Monday, January 31, 2005

To All Iraqis: Welcome to Planet Earth!

Congratulations to all Iraqis.

As I see it, before the War Against Saddam Iraqis lived in Hell. Afterwards, Iraqis moved up to Purgatory. With this election, Iraqis have risen yet again:

Welcome to Planet Earth.

Dictatorship has been compared to a boat: luxury for some, drudgery for the majority, steady, safe and "comfortable" in its dynamics, but certain to sink when it hits a rock or fills with water in a storm.

Democracy is a raft: turbulent waters make steering difficult to control, one gets wet with every wave, but all aboard are sure to stay afloat. Yet every movement somebody makes is sure to affect the raft's course.

Did you really think that us Americans have more to teach than you Iraqis have been teaching us about the importance of democracy, "the worst system of government, but for all the others"?

G-d be with us all.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Public Diplomacy: Conversations with Smiley and Doc

Time for a New Approach?

Smiley:...many people would privately tell me...that I should just ignore all that silliness that the politicians say. Yet I have no doubt that if a...reporter stuck a microphone in those people’s faces...the answer would be the same tired old rhetoric.. (The Church Theory)

Then the challenge for the State Department is in the realm of public diplomacy: to work to create an environment where being openly pro-American is acceptable.

That requires more than the occasional lecture on life in the U.S., but active research on a country's current social and political institutions, followed by appropriate action. Is the State Dept. really set up for this?


You have a point about Public Diplomacy. It is true that the Dept could do a lot better in that regard. I'm not sure that State has fully figured out how to make best use of its PD resources once the USIA merged. This is a long term struggle, however, and even having the best PD in the world won't make an immediate difference. But like I said, the invasion of Iraq and the Bush admin's initial lack of concern with its appearance overseas have given those with something to gain by being anti-American a huge leg up. The president admitted this much in a recent CNN interview, and I expect our PD efforts to increase in the next four years.

I don't doubt that. But I cannot see that such an effort will be successful without changing the methods used to do so.

I think everyone can perceive the failure of the current approaches. I can only suppose that the State Dept. may lack the courage, motivation, authority, and imagination to try new ideas and implement new solutions.

I don't think that is correct, either. I'm not saying that State hasn't been laggardly to some extent, but to be fair, Public Diplomacy slipped off the radar once the Cold War ended. This is one of the reasons why Jesse Helms ramrodded the dissolution of USIA through Congress - policy makers in all realms of govt thought PD wasn't necessary.

It was only about 4 years ago that we realized this wasn't the case, and there still hasn't been the kind of support by policy makers for PD efforts, despite much carping about the need to do so.

So while State hasn't done the best it could, it is simply incorrect to saddle the dept with all the blame. Without the establishment of priorities by policy makers (and the concomitant appropriation of resources), our executive branch agencies simply muddle along, rudderless.

Doc: Even in my corner of the Far Abroad, where President Bush and America are viewed as the greatest existing threat to world peace by over 60% of the population I have only once been subjected to any anti-Americanism..

Doc, I think you've missed something: Anti-Americanism may be focused less on individual Americans than upon America as an idea. This even applies to our allies, as I tried to make clear in the opening post of my blog.

I will go further and hypothesize that lectures about "American history, values, and traditions", if slanted incorrectly, may actually inflame anti-Americanism. For no nation is better "known" throughout the world than the United States of America. Simply supplying knowledge about the U.S. isn't enough.

Perhaps what disturbs me most is that State is an inherently conservative organization at implementing changes in Public Diplomacy. It seems that everyone is put through the same grinder and only after a half-decade of employment can a FSO be entrusted with developing new approaches -- and by that time the creative flame that burned within may have been considerably dimmed by drudgery. Furthermore, the time invested by the FSO at State may have inculcated a careerist "play safe" approach: I guess that experimentation may be discouraged because no noisy "failures" are tolerated.

However, the U.S. is at war. This is not the time to play safe -- not while our soldiers and citizens are dying at the hands of terrorists partly inspired by America-hatred. Something new is needed. NOW!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Moral Superiority, Part II

I do not pretend to have a complete answer for all my readers who have been kind enough to respond. I am, however, caught by TheBloke questioning the utility of the proof. That's where my mind has been the past few days.

Consider how the politically correct no-morality-is-superior idea is utilized today. I do not think it makes a pretty picture.

Walk through an airport: Security must assume everyday that a young middle-eastern man who probably come from a background where the killing of "infidels and unbelievers" is actively promoted is equally likely to be as good as the little old lady whose primary concern is the well-being of her parakeet in the cargo hold. Well, if I was a security officer, and those were the rules, I might try to search more little old ladies than necessary -- they won't protest as much, and the job will go that much faster...

Or look at our schools. If all moralities are equal, and America is primarily Christian (with a few Jews here and there) than it follows that atheism and Islam are underrepresented, hence the suppression of Christian displays and the appearance of the celebratory film "The Sword of Islam" as classroom instruction.

Or look at the media. Radical Islamists attack defenseless Jews, Christians, or Muslims and the MSM always reports that BOTH communities are at fault. As long as the MSM stick to the politically correct line they can do little else.

Now consider the application of the idea that moral superiority exists even if we do not define what the standard of moral superiority is. (Such a definition was never part of my proof.)

The airport: Security can now look at everyone with a discerning eye based upon experience, rather than enforced race-neutral prejudice. "Harassment" rules still apply, as they do for everyone, but the nonsense with quotas disappears. No more class-action suits!

Education: Teachers are now more free to target specific techniques to specific groups, are freer to discipline individuals in troubled communities, and can apply their own judgment, or that of the community, to deciding the "moral" education of their youth.

Media: Journalists would be able to tell the unvarnished truth, without forced ideological distortions.

Of course, there are many other vested interests, and even some laws, in the way of applying this principle, which I now think of as, "For every choice, a moral superiority exists, even if we don't know what that is." If that doesn't sound as satisfactory as previous concepts of absolute moral superiority given by a particular religion or the absolute moral equality of the pre 9-11 world, I say: well, it will grow more familiar with greater use.

I note that these arguments do not form a rigorous proof and I invite my readers to poke into any holes they may discover.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

a logical derivation of the possible existence of moral superiority between races

[My apologies to those offended by even thinking in terms of "race", but I am only doing so because some writers have based their arguments upon such principles.]

Let us consider the following grisly thought experiment, in the form of a logical proof. Given: Race "X" exists, but is completely dominated entirely by another race. The conquering race forces each member of "X" to kill themselves, except for those willing to break the laws of "X" by throwing a spear and killing their fellows.

Thus, all surviving members of "X" are murderers - they committed unlawful and premeditated homicide. Therefore, the statement: "All the people of Race X are murderers" is logically true. The surviving members of Race "X" embody a moral principle not universally shared by their fellows before the slaughter: That it is better to choose to slay your fellow than die with him.

Now consider: Race "Y" exists, and is also completely dominated by another race. All members of "Y" are slain who show the slightest sign of aggression -- including objections over the slaughter of their fellows. Now the statement, "All the people of Race Y are peaceful and harmless" is logically true. The surviving members of Race "Y" embody another moral principle: That it is better to let your fellow die than move a muscle to save him.

Finally: Race "Z" exists, and is completely conquered by another race. Like "X", every member of Race "Z" is offered the choice between throwing a spear at his fellow or being slaughtered. Unlike "X", the would-be murderers of "Z" throw their spears at a mirror image instead of a real person. The would-be murderers are killed instead. Therefore, the statement "None of the people of Race Z are murderers" is logically true (according to the knowledge of their conquerors) and the surviving members of Race "Z" embody the opposite (contrapositive) moral principle of Race "X": It is better not to slay your fellows but to die with them.

The moral principles of Race "X" and Race "Z" are mutually exclusive: the two sets cannot intersect. That a "moral superiority" exists between them is certain, because this was the choice faced by the unlucky members of X and Z. One must now decide whether the moral principles of "X" are superior to "Z" or vice-versa. Saying they can't apply because they are conquered peoples is to ignore the given conditions. And once one has chosen between "X" and "Z", one must consider Race "Y": these people could logically pass the same test as Race "Z" -- unless one considers them "accessories to murder", of course.

(And once one has made these choices, one must decide: Based on their deeds, what sort of "dignity" have they earned? And how, therefore, should they be treated, encompassing the question of whether or not they should be treated differently.)

These three races exist only in our "thought experiment", but, unhappily, there is no logical reason why such extreme situations can't happen in our real world of today. (Maybe someday some of us will be unlucky enough to be forced to make such choices; perhaps some readers already have.)

Furthermore, there is no reason I can think of why situations between the extremes can't exist, either: say, two-thirds of Race "P" possess the qualities of Race "X", one-third of "P" the qualities of Race "Z", and so on. Then judging between the "races" is much more difficult. Perfect knowledge is required to achieve a precise measurement on the scales of justice, but incomplete knowledge may suffice to tip the scales one way or another.

Therefore, the situation that "no race is morally superior to another" can only be a special case.

Dear Reader, your comments are greatly desired. Thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Western Moral Superiority?

[A Spinoff from The Diplomad]

The Diplomad: Begging the pardon of the cultural relativists, but might we not be allowed to raise -- ever so gently, of course -- the possibility that these differing reactions to human suffering, show Western civilization as the best we have on the planet? Maybe, just maybe Western civilization is morally superior.

Messy Christian: Your comment that Western culture is morally superior is offensive and disgusting to me. It is this boorish superiority-complex that we abhorr. Perhaps some of you should stop and think for a while why some people in the world are hostile to Americans - especially after comments like this?? Turn the tables and you'd react the same!

I would appreciate more of your input on this matter. Exactly WHY is The Dipomad's "comment that Western culture is morally superior" (as you put it; he only raised the issue as a question) offensive to you? Is it just that he is being rude, or is it something more?

Messy Christian: Honestly, must I explain why it's offensive? Surely if someone said the same of Western culture you'd be offended. If you want to really know why, I blogged about it today at [my blog today].

[from there the discussion continues...]

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why, exactly, do Muslims hate Jews?

[Updated 12/8/08] Wxjames asks Why, exactly, do Muslims hate Jews? Wadard's reply: I honestly don't know - Solomon2 sounds like he might be able to give an insight.

To be asked to answer such a question is an awesome responsibility. What follows is only an attempt, a guess, at grasping towards the answer:

Why do Muslims hate Jews? I can not answer that question, for I believe that the source of hatred of one human towards another lies in the soul of the hater, not in his object of hatred -- because that is all I am, a thing, an object, not a person: see my blog entry Snowblower Diplomacy.

Yes, the Koran calls for Muslims to hate Jews, but that can't account for Muslims' feeling of hatred towards Jews. For that one must look deeply into the hearts of the Arabs and Muslims: not their history, but the life, education, and experiences that have shaped the outlook of Arabs and Muslims today.

For the hatred many Muslims FEEL towards Jews has not been a constant presence throughout the centuries of Islam's existence. Once the Qu'arites were wiped out, most Jews accepted dhimmitude rather meekly; they were, after all, already under the thumbs of the Byzantines, Persians, et al and so a change in masters didn't change much. Spanish Jews probably even abetted the Muslim Conquest, and they retained a privileged status throughout the period of Muslim rule of Spain, Jews intermarried with local populations in Yemen, and Baghdad itself, supposedly, was once 40% Jewish in population. One crazed Egyptian ruler took it upon himself to disobey the Koran and raze Jewish synagogues outright, but afterwards the Muslim community itself paid for its reconstruction.

However, the Jews were dhimmis, and as such, had to pay very high taxes. Those that did not want to do so had an easy way out: they could convert to Islam. Many did, yet the Jewish communities of the Muslim world long continued to grow and prosper.

The differences between the two religions are very great. Judaism does not require every non-Jew to convert and follow the 613 laws of the Torah, but only the Seven Noahchian Laws (no idolatry, no blasphemy, no murder, no robbery or theft, no "immoral" sexual relations, no dismemberment and consumption of live animals, and the establishment of a court of justice). Jews were only commanded to occupy the Promised Land, and while the extent of the Land is disputed its boundaries were specified very carefully, to establish themselves as a nation in the Land, not just a wandering band of journeymen laborers (which is, apparently, what the ancient word Hebiru meant) or slaves. Although Jews could travel and settle elsewhere, and become citizens of other lands and rulers, this is where the Jewish soul was to remain. The new nation was told what laws it was to follow and informed of its strange and unique role in Creation: that through the experience of Israel, the Chosen People, all the nations shall learn and acknowledge G-d as one. (Exactly how Jews are supposed to do that is, itself, a most interesting question.)

So Judaism always envisioned the existence of non-Jews, even as a majority of the world's population. Non-Jews are always people, nothing else.

Unlike much Christian worship, Islam is not a form of idolatry; but in theory or practice it has a fundamentally different view of relations between groups of humans.
As I see it, if you are a Muslim, you may be treated as a person by the community (but there doesn't seem to be any guarantee). If you are one of the "People of the Book", you are a dhimmi and should be made subject to Muslims; you only live and have property as long as Muslims consider convenient. And if you are neither a Muslim nor one of the "People of the Book", you should be robbed and slaughtered as soon as possible if you refuse conversion to Islam, or even if you do convert and stronger Muslims dispute your worship. Non-Muslims are always a threat, even when they give Muslims their charity; and in today's post-tsunami world I need not cite any examples to buttress such a statement.

Thus, Islam as practiced may tend to mold a society to be at war with non-Muslims, and create great tensions between "other" Muslims. Natural human imperfections are thus sufficient for rule of law to become oppressive rule by law, one community versus another; Darfur is only the latest example. Thus, the family, then the tribe, is the refuge and safety for the Muslim.

As support for this view, consider the role of the wedding in Muslim and non-Muslim cultures. For Muslims, is The Wedding not a great union of families and alliance of tribes, and an occasion for exceptional celebration? For Christians and Jews, it is (at most) a union of individuals and their families, and of much less importance.

(This may also explain the lack of interest of Muslims outside the immediately affected communities to send much material aid to their co-religionist victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.)

Furthermore, consider the role of the imam. His base of influence over his community is his knowledge of and skill at interpreting the Koran. He cannot exercise such influence over any non-Muslims in the community, nor over their property. Some humans treasure power over any other possession; is it difficult to imagine an imam who wished to extend his power by converting, destroying, or stealing the possessions of a non-Muslim community?

The Jew or Christian, however, can carry on quite well living as neighbors in a community of rule by law. That continued source of tension (or is it oppression?) that one's fate is much reduced, even forgotten.

So even when Muslims don't contact Jews in their daily lives, may they not experience being wronged in one form or another by their fellow Muslims? Could a competing power structure such as I describe of Muslim society prevent a Muslim who feels wronged from feeling the satisfaction of justice? And then, what would such a person feel? Would he ask himself, "Is being a Muslim a humiliating experience? Why is Muslim society not perfect, would I not then receive perfect justice?"

If so, how could such a person direct his resulting anger? It could be towards his rulers, his fellows, or the person immediately responsible for the humiliation. However, Islam offers the disaffected another answer: Blame the Jews! Blame the non-Muslims! Blame the "other" Muslims! It is their fault that the Muslim World doesn't function correctly! Once the "others" are gone then the world will be perfect! Because Islam is the ONLY true religion and, as such, this is the only explanation that could be.

This explanation is socially acceptable -- that is to say, it doesn't damage the Muslim family, community, tribe, or nation. So is it any great wonder that Muslims direct the anger of their disaffected outward?

Such an explanation falls into nothingness if Muslims themselves, in their deepest hearts, consider their own societies to be perfect. As a Jew, I simply cannot answer that.

Note, 12/1/08: Attention students! This is a popular post for essays and mid-term papers. I suggest you reference it correctly.

Update, 12/3/08: Reviewing the book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, scholar Danusha Goska summarizes:
Muslims did not learn their anti-Semitism from Christianity. Muslims who had never met a Jew or a Christian brought their culturally-ingrained anti-Semitism with them into India, a largely Hindu and Buddhist sub-continent. Nor did they aquire anti-Semitism from Scientific Racism's or Nazism's racial disdain for Jews. Arabs are Semites, just as Jews are. Muslims forced Jews to wear distinctive badges more than a thousand years before Hitler did so. Christians also had to wear identifying badges under Muslim leaders.

The Koran is replete with anti-Semitic verses, most notoriously, the ones equating Jews with "pigs and monkeys." There is also the hadith, or saying of Mohammed, that rocks will speak to Muslims, asking them to kill Jews. These verses are freely cited by Islamic religious leaders today, as Muslim sermons posted on youtube reveals. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, exercised murderous hostility toward Jews.

It will be very difficult to discover reformers within Islam who wish to co-exist with Jews in respect and tolerance; it will be even harder for those reformers to realize their dreams. Islam leaves no room for reform, especially when it comes to hostility to non-Muslims, especially Jews. The Koran is believed to be the perfect, unchanging, eternal word of God, and the Muslim God refers to Jews as monkey and pigs.
This view is supported by Muslim-born Magdi Allam (recently publicly baptized into Catholicism by the Pope) who states
"Unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man," Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, "being one with God, is not interpretable."

"The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values. In the past, I tried to make myself the spokesman of an Islam moderate in itself -"
only to discover his efforts doomed to failure.

Given the content of Islam as described in Legacy and the logic of Islam as explained by Allam I can make this conclusion: Islam cannot be made "moderate" or modest enough to stop hating Jews. Only individual Muslims can.

Traffic Note: 12/8/08

The Mumbai Massacre has resulted in a flood of Google-directed traffic from India, but none at all from Pakistan. I am reminded of the joke Trappenwitz recounts from the heady days of German reunification:
Speaker: Hey, I just heard that the first act of the re-unified German Parliament was to declare their intention to kill all Germany's remaining Jews... and two postmen.

Listening: [after a long pause] Um, I don't understand... why two postmen?

Speaker: What, wiping out Germany's remaining Jews doesn't strike you as odd,... but the death of two postmen does???!

For some people, killing Jews is just part of the natural order of things.

Related: On Muslim Tolerance and Terrorists and War in Mumbai.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Tsunami, Global Warming, and The Weather

It is a sad commentary that the global warming crowd hasn't been picking up on the effects of the tsunami.

Don't they realize the huge amount of energy released was coupled to the world's oceans? That all that energy had to be dissipated as heat, some on the ocean bottom, some in the water itself, some directly into the air, but the largest fraction upon the shores of islands and continents, as the mechanical energy of the wave was converted to heat?

That this must result in increased evaporation of water into the air, yet the increased moisture would tend to remain in the atmosphere, carried by prevailing winds, until contacting appropriate nucleating particles?

That this would not happen until the moisture intersects airborne dust and pollutants?

Hello, California? Hello, L.A.? Hello, Berkeley?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

On The Extinction of Woolly Mammoths

So we just have to wait two or three generations for these deluded souls to die off, I suppose.

Or am I missing something?

Joe Bonfort, what you are missing is that institutional biases have great staying power. This Professor Woolly is greatly biased and he brooks no disagreements, so it seems clear to me he believes himself to be a mammoth in his field and will exert great energy to make sure that no one with opposing political or academic views will enter his department. So even when he dies off, there will be someone to replace him.

Once such biases are introduced, the process naturally accelerates and the entire department gets worse and worse. If the department can tap funds from other parts of the university, it can continue indefinitely; but if each department is required to fund itself, the odious reputation scoundrels create may convince (given time and knowledge) the department's donors to reduce funding to the point that the entire department must close up shop, and its professors must seek employment elsewhere.

Then a new department can be created, or, more likely, perceptive administrators could foresee the final implosion and create a parallel, competant department in good time. So the Psychology Department will teach sociology, the Classics Department history, the Applied English Department english literature, and the Environmental Engineering program at the Engineering School will replace the Environmental Science Department in the School of Arts and Sciences.

But some students will be out of luck entirely. Some of these may decry the unfairness of their fate to university administrators, not realizing that in the long run they may be better off in a different major entirely rather than remain in a corrupted one, maybe not even knowing that their department was corrupt at all; it isn't something anyone involved in the process (donor, administrator, professor) would care to talk about: the donor doesn't want to admit he's been swindled, the administrator doesn't want to admit his university isn't all it's cracked up to be, and the professors stay quiet because they want to get another job.

It may seem incredible to the outsider or the student, but there may not even be a paper record of this process, as one can imagine everything happening quite naturally, just by word of mouth.

Naturally the students -- especially the graduate students -- will suffer. But in the long run, they may be better off in a different but honest occupation rather than start life with a corrupted college education.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What would happen if we called things by their "real" names?

Omar says "I just hope that the medai [sic] will someday go back to reason and quit using the term "insurgents"...They must consider calling things with their real names...That's if they want to be "objective" as they claim to be."

And if they aren't objective, who is going to tell the media's victims? The politicians?

Very few people can actually check on the media to verify the veracity and judge the selectivity of their reports. I can do it, sometimes, because I live in the D.C. area; Iraqis can do it because they are living the nightmare and can see media distortions for themselves. News bosses now say they their highest value is their reporter's safety, and "insurgents" shoot at unfriendly voices much more readily than U.S. troops -- that's just one, but not the only, reason why the tone of reporting is so skewed.

Besides, just THINK of what news reports would be like if we called things by their real names:

"insurgents" would be called "re-enslavers"

"Palestinians" would be called "stateless Arabs"

American "occupiers" would be called "liberators"

and, of course, "militants" would be called "terrorists"....

I'm not going to do it all, let someone else continue!