Saturday, August 19, 2006

Super Tuesday?

Let's hope this coming Tuesday, August 22, passes with little news, but I and many others believe that someting big may be in the offing. Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton and Middle East scholar, tells us why in a piece that was published last week in the Wall Street Journal
This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
Most elites in the West, and indeed most Westerners, I think, have trouble accepting the idea that a national leader would use a religous event to provoke a cataclysmic event. It seems like something out of the Middle Ages.

But the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is no ordinary fellow. He takes his religion seriously. Very seriously.

David Pryce-Jones, in the May 8 2006 print edition of National Review (digital subsctiption required), quotes Ahmadinejad on the purpose of his government, and provides an, er, illuminating detail.
“Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi.” In the middle of the 10th century, this imam went into hiding, supposedly in a well in Jamkaran, south of Tehran, but it is an article of Shiite faith that he will return and herald the End of Days. Ahmadinejad and his cabinet signed a petition to the hidden imam, proceeded to Jamkaran, and threw it down the well for his attention
"He did what?" I said to myself the first time I read that. It's the type of thing that must be read a few times before the significance sinks in. And then you realize; there are people who actually think we can negotiate this man out of obtaining nuclear weapons. I don't think so.

Just for the record, yes I know that Christian pastors will talk about end times, and will even say "the end is near." I know because I hear this on Sundays. The difference is that the pastors say this because they're trying to get people to change their ways before it's too late, and they don't tell the parishoners to go quit their jobs and sit at home to await the rapture.

Now read what Pryce-Jones tells us about a speach he gave at the UN:
Similarly unself-conscious, he claimed that while speaking at the United Nations “I became surrounded by a green light,” so that for 27 to 28 minutes all the attentive listeners did not blink — the chronological exactitude is a touch a thriller writer might envy. And he closed that speech by urging God to “hasten the emergence of Your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one who will fill the world with justice and peace.”
The color green, if you didn't know, is the color of Islam.

Further, all this is not just theological musing by Ahmadinejad. According to Joel Rosenberg in an article at NRO,
Ahmadinejad is telling colleagues in Tehran that he believes the end of the world is rapidly approaching. He also believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah known as the “Hidden Imam” or the “Mahdi” is to launch a catastrophic global jihad, first against Israel (the “little Satan”) and then against the U.S. (the “Great Satan”).
Now do you understand why Bernard Lewis isn't crazy when he told us we better pay attention on Tuesday August 22?

What Might Happen?

One thing that might not happen is that 10 airliners don't get blown out of the sky. Some commentators, such as Michael Ledeen, think that the airline plot was supposed to happen on August 22. Of course, it might still. The one thing about playing defense is that you never know if you've stopped all of the plots. I just hope that security people take extra precautions next week.

Iran has said that they will respond to our demand that they cease production of nuclear fuel on Tuesday August 22. So on the "lite" end of the spectrum, maybe they're just going to tell us to bugger off that day.

The other end of possibilites, the "heavy" end, looks much more dire. While it is unlikely that Iran has nuclear weapons, North Korea almost certainly does. While there is no formal alliance between them, the two countries are united in their hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular. We would be foolish to discount the possibility of cooperation. It is rumored that a North Korea nuclear test could be very near, perhaps imminent. Steve Schippert of ThreatsWatch speculates that a strong possibility therefore, is that the DPRK lites one off on Tuesday.

Iran, for it's part, has just started major military maneuvers. Schippert takes all of this into account and throws out one possibility
One speculation – taking the events and forcing them into the same context – would interpret the Iranian exercises as an actual perimeter defense deployment ahead of events known by Iran and expected to be perceived as provocative. That event could potentially be an Iranian rejection of the nuclear proposal simultaneous with a nuclear demonstration by their chief technology proliferation partner, North Korea.
The two countries might even announce some sort of formal alliance, or defensive treaty. We would do well to remember that the Tripartite Pact ("Axis Pact") between Germany, Japan, and Italy, was defensive in nature, only obligating the powers to come to each other's aid if they were attacked by an outside power.

So I don't know about you, but I'm going to pay extra close attention to the news this Tuesday. And I'm not flying anywhere.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to the status quo ante

I have nothing to add to this assessment by Bill Roggio of the conflict in southern Lebanon.

Israël messed up. Now more war will come. It is time that the West fights to actually win the war against the islamofascists.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Beware the low blood-sugar levels of pundits

Michael Gerson, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote this column for Newsweek magazine titled The View From the Top. I suggest you read the entire column. But here are some highlights.

First, Gerson takes on the issue of Iran's nuclear program:
Behind all the chaos and death in Lebanon and northern Israel, Iran is the main cause of worry in the West Wing—the crisis with the highest stakes. Its government shows every sign of grand regional ambitions, pulling together an anti-American alliance composed of Syria, terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. And despite other disagreements, all the factions in Iran—conservative, ultraconservative and "let's usher in the apocalypse" fanatics—seem united in a nuclear nationalism.

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments; they are made by the determination of national interests. And the low blood-sugar level of pundits counts not at all. Here the choice is not easy, but it is simple: can America (and other nations) accept a nuclear Iran?

In foreign-policy circles, it is sometimes claimed that past nuclear proliferation—say, to India or Pakistan—has been less destabilizing than predicted. In the case of Iran, this is wishful thinking. A nuclear Iran would mean a nuclear Middle East, as traditional rivals like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey feel pressured to join the club, giving every regional conflict nuclear overtones. A nuclear Iran would also give terrorist groups something they have previously lacked and desperately want: a great-power sponsor. Over time, this is the surest way to put catastrophic technology into the hands of a murderous few. All options have dangers and drawbacks. But inaction might bring the harshest verdict of history: they knew much, and they did nothing.
Gerson also argues for democracy in the Arab-Islamic world:
A second point: the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is messy, difficult, but no one has a better idea.

There is no question that democratic societies are more likely to respect human rights, less susceptible to ideological extremism, more respectful of neighboring countries, more easily trusted with nuclear technology.

Yet the democracy agenda is under heavy questioning. Some critics—who might be called soft realists—concede the spread of democracy is desirable. It is just not possible. They argue that democratic governments require democratic cultures, which develop over centuries, and have never developed at all in the Arab Middle East.

Realism, however, is not always identical to pessimism. Arab societies, in fact, have strong traditions of private association, private property and a contractual relationship between ruler and ruled. It is not realism to ignore unprecedented elections in Afghanistan and Iraq and serious reforms elsewhere. The past half century has shown that the cultural obstacles to democracy are less formidable than many predicted, from Roman Catholic Southern Europe to Orthodox Eastern Europe to Confucian Asia. Our times provide strong evidence that liberty improves life and that people in many cultures eventually prefer liberty to slavery. And Americans, of all people, should not be surprised or embarrassed when our deepest beliefs turn out to be true.

Other critics of the democracy agenda—what might be called hard realists—think democracy in the Middle East may be possible, but it is not desirable because elections are likely to bring anti-American radicals like Hamas to power.

It is certainly true that democracy means more than voting. Successful democracies eventually require the rule of law, the protection of minorities, the defeat of corruption, a free press, religious liberty and open economies. Any democracy agenda worthy of the name will promote all these things.
Gerson is right to point out the fact that cultures change over time. He mentions Southern and Eastern Europe along with East Asia. But the American South is another excellent example of a culture of slavery and stagnation transforming itself into a culture of freedom and prosperity.

Since we are all searching for a proper historical parallel for the current war against Islamo-fascism, we should compare the situation today in Iraq with the American South following the American Civil War. From 1865 to 1900, the American North entangled itself with Southern politics in ways similar to how the entire United States is trying to influence Iraq. Then it was a hardheaded group of Southern Whites who, having previously ruled over Black slaves, were defeated in war but would not accept anything less than a return to White Supremacy. Today it is the Sunni Arab Muslims who reject a modern Iraq run by the newly liberated Shia. Just as Islamic radicals reject modern Western society as decadent and declining, a Georgia newspaper printed the following prior to the Civil War: "Free Society! we sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists?"

What happened in the American South after the war? As in Iraq, it was a war of attrition and the old-line attitudes of the South won, for a time. The KKK, a terrorist organization, intimidated Blacks and liberal northerners during election contests. The North, when in control over the federal levers of power, investigated and convicted the domestic terrorists. But by 1900 the North had "redeployed" (to use Representative Murtha's phrasing) out of the South. In the election of 1900 not a single Black was elected to the US Congress. This wasn't due to gerrymandering. Instead it was due to the effective intimidation of Black voters and ballot stuffing. It wasn't until the 1965 voting rights act when Blacks all over the south could vote without putting their lives at risk.

But today's American South leads the nation in elected Black officials and competes with the West having the fastest economic and population growth. Looking at history, it seems obvious that cultures change over time in response to events. Our goal in the Arab world isn't to perform miricles, but to shape events to our advantage and to the advantage of Arabs who will make good use of freedom.