Wars end when both sides — not just the United States — stop fighting.
The Next Big War
It should surprise no one: most observers focus on the Middle East as the location most likely to produce an infectious conflict with nuclear potential. And what makes that region especially dangerous? The easiest answers are Jew-hatred and oil.
Consider, for example, the prose of one Michael Snyder. He’s educated, he’s sincere in his desire to understand complex issues, and he’s relatively prolific. He has written about the discovery of oil in the Golan Heights (a region annexed by Israel and still claimed by what is left of Syria), and the fervor of religiously motivated thugs (Hamas) who are trying to provoke Israel. None of Snyder’s claims and speculations are irrational, though they are basically linear (in that they do not explicitly recognize that the Middle East is notoriously quirky, inconstant, and chaotic). An example: Mahmoud Abbas, who is in “…the tenth year of the four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority to which he was once elected…” is calling for more violence.
Some aspects of the region’s complexity are under-reported. Chief among those is the politically incorrect claim that the emotional predispositions of the USA’s president are important, consequential, and tragically dangerous.
The careful observer should be forgiven for speculating that Obama is a tacit Jew-hater. Yes, of course: many will find that proposition obscenely improper. This newsletter can only suggest that Obamoid sentiments should be re-examined and debated to determine whether presidential prejudice exists. The evidence is suggestive but not definitive.
No list of supposedly anti-Israel aspects of Obamoid policy will be provided here. There is no convincing argument to be made either way. Conspiracists and Obama-haters will advance their views with imprudent zeal, while “Progressives” will ridicule any attempt to portray The One Leader as biased in favor of Islam and against Israel.
The world depends more on perceptions than on absolute truths. Accordingly, one can ask some incendiary questions: are Obama’s sentiments, as symbolized by his bowing (!) to the Saudi king, actually unfriendly to Israel? How important is the pact with Iran? (Some observers interpret it as tacit encouragement of Iran to cheat and produce nuclear weapons.) What can one make of the fraught Obama-Netanyahu relationship? To what degree might The One Leader view Jews as at least partially responsible for the suffering of black folks in south Chicago?
In fact simply asking those questions creates perceptions that might be dysfunctional, but…who can banish the claimed errors with hard facts?
Some facts do seem beyond dispute: the hatred Islamist groups feel for Israel and Jews has increased. Israeli fear of the future has also grown. Violence within Israel is rising. The prospects for a peaceful two-state solution appear to be fading. Iran has been emboldened, and its vision of a world without Israel is gaining clarity — at least for the mad mullahs.
If one assumes that the United States can have an impact on the perceptions of other nations, are there not questions to be asked of Obama and his Department of State? For example, what specific actions of the USA attempted to reduce tension and fear in the Middle East, and deal realistically with the region’s ancient religious hatreds?
Jonathan Tobin argues that Obama “…was initiating a new era of diplomacy that put to rest a conflict with Iran that stretched back to the 1970s. That it will almost certainly do no such thing is beside the point. Obama believes it to be so. Though he tells us that if it fails it (will) be his name on the policy, he will exit the White House claiming that he has truly changed the world, even if the change is for the worse.” (Source.) As disturbing as that reading of the enigmatic president’s aims and motives is, it is probably correct.
The oil in the Golan Heights is very likely to inspire Muslims of all stripes to begin yet another fanatical war. The entry of Russia into the virtually hopeless mess that is Syria is grotesquely unhelpful. Turkey is alarmingly moving toward more violence and less stability.
These days, it’s easy to be a Cassandra.
1. This newsletter insists that Iran is determined to begin a nuclear war as soon as it can.
2. Obama will probably leave office before that prophecy is tested.
3. In any event, Iran seems virtually certain to be a nuclear-armed nation governed by religious lunatics who are literally worse than Hitler. That will very likely be Obama’s legacy.
4. Accordingly, US voters should try to determine now which presidential candidate is best qualified to quash the coming madness.
Islam And The Future Of Tolerance: A Dialogue. By Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. ISBN 978-0-674-08870-2.
This small and slim volume can be read in one sitting. It is a literal conversation; each author responds to the comments of the other. The two find many points of agreement…because Nawaz is the head of a think tank/advocacy organization whose goal is the reform of Islam, and Sam Harris is an author who has denounced Islamic violence as evidence of what an evil religious doctrine can do.
This newsletter has twice noted (here and then here) that Islam is six centuries younger than Christianity — and that Christianity went through a horrible period in which it was an anti-rational, superstitious, torturing, murderous, genocidal force…and then slowly matured into a more peaceful and more ethical belief system. Islam might today be on a similar journey.
This little book can be thought of as a step on the correct path.
There are drawbacks. Nawaz, a scholarly Muslim, is struggling against the bellicose texts of Islam, and he must find some way to dismiss them. He tries very hard, and, probably because he was born in Great Britain and reared (please, not “raised”!) in a Western environment that determines his attitude toward much Islamic (or Islamofascist, if you will) behavior, he desires to see ISIS (Islamic State) fighters defeated and discredited, and so on. Those ideals are not easy to translate into prose that will convince Muslims…when a Koranic scholar quotes the Koran in rebuttal.
Therefore Nawaz adds a technical element to the discussion. He waxes philosophical, introducing precise distinctions and employing the very consequential word vacuous. The implications of that term, as defined by Nawaz, surprised this reviewer. He indicates that an interpretation of Islamic texts that is vacuous is literal, gullible, and therefore inspiring to terrorists. Nawaz denounces vacuous readings of the Koran as dismissive of enlightened (he does not use that word) ethics. Thus does Nawaz propose to pull the carpet out from under the mad mullahs and Koranic fanatics.
That approach can be confusing. Those aware of the philosopher’s methods when it comes to terminology, classification, the technical employment of precise definitions, as well as whether novel concepts are even admissible, will probably not be puzzled, but Nawaz’s terms and distinctions can be frustrating. The reader is advised to proceed carefully.
Yes, it would have been better for most folks if Nawaz had said simply, “Look, the holy books of Islam are outmoded, even if not all of them are ancient. It is wrong, ethically speaking, to drag stuff like this into this century, and live by it. Muslims are going to have to realize that this hoary literature is not a guide for us today, because now we know better”. In effect, that is what he is saying, so the obvious conclusion must be that he is trying a little sleight of words to baffle today’s Muslims into believing that he has a higher understanding of the truth behind the Koran, and is expressing that truth accurately.
Here is his position, expressed plainly: Nawaz insists that meaning is in interpretation rather than in the dictionary definitions of the words. After all, meaning is best conveyed between people who have similar world-views. That suggests that any given text is properly open to interpretation, doesn’t it? (No, not always, but let that weakness in Nawaz’s position go.) So: as culture evolves, interpretation and meaning must change. Many if not most Jews and Christians would probably agree.
That’s a huge leap Nawaz is trying to make, and he’s a hero for attempting it. He knows it won’t work well, but he also knows that some folks will listen, and then consider the sad state of Muslim ethics — perhaps for the first time.
Harris recognizes what Nawaz has undertaken, and he agrees that Islam needs a few million more Muslims like Nawaz. Because he understands what Nawaz means by “vacuous”, he does not quote in rebuttal any of the many, many ethically bankrupt passages from the hadith and Koran that flatly declare Nawaz a man who, under Sharia, deserves to die.
Harris, the atheist’s atheist, has no (or virtually no) respect for the ethics of the Islamic holy books. That is probably why he remains noncommittal when Nawaz starts using words like “vacuous”. That is irrelevant, for no true believer in any sect or cult of Islam would allow Nawaz to classify Muslims as he does. Nor would he be permitted to explain the way Islam’s holy works should be understood.
Indeed, the totally objective observer will probably find Nawaz unconvincing. To this reviewer, at least, his technical terms and definitions are a good but failed try at stripping the plain, unambiguous, clear, unequivocal language of the texts of their vile ethics. Those egregious moral errors are not a veneer on Islam’s teachings; they are the substance, the warp and woof, of the bloody-minded “truths” Islam conveys. Take them away, and very little remains.
Since the unethical aspects of Islam’s commandments have been discarded (by Nawaz’s refusal to take a “vacuous” view of the texts), no interpretation is possible. Harris appears comfortable with that, though he does not expressly acknowledge that it is true. Muslims will object scornfully.
Aside: perhaps Nawaz, having been born in a nation where non-Muslim religious fundamentalists are thin on the ground, considers the literal (vacuous) interpretation of ancient holy texts a unique and fragile practice. This reviewer wonders whether his expectations might be less optimistic if he had been born in the USA.
Well, what to do? If Islam is to be reformed, the ummah must accept the ethical views of kafir because those values are utilitarian and liberating. Practicality in ethics is convincing.
To tell Muslims their holy books say literally nothing…well, few tasks are more hopeless.
Never mind. The value of the book under review here might be in its revelation of a unique reform movement — an organization that seeks not to convert Muslims to a different faith or to atheism, but to tell Muslims that a society that recognizes and enforces human rights is a better shelter than the hellhole mandated by Islam.
The question is whether faith can be weakened enough to produce seismic changes in the ethics of a culture. Christianity proves that it can happen. Islamic rage against the rest of humanity will cool…eventually.
No one alive today will see that happen.
–A final irrelevant (and rather nasty) comment: Nawaz really should be told that the word “problematic” has nothing to do with problems. Yes, that’s correct. Look it up on the alphabetical list provided here. That is a true reference, not a chronicle of ignorant abuse.
Links Courtesy Of The Tramp Abroad
It could be the internet will become a cluster of intranet-islands disconnected from each other. Why? The free flow of information can be dangerous for governments.
Black Hawk down revisited. I would not want to go back there.
Bad news from Turkey. What to make of it? Most of the press, mainstream and opposition, are — in spite of Erdoğan’s gag order — writing that ISIS was behind the bombing. Two twin brothers had gone to Syria for training, ostensibly with ISIS. One of the brothers blew himself up in the Suruç bombing a month ago. The other brother was identified as one of the two suicide bombers in Ankara last week. The father of the two brothers (twins) reported to the Turkish police back in 2013 that they had gone to Syria. The police were allegedly not able to find them. None of the press is putting the blame on the PKK, at least not in any of the articles I have read.
Electromagnetic thought control has entered the first stage of development. Make of that what you will…while you still can.
The Dean of this newsletter’s subscribers encourages you to click here and benefit from a speculative discussion of science to come. Wait! Here’s more from The Dean: a star that is…well, click for an introduction, and then follow that with this. Yikes!
Reader JY suggests this account of an intellectually honest man’s attempt to understand climate and the claims of anthropogenic global warming.
You should see this documentary. It’s highly recommended.
It’s Hillary versus the truth. Well, will she get a number for a name? The “wingnuts” hope so. Sorry, Folks, but there is no chance Hilly will ever be fitted for an inmate’s pantsuit. This in spite of a fact of which The Tramp Abroad reminded everyone: on becoming a cabinet-level secretary, she had to have been comprehensively informed of all security measures required of her. Of course she ignored the inconvenient rules; they are for the little people. Therefore speculation turns once again to the identity of the factotum who will take the fall for Her Nibs.
If the cops don’t like you…well, life is tough. A lot of folks knew that a long time ago, and today their numbers are growing as marijuanasmokers who have traveled to Colorado are exposed to a “You are not welcome” attitude.