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Realism and Realpolitik – Setting the Conditions for America’s Survival in the 21st Century

23 February 2012

Summary:  Today we have a brilliant guest post by Franz Gayl (Major, USMC, retired) discussing America’s place in the world, and recommending what should be our grand strategy to best adapt to the inevitable changes that lie ahead in this century.  It’s deserves some attention as an alternative to the dark course that we’ve chosen, one that leads to hard times for America.

Realism and Realpolitik – Setting the Conditions for America’s Survival in the 21st Century, by Franz J. Gayl (Major, USMC, retired), thesis for the National Defense University, June 2006 — posted with permission of the author.

Contents

  1. The author explains why you should read this paper
  2. Summary
  3. Download the paper
  4. About the author
  5. For more information

(1)  The author explains why you should read this paper

Some have referred to this thesis as dark and pessimistic.  Some have even suggested it as unpatriotic. Yet, I hold that America is in decline, a natural cycle of all great empires. At the same time China and Islam, among others, have awakened and are rising. Their emergence should be viewed as their own natural cycles of ascension.

These are measurable realities, much less in dispute today than when I wrote of them in 2006. Rather than resist we should prepare responsibly. Unfortunately, we reject such notions nationally. Our refusal is reflected in increased imperial extension that enflames outdated flash points around the world. Professions of righteousness conceal a military industrial complex pressing us on towards conflict. Examples are numerous:

  • Our insistence on a separate military relationship with Taiwan in spite of “One China” confirmed in our agreements with China.
  • Our nation building within Islamic societies that lacks any real respect for their Islamic foundations.
  • Our encouragement of Israelis that actually abandons them to confront the possibility of a new WMD holocaust.

Our behavior drives adversaries to collaborate, and to neutralize rather than welcome America’s role in the future. My 2006 recommendations remain worthy of discussion; the time to modify our national behavior is running out to avoid being drawn into conflicts that we cannot win. We are accelerating the rate and severity of our decline, perhaps towards national ruin, a sad ending considering an alternative that begins a national re-ascension.

(2)  Summary

America’s frustration with powerful potential partners may be rooted in the expectation that the broader idealistic American world view must also have universal validity, simply because we survived the Cold War intact and victorious. This U.S.-centrism and idealism is understandably the residual euphoria of having prevailed over the Soviet Union and our consequent unopposed hegemonic extension into the resulting vacuum.

Yet, in our rigid self-righteousness, as reflected in the current National Security Strategy, we seem to overlook the cyclical realities of civilizations throughout recorded history, and fail to give credence to the world views of others. From a domestic perspective, there is no harm in America “drinking her own idealistic bath water” as it pertains to our sovereign affairs.

However, it can be argued that it is increasingly dangerous for the U.S. to project her ideals into international affairs with what has come to be perceived by many as hypocritical inconsistency. Similarly, it may be unwise to do so at a time when real global power is cycling away from sole American dominance, an issue to be discussed later in this paper. Instead, America will therefore need powerful and reliable allies such as China and Russia in her confrontation with the fundamentalist forces that threaten all of modern civilization.

These anti-modernist forces are the real common global enemy of civilization in the so called long war begun in this 21st Century. Anti-modernism does not suggest the rejection of technology or machines, as they have utility for all antagonists in waging war. It does suggest the absolute rejection by committed extremists of the decadent fallout of modernity and its various root causes.  The subversion of ancient primitive values relating to spiritualism, race, ethnic identity, morality, and societal fairness through modernity and globalization is the trend that anti-modernists combat.

The author suggests that Radical Islam serves as the current armed vanguard for the growing number of politically diverse state and non-state anti-modernist soldiers and their sympathizers. Radical Islam’s combined conventional and unconventional weapons arsenals and swelling ranks of soldiers logically has the temporary lead in this global assault. While overt alliances to date center on Islamic fundamentalist groups and states, there are signs that the commonality of anti-modernist values may lead to opportunistic alliances with Neo-Nazi and other fascist forces in the near future. For example, direct electronic links to Islamic extremist websites from the white supremacist Aryan Nations website (2006) are compelling evidence of this opportunistic connection.

It is this author’s opinion that as a prerequisite to effectively confronting the nihilistic dangers of the anti-modernist menace, we may have to first subdue a self-righteous American demon within ourselves. This internal enemy is largely a product of outgroup ascription. It constitutes a national attitude perpetuated by a volatile mix of outsider perceptions and self-righteous American idealism. It generates rage in our enemies and distrust and alienation amongst our potential friends, and likely contributes to U.S. exclusion from important partnerships, like the Sino-Russian agreement noted earlier. In short, our attitude and actions could be titled Imperial America.

In the U.S. context the word imperial should not be understood solely as the projection of military power for expeditions, occupation or subjugation. Instead, it should be understood as America’s perceived hegemonic grip on global affairs through capital flow, rule-set creation, and cultural infection. Imperial is therefore meant as the root of Imperialism as defined in Vladimir Lenin’s 1917 treatise “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.” This increasingly shared perception of the U.S. is loathed by the Radical Islamists, their diverse anti-modernist sympathizers, and increasingly by great modern powers such as China and Russia.

This author will argue that a humble departure from the crusader-like tone of American idealism in favor of a consistent realpolitik firmly rooted in the coinciding national security interests of America and other global powers will be required for 21st Century survival. As a complimentary step, America should reverse her progressive alienation from Secular Islam, by addressing substantively the issue of our perceived complicity in historical offenses against Islam. Only by these means can we isolate the ideological political forces of Radical Islam from moderate Secular Islam itself. Since armed Radical Islam serves as the armed vanguard for all anti-modernists, including Neo-Nazi and Fascist extremists, once isolated those forces can be destroyed.

In sum total, this author will argue that modern U.S. foreign policy must adopt the fundamental precepts of the “clear-eyed” realpolitik advocated by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger. The reliability, pragmatism, and national humility of this return to American realism will allow us to tolerate our natural civilizational decline while guaranteeing our physical survival as a nation through the 21st Century.

(3)  Download the paper

Click here:  Realism and Realpolitik by Franz Gayl – ICAF Research Paper

(4)  About the author

Franz J. Gayl serves as a civilian science and technology advisor within Headquarters Marine Corps at the Pentagon. Previously he served for 22 years as an active duty infantry Marine, starting as enlisted and retiring with the rank of Major.

He earned an MS in Space Systems Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School and an MS in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University. At NDU he was presented the “Ambassador’s Award” for my research and paper.

In 2006 he voluntarily deployed to Iraq. There he became aware of corruption within the Quantico support establishment that cost many under-equipped Marines their lives.  His subsequent disclosures to the OSD, Congress and the press contributed to dramatic life-saving improvements in rapid acquisition.

He also participated for 5 months in a DARPA internship, holds one patent, and is a graduate of the 2011 Singularity University Graduate Studies Program.

(5)  For More Information:  posts about America’s grand strategy

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
  3. America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
  4. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
  5. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I , 19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008
  6. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II , 14 June 2008
  7. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008  – chapter 1 in a series of notes
  8. President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 – chapter 2
  9. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
  10. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
  11. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  12. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
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30 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 February 2012 12:51 am

    Here’s a pair of hypotheticals:

    1) We don’t need to worry about “islam” rising because it is prone to internal fracturing as the different sub-components of the islamic world begin to compete for wealth. It doesn’t seem to me that the islamic world’s failure to unify is entirely the pernicious influence of the west – it seems to be ordinary human nature, with the “haves” trying to keep their gold and the “have nots” trying to get it. If the islamic world began to access global power it might be right for a reformation-style collapse, much as happened to the “christian” world.

    2) China may suffer its own internal staggers and jags as the newly-risen middle class demands increased say in domestic affairs. I would say that China’s #1 problem in the future will be keeping its growth policy without the middle class (which has a much greater chance than the ‘student’ protesters of making a difference) becoming a problem. Empowering the middle class will be a problem, and suppressing the middle class will be a problem. If China attempts a US-style economic disenfranchisement of the middle class, it may take too long – it’s taken about 40 years, here.

    England did a good job of stepping off the stage and riding away on the US’ coat-tails. If we were smart we’d be trying to figure out how to hand global power over to China while keeping our measure of importance as the main trading currency/stock markets and salvaging silicon valley. All these things, of course, point to dramatically downsizing our military and investing in our economy, instead, which we are not going to do.

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    • 23 February 2012 4:39 am

      “We don’t need to worry about “islam” rising because it is prone to internal fracturing as the different sub-components of the islamic world begin to compete”

      Perhaps. An alternative view: the various competing schools of modern Islamic thought are a stew of evolving and mutating memes. Like first and century Christianity, or organisms in the Burgess Shale. Eventually hypercompetitive strains might evolve — and grow.

      Like

    • Franz permalink
      23 February 2012 2:30 pm

      Marcus Ranum,

      I really like your comment of how rationally England has managed their “empirical contraction” for lack of a better term. Leveraging the new found strengths of others and establishing new alliances (China for example) we can similarly ride coat-tails for a while. Handing global power over to China while keeping our measure of importance as the main trading currency/stock markets and salvaging silicon valley is a fantastic idea. As technically and scientifically advanced some of our new competitors may be, the U.S. (by the admission of our competitors themselves!) will always have unique talents and contributions – like those you noted. I also agree that we will not dramatically downsize the most expeditionary (and obnoxious from our competitors’ stand poits) portions of our military. The most influential Americans in this regard are the major defense contractors (ever-more frequently containg retired Flag officers at the top echelons) who realize profits whenever they can convince Administrations and Congress that we should see competitors as threats. In this light the perpetuation of our Taiwan policy antagonisms is the greatest concern, though it is a boon for defense contractors. Specifically, the existence of the Taiwan Relations Act is the most dangerous obstacle to getting things right with a rising China, and it should be amended or recinded immediately.

      You are right that if the islamic world began to access global power – and find a common voice even for a short duration – it might be ready for a reformation-style collapse. But it is time, even the shortest duration, that is the enemy. With nuclear and other advanced weapons, and with a sufficiently centralized voice, a radially inspired tyrant (or tyrants) could scorch the earth (figuratively and literally), not just in a “decadent” west but throughout the Islamic world – a wider war.

      The points in my paper emphasize that we should elliminate inflamation that leads to radicalization wherever possible. Our presence in Saudi Arabia angered Bin Laden. Our clumsy behavior in Afganistan enrages the general populace. The long-term uselessness of our expedition in Iraq should serve as a reminder. Our reflex penchant to intervene everywhere in the Mideast where we see bloodshed without understanding the detailed make-up of the opposing forces is perceived (not just by Muslims) as arrogant — arrogance is a great sin in Islam.

      We need to remove our policy fingers and physical presence from Islamic nations ASAP. It is true that Muslims like us are prone to human desires and foibles, and disunity is always inevitable in any great endevour. But our interference enflames passions that unify the otherwise divided. We confirm the image of a “Great Satan.” This is unnecessary, and only increases the likelihood of unwinnable confrontations when those nations are armed and “fired up.” Finally, we should not underestimate the inspiration that is generated by the common Muslim Scripture of the Qur’an. It is the most powerful doctrine for any community that is led to believe by its leaders that it is “oppressed.”

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  2. 23 February 2012 3:50 am

    The problem is us. We are like a drug addict on detox, seeing threats everywhere, treating the Earth like a battlefield. People in the Beltway obsess over the possibility of unchallenged primacy being finite. This is entirely our fault, instead of us citizens talking about our government, laws, and actions we waste time on frivolous things like American Idol or Burger King. We turned our backs on the “old gods” men like Washington, Hamilton, or Jefferson now our people worship at the altar of fools like Trump, Limbaugh, or Olbermann. We quit caring about self government…so others decided to do it for us.

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  3. norman broomhall permalink
    23 February 2012 4:11 am

    this fellow fails to acknowledge that radical Islamic fundamentalism is a consequence of Western imperialism … in the end , it`s an incorrect perception of what is driving what . The West is there for the oil , and will commit any violence for it , and the locals don`t like it . Would Americans permit Iraqi/Iranian soldiers to go marching down THEIR streets , shooting anything that moves , and calling it bringing America democracy ?

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    • Franz permalink
      23 February 2012 2:47 pm

      Norman, I agree with you.

      I thought I addressed this later in the paper, but perhaps not enough – in some cases not at all. Yes, we enflame violent passions that might not have existed otherwise. In our behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan we have given/give the “impression” that we are oppressors who force Muslims from their homes. The verifiable truth of these public impressions is not the point (one minor example).

      However, any clever agitator can turn an act of law enforcement or self-defense into a public perception that oppression or expulsion have occured. Both are sinful acts in the Qur’an, worse that death or murder themselves. The images of oil-greed as a true purpose is hyporcracy, and of U.S. in their streets as arrogance and defilement. All again are sins well-defined in the Qur’an. In that behavior we provide the psychological fuel to our adversaries for long-term alienation at best, and a commitment to revenge at worst. So, I agree with you. I have read much and learned much since 2006. I would have written on the topic of Islam differently given a chance to do it over again.

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  4. Felix permalink
    23 February 2012 9:16 am

    “At the same time China and Islam, among others, have awakened and are rising.”

    Where can i find the empire islam on a world map?

    Like

    • Franz permalink
      23 February 2012 1:49 pm

      You will not find it on a map, at least not yet.

      When I look at demographics that show this or that nation or community composed of 90-99% Muslims that is indeed a seedling for an empire. The paper discusses how world-wide immigration impacts and accelerates this.

      Islam as defined in the Qur’an is the devotion only to God. One could simplify as the shared monotheism of a spiritual community. The difference of Islam vs other monotheist communities is the literal interpretation of revealed law in Islam, essentially the laws revealed to Moses receiving emphasis as remaining valid and absolutely enforcable. It is the stark contrast between those laws being universally enforcable in communities – all communities of man (Islam) and the perspective in the west that monotheism (Christian, Jewish) constitutes personal faith and remains separate from the laws one might see established and enforced in a community. Freedom of religion vs prescription of religion.

      The Muslim (and the Qur’an itself) will state that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share the same faith, in fact that all are Muslims (the meaning of Muslim in the Qur’an is one who is devoted only to God). In reading the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an there is no reason to dispute this perspective. Universality of monothesism favors Christians and Muslims, and for this reason they have an expansionist characteristic – the foundation of a growing empire.

      The violent imperial nature of Christianity from past centuries seems to have subsided. However, Islam appears to be in its spring after experiencing its kinetic impotence for at least the past century. Today, it is achieving an imperial reach, and under the right circumstances Caliphate-like leadership is conceivable, yet with the most coercive kinetic tools of enforcement in hand. We don’t see Islam as a political entity on the map yet, but I think we will at some point soon.

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  5. 23 February 2012 7:48 pm

    I have not finished the full paper yet but am immensely impressed… because it is based on ideas I have thought about before, completely independently;-).

    The core perception that humanity has essentially become one creature in some sense, in the past 100 or so years, gradually, and the biological aggregate metaphors that image suggests… are to me essential if we are to ever get a holistic comprehension of the system we are trying to maintain well enough such that our race will survive as gracefully as possible.

    The notion that civilizing forces, modernists, such as the US, Russia, and China, must coordinate and cooperate if we are to achieve the goal at the end of the previous paragraph is one I arrived at economically. That is, all possible wars over resources involving any of those three countries will involve economic loss; there is no win. Therefore the most profitable way for each is to cooperate, to divide resources fairly, and pool power to protect that allocation. The paper provides a further, equally pragmatic justification for the same approach. And to be sure, my economic path to that conclusion did assume that the resources would have to be protected from someone, and a very likely candidate is the antimodernizing forces.

    So far I have one substantial dispute… which is that the true enemy being anti-modernization, it would be wrong in several dimensions when naming it to even include the word ‘Islam.’ Certainly that is the leading edge worldwide, especially in areas where there have been past conflicts and where there are resources. However, given that we modernists are at war with this entity, it would be foolish to employ a nomenclature that is certain to alienate some people who would otherwise agree with us. It also would fail to include elements such as neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or fundamentalists associated with other religions, who are currently part of the problems we have nationally and internationally… meaning, specifically, Christian fundamentalists here, and Jewish fundamentalists settling on the West Bank.

    A new, dehumanizing, offensive slur is in order here. I vote for calling them primmies, short for primitives. That is really what they are, might as well make it clear…

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  6. Franz permalink
    23 February 2012 9:14 pm

    Greg,

    I agree with you 100% on my ill-advised depiction of Islam as an enemy. At the time I wrote the paper my knowledge of Islam was limited to what I read from others – no personal knowledge. The result was an inability to do a good job of

    1. truly distinguishing radical Islam from Islam itself and
    2. failing to understand-internalize what Islam is and means.

    So, last year (actually fall 2010) when that gentlemen in FL threatened to burn a Qur’an I was determined to understand for myself what Islam is. I knew then that it was a pivotal doctrine within humanity, but I had no idea why – natural response: fear it because I don’t understand. In short I was fundamentally inspired – just finished my 4th cover to cover reading – have done multiple cover to cover readings of the gospel and Pentateuch (the Torah with commentaries) as well.

    My perception at this point is it is all one self-consistent Scripture; the Qur’an is just the latest “good news and warning” update. Again, totally, totally inspiring. My Qur’an sits with my New Testament and my Torah, all in an honored spot.

    My point here is that if I could go back and rewrite my paper (or all sections pertaining to Islam) I would do so, in fact at some point I will write again.

    You are also right that anti-modernist may not be the right expression. Primmi is good as it harkens back to the primitive commune when material want was absent – subsitence and spiritual connection to nature was enough. The tribe-like primmi groups noted would violently, and ruthlessly take us back to such a state, if I understand them.

    In the end I don’t know what the right word is. What I do know is that our great monotheistic jewels of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – and their mores are the only thing that can shield us from those primmis. I am never too old to learn.

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  7. annanic permalink
    23 February 2012 11:01 pm

    If you are looking at ‘this century ‘ rather than ‘this year ‘…
    China and Russia maybe not that stable .
    Plenty of Atheists and Hindus around .
    Maybe we should be fearing the power of the masters of finance , rather than religion or nationality .
    We might all yet embrace Islam as an antidote to modernisation – if modernisation means breakdown of family responsibilities , the ?sluttification of women , the consequences of usury and lack of fear of eternal punishment .
    The term primitives is surely silly , suggests men offering burnt mammoth flesh smoke to the moon to ensure the sun comes up .

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    • Franz permalink
      24 February 2012 1:11 am

      Annanic,

      If I wrote it today it would have been much, much different. When it came to Islam I knew nothing, other that that said or written by others about Islam. In 2010 I determined to end my ignorance. I have since read the Qur’an cover to cover four times, and will continue to do so into the future. I have changed fundamentally, but I cannot undo my past ignorance.

      I also agree with you entirely about the decline and decay and the reasons therefore, and the spread of it like a cancer. I thought I stated that, but perhaps not strongly enough. The reason I wanted the article posted is the issue of technological inevitabilities, and the inevitability of America’s relative decline. These remain valid, but you too are correct — longer term nations and ethnicities may mean little to nothing.

      As for the new me? Torah-Gospel-Qur’an is the single Scripture — one and the same, revealed as good news and warning, with the Qur’an as the record of the most recent revelation.

      As for my words? Anti-modernist, even primmi are all incorrect for the phenomenon (not a group) I am trying to describe; but there are growing radicalized elements throughout mankind that reject modernity in as much as it causes the moral corruption you note – I don’t know how to name it. Perhaps I do know, but I am still fearful of saying the wrong things. My paper was inadequate for sure, and some time soon I will write again in an effort to do better – with what I know I am certainly obligated to do so. Anyway, you are right in what say, and I certainly appologize for my past ignorance. I am always learning.

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  8. 24 February 2012 1:45 pm

    Lot of hard work here, Franz. And your comments are even more wisdom demonstrating.

    “The violent imperial nature of Christianity from past centuries seems to have subsided.”
    ….somebody adds.

    “My Qur’an sits with my New Testament and my Torah, all in an honored spot. ”

    To me (and many) THIS is deja vu, all over again. Perhaps their Books sit honorably but one can question whether the Crusaders, the Jews and the Muslims themselves have much of that today.

    Would love to read a book justifying the violence one does for his world view against another world view…oh, I guess we don’t need that—we “Just do it!”

    Breton

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    • Franz permalink
      24 February 2012 2:30 pm

      Breton, I agree.

      For me the honor piece I would never call into question on others’ parts for any reason as I cannot second guess the personal or community circumstances that generated such viceral anger, fear, or arrogance. We all have a story, and a self-justification. Judgement is not mine to make – that would be arrogance – we will all answer for ourselves. And there is no doubt, the paper is already outdated – I understand Islam so very much better now than I did in 05-06 and could speak more intelligently if I wrote again. But the mechanisms of realpolitik that the U.S. must apply to modern world remain valid, because lethal offensive anger and lethal defensive fear are coming to dominate affairs, generating passions on all sides that lead to savagery, as per Clausewitz.

      My recent personal enlightenment on Islam means nothing, and does not negate the ugly state of the world, and the nuclear armed pitfalls we have emplaced – a state of danger that is accelerating. We must be prepared for anything and everything if our children and their children are to survive. This takes unconventional trade-offs (unconventional from the perspective of our U.S. historical precedent. We must stifle our national arrogance, or better said redirect that stubborn, prideful energy towards introspection and revitalization of our beautiful American roots, both moral and intellectual.

      In the end it is a gentle Tai Chi movement that regains a position of strength and advantage, and without blowing up the world to noones benefit. Overall I think we will better members of humanity for that change, and reassume a position of respected global leadership over time.

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  9. 24 February 2012 2:17 pm

    Franz, thanks for your gracious reply and engaging in this forum. One hopes devoutly that your paper is updated and receives the attention it deserves.

    It does strike me that the one thing antimodernist ‘Muslims’ might be vulnerable to is a Koranic argument and the assertion that the imposition of Sharia by force through the death of innocents is explicitly in violation of Islam. Building that argument, supported by those elements of Islam that are not anti-modern, is the one potential psychological device that could be of use.

    Your perception of the three holy books being essentially the same is a wise one in my opinion. The essential ethical behaviors and view of reality is identical, only slightly attuned to a time and locality, as it would have to be. There is no essential conflict there, to be sure, so the issues have always been elsewhere, in territory and resources and blood feuds and culture and whatever else. The core religions themselves have essentially no conflict.

    As you may now know, there has been at least one period in which a modernizing, tolerant, multicultural and sophisticated society was threatened by fundamentalist forces… Andalus, or Arab Spain, in many ways the area responsible for much of our modern culture (in that it was through that country that university education, science, music, and classical literature reached Europe after the Dark Ages). Weak and disorganized, riven by faction, it was lost to fundamentalist Catholics, leading to… the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, the expulsion of the Arabs and Jews, and of course Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who fortunately is still dead.

    It would appear that in addition to the greed feeding the military industrial complex, the other American internal enemy is the one you identify, a false and emotional mythology. And your prescription of a large dose of humility, of being able to look at things from the point of view of China, or Russia, or even that of an antimodernist… is extremely sound. While I don’t look down on or advocate censoring such people domestically, it is very understandable to me that the spectre of their daughters one day behaving like Lady Gaga or Madonna or Britney Spears, for example, is viewed as threatening rather than liberating by people in other cultures. It is not unreasonable for them to feel that way and their opinions deserve respect. Not to mention that doing so would decrease the potential for violence. Makes complete sense.

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    • Franz permalink
      24 February 2012 5:20 pm

      Greg, I will surely write a new paper – I have an absolute personal obligation to do so. Please forgive me for the detail that follows, but I find it necessary as it allows me to formulate thoughts that I have only felt to this point. An incomplete response to your last follows:

      From my understanding, Sharia is built upon the 10 Commandments revealed to Moses, and undoubtedly the 7 revealed to Noah much earlier. The laws called Sharia expand upon the Commandments in accordance with the Torah, i.e. done so through God’s unmediated direct revelations to Moses and Aaron. Christians might observe that the Qur’an (doctrinal source of Sharia) focus on the Torah overlooks Jesus’ concern for the hollow and faithless application of the law, and that faith and forgiveness will justify all, even if they are modifications away from an ideal by who we all agree are weak men and women prone to sin. So, I have looked at this argument recently.

      What I found in the New Testament is that the missing faith of which Jesus spoke was in fact the unique quality of faith of Abraham. This is because his faith, unlike anyone before was spontaneous and true, and it sprang from the heart of a free will before the law was revealed (I believe this is discussed by Paul in Romans). As we know this is the cause of Abraham’s general celebration as our (Jews, Christians, Muslims) common, earthly patriarch. My read from the New Testament is that the faith of Abraham in a man or woman establishes the priority of faith and thereby gives substance to revealed law when it only retained form over time. What I guess we would all say today is that without Abraham’s quality of faith the law is an empty suit of hollow ritual to look good in front of friends, family, and community – a universally acknowledged and despicable bad practice for all Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Islam reveres Jesus and the Gospel for this reason, and he fills the Qur’an, and is even acknowledged as the Messiah. You can imagine what a personal delight it has been for me to discover the agreement of these great doctrines. Now, back to Sharia, given all this consistency, my God-given reason, and given faith as the law’s foundation and justification, there is no revealed authority to modify the law(s). This modification we have done ourselves without and in violation of Scripture. So, my read is that the Qur’an reaffirms the perpetual validity of all that which was revealed before, and provides amplification as God determined necessary. If one takes the law seriously in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim community, adherence is taken for granted. At the same time a lack of adherence can be perceived as a faithless and scoffing disobedience, even arrogance. It is identical to the disputed issue of “good works” in the Christian community.

      The Protestant might object and say that the mere execution of good works will not guarantee paradise because it is hollow showmanship for a selfish objective. The Catholic might counter that “good works” could not even occur if the faith was not preexistent that is required to prompt them, and they are logical self-evidence of faith. Now, having grown up as a Protestant I am a witness that the faith-supremacy of believing Protestants consistently leads to works that are good. Still, I must side with the Catholic perspective, which is not far from the Muslim fundamentally, or even Confucian perspectives. The disciplined act of obeying laws and executing rituals including charity, and however personally inconvenient throughout life is an awfully good indicator of faith/good character (Protestants and Confucius), even if the prompting stems from a fear of judgement in this or the next life (Catholics and Muslims). One might ask, an indicator for who? Not God – as per the Qur’an, He is closer to us than our own artery – nothing to prove outwardly would make a difference in His judgment. But laws, like Sharia, apply overwhelmingly to individual behavior within a community of men and women where, as we all know, the outward actions of one influence the thoughts and actions of others, especially the unguided and vulnerable.

      In addition to your comment regarding time and locality of revelation the following can be said. God revealed the Qur’an in real-time and in accordance with on-going events in Arabia, including the expulsion of Muslims from their homes and oppression that prevented them from worshiping God or having access to their holy sites. This is where the issue of Sharia “enforcement” and death of innocents must be discussed. Those events of 1300 years ago are as current for the Muslim as if they had happened yesterday. I only wish our children knew their history of a little more than 200 years 1/10 as well as the Muslim knows theirs back to revelations. In this the current context of societal and world events is constantly compared to past struggles, especially those revealed and recorded in the Qur’an. There is a sense of immediacy and urgency to right mindedness and behavior for the Muslim that is somehow absent for most Jews and Christians.

      The method for looking at this is best done by putting myself in the shoes of a Muslim, however imperfectly or inadequately I express myself. I have come to learn that Muslims are acutely concerned with the cause and effect issue of personal behavior in western and Islamic communities – in fact we can learn much from Islam’s sociological conscientiousness in these difficult times. Sharia is not in any way extreme, but it is exacting. It is the faithful application of conservative and respectful behavior that encourages personal accountability, all stemming from revealed Commandments and Laws that, from my humble perspective, we Jews, Christians, and Muslims collectively embrace as our own. The hyperconscious concern for individual and community corruption is what leads to strict consequences for avoidable deviations from law in Islam. Last night an observer commented on my paper and reminded me of the vices which unauthorized liberal interpretations/mutations of revealed law have permitted. I for one agree with him 100%. If my family were victimized because of the unchallenged existence of those liberal interpretations and the resulting vices it would no longer be an academic matter, and all bets are off. Unfortunately, then it is too late. I believe the concerned Muslim may see it the same way – whether in the U.S. or elsewhere – and considering the state of the world and the balance of forces feel that issue more important than life itself are at stake. He/she might perceive that the very purpose of his/her life namely, living a God-conscious life in a God-conscious community, with the hope of a final judgment that is just in recognizing his/her faithful striving, is jeopardized. I don’t know of a Jew or Christian who would disagree, as each would concur that our personal legacies will echo in this world and/or the next. All I can say is that Muslims take the issues of law, reputation, and legacy seriously now – tomorrow or last second repentance before passing is out of the question, a scoffing rejection of the seriousness of the matter. If I understand correctly in China it is “face,” taken extremely seriously and exactly the same emphasis with respect to personal reputation and surviving legacy.

      Jumping ahead, your examples of Lady Gaga and Madonna are perfect representatives of the moral relativism that is so anathema to all that is Islam. And they themselves have been victimized and exploited through a lack of knowledge and a lack of societal constraints. But they influence others. They and their ilk generate plenty of socially disruptive lust in me, and because I am just an average regular guy I know it is a sickness that is proliferated society-wide everywhere it receives exposure. And those two examples are the tamest as we all know. Our American society has gone to some dark places, and I am a witness as I see it reflected in my own character faults. It is no wonder that conservative Islamic states, the Chinese, and perhaps others in the future have imposed strict censorship. Returning to what I see as the shared Scripture, on what or whose authority did we collectively deviate so far from a straight path defined by the revealed law, one that so ably got our civilizations to this point, only to make incredibly crazy choices?

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  10. 24 February 2012 6:12 pm

    Franz, I guess we should continue this as a talk show or a barroom chat, at least until the owner throws us out. I find nothing to disagree with and much to support in what you said.

    There is one issue of law which I think needs to be addressed, which is that religious revelations in the past were for mostly illiterate people in an atmosphere that lacked both the hard and the soft sciences as currently practiced. So in that sense we are left with the proscription on pork, or stoning or dismembering people, and even the permission of slavery, which clearly we are better off without. Some heuristics for how to separate, let’s say, the First Commandment of Moses from the requirement in Leviticus to marry your brother’s widow, as just one example, needs to be possible.

    If the original revelation of Abram can be reduced, in a good and respectful way, to the notion that man has a divine source to which he can and should return, and that the possibility of doing that is contingent on both acknowledging that source and constraining one’s animal passions in an evolutionary and considerate way… one sort of arrives at a simple yet elegant formula that is consistent with all three major monotheistic religions. Many primitive, shamanistic and other traditions would have no problem with this formulation. The question then becomes, how?

    Given how sophisticated Islamic culture once was, and that it still contains necessary lessons for outsiders, those not culturally from Islam… there is a definite possibility of a synthesis, an exchange of sorts. I am sure this is overly simplistic, but as one example, the West has in some ways solved some things that has kept Islam down for centuries… the matters of succession and limiting clerical power. On the other hand, Islam has managed to preserve codes of individual conduct and decorum that are sorely lacking in the West and could benefit us greatly. Notions such as dignity and duty which in many ways seem to be obsolete here are badly in need of restoration.

    We really need to cut a deal with those guys;-).

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    • Franz permalink
      24 February 2012 6:42 pm

      Greg, I will keep it short. The greatest doctrinal commonality that we have with each other is the “Golden Rule.” That too, like the other areas of discussion you note, can contribute. You are right, we must cut a deal with each other in an acceptable fashion. Otherwise there will be a hell on earth that only some will live to regret. That is preventable suffering and preventable sin. We can indeed find common ground.

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  11. 24 February 2012 7:22 pm

    Franz, we are in violent agreement on the metaphysics and emotions, so that is done. One more thing I would like to add in the strategic realm is the following concept: narrowing the front against the primmies.

    This stems from reading Lawrence, and his notion as to how to best defeat the Turks when they had been driven off the coast and occupied nothing but an internal string of towns along the railroad. The British wanted him to roll those towns up one by one and consolidate the front, in line with WW1 doctrine. He refused, because he realized that a wider front favored his 4GW forces… the Turks had to man and supply that much more territory, could not give up ground due to pride, and thus were spread thin and easy prey for his forces, who in order to win had only not to lose.

    It seems to me that a vital part of victory over the antimodernists is similar but inverse. To wit, making travel, and the obtaining of technology including arms, and access to information and finances and so forth that much more difficult for the enemy is key. This will require some economic sacrifice and needless to say additional inconvenience. However it seems to me that it is completely worth it. A narrower front in all dimensions favors our more sophisticated, nonsuicidal side. A wider front favors their 4GW approach. This ‘front’ is both physical and metaphysical, crosses all dimensionalities. One corollary of this is being much more hesitant to in any situation ship any significant supplies or armaments into antimodern territories, and upon leaving, to ensure that it is all taken with or destroyed utterly. This fits with your no-holds-barred approach to the actual war, and resonates with Sherman along with many other excellent theorists and practitioners.

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    • Franz permalink
      26 February 2012 3:36 pm

      Bill, I will take a shot, but I don’t know if I am answering the question you ask. The fact that we (being a Marine I will claim for the moment that the we is DoD, the Agencies, the Interagency, etc.) are both “sophisticated” and “non-suicidal” in this day and age places us at a dangerous disadvantage. Ignoring the ideological/political specifics of our adversaries, let us look at their kit.

      They are becoming the “superempowered” individuals that VADM Cebrowski discussed, where their weapons and equipment when employed will enable an individual soldier to achieve strategic outcomes. If not one, then several in concert. Let us take the game of chess as an example. Imagine if a set of technologies quite suddenly disrupted the game at its outset, where from one moment to the next every pawn on one side came to possess the kit (armament) of a queen. Game over.

      Now add to this the ability of individual pawns (and it is particularly important to note that the real power passes to the pawns) to move out of turn, one at a time two at a time, timed simultaneity (like many attacks), whenever. What would cause them to unpredictably self-move? Higher Intent. This goes for anyone. If I were a young Neo-Nazi today I could point to “The Myth of the 20th Century”, the “National Socialist Primer”, “Mein Kampf”, “The Turner Diaries”, whatever; mostly dead authors – no “Commanders” to modify the intent – the beauty of the closed loop simplicity that I mentioned in the paper. It is the ideas that cannot be defeated. Kill all the “terrorists”, and what have we really accomplished – nothing. And the killing of any number of men and women who fight in an idea’s name make that idea stronger.

      That takes me to the power of martyrdom. My take is that a Martyr is a general class, not one conveniently narrowed to suicide bombers or some such so that we can place so-called “terrorists” in a bad light. It is instead the self-sacrifice for a cause greater than self-preservation that ends in death. Every fallen Marine, Soldier, or law enforcement official is a Martyr in this respect. Once looked that way, we all as soldiers knowing our own commitment can clearly see (and feel) the power and draw of Martyrdom. Now take the pawn, the peasant who had not the greatest prospects in life, until he/she was exposed to the idea and armed with the kit. If you top that all off with a festering anger, a slight that just won’t go away such as those who are bullied and helpless as kids, you have the makings of a pawn with the power of a queen, who moves at will. No “information operations” effort can interrupt that cycle, except perhaps the counter-balancing threat of annihilation of the pawn’s family and community, well at least in most cases.

      Now we come to the superempowered Muslim warrior who fights in God’s cause. We will definitely have the widely proliferated kit in coming decades. I will skip all details, but exponential technologies with enable that kit – that is a function of what I called technological inevitability (I cannot say more on this). He/she has the passionate grievances – and many if not most are 100% valid at many levels. Finally, and most importantly he/she has the higher intent as provided in the Qur’an. It is so important to understand that the Qur’an is a book that celebrates life, but it celebrates righteously lived life. It does not encourage death for death’s sake, even in the case of martyrdom. Martyrdom is a purposeful death as I being a Marine would hope to experience, as needed. But importantly it celebrates the second life, the same one that I/we have grown to know through the bible, and a life that will come through executing this life with straight precision. This includes to responding to specific societal circumstances where “lethal force” is called for (expulsion, oppression, blasphemy, many others). Returning to the Holy Qur’an, it is such a powerful doctrine that since the revelations to the Prophet I believe that every individual chess pawn has simply been a strategic force-in-waiting, waiting for the technological kit to accomplish the higher intent.

      Information Operations is a joke in the face of this situation. I have since I first read the Qur’an in the fall of 2010, that every U.S. Government man or woman – soldier or civilian – who intends to vist, deploy, or work in an Islamic nation should be REQUIRED to read the Qur’an cover to cover and show a testable understanding, before being allowed to step foot in that country. I brought this topic up while I was a recent student at a 1st IO Command course in VA. A few seemed to understand, others looked at me as though I were from a foreign planet. If we all had done so the recent situation in Afghanistan would have never arisen. Anyone who has read it would treat it with extreme reverence, understanding its significance, out of simple respect for others, at the very minimum.

      So, with respect to 4GW, I don’t know if I addressed your question.

      Like

  12. bill eccleston permalink
    25 February 2012 12:15 am

    “Israel, more than any other polity remotely located from the United States is the moral equivalent of Taiwan for China.”

    Say what??

    Just when did that happen? And among what segments of the American population?

    America—witness Eisenhauser’s prompt action to squelch Israeli ambitions in 1956—once had a policy of “America’s interests first” vis a vis Israel. Now, infamously on the world stage, we don’t, and it appears you are asserting we shouldn’t, that our defense of Israeli imperialism vis a vis the Palestinians is a good for us. Please clarify. You seem to have lost your head here. Isn’t our growing relationship to an increasingly racist, religiously fanatical, and anti-democratic rightwing state, fueled more and more by our domestic evangelical primitivists, an instance of our own embrace of the very anti-modernism you pose as our enemy? Certainly the rest of the world is asking that question in light of the spectacle the Republican presidential debates continue to serve up.

    Like

    • Franz permalink
      25 February 2012 2:45 am

      Bill, I should have stated that differently. I don’t think the majority of Americans would necessarily agree with that statement, well I know they wouldn’t. But you asked which segments. I would respond by saying the decision making segments. Since Eisenhower I think, especially since Johnson presidents have experience a codependency creep, and this is particularly true of Congress. So the “moral equivalency” is with those branches of the USG. So, I guess what I meant say is that the reality is that our reaction to an existential threat to Israel will be as strong or stronger than a threat to anyone else we consider a friend. Just because it is a reality for the USG does not mean that it is a widely shared public sentiment.

      As per my paper, I think we have inherited the responsibility for Israel’s fate. The whole state of Israel thing was set in motion long before our interest in the matter, even well before WWI. But then comes our intervention in world wars, seedling efforts that led to the UN, and then the Holocaust. All that caused a rush, and Israel was established prematurely, primarily because it was done without the buy-in of the indigenous Palestinian population. We had been complicit throughout in not asking questions. We and the Europeans were also quite racist in thinking we could impose a state because the folks there were impotent to resist (at that time!). Now we are seeing our error as those who object to Israel’s imposition can actually threaten her. We were complicit and we are hated for that complicity.

      How does the responsibility come down to us? Because of our superpower military capacities throughout, because of our land mass and infrastructure, because 35.2% of the world’s Jewish population lives in America – more than the 31.5% that live in Israel (no other country even comes close), because our decision makers have talked us into this position for decades, and the simple fact that we can accommodate a full-blown Naval and Air non-combatant evacuation of Israel and no one else can or will. If and when it becomes necessary it will fall to us – not necessarily a wish, but definitely a reality.

      I don’t blame the Israeli people for this dilemma. They suffer under bad governments and bad arrogant policies just like us and others. They also have (understandably) developed a hypersensitive concern for security that aggravates bad policies – and everyone around them suffers. When you (i.e. we) stick someone in a do or die context there are going to be winners and losers, and the Palestinians have certainly lost. If I or my parents had been booted out of my home and off my traditional lands to make room for foreigners I would be burning mad too – I would be lethal for generations to come. But, again, what were we thinking when we (the collective USG decision making we) thought up this bright idea in the cigar-filled salons of London, Washington, New York, and wherever else way back when. The European Jews just barely survived one Holocaust and in our smug post WWII arrogance we set the conditions for them to eventually face the next one.

      So, the reality is that the responsibility for evacuating Israel will fall on us. As for my personal opinion, yes, we should provide them a backdoor out of that nightmare so long as we are capable as a nation. Every Israeli child has as much of a right to see his or her blood line continue as do my own kids. This nation is complicit, and we must help solve it.

      Like

  13. bill eccleston permalink
    25 February 2012 4:01 pm

    Thank you, Franz. You have clarified your position wonderfully.

    One of the canards on the Israeli/American Jewish right is that those who, like Eisenhauer, advocate an America’s-interests-first real-politic approach would abandon the defense of Israel, throwing her to the dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the moment America became the first nation to recognize the state of Israel, there has never been any question of our commitment to her military defense. The surrounding Arab states, excepting Syria, have come around to the same view and have pledged their support for a two-state solution on that basis.

    This, of course, is no news to you. However, your paper, while taking pains to elaborate a diplomatic strategy vis a vis our posited allies against the anti-modernists, does much less to elaborate the same vis a vis the vast body of the Muslim world who are not radicalized anti-modernists, the ones we want to separate, co-opt, or otherwise divide from the bomb-throwers. Surely our strategy toward this one billions of people cannot be purely kinetic.

    While your grim view of Israel’s future could be prophetic, surely we are obligated to do all in our power to prevent such a catastrophe. A settlement between Israelis and Palestinians would do more than anything else to prevent that outcome and strike a wider blow at the forces of anti-modernism.

    And the means are in our hands, aren’t they? Hasn’t the erstwhile, pluckily independent Israeli state devolved into ever more dependency on the US? Isn’t it in the interest of all parties, especially the citizens of Israel, for the US to pull the plug on the Israeli right? Wouldn’t that be Eisenhauer’s advice? Or do you believe that we no longer have that choice, that cultural and economic degeneration in the US has so strengthened our own domestic politics of reaction, (see the Republican presidential debates,) that we are hopelessly stuck to Tar Baby?

    Like

    • Franz permalink
      27 February 2012 2:13 am

      Bill, I agree, we never intended to throw Israel to the wolves, nor will we do so. And it is true that many states have moderated their opposition and come round to accepting her existence, most prominently Egypt. However, the Arab Spring places the limited Mideast neighborly good will at risk, and Israel’s position is even more precarious. As a counter-balance our military commitment will become that much stronger. But what can the military do to protect a small encircled nation against WMD and superempowered individuals other than evacuation. The silliness of USG calls for democracies and status quo continuation when the strong men have fallen one after the other (perhaps Syria will be next) is quite naïve.

      Our diplomacy is currently impotent in the Mideast. Over the long term our ill-advised arrogance and assured unreliability drives disenchanted moderates into extreme camps. We knew before that Islamist hardliners, whether internal or foreign were waiting in the wings for the strong men to fall. They will now fill the void, and with great public support. If a more disciplined adherence to Islamic law throughout a society can bring order and safety back to the streets then that will be the path supported. However, our U.S. foreign policy makers seem to believe they can still dictate rule sets to others as if they were school masters with a stick of enforcement in their hidden hand: “democracy or else!” Again it is silly – America looks silly – committed Islamists (at a minimum) have no reason to take us seriously. More importantly, Russia and China don’t take us seriously – instead they shake their heads at our lack of ability to accept stern realities, many of our own doing.

      As for a State solution, there are deep emotional antagonisms between the Israeli people and the Palestinians. I am a witness from this summer, though I choose not to elaborate in order not to attribute my observations to specific people. They are all my friends. But my friends have inherited or through their own acts created blood debts. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is personal. It has touched each member of those populations at a personal heart-felt level that demands justice before any concept of lasting peace can be achieved. The rage is intense, and I believe felt at every level of society. And what do political settlements mean anyways? How long will the U.S. brokered Egypt-Israel peace deal last? Prospects do not look good. Did it buy a few decades on the inevitable reckoning, until a time when the tragedy of the reckoning will be so much more severe? The same goes for a Palestinian Israeli “solution”. Even if one could be negotiated what would it mean at the level of the individual blood debtor? Individual superempowerment makes state-level agreements ever-less relevant. Real solutions must be heart felt by each individual or they are meaningless. This is the point in history to which technology has carried us – unintended consequences for sure.

      I don’t think that the means are in our hands to force anything that might resemble preservation of a peaceful status quo. The codependency you note is real, and it grows. But we have no possibility of pulling the plug on the right. Israel is a democracy. Their growing extremism is a direct reflection of the real threats they are facing. I have read of folks building bunkers and all sorts of things to survive an all-out confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah, and perhaps others in the future. These responses are rational in light of the growing dilemma, one in which the U.S. will never be perceived as an honest broker by those outside Israel. But these measures will not help Israel to survive. Preparation for the non-combatant evacuation of Israelis to the U.S. is the only realistic alternative.

      Like

  14. 25 February 2012 5:16 pm

    For a bleak view of Israel’s future, see these posts on the FM website:

    1. The Fate of Israel, 28 July 2006
    2. The War Nerd shows how simple 4GW theory can be, 22 January 2009
    3. Are Israel’s leaders insane? Jeffrey Goldberg thinks so., 15 August 2010
    4. We can only watch as the nation of Israel slowly commits suicide, 30 November 2011
    5. Israel leads America on a march to war. A march to folly., 16 February 2012

    Like

  15. bill eccleston permalink
    27 February 2012 4:04 pm

    Franz,

    Your view is very sobering and I take it very seriously. Still, I can’t concur with your absolute despair. You have offered a first step toward a diplomatic strategy: recognize the confluence of interests among us, China and Russia and start taking concrete actions to build that relationship.

    But how to we behave—that troika, if you will—toward the Muslim world? The stick you have elucidated in detail. Dust off our Sherman and face the facts of war. Put COINs back in piggy banks where they belong. But the carrot? Mao asserted that the people are the sea in which the guerilla swims. The guerrilla’s first imperative, therefore, is to influence the salinity and temperature of that supporting body. Against the Muslim guerrilla, we seem to have taken that job off his hands with our complete subservience to the Israeli right. Perhaps my “pulling the plug” was an extremist construction itself, obscuring the point I wised to make, so I’ll take another shot at it. First, in all international relationships, the primacy of our interests must be understood, regarding Israel or anyone else. For example, when the whole world, including all of our allies, condemns the continued bad-faith settlement building in the West Bank, it is manifestly in our own interest to join them. Even if we simply abstain the next time this resolution if proffered — and it will be — it will send a shock throughout the Israeli body politic, over there and over here.

    The right in Israel and their supporters here will have no where to run except toward the center. There simply is no where else to go. The rest of Israeli public, there and here, will at last understand the stark existential predicament. There is no other moral choice but for the Israelis and us to attempt a good-faith settlement with the Palestinians. One must act. And the first step is stopping the settlements. If we, the US, cannot offer that to the world of Muslim public opinion, then, yes, there is no other solution but the kinetic one. And then where are we morally? We are back in the Book of Joshua, and though we will be something, it will not be “American.”

    It isn’t just our secular culture that has degenerated. Let’s put our American Christianity under the microscope, too, and ask honest questions. I do not, for instance, regard that snake-handling cult of ours as the stuff of comedy. As a group they are tiny, but as the politics of denial eviscerates the process so intricately designed by our founders to contain extremism, the snake-handler as the image of our predicament grows. Where once the rattlesnake was the symbol of our self reliance, “Don’t tread on me!” it is now the symbol of a menacing authority to whom we owe obedience. We are entreated not to act in our own self-defense, but instead to trust—incredibly!—in an Old Testament God of Vengeance. (I suppose if a fascist state succeeds our republic, one of the first authors they’ll burn will be Emerson.)

    Like

    • Franz permalink
      27 February 2012 6:21 pm

      Bill, If the kinetic solution becomes a reality it will necessarily lead to a total war, as you suggested. There are fanatics on all sides Jewish, Christian, Muslim, who would see the unleashing of such violence as “the sign” that authorizes their own expressions of religious ecstasy. I agree – un-American for sure – Clausewitz’s impassioned savages released in the high tech and very lethal 21st Century. This we must avoid, or we will all come undone.

      Separately, and beyond the issues of religion a bit, I do think that there has been a degeneration of America in one sense, a creep away from the balance intended at our country’s founding. I guess what I am saying is that the degeneration is of the careful constraints that prevented undo influences and dangerous imbalances. This includes the growing power of the Executive Branch and the infringement on the rights of States to operate their affairs reasonably independently. I think most would agree that to an ever-greater extent more power is being consolidated in the Executive Branch. Presidents since Johnson seem to have assumed greater national powers that do not require them to seek a consensus or approval, at least immediate approval, but sometimes none at all even after the fact. Presidents launch wars without declaring war. They also receive new authorities that resemble the emergency powers that un-American regimes elsewhere have used to gravitate towards dictatorships. Authorities and new agencies are often made law by Congress beforehand. But Presidents also accomplish this further consolidation around Congress in the form of Executive Orders. Many if not most have direct impact on States rights with respect to individual privacy, with the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency being two expanding national capabilities. Frequently candidates run on a promise to reverse this trend, to give up Executive powers that might appear to violate the original intent of the Constitution. But in the end they don’t and they become taken for granted into the future. Transparency is also promised by many with a true intent to deliver. But the realities upon assuming the responsibilities of the President cause that idealistic objective to be put on the shelf. The precedent points to a clear trend that will continue into the future, even if I don’t like it.

      The relevance of this discussion for Israel follows. As per the above, loyalties (or obligations) to this or that national policy, in United Nations votes or military actions, can be purchased or coerced, now more than ever before. As an example, one Republican candidate has received the backing of one of the richest men in America because that candidate has a heart-felt commitment to the existence of Israel. Now, personally, if I were blessed with billions of dollars and could build the world into an end-state of my liking I can only imagine that I would do so as well. I have great respect for the contributor because his generous actions are from the heart and directed to what he sees as a greater good – the preservation of Israel. However well-intended, I don’t think this is the America we envisioned, as the contributor would (or will) have a hugely disproportionate sway over our national policy if the benefiting candidate becomes President. The laws permitting such political action committee excesses are very much in harmony with the increasing power of the executive. Equally large, or perhaps larger contributions from pro-Israel contributors may flow to the Democratic side as well to accomplish the intent of influence, as a hedge against any candidate who assumes or retains office. Being part Jewish by blood, I marvel at and respect the depth of commitment of so many Jews to the status quo continuation of the Jewish State, and their ability to orchestrate influence to that end. I cherish that component of my heritage. But that unbridled enthusiasm is also at the heart of my concerns, and a principle reason that I don’t think it is realistic for any Administration to abstain or vote against an Israeli policy, no matter how far to the right, given the increasing rage and polarization in that region.

      Nevertheless, I want to incorporate your suggestion that we must at least attempt – and with gusto – to achieve a good faith settlement between Palestinians and Israelis in the form of a Palestinian State that includes the condemnation of the bad-faith settlement building in the West Bank. You are right; it is manifestly in our own interest to join our allies in such a rebuke, and if it could be achieved it would indeed send a shock wave felt over there and here. But very soon after that last ditch attempt we collectively must realize that any additional time works against us. This includes the futility of achieving a stable and unmolested Israeli existence in the Mideast (at this time), and the futility of avoiding the absolutely preventable perception that America is engaging in a war against Islam. To avoid coming face to face with the unthinkable deadline we must diffuse the situation and evacuate Israel to the U.S. So, I am with you, give peace one more chance and with forceful determination like never before. But in a world of widely proliferated WMD tech, especially nuclear, we must be prepared for inconvenient alternatives when it fails.

      Like

  16. david jones permalink
    28 February 2012 3:12 am

    Wow! So many significant ideas in this article. I apologize in advance for the long post.

    I started out reading this paper loving it immensely. The author thinks big, wonderfully big, and slices cleanly through much of the BS or American foreign policy discussion in the 2000’s – i.e., the inconsistent logic behind the war on “terror”, wishing to remain the sole superpower, and so forth.

    Moreover he identified the side effects of the whole world emulating the American way of life – that freedom, materialism, individualist values, and heavy use of of technology, they leave a good deal of wreckage behind, and moreover, the American way of life involves using a lot of resources and with current technology it’s simply impossible for the whole world to do it, yet every country is hell bent to try.

    Then I was horrified as he veered off on an ideological rampage, lumping all kinds of groups with anti-modernist sentiments into one, to be led by radical islamists.

    There’s a good bit of truth to what he says, and actually I don’t think his conclusions are affected that much by the things I don’t like. (for instance, that MAD works and it is logical to keep it up).

    But I think, in order to pick apart the various “anti-modern” forces, he must keep going, and show both the islamists and the anti-modernists some of the same sympathy he shows communists. Just as many of the communist critiques of capitalism were valid and apply even today, at the same time the communist system turned out just as deeply corrupt and flawed — similarly, there are many valid anti-modernist critiques of the American way, and it’s spread around the world, and yet obviously the solution is not to be a luddite, or to attempt to violently enforce religious fundamentalism on those who don’t want it. And it is obviously appropriate to defend ourselves violent fundamentalists who are actually trying to attack us.

    These details of differentiating the various “anti-modern” or “anti-civilization” or “anti-american” forces must be picked apart, otherwise we will never know who to fight, and where to direct the weapons we have. I strongly disagree with the idea that it is one big war. Thinking that way we will just make more enemies out of groups who are not our enemies to start with.

    And for that matter it is awfully dramatic to say that western civilization is actually threatened. In fact, we will, sooner or later, adopt some of the practices and ideologies of our current enemies, just as pretty much all western countries have adopted some degree of socialism. The result will be better for everyone, us and them.

    In this case, from what I can tell, the ideologies we will adopt are this: that we must put mechanisms in place in our society to limit the growth of “the machine” or the “giant global organism in which men and women are but cells”, and carve out a space for the passionate and spiritual and primitive forces. Strange that this is common to fundamentalists of all faiths, and secular hippies, and a heck of a lot of regular people who don’t just want to sit all day in a cubicle or the cab of a truck. Lots of picking apart the details to do here.

    So when he writes stuff like “Our anti-modernist enemy has ancient motivations and cost versus gain calculations that are completely outside of the psychological bandwidth of understanding of civilized peoples”. (p.73) — that is just plain nonsense.

    Aside from this, I found the article thought-provoking in a big way, and appreciate the logical, if somewhat cold-blooded reasoning.

    Like

    • Franz permalink
      28 February 2012 1:19 pm

      David, Indeed, I have much differentiation to do. In the paper I used broad generalizations to try to capture commonalities of folks opposed to what I guess one could term the spiritual wreckage of modernity. Then I ran into the flaw that you identified – generalizations fail on such a nuanced lot of different group outlooks. I hope you have a moment to read the other comments that were made on the paper before yours, and my answers.

      In researching the paper I focused on all these polities except for one, namely Islam. My understanding of Islam and the objections of “Radical Islamists” amounted to no understanding at all – i.e. ignorance. I found that I can’t just pick up two or three books and some news articles that I know in advance will reinforce my preexisting paranoia, quote them, and then call that good research. At best it can be dismissed as unqualified. At worst it is insulting and I miss the great nuggets of truth in an unfamiliar ideology/world view. Looking back, what I did in haste was throw the fuel of my ignorance of Islam on flames of passion that drive savagery, not of Radical Islamists but of knuckleheads like me who already harbored distrust. In a nutshell, and as I stated in my responses that I hope you read, I need to research properly and write a new paper. I have certainly already begun the research, as you will see.

      My realization that I might need to do more homework occurred in the fall of 2010 when Rev. Terry Jones announced his plan to establish an international ‘Burn-a-Koran Day’. The effect on me was peculiar. Instead of nodding in understanding I spontaneously determined that I would buy and read the Qur’an. After all, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The rest of the story is discussed in my previous posts to prior comments. What I will say is my adventure since then has changed my perspectives in fundamental ways.

      So, for me today the growing phenomena of anti-modernism continues to stoke tensions that will lead to a historical disruption of some kind sort, and something will have to give. But as far as what constitutes friend and what constitutes enemy careful differentiation that you stress is necessary. In a new paper I would redouble my criticism of our self-righteous American way of life in which “freedom, materialism, individualist values, and heavy use of technology…leave a good deal of wreckage behind”. Any outsider not sharing those values habits would be enraged, including myself. The pure arrogance of it stokes anger. The passions and savagery that I identified as enemy traits could easily find a home in me, were I not inside of the very groupthink as an American with my parochial interests of family, friends, and community. So, my so-called anti-modernists do share some common views, whether they are inspired by science, ideology, or religion – and they are angry, and may express themselves kinetically. But my realization of late is that both their anger and their sense of urgency are justified at many levels.

      I continue to hold that realpolitik is the most reliable way of ensuring disciplined cohabitation on our finite planet earth – cohabitation of men and women, and the cohabitation of humankind and nature. What would change if I could rewrite my paper is the identification of an enemy. In the end I have found that the enemy resides within myself (as a representative, a place-holder for the weaknesses that that reside within all of us). That’s a big change for me, so I have much work to do.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your comments, as every comment helps me to take a second and third look.

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      29 February 2012 1:57 am

      Franz, I read the rest of the comments, and should have done so before posting mine. Sorry to jump on something you wrote several years ago, I wish your writing and contributions got and will continue to get more exposure, and hope you keep it up! I don’t think you should go blaming yourself / ourselves too much though- our system is far from perfect but it also isn’t the great evil people that fundamentalists make it out to be.

      I guess the one thing I want to add, thinking about it a little more today, is to figure out and state clearly why I was so intensely bothered by one of the premises of your article- that radical islamists are the vanguard of anti-modern (anti-American-way) forces.

      Thing is, it’s sort-of true, in that they are in fact the main ones who have been putting up any kind of meaningful fight, and at times actually leading us around by the nose, provoking the US into entering unwinnable situations.

      But it’s also not true, since it is we who have been doing most of the work, by allowing and even causing the anti-modern sentiments to mix with the religious fundamentalist ones, driving the people of the middle east into their arms. Probably on purpose, during soviet times. But during the 2000’s we went spent much time playing the bad guy in the story of “modern civilization” vs “traditional values”.

      It’s also not true because it makes it sound like the language of the early communists, who would talk about an epic battle of communism vs capitalism. I think this parallel is a possibility but far from a certainty, and we should recognize it and avoid it.

      The clash of “modern civilization” vs “traditional values” does exist, but it (1) does not have to be an all-or-nothing fight to the death, and (2) the battle lines do not need to be drawn along the lines of religion. If we’re really smooth, it doesn’t even have to be an actual fight. Of course we’re probably not that smooth, so if it is an actual fight, it doesn’t have to be one that destroys civilizations or countries. I think that’s the center of my objection, whereas the original article seemed to encourage the epic deathmatch view.

      On their own, the anti-modernists can be negotiated with and even absorbed into our culture. We can get along fine with fundamentalists too, plenty already live harmoniously inside the US.

      It is the uncompromising violent fundamentalists who cannot be negotiated with, but I don’t think they would grow explosively unless we feed their cause with our words and actions, feed them an epic story of good vs evil and leave them in a situation where their only choices are extreme ones. I hope we continue to develop a national awareness of this.

      Anyways, thank you for your openness, hope this isn’t too wishy-washy!

      Like

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