Monday, October 09, 2006

# Posted 5:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PASSION OF THE DEMOCRATS: Quick. Name a national security issue about which all Democrats feel passionate -- and agree on what to do about it.

I didn't think so.

Coming from yours truly, this kind of criticism may sound fairly predictable. But Peter Beinart has enough credibility as a liberal to make this kind of criticism interesting when it comes from him. (Well, maybe not for the Kossacks who denounce Beinart as a traitor, but for most Democrats.)

In his latest column [sub. req'd], Beinart asks why liberals have been so quiet about the assault on free speech in Europe and around the world by radical Muslims who shut down their critics with the threat of violence.

Surely, Beinart suggests, this is the kind of bread-and-butter issue that should give Democrats an opportunity to demonstrate that they, too, have moral clarity and are willing to get tough with the enemies of freedom. Admittedly, the timing isn't great. Beinart writes:
I know, I know. Bush is a horrendous president. The United States is on the verge of a midterm election that could strip him of much of his power. And liberal blogs are focused on trying to make sure that happens. That's all well and good.

But it's not enough. There are liberal causes that have nothing to do with opposing Bush and his Republican henchmen. In fact, some of those causes might even place liberals and Republican henchmen on the same side. And liberals must be passionate about them nonetheless. Partisan militancy may be necessary to combat Republican power. But it cannot define what it means to be a liberal in the United States today.
The key word here is "passionate". In order to re-establish themselves as credible on the subject of national security, Democrats must demonstrate a passion for taking the war to the terrorists.

A lot of Democrats are passionate about withdrawal from Iraq. Some of them say it demonstrates their passion for the war on terror, because they want to fight the actual terrorists, not the insurgents in Iraq. But when you listen to Democrats who favor withdrawal (or just resent how Bush has handled the war), you don't hear very much about how violent Islamic fundamentalism is evil and how their life's mission is to destroy it.

Peter Beinart wants to change that. The fourth chapter of his book, The Good Fight, is all about passion. In that chapter, Beinart traces the history of Sunni jihadism from its birth in Egypt in the early 1950s to its current incarnation in the form of Al Qaeda. (For commentary on earlier chapters, see here.)

Beinart's message is simple: Democrats must recognize that jihadism is just as much of a threat to everything they cherish as Communism once was. Bush must be defeated, but jihadism must be destroyed. Stopping attacks on the United States and our allies is only the first step. Then the ideas that make terrorism possible must be destroyed.

Beinart deploys two strategies designed to inspire his readers with his own anti-jihadist fervor. The first is to emphasize how vulnerable America still is to terrorists attacks and how little the Bush administration has done about it.

I think vulnerability is an important issue, but given how much Democrats are concerned about validating the Republicans' rhetoric of fear, will they ever sign on to an approach that demands we be afraid of terrorism?

Hence Beinart's second approach. Nothing makes Democrats more passionate than Abu Ghraib, eavesdropping, Guantanamo and the Geneva conventions. In political terms, this passion is often a liability because it is directed at other Americans, not at our enemies.

But Beinart tries to turn that equation around by telling Democrats that if they don't get passionate about destorying our enemies, Republicans will keep winning elections, keep aggravating the terrorist threat, keep giving Americans more to be really afraid about,
And the more entrenched that fear cycle grows, the less free America will become. Which is why a new generation of American liberals must make the fight against this new totalitarianism their own. (p.111)
Even if Beinart is right, his argument may be too clever by half. Can a fear of how Republicans might curtail our civil liberties really make Democrats hate terrorists instead of Republicans?

I don't have the answer for how to inspire Democrats, but I think kind of passion necessary is clear. Its direct target must be the enemies of freedom. Liberals must learn to use phrases like "the enemies of freedom" without irony or shame. They must also learn to use the word "evil". Because until you believe that violent fundamentalism is truly evil, you cannot truly want to destroy it.
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion

Name a national security issue about which all Democrats feel passionate -- and agree on what to do about it.

Okay, how about enacting the 9/11 Commission's recommendations?

Was three seconds quick enough?
A little background. 'Idomeneo' is a Greek-themed Mozart opera. Its got Aeneas' father Priam, Electra and other stock characters from Greek mythology.

Mozart (or Varesco) didn't include references to a severed head of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the libretto. But the Berlin Deutsche Oper decided to add one to spice things up because this is what opera does. However, the Deutsche Oper then decided to cancel the production, evidently without al Queda's intercession. No one has been forced to do or not do anything.

Now we're caught up.

This incitement is humiliating to Muslims. I could of course defend it on Free Speech grounds as an empty academic exercise, but I wouldn't get passionate about it. I'm sure David would get equally passionate about defending Nazi's parading in Skokie.

Democrats must recognize that jihadism is just as much of a threat to everything they cherish as Communism once was.

Even if this was true, and it's not, then we should look at the Cold War as a model of containment and dialog. Think Truman not Bush.

Yet when David uses the self-censorship of a bad production of a Mozart opera as the illustrating example, albeit by reference, and compares this to the mass murderers of Stalin and Mao, really the argument loses its sense of scale. Even 9/11 is insignificant compared with the Cold War.

Lastly, I searched the White House, House and Senate sites for Idomeneo. The only hit was for the eponymously-named Representative Doolittle merely including an article by Jonah Goldberg:

"For me, the truly dismaying news this week didn't come from the NIE but from the German media. A German opera house announced that it would cancel its staging of Mozart's "Idomeneo" because Berlin police concluded that staging the opera -- which includes a scene in which Jesus, Buddha, Poseidon and Muhammad are beheaded -- would pose an "incalculable security risk" from jihadists."

The future of Western Civilization lies in the balance.
"In his latest column [sub. req'd], Beinart asks why liberals have been so quiet about the assault on free speech in Europe and around the world by radical Muslims who shut down their critics with the threat of violence."

Because "liberals" don't support free speech. Nor do they support actual liberalism. They want power and will do anything, short of outright violence, to defeat Republicans.
"Democrats must recognize that jihadism is just as much of a threat to everything they cherish as Communism once was. Bush must be defeated, but jihadism must be destroyed. Stopping attacks on the United States and our allies is only the first step. Then the ideas that make terrorism possible must be destroyed."

This is simply not true. Terrosists can certainly cause a lot of death and destruction, but they are not a fundamental threat to society, in and of themselves. Our knee-jerk responses to terrorism have done far more damage than terrorists ever did.

As for the ideas that make terrorism possible: I would contend that they are similar in character to the ideas that make statements like the one above possible. Eliminating either is not possible; but it is possible to reduce their impact on how people think.
Anon 10:38, that's a pretty good example. Certainly of something about which all Democrats agree. And when they talk about it, there is a measure of passion.

One question, though. I know the 9/11 Commission is still handing out D's and F's on its Homeland Security report card, but which of its initial recommendations have yet to be implemented? Some (like creating a DNI) have. Others haven't.

This is probably something I should know off the bat, but I don't. Which suggests a slightly broader problem: Can Democrats rally 'round the flag of something very few people actually know about? In contrast, "Bring home the troops" is a simple, powerful notion (albeit misguided according to certain Oxbloggers.)

Finally, Milan: If the ideas that make terrorism possible are similar in character to ones that animate OxBlog, then the solution is clear: America must wage a war of ideas against OxBlog!

(Just be careful. When offended, OxBlog has been known to burn down embassies and even shoot the occasional nun.)
Anon 11:00 -- You are right to point out some of the complexities of the Idomeneo incident. But that is really not the example on which my case rests (although I could've been more clear about that in my initial post.)

The cartoon controversy and the response to the Pope are much better examples that make exactly the same point. Or the murder of Theo van Gogh.

On a point of detail, my understanding is not that the Deutsche Oper simply cancelled its own production, but that it did so after German intelligence warned it (somewhat cryptically) that the production might result in an attack.

Finally, artistic incitment is not an "empty academic exercise" when it targets an ideology that seeks to punish free speech with death.
Beinart says the dems should think of Islamofascism as being as much of a threat as they thought communism was. Did I hear that right?
Which dems thought of communism as a threat after Scoop Jackson died?

Poor analogy, and, for dems, mystifying.
I'm supposed to think about the jihadis as I did the commies?
Well, then. Let's send a delegation to Riyadh to dialogue, laugh, cry, hug, worship, with the designated huggy bears and return to say that Ronald Reagan--oops, we mean George Bush--is a terrifying threat to life on earth.

Beinart is either in the first stages of faulty memory disease, or he hopes others are.

To use this analogy is like trying to start a car whose engine was never installed.
Beinart is PNAC neo-con. What he says is their problem, not ours. He may have been a Democrat at one time. I believe David used to be a Democrat.
Heheheh. That's right, at least as far as my party affiliation is concerned. You can always discount my motivations when it comes to giving Democrats candid advice.

But purposefully ignoring well-intentioned, well-informed liberals like Beinart is both intolerant and counterproductive.


On second thought, I urge you strongly to blacklist Peter Beinart and all other original thinkers to the left of center.
You just like Beinart because he is a crypto-Oxonian.
I didn't know there was any "crypto-" to his Oxonian. I thought he a fellow graduate.
"Name a national security issue about which all Democrats feel passionate -- and agree on what to do about it."

For a reasonable usage of "all": port security -- increase it, including mandatory inspection of all cargo; more attention to Afghanistan/Pakistan; more money for hiring intelligence/law enforcement people with foreign language skills, particularly Arabic, Urdu, and other languages of countries with a heavy population of radical Islamists; opening direct negotiations with Iran; being willing to consider giving North Korea security guarantees as part of our negotiations.

Really, it's quite easy to go on.

Digressing, have you ever considered activating date-stamps on your comments?
Beyond all this talk of having to want to 'destroy' jihadism, we need to look to our tools. Too many people talk about this as a military problem. But there is no primarily military solution, and it is not in fact a primarily military problem. The problem is the ideology of jihad itself - the whole paranoid, violent, one-size-fits-all, black-and-white Muslim Faithful versus the Infidel schtick, the idea that God hates 'unbelievers' and will burn them in a lake of fire for all eternity, and that killing unbelievers after convincing yourself that they're "attacking Islam" gets you, should you die in the process, a free direct pass into Paradise, without having to wait for Judgment Day. And what a free pass you get! VIIP treatment is what you get -- as a shaheed you're allotted seventy virgins who will feed you grapes as you lounge around in green gardens full of flowing streams. You get to choose about a hundred friends and relatives who will come directly to Paradise too, when they die, on your account. You get to invite them in. Isn't that cool? It says all this in the Qu'ran (alongside very frequent reminders that unbelievers in Allah and His Prophet Mohammad will be tortured in Hell for all eternity with no possibility of reprieve).

Mohammad, ironically, didn't make this idea of eternal damnation for unbelievers versus eternal paradise for believers in the One God up - he adopted it from the 'People of the Book', i.e. the Jews. Okay, he embellished a little too to give himself a role as the humble vessel through whom God speaks, and whose will must be absolutely obeyed, and who claims to be the Seal of the Prophets, the one after which no further Prophets will be sent by God. A guy's gotta eat, eh? So he set himself up for a touch of authority. Boys will be boys. (And ruthless, crazed megalomaniacs will be ruthless, crazed megalomaniacs.)

The Islamic belief structure itself is our problem. The fools who blather themselves into suicide bombings are victims as much as perpetrators - victims of a very, very bad set of ideas and a very unpleasant yet apparently enormously charismatic megalomaniac who lived nearly 1,400 years ago -- and all the mullahs who have made a nice living off his inflated reputation since.

This is a contest of ideas. There's no way we can or should attempt to kill all the people who have been colonized by the Muslim-faith idea-virus. What we should do is saturate them with secular information by every media channel available, and let's face it: We're going to have to call bullshit on Mohammad. Sure, they'll go nuts on the "Arab street", especially the first few times we do it. The way to respond is to relentlessly continue calling bullshit on Mohammad with every available information channel, truly relentlessly, for days, weeks, months, years on end. The Arab street can't riot every damn day - after a week or two, they'll realize they've got bread to bake and taxis to drive and prisoners to beat and so forth, and the enraged street protests will settle down. And some nonzero percentage -- however tiny at first -- of Believers will begin to doubt. Sooner or later, the dam will burst, and some people will openly talk to each other, saying: Y'know, I just don't believe anymore.

If we do that, we might survive the next few decades.

This is a contest of ideas. Let's put the guns -- most of them -- and focus on calling bullshit on the evil mind-virus that has taken control of whole subcultures. It's not true that Islamic extremists aren't consistent with the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran clearly instructs believers to be nice to fellow believers, and harsh with unbelievers (whom God hates and will punish, one and all, with Hell for all eternity, without possibility of reprieve, that's how evil and disgusting they are!). This religion is too deeply flawed to rescue. No Reformation can be achieved given the absolute authority Muslims ascribe to "the Seal of the Prophets". Muslims don't worship God; they worship Mohammad, or more precisely, the story of Mohammad and of what he supposedly said and did, as set out in the Qu'ran and the Hadith. Mohammad needs to be dethroned.

There's no other way, kids.
Again,my beef is word choice as the primary issue. Passion reminds me of Mel GIbson's movie,or passing the buck on to someone named Shaun. A more correct word for us DEMS is desire, and we use de-vices,to handle desires.We have a core DESIRE for National Security. Also, the writer that said 'dark and evil' characterizing DUBYA: EVIL is enough,and more energy efficient--saves two syllables,thanx!
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