narciso wrote:

is there any alternative system
in Arabia,

Sure, but what difference does it make to us? If they put an asterisk next to the Wahhabis' extra pillar (jihad), and continue developing other ideological complements to the practical policy of suppressing extremists, that's probably good enough.

@ Rex Caruthers:
It's absurd, but, playing along, merely announcing the policy would already be costlier to us by far than the combined investment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Really. It's the daydream of Emperor Rex II of the United Imperial States of 2045.

narciso wrote:

Now what is the antidote to that sort of conditioning

What is the evidence that "that sort of conditioning" has a predictable lasting effect? Some of our best friends were Hitler Youth, 70 years or systematic and pervasive Marxist-Leninist indoctrination didn't turn Russia into a nation of communists, and Catholic Schools turn out sexually concupiscent Goths and quantum mechanical Sufis.
Rex Caruthers wrote:

The costs to maintain the SYSTEM,are not realistic.

Well, now you're back on different ground. Doesn't have much in common with a "let's threaten to wipe out Islam" strategy.

narciso wrote:

I’m not reassured,

I entertain intellectual ambitions of various types from time to time, but I try to remain realistic.

narciso wrote:

Ask yourself why did they do this, and have they learned
a lesson from any of this,

They served their usual purpose. Much of the right remains totally nuts about Islam and terror. The system worked, more or less, the transnationalist left somewhat moderating our overreaction.

@ Rex Caruthers:
Proof's in the pudding, or lack thereof. The amateurishness of the Christmas Day and Times Square attacks, for instance, tends to confirm the lack of a serious state sponsor, and of an intact and well-functioning terrorist network with spectacular attacks as a prime objective. The latter could change, or our calculations and efforts could prove inadequate - I don't pretend to have a comprehensive grasp on the world of terror. Still, without state sponsorship and a relatively freely operating transnational network, it's very difficult to do a new 9/11, and limited ROI anyway. In the meantime, S.A., for instance, is more on our side than against us, out of sheer self-interested calculation, when it comes to terror attacks overly rocking the boat. The credibility of deterrence may at some point require reinforcement, but there are no other candidates for sponsorship whom I know of who would gain more than they risk through another attack.

@ Rex Caruthers:
If destroying our people/property is their plan, then they have a very, very, very, very long way to go. That's not their plan, IMO, to the extent "they" have a plan, but, if it is, it's a very poor plan.

Also, in the countries we retaliate against, or merely seek to liberate, what we define as a "major attack" qualifies as negligible collateral damage. I'm sorry to have to point this out, but we're all grown-ups here, and we should be able to face the truth, especially when you're suggesting that attacks on us by non-state actors whom we've played a major role in creating might somehow justify culturally, possibly materially genocidal counterstrikes.

The basis of our strategy for dealing with "major terrorist attacks" is "layered defense," a series of measures no one of which needs to be perfect for the total approach - much of which is publicly invisible - to be effective enough overall to prevent a major threat via spectacular terror to the actual functioning of a 350,000,000-person nation - or even to the general emotional sense that "everything's under control," which seems to be more the point than actual defense against material threats.

The expeditions to Iraq and Afghanistan have been among the most visible elements of the total strategy. Among other things, they were intended to make it clear to any potential state sponsor of spectacular terror/terror against the US homeland that we could and would take them down PDQ, pre-emptively if necessary. Though the Dems/Left have done their best to strip that message of its content, wiser observers overseas are fully aware that we're an adolescent, emotional people, and that, the day after MA2, we'd be back to 90% behind our war leader, interested in payback, and much less interested because much less confident in making positive outcomes for the people affected - more punishment, less nation-building. Deterrence, in short, is pretty much in place. Not perfect. Doesn't have to be.

@ Rex Caruthers:
Define "major attack," with special attention to how it actually - concretely - was executed and for what purposes. That's the beginning point for a rational response, which should take into account but seek to channel positively a popular emotional reaction.

There's no amorphous mass out there called Islam that spontaneously produces "major attacks" like rain clouds produce lightning. The response you suggest does resemble a war on clouds.

In the meantime, spiting our face wouldn't be a good alternative in any event. And there are no responsible "leaders of Islam." There are Muslims all over the place, many in Muslim majority countries, others not. India has the second or third largest Muslim population of any country in the world, for instance.

@ Rex Caruthers:
Dirty Bombs have been wildly exaggerated by the same kind of thinking that scares people to death about nuclear waste or has large numbers of otherwise reasonable people concerned about an EMP attack.

The biggest problem in staging a DB attack for the perpetrators would be proving to people that it had actually been executed. Once that was done, we'd have two choices: Indulge in pointless panic reactions or go on about our business as usual, accepting a possible incremental long-term increase in deaths per 100,000 due to cancers in the affected area.

Padilla supposedly wanted to do a DB attack, apparently because he watched the same TV shows as many of the rest of us. His handlers persuaded him to look into more effective tactics.

@ Scientific Socialist:
The movie did that part quite well. The movies in general do that kind of thing quite well. I think the film gives viewers an "out," though, because there's never any explanation of what would destroy all life except some human beings. So as "real" and horrific as everything looks and as we're told everything is, we also always are reminded it's a fable, a dark fantasy, not a demonstrably possible future - unless the father character's explanations are undependable. For all we really know, things are pretty tolerable in Madagascar.

@ Rex Caruthers:
That's insane, fantastical, repugnant, and wouldn't work. Otherwise, it's a great idea IMO.

@ strangelet:
According to, there have been a total of 42 U.S. casualties in Iraq this entire year. I have no idea where you got your number, or what homosexuals have to do with the subject.

You seem stuck on your theme, fascinated by what you perceive to be an insight, and unable to process arguments that don't fit within your pre-selected parameters and other presumptions. That approach would qualify as "retarded" enough even without the childish gestures.

Zoltan Newberry wrote:

For those of you who want to know what hell might be like, I recommend the novel, The Road,

You should try the movie - just rented the DVD a week or so ago. I'd be curious to hear how closely it followed the book.

strangelet wrote:

then why is COIN trying to nationbuild secular infrastructure (for example, schools) instead of bricolaging existing islamic jurisprudence?

Why does building schools conflict with working with existing Islamic structures? What if tribes, villages, individuals want schools? We just featured a short article by an academic arguing that COIN in Afghanistan needed to work through the tribes more than it has, but particular development projects - schools, wells, whatever - don't preclude that at all.

My argument is the third culture argument of social network theory. Its BIOLOGY. COIN creates more terrorists than it kills. Because influence propagates along twice as many network connections….both socio-political and consanguinous. So it it is simple mathematics.

Even granting your COIN assumptions, your argument presumes that all nodes are equal. It's in part a targeting issue: There would be no reason to expect that the "newly created" "terrorists" will have the same levels of sophistication, skill, and commitment as the old ones, or that the terrorist/insurgent networks aren't vulnerable to disruption along other axes as well. The idea isn't to kill everyone actually or potentially on the other side - can't be done, even with nuclear weapons. The idea is to strike only those who need to be struck and whom it's worth striking.

In Iraq, the results could often be seen fairly soon, for example, in the lessening sophistication and effectiveness of IED attacks in key areas: One dude who knows what he's doing and whose supply lines are intact is orders of magnitude more dangerous than two dudes who don't know what they're doing and need to re-establish connections.

The Bush Doctrine aka “democracy promotion” never once acknowledged the fact that muslims will vote for Islam, not secularism, when they get to vote.
conservatives are stupid.

It was under Bush that soft Islamist or heterogeneous Islamist-modernist constitutions were written and put into operation in both Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a lot that the Bush Administration got wrong, but it never set out to remove or reduce the influence of Islam per se. It was criticized constantly from the Islamophobic right for not doing so, or from moderate Muslims for doing less than it in theory could have, against Islamism. It's been a frequent and somewhat hypocritical complaint from the left that our policy also leaves the conditions for heightened Iranian influence intact - as though any policy other than a military dictator like Saddam or all-out war on Iran could remove Iranian influence. Meanwhile, many of the same critics, especially the ones on the left, preferred to believe (absurdly) that Obama's Cairo speech was more important to the Green Movement than any "infection" from Iraq (and beyond) - as though only a one-way influence from a bankrupt revolutionary ideology would occur along newly opened channels between the two countries (among other factors).

None of this means that COIN - and certainly as in your reductive description - is the be-all and end-all, or that the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq don't have other problems, but the shape and outcomes of a culturally evolutionary process will be determined by much more than the relatively small-scale military operations of a season or a decade.

@ narciso:
Well, Allawi stands, as far as I know, as a symbol of how badly mistaken we would be to maintain a monolithic image of the "Islamic world" or the "Arab world." They are worlds and worlds within worlds. Regardless of Allawi's personal qualities - he seems like a fine chap to me, but what do I know? - the stream he represented, and that won the most votes, a plurality and therefore the most significant bloc, was anti-sectarian, relatively pro-secular and pro-US. And, btw, why shouldn't they call for a holiday for the removal of US combat troops? I suspect it serves multiple purposes.

Throughout the most important countries of the Middle East, there are large blocs - who knows how large they'd be under the right conditions? - that could be described the same way as Allawi's party, prominently for our purposes in Turkey and Iran, however problematic the policies of their current rulers may be to us and our allies.

bob wrote:

A Theater Prof I had defined art as “the selected exaggeration of life”.

Well, except that that leaves aside non-representational, non-mimetic art: Most music, self-consciously abstract art of all types, numerous schools of modern literary art - and, while we're on the subject, concept art, too, for the most part.

@ narciso:
There's no accounting for seeming. If it bleeds, it leads. You don't hear much out of Jordan, say, and, if you do, it'll be bad news.

Frankly, you're not the person I would select to judge incoming message traffic from the Islamic world and assess its relative radicalism. You've been hanging around too much with people who believe in guilt by association.

@ strangelet:
See, where you're right is that you can't fight a "War on Islam" and apply a Petraeus COIN strategy unless you're preparing for 1,000-year or 2,000-year deployment. Except the only ones fighting a War on Islam are the Islamophobes fighting it in their heads and on the beachheads of lower Manhattan. The most Islamophobic righties - Andy McCarthy, Diane West - oppose Petraeus/Obama precisely because P/O have zero interest in fighting a war on Islam, and are fully prepared to err on the side of failing to be anti-Islamic enough. The far right - ultra-hawks and isolationists, who sometimes amount to the same thing - opposed Bush and the Neocons for the same reasons, among others. They agree with Hirsi Ali, and assess Islam as incompatible with representative democracy. Others, like our visitor John, question whether it's the representation part, more than the democracy part, that will prove a stumbling block. strangelet's own comments, though intended to be pro-Islamic, partly imply the same thing.

I've not seen anything convincingly demonstrating that a modernized, formally democratized Islam is out of reach at all - to the contrary. I think that many countries are closing in on it from different directions, as the pendulum swings slowly back from the Islamist reaction to secular modernism into the reaction to the reaction. Islamized democracy/democratized Islam remains the most likely long-term model for most of the Islamic world barring utter global catastrophe. The contribution of the US military enterprises, which can be seen as a response to a summons from the Islamic world, a calling forth to be judged, and whose most important elements may have been exchanges taking place largely out of view, was arguably necessary, both in its negative and its positive aspects.

@ narciso:
to involve an iconic figure in a vile medium

@ narciso:
@ strangelet:
There are some useful observations in strangelet's comment, IMO, but some of the uncertain assumptions get in the way. May be worth trying to sort this one out a bit later. I don't think narc's summary is justified.

Joe NS wrote:

Colin has already pointed out to you that voting for an Islamic constitution is not a problem unless you believe that Islam is a problem. You seem to need reminding of that.

Thanks, Joe.

Once the false assumptions are in place, the general tendency is to steam right ahead regardless. But I'm still glad to get the text on that "neocon logic" piece. Deserves to be flamed and japed.

@ Rex Caruthers:
Well, I found it amusing, if not quite amazing - there was a lot of coprophilia (and a lot of other copro's) in those days - some of the surviving popular/political art is hilariously extreme. I once took a class on the Grotesque in art and literature from a specialist with a vast collection - he'd frequently run slides through a carousel-loaded projector, and the highlight of the show would be when he clicked upon something particularly striking - politicians drowning in a vast cauldron of clerical excrement stirred by the king (I'll leave further details to your fecund imaginations) - and he would pause, step back a bit, touch his chin, and say, "Now... that's grotesque."

Happy times for a stoned undergrad.

The downside of it all is that for the rest of the day as I go about some pressing business, I'll be reciting the brief tale of Celia to myself whether I want to or not.

strangelet wrote:

im sure your argument is great comfort to the families of the fallen.

Probably more than yours. In my experience, military families generally have a much firmer intuitive grasp of why they don't require logic of comfort from the likes of me or you. What we say here is unlikely ever to touch them, and getting to the truth of such matters isn't helped by pretending otherwise.

narciso wrote:

Lets not overintellectualize this,

That's a silly statement. "Intellectualization" is the medium of "concept art," as much as Rembrandt worked in oils. If it's not to your taste, fine - but then you're only pretending to be encountering the work on its own terms.

And it's rather unlikely, perhaps inconceivable, that the NEA will ever fund "great art." The great art of the era of the progressive state is hard to define - maybe ICBMs or the Apollo program - maybe "great art" is something we gave up for good reason. Hard to climb high enough to get an adequate view. We'll have to leave that to future civilizations, though it may be too much to presume that they'll talk about art in the same way we still do.

@ narciso:
What "lie"?

It doesn't and can't insult a religion. It did and can expose a kind of weakness and self-contradiction within the religion, and is disruptive to good manners - but it's one of the defining mechanisms of our social system to produce and absorb such "insults" as a matter of course. Such disruptions of the social order are necessary to the social order.

The work says more about the religion within society than it says or can say about the religion itself. or about those who practice it, though it does confirm the power of the religious symbols it manipulates. What it deprecates and disrespects is the social-political power of the religious system of fetishes: It exposes the lack of temporal power of the church; it reminds the would-be universal church that its preferences are not (are far from) universalized, and further reveals their bases to be contingent (a distaste for the handling of urine - in other societies it may be drunk for supposed health effects).

We mostly dislike "Piss Christ," or pretend to, because it reminds us about the Faustian bargain that secular democracy, Whig political science, compelled the frustrated universalisms of all sects to accept: Each of us accepts indefinite frustration to the extent we believe that our sectarian practice deserves to be universal, represents or can represent universal/universalizable truth.

@ bob:
I agree that "conservative" and "liberal" are in a sense biological. In a sense they conform to the physical laws of our universe. But they exist within us as directionalities, and only in a strictly limited way as particular contents. It's only in the "state of nature" that a merely organic and autonomic "conservatism/liberalism" would be primary. That's what defines the "state of nature." It doesn't prevent us from preferring one or another arrangement of political and social affairs, within a framework of moral progress.

Joe NS wrote:

Perhaps, sunk in convention, it simply never occurred to them, or perhaps poverty of imagination can be discerned, their other achievements notwithstanding. It’s a puzzler.

"Sunk in convention" would be one judgmental way of putting it. They were operating in an artistic arena defined by different conventions. There's merely some superficial overlap between Serrano's work and theirs, since Serrano's aesthetic-alimentary process excretes objects that can be admired, or not. His materials are as much the conventions and the audience themselves as whatever the main end-excrescence happens to have been constructed from. You and me and Rudy Giuliani were and are his principal materials. Your approach is a bit like defining a meal by what your body ends up having done with it rather than by what it offers to your senses when you consume it.

And you really have to get away from over-interpreting what someone "seems" to you to have said. I have no idea whether Serrano considers himself a Catholic or strives to be a good one. My guess would be neither, but I don't much care. "Piss Christ" captured a cultural moment, in the way that concept art does, and will likely fade with that cultural moment. It's not in my view a "major work of art," and Serrano doesn't, in my view, qualify as an important artist in any grand historical sense.

strangelet wrote:

You idiots,

I wish you'd stop making assumptions about what everyone here thinks and believes, or speaking as though you see us as a collective mass. At this point the "conventional conservatives" here (if there are any) probably feel a bit like an embattled minority. Even the people here who hold to negative/enemy images of Islam as such are open-minded enough still to be here and participating, and I don't think anyone is operating in bad faith.

the reason you have to demonize Islam, is that is the only justification you have left for 5000 dead american soljahs and a trillion dollahs of taxpayer money. The Bush doctrine could never have worked. The clergy ARE the lawyers and the government in MENA–what you are going to? Build secular law schools from the ground up?

The dimensions of the conflict that led to the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are much, much broader than you seem willing to recognize. 5000 dead and $1 Trillion would be history on the incredibly cheap, if that was all it cost. The stakes, and the sunk costs, are much higher than that.

COIN is failing because it is based on the moronic Bush Doctrine. When muslims can vote, they just vote for MORE Islam.

Why is that inherently a problem? Let them vote for more Islam. So what?

So Iraq is an islamic state with shariah law in the constitution, religious political parties, that declared a national holiday holiday when the americans left Iraqi cities. And the religious clerics still control the government– Imam Fadlallah was one of Malikis chief advisors. Eventually the american people are going to realize that 5000 young american soldiers died for NOTHING.

NOTHING would be a huge improvement over the status quo ante. Let's hear it for NOTHING! Sadly, it's not attainable in the short term. Too much interdependence and interpenetration. World too small. Almost everybody's got stuff that lots of other people want - and the ones who don't are pissed off about it.

The Bush Doctrine creates islamic states at a horrific cost to Americans…..and COIN makes more terrorists than it kills.

Eh... From the perspective of a utopian pacifist or a decadent Westerner, these wars are huge deals. From the perspective of human history, they're iddy-biddy things. France killed est. 1 million Algerians, out of a population of around 10 million, extricating itself from its bad relationship with the Islamic world. The Soviet Union killed est. 1.5 million civilians and mujahadeen, and took 50,000 killed and wounded of its own, destroying Afghanistan in order to try but fail to save it for Communism.

Creating Islamic states with a higher admixture of Americanism/globalism and a greater sophistication about the pluses and minuses of the West may be exactly what history calls us to do after generations farming out the process to Saudia Arabia, Khomeinist Iran, and others. The secular modernizers went too far and too fast and created strains and disjunctions that their societies couldn't efficiently absorb under the pressures of a rapidly industrializing and globalizing world, with its own problems and needs.

It's not that they are Islamic that ought to concern us, it's how they are Islamic that should concern them, primarily, and the rest of us secondarily.

@ bob:
The reason I say "almost" is that progress, most broadly defined, as embraced in the American Founding, and as dramatized and extended in all of the great religions, points to a dissolution of in/out groups, or to a re-definition of and decreasing import of boundaries. We keep on rushing forward to an end of history. The Founding generation in a way thought that they had glimpsed the end of history - not that time was coming to an end, but that they were implementing the framework for a universal community whose precepts would re-make the world.

Without getting sidetracked into that discussion, the Right is in this sense divided against itself in the American context - its pre-Revolutionary, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary elements jumbled together and contradictory. It can't be authentic to itself, in America, without undermining itself. In a different way that's true of the Left, too. It continually comes back from its adventures across whatever border with conceptual treasure that, put to the test, turns out to be regressive where it's not redundant.

@ strangelet:
I'm glad I saw that... but it's a little harder to laugh on a morning when the news is filled with news of a mass casualty bombing in Uganda.

narciso wrote:

That’s just too much post modern semiotic mumbo jumbo, that reads well on paper, but doesn’t ring true. It is necessary tobring down the good, the decent, the patriotic, in order to ‘fundamentally transform’
the society.

Thank you, Glenn Beck - except that fundamental transformation, in addition to being morally necessary, shifted into the realm of the political when religion was formally de-politicized, is the essence of America, is "the good," "the decent," and "the patriotic" in America.

Rex Caruthers wrote:

And the argument would be that if a God chose to become human and enter the dank,corrupted fallen world,it would be the equalivant to that God of diving into a vat of piss.

Exactly (except for the charming dyslexia).

Serrano’s blasphemy

"His followers will wear white." In Jesus' day, urine was often used in the process of whitening fabrics. What makes it "blasphemy" is your learned associations with urine. Serrano feels himself under no obligation to accept them. He further, and I think with some justifications, finds the resultant imagery appealing, and the idea of divinity-all-too-human neatly parallels the symbology of art/waste. God and man are also two things that don't belong together. The naive - I don't think I need to put the word in quotes - reaction to it is predictable and further ironic since the very status of Christ as realizing a god for the masses and for the rejected, for the human beings discarded prior to Christ like so much societal waste, is what Serrano is marking: What could be more universal and human, and also more "last" and "least" than urine?

Rex Caruthers wrote:

featuring the side splitting humour of the serial killer/torturer,

That's not what Dexter is about really at all. It's a somewhat more than usually self-conscious exploration of the return of the repressed, and it fits in well thematically with the self-superiority and selective perception typified in the Abrams and Den Beste excerpts, as well as in Bozell's article - and for that matter with narciso's complaint - and you ought to recognize it, too, as part of the "exceptionalism" that you're always seeking to undermine.

There's a constant attempt - it's almost definitional for the "right" - to guard the border between us and them, which means viewing both sides as self-creating, self-contained, and self-responsible. The "transgressive" artist seeks shock effects by crossing the border, equating and joining things that "don't belong together": The sociopathic murderer as hero. The monster as object of love and compassion. Bodily waste integrated with spiritual transcendance.

The very familiarity of the gesture can itself be transgressive: I think that's what pisses off Bozell - that the spirit of Piss Christ has invaded Basic Cable, and has turned back into kitsch! Kitsch is supposed to think it's beautiful: A Kinkade print or a votive candle. A fan or at least a non-judgmental interpreter of Serrano would argue that Piss Christ was a more reverential gesture than anything any televangelist ever managed.

What's ironic about Bozell is that he's a leading defender and proponent of the socio-economic system that endlessly produces and re-produces Piss Christs and True Bloods, and Brent Bozells to complain pointlessly and comically about them. The message of all of that mass culture that will probably never reach him, and that he's incapable of accepting, is that its truths derive from the conventional lies that he would prefer (desperately needs to) remain undisturbed.

narciso's reference to the Frankfurt School strikes me as a very out-of-place. The main aesthetic theorist of the Frankfurt School was Adorno, and there was no more pitiless critic of the ills of capitalist/late capitalist culture than Adorno. "Every trip to the cinema makes me worse." "The office of art is to resist by form alone the course of a world that always puts a gun to its head." No one struggled harder to define a non-dehumanizing course of cultural development against the onslaught of commodification. For Adorno, I believe, the mass culture itself, the possibility of that mass culture, is comprehensively de-humanizing because it's superstructure and foundations are built on comprehensive de-humanization (just like every other culture, but, after Auschwitz and Hiroshima, without the excuse of innocence), with whatever claim it has to being exceptional, or exceptionally better, remaining embattled on every front and constantly subject to reversal.

@ narciso:
I think you're just projecting into the mirror, one of a zillion zillion points of reflection.

Ask an overly broad question, get an overly broad answer.