Friday, October 12, 2007

The Propaganda Front

The Democratic Congress did a great job yesterday showing how they would solve the problems in the Middle East. The method is simple: You schmooze up to and praise all enemies of the United States and condemn our allies. The example of condemning allies is the resolution to condemn Turkey for a genocide that took place a century ago under a radically different government.

There is nothing special about the US Congress that makes it the authoritative source for international moral definitions. Any act where one political body in one country tosses a label at another is, by definition, a political act.

The world needs to recognize the Armenian genocide as genocide, but the arena of politics is not the right forum. History is the proper forum for debating actions of a century ago. Political bodies should restrict their use of such labels specifically to efforts to stop mass murder. Ironically, in the same news program where Progressive Democrate Tom Lantos beamed about his resolution to condemn Modern Turkey for a genocide committed by their ancestors, the progressive democrat Jimmy Carter carefully split hairs to forgive the Sudanese of the genocide in their little corner of the world.

The genocide in Sudan is sadly like the genocide in Rwanda in that the UN and Western powers sat idly by waffling on definitions and completed failed in efforts to save lives.

The tossing about of labels by political bodies always will be seen within a political context. It is the ultimate in absurdity to think that the progressives really are in tune with some universal truth that the mass murders in Turkey are genocide while the mass murders in Sudan are not.

The roots of modern progressivism is relativism. A relativist rejects the existence of universal definitions. From the vantage point of moral relativism that is intrinsic in leftist thought, then this decision to condemn Modern Turkey for crimes against humanity committed by the Ottoman Turks is a blatant effort to harm the alliance between the US and modern Turkey.

As Congress was not meant to be the institution to define terms, it should stick to resolutions that positively affect the world.

Contrary to what Tom Lantos may think, the current government in Turkey has very little influence on the Ottoman Turks of a 100 years ago. This is not because the current leaders in Turkey are bad people. It is because time is linear.

There is some legitimacy to Carter's hesitancy to officially use the word genocide in diplomatic efforts in Sudan. Alienating a group can lead to atrocities, just as failures to notice the atrocity can lead to atrocity.

We must be careful in dishing out labels. In most cases, the assigning of political labels have unintended negative effects.

One label that is in the news is "Islamo-fascism." I can see some merit to the use of this term. Fascism was an ideology that emerged in the Western Christian world. The western roots of the name clearly implies that the problem is not Islam, but with the radicalization of Islam.

I think that moderate Islamic intellectuals might gain traction if they started emphasizing that Radical Islam is partially a product of the western influences.

Like the National Socialist Party in Germany, the National Socialism in Italy (fascism) was a refinement of communism. In my reading of post colonial history in the Middle East, I find that the communist family of thought has played a dominant role in Islamic intellectual theories. Many of the early thinkers of radical Islam studied revolutionary techniques in the West. Satre and Camus were big players in Algeria hoping to transform the Islamic world into a Communist style state. The Nazis were very active in Iran, to the point that the Iranian army still does the goose step. Saddam Hussein was an avid follower of Stalin. His secret service was trained by the East Germans.

If the Islamic world understood that the disease that currently affects their culture is similar to the one that affected the West in the 20th century, then we might be able to find ways to move beyond the hatred.

I see merit in this term "Islamo-fascism" as it adequately states that the problem is not with Islam, but with a bastardization of Islam. The west suffered under a similar bastardization of ideology.

Of course, I can also see why the left has a problem with the term. This term openly says that radical Islam shares the same intellectual roots as the modern progressives. The modern left uses the same propaganda techniques to support the public school monopoly in education and for arguing for universal health care that the Islamo-fascists use in arguing for Islamic domination of the West.

I suspect that this label "Islamo-fascism" will fail because the left has a stake in seeing it fail. The left is doing a great job is trying to get the term associated with xenophobia. The left made big inroads on this effort by pushing out fake flyers which portrayed the term as hate speech.

The left has hegemony in education, so I suspect that this upcoming Islamofascism Awareness Week will backfire on the right. The term sounds far too much like a jingo for my taste. I will stick with using "Radical Islam."

Regardless, Tom Lantos and Nancy Pelosi can be commended by fellow progressives for driving a wedge between the US and one of our few remaining allies.


Scott Hinrichs said...

"Contrary to what Tom Lantos may think, the current government in Turkey has very little influence on the Ottoman Turks of a 100 years ago." That statement is a gem.

So, what do you think of the endless efforts to get people today to flaggelate themselves to make penance for ills wrought by past generations? Does it help current society realize and solidify the unacceptability of those acts, or is it merely a method of keeping people in their place?

y-intercept said...

Figuring out how to recognize and respond to atrocities is one of the most difficult challenges faced by the international community.

Al Qaeda was in Sudan before Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, the "Islamo-fascists" are looking at Sudan and trying to figure out how to get away with genocides in other areas.

For that matter, Saddam Hussein managed to genocide about 180,000 of his own people during the time that the 2007 Nobel Peace Laureate was vice president.

The flagellation that you refer to is the politicizing of past wrongs.

The left wants to condemn an atrocity that occurred a century ago because the descendants of this group are at present an ally, but they downplay the genocides of Hussein and in Sudan. Nobel must be rolling in his grave. They give a peace price to a man who was part of an administration that blindly turned its back on the Rwandans and gave tacit approval to a genocide of the Tutsi.

There is not a pat answer to preventing genocide as the evil will always adapt itself. Every thought system can be radicalized and pushed to the extent that it results in atrocity.

In the Western/Christian tradition, every virtue has a corresponding vice. The vice occurs when you push any one idea to its extreme. (Logically, when you push a virtue to an extreme, you get a paradox and the evil flows from that paradox).

I think the conservative mindset has it right. We need to study the atrocities of the past and to recognize that they are often the result of pushing a virtue to an extreme.

The progressives have it wrong. Progressives tend to think that you can counter the wrongs of the past by pushing ideas to extremes.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I appreciate your thoughts.

Charles D said...

The function of the Congress is not to define terminology for historical events. Unfortunately the term genocide is very politicized and even the original international definition was watered down to omit elimination of political dissidents to satisfy Stalin.

Rather than argue about the proper term to assign to horrific situations like that in Darfur, Congo, or Iraq, the Congress would be well advised to encourage the President to engage in active diplomacy to halt the bloodshed before it rises to a level were the word genocide is appropriate.

I would agree with Wikipedia that "Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, statism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, corporatism, populism, collectivism, and opposition to economic and political liberalism." I think the term Islamo-fascism is an oversimplification and is more designed to demonize Islam than to provide any understanding.

The government and media have done their best to insure that we do not examine the question "Why do they hate us?" or barring that, to short-circuit the answer to something as silly as "because of our freedom". IMHO, the problem is not so much with Islam, or even with fundamentalist Islam, but with a small group that intends to use Islam to justify and gain support for their terrorist activities.

Charles D said...

Perhaps the Turkish Parliament should pass a resolution condemning the United States genocide of the Native American peoples. As they say, "walk a mile in the other man's shoes".

It may be inaccurate to refer to Saddam Hussein's mass killings as genocides, but the primary incidents that could qualify are the Halabja poison gas attack on the Kurds in 1988 (under Reagan), and the suppression of the Shia rebellion immediately following the first Gulf War (under Bush). I'm afraid neither can be blamed on Clinton or Gore.

You are correct about the Rwandan genocide, I'll grant you that, but unlike the current administration, under Clinton the Vice-President was not running the show.

Most genocides in the last century have arisen from ethnic conflict: Armenia, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, etc. None were caused by political or economic extremism, nor would any progressive suggest an extremist solution. The best way to avoid future genocides is obviously to reduce ethnic and religious tensions and promote a respect for diversity. Unfortunately conservatives have historically exploited ethnic difference to gain political advantage.