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Tuesday Evening Open Thread

I never said Obama was a progressive!

I never said Obama was a progressive!

Obama supporters discover that reality sucks.  Chambliss is leading in the Georgia run-off.

What else is new?

Which Came First?


Pop quiz:

Robert is a 20 year-old black man who was raised in the ghettos of Chicago’s South Side by a single mother.  He has committed a violent crime.  The reason he committed the crime is:

A.  He is black

B.  He is a young male

C.  He comes from a single-parent home

D.  His economic situation (poverty)

E.  Insufficient data

I would hope that everyone picked “E” as the correct answer, because we simply don’t have enough information to answer the question.  Although “A” is obviously wrong, not that many years ago it was believed that blacks were predisposed to commit violent crimes.  Answers “B,” “C,” and “D” are all considered by social scientists to be factors that contribute to violent crime.

Let’s try another:

Ali is a 20 year-old Iraqi man who was raised in the Anbar Province by a single mother.  He has detonated a car bomb.  The reason he detonated the bomb is:

A.  He is a Muslim

B.  He is a Muslim

C.  He is a Muslim

D.  He is a Muslim

E.  He is a Muslim

Whenever the subject of violence committed by a member of the Islamic faith comes up, it is assumed (unless proven otherwise) that the violence was motivated by religion.  The same assumption of religious motives is made of things like so-called “honor killings” and female genital mutilation.  But is that assumption accurate?

From Wikipedia:

Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion originating with the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The word Islam means “submission”, or the total surrender of oneself to God (Arabic: الله‎, Allāh).[1] An adherent of Islam is known as a Muslim, meaning “one who submits [to God]”. The word Muslim is the participle of the same verb of which Islām is the infinitive. There are between 1 billion and 1.8 billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.

Islam is a religion of peace.


Islam is the predominant religion in much of Africa and the Middle East, as well as in major parts of Asia.  Large communities are also found in China, the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe and Russia. There are also large Muslim immigrant communities in other parts of the world, such as Western Europe. About 20% of Muslims live in Arab countries, 30% in the Indian subcontinent and 15.6% in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country by population.

If you look at a map of all the countries where Islam is the majority religion, what do they have in common?  They are all Third-World or emerging economic powers.  Most or all of them are former colonies of the United States and/or European nations.  And most or all of them are patriarchal cultures.

When we see violence and the oppression of women in Central and South America, we don’t blame Catholicism, we blame poverty, colonialism, totalitarianism and the sexism of the culture.  Nor do we blame Buddhism for the violence and sexism that occurs in Asia.  But we blame religion for everything we don’t like in the Islamic part of the world.

Female Genital Mutilation is a barbaric cultural practice that is most common in Africa.  It is not part of the Islamic religion and its practice predates Islam.  The minority of Muslims that practice FGM are from cultures that practiced it before they converted.  However, because most of the cultures that practice FGM are now Islamic, we commonly see all of Islam blamed for the practice. 

Christianity is the world’s largest religion, and Jesus Christ is often called the “Prince of Peace.”  Yet millions of people around the world were murdered and oppressed in the name of Jesus, far more than by any other religion.  Was that Jesus’ fault, or was it the violent and imperialist European culture that claimed to act in His name?

The violence that takes place in and around the Islamic world has many causes, including economics, tribalism and nationalism.  That doesn’t mean that religion isn’t involved, but the Arab-Israeli conflict is not merely a religious war, nor is the dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.

If every Muslim on Earth were to suddenly convert to Christianity would the violence stop?  Would they suddenly give up their cultural practices?  Would they denounce all violence, cast aside the patriarchy and give women full equality? 

Have we?

Tuesday: New narrative-Hillary owes everything to Condi {{snort!}}

Ding!  Your Rice is Finished!

Ding! Your Rice is Finished!

David Brooks is a card, a real joker.  In his column today, Continuity We Can Believe In, he’s got to be kidding about how Clinton is going to take Condi’s initiatives and run with them:

It began with colonels and captains fighting terror on the ground. They found that they could clear a town of the bad guys, but they had little capacity to establish rule of law or quality of life for the people they were trying to help. They quickly realized that the big challenge in this new era is not killing the enemy, it’s repairing the zones of chaos where enemies grow and breed. They realized, too, that Washington wasn’t providing them with the tools they needed to accomplish their missions.

Their observations and arguments filtered through military channels and back home, producing serious rethinking at the highest levels. On Jan. 18, 2006, Condoleezza Rice delivered a policy address at Georgetown University in which she argued that the fundamental threats now come from weak and failed states, not enemy powers.

In this new world, she continued, it is impossible to draw neat lines between security, democratization and development efforts. She called for a transformational diplomacy, in which State Department employees would do less negotiating and communiqué-writing. Instead, they’d be out in towns and villages doing broad campaign planning with military colleagues, strengthening local governments and implementing development projects.

Fancy that!  Condi actually learned something on the job.  Will miracles never cease.  I mean, wasn’t this the same woman who couldn’t have imagined pilots who would deliberately slam their planes into people filled objects in order to cause death, destruction and defeat?  Did she think kamikaze only referred to a blue drink in a shotglass?

Yes, Brooks thinks the amazing Condoleeza Rice has spent hundreds of sleepless nights “toiling weak and weary” over some policy initiative that would spread money and assistance from the ground up,  It would start with the grassroots and try to change the world one poverty stricken person at a time.  It sounds like the plan we had promised Afghanistan right after we invaded them but this is *different* because it has the stamp of approval from Brooksie and that’s because Condi, who has problems with her working imagination, has tested it out. Sort of.

The Bush administration began to implement these ideas, but in small and symbolic ways. President Bush called for a civilian corps to do nation-building. National Security Presidential Directive 44 laid out a framework so different agencies could coordinate foreign reconstruction and stabilization. The Millennium Challenge Account program created a method for measuring effective governance.

Actual progress was slow, but the ideas developed during the second Bush term have taken hold.

Some theoreticians may still talk about Platonic concepts like realism and neoconservatism, but the actual foreign policy doctrine of the future will be hammered out in a bottom-up process as the U.S. and its allies use their varied tools to build government capacity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Philippines and beyond. Grand strategists may imagine a new global architecture built at high-level summits, but the real global architecture of the future will emerge organically from these day-to-day nation-building operations.

A priori,  a posteriori, symbolically. What’s the diff?  What do you want from this woman?  Hasn’t it been enough that she’s given the best 8 years of her life to Bush and Co?!

Finally, Brooks admonishes Obama and Clinton to get something done:

As Stephen Flanagan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, Obama’s challenge will be to actually implement the change. That would include increasing the size of the State Department, building a civilian corps that can do development in dangerous parts of the world, creating interagency nation-building institutions, helping local reformers build governing capacity in fragile places like Pakistan and the Palestinian territories and exporting American universities while importing more foreign students.

Given the events of the past years, the U.S. is not about to begin another explicit crusade to spread democracy. But decent, effective and responsive government would be a start.

Obama and his team didn’t invent this approach. But if they can put it into action, that would be continuity we can believe in.

Well, Condi and Gates didn’t invent the approach either.  And we shall see if there is any money left for action.  We may be left relying on the Clinton Global Initiative.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.