim nation. It's as simple as that.

Confirming that distrust, Afghanistan's official prosecution of Abdul Rahman for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity is only the latest (to my mind the most dispiriting) incident draining the last dribbles of hope from the Wilsonian ambition. As I wrote in my last post, America will not long spend its treasure and spill the blood of its youth to build nations that would kill Christians for becoming Christian. But that is exactly what seems to have been happening so far: As repayment for the young lives lost and the treasure spent to lift Afghanistan out of a brutal religious tyranny, the Afghan government threatens to kill a Christian for nothing other than becoming Christian.

How can we ever trust such people?

So whether THWT Hawks are right or wrong, their numbers are growing. Those numbers easily will be supplemented by what Lowry might call THWT Doves, i.e., the majority of loyal Democrats who will hardly object (and under a Democrat president, will positively chirp) if frequent and substantial use of American force to check noxious regimes almost exclusively involves only bombing and cruise missiles.

Lowry seems to worry most that Bush Wilsonianism might not survive among conservatives to the end this administration. But even if the nation-building project does survive through Bush's term, unless things turn around fast--unless the American people suddenly begin to have a reason to believe Muslims can soon be trusted to govern themselves sanely--it is hard to imagine a new president of either party carrying on the Wilsonian theme.

What has long been easy to imagine is a tough-talking President Hillary Clinton implementing a wildly popular, coldly bloody-minded, and aggressively preemptive Jacksonian policy--a policy that would consume a heretofore inconceivable number of smart bombs and cruise missiles. But once the bombs and missiles have done their work, our first Madame President will dispatch no troops quixotically to rearrange the burning rubble. So beyond Lowry's concern, it's not so much a question of Bush's Jacksonianism being "detached" from his Wilsonianism. It's the reality of American popular opinion rejecting Wilsonianism in any post-Bush leader. At which point aggressive Jacksonianism emerges as the only viable alternative.

Lowry asserts THWT Hawks are as "naïve and unrealistic as Bush at his dreamiest." Yet, as to "the contention that Islam is a religion of peace," Lowry advises that "even if this seems a polite fiction, it is an important one."

But as that consoling fiction begins to appear more dangerous than polite, I find myself turning to a Jacksonian frame of mind. One recalls Machiavelli's advice that one must be able to change one's nature to fit the circumstances. One begins to think that what's needed at the moment--and for a good while to come--is a stronger application of Jackson, after which we could try another round of Wilsonian tutoring. It seems that before the Muslim peoples will desire to reform themselves, they must first experience the crisis of an experienced realization that Islamism does not bring Muslims victory, or even much in the way of a satisfying revenge, but brings Muslims only unbearable suffering.

If that is true, then our noblest efforts to ease the transition of Muslim peoples to democracy and liberalism will be counter-productive until an actual and much prolonged experience of the horrible destruction Islamism invites upon Muslims convinces Muslims peoples to purge themselves of stubbornly ingrained theofascist tendencies. Apparently Afghanistan's Taliban adventure, perhaps because it was self-inflicted, was not an adequate lesson.

Jackson now. Wilson maybe later.

posted by Bathus | 3/25/2006 01:10:00 AM
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

If Afghanistan Executes Abdul Rahman
posted by Bathus

One hopes some wise soul has mentioned to George Bush that if Afghanistan executes Abdul Rahman for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity, it's all over.

If Afghanistan executes Rahman, you can start bringing the boys home.

If Afghanistan executes Rahman, "We the People of the United States," who are just about damn well fed up with Muslims already, will in November begin to instruct our leaders that we wish to wash our hands of Afghanistan and Iraq and the whole effing lot of them, and ultimately that we would prefer to deal with the followers of the religion of peace somewhat differently: at longer range with heavy bombers and cruise missiles and at shorter range by imprisoning and/or deporting any Arab or Muslim--citizen or not--whose devotion to America permits the slightest doubt.

It's not that one would want things to go that way, but if Afghanistan executes Rahman, that's how things will end up.

This is one of those moments that matters.

A few choice quotes from the story linked above. From cleric Abdul Raoulf who, so the AP tells us, is "considered a moderate":
Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die. Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left.
And from Mirhossain Nasri, whom the AP story identifies as "the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul":
If [Rahman] is allowed to [seek asylum] in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can too. We must set an example. He must be hanged. We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us. But please don't interfere in this issue. We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us.
On that we can agree. To us here in America too there's hardly anything that could prove more important than Afghanistan killing a Christian for converting from Islam.

If Afghanistan executes Abdul Rahman for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity, America's collective sentiment will settle into something like this:
Okay, you 7th century Islamic zealots, we see we made a very big mistake. You've convinced us you can't learn how to govern yourselves in a sane way any time soon. There's nothing we can do to help you right now. So we're getting out. It's all yours to make as big a mess of as you want.

Bag your women and treat them like cattle. Raise your children in slavish ignorance. Degenerate your society back to Mohammad's Year Zero. Behead all your heretics and install bin Laden as your final messiah. That's your business, and we'll leave you to it.

Sell us your oil or drink it for tea. We don't give a damn, because we can manage without it if we have to (and if we can't somehow manage without it, we'll just take what we need).

But at the first threatening whisper we hear from your direction, what happened to Dresden in late winter and early spring of 1945 will seem like a pillow fight.
It's not just Abdul Rahman's innocent life at stake here, though that is enough.

America cannot spend its treasure and spill the blood of its youth for regimes that kill Christians for becoming Christian. I hope you understand that, George Bush. Because if you don't understand that, it's all over.

posted by Bathus | 3/23/2006 10:00:00 PM
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