11.15.2010 03:48 PM

Desperately seeking smarts

I’ve been asked to go on a CBC panel, tonight, to discuss Tony Blair’s comments to Evan Solomon – to wit, that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are really just about a struggle within Islam, modernity vs. fundamentalist extremism, etc.

I’m no expert on that subject, but I do know from my Irish Catholic experience that if these conflicts are really about faith – and not oil, or treasure,  or power, or strategic position – then we are well and truly screwed for about, say, 1,000 years.  That’s usually how long these deity-driven things take to peter out (thus my preoccupation with the separation of church and state, BTW).

Evan interviewing Blair is here.

What thinkest thou, smart commenters?

20 Comments

  1. Dana says:

    Sure, that’s fine as a thesis. Makes as much sense as many others.

    Except then why do Xtians think they have the right to barge in on it? Oh, yeah, I know – 9/11,9/11,9/11 repeat ad metus extremis.

    The last great “threat to our way of life because they hate our freedoms” was *godless* communism. That seemed to be fairly well contained over time without resorting to all out armed conflict for 10 years and counting. But inject the deity toxin into the mix and containment isn’t enough we have to kill them all.

    Blair is a (supposedly) a devout Catholic. Which faith of course has no history in the region or with Islam, so he would be the perfect person to address this, wouldn’t he?

  2. Ted says:

    Totally my view too: a fight between a tribal, traditional way of life vs a more industrial, international, modern way of life.

    Only in part and in an ancillary way is it anti-western: in the sense that much of the “modernizing” comes from western ideas and consumerism and goods, as well as from “elite” Muslims returning from abroad (usually for schooling or business). The west is also an easy scapegoat.

    But it is far more than just anti-western, and goes back decades. The whole overthrow of the Shah of Iran can be seen in this light: that wasn’t about America, though many blamed them for turning their leader against the people.

    Think of where the hotspots of conflict are and who the biggest victims are. 3,000 or so people died on 9/11, but 100s of thousands have lost their lives in this conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

    From Muslim extremists/fundamentalists letting schoolgirls burn to death rather than let them escape a burning building not fully covered up or killing the sick who take anti-malaria/anti-smallpox drugs or other medication.

    It’s like the Inquisition, except for the most part the modernization (such as it is) has come from the top down (like in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, even Pakistan and Afghanistan), so there is usually some sort of civil war or battle that takes place first before the purification/retrenchment.

    They are classic “reactionaries” reacting to the changing circumstances around them and attempting to cut it off by any means necessary.

  3. michael hale says:

    In politics, “god” is an excuse or cudgel or justification or a foil for self-mortification.

    These wars are about containment, influence and control. In the right circumstances, those are all good reasons (or as good as a reason for war can be).

    But when politicians, such as Mr. Blair, begin using “God” as a reason for something they did, it is useful to go back to my first sentence and ask yourself whether any of “excuse/cudgel/justification/self-mortification” fit the bill.

    In Mr. Blair’s case, I think all four fit in a strange and twisted way.

    As an aside, the God I know and worship has never been nearly as interested in war as his professed followers seem to be.

  4. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I agree in part with Blair. But remember, terrorist groups get as much mileage with “foreign occupiers” as they get with “infidels”. To equate terrorism solely with internal bloodletting within various Islamic factions and sects is to oversimplify the equation, IMHO.

  5. MississaugaPeter says:

    Afghanistan, a country in the middle of nowhere, with a population of less than Canada, has been instrumental in the decline of both of the world’s two superpowers (of the second half of the twentieth century).

    If it was about faith, and I want to tell you I fear excommunication for what I am about to say, but the God of Afghanistan is giving the God of the West quite a wallop. It’s the modern day David vs. Goliath. I guess if I was a Fundamentalist I could get myself to believe that it is the Devil at work, and it is the end of days before Armaggedon.

  6. allegra fortissima says:

    “It is about the future of Islam.” Right Tony, for Moderate Muslim Leaders it is. Let them deal with fundamentalist extremism, as they’ve done for several years now.

    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/02/11/the-jihad-against-the-jihadis.html

    And don’t pretend that natural resources aren’t the real important issue right now (which, of course, certain politicians will never admit)…

  7. allegra fortissima says:

    regarding the Newsweek link: click on “skip” on the right to avoid the annoying advertisement

  8. james Smith says:

    One could say a similar thing about the rise of The Tea Party, but one would be wrong. Some vested interests are always interested in conflict, as it may be good for their status, wealth, power or all of the above.

  9. Namesake says:

    I’d suggest you boycott said invitation on the basis that they should ask someone with actual expertise on the issue — and maybe an actual Muslim! — instead of pressing the usual suspects to comment on all things, as usual. Esp. since he did the Blair interview on Friday, so it’s not like they have an excuse for only having a bunch of white, Christian Toronto & Ottawa based pols & pundits to talk on the subject of Talibans.

  10. JStanton says:

    It?s overly simplistic to maintain a dichotomy. These wars are about conflict amongst and between Islamic fundamentalist and Islamic moderate elites, and amongst and between Western neo-conservative fundamentalist and Western social democratic elites, for power and resources. And, lastly, between whomever is the dominant Islamic force at the moment, and whomever is the dominant western power, at a given time, and within a given geo-political area.

    Issues of faith are simply the means by which these elites manipulate the populace to support their objectives.

    Which is not to say that people of faith do not feel strongly about these things; just that they do not naturally resort to sociopathic behavior, such as mass murder, unless incited to do so by demagogues – whether the IRA or the Taliban, for example.

    Regular folks ? whether Catholics, Muslims, Hindus or Jews ? can sit down together at the end of the day and share bread, or a bowl of tobacco, and respect their different types of faith because they recognize their common humanity. It?s those outside their immediate community that incite them to extremism.

  11. VH says:

    The cause of all of this sits at the intersection of religion and science technology.

    The 1258 sack of Baghdad by the Mongol empire (Genghis Khan descendents) started a massive decline of the muslim society from which is hasn’t really recovered. Now practically all leading science and non-resource based prosperity come via “christian” societies.

    Because of their advanced industrialization, the West needs oil, the Arab countries have it and the west projects power through guns and diplomacy.

    So there’s a double insult (first the wealth disparity and second the fact that it’s the “Christians” they depend on and see their leaders deferring to).

    Some people have a much more hostile reaction than others to this.

    So yes, I believe Blair is 100% correct. This won’t end until they modernize; “they” being Muslim and “modernize” being science technology industrialization. So religion and technology together.

  12. Martin says:

    Warren:
    I’m with you on this one. I’m not a Marxist, but I have to be a materialist about this– the core of the issue is stuff, not ideology. The stuff isn’t necessarily any particular resources in Afghanistan, but more general life chances and standards of living.

    That’s not to say that people on both sides might not honestly think that they are fighting over religious or other ideas. Many do. We can see it in the comments above.

    But that’s the nature of these kind of structural conflicts: they are concealed by ideology. Huntington and Blair just contribute to this obfuscation, as does Bin Laden on the other side.

  13. S. Peterson says:

    Knowing that according to the count by Lancet the medical journal (arrived at by going around and collecting death certificates and doing statistical analyses) there were almost a half million more civilian deaths due to many causes than would have happened during a similar time under Sadam’s rule, if find the little man so abhorent I turn my TV off.

  14. Warren says:

    Posted by me for Will, who lost his to the web site Gremlins:

    Essentially, Oil or Islam is a false choice. They are inextricably linked. More importantly, Tony Blair had access to information that would make your hair curl. You probably know that from your time supporting politicos. So, if he said it, it is because his intelligence told him thus. Why he went to Iraq, when he’s not a neo-con fundie is a total mystery… However, he’s my direct take on it…

    Check out the Project of the New American Century, particularly the statements section. Prior to Bush, all the authors who signed on were eventual Cabinet appointees. Rummy, Cheney, Podhoretz, Kagan, Perle, etc.

    Back in ’05 or later, they still had a paper on their site linking US interests with the second coming and securing Mesopotamia. I shit you not. If I could find it, I’d share it. This, alone, explains why they knew Iraq did not have what they said it had, and why the US hindered Blix and Miller in their search for WMDs (remember, Miller was one of their own, and he still go the shaft and said so publicly in ’02 and ’03). Btw, I used to work this file, and all I’m telling you is available publicly. They fundies in the neo con firmament believe the Book of Revelations, and the second coming in Mesopotamia. Crazy? You bet, but hey, they also cooked the story about Saddam, didn’t they? But how does this relate to Islam? Well, the fundies see Islam as toxic and very, very hostile to their world view. Check out Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God.” Great book. As Armstrong asserts, it’s not a Christian Vs. Islam Vs. Judaism, it’s a fundamentalist thing. They all feel that way about any perceived threats. She also spends some time in later papers looking at how Christian Zionism (among many other authors and commentators) is actually bad for Judaism, because the fundies believe Judaism is anachromistic and, in fact, blasphemous (he WAS the King of Jews). Thus, to the neo-cons, Islam is inherently threatening. That so many Muslims sit on so much oil is a logical concomittant.

    Whither Afghanistan? Well, it’s the best place to lay a pipeline. That and it’s also the best place to try and blunt the big ol’ Djinn that the Saudis and Pakistanis let out of the bottle with the help of a man named Reagan. Ever read Hussain Haqqani? You might want to start if you haven’t. His book, “Between the Military and the Mosque” as well as all of the papers he wrote while at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace are, imho, very illustrative. Long and short? You now have Russia, China and India all vying for a pipeline. Their interests swirl wildly, are sometimes mutually enforcing, and sometimes wildly divergent. In the mix are the hundreds of millions of dollars the Saudi’s spend on Pakistani Madrassas, which the Pakistanis like as a check on “Indian agression,” but the Saudis see as accomplishing a broader Salafist goal. So, the Pakistanis build their cannon-fodder army to check the Indians, but to keep the point of the spear sharp, they turn a blind eye while they get their training on the other side of the mountains in Panjwai, Helmand, and the southeast. What the Pakistanis finally realised about 18 months ago, is they created a monster they never controlled, and have no way of reigning in. Basic numbers wise, the Southwest Frontier and the border areas near Jalalabad home roughly 35 MILLION “talib” or “talib sympathizers.” They are armed, fairly well trained, and hostile to anything not found in the Qu’ran. Generalizing? You bet. It’s also easy, because it’s true.

    So, there ya go. Islam and Oil in a nutshell, in my opinion. Sorry I couldn’t post this.

    W.

    • Namesake says:

      If you want to try to find key doc’s like that before they permanently vanish into the ether, try the ‘waybackmachine,’ a third party org. that tries to do permanent google caches:
      http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

      In this case, there’s plenty that’s been archived from that site, at:
      http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.newamericancentury.org

      …but I couldn’t find the report you mentioned tying the Iraq invasion in particular to the Apocalypse.

      But I do recall hearing about that group w/r/t the ardent US political, economic & military support they encouraged for Israel, which allegedly was not because they ‘liked’ Israel particularly but because they believe it was nec. for them to trigger an ‘End of Days’ war for these right-wing nut bars to be able to get to Heaven / The Rapture.

  15. Michael S says:

    Will’s comment is the best guest comment ever on this site. You should headline it.

  16. dirk says:

    Afghanistan is hardly a religious war,neither was the situation in N.Ireland for that matter. Regarding Afghanistan the west interfered in a civil war, taking the side of the minority populations against the majority(Pushtun). This is definitely not a fight against modernity or between religious grouping or ideals.
    Again NATO intervention has just stalled an unresolved civil war ,in the end its the Afghan peoples who have to live with one another nobody else. Left to their own devices the Afghans will solve their own problems,one way or the other.Nobody has to like it or even agree with it, but it is what it is, again Afghans and only Afghans have to live with one another nobody else. Sure the West can help (and should),economically,diplomatically etc …but first the West must end it’s military intervention…heck it should be clear all ,even to the slowest of learners, that military “solutions” and or interventions just do not work ,indeed they usually exacerbate things creating even more internal animosities,blood feuds,corruption and the like,sure as shit nothing positive(overall).

  17. Kas says:

    If I were an Arab Muslim making an effort to give western leaders like Bush and Blair and Harper the benefit of the doubt, watching this video would make me ashamed of my na

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