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Making Sense of the Nonsense: the Islamic Riddle Decoded

by : wacky rascal
Friday September 1, 2006 - 06:35

When you know a thing, to recognize that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to recognize that you do not know it. That is knowledge.

"Analects" Confucius

Notice how many shows on the History Channel now promise to decode a given phenomenon? Here and there you see the term sprinkled into headlines. Hollywood jumped on board. Soon, no doubt, Calvin Klein will manufacture - Decode: a Mist for the Ages. Not since the Nazi Enigma system has decoding become so fashionable. Unlike Enigma, however, which required one code for decoding, the profusion of decoding being practiced today has reached a manic threshold of multiplicity unprecedented in human history.

Everybody, it seems, has a special paradigm, or lens, or angle, or take that not only postulates a point of view, but also, implicitly and/or explicitly delegitimizes not just other points of view, but the individuals making them. This is true for both right, left and centrist critics who explain their perspectives along with why other critics, who don’t have the same level of acumen or experience, couldn’t possibly be as correct or prescient as they are. For example, consider Gilbert Achcar who co-wrote (with Noam Chomsky) "Perilous Power."

He’s critical of Bush, and on that count he gets a star, but who in their right mind isn’t critical of Bush? Somehow, though, he labors under the misperception that, 1. Bush and the Administration planned for sectarian violence and that it works to their advantage, 2. there are a unified Iraqi government and armed forces that were produced by democratic processes, and, 3. the Neocons would like to see Iraq split into three sections. And since he’s a professor and spent time in Lebanon, he’s an "expert," who shamelessly compares how accurate his writing has been when compared to others. With "experts" like this who needs rank amateurs?

Then there are the foreign policy "experts" who have been in Iraq; therefore they really know what’s happening. Supposedly, just being there confers deep insight. Somehow, that doesn’t work inversely: just being in America doesn’t seem to confer any insight to most people, especially Americans. Then there are the American professors who speak Arabic, which entitles them to know more about the "War on Terror" than those who don’t speak Arabic. And don’t forget the ideologues, like the Neocons, who assume superiority because they’ve been endowed with that special secret knowledge about how to run the world that the rest of us are never entitled to as commoners. So much "expertise," so little wisdom.

You would think that after four long, tragic years (and counting) that the "War on Terror" would be better understood with each passing year. Unfortunately, because of all the "experts" it’s gotten considerably more confusing. It’s too bad that actual experts like Scott Ritter have virtually disappeared and that in their place we get the academic theoreticians, credentialed on paper but, nonetheless, inadequately informed about many issues outside of their discipline, particularly the subject of human nature - a concern of universal proportions as opposed to a pedantic, coded issue requiring a Ph.D.

For those duped into believing one has to be there, or speak the indigenous language, or have read the literature in the mother tongue, or possess degrees in foreign policy, to be an "expert," consider this. True experts in ancient Greece and Rome acquired their knowledge secondhand, except for extant texts. And great interpreters, like Jowett, have "evened" the playing field. No one alive was present at the American Civil War, yet, amazingly, more people living today understand the machinations of it better than the overwhelming majority of the people who fought in it. In other words, you don’t have to step on the moon to know what it’s made of.

So all you self-proclaimed "experts," don’t hesitate to offer the world your views but quite pretending you have the inside scoop. Because you don’t. Why? Because the "War on Terror" is an ongoing affair, like a horse race, that can’t be conclusively predicted. You may have an edge in one area, but the complexities are vast, and while you’re concentrating on your strengths, an unforeseen situation could negate your precious insights.

For instance:

Is Iraq going to be divided into three? The odds are excellent it will, but conciliatory forces may appease the Kurds and Sunnis so accommodation is reached. Who can say for sure? No one on Earth. But Kurdish separatism has already set the stage for balkanization.

Will the Iraqi forces soon be able to police themselves? Not likely since they are infiltrated with divisive sectarian factions working against unity. And why wouldn’t they be? The Iraqis are desperate to fill uniforms. Also, the policing forces don’t have the armament for fighting insurgents, i.e., tanks, planes, digital technology, and therefore don’t have the ability to contain the ongoing strife.

Would Civil War sort things out in Iraq? Unfortunately, this was the path from feudalism to democracy for virtually every Western country, and much of it was religiously based. Why would it be different for Iraqis? Hopefully, it will be, but where’s the precedent? Such is the nature of a conflicted species too immature to sort things out peacefully.

Is Iraq now, or will it soon be democratic? An election, imposed by an occupying force, may seem genuinely democratic, but it wasn’t. It was the administered panacea in the spirit of, "Take an aspirin, drink plenty of liquids, and call me in the morning." What else could America do but insist on an election that appeared democratic? But when the numbers were counted and the Baathists and Sunnis were fresh out of power, democracy was practiced in name only. How can an alien country go in, delegitimize the prevailing party, and expect those people to summarily surrender?

Democracies aren’t suddenly cultivated. Washington had a very difficult time raising, keeping and paying the American forces while the public at large sat on the sidelines. The French Revolution of 1789 didn’t produce democracy; it wasn’t until 1848 when the framework was established. Germany was forced to accept the Weimar Republic, which rapidly deteriorated. And, if you’re an African American, it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1965 when you truly experienced democratic living, at least legislatively. Women gained the right to vote only a few decades earlier. With this in mind, what are the odds Iraq will become truly democratic in the near future? Nil. Whatever chance there was (slim at best) has been ruined by the enmity among sects, tribes, and the deleterious effect of Western influences, which have transformed Arabia into a living hell over the past 90 years.

Is the world going to be safer from "terrorism" if the war continues? If you’re betting on this, you’re really going for the dark horse. America’s invasion has hardened attitudes, inflated belligerence, heightened the overall sense of Islamic identity in a virulent, reactive way, and worst of all accentuated the differences between Shia and Sunni so that there is, arguably, a schism occurring that’s equivalent to the feuds that produced the Catholic/Prostestant wars. Observers have been waiting for just such an event, which would, according to the prevailing scheme, lead to a more secularized, decentralized environment similar to the triumph of materialistic Calvinism over restrictive Catholicism. But if that was ever part of the Administration’s blueprint, the strategy of overthrowing and then disenfranchising the more secularized Sunnis via "democratic" elections was the worst way to do it. In the process, Iranian-style fundamentalism was given the upper hand. And now the surrounding Sunni countries, and secularized Turkey, are wondering how to stop this Shia uprising.

By throwing a stick of dynamite into a pit of explosives, America has destabilized much of the world. Forget Israel and Zionism. If there were no Jews or the state of Israel, millions of Muslims would still hate the West, if for no other reason than the cold hearted imperialist policies that have treated them like cattle. Add Britain, France and Germany to the list. The Muslims have as many stories about broken treaties as Sitting Bull ever did.

With each ideologue accentuating Western exploitation, with each new indignity heaped upon a legacy of indignities, with rapidly increasing polarization and limited cultural exchange, how in the world are these circumstances going to be reasonably resolved?

Where are the experts who can successfully decode that mystery? Sadly, they haven’t yet appeared on the public stage.



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