Delvo, on May 3 2003, 10:46 PM, said:
What you've just done there, Christopher (other than smear abolitionists with a weird and insulting image that's either fictional or gained from a tiny minority of them)
No, it is not insulting and it is not gained from a tiny minority of them. It was just brief and apparently unclear. The abolitionists sincerely meant well, of course, but they were still operating under the prejudices of their age. Abraham Lincoln sincerely believed Africans shouldn't be slaves, but he also sincerely believed they were mentally inferior to whites and couldn't reach the same level of ability or achievement. That was the most liberal racial view you could find among whites of the era. It's not insulting someone to say he wasn't far enough ahead of his time.
The point is that you can mean well but still be paternalistic and condescending. The abolitionists saw their efforts as akin to taking care of children. They didn't consciously recognize the condescension, but they still denied agency to the people they were trying to help. They saw freedom as something they would give to the slaves, rather than recognizing the agency of the Africans to win it for themselves.
Let me go back to the abuse analogy. I once had a friend I feared was in an abusive relationship. I wanted to go to her and talk her into leaving him. But I talked to a social worker first, and she told me that that would be the wrong thing to do. She applauded my intentions, my caring for my friend, but helped me to understand that I was going about it the wrong way, that I couldn't give her freedom, she had to find it for herself. That if I did what I was thinking of, it would perpetuate her role as a passive object, and do nothing to give her power over her own life.
So no, I'm not insulting anyone, because I've made the same mistake myself, and it's a natural one to make. I wanted to act out of sincere compassion, but my impulse was wrong. It's hard to realize that sometimes the best way to help someone else is to stand back and leave them to their own devices.
(By the way, my friend is doing fine now -- the whole thing may have been a false alarm, or at least not as bad as I feared.)
, is make a sound case, not against the war, but for the war followed by a relatively quick withdrawal and then our standing back. The first part has happened, and the second is happening now as people and stuff are returned to where they came from to reduce our forces' presence there below a level that could sustain a forceful occupation.
I can see how it could be taken that way, but I'm still not sure I agree. It would've been better if the nations of the Mideast had banded together to solve the Iraq crisis.
Besides, if we just topple the government and then abandon them to deal with the power vacuum, history shows clearly that the results will be disastrous. Post-WWI Germany, anyone? Post-colonial Africa, anyone? Now that we've committed ourselves to this dangerous path, we'll do far more damage if we don't stick to it all the way.
The thing is, I'm not sure the Mideast is ready to find solutions from within. I don't think a generation is in place yet that has the ideas and the commitment necessary to find real solutions -- largely because the extremists keep sacrificing the generation that could find those answers, sending them out to die in their wars and suicide bombings. Looking at it on the large scale, I just don't think the sociopolitical forces in that part of the world are aligned right to allow a lasting solution to emerge, because there are just too many forces pushing for greater chaos and destabilization and not enough to resist them. I'm a believer in the "Generations" thesis of history postulated by Strauss & Howe, that history goes in recurring generational cycles, and certain kinds of things don't come to pass until a particular point in the cycle is reached. It's a thesis developed for American history, but I believe it's generalizable, and so far its predictions have been amazingly accurate. I think we're in the start of what they call the Crisis phase, corresponding to WWI in the last cycle. If their model is borne out, then things will keep getting worse for a generation to come, and won't get better until the advent of the next generation, toughened by the crisis and determined enough to find new solutions and paradigms and put them into effect.
One who isn't either anti-Bush or anti-Republican or anti-USA enough to think that Bush/Republicans/USA can't possibly be up to anything good, or anti-Arab or anti-Muslim enough to think they can't be trusted to handle things without either their own tyrants or tyrants from the outside keeping their natural lunacy under rigid control, could easily see this as the beginning of a process that will change the Middle East for the BETTER.
It's not as simple as that. I'd like to think it was such a process, but I think that's naive, considering the status of the Mideast. Any lasting solution will have to come from within, but the balance between radical and reform elements is just too strongly on the radical side at this time. The reformers keep getting drowned out and shot down and otherwise marginalized. And this war will only have served to make the radical voices stronger, because wars always increase the radicalization and polarization of political debate.
The Bush administration has this naive faith that democracy will magically transform the Mideast for the better. But observers of the region understand that in the current climate, democratic elections would put militant Islamists into power basically everywhere in the Mideast. You can't just bring in Western ideas and expect them to fix things -- the impetus has to come from within. Hell, the whole root of the current problem in the Mideast is the clash between secular Westernization, a movement which has clearly failed to bring prosperity and stability to the region and has only served to prop up dictators and oppressors, and the populist, Islamist traditionalism which has arisen in reaction to that. Said conflict is nowhere near being resolved. And there is no way a Western solution can work for the region -- that ship has long since sailed. The solution will have to come from a new, reformist paradigm that arises within Mideast culture and Islamic thought. Such a solution may eventually come from Southeast Asia, which is a hotbed of inclusive, liberal Islamic ideology and could well spawn such a reform movement. Maybe over the next couple of decades a new wave of reformist Muslims will arise there and spread a new system to the Mideast.
The thing is, people generally only embrace a new system after the last one they tried has proven a failure. Human cultures tend to behave like pendulums, swinging between extremes. When the Islamic culture of the Mideast saw themselves being outcompeted and pushed into poverty by the secular West, they figured that Islam had failed them and embraced Western secularism as a solution. Now they see that secular modernization has failed disastrously, and they're turning to radical, reactionary Islamism. Eventually they'll see how badly that's failed and be open to a new reform movement, but I don't think the pendulum has finished swinging in the reactionary direction yet.
The pundit articles I'll dig up.
You don't need to. The question is not whether anyone made these "predictions" or not. Because as I said, they're not predictions. I disagree completely that it was "wrong" for people to warn about bad things that could've happened but didn't. If your mother tells you to buckle your seatbelt in case you get into an accident, and you don't get into an accident, does that mean she was "wrong" to tell you to buckle up? Of course not! Because she wasn't making a "prediction," she was advising reasonable caution.
It is never wrong to make people aware of the possible negative consequences of their actions. It's not about "predicting" anything. It's about having foresight and being prepared. It's about taking all the possibilities into account in your planning. If you leap in blindly and do something reckless, and nothing bad happens, you weren't "right," just lucky.
I think we've also addressed that this isn't unilateral in any sense of the word. I honestly don't understand why that charge keeps getting repeated; it just isn't so.
Not from an American's point of view, no, but that's not the POV that matters in assessing this. My whole point is that we can't assume that other people's perspectives and perceptions are trivial. We defied the UN. We chose not to participate in the legitimate global mechanism for pursuing these issues, just because it didn't give us the solution we wanted, and just because we were powerful enough to ignore its wishes. That sets a dangerous precedent. It's vigilantism. It doesn't matter how big a posse you manage to assemble to back you up, it's still being a vigilante, working without the formal sanction of the community as a whole.