Neville Chamberlain's Real Mistake--And Bush's





Mr. Shear is writing a book about espionage entitled, The Honey Trap, for Raincoast Books. He is the author of The Keys to the Kingdom, an investigation into a weapons deal between the U.S. and Japan, by Doubleday. He is a former Staff Correspondent at National Journal.

What's new about the old tale of politicians abusing intelligence? Not a lot, as the "Scooter" Libby trial demonstrates. Whether the administration saw what it wanted to see in Ambassador Joseph Wilson's report from Nigeria about the non-sale of yellow cake uranium to Iraq, or the administration manufactured what it wanted the nation to believe about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, the Bush White House’s capacity for magical thinking (to borrow a phrase from author and political essayist Joan Didion) mistakenly brought the nation to war. And that brings to mind Neville Chamberlain.

In a parallel tale of pre-war delusion, the British Secret Intelligence Service carefully added up and recorded the many sins of the Third Reich, beginning early in the 1930s. By the time Neville Chamberlain came to office in 1937, Hitler was a known quantity. In 1933, he had eliminated political parties, with the exception of his own, the Nazis. He then quit the League of Nations and tripled the size of his Army, tossing out the arms restrictions of the Versailles Treaty. A year later, he appointed himself dictator, Fuehrer. In 1935, he instituted a military draft and promulgated the Nuremberg Laws, stripping Jews of their rights as German citizens. The next year, he invaded the Rhineland. Overshadowed by the Spanish Civil in 1937, he tested his Junkers bombers against the town of Guernica. Chamberlain became Prime Minister a few weeks later in May and two days after that, Nazi bombers attacked the Spanish town of Almeria, a reprisal raid as Goering described it.

So then, what could Chamberlain possibly have been thinking when he chose a policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler? Well, the obvious. The Great War was an all too recent and vivid memory fresh with the horrors of mustard gas and aerial bombs, mechanized fighting machines, and the spattering death of machine guns. An entire generation had been lost, to victor and vanquished alike. It didn't take much imagination for men of peace and good will to see that Germany had only recently clawed its way out of an economic abyss, and that Versailles had imposed a vindictive and harsh peace. Perhaps Germany did in fact have legitimate claims on honor and traditional territory. The thought of another Great War with even more horrendous weaponry after so brief an interval of just 20 years was appalling. So, appeasement.

But Chamberlain should have known better. British intelligence had developed dramatic and damning evidence of Nazi duplicity in the weeks leading up to the Prime Minister's crucial meeting with Hitler at Munich. An MI6 agent, we now know, produced actual maps of Nazi war objectives. The operative, who happened to be an American named Betty Pack (and later code-named Cynthia), entered the offices of Konrad Henlein, leader of the Nazi-surrogate Sudenten-German Party and stole the maps, which laid out Hitler's plans for Czechoslovakia, the focus of ongoing peace talks.

Moreover, as the Anglo-German summits leading up to the four-power conference gathered momentum, -- first at the Berchtesgaden on September 15 and next at Bad Godesberg on September 22 -- the same agent provided British intelligence with confirming evidence directly from Polish sources who had met with both Hitler and Goering during the Nuremberg Rallies, which began on September 12, 1938. Despite the time compression and the urgency of Hitler’s demands, such intelligence should have at least delayed Chamberlain’s determined march toward appeasement. Instead, he stated with utter credulity that Hitler was a leader who "would not lie to someone he respected."

It is for this reason, of course, that President Bush regularly invokes the ghost of Neville Chamberlain in defense of his Iraq policy, though less frequently in the months since the report of the Iraq Study Group. His arguments against appeasement have their merit as the awful failure of Chamberlain’s policies proves. However, arguing over appeasement obscures the irony, which is that Bush, like Chamberlain before him, fell victim to magical thinking, swilling policy bromides while ignoring intelligence professionals. In the case of Chamberlain, disregarding the evidence resulted in appeasement and World War Two; in the case of Bush, it led to a pre-emptive war in Iraq. Thus, both world leaders each failed on their own merits.

In his 2004 book, Plan of Attack, describing why Bush “decided to launch a preemptive war in Iraq,” Washington Post assistant managing editor, Bob Woodward, quoted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld telling the President, “It’s particularly important that I talk to George Tenet,” the director of the CIA, about “removing Saddam Hussein.” The president agreed but, as Rumsfeld told Woodward, Bush did not want the intelligence director to know anything about his plans. In other words, the President wanted a plan for war, but he didn’t want the CIA to know about it. Intelligence be damned? Apparently this bizarre and backwards approach to the world changing matter of war gnawed sufficiently at Woodward so that two years later he confronted the President with his orders to Rumsfeld. Why not get CIA in on the ground floor, he asked Bush. The President responded that he feared that by making his plans more widely known he risked a leak to the media. A leak from the director of CIA?  Woodward never followed up.

Subsequently, in the beginning of February 2007, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general did follow up. He issued a report rebuking Douglas J. Feith, an aide to Rumsfeld who served as under secretary of defense for policy for the Bush administration until 2005. The I.G. said that Feith “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” He did not note, as Woodward had reported, that the path to war began without consultation with the intelligence community; indeed that an order had been given to keep the director of the CIA out of the loop.

Now, with further debate in progress over intelligence implicating Iran in the Iraq insurgency, which adds additional heat to the intelligence debate over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the lessons of Munich are once again invoked, once again for the wrong reasons. For as the case of Neville Chamberlain should remind us: the sin of appeasement was really the sin of magical thinking, failing to take caution from intelligence estimates in order to forward policy aims at odds with reality. Appeasement and pre-emption may both have their place in a dangerous world, but history teaches us that one may be more dangerous than the other in the absence of dispassionate and objective analysis grounded in long-term national self-interest.


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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

As this article shows, for about the millionth time, George W. Bush has massively failed to act objectively in the long-term national self-interest.
So did the Congress which rubberstamped his reckless and arrogant incompetence. It is time to stop pretending that the fiasco in Ira q resulted from some kind of innocent mistake. We don't need a new constitutional amendment, but we do need to more effectively use the powers granted under the constitution we have now. All enablers of the Iraq folly, from to the president to his lowest lackeys to Hillary and her fellow blank check signers on Capitol Hill, need to take responsibility for having caused the worst disaster in American history since the Civil War, and resign their offices in disgrace or be removed from them. Ditto for the leaders of the BS "antiwar movement" who have been holding useless feel-good events while mindlessly repeating the Cheney-Bush administration's Orwellian deceptions about "war on terror" etc.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The topic of this page is the proper vs improper parallels between Junior Bush and Neville Chamberlain. The author makes a good case that key common failing of both was not appeasement or failing to "take action," but self-delusion, or blind optimism or what he calls "magical thinking."

You are not addressing this, and instead are talking around in circles about Clinton. Now that president has his failings and I, for example, did NOT vote for him in 1992 when he was clearly underqualified for the job, but I don't see what he has to do with the issue on the table here, except in the Karl Rove neo-con BS handbook which tries to blame the massive disasters of the worst Republican president since Harding, at least, on his immediate predecessor, regardless of facts, truth, history or common sense. That is asinine, and if you aren't trying to argue that way, why keep bringing up Clinton?

And if you want to fixate on Clinton, anyway, why not spell out what he should have done that he didn't do? Start a domestic witch hunt against Moslems? Kill thousands of them in a mad frenzy of revenge ala Israel in Lebanon? Or what? He sent cruise missiles killing hundreds of innocents in a botched attempt to murder Bin Laden. Isn't' that enough slaughter for you?

It is true that Clinton had no real viable policy about how to deal with radical Islam, but who does?
Certainly not you. And certainly a non-policy against "Islamism" is better than a policy which massively HELPS radical Islam, and that (latter situation) is what W. Bush has given us. Why are you always bending over backwards to protect him - while issuing little backside-covering criticisms on the side- and trying to blame Clinton instead? Clinton's failings don't amount to a hill of beans vs Bush's towering blunders. Bush has failed just as completely as Clinton in not developing a viable policy and he has trashed America's finances, its military, its international power and its international reputation to boot. From Europe, to Sudan, to North Korea, to Pakistan, to Iran, to Venezuela, to the national budget, to the recruiting strength of the US military, to international policies on development, poverty, disease, global warming, human rights. You name it: almost everything has gotten much worse on Bush's watch and, in most cases, mainly BECAUSE of Bush's incompetence and pigheaded recklessness.

The topic here is Bush (and Chamberlain) not Clinton. Why do you constantly try to divert the discussion?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. F: See my answer (Why....?) above, and please post your reply below to keep the thread readable.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When the last passenger jumps from the Titanic, Friedman will still be on deck saying it's too soon to rush to judgment. Is this the same Friedman who is cocksure that "large numbers" of Moslems are ironclad terrorists?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

U.S. launches new talks to secure Iraq By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer Feb 27 07

WASHINGTON - The United States and the Iraqi government are launching a new diplomatic initiative to invite Iran and Syria to a "neighbors meeting" on stabilizing Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.

"We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region," Rice said in remarks prepared for delivery to a Senate committee. Excerpts were released in advance by the State Department...

"I would note that the Iraqi government has invited Syria and Iran to attend both of these regional meetings," Rice said. She also noted that the Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, had recommended inviting Iran and Syria to such a neighbors meeting. At the time of that recommendation in December, President Bush rejected that diplomatic approach.

In other words, having pretended to be Churchill, and behaved like Mussolini, it would now appear that Fratboy W. Bush is getting ready to play Chamberlain.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Gilbert certainly seems to know his Churchill, though he does not mention in this interview that Churchill came to Parliament from a heavily Jewish consituency, albiet not as heavy as Gilbert's readership.

He clearly does not know George W. Bush from a hole in the ground.

Bush has DEFENDED America against Al Qaeda ? Lunacy. Bush has helped Bin Laden succeed beyond his wildest dreams. The latter was hoping to dent a few famous US buildings. Instead he got hundreds of thousands of America soldiers ruining their capabilities in Iraq, accomplishing nothing of postive value to the US, and vastly increasing the long term flow of new recruits for Islamic terrorism.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Morris is a tangent too many. We'll have to do him another time.

On Cole. It is an adhominem approach to judge his scholarship or ideas based on leaks from a job application process. You are inconsistent to slam me in a half dozen posts for making some rude remarks about Yeor, and then go yourself to "trash" Cole in a slightly less rude but completely adhominen way.

On Yeor. Two more interesting syllabi.
Thanks. No disrespect, but did you go to college ever?

This is supposed to be a history website. You gave first gave me two syallabi. One was from a Mideast Studies department that was so slanted towards the neo-con faith that it would be at the top of Horowitz's censorship hit list were the tables turned. The second was a theology course syllabus.

In reponse to my suggestion that it would be interesting to see if Eurabia were on syllabi of History courses, you googled up two more syllabi. One is from a Poli Sci course. The other IS a history course, but Eurabia is not on the syllabus proper, it is one of HUNDREDS of works on a massive laundry list of titles intended to get students started on selecting a term paper topic and researching it.

O for 4, Mr. Friedman, on the hypothsesis that mainstream historians consider Eurabia to be a great work of history needing to be taught to students.


On "Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation":

Maybe you remember decades ago, books from the John Birchers etc. such as "None Dare Call it Conspiracy?" Buckley's National Review reviewed that one and suggested that, in world of conspiracy theory freaks where it came from, "none dare call it bullshit." These books were obsessed by the fantasy that the "Council on Foreign Relations" was some kind of secret plot to rule the world, somewhat akin to the Protocol of the Elders of Zion.

Now, unlike the Elders, CFR does in fact exist. And it has had a lot of important and powerful people as members. So have United Way and the March of Dimes, though CFR deals more substantively and influential with major international policy issues, of course. But no bona-fide historian thinks CFR ever CONTROLLED policy to any meaningful extent.

I am perfectly willing to believe that the "Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation" also exists.
But, if you google it, all you get up to number 40 or so are hits from neo-con Likudnik sites like frontpage. Plus an occasional debunk-the-neo-cons site. Not a single listing from a mainstream news media outlet or governmental organization. This "Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation" is an utter triviality in recent European History. You won't find real top-notch historians such as Ferguson, Gilbert or Gaddis (all pro-neo-con to varying extents by the way) writing books about it.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I made two related mistakes in my last post, both of which led me to the erroneous conclusion that on the one (and only) history syllabus you have presented, that "Eurabia" appeared only on the long general optional reading list at the end:

1. I hit a wrong key somehow when doing a "find" on the pdf, and thus did not spot the excerpt from Eurabia assigned there for
"Session 14 (18 April)."

2. In reading through your typically massive cut-and-paste-based comment, I also did not spot "Eurabia" buried amidst the http//'s in your remarks themselves (referencing that same Session 14.


What does this mean?

1. In a class on the history of Anti-Semitism (not modern Europe, modern immigration and assimilation, Europe-Mideast relations, modern policy towards Islamic terrorism, etc.), the prof thinks that "Eurabia" is relevant to the topic of "The New Anti-Semitism"

2. The quote marks around the topic title and the first (of two) discussion questions for that week "Is there a ‘New Anti-Semitism’?" indicate very strongly that prof considers "Eurabia" to be one viewpoint among several widely diverging views concerning a highly disputed issue.

3. That "Eurabia" presents one of a number of widely differing views about "The New Anti-Semitism" (something we have not even touched on in the mountain of lines typed on this page) is indicated by the first reading assignment for the week being "Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen M., ‘The Israel Lobby’, London Review of Books, vol. 28, No. 6 (March 23, 2006), pp. 3-12."

4. You might try practicing what you preach before "trashing" "character-assasinating" or making other "loathsome" statements about the authors listed immediately above.

5. Anti-Semitism, "new" or otherwise, is a very interesting and important historical and contemporary topic which I am NOT going to discuss further on this page.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Losing Afghanistan has caused substantial dissent against bin Laden."

The logic of and evidence for this bizarre statement are hard to even imagine. Unsurprisingly, it also goes against your incessantly enunciated and hard-wired faith that all but a neglible and powerless handful of Moslems are terrorists or sympathisizers to terrorists, and even those few, by virtue of their utter and incurable weakness, are constitutionally incapable of meaningful "dissent."

I would agree that the toppling of the Taliban in Afghan. was a good thing (though it was blind luck that Bush wasn't put to shame there too like the Russians were and like he has been in Iraq and everywhere else) but the temporary emboldening of anti-Al Qaeda sentiments amongst Moslems there (which unlike you, I do believe possible, depending on US policy) has been more than offset by the deepening support in most Arab countries and especially in Waziristan. And even Afghanistan is slipping back towards the Taliban now too.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Sorry for the misplaced location earlier. Here is my reply.

We are drifting further off-topic now, but I don't agree that the historical record as a whole shows any great systematic and credible concern on the part of the Bush Administration -before during or after the ramp-up to the Iraq invasion- for addressing the "gathering storm" of violent "Jihadist" Islamic movements and sentiments and threats. They wanted ANY available quick action after 9-11, and stumbled their way into a lucky Taliban otherthrow. Throwing caution, history, common sense, and America's long term security to the winds, they then rushed to try for two in row, by way of a half-assed and deceit-based invasion and occupation of Iraq. Apart from the Saddam-AlQaeda-link croc of bull,"Islamism" was hardly even mentioned then. It was all about disarming Saddam of WMD. Only later, and as a lame fallback which revealed how badly the whole thing had backfired, did they speak of Iraq being the "central front" in the "war against terrorism." This latter bogus excuse, of course, utterly ignored the fact that there were simultaneous setbacks on other "central fronts" Pakistan, Somalia, Indonesia, etc., that even the victory in Afghanistan was turning sour, AND that Iraq itself had barely been on the fringes of the "war on terror" before hypocritical blunderers Rummy and Cheney smashed the "pottery barn".

I think Bush decided ultimately to endorse the prefabricated and faith-based neo-con invasion plan for Iraq, in 2002-03, because he thought it would help him get elected in 2004, and become his predecessor's or the Democrat's fault if things later turned sour, and because he was too incompetent and pigheaded to listen to dissenting voices until it was way too late. I think it is also interesting how closely he tried to follow his father's footsteps in the Desert Shield to Desert Storm build-up from August, 1990 to January 1991, despite the radically different circumstances of 2002-03. This similarity highlights his arrogant incompetence. He wanted to do Daddy one better, but couldn't even manage half of what Daddy managed .


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


1. In the first paragraph, in addition to WMD, the other main stated (and in this case also credible) reason for the 2003 Iraq invasion was "regime change." We don't hear much about that nowadays from the Jr. Bush apologists, of course, because it immediately begs the question of why American troop levels have to be maintained and even INCREASED 40 months after Saddam was nabbed in the spider hole. In fact regime change has been accomplished, but: Instead of Saddam's tyranny, the regime now consists of anarchy and Civil War, and a flight of refugees dwarfing even the worst defeats of Saddam's failed war on Iran. The "change," even in Iraq (never mind for the moment America's weakened international power and position elsewhere), has been from bad to worse.

2. In the last paragraph, 3rd line, it should read: "become his SUCCESSOR'S [or "predecessor's"]...fault if things later turned sour. (Of course, the Republican spin doctors will continue try to blame everything possible on Clinton as well.)



Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Can't get this wording right, it seems.
Correct the correction as follows:

"become his successor's [NOT "predecessor's"]


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Fools rush in or don't ?
Luck ?

I don't think so. Not as primary cause, anyway.

Western intelligence estimates on Iraq were off in 2002, but not far from what they had been over the prior decade during which time they basically detected the general trend of a degrading and reduction of Saddam's capabilities. Furthermore, the uncertainty about that reduction was in the process of considerably reduced itself by the return of Blix and the UN inspectors, which Saddam had bascially agreed to PRIOR to the blank check authorization of October, 2002. So there was no good reason to rash madly to an invasion in early 2003. There was reason for taking new stronger measures, but those had begun with the inspections, and there were good indications of a UN consensus for doing more if the inspections came up with new evidence or were stopped. Instead the administration chickenhawks with their prefabricated PNAC cakewalk fantasies,
their "new product launched" after Labor Day 2002, and their already then demonstrated incompetence, marched into utter folly while Congress and most of the USA "slept-walked through history." AJP Taylor would see this, I have little no doubt, and not be fooled by the bogus excusing-making of Hillary Clinton, for example.


I think you were closer to the mark in your article. Bush and Co didn't WANT to know the truth. They wanted to invade, and long term consequences be damned. Karl Rove correctly judged that Democrats would be supine and/or wildly ineffective, and or flailing while doing nothing but covering their behinds, against a "war president" in 2004. So Bush got elected legitimately for the first time, and America ratified the "worst foreign policy decision" in its history.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Friedman,

I will certainly not claim that my views are the absolute final word on the question of why America rushed, unprepared, four years ago, into Iraq and into the very kind of hopeless "nation-building" which candidate GW Bush had decried three years before THAT, but your particular objection here is easily set aside.

G W Bush did not "pull out before the 2006 election" in order to help Republicans get votes, because Bush was not a candidate in the 2006 election.

As for your alternate theory, I will note for starters that "factory for Jihad" yields exactly zero hits when googled. You appear to have coined a new phrase! Congrats. Maybe you can make good use of it.

What I don't think you can do with it is use it to explain why Bush wanted to invade Iraq in 2003.


The invasion itself was the brainchild of neo-cons associated with the Project for A New American Century think tank. In his book, Fiasco, author Ricks suggests a rather complex set of historical reasons behind their long-standing strident advocacy, including Wolfowitz's highly questionable parallel between Saddam and Hitler, but why Bush ultimately chose to side with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc, and NOT with Powell, Scowcroft, Zinni, Kissinger and Baker, etc. remains something of an open question.

(By the way, the word “Jihad” is not even in the INDEX of the book Fiasco).

My theory is based partly on the observation that G.W. Bush has never been good at much of anything in his life except political campaigns. Did you watch the first Kerry-Bush debate, for example? It was like watching a teacher debate a truant child. For all his many faults, Kerry looked much more presidential. Yet Bush won in 2004, increasing his popular vote substantially over 2000 (despite, as a trivial personal example, none of the Republicans I know liking him by then). In some sense, moreover, Bush DESERVED to win in 2004, because his was clearly the superior overall campaign strategy (notwithstanding his embarrassingly lackluster performance in the debates). The strategy was based on a support-the-commander-in-chief "war presidency," a consistent "support the troops" and "no substitute for victory" stance in that "war," clever fear-mongering, and brilliant manipulation of issues tailored to swing just enough swing voters in swing states to clinch a victory. I have little doubt that when the full history comes out, it will be clear that ALL of this was very well understood by Karl Rove and discussed with G.W. already in the first 2/3 of 2002 BEFORE the final decisions to invade Iraq were made.

As a party, the Republicans are more loyal and rank-closing than the Democrats, and Bush is a typical Republican in this sense. But his overwhelming loyalty is to himself and to his circles of friends and allies, party loyalty ranks far lower. Republicans are slowly and finally waking up to this, and further wakefulness is in store as Bush tries to rescue his "legacy" from the scrap heap of history by cutting deals with Democrats in Congress.


I do think your instincts are right that deep-down Bush shares some of your deep concerns about "Islamism."

But do you remember how fast he backpedaled from his "crusade" statement in 2001? He never made that slip-up again. He quickly went to the mosque in DC, talked about Islam being a "religion of peace" and has stuck to that posture consistently since.

The Bush family's links to Mideast oil go way back. I don't believe that oil was anything more than a tangential factor to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 (except to the extent that the Gulf War was partly about oil and the 2003 invasion largely developed out of the unfinished business of the Gulf War, namely getting Saddam out). No, my point is simply, when it comes to Moslem oil potentates, the Bushes irrevocably choose "appeasement" decades ago.


You appear to believe that radical Islam poses a deadly threat to the West, and to also believe that the roots of this radical Islam are inherent in mainstream Islam itself. I would agree to some extent on both counts (more on the former than the latter, but there is some truth in both).

And would also agree that coping with that threat is going to require the use of American military power over a long time period (although I think it a colossal mistake for GW Bush to have put the military approach so overwhelmingly front and center -mainly, I think, in order to maximally distract from the terrible embarrassment of 9-11).

So, I can understand your assuming that since Bush is the first American president to use extensive US military powers against radical Islamic forces, therefore a concern about the "gathering storm" of those forces (and Bush is also an admirer of Churchillian rhetoric) was the key reason for the main use of military force under the Bush Junior administration in Iraq.

But, that assumption does not square with historical and geopolitical realities. A decisive strike against radical Islam would have been against its financial heart, Saudi Arabia, and its main hideouts in Pakistan (on the same grounds that were used to justify the Afghan intervention). Instead most of the US military effort went against the secular-tribal regime of Saddam Hussein and into to vain attempt to contain the horrifici and non-Jihad related chaos that has followed the bungled US toppling of the Baath government.

Saddam was a menacing unsolved problem in 2002-03, of course, but NOT the key to making inroads against radical Islam. And, due ironically, to the blank check Congressional authorization of late 2002, and a THEN sympathetic though hardly compliant UN security council, Bush HAD Saddam as effectively contained as any tyrant can be (and about as well as the Soviets, for example, were). The inspectors were in there, no bones about it, cat-and-mouse was effectively shut down for the first time in 10 years, and the world was poised to gradually realize what we more quickly discovered in fact: that there really was no viable WMD program left at all. The possibility of later having to forcibly depose Saddam and occupy Iraq at some later stage would have remained of course, as would have the unsolved problem of the sanctions mess, but it is hard to imagine a future, less rushed, less unilateral regime-change being screwed up as badly as the 2003 non cake walk was.


Why then did Bush, in Kerry's words, "take his eyes off Bin Laden" and bungle and stumble into Iraq in 2003 instead?

Consider the Mideast seasonality and the US election cycle. If W had done what most of the world and most experts suggested in 2003, and held off invading, he would have had to have postponed the regime change intervention until at least the Fall of 2003 (after the summer heat). The momentum would have been lost, some of the deliberately cooked intelligence might well have unraveled and the invasion would have overlapped with the 2004 primaries. Cheney, Bush etc, rightly calculated that if they didn’t rush in early 2003 they might never get another chance.

So in the Fall of 2002, they bet America's long term foreign policy future on Saddam either backing down or being replaced like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Congress spinelessly signed on to that foolish bet. The decision went against common sense and history, and America has badly lost on both bets with no relief in sight to-date. But Bush won.

Daddy rode in to the Oval Office on Reagan's legacy in '88 but was humiliated in '92. Junior eked out a victory in 2000 but didn't really win. The election was effectively a tie, and a 5-4 Supreme Court fluke, on top of a mountain of other flukes, NOT a voter mandate, put him in the White House in 2001.

In November 2004, by contrast, the Bushes celebrated their first genuinely unequivocal popular endorsement from the American public. Junior had no serious first-term accomplishment to justify this win (except perhaps Afghanistan) but he got it anyway. He got it because Dean choked on his own ego, and Kerry choked on his own hypocrisy over Iraq, while Bush had "stayed the course" as a "war president."

Of course, he was actually shifting courses erratically and flailingly about every six months, in something that was a fiasco not a real war, but it was not spun that way by Karl Rove in 2004, Kerry's own waffles made him unable to score points in that regard, and a decisive 53% or so of voters bought the bull (then) or were willing to underweight it in their decisions. Now they are waking up, but too late to change the electoral history of 2004.

GW Bush was elected president then. Without an Iraq invasion Kerry or some other Democrat probably would have won instead. Bush would then have gone done in history as the barely legitimate one-term president son of the one-term president father. Instead, his future history book entry, whatever its ultimate tilt, will be more extensive, and America's long term difficulties with radical Islam, however they evolve, will be harder to deal with.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


"Jihad Factory" + Pakistan = 680 hits


"Jihad Factory" + Afghanistan = 503 hits

"Jihad Factory" + Saudi Arabia = 250 hits

"Jihad Factory" + Saddam = 235 hits


"Bush" + "Iraq" + "incompetence" = 1,290,000 hits


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

On this, and the other page this week (re Israel's scandals) you have accused me on at least ten separate occasions of having "trashed" Bat Y'eor. Now you say:

"One cannot trash someone without actually knowing something. And, you lack the knowledge."

Which is it?



Wikipedia says:

"Many conspiracy theories claim that major events in history have been dominated by conspirators who manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes."


It sounds to me like that is what you are positing.


In "Re: Repies VII (#106753)
by N. Friedman on March 8, 2007 at 8:57 PM"

you said (quoting Yeor, I suppose):

"Eurabia is the future of Europe. Its driving force, the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, was created in Paris in 1974."


Now you say (in "Re: Replies VIII") that the key really is "a political project that is publicly advocated by political parties and operated via the agency of the EU's EAD".


So I went on another little google fishing trip to see if I could find an independent source of info on EAD. Well, this time (unlike Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation) there were a few, sandwiched in between dozens of frontpage.com, danielpipes.xom etc listings, but nothing from either a major news organization or a mainstream historian. I then googled Economist, past 10 years. Zippo. Nothing at all except their cover story on Eurabia from last year, which did not conclude that "Eurabia" is yet anything much to worry about: "for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering." And that article did NOT even mention EAD. Not once. One of Europe's leading, if not THE leading, news magazine has nary a mention of this infamous EAD over the past decade.

So, we have this highly obscure agreement or protocol or agency or whatever it is, that hardly anybody seems to know or care much about, nonetheless deciding the future of an entire continent.


Are you sure you don't have a John Birch Society membership card still tucked in your drawer somewhere?


Look, let's get real, as you said. Find a major, credible, unambiguously NON neo-con historian or reporter who thinks this EAD is anything to write home about, and I might believe you if you claim you don't endorse conspiracy theories about Eurabia.




Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When I said "googled Economist," just above here, what I meant to say was that I went to their Economist.com website and searched their archive using my subscriber membership. The google search was separate. On both sites I put in "Europe-Arab Dialogue"


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. You apparently didn't get my point on the 2006 election. I think Bush cares much more about his own long term legacy than the short term fate of his party in Congress.

In a way it's hard to blame him. He often looks and acts dumb, but he isn't. He knows, I think, that he was never really qualified to be a great war president. He never expected to be in 2000 (I don't think he was even very well prepared to win in 2000). If this perception is true, then it may well be that he knew well that he couldn't really help Republican candidates much anyway last Fall, and in some cases his "help" would have clearly hurt them, so he decided he may as well focus on Number 1's historical legacy. Cutting and running is clearly not something he wants in that legacy. That would be against his stubborn nature, too much like what Daddy did in 1991, and he would have to admit that 3000 Americans were sacrificed for dubious reasons. I am a little surprised he didn't try this "surge" approach two years ago, but as Schwarzkopf once said of Saddam (re-writing just slightly) : "He is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great commander in chief."


2. I have a rather different recollection of the 1st debate. I was disappointed in Kerry too, although not greatly so vis-a-vis modest expectations, but it was excruciating to watch Bush. He looked like a second string football coach trying make the best of a series of defeats. Even Reagan, who WAS a dunce, never looked that bad. But none of this matters, was my point. The swing voters were not swung by the debates. They probably never were, except maybe in 1960.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I have had with your incurable Kindergarten trickery, Friedman. Your link does not have a G.D. thing about EAD in it. Go join Yeor and her loony bin conspiracy-theory-based fake history without wasting any more of my time. All the article says is that there are attempts to establish closer links across the Mediterrenean. So beeping what. No wonder you've been screaming like a cry baby for evidence all week. You wouldn't recognize the evidence of 2 by 4 if it hit your confused paranoid motor-mouth square on. This is it dude. Four years of your Bat Yeor paranoia and endless childish refusal to admit your never-ending boneheaded mistakes or to even shut up and stop making them is enough for me. Radical Islam is too important of a real threat to western civilization to waste any more time with counterproductive historically ignorant lunatic fringists WHO ARE MAKING THE REAL PROBLEM OF ISLAMISM MUCH WORSE with their paranoia and demogogical BS. If you want to be her dupe for life, do it without involving me.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

We have to agree to disagree on Bat. There is a kernel of truth in what she says, I would agree. But there is a kernel of truth in what David Irving says, too. Hers is probably the more important kernel for the future of Europe, but Europe has been around for along time and has always been diverse and has always survived. I can't see a 5% Moslem minority even if grows to 10% or 20% over the next century fundamentally changing that. Variations of her xenophobia have been heard a hundreds times before and it basically never pans out.

Immigrants change host societies and host societies change immigrants.
Wars, tyrannies, revolutions, natural disasters, etc. wipe out civilizations. People moving peacefully and voluntarily, a family or a village at at time, or even huge numbers of families and villages simultaneously, with the permission and under the effective control of the destination society, do not and never have.


Your more basic prescriptions for American policy towards Islamism do not follow from your premises, in my opinion. That is why I do not reach them myself.


To the extent (and we are probably not in 100% agreement on how large the extent is) that Arab-and-Moslem regions are trapped in a "Middle Ages" mentality, that old, shall we say tribal and spiritual irrationality, clearly includes an embrace of death and "martyrdom" that makes the threat of death a weak deterrent at best. Rumsfeld came to this realization himself well ahead of many Americans.
It may be politely incorrect to put it so baldly, but I doubt that bothers you any more than it does me.

So, even disregarding the "Middles Age mentality" inherent in your proposed approach - "convince them that fighting us will get them, their families and friends all dead" - it hasn't worked in practice, and it isn't likely to even in theory. I am not saying military deterrents don't work in general. Clearly they do. I am saying they don't deter motivations of a deeply-felt spirituality that glorifies death.


Even more fundamentally, what in Islam says that its adherents must have "no peace ever with us [non-Moslem Westerners] so long as they have the power to fight us"?

Or do you mean "us" as in "Jews in Israel"?

I am afraid you can't have it both ways. If Israelis have the right to tell the world to go to hell, then vice versa applies.

(Your eternal war theory is not even true for Israel, however. Egypt and Jordan have had the "power to fight," but for decades have chosen not to.)

There is, anyway, a better way than such nihilism, Mr. F.

It involves, first of all, realizing that religion is not the be-all and end-all of human behavior and motivations, even in the most brainwashed minds of the Moslem world.
Secondly, religions, even "Middle-Age-like" and violently uncompromising religions can, slowly or not slowly, change. They are not pre-programmed in the genetic code of children. Thirdly, the power of religions can be contained through non-violent means, e.g. our 1st Amendment. Fourthly, and more importantly, no religion is a monolith. The biggest religious tensions and strife in history have been WITHIN religions not between them. It is fundamentally foolish to advocate a one-size-fits-all policy to towards the religious leaders and "followers" scattered across a billion diverse Eurafrsians. Fifthly, and most importantly, American military power is not remotely capable of controlling or dealing with even a tiny fraction of the world's Moslems. Military might can certainly enable one country or region or organized group to prevail against another. Military might will never ever achieve "victory" against crime, the common cold, prejudice, terrorism, or Middle-Ages-like religious fanaticism.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

We have to agree to disagree on Bat. There is a kernel of truth in what she says, I would agree. But there is a kernel of truth in what David Irving says, too. Hers is probably the more important kernel for the future of Europe, but Europe has been around for along time and has always been diverse and has always survived. I can't see a 5% Moslem minority even if grows to 10% or 20% over the next century fundamentally changing that. Variations of her xenophobia have been heard a hundreds times before and it basically never pans out.

Immigrants change host societies and host societies change immigrants.
Wars, tyrannies, revolutions, natural disasters, etc. wipe out civilizations. People moving peacefully and voluntarily, a family or a village at at time, or even huge numbers of families and villages simultaneously, with the permission and under the effective control of the destination society, do not and never have.


Your more basic prescriptions for American policy towards Islamism do not follow from your premises, in my opinion. That is why I do not reach them myself.


To the extent (and we are probably not in 100% agreement on how large the extent is) that Arab-and-Moslem regions are trapped in a "Middle Ages" mentality, that old, shall we say tribal and spiritual irrationality, clearly includes an embrace of death and "martyrdom" that makes the threat of death a weak deterrent at best. Rumsfeld came to this realization himself well ahead of many Americans.
It may be politely incorrect to put it so baldly, but I doubt that bothers you any more than it does me.

So, even disregarding the "Middles Age mentality" inherent in your proposed approach - "convince them that fighting us will get them, their families and friends all dead" - it hasn't worked in practice, and it isn't likely to even in theory. I am not saying military deterrents don't work in general. Clearly they do. I am saying they don't deter motivations of a deeply-felt spirituality that glorifies death.


Even more fundamentally, what in Islam says that its adherents must have "no peace ever with us [non-Moslem Westerners] so long as they have the power to fight us"?

Or do you mean "us" as in "Jews in Israel"?

I am afraid you can't have it both ways. If Israelis have the right to tell the world to go to hell, then vice versa applies.

(Your eternal war theory is not even true for Israel, however. Egypt and Jordan have had the "power to fight," but for decades have chosen not to.)

There is, anyway, a better way than such nihilism, Mr. F.

It involves, first of all, realizing that religion is not the be-all and end-all of human behavior and motivations, even in the most brainwashed minds of the Moslem world.
Secondly, religions, even "Middle-Age-like" and violently uncompromising religions can, slowly or not slowly, change. They are not pre-programmed in the genetic code of children. Thirdly, the power of religions can be contained through non-violent means, e.g. our 1st Amendment. Fourthly, and more importantly, no religion is a monolith. The biggest religious tensions and strife in history have been WITHIN religions not between them. It is fundamentally foolish to advocate a one-size-fits-all policy to towards the religious leaders and "followers" scattered across a billion diverse Eurafrsians. Fifthly, and most importantly, American military power is not remotely capable of controlling or dealing with even a tiny fraction of the world's Moslems. Military might can certainly enable one country or region or organized group to prevail against another. Military might will never ever achieve "victory" against crime, the common cold, prejudice, terrorism, or Middle-Ages-like religious fanaticism.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You brought up Bat Y'eor whose writings are pertinent (perhaps) to the polices of Britain or France vs Islamism, but not to US policy which is what we were discussing. If you are touchy about her, why bring her up? At any rate, I stand by my polite and non-ad-hominen rebuttal of her views about "Eurabia" and a Moslem takeover or Europe. As I said, there are differing interpretations about her work, and you are welcome to yours. Her "Eurabia" thesis is not a mainstream conclusion held by knowledgeable European historians, of that I can assure you.

Meanwhile, however, you have completely dodged my main point which is that military force, as the principal weapon, against Islamism is doomed to fail. And my secondary point, which is that there are a host of other tools which, at least in toto, are much more viable against what is ultimately an intellectual, political, legal, criminal, security, logistical, geographic, demographic, eductational, economic, and psychological, etc. and, of course, theological, challenge more than a military one.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Bat Yeor's future predictions for Europe are highly tangential to what we started out talking about (Why Bush invaded and Iraq, and did it have anything to with wanting to comprehensively address a "gathering storm" of Islamism) but I stand by my prior position about Moslem migration to Europe:

"Europe has been around for along time and has always been diverse and has always survived. Immigrants change host societies and host societies change immigrants. Wars, tyrannies, revolutions, natural disasters, etc. wipe out civilizations. People moving peacefully and voluntarily, a family or a village at at time, or even huge numbers of families and villages simultaneously, with the permission and under the effective control of the destination society, do not and never have."

I doubt whether Ferguson or Gilbert (who, unlike Yeor ARE accomplished and respected historians, but who CONTRARY to your erroneous assumption, are not in the mainstream of academic historians -neither is A. Eckstein by the way) or any other credible historian of modern Europe would disagree with any part of the above statement.

I have read Ferguson on this. He and other historians recognize Yeor for having blown the whistle on what was under-the-rug issue (pardon the mixed metaphor). They do not consider her to therefore be the ultimate authority of the future of Moslem assimliation into Europe. I am not familiar with Richard L. Rubenstein but note that he is NOT a historian. Please be reminded that this is not Theology News Network here.



Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Barcelona agreement" "Europe-Arab Dialogue" yields ZERO hits on google.

Paranoid Game Over.


Summarizing the long serious of comments above increasing tangenting on your fears of Islam and fawning over an anti-Islamic neo-con:


1. "Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation"

A Mighty Triviality


2. EAD

A still mightier Conspiracy Theory Dud Triviality


3. "Barcelona Agreement"
No link to EAD had yet made it onto google. Whereas " "Eurabia" "conspiracy theory" " produces 13,300 hits.


This IS now the finale.


THREE STRIKES, you're out.




Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You need to cool with Bat Yeor, Mr. F. This is not website, article, page or thread about her. Most of what you say about her would apply to David Irving and a host of others. When I say that am not saying she has the same motives or the same psychological or moral make-up as Irving, nor am I "character assassinating" her by mentioning another historian in the same sentence. I have not read more than snippets of either Yeor or Irvings, by the way (have YOU read Irving or are you only interested in co-character-assasinating him?), but I have read enough about them to have an informed opinion.

Irving is, or at least was, a brillian maverick historian. That does not mean his conclusions are valid, his morals are screwed on straight, or that his agenda is worthy of attention. I would be less categorical about Yeor. I think her agenda is worthy of attention. I have no idea about her moral character. I think her conclusions are rubbish (as, in my view, and I'm sure you will agree, are Irving's). You think her work is of the calibre of Ferguson. Fine, dream on, but stop insulting me because I don't think highly of your pet author. I am not character assassinating her. I just think her ideas are a valid alarm bell covered in a mound of fear-based fantasy (at least when it comes to Europe - she is surely more knowledgeable about the Mideast of her childhood).


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are remembering what you want to remember, not what actually happened.

Prior to 9-11-01, Bush ignored warnings from Clinton appointees about Bin Laden and sidetracked efforts to better monitor and develop strategies against Al Qaeda. After 9-11 Bush and his crew talked a great deal about "evil-doers" "terrorist networks" and "axis of evil" but not much about "Islamist policies" being a "gathering storm."

Meanwhile Bush's Iraq fiasco created a recruiting and training ground for Al Qaeda comparable to what they already had in Afghanistan (and still have in Waziristan).


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I read enough of her, and of Irving, to get a sufficiently clear picture. She paints a portrait of Europe today wildly biased against the religion of Islam and wildly at odds with reality. We discussed this in detail years ago. As for her "prophecies," about future immigration and assimilition into Britain, France, Germany, etc., time will tell. Henceforth can I expect you to never again utter a peep against Economist, New York Times, Juan Cole, David Irving, the Man in the Moon, or any Moslem who ever lived, unless you submit a precise detailed upfront list of what you have and haven't read about them? A helluva way to have a conversation. Sounds like "1984," and Big Brother here we come. I agree, time to move on, and away from personal harrassment and Orwellian litmus tests. This is a comments and discussion board, not a court of law, with you as presiding judge.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. Regardless of whom you "adore," your Clinton-Bush comparison could come straight from a propaganda sheet of the Neo-Con wing of the Republican. It is silly to imply -as this bogus comparison does- that Clinton would not have reacted firmly IF a 9-11 type attack had occured on his watch AND that Bush would have done jacksh-- about Islamic terrorism were it NOT for the disastrous attack that DID occur from that quarter on his watch.

2. Leaving aside the question of what "Islamism" means in the real world, there are two relevant sins of policies for containing, thwarting and weakening, shall we say Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and similar or affiliated entities: (a) doing the right things but not forcefully enough and (b) doing things which help rather than hinder the Islamic terrorist movements. If there is any doubt about which sin is worse, consider, with a nod to relevancy to the original article, the following historical hypotheticals.

i) Suppose Chamberlain had been UK Prime Minister in the late '20s when Hitler was on the move, but not a household word, and he (Chamberlain) had issued warnings about Hitler and even tried to assassinate him once, but failed. That would be roughly analagous to Clinton vs Bin Laden in the late 1990s.

ii) Now suppose Chamberlain in 1938, instead of going to Munich, had first temporarily liberated the Styrian province in Austria - a key center of Nazi support and training - and then, before that action was solidified, suddenly orchestrated a British invasion of Poland, and bungled it badly, thus paving the way for an even faster and deadlier German Blitkrieg than actually ocurred in 1939 and again in 1940. That would be roughly parallel to Bush's fast-fading victory in Afghanistan and his utter disaster in Iraq.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Interesting syllabi, but slanted one way, especially the first one. Not suprisingly the slant is the same as that consistently found in nearly all the authors you favorably cite. There is word for this approach to investigation and presentation: biased.

After 3+ years and 1000+ plus comments on HNN, nearly all repeating the highly-selectively supported basic arguments over and over, one can only conclude: obsessively biased


I would be much more impressed if you could find Y'eor's "Eurabia" on a HISTORY syllabus.


I note that you have attacked Cole with no less fervor and indignation, but more ad-hominemism, than I have critiqued Y'eor's work. But, you may note, I will not go wild posting complaints about this in a half-dozen different comment threads on a totally different page.


N. Friedman - 3/11/2007

Peter,

You are factually mistaken. The CounterPunch link is on the exact topic of Bat Ye'or's book and cites to the same project. What do you think the Barcelona agreement is? It is part of the EAD.


N. Friedman - 3/10/2007

Peter,

Here is a link for the research challenged people like you. It is an article in the far left wing website CounterPunch. The article seems to think that the project is an important one and does not look at it as being a conspiracy theory. Where the authors of the article and Bat Ye'or disagree is on its benefits to Europe and, further, for Jews. She sees the matter as working, to the extent it has been adopted by the various EU member states, to undermine such states, whether or not that is what was intentioned.

No offense, Peter, but the fact that you cannot find something is a trivial point. Politics does not always move entirely out in the sunlight. Not everything that happens becomes the fodder for on Internet. Some things happen fairly quietly. That, however, does not mean there was a conspiracy - as in people meeting in secret for some nefarious purpose. Rather, we have open meetings that just did not sound quite as important as they actually are, since these meetings, in fact, seem to have helped set government policies to advance what was thought to benefit European nations. In any event, we have a theory endorsed by, among others, Sir Martin Gilbert, among others. Gilbert, so far as I know, is not prone to belief in conspiracies. So, what you are doing is screaming conspiracy because you know nothing about the subject.

To quote Friedrich Nietzsche: "It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world —" Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 22 ("The Stillest Hour").


N. Friedman - 3/9/2007

Peter,

If you want a taste of Cole as viewed by Martin Kramer, see this. See this as well. So Cole is both for and against the Iraq war!!!

What can I say. We can all play your sorts of games Peter. But, if you live in a glass house, do not throw stones.

Enough said.


N. Friedman - 3/9/2007

Peter,

Do you know how stupid you now sound?

I never said her book was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I suggested it was a very interesting book and that she is a fine scholar and that I agree with quite a bit of what she says.

Your entire objection is that people who like her are neocons. What sort of objection is that?

If you claim that Gilbert or Gaddis are neocons, you are claiming that some neocons are very substantial scholars. I might add that Walter Laqueur is a neocon as well. And Gilbert evidently thinks highly of Bat Ye'or thesis. It is my impression that so does Laqueur. As does, evidently, Niall Ferguson. Such is certainly a problem for your thesis. You have to admit that much.

Now, even Professor Eckstein has stated his positive view of her book and he is not a neocon. So, where does that leave you other than stating that you disagree with her thesis - IN A BOOK YOU HAVE NOT EVEN READ!!!

You even claim that hers is a conspiracy theory that is the very opposite of the conspiracy theory stated against Jews. But, she does not assert a conspiracy theory. That is in your head.

Rather, she asserts a political project that is publicly advocated by political parties and operated via the agency of the EU's EAD, which is something quite different. And, she cites substantial evidence for how far that political project has progressed and the role of leading European politicians in that project. Such is not a conspiracy. It is, instead, politics having to do with unifying Europe.

While you may not know about the EAD and while it plays little role on the Internet, its also spawned the Barcelona agreement/Mediterranean Partnership which has received substantial press. In fact, you can find at least one article about the EAD and Mediterranean Partnership on the CounterPunch website, in which the idea of uniting the Arab and European region is discussed at length.

In any event, what you are really saying is that Bat Ye'or holds opinions that differ from yours - although you do not know what her opinions actually are. But, your disagreement is not a basis to lump her in with David Irving. So, frankly, Peter, all you have done is trash her without any basis for the trashing. One cannot trash someone without actually knowing something. And, you lack the knowledge.

And, I did not trash Cole. I noted what others have said and I noted my disagreement with his view. His ideas about Iran are, in my view, from the far left and I question whether they are really factually based or, instead, politics running full steam notwithstanding the facts. While being left wing does not disqualify an opinion, it is not an endorsement either. Scholarship, left or otherwise, that is not supported by facts is junk.

Do you have any real reason to think that he is a scholar worth taking seriously? Before answering, I suggest you read Martin Kramer's book Ivory Towers on Sand. It is a very interesting book. You might even learn something about the the politics of US scholarship in the relevant field. Or, is he on your trash list also?

You might also take a look at Kramer's website. He has written extensively about Cole and his scholarship. Not all of it is very pretty, at least if you are a Cole fan. And, what is detailed is not merely about differences of opinion. And, to note: Kramer is a real scholar - a student and dedicated disciple of Bernard Lewis.


N. Friedman - 3/9/2007

Peter,

I do not think I trashed Cole. I noted my disagreement with his view, that some of his students have complaints about him and that he did not get a plum of a job supposedly due to questions about the caliber of his scholarship - evidently in the view of a very eminent historian. I also indicated that I do not know whether such information is true.

By contrast, you merely trash people. Take your comments about Benny Morris, a well known left wing historian no less. The historian who has done more than any other historian to uncover information about the losses suffered by Palestinian Arabs during Israel's War of Independence.

Your accusation against Morris was a baseless allegation that involves an intentional distortion of his views. That is called defamation. So that this matter is put to bed, I now post Benny Morris' position, in his own words:

A central accusation in the letters to Haaretz Magazine ("The judgment of history," January 16) concerned the issue of "ethnic cleansing." I will repeat my words, which apparently did not register (perhaps because of the misleading title on the cover): I do not support the expulsion of Arabs from the territories or from the State of Israel! Such an expulsion would be immoral, and is also unrealistic. What I said was, that if in the future, these communities were to launch massive violence against the State of Israel in combination with a broad assault on Israel by its neighbors, and endanger its survival, expulsions would certainly be in the cards. As for Israeli Arabs, my comments may be seen to represent a minatory road sign pointing in two possible directions: They could, as a whole, choose the path of loyalty to the Jewish state and integration within it as equal citizens, and thus enjoy quiet, prosperous lives; or they could choose the path of disloyalty to the state and of active and violent support for those who seek its demise. The latter path - with which many Israeli Arabs identified in October 2000 and with which many in its leadership seem to identify today, in one convoluted way or another - will help lead to either the destruction of the Jewish state or to their being uprooted.

A general comment on the matter of ethnic cleansing: I am aware that "ethnic cleansing" is not politically correct and is morally problematic. But, what can we do - the history of the 20th century is replete with instances of ethnic cleansing that occurred under catastrophic circumstances and were ultimately beneficial for humanity, including for the expulsees themselves. Was not the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans (after World War II) - who contributed to the destruction of the Czechoslovak Republic - justified? And didn't it contribute, in the end, to their happiness, and certainly to the happiness of the Czech people? In the final analysis, didn't the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Turks against their Greek minority and by the Greeks against their Turkish minority after World War I contribute to the welfare and happiness of the two peoples, and to the peace that has prevailed between the two nations ever since?

One more thing: Among the biggest religio-ethnic cleansers in human history, in the distant past and in our time, has been the Arab Islamic nation. Mohammed and his men cleansed the Arabian Peninsula of its Jewish tribes, in part through the mass slaughter of the men and the enslavement and forced conversion of the young women. (According to the Koran, in one day, Mohammed's men massacred 800-900 men of the Bani Qureiza tribe - a larger number than all the Arab victims of Jewish massacres through the whole of the 1948 war.) In the ensuing centuries, the Muslim empires and the Arab states, with the help of the pogrom and the law, uprooted from their midst or forcibly converted most of their Christian communities and ethnically cleansed themselves of their Jewish communities. Has a single word of criticism about any of this history ever been voiced by MK Mohammed Barakeh and Dr. Haggai Ram and their friends? (And, by the way, every Jewish community that was conquered by the Arab armies in the course of the 1948 war, including the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, was ethnically cleansed and every site was completely leveled.)

In the modern age, no one has been more racist and more intolerant of "the other" - Kurd, Jew, Sudanese Christian and animist, Maronite Christian, etc. - than the Arab states. The constitution of Jordan, one of the more moderate Islamic Arab states, even includes a clause prohibiting Jews from being Jordanian citizens. The Arabs' attempt to annihilate the Jewish Yishuv [pre-state community in Palestine] in 1948 compelled Israel to uproot them from the Jewish territory.


This was publish in Haaretz under the title "Right of Reply / I do not support expulsion." I believe it was published in the middle of January, 2004.

Frankly, I think Morris' point is well taken. But, his is a different point than one of advocating ethnic cleansing. Even in the original interview, which I have in my cache, the reading that turned him allegedly into an advocate of ethnic cleansing was misread - although he, quite clearly, did not choose his words with great care. His point, which requires reading questions in context and not taking one out of sequence, has him indicating that the situation faced by Israel's Jews in 1948 was either to do what they did or to die en masse. And, in that context, he says that ethnic cleansing was the lesser of the possible evils. I tend to agree, if he has his history correct.

My point, Peter, is that you defame people with trash. I do not. I did not trash Cole. On the other hand, if you plan to throw around baseless accusations about people you have not even bothered to read, I do not plan to keep such to myself.

And, by the way, Bat Ye'or book Eurabia is on the reading list at The University of Pennsylvania:

Session 14 (18 April): ‘The New Anti-Semitism’, Part II
Presentation of your Assignments
Reading: Laqueur, Changing Face, ch. 11; Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen M., ‘The Israel Lobby’, London Review of Books, vol. 28, No. 6 (March 23, 2006), pp. 3-12; Prager, Dennis and Telushkin, Joseph, ‘Introduction: Is it 1938 Again for the Jews?’, in idem, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism (New York, 2003 (1983)), pp. xiii-xix; Wasserstein, Bernard, ‘Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism’, Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 September 2001, http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i05/05b00502.htm, Ye’or, Bat, Eurabia (Madison, 2005), pp. 23-29, 111-46, 257-61, 265-70 (51 pp.); Euston Manifesto: http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/ [= 77 pp.] Questions to consider: Is there a ‘New Anti-Semitism’? What problems do Europe’s Jews face today?


Her book is also on the reading list at Rutgers University.

It would appear that some professors think highly even of her book Eurabia. I think you are turned off by the title. But, the content of the book is rather straight forward although it is not, in my view, a well written book. She should have written it in French or Arabic and then had it translated. Instead, she wrote it in English, a daunting task for a person who normally speaks French. In any event, Eurabia is her name for a political program more than a name for Europe. As she explains:

Eurabia represents a geo-political reality envisaged in 1973 through a system of informal alliances between, on the one hand, the nine countries of the European Community (EC)which, enlarged, became the European Union (EU) in 1992 and on the other hand, the Mediterranean Arab countries. The alliances and agreements were elaborated at the top political level of each EC country with the representative of the European Commission, and their Arab homologues with the Arab League's delegate. This system was synchronised under the roof of an association called the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) created in July 1974 in Paris. A working body composed of committees and always presided jointly by a European and an Arab delegate planned the agendas, and organized and monitored the application of the decisions.

The field of Euro-Arab collaboration covered every domain: from economy and policy to immigration. In foreign policy, it backed anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism and Israel's delegitimization; the promotion of the PLO and Arafat; a Euro-Arab associative diplomacy in international forums; and NGO collaboration. In domestic policy, the EAD established a close cooperation between the Arab and European media television, radio, journalists, publishing houses, academia, cultural centers, school textbooks, student and youth associations, tourism. Church interfaith dialogues were determinant in the development of this policy. Eurabia is therefore this strong Euro-Arab network of associations -- a comprehensive symbiosis with cooperation and partnership on policy, economy, demography and culture.

Eurabia is the future of Europe. Its driving force, the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, was created in Paris in 1974. It now has over six hundred members -- from all major European political parties -- active in their own national parliaments, as well as in the European parliament. The creation of this body and its policy follow the 23 resolutions of the "Second International Conference in Support of the Arab Peoples", held in Cairo in January 1969. Its resolution 15 formulates the Euro-Arab policy and its all-embracing development over thirty years in European domestic and foreign policy.

It stated: "The conference decided to form special parliamentary groups, where they did not exist, and to use the parliamentary platform for promoting support of the Arab people and the Palestinian resistance." In the 1970s, pursuant to the wishes of the Cairo Conference, national groups proclaiming "Solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance and the Arab peoples" appeared throughout Europe. These groups belonged to different political families, Gaullists, extreme left or right, communists, neo-Nazis -- but they all shared the same anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. France has been the key protagonist of this policy, ever since de Gaulle's press conference on 27 November 1967 when he presented France's cooperation with the Arab world as "the fundamental basis of our foreign policy".


N. Friedman - 3/8/2007

Peter,

Get real. She focuses not on all or even most Muslims but on extremists. Do you know the difference? And, she makes pains to say that such is her focus, just like Professor Ferguson states - but you evidently do not realize. You, quite clearly, have no idea what you are talking about.

And, her books, notwithstanding your idea of her merit, are on major university reading lists, not to make fun of her but because she is a really fine scholar. See e.g. University of Pennsylvania Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in which her writing is, evidently, a major topic:

Questions for Discussion: What are your thoughts on “Operation Susannah” and its import for Egyptian Jewry and Egyptian-Israeli relations? Regarding the concept of dhimma – is it or should it be relevant in the modern age and in the context of the nation-state? What are the challenges of incorporating religious minorities into states defined by religious majorities? What is the relationship of religion to citizenship? What are your thoughts on Bat Ye’or’s assessment of Middle Eastern Christian Judeophobia and on the “internationalization of hate” in the postcolonial period (e.g., with regard to Arab reactions to Vatican II’s attempts, in 1963, to revise Catholic doctrine on the relationship of Jews to the crucifixion of Jesus)?

Peter, also see REL 407/507: East from Jerusalem: Christianity in Premodern Asia, Week 6.

So, without doing an exhaustive search, it appears that her books are part of the curriculum at The University of Pennsylvania and The University of Oregon. Neither school is known for teaching the views of crackpots.

I have, in fact, also read Professor Cole. I do read The New York Times. I have, on occasion, read The Economist although I am not a fan of it. I have read poems about the Man in the Moon [SMILE]. And I have read stuff by Irving, believe it or not.

Professor Cole, who has views that interest me, effectively denies the claims made by Professor Lewis, Morris, et al, that Iran has a group bent on, for example, Israel's destruction. Famously or imfamously - take your choice -, Cole translates a certain Ahmadinejad spew differently than the rest of humanity does - including the Iranian government which translated the speech language in issue as "wipe."

And, many others - perhaps even you - have taken Cole's translation as gospel. Many have used it to claim that people misinterpret Ahmadinejad and Co. Cole appears to downplay other speeches and other data about Ahmadinejad and his clique. Maybe Cole is correct. I have no way of being sure since I cannot read the minds of other people.

In my view, however, Cole is in denial. In this regard, I think the wise thing to do when people begin spewing lunacy is to take that lunacy seriously, especially when that lunacy involves dangerous weapons and support of nasty, thuggish supremacist groups, as Ahmadinejad's government supports.

I also note that Cole has been the subject of considerable controversy. See e.g. Search for scholar spotlights politics in classroom; Juan Cole and Yale: The Inside Story, in which this is written about Cole:

According to several insiders, Cole's scholarship, which several professors deemed insufficient, was the decisive factor in the final decision against his appointment. Cole faced strong opposition from some of the most senior, influential, and highly-regarded members of Yale's history department, including prominent Yale historians Donald Kagan and John Lewis Gaddis. And that was kiss of death, because the Senior Appointment Committee wants a faculty vote that's nearly unanimous.

I have no idea if any of this is the case. I merely note what is said. And, evidently, some people say he is biased in class and other people have doubts about the caliber of his scholarship including the rather famous - assuming the story is true - John Lewis Gaddis.

Of course, a person who enters controversy is never without detractors. But consider: having someone of the caliber of John Lewis Gaddis raises scholarship doubts - if that is actually the case - is not something to sneeze off.


N. Friedman - 3/8/2007

Rod,

Regarding Chamberlain and while this is not a topic I have studied at great length, I note that both Martin Gilbert and Winston Churchill assert that Chamberlain did not use his time well to prepare for the war that Chamberlain ought, based on the data you cite, to know full well was coming. I believe Churchill claims that Britain fell further behind Germany during the time Chamberlain pursued his policy. Gilbert says pretty much the same thing. And, Churchill also notes that Chamberlain pushed away from efforts that might have made war less likely: for example, the offer by President Roosevelt to intervene.

But, I think you have a point that Chamberlain inherited a mess.


N. Friedman - 3/8/2007

Peter,

I want to get to the point about this aside and then move on. You claim to know something about someone you have not read. I do not believe in categorizing people I have not read.

I did not say that she is of the caliber of Ferguson. I was not making a comparison. I have no idea about that comparison except to note that they normally write about very different topics. Has he written widely about the impact of Islamic civilization on non-Muslims? If not, how am I to make a comparison? And, how would you make the comparison? Evidently, by the view that your friends do not like her views - assuming they actually know what they are.

As for the impact of Muslims on Europe, they seem to have drawn very similar conclusions and, not all that mysteriously with that in mind, his endorsement appears on the cover of her book. Is that an accident? Based on the comment he made, it appears they know each other and that they have very similar concerns and that he is very familiar with her views.

In any event, I was not making a comparison but was saying that she is a fine historian who has made a substantial contribution to the state of our knowledge. In thinking that, I again note that your buddy Ferguson appears to know her and to have decided to endorse her book.

No doubt you will say that she probably clipped the statement and placed it on the book. I have no idea about that except to note that he is evidently well aware of her views - thus making him, unlike you, qualified to speak about her - and, regarding her views, he evidently largely agrees, stating:

No writer has done more than Bat Ye’or to draw attention to the menacing character of Islamic extremism. Future historians will one day regard her coinage of the term ‘Eurabia’ as prophetic. Those who wish to live in a free society must be eternally vigilant. Bat Ye’or vigilance is unrivalled.

So, whatever he may think of her as an historian, he obviously thinks highly of her and her views.

I am also quite sure, notwithstanding your denials, that you categorized her with David Irving into order to trash her and, as is your custom, to avoid addressing the issue raised. In that way, you can disagree without bothering to post your own evidence or data - as is your custom.

If I am correct - and you are rather transparent here - that is your decision. It tells me something about you, most especially since you have not, according to your own statement, read her. So, you obviously take on trust the views of someone, somewhere who does not like what she has to say. That, to me, is not the sign of an enlightened mind.


N. Friedman - 3/7/2007

Peter,

Since you have not read Bat Ye'or, you have no basis to classify her. Or, are you a person who absorbs by osmosis?

And to say that Gilbert is not mainstream is to live in a fantasy world or to be truly ignorant. Not only is he mainstream but he is Churchill's "official biographer." And he was knighted for his contributions. It does not get more mainstream than that.

I do not claim that Bat Ye'or is mainstream. She is clearly a maverick. But, she is not a quack and not an extremist, which was my point. That is where you have serious problems.

Rather, she is a very brilliant historical scholar who has great imagination and insight and is willing, unlike many more mainstream historians and establishment figures - and life is not limited to the mainstream, especially if you want to learn something new -, to go where the facts lead and to dig deep into the available documents. She clearly follows the trail of the facts, which is my point.

And to have - as she has - discovered an entire slew of nearly invisible documents, including promises and agreements, involving the leadership of the various European nations and the Arab League that, in fact, appear to play a major role in the EU apparatus and also in the various European nations whereby leaders of the EU countries committed themselves to policies that, in fact, appear to have been quietly implemented but which are self-destructive, that calls for praise, not condemnation and not character assassination. So, I think you are way, way out of line.

In this regard, I do not care one wit that you disagree or agree with her interpretation of the evidence she has uncovered. I care that you not assassinate the character of people - her or anyone else. To me, that is loathsome. I cannot imagine what you are thinking.

And again: you have now done this twice, with Bat Ye'or and the even more famous, but not necessarily better scholar, Benny Morris. Again: your approach is loathsome and you deserve to be taken to task. I think it is a serious character flaw in your personality that you should address rather than ignore. I say that as a friend.

In any event, I claim that she is an important historical scholar. And, I claim that one can only judge that by reading her various books - which are of varying quality as literature.

I do recognize that any historian who challenges the conventional view that things are just fine in Europe or in the Muslim regions is called names. And, on that, she is clearly one who has rejected convention.

But, I believe that we should go where the facts point, even if they go to uncomfortable places. And, quite clearly, the facts do not really support the conventional view about either the Muslim regions or Europe's behavior vis a vis Arabs and Muslims.

And, I might add, reading about how Europe messed things up before and during WWII and at other times, I am not at all surprised to learn that Europe has done more stupid things, in this case even dumber than our dear president. And that takes a lot of doing.

But, when the leaders of many of the European members of the EU have signed onto a program calling for re-vamping the entire education system to teach a Muslim friendly version of history, that is an important discovery. It even appears, based on her scholarship, to have been largely implemented.

Likewise the discovery that these same countries, via the same mechanism, committed themselves to not integrating their Muslim immigrants but, instead, to keep them acculturated toward their places of origin. There are actual documents setting forth promises - agreed to by national heads of state - on this. It is rather beyond imagination but it is true.

Likewise, with respect to obtaining preferences in contracts from Arab countries and a secure supply of oil, if efforts are made to bring the US to the Arab point of view regarding Israel. Likewise, with respect to accepting very, very large numbers of immigrants from Muslim lands - and, again, without making any effort to Europeanize them. To call that dumb is an understatement but, as you well know, there is now a serious problem due to the lack of effort to Europeanize the Muslim immigrants and their offspring.

Likewise, with respect to siding with the Arab League position - and, as she shows, often merely reprinting Arab League press releases - regarding the Arab Israeli dispute.

These are all important findings.

Now, she may be wrong that the cultural changes in Europe in response lead to Europe serving not Europe's long term interests but those of the Arab regions. And, she may be wrong as to the permanent cultural changes that these agreements bring. But, frankly, her view is not remotely an extreme one. It is merely a very minor variation on Bernard Lewis' view and thus it can hardly be called extreme.

For what it is worth, it is entirely plausible, as you suggest, that Europe will deal with its Muslim population and that a means of cohabiting will be found. I have no opinion about that. Ms. Ye'or would no doubt note that the pattern has not been so happy in Europe (e.g. the Balkans). And, she would note that, thus far, Europeans are not doing a very good job and, if the documents she uncovered mean anything, that such appears to have been by design - but without understanding the implications of the promises made to the Arab League countries.

Anyway, Peter, it is time for you to stop assassinating the character of others. That is a big no no.

Presumably, Niall Ferguson does not diminish Bat Ye'or scholarship because it is important. And, since they both have related theories regarding the role of Muslims in Europe, that he gives her any praise is, given the way that egos work, not bad at all. In fact, it is pretty high praise given his rival theory. Frankly, I think you are not being fair at all.

As for Art, I hope to make him aware of this conversation so that he can decide whether he wants to be a fine mainstream scholar or a fine maverick scholar or something in between.


N. Friedman - 3/7/2007

Peter,

Your attack was entirely ad hominem, comparing her to David Irving. That is a gross statement and you know it. And, it is no way to have a discussion although, as I have seen with your loathsome misstatement about Benny Morris, par for the course for you.

Martin Gilbert is, by the way, about as mainstream as it gets. He, as ought be obvious, holds her in very high regard. So, I think you are not well read on European historians, since you, until recently, had never heard of him. And, I am willing to bet you that your buddy Niall Ferguson also holds her in high regard. And Richard L. Rubenstein - also very well known and mainstream - has also endorsed her views and advocated her actual positions - not those you imagine her to hold - in the liberal Jewish organ Reform Judaism Magazine.

Be that as it may, her views are not all accepted and, in Europe and also, to a lesser extent, in the US, she has been badmouthed by some and accepted by others. She has, evidently, received a very wide reading by the Blair government leadership (and, even more so, in the opposition Conservative party) in Britain which has led to hysterics among the very far left of the political spectrum.

Now, you are not entirely free to turn her views into those she does not hold. That is called being dishonest. And, since you have not studied her views, you have no place turning her views into anything. Why? Because you do not know what her views are. I, in fact, do.


N. Friedman - 3/7/2007

Peter,

You write: "We have to agree to disagree on Bat. There is a kernel of truth in what she says, I would agree. But there is a kernel of truth in what David Irving says, too."

I have trouble dealing with you, Peter. It is one thing to disagree with an author. It is another thing to throw trash at an author. That speaks to your personality and politics, not to Ms. Bat Ye’or’s. In any event, she is nothing like David Irving and her politics and views are not radical or reactionary. So far as I know, she is a social democrat who you are too pigheaded to examine even though she has a wide following among not only parts of the public but quite a number of historians.

And, this is the second time you have done that with a well known historian. The other example is your trashing of historian Benny Morris whom, in your view, cannot be taken seriously because he supposedly supports ethnic cleansing - a lie, by the way, that you are merely repeating. Ask Professor Eckstein who knows Morris. He will confirm that. In the case of Bat Ye’or, I know for a fact that she is not an extremist. But, even if they were, that would not detract from her scholarship which either stands up to the facts or fails to stand up.

In this case, Bat Ye’or is nothing like David Irving. Otherwise, a scholar the likes of Martin Gilbert - knighted for his work as an historian, by the way, and author of 78 books, many of them extremely well received - would not say, as he did in this interview exchange:

Historian Bernard Lewis refers to Western Europe's capitulation; Eurabia author Bat Yeor warns of its demographic Islamization. Is barbarism indeed winning?

I'm a great believer in people's waking up. Sometimes, they wake up rather late. Britain in 1938 was capitulating; in 1939 it woke up - much, incidentally, to Hitler's surprise. When he was told the British were now going to actually stand up against him, he said, "Oh, no. I saw these worms at Munich, and they're not going to do anything now that I'm about to attack Poland." But he was wrong.

I think that's true now of Britain, as well. Britain has woken up.

But what about the demography problem?

I've read Bat Yeor's book. I know her and have a great respect for her sense of anguish. She has studied the way in which the European Parliament and European institutions have become infiltrated by thoughts and legislation which are essentially seeking to appease fundamentalist Islamic activity - the ultimate dominance of the caliphate and Sharia law in Europe. But we're a long, long way from that.

Are you saying that the presentation of her findings is too alarmist?

No. I'm saying that her book - which is 100 percent accurate - is an alarm call that will ultimately prevent what she's warning about from taking place. The same applies to Bernard Lewis. Because he is the greatest mind of our time in this whole area, people will take his warnings seriously. This isn't the time of the Israelite prophets, when disaster struck in spite of their warnings, because the people didn't wake up. I think Europe has woken up.


Now Peter, I think you are way out of line. I think it is time to learn that ad hominem attacks are wrong. I might also note that our very own Professor Eckstein has high regard for Bat Ye'or's book.

And, to note: her book is about how Europe is surrendering its values in order to counter what it perceives as too much US influence. One can read the documents she recites. One can agree or disagree with the importance of the other evidence she cites. But, her main conclusions that Europe has been adversely impacted by its actions and that such has placed Europe at grave risk is not, in my mind, very questionable at all.

I shall trust that this is the end of your use of ad hominem attacks. Enough said.

You write: "I am saying they don't deter motivations of a deeply-felt spirituality that glorifies death."

There are two issues here. One. Islam is not a death cult. Islamism is not really a death cult either, in my view, but takes, based on a pre-modern approach to life, a communal view about life and death. That means the individual is valued less than the community.

Islam, in any event, is rather pragmatic about war, namely, it advocates making war to extend Muslim territory when such is possible and only in such circumstances. When such is not possible, it advocates truces to make ready for a more opportune time. Lewis calls that a more honest understanding of war than Westerners have.

Now, you say that Israel has made peace with two Arab states. That is correct. However, neither state is ruled by religiously minded people. Were the religiously minded to rule, then there could only be truces, no peace agreements. To do otherwise is to commit a grave sin. If you do not understand that, you have no understanding at all of that part of the world or its culture and there is not much basis for discussion. I can only suggest that you study Muslim history and theology. It will remove the rose colored glasses you are wearing.

The issue at hand, as I see it, is that Islamic notions are returning to the fore in the Arab and greater Muslim regions. That means that there will, so long as secularism or some other force fails to counterbalance Islamic thinking, be few peace treaties.

Your remaining points could be true but for religious people, religion is not a thing, it is the thing. Anyone who spends time with a person drunk on religion will tell you that. And a society drunk on religion is bound to be heavily influenced by religion.



Rod Ellis MacLean - 3/7/2007

Poor Nevile Chamberland - always to be identified with appeasement.

Yet the British Army/Navy were in horrid shape in 1938 - witness how the German forces just brushed the BEF aside in France and only a "miracle at Dunkurk" saved the soldiers, even if it lost the equipment. It was never really replaced until the incredible productive power of the USA entered the war several years later.

The fact that the navy NEEDED 50 superannuated vessels from the American mothballed fleet is testiment to their shape. Subsequent to Munich the navy inititated the largest peace time building program in its' history - maybe Chamberland did appease ... but like Bret Maverick: "Trust everyone, but cut the cards."

It appears that Bush miscalcuated in two ways - the American troops were not "greeted with flowers" as Rummy thought. The claim of 'home by Christmas' is a more traditional statement, having been used again and again: it has more to do with testosterone that military acumen.

The other is a fall out of the first - once the National Guard was called into the picture it seems that only 10% of guard units have enough training, and equipment to get involved in a real shooting conflict.Witness that one of the first encounters (in Afghanistan) had the National Guard bomb some Canadian ground units near Kandahar, killing four of them.

Perhaps Nevile did appease - but it seems to have done so for a reason, damn fine, damn fine.


N. Friedman - 3/7/2007

Peter,

Well, I do not know what Bush is up to or thinks when he does things. Accusing him of going to war for ratings makes him rather vile. I tend to doubt any president would do that. I assume that he did consult with his advisers in order to make the best of whatever policy he chose. Even FDR would have done that.

As for Bush being smart or dumb, I think he is a reasonably bright guy who has a speech impediment. I think his policies are wrongheaded and they have not helped the country. But that is a different thing from being a dummy.

By contrast, I think Reagan was more like Claudius as described in the old PBS Masterpiece Theatre series. He, with half his wits, outlived his relatives who died with all their wits in tact. I never voted for Reagan but, as GOP President's go, he was a really good one.


N. Friedman - 3/7/2007

Peter,

Continuing:

You write: The Bush family's links to Mideast oil go way back. I don't believe that oil was anything more than a tangential factor to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 (except to the extent that the Gulf War was partly about oil and the 2003 invasion largely developed out of the unfinished business of the Gulf War, namely getting Saddam out). No, my point is simply, when it comes to Moslem oil potentates, the Bushes irrevocably choose "appeasement" decades ago.

This might actually be the case. I would note, however, that it is not clear that the US could readily invade Saudi Arabia. Such would cause a world-wide economic meltdown that might be even cause worse problems than what we have now.

I note George Friedman's - no relative of mine, by the way - theory that Iraq was chosen because it was between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He says that it was thought that by having an army between the two religious fanatic states that the leaders would be forced to reign in their religious fanatics. There is some logic to this, especially in view of your note that Bush was not interested in taking on Arabia.

I would, however, agree that the US appeases Arabia and that tends to undermine the US. But, it is not quite so simple in view of Saudi Arabia's extraordinary economic power. This may be a necessary appeasement.

You write: You appear to believe that radical Islam poses a deadly threat to the West, and to also believe that the roots of this radical Islam are inherent in mainstream Islam itself. I would agree to some extent on both counts (more on the former than the latter, but there is some truth in both).

I believe that Islam poses a direct threat now for Europe for reasons set forth in Bat Ye'or's book, which is to say, Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that they could limit US power by making common cause with Arabs.

The price for that policy has been too high and has been paid for in a stupid immigration policy and an even dumber policy for dealing with large numbers of immigrants and in a stupid policy regarding the resolution of the Arab Israeli dispute - amounting primarily to appeasing the demands of Arab states.

Also, in this case in my selfish interest as a person of Jewish descent - albeit not a particularly religious person -, I agree with Bat Ye'or that Europe's policy is the main cause for the revival of Antisemitism in Europe. Such is, as she shows pretty well, inherent in the agreements reached between the various European states and the Arab League states and the policies those agreements have driven.

Returning to my earlier point about the future of Europe, I note that her concern, notwithstanding rumors to the contrary, is not per se with Muslims immigrating to Europe but with the policy within which that immigration occurs and the extent to which such immigration has occurred and the unwillingness (due, she shows with evidence, consisting of agreements reached, to be at least in part by design - whether or not the result was intended), to reach a reasonable accommodation with Europe's Muslim population.

But, the US is not Europe. The threat to the US from Islamists is indirect, at least thus far. They can cause substantial damage here and there but are not in a position to conquer us.

Europe is a different story. Its future is potentially very bleak: potentially a Balkanized future (which is what your buddy Niall Ferguson seems to argue) or an Islamized future (as Bernard Lewis and Martin Gilbert seem to think) or a servile future with reference to the Arab powers, more akin to how Greeks and Armenians lived under Ottoman rule, as Bat Ye'or argues.

You write: "And would also agree that coping with that threat is going to require the use of American military power over a long time period (although I think it a colossal mistake for GW Bush to have put the military approach so overwhelmingly front and center -mainly, I think, in order to maximally distract from the terrible embarrassment of 9-11)."

I think we largely agree on the first part of this. I cannot say whether such was to distract attention. I tend to doubt that.

Whether he put too much emphasis on the military is another matter. He may have or he may not have put enough. That, after all, is different from saying that Iraq was a good idea.

You write: So, I can understand your assuming that since Bush is the first American president to use extensive US military powers against radical Islamic forces, therefore a concern about the "gathering storm" of those forces (and Bush is also an admirer of Churchillian rhetoric) was the key reason for the main use of military force under the Bush Junior administration in Iraq.

I note that the very advisers you claim influenced Bush's decision were truly obsessed with Churchill - and always were. Such is inherent in the neoconservative position. And, Bush cited to a gathering storm. So, I think there is very good reason to see the matter in the terms I cite.

As for the rest of your essay, I think that Walid Phares' analysis is largely correct. They wanted to get at the factory that produces the Jihad. And, they mistakenly thought that Iraq, being seemingly the most secular Arab state, was the best place to begin.

The reality is that such part of the world is no where near its Attaturk moment. And, Attaturk was a giant - George Washington, Mehmet II and Churchill rolled into one person - that come along in history only very, very rarely, not on command of an invading army. And, that sort of person will be necessary if the current path of the Islamic regions is to be diverted in the short, rather than the slow evolving of history.

But I might also add: you now (and, for all I know, may always have) see the issues with Islam, Islamism and their connection - on which I am correct and those who say otherwise are being political - and you see that we are dealing with a part of the world that is still, mentally speaking, largely in the Middle Ages. Yet, you do not follow that path of evidence to its logical conclusion, which is that when such people in that part of the world speak words of religion, they probably mean it and their followers surely mean it, whether it concerns the US or Israel. And, to note: in that part of the world's way of thinking - which, thus far, still exists - there is no peace ever with us so long as they have the power to fight us. Such is a matter of religion.

So, taking that cue from the facts, the way to fight these people is to convince them that fighting us will get them, their families and friends all dead. That, not reforming them, is what we probably should be doing.

This is not, as some historians would say, essentialist. It is realism based on a rational assessment of that part of the world.


N. Friedman - 3/6/2007

Further reply to Peter:

You write: "For all his many faults, Kerry looked much more presidential. Yet Bush won in 2004, increasing his popular vote substantially over 2000 (despite, as a trivial personal example, none of the Republicans I know liking him by then)."

I watched the debate. It was not a one sided affair. It was no sided. Thing One vs. Thing Two.

Kerry was a horrible candidate - a non-entity who did not deserve to win. He was never quite willing to commit himself on the issues at hand (e.g. his statements that he voted for things before he voted against them, to use his idiotic phraseology). And, then he allowed Bush to paint Kerry as nearly a draft dodger. What sort of presidential candidate cannot even defend his own record? Especially when he was a war hero. That is all but disqualifying, in my humble view. Too foolish to be president.

You write: I do think your instincts are right that deep-down Bush shares some of your deep concerns about "Islamism."

There is no way to answer this. I can only point to what he says is important and what those who work for him say. They argued all along that they were addressing the Islamists. I have no idea if they were or were not genuine with their words. And, we shall have to see actual archives to answer this point.

You write: But do you remember how fast he backpedaled from his "crusade" statement in 2001? He never made that slip-up again. He quickly went to the mosque in DC, talked about Islam being a "religion of peace" and has stuck to that posture consistently since.

I remember the incident. I do not read all that much into it. He was speaking as an American speaks and using the word crusade in the modern, not the historical, sense. His advisers told him that the actual crusades remain a wound for Muslims today - even though it was a minor matter when the events occurred - so he changed his tune and was more careful with his words.

The view that Islam is a religion of peace is intended for political consideration, in my view. Were he to take the view that Islam is a religion of war, that would be bad politics in this very - in fact, overly - politically correct time. In my mind, he should merely have shut his mouth on the issue. In any event, I think you read a lot too much into the incident.

More later.


N. Friedman - 3/6/2007

Peter,

Your above discussion, which unlike your usual comments, appears to be in earnest, is worth considering.

First, the origin of the factory related to Jihad comes from Walid Phares, as I noted in my post - or, at least I think I so noted -. Phares, explaining his slight preference for Bush over Kerry wrote:

Iraq: a Diversion?

Kerry’s teams have called the War in Iraq a diversion from the War on Terrorism. But what is the War on Terrorism? Is it just to find cells in Tora Bora and elsewhere and bring them to justice? Or is it a wider campaign to find and destroy the factory that produces the cells? My question to the advisors is simple: What is the War on Terrorism? You must first explain the global War on Terror so that you can argue that Iraq was and is a "diversion" from your better plan? There is none.

So, it boils down to this equation: Bush teams had a plan, which can be discussed and argued with and against. The fact is Kerry has no plans, except to attack Bush's decision to go to Iraq. In deeper analysis, Kerry's argument that Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror is a greater diversion from the real War on the Factory of Jihad. In my sense, there were five doors to open after Tora Bora. Bush opened one. He could have also opened others. But Kerry and the critics didn't want to open any door at all.


"VOTING AGAINST JIHAD (II), Staying the course of History," by Walid Phares. I do not think the article is online anymore.

I do not think I was saying that Bush was a candidate in 2006. However, he really did in the GOP by his policy. That requires due consideration if, as you claimed earlier, the underlying issue was just domestic politics.

You write: The invasion itself was the brainchild of neo-cons associated with the Project for A New American Century think tank. In his book, Fiasco, author Ricks suggests a rather complex set of historical reasons **** but why Bush ultimately chose to side with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc, and NOT with Powell, Scowcroft, Zinni, Kissinger and Baker, etc. remains something of an open question.

When the actual archives on the internal discussions open, then we can say what Bush had in mind. Until then, we are just conjecturing. If, however, in fact the Wolfowitz theory is the reason, then my argument is very likely. After all Wolfowitz considered himself to be a protégé of sorts of Bernard Lewis. And, Bernard Lewis was consulted, just like I said. And, that would make it likely that they would view Iraq as being the candidate for reform, not the very religious Saudi Arabia. And, in the case of Saudi Arabia, there was the added issue that the kingdom holds too many of the keys to our economy and could, rather readily, destroy our economy.

More later as I consider your comment.


N. Friedman - 3/6/2007

Peter,

I see the matter quite differently. I think that the reason for the invasion related exactly to addressing what they saw as a gathering storm. That does not make the invasion any wiser but, if my contention is correct, my theory explains the facts.

What the Bushites thought is that by attacking the most secular of Arab states, they might, to borrow Walid Phares' phrase, begin to get at the factory that produces Jihad. That factory is the educational, religious and political system. Such is the very issue that, for example, in Turkey was addressed by Kemal Attaturk, when he faced down the religious establishment, changed the nature of religious education in Turkey, altered the school curriculum to one directed to modernity and began the process of creating a modern political system. And, such is why the administration met with famed historian and Turkey expert Bernard Lewis.

As I see the matter, addressing the factory for Jihad is exactly what the Bushites thought they were doing. Such explains the invasion and then the dismissal of the Iraqi military. Such explains the haphazard effort to find weapons. Such explains the establishment of elections. Such explains the de-Baathification policy, that goes on even now. Such explains why we simply did not pull up after the weapons were not found and Saddam was caught.

What your argument indicates is that Bush is incompetent and venal. That is certainly a reasonable argument but it does not address why he invaded Iraq.

I think it could readily be argued that the project I suggest the Bushites thought they were engaged in was so far beyond our capability as to be a folly. But, folly is not unknown in history, at least to judge by Barbara Tuchman's book on that topic. But, my argument explains why we went to and are still in Iraq and what we appear to be doing with our time there.

On your argument, since US elections are the thing, the Bushites would have pulled out before the 2006 election when it was obvious that the war would cost votes and likely the election. So, if it was your theory, why did Bush, to use his phrase, stay the course? I do not think your version of reality can explain that.

The Saddam al Qaeda connection was, as you say, minimal at best. That, however, does not mean that the Iraq war was not about addressing what ails the Muslim regions - as I argue above. Your point just means that the public assertions were, to some considerable extent, deceptive. I merely note what Martin Gilbert indicated in the interview I previously cited, namely, that what politicians are really doing is not always quite what appears in the public record.


N. Friedman - 3/6/2007

Peter,

I have had a substantial conversation back and forth with Jeff Shear. I noted that I disagreed with some of his premises. And, as a side remark, I noted a point about President Clinton.

You, not I, jumped on the Clinton remark and now claim I, not you, am changing the subject. I have no problem dropping the Clinton part of the discussion entirely.

On the other hand, my point that his case for Bush misusing evidence has a substantial possible hole in it stands. Such is exactly on point. And again, the issue is understanding what the Bushites thought they were doing. If they did not believe there was an imminent threat or if they, in fact, weighed evidence they disagreed with but decided that it was not sufficiently weighty, that undermines his argument.

And, I contended, in view of Bush's use of the word "gathering," that the invasion was not directed primarily to weapons but related to the problems they saw brewing in the Arab regions. That may be faulty analysis on their part but it is a different one than Jeff postulates having been followed.


N. Friedman - 3/5/2007

Peter,

I have had a substantial conversation back and forth with Jeff Shear. I noted that I disagreed with some of his premises. And, as a side remark, I noted a point about President Clinton.

You, not I, jumped on the Clinton remark and now claim I, not you, am changing the subject. I have no problem dropping the Clinton part of the discussion entirely.

On the other hand, my point that his case for Bush misusing evidence has a substantial possible hole in it stands. Such is exactly on point. And again, the issue is understanding what the Bushites thought they were doing. If they did not believe there was an imminent threat or if they, in fact, weighed evidence they disagreed with but decided that it was not sufficiently weighty, that undermines his argument.

And, I contended, in view of Bush's use of the word "gathering," that the invasion was not directed primarily to weapons but related to the problems they saw brewing in the Arab regions. That may be faulty analysis on their part but it is a different one than Jeff postulates having been followed.


N. Friedman - 3/5/2007

Peter,

You write: "It is silly to imply -as this bogus comparison does- that Clinton would not have reacted firmly IF a 9-11 type attack had occured on his watch AND that Bush would have done jacksh-- about Islamic terrorism were it NOT for the disastrous attack that DID occur from that quarter on his watch."

I never so implied. That is idiotic. And, I have not argued that Bush did the right thing or would have done better - to be more exact - in the 1990's. What I said is that he at least recognized the problem - albeit after it faced him in no uncertain terms on and after 9/11.

You write: "2. Leaving aside the question of what "Islamism" means in the real world, there are two relevant sins of policies for containing, thwarting and weakening, shall we say Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and similar or affiliated entities: (a) doing the right things but not forcefully enough and (b) doing things which help rather than hinder the Islamic terrorist movements. If there is any doubt about which sin is worse, consider, with a nod to relevancy to the original article, the following historical hypotheticals. "

Again, the issue I raised concerned pre-9/11. I do not know what the right thing to do was. I do know that what Clinton did failed to avoid the ongoing rise of the Islamist movement. If anything, he made it worse. And, he certainly kept the matter quiet so that the public was poorly informed.

As for your mention of Chamberlain, he was not the prime minister in the 1920's, so far as I know. And, if he was, that is still a silly analogy.

The only analogy I see with the 1930's is the failure to address issues. The issues not faced are shown pretty well by both Martin Gilbert, e.g. in his book The Appeasers), and Churchill, in his book The Gathering Storm. In Clinton's time and, to considerable extent, even now, the issue not faced is the threat posed by the Islamists.

Clearly, what Clinton did - and the warning he gave to Bush, which you mention - was not sufficient. Too little, too late. I do not see how Clinton gets around that. And that does not excuse Bush's incompetence, which is very important.

And, mine is definitely not taken from a Bush point of view. It is taken from the fact that the US was attacked by a substantial group in 1993. The Blind Sheik was not a nobody. He was - and was known even then - to be a major leader of a very major movement that was working its way across the Muslim regions and spreading to other places where there were and are large numbers of Muslims. And, in 1993, the movement made clear that the US would be a major target.


N. Friedman - 3/5/2007

Peter,

Another point. If you had known where the Islamists were headed back, say, in 1993, would you have limited yourself, were you president, merely to warning people. Or, would you have made terrorism a defining issue? Note that Clinton, who I adore, decided to leave it to the next president to deal decisively with Islamism rather than speak up on the matter forcefully and trying to do something about it.


N. Friedman - 3/4/2007

CORRECTION:

Strike 79's.

Substitute 70's.


N. Friedman - 3/4/2007

Peter,

I am well aware of that. However, the Islamist stew was brewing throughout the 79's, 80's and 90's and struck in the US in 1993. By 1993, the nature of the threat was known. It should have been dealt with in a manner other than warning of other threats.



N. Friedman - 3/4/2007

Jeff,

You write: "I suppose we all know by now – such understanding and analysis did not exist in the Bush White House prior to 2003."

I think that will not prove to be the case. In fact, the Bush White House consulted with Bernard Lewis who, by any measure, is a first rate scholar on Muslim civilization. I think the Bushites knew what was involved but, after weighing the risks, decided to proceed. Why? My bet is that they rely too heavily on Churchill's thinking. And, on Churchill's thinking. Again, I note my point about the "gathering" of a threat.

I have not yet read Hirsh' article although it is in my cache.

You also refer to the "disseminated alternative intelligence assessments." The word "alternative" is critical. Such means, as I noted earlier, that such was not the dominant view among the "intelligence" analysts. So, my question remains unanswered because all we have is some analysts who disagreed with the dominant view. I cannot imagine that in any situation where there is inherent uncertainty that there are not alternative views supported by evidence.

You write: "They mishandled it for their own purposes. Perhaps that’s worse than magical thinking."

Again, it depends on why they were going to war. If the issue was the weapons, then you might have a point. But if, as I contend, the issue was a threat that was, to quote Bush, "gathering," it is irrelevant.

You write: "Ambassador Wilson returned from Niger with no evidence that nuclear materials were sold to Iraq; the President then announced in his SOTU that Niger sold yellowcake to Iraq. "

But, that was not the end of the matter. The president did not directly contradict Wilson's statement. He cited to a British assessment which differed. But, even if that were not so, it is only important - and I cannot stop stressing this point because I think you misunderstand what the Bush administration thought they were doing - if the issue was an imminent threat, not a threat that was gathering.

The rest of what you write is interesting. I voted for Clinton twice. I would probably vote for him again. However, I do not think he was a good policy maker on foreign policy. I think his administration bears more responsibility than any other administration for ignoring the rise of Islamist politics. That mistake, in my view, will likely cost many lives now that all of our country's choices are difficult ones.

In that regard, I have always and still think Iraq is a mistake. But, I give Bush credit for at least recognizing the mess in the Muslim regions for what it really is: a truly gathering threat.


Jeff Shear - 3/4/2007

Great lecture on Islam. Thank you. I agree that such insight would have gone a long way toward making a clearer, wiser decision on our Iraq policy in the aftermath of 9/11, Anthrax-on-Capitol-Hill and the Afghanistan war. Of course, as you know – I suppose we all know by now – such understanding and analysis did not exist in the Bush White House prior to 2003. Have you read Sy Hersh in the recent 5 March New Yorker? No doubt you have: Breath deep the fumes of magical thinking.

Actually, in contrast to your comments, we do know how Bush handled his intelligence leading up to the war. While you write: “…We know only that Iraq did not have the pertinent class of weapons and that there was some dissent among "intelligence" analysts” the facts are otherwise. As quote in the article, the acting Inspector’s General’s report slams DoD, which “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” As well, there’s Bob Woodward’s direct quote and account of how early intelligence was handled between the Bush and Rumsfeld. How did the Bush White House handle intelligence? They mishandled it for their own purposes. Perhaps that’s worse than magical thinking.

You ask, “Do you have evidence that the dominant position among analysts was that Saddam did not have an important weapons program? If you do not, I do not see how you reach your conclusions.” That easy. Ambassador Wilson returned from Niger with no evidence that nuclear materials were sold to Iraq; the President then announced in his SOTU that Niger sold yellowcake to Iraq. Oh, my. Was the president endorsing a new recipe by Betty Crocker or was he lying? I’m merely saying that the president skid right past the facts because he wanted to believe in his shaman, Doug Feith. Now that’s magical thinking.

Your final point -- that “a good policy maker ought not rely wholly on the "intelligence" services. They sound inept. That does not support your magical thinking argument” is well taken, but I think your point might have been sharper still. Bear with me on this one. A good policy maker – Bill Clinton: on Iraq and Korea – takes in the spectrum of analysis, as he or she should, and applies it with dispassion in an objective analysis grounded in the long-term (or near-term) national interest. Bush didn’t do that. Chamberlain didn’t do that. The latter, believed in appeasement; the former in its antithesis, pre-emption. The common failure was magical thinking, which may take the form of ideology, idealism, hapless optimism or pessimism but which, in any case, strays from the prism of feet-on-the-ground intelligence or one of its electronic cousins.

The larger point here and the more challenging question to my article, which I’ve been waiting for you to ask, is this: how it is possible to sort the varieties of quality intelligence analysis in order to arrive at a viable and relatively sustainable national and international policy, particularly in moments of crisis? Maybe I’ll try that on for size in another article.

In the meantime, I’m very grateful for your astute, sometimes pointed, but always engaging comments. Thank you.


N. Friedman - 3/2/2007

Jeff,

You have written an interesting reply.

First some housekeeping so that my points will be accurately understood.

1. I think Islam is a set of ideas - albeit religious ideas - that can be understood and discussed.

2. Islam is not merely a personal religion. In Islamic theology, Islam is a din. A "din" is, roughly speaking, a way of life or what the classical Greek philosophers would perhaps have called a philosophy of life.

But, Islam is even more than that as it is not just directed to all aspects of an individuals life. Rather, Islam also - and this is crucial to any remotely adequate understanding of Islam - addresses all aspects of life including societal life and politics and makes imperative moral demands as to societal conduct and the goals of politics. One is enjoined to carry out what Muslims believe to be the good, not merely to avoid that which is taken by Muslims to be evil.

To be clear: Islamic theology, while allowing for a non-spiritual leader to serve as political leader, does not distinguish politics from religion but, instead, demands that all politics pursue moral goals set by the religion's theology. Lastly, the religion involves a set of holy laws - laws that roughly correspond to the role of commandments in Judaism. (I am, of course, providing an oversimplified explanation.)

3. I think Islamism is also a set of ideas - again religious ideas - that can be understood and discussed. I think that Islamism is the set of ideas that stand behind the Islamic revival movement.

4. Most of the Islamist ideas are accurately described as classical Islam. Some of these Islamists ideas owe their origins to European thought including totalitarian thought and serve, functionally speaking, the objective of helping restore the march for political supremacy of Islam over others. That march is taught in this context - and one attending a university such as al Azhar University would, if taught classical Islamic theology, be taught (and I am quoting the famed Muslim writer from the classical period, Ibn Khaldun, who wrote in his Muqaddimah:

In the Muslim community, holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. Therefore, caliphate and royal authority are united (in Islam), so that the person in charge can devote the available strength to both of them (religion and politics) at the same time.

The universal obligation to spread Islamic rule is further well explained by the great Islamicist Ignaz Goldhizer (quoted here with Kaufmann Kohler):

In addition to the religious duties imposed upon each individual professing Islam, the collective duty of the "jihad" (= "fighting against infidels") is imposed on the community, as represented by the commander of the faithful. Mohammed claimed for his religion that it was to be the common property of all mankind, just as he himself, who at first appeared as a prophet of the Arabs, ended by proclaiming himself the prophet of a universal religion, the messenger of God to all humanity, or, as tradition has it, "ila al-aḥmar wal-aswad" (to the red and the black). For this reason unbelief must be fought with the force of weapons, in order that "God's word may be raised to the highest place." Through the refusal to accept Islam, idolaters have forfeited their lives. Those "who possess Scriptures" ("ahl al-kitab"), in which category are included Jews, Christians, Magians, and Sabians, may be tolerated on their paying tribute ("jizyah") and recognizing the political supremacy of Islam (sura ix. 29). The state law of Islam has accordingly divided the world into two categories: the territory of Islam ("dar al-Islam") and the territory of war. ("dar al-ḥarb"), i.e., territory against which it is the duty of the commander of the faithful ("amir al-mu'minin") to lead the community in the jihad.

I do not think Islamism can be understood without understanding Islam and, more specifically, the elements of Islam that would, in Western society, be deemed to be a political program supported by religious, rather than secular, convictions. And one simply cannot understand Islam's political aspects without understanding the collective duty to spread Islamic rule. Such duty is a categorical moral imperative, to place the term in Western language. And, it is central to Islamic politics in the way that evangelicalism is critical to some sects of Christianity.

[Note: I am not saying that all Muslims and sects of Islam place identical weight on spreading Islamic rule. I merely note the categorical imperative as central to the faith as a whole and as something that has tended to play a very large role in Muslim thinking and, more importantly, in the history of events between Muslim realms and non-Muslim countries and peoples.]

5. Where Islamism breaks, so to speak, with Islam is that Islamism also includes a critique, partially Western in notion and partially traditional, of where Islamic society stands as measured by classical Islam.

And, modern Islamic society fails on at least three fronts by this analysis: (a) Islamic societies no longer follow the holy law, (b) Islamic societies have permitted a creeping liberalism to set in as represented by Western culture and politics and (c) politics in Islamic countries no longer aims at the goals set forth in Islamic theology. Hence, Islamists want to revive society and political tradition. Note that I am oversimplifying but the above is sufficient for purposes of a discussion.

6. In addition, Islamism also seems to break somewhat with Islam in relaxing the legal authority for and means by which to spread Muslim rule, from a religious duty of a political community (e.g. perhaps an imperial government policy) to everyone's personal duty. In classical Islamic theology, the personal duty only applies to defending Islam rather than spreading Islamic rule. Of course, the creeping Westernization and failure to follow classical Islamic law are argued to be an attack on Islam and thus everyone's personal obligation to remedy. The activity that aims to spread Islamic rule is not such but appears to be melded into one program along with defending Islam.

[Note: Nonetheless and as I have noted elsewhere, the issue of NGO or private Jihad has been a problem for Islamic rulers since the very beginning of the faith. See, in this regard, Patricia Crone's God's Rule: Government and Islam. Greater emphasis is placed today on Jihad as a way of life within the ascetic ideal (although the ascetic ideal appears always to have played a major role: see David Cook's Understanding Jihad, following on hadith that reads "... the asceticism of Islam is the Jihad.").]

6. My contention is that the cauldron brewing in Iraq involves a number of issues. One is the remnants of Ba'athism. Two is a society that is primarily populated by Islamic traditionalists but includes, evidently, a large number of Islamists. Three is the underlying push to advance the Islamic political program. Four, these are coercion consensus societies with Medieval ideas about honor and war. I suppose that last point is my way of saying that such societies have a lot in common with Medieval societies.

Now moving to your comments:

I was intrigued, in your original article, by the issue of magical thinking. To me, that is only important to the extent that a foolish read of the "intelligence" occurred. If, as I believe, the weapons "intelligence" was not misread and if the issue for the decision makers, not the underlings asked to keep tabs of Iraq, was never primarily the weapons but the interpretation of what is occurring in Islamic society, then the points you note are interesting but unimportant to the issue of "magical thinking." By contrast, if the issue was the interpretation of the weapons "intelligence," ignoring important evidence that did not fit the pattern of an imminent threat, then what you write is well taken on the issue of "magical thinking."

In my view, we cannot reach your conclusions regarding "magical thinking" without first answering what issues were important to the decision makers. We do not know the answer to that question.

But again, we have Mr. Bush saying as plain as day that the issue was one of threat that is "gathering." That point rather undermines - unless that is also just a cover story for what the Bush administration did - the notion that there was "magical thinking" with reference to Saddam's weapon systems.

Now, you say that Bush's inner circle disregarded the weapons intelligence that led up to the war. Again: we do not know that is true. We know only that Iraq did not have the pertinent class of weapons and that there was some dissent among "intelligence" analysts.

We do not know whether Bush's inner circle disregarded the views of those who challenged the majority view. And, if they did, we do not know if that is because it was unimportant to their goals but, instead, just a cover story for them to pursue the policy they thought to be in the national interest.

You insist that they disregarded evidence from the intelligence agencies. I would think, even assuming that such is the case, that one would need to evaluate how that evidence ranked before reaching any significant conclusions. For example: if most analysts thought there was grave doubt about Saddam's program, that would be important. On the other hand, if some analysts doubted Saddam's programs, that would unimportant since, no doubt, there are always minority positions on anything where there is no way to know for sure. Do you have evidence that the dominant position among analysts was that Saddam did not have an important weapons program? If you do not, I do not see how you reach your conclusions.

Lastly, if what you write above is true, then a good policy maker ought not rely wholly on the "intelligence" services. They sound inept. That does not support your magical thinking argument.



Jeff Shear - 3/2/2007

Your comments are cogent and well taken. I hardly disagree. However, my little article was about Libby, Bush and the misuse of intelligence (Chamberlain). So...

In light of that, you write: "I do not think we went to war about any weapons..." Well, that's how the President sold the war in his SOTU speech and why Scooter Libby is on trial. So, to that degree, the war was about weapons.

This, from today’s “News Analysis” in the NYT, by Mark Mazzetti, “For more than three years, American intelligence officials have insisted that they learned from their mistakes in the months leading to the Iraq war, when murky information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs was presented as fact and inconclusive judgments were hardened into statements of near certainty.”

Back to your comments, you write: "I think we went to war in view of the ideological cauldron brewing in the Muslim regions." Perhaps “ideologies” was not the word you intended to use to describe the “consensus compulsion societies [in the Middle-East] obsessed with Medieval ideas about honor and the glory of war….” Arguably ideologies in that region went out with Nasser (allowing for lingering elements of Baathism), unless you think of Islamism as an ideology, which I doubt. Having said that, whatever we decide to call the "cauldron brewing the Middle East" it certainly offered up just the swill that ideologues like Feith and Wolfowitz needed for their intelligence icing to the that purported yellowcake from Niger.

Perhaps I have a larger point. To me, the danger revealed by the Bush administrations disregard for professional intelligence estimates leading up to the Iraq War are reflected elsewhere in our foreign policy. Those same ideological footprints appeared stamped into the Bush administration’s policy approach to North Korea. As Mark Mazzettit pointed out in today’s NYT: “The more calibrated intelligence assessments that have come to light in recent weeks, particularly on Iran and North Korea, appear to show a new willingness by American spy agencies to concede the limits of their knowledge.” They should. I do wish, however, that Mazzetti had been more specific about which"spy agencies" he was referring to. After all, since 2002 Bush and company had been accusing North Korea of enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon. However, in October, the weapon they actually tested was made from Plutonium. Ooops. Was there a parallel program? Or was there bad intelligence? Or something worse, magical thinking?


N. Friedman - 3/1/2007

Jeff,

You write: As we agree, at the time there was little argument over Saddam’s sins (it appears the world’s intelligence agencies were all wrong about his WMD).

And you write: What both men indulged in was magical thinking, a phrase I chose because I could not make my preferred word “ideology” quite wrap around Neville Chamberlain’s bumbershoot.

I note that these two statements do not mix all that well. If, in fact, the evidence largely pointed to a serious program in Iraq - whatever minority views there may have been that disagreed -, ideology does not fully explain the matter. It is, rather, the assessment of Iraq as well as that region of the world's ills that must be considered before branding those who favored the war into people blinded by ideology. I am not sure one can make that case.

Rather, one can make a better case that the Bushites made a serious mistake but not necessarily one driven by magical thinking. In fact, now that the veneer of Iraqi society has been removed and the cauldron of ideological hatred (e.g. Sunni vs. Shia) underneath exposed, a leader such as Saddam may well have been even more ideologically driven toward making war than supposed as such may well have been necessary not just for his glory but for his very own survival. Such post-invasion discovery - if mine is a fair analysis -, however, was not necessarily known to Bush.

Rather, they likely thought, along with much of the political world - and I bet also the intelligence agencies, that most Iraqis were, by Middle Eastern standards, modern people and not akin to much of the population in, for example, Saudi Arabia and, I suspect, also in Iran. Which is to say, my bet is that Iraq was chosen based on "intelligence" which often confused the veneer of society with its content.

I would think that a fair assessment of the Arab/Iranian regions is that they are mired in a Medieval mind set. All of them are, in one way or another, consensus compulsion societies obsessed with Medieval ideas about honor and the glory of war. And, all of them seemed to be obsessed with revenge against and evening the score with the West for alleged and real sins - even for alleged ancient sins such as the Crusades -. Religion - evidently even in the supposedly secular Iraq - is not merely something that determines one's personal life but becomes, as it used to be in the West, a complete philosophy of life and politics. In such an explosive religio/ideological environment, the only missing element for war involves military capabilities. And, as the Jihadis well demonstrate, a large group of Muslims is not even willing to wait for the military capacity to arrive. So, we have a part of the world with a substantial part of its population impatiently pushing for war.

A reasonable person looking at the mess in that part of the world could readily conclude that it truly is, to use Churchill's words, a gathering storm. I remind you that the word "gathering" is Bush's exact word used to explain his reason for going to war. People overlook that word when they discuss the issue.

Yet, his use of that word reveals that Bush knew full well that the threat was not imminent. And that word reveals full well that Bush was taking his hint from advisers who saw Churchill's advice as the prescient. And Churchill was and is considered a hero to many of the writers often called neocons. As Churchill noted in his book by that title, it is best to deal with gathering threats before they arm!!! That, after all, is what he says Britain and France's mistake was when Germany showed the first inkling that it would not fully follow the arms portions of the treaties that Germany signed at the end of WWI.

Which leads me back to a prior point. I do not think we went to war about any weapons - at least not those Iraq already had or was just about to have. I think we went to war in view of the ideological cauldron brewing in the Muslim regions.

The mistake, as I see, is thinking that Westerners could positively affect the course of ideology of a people still living in the Middle Ages wherein religion, for most people, is not just a thing but the main thing. That fact - and I think it is a fact - makes it nearly impossible for us to have a positive impact. Why? To over-simplify but get to the heart of the matter: Because to a population still thinking in a Medieval manner, infidels can never do anything right.

So, I do not see this as people wearing ideological blinders who fell into magical thinking. I see this as a case of people who thought that Iraq was the best case for creating something akin to Turkey - based on the evidence available from the spy agencies.

That view, given the society that actually existed, was an illusion. Saddam was a product of the society that really existed. He did not, as Kemal did, alter Muslim religious education toward a more modern approach to religion and life. The society underneath Saddam's Iraq was the same society as in Saudi Arabia, with the exception that the larger group was Shi'a - a group which, to the Sunni, is what Blacks were, in the Jim Crow South, to segregationists. So, Iraq was doubly ill-suited for establishing liberal institutions. That was a serious blunder but I do not see it as an ideological one based on magical thinking.

In this last point, I note Elliott Aron Green's below comment that Westerners find it hard to wrap their heads around people who still think by their religion's ideas rather than by modern ideas. And that, I suspect, was and likely remains a mistake made by the intelligence agencies.


Jeff Shear - 3/1/2007

I admit to being a bit glib: “fools rush in or they don’t, etc.” Knee-jerk humility on my part, I guess. It’s just that so often the weight of evidence turns out to be simultaneously weighty and light, as in the instance where Reagan’s old OSS-fart Bill Casey at CIA debates his hard-headed veteran analyst John Horton over whether Mexico is about to become “the next Iran.” Casey needed to deliver an outcome (evidence, light); Horton recognized his purposes, but lacked proof and refused to yield (evidence, weighty). In 1938, Chamberlain had the goods on Hitler, but disregarded it because of the source, a honey trap (evidence weighty and light). In 2003, Bush lacked the evidence but didn’t care (evidence, lacking); or he had the evidence he wanted – even allowing for ambiguity, and sled into catastrophe anyway. What both men indulged in was magical thinking, a phrase I chose because I could not make my preferred word “ideology” quite wrap around Neville Chamberlain’s bumbershoot. Bush was another matter. Ideology is certainly at fault in his case, accounting for every misstep and mishap, right down to the long-term unintended consequences and outcomes that have shattered Iraq. Why plan when your ideology puts the world in order, every teacup and soul? As we agree, at the time there was little argument over Saddam’s sins (it appears the world’s intelligence agencies were all wrong about his WMD). The debate in Washington was to how best get the U.S. into a war. The worrisome thing is that only people in Congress who were wise enough to try to keep us out of the war were those who preferred bumbershoots, not quite ideologues, but not quite leaders, either.


N. Friedman - 3/1/2007

Jeff,

I see the matter from a different angle.

I take the Clinton evidence to suggest that the most likely reading of the available evidence was the one given by Bush. Which is not to say that an invasion was called for but, rather, that the bulk of the evidence likely supported the view that Saddam was either seeking such weapons or was otherwise violating the treaty that ended the Gulf War (and subsequent UN resolutions).

I think that view is also supported by the fact, based on articles I read at the time in a number of newspapers, that French intelligence actually thought that Saddam's program was more advanced than what any part of US intelligence thought and that such was also Russia's view. My recollection is that the Israelis were, of the countries with substantial intelligence gathering ability, the most skeptical of the existence of a serious WMD program in Iraq.

In any event, I do not make so much about the discrepancies in the US intelligence and, after that, in what was not discovered in Iraq. I take it that Saddam wanted the intelligence agencies and the countries surrounding Iraq to believe that he was more dangerous than he was. And, I take it that the reason the US government cited to weapons - whatever the reason for the invasion may actually have been - is that they could not imagine that Saddam did not have them. But, that does not mean that the weapons played any significant role in the internal debates about whether or not to invade. That could be the case but there is insufficient evidence thus far available, in my view, to so conclude.

I also, based on what the US did in the Iraq war, namely dismiss the Iraqi army and attempt to create a democracy, believe it possible that the weapons were not ever part of the reason for the invasion. The policy taken of creating liberal institutions may well have been the only real reason. Or, there may have been a number of reasons.

With the advantage of hindsight - and also what I guessed at the time -, the Iraq war was quite probably a mistake. The US should, perhaps, have dealt with Saudi Arabia Egypt and Pakistan and Iran directly and left the idea of bringing democracy to a part of the world that lives in the Middle Ages to a fantasy novel writer.

I do not know what Clinton would have done. His wife clearly is not all that opposed to the war, even now, and will not criticize her own vote in favor of it - in contrast to, say, Edwards. And Clinton did Bush's bidding in Europe, speaking before Parliament and, I believe, also attempting to persuade France, etc. to be more cooperative. What can be said, I think, is that in the circumstances as seen during Clinton's presidency, he did not invade. What he might have done post 9/11 is less sure.


Jeff Shear - 2/28/2007

While the discussion has drifted from the point I’d hoped to make, let us for a moment return to the original idea of reconciling intelligence and national policy, to consider President Clinton's WMD comments as published in The Guardian. I came across an article recently written by the late British historian A.J.P. Taylor, in The New York Review Of Books (1972): "Captain Dreyfus is the only officer of the French army in the 1890s whose name is still remembered...” Taylor noted. “…Suppose the activities of which Dreyfus was wrongly suspected had gone on—as indeed they did for some time after he was arrested. Would the Germans have been any nearer winning the battle of the Marne?" Thus, as intelligence estimates and public policy goes, it appears that "knowing" is not enough because, ultimately, Clinton too, was wrong about Saddam’s assets. At least, however, he and his administration restrained themselves to diplomacy. Whether by luck, lack of will or the triumph of reason, matters little. (Ref: Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, Bob Woodward.) For no matter what a nation may “know” -- through intelligence sources -- and what it is able to accomplish in terms of global outcomes, the process most resembles the fog of war, and thus depends entirely upon cold nerve, hard fact and, yes, luck. At least Clinton, despite his own certainties regarding Saddam’s assets, did not chase after mirages in that fog or fall for the magical thinking of the powerful. What’s the lesson: Fools rush in, or they don’t, and we’re all fools. Buyer beware.


N. Friedman - 2/28/2007

Correction:

Strike this sentence: "And, where there are elections, Islamists tend to win them by advocating Shari'a, as that line resonates among traditional Muslims, not be supporting al Qaeda."

Substitute:

And, where there are elections, Islamists tend to win them by advocating Shari'a, as that line resonates among traditional Muslims, not by supporting al Qaeda.


N. Friedman - 2/28/2007

Peter,

You misread my comment. I meant - and perhaps I did not choose my words with sufficient elegance - that the loss of Afghanistan causes substantial dissension among serious Islamists.

The view of the dissenters was and is that Afghanistan was a utopia, their ideal for the perfect state on Earth. Hence, the loss of that state was and is, as they see it, a significant blow. Such people argue that the 9/11 attack was a tactical mistake.

The rest of what you write is not substantially important. Islamic countries are not democracies. And the al Qaeda movement does not depend upon obtaining a majority. And, where there are elections, Islamists tend to win them by advocating Shari'a, as that line resonates among traditional Muslims, not be supporting al Qaeda.

As for recruits for al Qaeda, it is not, in my view, centrally significant that al Qaeda may obtain more recruits. They already have all, in fact more than, they need. They had that before 9/11. What they do not have is political power. And, at the moment, they have not really gained any ground in that battle.

You are correct if you are saying that my view is that we are not the prime moving factor in the rise of Islamism or al Qaeda. I think the evidence bears that point out. I think the reasons for the rise of the Islamists, of which al Qaeda is the radical fringe, are many but the most important factors involve internal forces, not the US. And, we are not in a great position to alter these internal forces in a substantial way because they are very powerful forces - involving many, many things outside of the ability of the US government to control.


N. Friedman - 2/28/2007

Peter,

You write: Gilbert certainly seems to know his Churchill, though he does not mention in this interview that Churchill came to Parliament from a heavily Jewish consituency, albiet not as heavy as Gilbert's readership.

One might ask what the relevance of your comment is. I did not cite Gilbert with reference to Churchill, about whom Gilbert is a leading authority, but about his thoughts on the topic in discussion. Note that he does mention Mr. Chamberlain.

I am not so sure, by the way, the Bush has helped bin Laden beyond all imagination. I think that is a real stretch.

I think that the impact of Bush on bin Laden is mixed. Destroying Taliban Afghanistan was a very major victory for the West, in my view. That state was, for Islamists, the utopian state. Losing that state has caused substantial dissent against bin Laden.

The Iraq war is not a victory for the West. On that, we agree. But, the rise of Iran is, it must be noted, no victory for bin Laden. That is, for serious Sunni Islamists, a true disaster. That is why the Sunni states are now talking to people sympathetic to the Israelis.

On the other hand, the comeback of the Taliban, to the extent it is occurring, in Afghanistan could turn into another serious setback for the West. That needs to be checked while it can be done at relatively low cost.

But, bin Laden has surely not succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. There have been no countries that have gone permanently Islamists post 9/11 and fewer Islamist states now than in 2001. When Islamists popped up in Somalia, Bush took decisive action fairly rapidly and with considerable success. So, this is not the simple matter that you assert.

I do note that Gilbert is an authority on Europe, most especially about Churchill and WWII. His comments about Bernard Lewis and Bat Ye'or are also interesting. Note that he has high regard for the brilliant Bat Ye'or and accepts her analysis about Europe, but prefers to hear Bernard Lewis advocate her positions because he is more famous.


N. Friedman - 2/27/2007

One on One with Sir Martin Gilbert: Hindsight and aforethought

This is an interesting interview.


N. Friedman - 2/27/2007

Peter,

That may be your best observation ever.* Of course, he would, in this case, be following that diplomat of diplomats, the Bush I diplomat named Baker and his ISG idea.

___________________

* Well, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.


N. Friedman - 2/27/2007

Elliott,

Well, if one studied writers from the Muslim region, knowing the Islamic view about things would not come as a great mystery. Be that as it may, there are probably quite a number of reasons why modernists - opinion makers, governments and the like - tend to overlook the role of religion in shaping political thought among Muslims. Among the reasons are the great changes that occurred in the Muslim regions that culminated in the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the fall in Iran of the Qajar dynasty.

Which is to say, the role of Islam as a driving political force appeared, to the reasonable observer, to have largely faded in the first half of the 20th Century. Even before that, in the Ottoman Empire, there were experiments with democracy and eventually the Kemalist revolution - and Attaturk was truly a towering giant who, along with his supporters, had a profoundly different vision of politics and Islam - that destroyed the Caliphate. In Arab countries, the early 20th Century rulers were not, for the most part, religious fanatics. Most probably are not such at this point either, which leads to considerable confusion for diplomats. So, the view became that the Muslim regions were working, however slowly and in various fits and starts, toward modernity and, to some extent, Westernization. That was a reasonable view - whether or not a correct one - based on the evidence and experience.

Not evidently noticed that much were forces of reaction that never accepted, for example, the destruction of the Caliphate. And, moreover, not much noticed was that the average man on the street was not part of the revolution in thought that, for example, the Kemalists represent. Rather (and, leaving Turkey out of this as, in fact, Kemalism has real roots in Turkey to this day - although tarnished somewhat), the man on the street could likely always have been better addressed by those leaders who would return to a more traditional way of life.

With the decline of European influence over the Arab and greater Muslim regions, those who believed in tradition had a far greater ability to be heard. Some say that the mosques are the one place where dissent from tyrannical rule cannot be suppressed and, likely, this is true in part. But, it is also true that the mosque, so to speak, was understood by all involved as a source of political power, since Islam simply does not conceptually distinguish politics from religion. So, the leaders in the Muslim regions surely knew what would come out of the mosque and that most of their subjects were traditionalists. So, it is not as simple as dissent finding its only way out in mosques as the only remaining open institution in which to express it. Rather, mosques are the most obvious place for dissent to occur.

In any event, no non-Muslim, other than a scholar of Islam, born after 1924 had any great reason to understand Islam as being a political force. It had largely ceased to function as such and the leaders were not men of great religious conviction. And, the Muslim regions are only fairly recently showing more overtly religious politics to the world. But, those raised to see the world in secular terms have not had time, yet, to adjust, in my humble view. Most will, in time, come around since, for most people, facts are the facts.

As for Iraq, I do not know whether or not there was a significant WMD program. I am not sure it much matters at this point. What matters, I think, is that the war managed to divide the West without any apparent benefit thus far on the horizon. And, even worse, the war has allowed a cloud to descend on rational discussion of the far worse, at least for non-Muslims, regime in Iran. Note this point made by famed historian Bernard Lewis:

I have no doubt at all, and my Iranian friends and informants are unanimous on this, that Ahmadinejad means what he says, and that this is not, as some people have suggested, a trick or device. He really means it, he really believes it and that makes him all the more dangerous.

MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the Cold War. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again.

In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies. I find all that very alarming.


Saddam was really, really bad, but mostly to Iraqis and Iranians and, to a far lesser extent, to Israel and everyone else. Iran is a far more dangerous problem, if Lewis is correct. And he likely is.


Elliott Aron Green - 2/27/2007

N,
As far back as 1853, the French historian and diplomat, Cesar Famin, described the Muslim division of the world into Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam. What's peculiar is that more recent diplomats, journalists, and scholars have forgotten this basic feature of the history and foreign policy of Islamic empires.

This brings me to the CIA. It has had a pro-Arab nationalist, pro-PLO policy for many years, as an institution. On this see Miles Copeland and I.L. Kenen, inter alia. Now, Bush may have been suspicious of the CIA for not supporting his policy, for not supplying reliable intelligence estimates, for being more loyal to its own institutional biases than to the president, etc. In that case, he would reasonably want to keep them in the dark. Of course, I cannot read his mind. But he may conceivably have had good reasons not to tell the CIA in general or Tenet in particular, whom he eventually kicked upstairs. As to WMD and ABC weapons in Iraq, it seems that evidence of such was found in Iraq after the 2003 war, yet Bush --inexplicably-- overlooked this evidence. [see Raphael Israeli in a 2006 article in the Israeli bimonthly Nativ]. There has also been testimony of Saddam having transferred WMD/ABC material and equipment to Syria. This testimony has come from Syrian exiles and from former Israeli PM Sharon who stated this in the Fall of 2002. I fault Bush for ignoring this testimony and the findings in Iraq.


N. Friedman - 2/27/2007

Peter,

As always, you distort my views beyond all recognition. I did not say that I am onboard the Bush program. I said nothing of the sort nor have I argued on behalf of Bush's program at any time. In fact, I have done exactly the opposite.

By contrast, your judgment that the program - and I quote you verbatim - is "the worst disaster in American history since the Civil War" is a terribly premature statement. Consider, the Iraq war may prove worse than any mistake in US history, the worst since the Civil War or it may not prove to be anything quite as bad. But consider: mine is not a judgment of support. It is to reserve judgment on where, in the scope of things, the mistakes - as I see them, clearly mistakes - may sits among other mistakes. And, frankly, your judgment, whether or not it proves correct, is premature since, quite obviously, the war continues and the future is never quite as predictable as we might like it to be.

Peter, as for large numbers of Muslims being terrorists, that is a fact. You may wish to deny that fact but it is a fact that no one in his or her right mind denies.

But note: I do not say most Muslims are terrorists. That is in your head, if that is what you are attempting to suggest or insinuate.

Rather, I agree with the views, by and large, of Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she explains how Islam works in actual practice. While she is far more judgmental than I am, I note her description as being largely correct. She clearly makes fools of Mahar's other guests.

Ali notes that Islam should be understood as a set of beliefs, just as we understand Christianity and Communism. I agree with her entirely on this point and, prior to recently - now that people have political motives to deny what stares them in the eyes -, such point would have been viewed as obviously correct.

And among the beliefs of Islam is the belief to make the entire world subject to Islamic rule and to do so, if need be, by violence. That is so obviously the case that only fools deny it. Such is what believing Muslims have believed for more than a millennium and still believe.

And, anyone who picks up a serious book about Islam (e.g. one by Bernard Lewis, Ignaz Goldhizer, etc., etc.) knows that to be the case. But, since you fail to understand, I shall try one more time, quoting Bernard Lewis from his brilliant book The Muslim Discovery of Europe:

In the Muslim world view the basic division of mankind is into the House of Islam (Dār al-Islām) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb). The one consists of all those countries where the law of Islam prevails, that is to say, broadly, the Muslim Empire; the latter is the rest of the world. Just as there is only one God in heaven, so there can be only one sovereign and one law on earth. Ideally, the House of Islam is conceived as a single community, governed by a single state, headed by a single sovereign. This state must tolerate and protect those unbelievers who are brought by conquest under its rule, provided, of course, that they are not polytheists but followers of one of the permitted religions. The logic of Islamic law, however, does not recognized the permanent existence of any other polity outside Islam. In time, in the Muslim view, all mankind will accept Islam or submit to Islamic rule. In the meantime, it is a religious duty of Muslims to struggle until this end is accomplished.

The name given by the Muslim jurists to this struggle is jihād, an Arabic word meaning effort or striving. One who performs this duty is called mujāhid. The word occurs several times in the Qur'ān in the sense of making war against the unbelievers. In the early centuries of Islamic expansion, this was its normal meaning. Between the House of Islam and the House of War there was, according to the sharī‘a, the Holy Law as formulated by the classical jurists, a state of war religiously and legally obligatory, which could end only with the conversion or subjugation of all mankind. A treaty of peace between the Muslim state and a non-Muslim state was thus in theory juridically impossible. The war, which would end only with the universal triumph of Islam, could not be terminated; it could only be interrupted for reasons of necessity or of expediency by a truce. Such a truce, according to the jurists, could only be provisional. It should not exceed ten years and could, at any time, be repudiated unilaterally by the Muslims who, however, were obliged by Muslim law to give the other side due notice before resuming hostilities.



And, as I have explained elsewhere, my view is that the violent side of Islam ought be understood the way we understand Roman virtues. Most people admit that Roman virtues included some rather martial ones. When Ms. Ali says that we should engage Muslims based on what they actually believe, she is quite right although, from following her views elsewhere, I think she is wrong to the extent that one can advance modernist views against any religion in the manner she would suggest.

Also, from her broadcast, I think her explanation of the dhimmi is largely correct. As is her explanation of why Muslims will not accept Israel, which has to do with Israel being independent rather than Jews living as dhimmi as called for by Islamic jurisprudence and theological thinking. I think that such is beyond doubt correct. And to note: such is what the HAMAS covenant also says, which gives me confirmation in my views.

You, Peter, are free to believe what you want. But, do not put words in my mouth. I am tired of it from you. And, since Islam is something I have bothered to study with considerable care - while you only read nonsense from magazines and in the newspapers by people in a hurry -, I can only suggest that you consider the naiveté of what you assert.



N. Friedman - 2/27/2007

Peter,

I think the tale of the story for this article is this paragraph:

His arguments against appeasement have their merit as the awful failure of Chamberlain’s policies proves. However, arguing over appeasement obscures the irony, which is that Bush, like Chamberlain before him, fell victim to magical thinking, swilling policy bromides while ignoring intelligence professionals. In the case of Chamberlain, disregarding the evidence resulted in appeasement and World War Two; in the case of Bush, it led to a pre-emptive war in Iraq. Thus, both world leaders each failed on their own merits.

It might, however, be noted that most of the evidence actually showed pretty much what President Bush claimed. For example, according to former President Clinton (Trust Tony's judgment, by Bill Clinton, The Guardian, March 18, 2003):

Last October, when I spoke at the Labour conference in Blackpool, I supported the efforts of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to renew efforts to eliminate Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and to try to accomplish this through the UN.

In November, the UN security council adopted unanimously resolution 1441, giving Saddam a "final opportunity" to disarm, after 12 years of defying UN resolutions requiring him to do so. The resolution made it clear that continued sanctions were not sufficient and that continued defiance would lead to serious consequences.

The credit for 1441 belongs in large measure to Blair, who saw it as a chance to disarm Saddam in a way that strengthened the UN and preserved the Atlantic alliance. Unfortunately, the consensus behind 1441 has unravelled. Saddam has destroyed some missiles but beyond that he has done only what he thinks is necessary to keep the UN divided on the use of force. The really important issues relating to chemical and biological weapons remain unresolved.


and:

As Blair has said, in war there will be civilian was well as military casualties. There is, too, as both Britain and America agree, some risk of Saddam using or transferring his weapons to terrorists. There is as well the possibility that more angry young Muslims can be recruited to terrorism. But if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance, there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam.

If Clinton was correct, then it is not quite as simple as the HNN article suggests. What I think, notwithstanding all the talk about trumped up evidence - and there certainly is some evidence that such occurred although it is unclear whether or not that was important to the decision making process (which is what the article suggests but has not yet been shown) -, is that Churchill's approach does not automatically translate in all settings. That Churchill is what the Bushites had in mind may be shown by Bush's statement before the war that he was not going to allow a "gathering" threat to build. That is Churchillian language that, while Bush may not have read Churchill, Bush's advisers certainly have.

It may have made sense in principle, as Churchill thought, to have asserted strength against Germany at the first sign that the country was leaning toward breaking the arms prohibitions placed on the country after WWI. On the other hand, it may not be possible in practice or, perhaps, in all cases. It may well be that such approach creates inherently tends to create division among allies, as, for example, occurred for the US with regard to Iraq. That might have happened in Europe as well although, depending, of course, on the a wide variety of factors.

In that this is a war by certain Western powers against an Arab land, there is the special issue that does not apply to an attack within Europe. So, perhaps any attack by a Western power would lead to substantial resistance.

There is the special point to consider regarding the split between Shi'a and Sunni, that made Iraq a particularly bad place to start a war in which creating a democracy plays any imaginable part. Sunnis typically see Shi'a in much the way that Southerners in the Jim Crow period typically saw blacks. (The same is true of what Shi'a typically think of Sunni.)

Such is a very inconvenient fact if the goal is to set up a democracy in a land where religion is not a thing but the main thing in people's lives. An NPR report the other day spoke to some experts from the Middle East with reference to Iraq. The issue, said an expert from Berzeit University matter-of-factly, is that Shi'a have and will never rule Sunni Arabs. My take on that statement is that he was saying that such is not in the order of things in this world.

One last point, Peter. The Iraq war may prove itself to be the worst policy mistake in US history - and, as you know, it is not a war I ever supported -, but it is rather early to make such a judgment. Suffice it to say that it is thus far a disaster but, quite obviously, the jury is not yet out since there is still "testimony" yet to be heard.

Consider: one might have said the same thing you say here, with reference to Iraq, about the Vietnam war - for which there was even less logic than for the Iraq war and which began not on alleged exaggerated evidence but after an actual lie, namely, the assertion of an attack that did not occur -, yet that disaster did not prevent the collapse of the USSR.

In the present case, the Iraq war may yet sap the support for Jihadism or it may help solve the Arab Israeli conflict (e.g. for the reasons just noted by Bernard Lewis in the interview I cited, since the various Sunni Arab leaders see Shi'a dominance as a worse problem than Israel) or it may, in the not distant future, help foment democracy in the Arab lands. Anything is possible and we cannot reach a final judgment at this point.

One might also point to other mistakes made in US history that may have been far worse. Churchill points to some of the terrible mistakes the US made after WWI (e.g. with respect to demanding payment on time by European powers, including the UK, so that their financial flexibility in dealing with Germany was adversely affected) that helped make WWII more likely to occur. And, the mistakes that led to WWII are certainly profound and WWII was as terrible a war as can be imagined.


Richard Louis Naff - 2/26/2007

I don't believe that we can ever completely eliminate the imperial overreach that we are presently experiencing. We might, however, mitigate agains such overreach if we were to amend our consitution as follows:

Whereas Section 8 of Article I gives congress the right to declare war, thus passing onto the president the authority to wage war, this amendment restricts the duration of this authority to two years. If requested by the president within 90 day of expiration of this authority, congress must again vote to extend or deny extension of this authority. If extension of authority is denied, then the president must cease war operations within one year. If cessation of operations is not complete with one year, then congress may authorize one emergency extension for a period up to six months for the purpose of withdrawing all personnel safely