The Far Left Hates Christians more than Radical Muslims

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 26th, 2011

No Morality Police under 20 Years of Republican Presidents

The far Left hates conservatives.  And Christians.  They don’t want them shoving their morality down their throats.  Like conservatives do in some countries (see Iran’s Hardline Fashion Police by Babak Dehghanpisheh posted 6/24/2011 on The Daily Beast).

It’s that time of year again. As summer temperatures soar in Tehran and other large Iranian cities, the morality police, or gasht ershad as they’re called in Farsi, come out in droves to make sure the citizenry isn’t flashing too much skin or acting in other inappropriate ways. The activities of the gasht ershad ramped up after the election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, but it seems this year they’re going for broke: since mid-June, 70,000 morality police have been sent out into the streets of Tehran alone.

Ronald Reagan was president for 8 years.  George H.W. Bush for 4 years.  George W. Bush was president for 8 years.  That’s three Republicans occupying the Oval Office for 20 years.  All the while the far Left was attacking them for being too close to the Religious Right.  Trying to scare everyone into believing that they would set up a Spanish Inquisition-like morality police to punish people misbehaving.  But in those 20 years let me ask you this.  Did any of these Republican presidents ever send 70,000 morality police to any American city?  No.  In fact, by my recollection, during those 20 years we still had pornography.  Women were still wearing bikinis in public.  Birth control and abortion were still available legally.  And guys were able to do whatever they wanted to with their hair.  Even wear gold chain necklaces if they wanted to.  But in Iran…

No more mullets (a move even some Tehran fashionistas applauded), ponytails, or a popular hairstyle called the rooster, which swoops up in a faux-hawk in the front and flares out at the back. And there’s a new restriction for men this summer: no necklaces.

During those 20 years of Republican presidents there was no morality police.  There was no one saying what fashion was and was not permissible.  As I think parachute pants and the mullet attest to. 

The government has not only spelled out the crackdown in legal terms, but has also tried to make the case that inappropriate clothing can be directly linked to damnation. Last week, an analyst named Ali Akbar Raefipour, appeared on state television and claimed that the word “jeans” actually comes from the word “jinn,” which are supernatural beings that can fly and take the form of animals. He took it a step further by comparing women’s high heels to the hooves of demons. And if that wasn’t enough, Raefipour said that numbers and symbols on some t-shirts can be read as “spells or satanic slogans.”

After only a week of the crackdown, Tehran police chief Hussein Sajedinia held a press conference and claimed resounding success, citing a 50 percent drop in the harassment of women on the streets (without a hint of irony)…

Who would have known?  That wearing blue jeans will send you to hell.  That high heels are the sign of the beast.  And writing on t-shirts is satanic.  If I’m not mistaken, though, during 20 years of Republican presidents I’m pretty sure I saw women in high heels, in tight denim jeans and in shirts with stuff written on them stretched taut across their bosoms.  Not that I looked.  I wonder why the Religious Right allowed this to happen during those 20 years of Republican presidents.

Anyway, it’s good to know that Iranian women are now safe.  Free to walk along the streets.  Without any men harassing them.  Just by exercising a little more modesty in their appearance.

For ordinary Iranians, the evidence of the crackdown is in plain sight. Checkpoints run by the morality police have mushroomed all over Tehran and, residents say, it’s not uncommon to see women getting stuffed into one of their ubiquitous vans…

Soheila, a 28-year old Tehran resident, has had enough. “I was even with my husband one time when a policewoman gave me a warning about bad hijab,” she says. “‘[I’m] going to start wearing the chador [a head-to-toe cloth covering] because [I’m] afraid of the morality police.” 

Exercising a little more modesty in your personal appearance.  And by living your life in absolute fear and oppression.  Again, I lived through 20 years of Republican presidents yet don’t recall any such oppression of women.  Guess there’s a difference between Islam and Christianity.  And women have more freedoms under Christianity.

One thing you have to say about Muslims living under Sharia law, though.  They must really love, honor and respect their women.

Al Qaeda has a PR Problem because they’re Killing Muslim Men, Women and Children

Actually, they don’t.  Which is really a puzzling thing about the far Left’s open hostility towards Christianity and absolute tolerance for anything Islamic.  Christians don’t physically and/or brutally oppress their women.   Or use them as suicide bombers (see Taliban say husband and wife in Pakistan suicide attack posted 6/26/2011 on the BBC).

A husband and wife carried out a suicide attack that killed eight people at a police station in north-western Pakistan, the Taliban has said…

The BBC’s Orla Guerin, in Islamabad, says that the use of a husband and wife suicide squad by the Pakistani Taliban is a new tactic, and a new threat.

Already, our correspondent adds, the militants have resorted to using children as human bombs. And a suicide attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas last December was blamed on a woman bomber.

I don’t think this is the kind of gender equality women living under Sharia law want.  To be sacrificed like men. 

You just don’t hear about Christians doing things like this.  Or Jews for that matter.  Judeo-Christian societies treat women better than this.  They can show a little skin.  Wear high heels.  Even smile at passersby.  Including men they don’t even know. 

With feminists populating the far Left it just boggles the mind that they fear and hate Christians.  While no such vitriol is ever directed against anything Islamic.  And yet it’s elements in Islam that are doing some of the worse things imaginable against women.  And children (see Afghanistan: Eight-year-old girl ‘used in attack’ posted 6/26/2011 on the BBC).

An eight-year-old girl has been killed after insurgents used her in a bomb attack on police in southern Afghanistan, the government has said.

The interior ministry said insurgents gave the girl a package and told her to take it to a police vehicle, detonating it as she approached…

Correspondents say insurgents have recruited both adult women and recently male children to carry out suicide attacks, though the Taliban denies recruiting children.

According to letters seized during the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda has a marketing problem.  For there was no religious element in the name ‘Al Qaeda’.  And they were losing the PR war with the Americans.  Because Al Qaeda was killing more Muslims than the Americans were.  So bin Laden wanted to change the name to stress the holy war element in the war against the Americans.  But that didn’t happen because of his ‘untimely’ death. 

Apparently he was alone in this view.  Because giving an 8 year girl a package and telling her to take it to the police station without telling her what’s in the package and then detonating the bomb in that package while hiding from a safe distance away doesn’t exactly help put a positive spin on the holy war against the Americans.  Especially when you’re killing Muslim men, women and children by blowing up a bomb being held by a Muslim child.

The Far Left Hates Western Civilization

Islam is a religion of peace that some twist the meaning of to do unspeakable things.  Christianity is a religion of peace, too.  And some may twist the meaning of it to do some unspeakable things.  But if you’re tallying these unspeakable things you’re going to see the tally far greater for one religion than the other.  Unless you don’t consider putting bombs on women and children as unspeakable.

Western societies tend to be Judeo-Christian societies.  And in these societies women have a lot of freedoms.  They can do anything they want.  Have a career.  Go into politics.  Become presidents.  Prime ministers.  Or be porn stars.  They can eat and drink anything they want anywhere they want.  They can go to a movie, a bar or a dance club.  Women have come a long way in Western Civilization.  Nowhere are they empowered more.  And nowhere are they empowered less than in Islamic society.

And yet, despite all of this, the far Left attacks Christianity.  They will say some of the most vile and vicious things.  Insult their institutions.  And openly mock them.  But they don’t do this with Islam.  In fact, if anyone says anything critical of Islam the far Left calls that hate speech.  While their criticism of Christianity is merely free speech.

This makes no sense.  Unless the far Left hates Western Civilization.  Then it makes perfect sense.  The far Left is the liberal Big Government left.  Who wants more government in our lives.  Telling us what’s best for us.  Regulating us.  Controlling us.  And this they have in common with radical Islam.  Because they, too, want to tell their people what’s best for them.  To regulate them.  To control them.

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All Roads Lead to Israel in Middle East Unrest

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2011

Migrants are Fleeing Arab Democracy Movements

One of the reasons President Obama gave for bombing Libya was to prevent a wave of migrants from these countries in turmoil flooding neighboring/European countries.  Doesn’t look like the bombing worked (see France blocks Italian trains carrying migrants posted 4/17/2011 on the BBC).

Authorities in France have blocked trains from Italy in an attempt to stop north African migrants from entering the country.

Migrants landed on the Italian shores, got their temporary resident permits and hit the train stations.  Now they’re traveling across Europe looking for a new, state-subsidized life.  At least, this is France’s beef.  Before they’ll let them cross their border they have to prove they can pay their own way.  Because history has shown that migrants fleeing war-torn nations often can’t.  While high domestic unemployment will make it difficult to absorb those who can into the workforce.

Italy and other European countries have been increasingly concerned about migration from north Africa following the political turmoil in the region.

Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

TunisiaEgypt?  Those ‘democracy’ movements were rather peaceful.  So it is puzzling that so many people are fleeing from these ‘democracy’ movements.  We can understand Libya.  We escalated that into civil war with our bombing campaign.  And people typically flee from nations in civil war.  But why Tunisia and Egypt?

Christian Governors not Welcomed in Qena

Perhaps these aren’t democracy movements.  Or perhaps they’re theocracy movements exploiting the unrest of these ‘democracy’ movements (see Christian governor named in south Egypt, protests flare by Dina Zayed, Mohamed Abdellah, Reuters, posted 4/17/2011 on The Daily Star).

“The experience of a Coptic governor has failed. There is no objection to his Coptic identity but the previous governor left a negative impression of Christian officials,” Youssef Ragab, a witness in Qena, told Reuters by telephone.

Residents say Ayoub was too weak in enforcing laws to quell rising tension between Muslims and Christians, fearing his background might imply sectarian allegiance.

The Christians and the Muslim got along with Mubarak in office.  There’s no reason for that to change now that Mubarak is out of office.

The protest took a more aggressive turn as some radical Salafi Islamists in the crowd demanded a Muslim official, saying “we want it Islamic.” Some even threatened to kill Mikhail if he came to his office.

Witnesses in the city said Egypt’s military, concerned that the demonstration would spark inter-faith violence, had moved to protect churches in the province.

See?  A simple way for sectarian peace.  Everyone converts to Islam.

The GCC Calls on the UN to take Action against Iran

So there’s trouble from within.  And trouble from without (see Gulf states call on UN to halt Iran ‘interference’ by AFP posted 4/17/2011 on Breitbart).

Gulf Arab states on Sunday called on the international community and UN Security Council to “make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations” in Gulf affairs cease after unrest in Bahrain.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, after a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, called in a statement for “necessary measures” against the Islamic republic to prevent it from sowing regional discord.

So it’s just not the West having problems with Iran.  It would appear that they are trying to export their Iranian Shiite revolution everywhere.

The six-nation GCC called on “the international community and the Security Council to take the necessary measures to make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations aimed at sowing discord and destruction” among GCC states.

It said the GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — “categorically rejects all foreign interference in its affairs… and invites the Iranian regime to stop its provocations.”

Will the international community step in to stop these Iranian provocations?  Forget about a flood of migrants.  What happens in these GCC countries is a huge national security interest.  If Iranian influence spreads unchecked here, we’ll wish we only had a migration problem.

Little is said about Israel in Lands that Hate Israel

In all these Arab ‘democracy’ movements, there is a strange omission.  You really don’t hear the anti-Israel rhetoric you normally hear in parts of this region.  Which is a little strange.  Israeli criticism has been quiet.  A little too quiet.  Which can only mean one thing.  Something’s up (see Stratfor.com: The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas by George Friedman posted 4/12/2011 on Bill O’Reilly).

We know of several leaders of the Egyptian rising, for example, who were close to Hamas yet deliberately chose to downplay their relations. They clearly were intensely anti-Israeli but didn’t want to make this a crucial issue. In the case of Egypt, they didn’t want to alienate the military or the West. They were sophisticated enough to take the matter step by step.

Hamas is a militant Palestinian Islamic movement.  They want to destroy Israel.  And they’re connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which also happens to be the largest organized opposition party in Egypt.

Egypt is key for Hamas. Linked to an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas Cairo, the Gaza Strip returns to its old status as a bayonet pointed at Tel Aviv. Certainly, it would be a base for operations and a significant alternative to Fatah. But a war would benefit Hamas more broadly. For example, Turkey’s view of Gaza has changed significantly since the 2010 flotilla incident in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish civilians on a ship headed for Gaza. Turkey’s relationship with Israel could be further weakened, and with Egypt and Turkey both becoming hostile to Israel, Hamas’ position would improve. If Hamas could cause Hezbollah to join the war from the north then Israel would be placed in a challenging military position perhaps with the United States, afraid of a complete breakdown of its regional alliance system, forcing Israel to accept an unfavorable settlement.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite Islamist organization.  They hate Israel, too.  And have close ties to Syria.  And Iran.

For the United States and Europe, the merger of Islamists and democrats is an explosive combination. Apart, they do little. Together, they could genuinely destabilize the region and even further undermine the U.S. effort against jihadists. The United States and Europe want Israel to restrain itself but cannot restrain Hamas. Another war, therefore, is not out of the question—and in the end, the decision to launch one rests with Hamas.

During the Gulf War, we pleaded with Israel to just take whatever Saddam Hussein threw at them.  And Israel showed incredible restraint after the Scud missile attacks began.  Try as Hussein did, he could not provoke Israel into the conflict to break up the Arab coalition.  And here we are again.  With a foreign policy that depends on Israeli suffering.  Will Hamas be able to provoke them into war?  Or will they not take the bait and absorb their attacks?  Will additional Israeli actions against Gaza further sour Turkey towards Israel?  Will Egypt fall to a Hamas/Iran friendly Muslim Brotherhood?  Will the Iranians continue to incite trouble in the GCC states?  All BIG questions in terms of our national security interests.  And the answers to them will have huge and lasting consequences.

So what is the US doing in all of this?  Getting involved in the one county that isn’t even in the Big Picture.  Libya.

The Real Enemy in the Middle East

There’s something going on here.  And it ain’t protecting our national security interests.  The best one can figure out is that we’re helping Europe keep their Libyan oil.  Sure, Qaddafi is a bad guy.  And, yes, he used deadly force on his people.  But that happens every day somewhere in the world.  Attacking Libya is like beating up a 90 year old ex-Nazi.  Yeah, there may be some justice in it.  But a 90 year old ex-Nazi isn’t a threat to world peace.  But Iran is.  And what are we doing about Iran?  Nothing.  Even though there are democracy movements there.  But we just stand by and do nothing.  Pity we didn’t do that in 1979. 

The Shah of Iran was horrible.  A monster.  In fact, Iran was such a horrible place that girls could get a college education.  Well, college students (i.e., young and educated) started a democracy movement.  Just like those today.  The Iranian Revolution.  And they got rid of the Shah.  But with the Shah went a lot of their liberties.  Girls don’t go to college anymore in Iran.  And regret the day he fell from power.

It’s just like that old saying.  You don’t know what you have until you lose it.  And that other old saying.  I used to bitch about being poor and unemployed until I found out what it meant to be a second-class citizen without any rights. 

Our allies in the Middle East know who the real enemy is.  We should start listening to them more.  And less to the people who sent us into Libya.  Before it’s too late.

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Can Feminism Survive in the Islamic Middle East?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 19th, 2011

The Iranian Revolution and Feminism

The Shah of Iran modernized Iran.  And advanced women’s rights.  Did away with child marriage.  And outlawed having multiple wives.  Women may not have been fully equal but they were more equal than they had ever been before.  Or since.  And they had access to education.  In fact, they were so well educated that when they came out of college some could find no jobs.  At least none that called for such a higher education.  So there was a lot of unemployment during the 1970s.  A lot of highly educated people without jobs.  Both men and women.  And they protested.  Both men and women.  They overthrew the Shah.  Both men and women.  And how did that go?  Well, better for the men than it did for the women.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 kind of came out of nowhere.  Stunned most of the world.  But many quickly welcomed this ‘democratic’ revolution.  Some people even welcomed that kindly, moderate, old man returning from exile.  Ayatollah Khomeini.  Even The New York Times said at last we will see a humane government in a third world country.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  The ‘democratic’ revolution soon became a theocratic revolution.  Khomeini ushered in Sharia law.  And a rather oppressive interpretation at that.  Everything the women gained under the Shah was gone.  Women were property again.  Second class citizens.  Not the kind of hope and change they were protesting about.  In fact, a lot of their daughters say today, “Thanks, Mom.”  And, “What were you thinking about!?!”  Under their breath, of course.

The Iranian Revolution started out as a democratic movement upset about rampant unemployment and abject poverty.  And they were angry at the Shah’s oppressive regime that exercised dictatorial power.  That shut down all opposition voices.  A lot like in Egypt.  But underneath this there was another element lurking in the background.  An Islamic element.  Angry at the Shah’s Westernization of Iran.  And eager to restore the old, Islamic ways.  And while the first revolutionaries talked about democratic reform, these other revolutionaries planned their theocracy.  Then they installed it.  And the rest is history.  A sad one for those women who had achieved so much under the Shah’s rule.

As in Iran, Men and Women Stood side by side during the Egyptian Revolution.  Will they after the Revolution?

So another revolution comes and goes in the Arab world.  It took only 18 days.  Things were pretty good in Egypt for women before the revolution.  But what will life be like after the revolution (see Egypt women stand for equality in the square by Kathy Lally posted 2/18/2011 on The Washington Post)?

Women are far better off in Egypt than some parts of the Arab world. There are no religious police enforcing dress codes as in Iran, or prohibitions against driving as in Saudi Arabia. But Egyptian women are greatly underrepresented in public life and inferior to men before the law. They hold cabinet posts, but no judgeships. They are members of parliament, but have few seats. They occupy many professions, but not all.

Divorces are difficult to obtain and favor men, as do property rights. Women are encouraged to marry and have children early: The legal age of marriage was only recently raised from 16 to 18.

And, every day as they walk down the street, they are reminded of their low status – until Tahrir Square. Egyptian women are sexually harassed to an astonishing degree, groped, ogled, followed by catcalls, behavior that no law forbids. In a 2008 survey, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women had been harassed at some point.

And this in a ‘far better off’ country in the Arab world.  Makes one wonder what happened in the not so better off countries.  The question is, will this be the high water mark for feminism in Egypt?  Will they now retreat on the advancements made in women’s rights?

“We were equal partners in this revolution,” she said, “and we are respected as such. Now we have to use the moment effectively, to make sure women participate in daily political life, to make sure they are involved in the development of political parties and labor movements.”

That’s kind of what the women said in Iran.  Of course, once that theocracy took hold, all hopes for women being involved in political parties and movements were over.  Will this be Egypt’s fate?  Or the Middle East’s?  A common enemy can unite a people.  Even the sexes.  But what about tradition and culture?  And religion?  How heavily will they weigh on the new governments borne of revolution?

Tunisia and Egypt – Oppressors of the People but Defenders of Feminism

What do Tunisia and Egypt have in common?  They both just disposed hated dictators.  And they were both bastions of women’s rights (see Are the Mideast revolutions bad for women’s rights? by Isobel Coleman posted 2/20/2011 on The Washington Post).

Tunisia, in particular, has been a bastion of women’s rights in a region known for the opposite. Shortly after independence in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba, the country’s secular authoritarian leader, pushed through a Personal Status Code which was remarkably liberal for its time. It granted women equal divorce rights to men, abolished polygamy, set minimum marriage ages, allowed access to birth control and even some access to abortion. Bourguiba modeled himself on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder who force-marched his country into the modern age through a painful process of secularization – “for the people, despite the people,” as he once quipped.

The result is that Tunisian women today enjoy relatively high literacy and have achieved broad gains in law, medicine, business, academia and media.

But things got bad.  And the Tunisians protested about the same things the Iranians and the Egyptians did.  And the big question is this.  Now that there is a power vacuum, who will fill it?  A modern, democratic power?  Or an old school, theocratic power?  Like, say, the Muslim Brotherhood?

In Egypt, democracy will also create important openings for Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. In a 2007 Gallup survey, 64 percent of Egyptians polled said that sharia should be the only source of law in the country; an additional 24 percent said it should be a source of legislation. (There was little variation by gender.)

Still, Egyptians’ desire for sharia is balanced by a strong demand for modernization and a distaste for theocracy. Women’s rights will be a litmus test for the new government – a sign of where the country is headed. The Muslim Brotherhood unleashed a sea of controversy in 2007 when it released its party platform excluding women (and non-Muslims) from the presidency, and calling for a group of Islamic scholars to review and veto legislation that does not conform to religious rules. These conservative positions confirmed critics’ worst fears of the Brotherhood, and led to some soul-searching within the organization itself, especially among younger members who disagreed with the hard-line positions of their elders.

Those younger members should read a page from the Iranian Revolution history.  The young in Iran today are not all happy with their parent’s revolution.  Especially the women.  And the girls.

The rise of Salafism, a particularly conservative form of the faith propagated by Saudi Arabia, should worry Egyptian women’s groups. In recent years, tensions between secularists and Salafis have been rising, with Salafis calling for full veiling of women and gender segregation in universities. The Salafis’ following is evident in the rising number of Egyptian women wearing the niqab, the face-covering veil, long black abayas and even gloves on their hands to avoid physical contact with men.

Wearing the veil has become popular in Tunisia and Egypt for a variety of reasons, including as an expression of religious identity, conforming to social pressures and as a statement against the secular authoritarianism of the government. (The irony is that Egypt is the birthplace of Arab feminism, which in the first half of the 20th century put much energy into unveiling women.)

With Hosni Mubarak gone, activists will now have to contend with hard-core politics in a way that has been missing from Egypt’s Potemkin parliament. Controversial legislation, like the equal right to divorce that was passed in 2000, will come under pressure from Islamist lawmakers who fiercely opposed the bill. (Tunisia is the only other Arab country that grants women the right.) Women’s groups can no longer fall back upon a sympathetic Mubarak regime, which often sided with their cause.

Ah, yes, the hated Hosni Mubarak.  Champion of feminism.  Who they ran out of the country.  Much like the Shah of Iran.  One can only hope that the women of Egypt don’t end up like the women of Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan – Still not Bastions of Women’s Rights

Of course, being a woman in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan was no picnic.  Under their law, the sentence for many offences was death.  Even for not wearing the proper traditional garb.  But that was then.  We toppled the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.  And the Saudi’s are a stalwart ally.  So how are things there now (see Why American troops in Afghanistan shouldn’t have to wear headscarves by Martha McSally posted 2/18/2011 in The Washington Post)?

In 2001, I was an Air Force lieutenant colonel and A-10 fighter pilot stationed in Saudi Arabia, in charge of rescue operations for no-fly enforcement in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. Every time I went off base, I had to follow orders and put on a black Muslim abaya and head scarf. Military officials said this would show “cultural sensitivity” toward conservative Saudi leaders and guarantee “force protection” – this in a nation where women couldn’t drive, vote or dress as they pleased…

In Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, the world saw the hallmark of Taliban oppression – women who failed to cover up risked death. Now, nine years after the fall of the Taliban government, Afghan women are still required to cover themselves and have hardly moved toward the equal rights and liberties we envisioned. In conjunction, U.S. military women are simply submitting to Muslim practices that symbolize the plight of Afghan women when they put on the scarf themselves.

American servicewomen will continue to be viewed as second-class warriors if leaders push them to take up the customs of countries where women are second-class citizens.

It’s pretty bad when they make your liberators adopt the custom of the previously oppressed women.  There’s a mixed message here.  Rise up and enjoy your freedom.  But be obedient.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  And as tradition, culture and religion go, they don’t come much older.  Talk about democratic movements all you want.  But there is a heavy undertow of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East.  And it’s going to take an extraordinary effort to resist it.  

Will the women make it to shore and enjoy democracy?  Or will they be dragged back and disappear beneath the surface of theocracy?  Like in that democratic revolution in Iran?  Let’s pray that feminism wins the day.  For if theocracy does, it won’t be only the women in the Middle East that suffer.  We all will.

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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