Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, August 04, 2006

Political Science Practicum

Political Science Practicum
© 2006 Ross Williams

The Middle East is all agog, possibly even Magog as well, over its latest developments. Hamas terrorists raided Israel, killed an Israeli soldier or two, and kidnapped another. Then demanded an exchange of the one Israeli soldier for a couple hundred Hamas terrorists currently in the Israeli pokey. If that doesn't set the value of Palestinians low on the scale of human worth, I don't know what does.

A week or so later, the Hezbollah terrorists invaded Israel, killed several Israeli soldiers and kidnapped a few more. These two were offered in exchange for a few hundred Hezbollah bomb-makers also in the hoosegow. Hezbollah also thinks of their own as not very valuable.

Well, they're the ones who set the price on their own terrorists. They've got no one to blame but themselves when the rest of the world views a terrorist as not-at-all valuable.

I’d go on trivializing pan-islamists for another few pages, but it’s just an expedient way of introducing today's gripe.

I have decided that I don't like the word "terrorist". It's been too politicked. When certain people use the word, they expect it to convey an air of instant approbation; presumptive guilt-beyond-guilt. And then other certain people resist the presumption of automatic guilt and try to rationalize why some people aren't obliged to follow the rules of the world the way everyone else has to.

"Oh, no, they aren't terrorists!! They're 'freedom fighters'!!"



"...just like George Washington!!"

"Terrorist" has been saturated with emotional gravitas, to the degree that the word itself is often as much of an issue as the actions of the people who are thus described. The definition of “terrorist” is creeping around and picking up political lint. It’s a shibboleth; it’s fuzzy and means whatever its user wants it to mean. …hence those who ascribe “terrorist” to the US and Israel.

So let’s describe what these people are and do without using loaded terms. They have guns and use them to shoot people they don’t like, which would make them anything between a common street thug and a soldier; they also shoot people on command from superiors, so they could be organized criminals or soldiers; and they shoot people for political purposes, which means they aren’t organized criminals.

They look and act somewhat like an army, but they don’t belong to any nation. That makes them “paramilitary”. It’s objective; it’s clinical. Let’s go with that.

There are three conditions necessary to create and maintain paramilitary organizations:
1] huge wads of poor and uneducated rabble pissed about being poor and uneducated;
2] a charismatic "intellectual" with a grievance who can convince the poor and uneducated that his grievance is their grievance too, and to fight his war for him; and
3] a source of mucho dinero to pay for weapons with which to fight the war.

Without any one of those conditions, you do not get, e.g., Hamas, or Hezbollah, or al Qaida.

Without wads of rabble, you have wealthy political science students suffering existential angst all over the place, passing out leaflets and annoying passers-by.

Without a charismatic leader sporting a cause, you have a well-armed but aimless group of thugs willing to wage random war for plunder – i.e., Pirates of the Caribbean.

Without a wealthy patron, you have a mob with pointy sticks storming the gates.

It is historically impossible to avoid having wads of rabble; there is no system, political or economic, ever created which is capable of eliminating "poor" and "uneducated" from the human condition. There are, though, systems which reduce those. And the systems which reduce "poor" and "uneducated" are these:
1] capitalism under a democratic framework;
2] that is all;
3] nothing else works near as well.

Some people, though, preferring the simplistic over the slightly-complex, look at the people who do the actual paramilitarism and think, “Hmmm, these are poor, uneducated people, righteously indignant about ‘X’, and so that means those who create ‘X’ are the true cause of their paramilitary hooliganism.” In other words, if being beaten in a war by the Israelis pisses off the Palestinians, it becomes the Israelis’ fault for Palestinian paramilitarism. Those who whip the pissed-off Palestinians into a foamy froth are blameless, as are those who pay the pissed-off masses to be a surrogate army.

It becomes Israel’s fault that the Palestinians started two wars against Israel and lost; it becomes Israel’s fault that Hamas and Hezbollah just attacked Israel within the last month.

Similarly, it is America’s fault – a la Ward Churchill – that al Qaida declared war on us in 1993, made a smoky, smelly stink in the World Trade Center parking garage that same year, blew up a few US embassies in Africa, blew the hole in the Cole, hijacked planes and knocked down a few US buildings, et cetera. Our fault. Because we … want other nations to deal with us on our terms. Shame on us.

From there it’s a short step to declare: “If only we didn’t have a foreign policy, there would be no ‘terrorism’.” It’s part of the hair-shirted American self-loathing, and the soft anti-semitism of “we recognize Israel’s right to exist as long as they don’t, like, act all national, or anything.”

Yet there are more variables in the “terrorist”-creation equation than simply First World foreign policy daring to exist. Acting as though there were a direct relationship between “poor, uneducated and inconvenienced by others” and “terrorism” advertises a grand ignorance of history. There has always been poor and uneducated people pissed off at being who they are. Israel existing and doing what it needs to do to survive doesn't alter that in any meaningful way. The US conducting the same foreign policy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that it exercised in the 1820s with the Monroe Doctrine, and that every powerful nation has conducted every chance it had, isn’t any more complicit in creating terrorism than Greece was when Alexander’s army washed over the Middle East 2500 years ago.

Somehow, the Greek, Roman, Persian, Ottoman, Mongol, British and Spanish conquests of huge swaths of poor, uneducated and newly-oppressed rabble distinctly failed to create the “terrorism” that we are being piously scolded is the direct result of such conquest.

Wars upset the locals; always have, always will. But the paramilitarism of “terrorism” is mostly a modern phenomenon. Which means there’s something more than poor and uneducated masses being annoyed to distraction driving it.

Impoverished, ignorant masses led by charismatic "intellectuals" have also existed from time to time[1], and revolutions by pointy-stick-wielding masses sometimes succeed. France, Russia, Mao’s China, in many ways America itself, are prime examples.

What is different today is that these poor ignoramuses with charismatic charlatans leading them are now being paid to wage their wars by rich folks who don't want to risk having to wage that war themselves directly. And these rich folks are rather few in number.

There are a handful of individuals with access to the kind of money necessary to fund a war – Osama bin Laden, e.g. But more often, the sponsors of surreptitious wars are nations: Iraq funded Hamas; Syria and Iran fund Hezbollah, and now that Iraq is out of the picture, Hamas as well. Afghanistan provided al Qaida a place to play; before Afghanistan, Sudan provided the al Qaida sandbox.

Ameliorating the rabble who flesh the ranks of these paramilitaries is noble but misguided, and doomed to long-term failure. Short-term failure, as well. Rabble tend to be ungrateful for handouts, and are just as apt to turn on their patrons as anyone else. Witness the PLO’s attempted coup in Jordan, September 1970.

What makes anyone think that we're capable of eliminating today what has existed for every day of the ten thousand years of human civilization when we couldn't eliminate it in the first ten thousand years? apart from supreme arrogance, that is? How are we supposed to eliminate this human misery with the wonder drugs of “democracy” and “self-determination” when so many individuals have axes to grind? people like Ayman al Zawahiri? and people like Muqtada al Sadr? and people like Hassan Nasrallah?

These axe-grinders don’t want to end poverty and ignorance, because then their source of soldiery dries up. They would be left passing out leaflets to the workaday Arab, and writing angry letters to the editor.

How are we supposed to eliminate this human misery when there are still nations who wish to turn these cause-led mobs into paramilitary hooligans to fight its battles for it? Nations like Syria? and nations like Iran? and nations like … well, no, Iraq is no longer on that list. Neither is Libya. Dang! How’d that happen?

These paramilitary-financing nations don’t want to end poverty and ignorance either, because then if these nations’ battles are to be fought, they’ll have to be fought by the nation which wants to fight. And that can get dangerous for those nations, not to mention those nations’ leaders. Anyone check up on Saddam Hussein lately?

Claiming that US foreign policy and Israeli self-defense is the true cause of paramilitarism conveniently ignores a great deal of the world’s reality.

What’s easier? Swatting a billion mosquitoes? or draining a swamp or two in your neighborhood? Poor, ignorant, oppressed and pissed off masses will always exist. That’s a given. Even having charismatic spoiled brats willing to whip these huddled masses into a mob is a given. What isn’t a given is having these mobs being armed to the teeth with modern weapons fighting wars they are exhorted to fight.

Arming the mobs is the only thing that’s changed in ten thousand years.

[1] “Republicans” and “Democrats” are two such examples not so far from home.