One of the things you discover when dealing with a spouse's treatment for cancer is that there's always either a "but" or an "and" with this example of why I really am torn between my "No God but Tiffany and Snooki is her prophet!" or "God is just a perverted, evil sonofabitch!" She sleeps a lot, and I brood. Brooding is not the best way to write; yet, sometimes it seems you should. This week is one of them...
Now, I don't like Ross Douthat particularly. Since David Brooks is the Times approach to William F. Buckley only nicer, Douthat is their George Will, only tieless and with a beard. To the left of Fox, to the right of sense most of the time, but when he's right, he's right and articulate. He has a pretty accurate take on the middle east and the current unpleasantness directed at the United States by the latest outbreak of Jeffersonian democracy. He proposes that we need to avoid the cringing and the condescending in our analysis of what's going on and what our alternatives are going forward. Yes, the video is awful on all counts, and the irrational reaction of the mobs really makes the whole Arab Spring thing seem more like the First Directorate of the French Revolution as opposed to some Islamic Renaisance. But, that's not what's happening here -- this is realpolitik played by the Islamic power players. From our perspective, these guys may seem to be totally loony, but we're watching different factions play out. There are grievances against us in the Arab world -- some valid, some debatable, some batshit insane -- and we need to acknowledge that, deal with it like adults and make some adult choices. Douthat is less than optimistic about that particular future.
What we’re watching unfold in the post-Arab Spring Mideast is the kind of struggle for power that frequently takes place in a revolution’s wake: between secular and fundamentalist forces in Benghazi, between the Muslim Brotherhood and its more-Islamist-than-thou rivals in Cairo, with similar forces contending for mastery fromTunisia to Yemen to the Muslim diaspora in Europe.
Navigating this landscape will require less naïveté than the Obama White House has displayed to date, and more finesse than a potential Romney administration seems to promise. But at the very least, it requires an accurate understanding of the crisis’s roots, and a recognition that policing speech won’t make our problems go away.
Now, as a member of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic party I don't agree so much about the naivete' of the Obama administration. We're entering the 12th year of the war against reality and I recall I think Will describing the results of a bad policy as when you have no good alternatives. Obama may be doing things that surprise us, but he's walked a middle ground between McCain-Palinesque blood and bluster and bombing versus the "Oh, we're so sorry....we're gone and we'll pay to rebuild" nonsense. Anyone who refers to Hillary Clinton as naive is living in a testosterone fueled fantasy, longing as did Qaddai for his goregous, jackbooted African princess. But, Douthat is definitely right in the thrust of his argument -- this is Bosnia, this is the breakup of the Soviet Union, this is the chaos that comes in the wake of transformative change.
Douthat makes reference to the experience of Salman Rushdie, and mentions that Rushdie has a new memoir coming out, called I hope "Fun and Games with Khomeni--Learning to Live With Security Guards and Disguises for Fun and Prophet~"(Actually, it's called something entirely different, but Rushdie has shown a lot of class for the last 30 years, and he probably did think of something like that at least as a subtitle. Hitchens would have done it that way. ) Douthat points out that Rushdie gets it --
The real issue, instead, was the desire of Iran’s leaders to keep the flame of their revolution burning after the debacle of the Iran-Iraq War, the desire of Pakistan’s Islamists to test the religious bona fides of their country’s prime minister, and the desire of religious extremists in Britain to cast themselves as spokesmen for the Muslim community as a whole.
Now, while I've found Rushdie admirable throughout this odd experience -- the Islamic version of Leon Trotsky, hunted by a anarcho-SMERSH, perhaps -- I've never really liked his writing. However, I might change my mind on this one. He has a great bit concerning the day he learned of the Fatwa and his impending doom, when he was appearing on a live television interview scheduled before the Ayatollah decided to win the news cycle.
On air, when he was asked for a response to the threat, he said, “I wish I’d written a more critical book.” He was proud, then and always, that he had said this. It was the truth. He did not feel that his book was especially critical of Islam, but, as he said on American television that morning, a religion whose leaders behaved in this way could probably use a little criticism.
One of the things that made me decide to write this morning was this piece on HuffPo after I'd read the Douthat column. Those crazy Iranians, they're at it again!
A semi-official religious foundation in Iran has increased a reward it had offered for the killing of British author Salman Rushdie to $3.3 million from $2.8 million, a newspaper reported, days after protests coursed through the Muslim world over alleged insults to the Prophet Muhammad.
These are times when a cynic might give up and go off and join Simon Stylites on his pillar, pissing and shitting and puking on the crowds besieging him for prayers and miracles, refusing his mother and jsut engaged in mindless exercise and kow towing to his version of a loving god. Seriously, the Iranians are feeling left out, not having any American centers to destroy. So, they do this -- which should help book sales.
Nick Kristof is more to my liking although I don't often read him. Probably a sign of my own deepseated despair over the world and the nature of his struggle to at least keep the world informed. In many ways, Kristof reminds me of James Fallowes and that's not bad company. Still, I don't always read Fallowes, either. Anyway, this morning is an exception. Fallowes is anti-Tom Freidman, pointing out the sociological, moral, and metaphysical dimensions of globalization that Friedman skips over in his paen to Japanese Cars and Bengladashi knit goods. This morning, he contemplates the joys of a Romney presidency, and wow...he's pretty prescient, and not really in favor of the whole thing.
(Imagine a President Romney making a London trip and helpfully offering off-the-cuff advice on Northern Ireland, or breaking the ice in Parliament by telling jokes about Queen Elizabeth. The War of 1812 would resume, and the British would again be burning down the White House.)
Does anyone else remember Red Dwarf, the long running Brit series about a lout, a loser, a mutant cat and a robot wandering through space on a giant mining craft wandering the universe. Romney strikes me as a cross between Rimmer and Kryten -- well meaning but totally unable to relate to people, ideas or general reality in a rational way. Kryten has no choice but to be nice, because of his programming; Rimmer demands leadership roles and power, but not for any discernible reason. Just 'cause. Hilarity and generally bad things ensue.That's Mitt. Kristoff gets it, and places it all in a context from 2008. "He raised doubts about his capacity to deal with global crises, and we were left hoping that if that 3 a.m. call ever went to him, he’d have set up call forwarding."
Now, while my friends over at Veterans Today are perhaps overzealous in seeking out Israeli False Flag operations, this entire Coptic Movie Mogul thing smells of a low end Mossad operation that just paid massive divedends. Frankly, the Coptic Catholic Church is a tolerated but barely sect in Eygpt. For Coptic Christians to bring attention to their disdain toward Islam would be somewhat suicidal. Particularlty at the momen, with the nuts on parade. Israel needs to not aggravate a delicate relationship with Eygpt, but the ability to stir up the Arab world will start now in Eygpt as the largest and most influential,. By placing the blame for this silliness on the Copts and having the US identified as the de facto supporter due to our lasiez-faire attitude toward blasphemy would be a twisted act of genius.
Kristof is very good on Romney and Isreal. He begins by wishing Obama would in fact draw that red line in the sand, warning Bibi Netanyahou to stay out of American politics and while speculating that Romney might select a middle of the road Repulbican as Secretary of State, who the hell knows? The guy has surrounded himself with the Cheney team, and the base would love to hear about Secretary of State Bolton. Kristof points out that
Most dangerous of all is Romney’s policy on Iran, which can’t be dismissed as an offhand misstatement. As my colleagues David E. Sanger and Ashley Parker note, Romney muddles his own position on his nuclear red line for Iran. Plenty of candidates don’t write their own foreign policy position papers, but Romney is unusual in that he seems not to have even read his.
According to clarifications from Romney’s campaign, he apparently would order a military strike before Iran even acquired a bomb, simply when it was getting close. For anyone who has actually seen a battlefield, that’s a blithe, too-light embrace of a path to yet another war. It’s emblematic of a candidate who, on foreign policy, appears an empty shell.
Now I've been working on a piece about Bob Dylan's Tempest and will post it this week. But, the use of his Early Roman Kings on Cinemax's Strike Back is intriguing. The "section" which is kinda sorta an SAS/MI6/Delta Force combine is reacting to a world made totally insane by the government. At one point, the two heros are seaching for the bad guys, in this case, separatists preparing to blow up some nerve agent bombs, and the American Delta Operator asks his SAS Sergeant cohort "Does it ever feel like everybody is trying to kill us?" The Brit says, "I try not to think of it." The American response is interesting --"Really, that's all I think about." Definitely an insight deserving of Dylan's contribution. I didn't really like the video with the overlay from the show at first, but I'm changed my mind. The two pieces of work make it a better message, better art...
the early Roman kings
In their shark skin suits
Bow ties and buttons
High top boots
Drivin' the spikes in *
Blazin' the rails
Nailed in their coffins
Top hats and tails
Fly away over
Fly away flap your wings
Fly by night
They're peddlers and they're meddlers
They buy and they sell
They destroyed your city
They'll destroy you as well
They're lecherous and treacherous
A-Hell bent for leather *
Each of 'em bigger
Than all men put together
Sluggers and muggers
Wearin fancy gold rings
All the women going crazy
For the early Roman kings
As I often do, I'm going to close by turning to the unrequited love of my life, Maureen Dowd, who has been awakened from her doctrinal slumbers and rapidly reaching Lewinski-like levels of disdain for Romney, Ryan and the Republican Neocons. In her column entitled "Neocons Slither Back" she chops their head off, puts it in plastic and on her desk top, pegs out the skin to dry and makes here self a nice diamond-back patterned pillbox hat.
You can draw a direct line from the hyperpower manifesto of the Project for the New American Century, which the neocons, abetted by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, used to prod an insecure and uninformed president into invading Iraq — a wildly misguided attempt to intimidate Arabs through the shock of overwhelming force. How’s that going for us?
After 9/11, the neocons captured one Republican president who was naïve about the world. Now, amid contagious Arab rage sparked on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, they have captured another would-be Republican president and vice president, both jejeune about the world.
Senor is emblematic of how much trouble America blundered into in the Middle East — trillions wasted, so many lives and limbs lost — because of how little we fathom the culture and sectarian politics. We’re still stumbling in the dark. We not only don’t know who our allies and enemies are, we don’t know who our allies’ and enemies’ allies and enemies are.