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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Happens When Europe Wakes Up

Recent articles by Ralph Peters and Mark Steyn (see Powerline for a recap) offer differing views of the future of Europe and Islam. Peters sees conflict leading to a resurgence of fascism and possibily genocide (Europeans ejecting/killing Muslims, in case you were wondering). Steyn sees Old Europe as doomed by low birth rates and an unwillingness to confront the truth.

Richard Landes at the Augean Stables blog has some excellent comments on the debate, including a thoughtful analysis of how Islam can be confronted and why it must be. The engagement he advocates is not military, but ideological:
Above all, we must learn to distinguish between demopaths and people who are really interested in the values of a civil society. If we embrace demopaths, they will destroy us; if we reject sincere Muslims, then we alienate potential and critically important allies. This means we need to do something very different from the current suggestions among the placating %u201Cprogressive%u201D set. Instead of avoiding conflict lest we alienate them -- as Loki puts it, hate-mongering (i.e., any criticism that offends Muslims, RL) polarizes -- we need to criticize them civilly.

This means, among other things, challenging gently but firmly their commitment to honor-shame concerns. Most (largely unconscious) demopathic discourse comes from people who justify extremism by explaining how it's understandable that Muslims find x, y, and z violently unacceptable (where x is depictions, no matter how anodine, of the prophet, y is descriptions, no matter how accurate, of Islam's tendency to violence, and z is the existence of the state of Israel). We need to hold Muslims to the standards of civil society. If the nations of the world, and the "progressive left" had insisted that Muslim countries recognize and deal with Israel rather than "respecting" their sense of honor by allowing them to isolate and demonize Israel, I don't think we'd be in the pickle we're currently in.

Ultimately such concessions reflect a condescension that easily slides into contempt for the Muslims that they, even as they exploit it to the fullest, deeply resent. Destroying us for not having the courage to hold them to our standards makes psychological sense, even if everyone loses in the process.
Read the rest.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Military Intelligence

James Taranto at OpinionJournal has posted some great responses to recent comments by Rep. Charles Rangel implying that America's servicemen and women are dumb. This is on the heels of Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke" about those in Iraq not studying hard enough to get a good job. I also saw a recent episode of Family Guy, wherein Chris decides to enlist, and his family reacts with horror that he could be so stupid.

Objectively, there's no basis for this. As Taranto's readers have pointed out, the military is full of high achievers, not "losers." Our troops are overall better educated and more intelligent than the general population in their age groups. Yet, this feature of the liberal mindset is very hard to shake, and it's worth asking why that is the case.

To avoid being accused of "questioning their patriotism," I'll speak of liberals in general, rather than Kerry and Rangel in particular. There is a strong current in liberal ideology that holds that patriotism/nationalism is, at best, naive. This is a popular sentiment among European leftists, and it is voiced more openly over there. Patriotism, particularly American patriotism, is seen as evidence of a lack of sophistication. In this view, feeling patriotic is only for rubes who are being manipulated (by conservatives, of course). The idea that something greater than oneself might actually be worth fighting for, and risk dying for, is "obviously" wrong, and no one in the know seriously believes it. Since our troops have signed up to do that, it follows they are either foolish, lacking any good alternative, or both.

This also explains the prevalence of the "chicken hawk" attack meme. Whether or not someone personally served in the military has little bearing on the validity of his opinion on matters of war and peace, of course. However, to an anti-war type who believes implicitly that patriotism and military service are only for dummies, lack of military service in a "hawk" is a gotcha. The liberal projects his own disdain for patriotism and the military onto the hawk. The hawk must also recognize that it's all a cynical game, since he didn't fall for the scam.

Liberals also view conservatives as dim-witted. Since the military is much more conservative than the general population, that also fits the "troops are stupid" theme. So mere facts and statistics are not going to persuade the liberals otherwise. They don't even realize how condescending and obnoxious this attitude is.