What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Danegeld

In the long thread on 9/11 I made a comment which I thought was worth putting in a post of its own. Here it is:

As a general rule, "Bad people might hurt us if we do this" is a reason against doing X that should be handled with great care. Applied too frequently, it provides a perfect road to fatal weakness, to giving in to extortion and to every demand of bullies. Paying Danegeld was not a good idea strategically anymore than in any other sense.

Generally people bring up this reason only when they already strongly disapprove of an action on some independent grounds. In that case, the argument should be made on the independent grounds.

Nor does the action have to be strictly necessary in order for us to question the use of this argument. For example, it is not strictly necessary for any of us to write posts for this blog criticizing any of the tenets of Islam, for Christians to preach the Gospel in any particular case, or, for that matter, for leftists to criticize American foreign policy. Yet leftists would surely be outraged if there were some pro-military terrorist group that would be enraged if they criticized U.S. foreign policy and if they were told that they have a duty to stop doing so in order to avoid the anger of this terrorist group. And so on. Many actions that are not necessary in any given case should nonetheless be done by someone at some time or other, and if we submit to a rule that allows bullies to veto the acts in each individual case, we will stifle our freedom, our civic health, and our country's character altogether by the application of the rule.

Apropos of which, the Acts 17 missionaries go on trial tomorrow in Dearborn. The judge did not dismiss the charges, not even against Negeen Mayel who was merely videotaping from a distance. It appears that the trial will partly turn on the testimony of one Roger Williams; I imagine the lawyers for Acts 17 are eagerly anticipating cross-questioning him. As readers of W4 know, the Acts 17 missionaries committed the provocative and unnecessary act of discussing the deity of Jesus Christ with Muslims on videotape during an Arab festival.

Comments (21)

Will the Acts 17 website be giving us regular updates?

They say so. I haven't found them as obsessively quick as I would like as a fan. (For example, I would have liked to know _sooner_ that they are going on trial tomorrow. They only told us a day or so ago, and last I had heard there was still a chance that the judge would dismiss the charges.)

But that's the only place I know to get news, except perhaps for Facebook pages, but I'm not sure which Facebook pages would be faster. If I find out a faster way to get news I'll let people know.

I intended to respond to this comment in the 9/11 thread, but involved myself in drafting my recent post, so I'll just throw in my two farthings here.

If we are referring to various forms of advocacy pursued by individuals, then this is a perfectly valid principle. We ought not be cowed, or at least not always cowed by such threats or intimations of retaliation. On the other hand, I don't believe that the instinct to defy bullying really has any place, any place at all, in foreign policy. It is true enough that most appeals to the likelihood of blowback are intended to reinforce objections held on other grounds, but they do provide reinforcement all the same. There was, for example, no really good strategic reason for the imposition of sanctions upon the Iraqi regime during the 90s; aside from the ethical dubiousness of such collective punishment, they accomplished less than nothing towards toppling the regime - instead of meekly acquiescing to the demands back of the sanctions, the regime diverted scarce resources from needed public goods into various attempted work-arounds, preserving itself at the expense of the nation. North Korea has done the same. The blowback argument, then, is intended to impress upon Americans that stupid policy doesn't go forth into the void, never to matter again, but has unintended consequences; it is the foreign policy version of the 'unintended consequences' argument.

Thing is, though, Maximos, it ends up being hard to avoid applying it to domestic policy as well. Switzerland got "blowback" literally for arresting a Libyan "prince" for beating someone up _in Switzerland_ and putting him in jail for one or two nights! And some have certainly brought up and will certainly continue to bring up the same argument against, say, restricting Muslim immigration, a jihad sedition law, or anything of that kind. So this argument is pretty difficult to contain once it gets going. It can end up meaning that America can't take obviously legitimate and healthy steps to keep its citizens safe within its own borders, etc., and to recognize the Islam problem _even domestically_, if these would be perceived as "anti-Muslim," might anger Muslims and "inspire" or "provoke" either domestic terrorism or riots abroad.

Well, here's the thing: there is no good independent reason for not arresting the Libyan "princeling". There are good, independent reasons for abandoning at least 75% of our foreign policy obsessions; that many of these policies aggravate folks unnecessarily is simply additional encouragement. Restricting immigration from certain Islamic nations, or enacting a jihad-sedition law, would be good policy, regardless of whether anyone might be aggrieved by it; the same cannot be said for foreign policy. In other words, I'm positing a disanalogy between domestic and foreign policy; unintended consequences occur in both - that's just the nature of things - but the thresholds for action are much different.

If liberals can ask Christian parents to tolerate their children being instructed by teachers putting condoms on bananas in "sex" education class, surely these same liberals can ask American Muslims to exhibit some of that famous Cordoba tolerance by extending it to Christian missionaries in a public setting.

One can only speculate on the litany of excuses liberals would have come up with if Matthew Shepherd were a Christian missionary and his murderers were American Muslims. Mr. Shepherd's linguistic equivalent of "Koran burning," as they surely would have described his faith-sharing, would be enough for the liberal to pronounce the murder "tragic" but nevertheless a likely and understandable consequence of Mr. Shepherd not being sensitive enough to "victims" of neo-colonialism.

there is no good independent reason for not arresting the Libyan "princeling".

Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly. I think there was good reason _for_ it--namely, to uphold the rule of law against beating people up.

But I mean, that's the thing, Maximos. In all of these cases, presumably the people you're arguing with think there is good reason for whatever the thing is at issue. When I argued the Iraq war with people (for example), I didn't argue about terrorism being provoked, even though, like you, I was opposed to the Iraq war. I argued about the Iraq war in itself and tried to discuss whatever they thought were the reasons for it and what I thought were the more direct reasons against it. It's definitional that if you're talking to someone who has _proposed_ or _supports_ some policy, he's not going to agree with you that there's no good independent reason for the policy! So it doesn't help much to have a principle that says, "The concern that bullies will be angry at us and try to engage in terrorism if we do something can be brought up as an argument just in case there isn't a good independent reason for doing that thing." It isn't going to help in argument.

Look, I'm sorry to have to bring this up, but in discussing my proposals for dealing with the Islam problem, _all of which were strictly domestic_, _you_ brought up the "blowback" argument. Apparently you intended it to have some negative relevance for my _wholly_ domestic proposal, for which of course I think there are excellent domestic reasons, of banning Muslim prison chaplains. This is what you said:

Restricting access [of Muslim prison chaplains] generally presupposes that there is not, nor can be, any such thing as a moderate Muslim, defined as a Muslim who engages in a purely spiritual jihad, and who does not wish to institute sharia in the United States. If such moderate Muslims are impossibilities, then why bother with laws defining jihad and sharia as seditious? Why not simply define Islam qua Islam as seditious, and abrogate the liberty to practice it? Again, unfavourably disposed as I am to the religion, this is a non-starter, and I don't see the point in fantasizing about it. Although it is somewhat amusing to me, coming from people who normally denounce the blowback hypothesis as unpatriotic, or what have you. Openly bandy about rhetorically, much less establish as law, that Islam cannot be practiced in America, and there will be blowback.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/09/thoughts_on_september_11.html#comment-152556

See? Now, of course I don't agree that restricting Muslim prison chaplains means that no one is allowed to "practice Islam" (in some sense of "practice Islam" that doesn't include its legitimately publicly objectionable elements) in America. But that's beside the point. The point here is that you are saying that if we send a message to Muslims that there is a problem with practicing Islam _in America_ we should worry about "blowback."

Here there is _no_ line between foreign and domestic policy. You are basically saying that we shouldn't send too strong of a message to Muslims which is perceived as amounting to not allowing or restricting the practice of Islam _in America_, because of the "blowback" thesis.

You can say a lot of things about "not thinking that there is a good independent reason to tell Muslims they can't practice Islam" or "thinking that there are good independent reasons against" this. I myself am not advocating banning the building of all mosques and the printing of all Korans. Those were Jeff's proposals which I replaced with my own more moderate ones. But that's not the point. The point is that I would _never_ argue against Jeff's proposals on the grounds of fear of "blowback," because at that point we have moved straight into saying that the American government should take the possible actions of terrorist bullies into account in deciding what to do domestically about the danger of the Islamicization of America, the danger of Muslim terrorism in America, etc. And once we go down that road, that argument can be brought up for anything.

So, once again, I see no reason to treat the fear of the action of bullies as some sort of additional argument in conversation with people proposing some policy. If they're proposing it, they obviously think it's a good idea on independent grounds. You yourself seem to agree that the argument that terrorists will try to harm us should be used only if the policy _isn't_ a good idea on independent grounds. So it should be argued on independent grounds. The foreign-domestic distinction already isn't limiting the "don't anger the terrorists" argument only to discussions of foreign policy, even in your own usage.

There was, for example, no really good strategic reason for the imposition of sanctions upon the Iraqi regime during the 90s;

I don't think so: the Iraqi regime had engaged in a direct violent take-over of a neighbor (after a prior war with Iran). If it was appropriate to respond by helping the recipient of such aggression, we had to go to war with Iraq, which is what we did. The question before us was: do we (a) push Iraq out of Kuwait and stop there, or (b) go on to Baghdad and remove the offending regime, or (c) something kind of in between the 2. The problem with (a) is that it required us and our allies to remain there in Kuwait as deterrent for further attacks, indefinitely, and did nothing to protect the rest of the region from Iraq's aggression that had spilled out in war twice already. No good. The problems with (b) were multiple, not least of which is that toppling the regime was not a certain way to stop the threats to neighbors. (c) was chosen as a way to enable us to bring about a more likely way to engender peace than to sit on Iraq's doorstep for the next 6 generations: the sanctions were the teeth in the agreement to (1) end hostilities, and (2) turn over all records of WMD and be seen to destroy all materiel for projecting war out into the region. The sanctions would have been over as quickly as Saddam had lived up to the agreement to eradicate his ability to threaten his neighbors. I.E., the agreement HE agreed to in order to get us to call off marching on Baghdad.

aside from the ethical dubiousness of such collective punishment,

But they weren't "punishment" at all, they had nothing to do with retributive justice. They had to do with security in the region.

they accomplished less than nothing towards toppling the regime

True. But if that had been our primary objective, we would not have stopped our war short of Baghdad. Toppling Saddam was actually contrary to many foreign policy wonks' advice: they thought leaving Saddam there with teeth pulled was better for US policy than toppling him.

instead of meekly acquiescing to the demands back of the sanctions, the regime diverted scarce resources from needed public goods into various attempted work-arounds, preserving itself at the expense of the nation. North Korea has done the same.

Quite true. Absolutely valid observation. But at the time, all those people arguing against the war effort going on to Baghdad, against pushing through a military solution, were all saying "give non-violent sanctions a chance - leave force as a last resort, etc, etc." They have now been shown to be wrong: further military action was needed to achieve the demands needed for securing regional peace. Same with Korea: they have never bothered to live up to any of their agreements with us (re: Clinton's 1994 nuclear pact, which was violated from day one) and sanctions don't work.

The point is, assuming that US war operations in the Gulf war were just to begin with (at least with respect to ius ad bellum, I am not commenting on ius in bello), further military operations along to Baghdad would have been just, and the sanctions was the lesser imposition that might, possibly have worked, but in fact didn't. Those sanctions were certainly a just imposition from the standpoint of general rules of war: the non-aggressive victim has the right to defang the unjust aggressor, and those sanctions were the LEAST harmful way to achieve same (as proposed, at least).

As for Lydia's point: I don't think that it makes sense to worry all THAT much about making someone whose worldview is fundamentally unjust angry with me, because people get angry at perceived injustice, and if their worldview is grounded in injustice, then the only way I am likely to ensure that I don't anger them is to warp my actions so that they fit that unjust world model. Sorry, I don't think I want to go there.

I do, agree, though, with not doing things that anger people specifically to make them angry, things that are not required in justice and are (other than making others angry) hardly worth doing to begin with. That's why I wouldn't burn the Koran as a symbolic act. Nothing in justice requires that I publicly burn korans, and I don't see that there is any significant public benefit in a symbolic act designed to make other people angry. I can just as easily do a non-symbolic act by saying that I think the Koran was inspired by non-divine beyond-human intelligence, which is much more pointed, and carries much more content than a stupid burning.

In all of these cases, presumably the people you're arguing with think there is good reason for whatever the thing is at issue.

Precisely so, which is why I stated that there are good reasons - positive reasons - to abandon at least 75% of our foreign policy obsessions; the obverse of this is that these are also reasons against whatever arguments people have by way of favouring those policies.

It's definitional that if you're talking to someone who has _proposed_ or _supports_ some policy, he's not going to agree with you that there's no good independent reason for the policy!

Which is why blowback is a good supplementary reason for refraining from certain policies. With regard to that misbegotten Mesopotamian bungle, sound reasons for refraining from war were that there was no imminent threat of a grave, irreversible nature, and that the evils consequent upon war were likely to be - and were - greater than the evils of doing nothing. The blowback argument was like a bonus FAIL tacked onto the fundamental failure of the arguments for the war: in addition to the trillions of squandered wealth, both in the war itself and in the years to follow the war (recapitalization of the military, costs of caring for the maimed and wounded, opportunity costs, etc.), the lives lost unnecessarily, the decimation of America's international reputation and credibility, the diversion from the actual incubators of jihad, the unnecessary strengthening of Iran in the region, there is the fact that some thousands of Muslim men, both from Iraq and from the wider region, were motivated to wage jihad. Bonus failure! Besides, the blowback has a polemical and rhetorical purpose, namely, to reinforce that foreign nations and peoples are not inert matter upon which the Imperium works its will, but actual entities possessed of agency, the exercise of which is likely to be altered by our own interventions.

The point here is that you are saying that if we send a message to Muslims that there is a problem with practicing Islam _in America_ we should worry about "blowback."

If it seems that I've here abandoned my distinction between foreign and domestic policies, that is because I believe that there is a qualitative difference between proscribing the doctrines of Islamists - jihad, sharia, etc - and signaling that the practice of Islam qua Islam, in the United States, is unwelcome. As recent controversies over the burning of the Quran have indicated, such policies would have ramifications for the United States overseas, and may be predicted to have unwelcome effects upon those Muslims resident in the United States. The principal distinction between domestic and foreign policies is thus not so much that, in the one, we remain wary of inciting lunatics, and in the other, we are more willing to exercise that influence, but that there is very seldom reason to do anything at all by way of meddling in foreign nations, while there are some reasons, in certain circumstances, to enact certain policies with respect to foreign nationals, or religious minorities, domestically. Neither is it the case that there is no distinction between the spheres; as I have made plain, there is a vast difference between refraining from aggressive warfare in the Muslim world, partially on the grounds that such warfare will aid in recruitment to jihad, and taking the risk - mild, to be certain - of reaction by proscribing the dissemination of certain Islamic doctrines. The difference owes to the fact of public responsibility; we are responsible for the preservation of sound order domestically, while what transpires abroad is very seldom our legitimate concern. Hence, the threshold for domestic action is lower, though it does have its limits.

If it was appropriate to respond by helping the recipient of such aggression, we had to go to war with Iraq, which is what we did.

That "if" is a significant presupposition, wouldn't you think? There was no substantial danger of a wider Middle Eastern conflict in response to the invasion of Kuwait, a nation of minor strategic importance to the US, but for its status as an arms client, and the American disbelief that oil is a fungible good on global markets.

The question before us was: do we (a) push Iraq out of Kuwait and stop there

If we assume the legitimacy of the America-Kuwait client relationship, that it is warranted on prudential grounds, then this would seem to be the most reasonable response to Iraqi aggression, inasmuch as more comprehensive aims, in my estimation, run rapidly up against the tenets of Just War doctrine: replacing governments can very easily have unforeseeable consequences far worse than retaining the status quo; the regional strategic situation will be either unpredictable, or predictably bad (ie. Iran gets stronger); etc. So, put me down in favour of the status quo ante bellum, and nothing more. We are too quick to wage war, and too dismissive of its costs.

The problem with (a) is that it required us and our allies to remain there in Kuwait as deterrent for further attacks, indefinitely, and did nothing to protect the rest of the region from Iraq's aggression that had spilled out in war twice already. No good.

This would have been a problem for America, why, exactly? Oil was cheaper than dirt throughout the period of the Iran-Iraq War of the 80s. The dispute between Iraq and Kuwait centered on oil reserves and national boundaries, a clear indication that both nations wished to claim larger amounts of the stuff for extraction and sale on global markets. The principal basis for American involvement in the region - securing the free flow of oil to global markets - was scarcely traduced by the Iran-Iraq war, and wouldn't have been traduced by the invasion and occupation of Kuwait. I suppose I'm just not a proponent of R2P, notwithstanding all of the children pictured on the site.

The sanctions would have been over as quickly as Saddam had lived up to the agreement to eradicate his ability to threaten his neighbors. I.E., the agreement HE agreed to in order to get us to call off marching on Baghdad.

Which he actually did, according to the testimony of the weapons inspectors, as well as what we failed to discover in the aftermath of the invasion in 2003.

But they weren't "punishment" at all, they had nothing to do with retributive justice. They had to do with security in the region.

That's a distinction without a difference: Iraq, a putatively sovereign nation-state, was to be stripped of many of the manifestations of sovereignty on account of its policies towards its neighbours. We can say that this has nothing to do with punishment, but that is to torture language, by regarding it as a mere letter, to the neglect of the spirit suffusing its usage. Deprivation just is punishment. Moreover, the sanctions were collective punishment, for the same reason, namely, that we are not entitled to private definitions of things based upon subjective intentions. The meaning and intention of the action - the imposition of sanctions - lies in what is actually done, and not what lies between the ears of Western policymakers. Objectively, what was done was the imposition of sanctions upon a dictatorship, which any sane man could know in advance would starve its nation in order to sustain its power under the sanctions; objectively, what we did was hand the Ba'athist regime a near occasion of repression. Often, the better part of statesmanship, as well as justice, is to admit the limitations under which one labours, the limitations of power.

They have now been shown to be wrong: further military action was needed to achieve the demands needed for securing regional peace.

Regional peace may be impossible of attainment, and if so, we ought not endeavour to attain it, the pursuit of the impossible being, quite probably, unjust. In grave seriousness, I pose the question, "Is there any reasonable prospect of peace in the region, even within the long-term future?"

sanctions don't work.

Then they are unjust, tout court, and intended only as expressions of international pique and punishment; if they do not work, they cannot reasonably be projected to enhance regional security, and ought not be attempted. Civilians are harmed - bad enough - for nothing.

Besides, the blowback has a polemical and rhetorical purpose, namely, to reinforce that foreign nations and peoples are not inert matter upon which the Imperium works its will, but actual entities possessed of agency, the exercise of which is likely to be altered by our own interventions.

Rhetorically, the use of that argument is a failure precisely because your audience perceives this purpose. Your audience knows that's what you're doing: You're expressing, to some extent or another, the idea that they just need to _understand_ the jihadis better, because these are _people_, etc., whom they are treating like mere "inert matter," for which they need to be rebuked. I'm sorry, but it ends up sounding like a) sympathy and b) an insistence that terrorists be treated as rational agents with rational grievances. If you don't mean it that way, then you shouldn't use the argument. Since you're talking about rhetorical and polemical purposes.

If it seems that I've here abandoned my distinction between foreign and domestic policies

Not seems. Is. It is that way. Earlier in this thread, you implied that your whole point in using the "blowback" argument was to attack what you consider to be misguided foreign policies. I've pointed out that it's already, as it were, crossed the pond.

that is because I believe that there is a qualitative difference between proscribing the doctrines of Islamists - jihad, sharia, etc - and signaling that the practice of Islam qua Islam, in the United States, is unwelcome.

Right. So what it comes to is that if you think some _domestic_ policy is going too far, is signaling to the Muslims that their religion is unwelcome, then you're going to use the "blowback" argument against it. So the possible actions of bullies are going to be used as an argument against our government's doing things _domestically_ (like banning Muslim prison chaplains, for example) that some of us think are _not_ misguided and indeed are valuable and necessary to protect against the spread of Islam, because those arguments would make the Muslims feel like the practice of their religion is unwelcome, which could motivate bullies to attack. Which means we tell the bullies they are welcome to make this argument: "Make 'our people' feel welcome, Twinky, or you're toast."

Really, this just proves my point.

Which he actually did, according to the testimony of the weapons inspectors,

Well, from 1992 through 1999 at the least, the inspectors reported trouble after trouble with getting access and records. These reports resulted in 16 UN reprimands to Saddam for not holding up his end of the cease-fire bargain. That's recorded fact. That's at least 7 years worth of non-compliance (so far as ANYONE outside of Iraq could have said) and unnecessary prolonging of sanctions. Even if he had, in fact, gotten rid of the WMD, he did not do it with open access, transparency, and above-board dealing with the inspectors, which was his obligation under the terms of the cease-fire.

Iraq, a putatively sovereign nation-state, was to be stripped of many of the manifestations of sovereignty on account of its policies towards its neighbours.

Let me get this right: a sovereign nation wages war on 2 of its neighbors, one of them our ally. We wipe its snout militarily, and we have no just authority to restrict the expression of its sovereignty so that repetitions of same are not recurring? What planet does THAT come from? All nations recognize that the winners get to dictate terms to the losers so far as to ensure the losers don't get back on the war wagon next week.

Tony: "Sanctions don't work."

Maximos: Then they are unjust, tout court, and intended only as expressions of international pique and punishment;

Except that you took my comment out of its essential and logical context: people proposed sanctions as a better choice than the other options for achieving peace. Those who proposed them thought they would work , and argued down those who pointed out the trouble in making them work. Now that we tried the experiment, and proved that they didn't work in this case, we can reasonably say from experimental evidence that in the modern state "sanctions don't work." Before the experiment, we could theorize but not state it with sufficient force. Please pay more attention to the logic here.

Rhetorically, the use of that argument is a failure precisely because your audience perceives this purpose.

No, the purpose of the blowback argument is to state that foreign actors, having beliefs X, Y, and Z are likely to respond in ways A, B, and C to policy P. It says nothing about rationality per se, but only addresses itself to the question of how certain historical actors are likely to reason and act about certain things.

Really, this just proves my point.

Actually, it proves one of my points, namely, that with many conservatives, it is useless to draw distinctions between different things. Say one thing of which they disapprove, and they'll swiftly assimilate them to one another, and that unfavourably. I am positing a general distinction between two sphere of competence, with a degree of overlap. This is not a difficult concept, because it is not difficult to perceive that some things are more provocative than others, and that some things are more difficult to achieve in a post-Christian society.

Even if he had, in fact, gotten rid of the WMD, he did not do it with open access, transparency, and above-board dealing with the inspectors, which was his obligation under the terms of the cease-fire.

We now understand that his manipulations during the 90s were intended to preserve the fiction that he had retained those weapons, the better to enhance his power regionally and domestically. It was a bluff. Moreover, cease-fire agreements and treaties are no less subject to the strictures of just war doctrine than warfare itself; if there is no reasonable prospect of success, and the effort may engender evils greater than those sought to be avoided, we ought not impose the conditions in question. This analysis would seem to have been vindicated: the obsessive quest for perfect compliance and certainty on the question of WMD, led, as this was not attainable, to the sense that Iraq was a threat, which it was not.

We wipe its snout militarily, and we have no just authority to restrict the expression of its sovereignty so that repetitions of same are not recurring?

We would have authority to undertake only those policies with some prospect of success, etc., and perhaps, as I suggested above, no authority to overturn the status quo ante bellum. Again, to the extent that history is an experiment, this position would seem to have been vindicated.

Those who proposed them thought they would work , and argued down those who pointed out the trouble in making them work.

Who cares what they thought? They were wrong, and could have been known at the time to have been wrong. Subjective intent does not determine the nature or status of the action.

Before the experiment, we could theorize but not state it with sufficient force. Please pay more attention to the logic here.

Please refrain from such gratuitous insults. The matter could have been stated - indeed, probably was stated - with sufficient probabilistic force before the imposition of the sanctions regime: there was no reasonable prospect of securing the cooperation of that regime, in those circumstances, absent a large occupation force, which had already been decided against. Honestly, this nation needs to reconcile itself to the limits of power - the limits of power itself, and the limits of its own power - and to refrain from further bold experiments in foreign policy.

Actually, it proves one of my points, namely, that with many conservatives, it is useless to draw distinctions between different things.

I understand your "distinctions." But I say that in practice they end up being nothing more than distinctions between what you think we should do as a nation and what you think we shouldn't do--whether domestically or in foreign policy. Contrary to the impression you gave (quite distinctly, in fact) earlier in this thread, you have no bright line between foreign and domestic policy. You will urge us to submit to bullies whenever you think you should urge us to submit to bullies, and you will do so, in practice, when you don't happen to agree with the policies being proposed, when you think they are too hard on Muslims, etc., whether they are foreign or domestic, period. That's what it comes to in practice. That's what the "area of overlap" means. Where you don't apply the argument--e.g., to arresting a Libyan in Switzerland for beating someone up--is just where, at least for the time being, the foreign demands on the domestic front are so egregious that you don't happen to support them.

Understand: I think that it's...angering for anyone to demand or suggest that we shouldn't prohibit access of Muslim imams to our prisons on the grounds that Muslims may engage in violence if we make that move. I think that's a pretty egregious demand for Danegeld right there.

Pish-posh, tosh, and rubbish. You continue to allege that the bright line has been erased, when the actual argument I have advanced is that the bright line obtains in most circumstances, and ceases to obtain in others, and that the distinction between the respective sets is made prudentially. You, and most of my opponents, seem to have a difficulty with prudential judgment, that is, the evaluation of things on a case-by-case basis, and demand hard rules: we may always do this, damn the consequences; we must not do that, etc.

I'm not partial in the slightest to ideological policymaking, because, well, it's ideological: it leads to the imposition of straightjackets upon statesmen and political functionaries, which is a bizarre way to approach the proliferating variety and complexity of human experience. The reasons arresting a Libyan "princeling" in Switzerland is legitimate are that he has violated the laws, violated the human dignity of his victims, and that the probable consequences are of tertiary importance: the loss of some economic contracts. Big deal. Grow up, Switzerland! Human dignity and the rule of law are more important than profit. The reason banning Muslim "religious comforts" in American prisons might be more protentious is that it would immediately reduce a segment of the Muslim population to the status of homo sacer, those people who are in society, but not allowed certain of its fundamental protections and rights. A Muslim prisoner sent up for car theft shouldn't be able to consult an Imam, even one pre-screened on ideological grounds, because he might be radicalized? It would send a signal - which is the intent - and that signal would result in some degree of radicalization. Then what do we do? More surveillance state nonsense? More invasive security screenings as a routine feature of modern life? Undoubtedly, yes, and more: steps towards the radical measures I've already suggested are non-starters; ie., more popular agitation for them, which agitation, because they won't be implemented, will result in a recursive obsession with security and surveillance, applied generally.

Maximos,

This caught my attention:

"We now understand that his manipulations during the 90s were intended to preserve the fiction that he had retained those weapons, the better to enhance his power regionally and domestically. It was a bluff. Moreover, cease-fire agreements and treaties are no less subject to the strictures of just war doctrine than warfare itself; if there is no reasonable prospect of success, and the effort may engender evils greater than those sought to be avoided, we ought not impose the conditions in question."

Are you suggesting that the cease-fire agreements and treaties had NO effect on Saddam's ability to acquire WMD? Or do you think that had we imposed no restrictions after the war on Saddam he would have abandoned his WMD efforts and just kept bluffing? In other words, do you really think Saddam did NOT want a WMD program?

Just curious.

Do you believe that unceasing foreign conflict, for the purpose of ensuring that no unsavoury regime ever acquires nuclear weapons, is both feasible and desirable? I do not, especially after the second installment of the Mesopotamian morass.

and that the probable consequences are of tertiary importance: the loss of some economic contracts.

Excuse me? Perhaps you have never heard of Max Goldi?

No, the consequences were a good deal more severe than that, and can now be predicted to be more severe for any state that doesn't allow the Libyans _in_ and allow them to beat up anyone they choose: Nothing less than the kidnapping of citizens of the "offending" country and their imprisonment for years.

I think your prudential judgements vis a vis Muslim prison imams stink. You presumably think mine stink. But that's the point. That's where it should be argued. I don't care tuppence about Muslims' feelings, and if they are going to be "radicalized" because their car thieves can't "consult" imams in prison, then that just shows why we need to have fewer of what Jeff Culbreath calls these sweet people around: People who are always on the verge of being "radicalized" into murdering us because of our treatment of "their" criminals, etc. And having a prison imam is not a fundamental right and protection.


(I'm getting a little bored with the Iraq war argument, guys.)

Perhaps you have never heard of Max Goldi?

Fine. Up the ante. Arrest the Libyan "princeling", and hold him until the Swiss citizen is released.

I think your prudential judgements vis a vis Muslim prison imams stink. You presumably think mine stink. But that's the point. That's where it should be argued.

And that's where the matter is being argued: prudentially, inclusive of the potential consequences of any given policy.

And having a prison imam is not a fundamental right and protection.

In the abstract, maybe, maybe not. In practice, I cannot say that I'm fond of denials of religious liberty, especially under the actually-existing American regime. I suspect that the SCOTUS would agree with me, probably even the Supreme Court Republicans of the United States.

I'm getting a little bored with the Iraq war argument, guys.

So am I. Although, I must admit to astonishment that it arises at all, given the disaster of 20 years of policy there.

prudentially, inclusive of the potential consequences of any given policy.

Okay, then why not just admit that, on your way of doing this, there is no reason for someone not to bring this up as a serious argument against things you would support--like a jihad sedition law? Look, _you_ think we should go ahead and do it even if it would "radicalize" people and even if Muslims would riot, etc. _I_ think so, too. We're agreed on that, I presume. But speaking for myself, that's because I am very disinclined to give _any_ weight to the argument that says, "Don't do that, or Muslim bullies will riot, get radicalized, engage in acts of terrorism." Indeed, to be honest, I think that can be an argument _for_ doing something--to show that we will not be cowed, which I actually think has practical value, even as refusing to bargain with terrorists has practical value. You, as far as I can tell, would have to acknowledge that such an argument _does_ count against various domestic policies you support, but would merely say that for the time being, in this case, etc., you don't think it's a strong enough argument against, etc.

Question: What do you think about stopping Muslim immigration? Would you also say that we have to continue to be "non-discriminatory" in Muslim immigration _even in part_ because of a fear that the existing Muslims we already have in America will be radicalized, engage in acts of terror, etc., if we don't continue to allow Muslims into our country?

Okay, then why not just admit that, on your way of doing this, there is no reason for someone not to bring this up as a serious argument against things you would support--like a jihad sedition law?

Because, unlike banning Muslim "religious comforts" in American prisons, a jihad sedition law would accomplish two laudable purposes: first, it would direct law enforcement resources against those disseminating these doctrines, and second, it would call the bluff of the Muslim community, something I think salutary. In other words, the Muslim community is fond of claiming that Islam means peace with man and with God, that terror is a grave perversion of Islam, and so forth. The jihad sedition proposal states, in effect, that we will maintain a policy of "trust, but verify". We will agree, for the sake of public comity, that Islam means just such a thing, but now we will verify that it does, in fact, mean that to the Islamic community, requiring them to discriminate between those preaching inner struggle against vice, and those preaching violent overthrow of non-Islamic governments. If the Islamic community should oppose such a measure, their opposition would suggest, at a minimum, that the rhetoric of a pacific Islam is somewhat misleading. Moreover, they would not be able to protest that this amounted to some form of ethnic or religious profiling, inasmuch as the government subjects "Christian" militias to the same sort of scrutiny.

What do you think about stopping Muslim immigration?

I am in favour of reducing immigration dramatically, given that there is no objective need whatsoever for most of the immigration flows that we actually receive; there is no pressing need for more low-wage labour, and there is no pressing need for more educated foreign professionals. The entire process is one of wage arbitrage, plainly and simply, and we do not need a poorer middle class. Immigration policy should favour applicants likely to cohere with existing cultural norms, traditions, etc., as opposed to revolutionizing them by sheer numbers, or by sheer concentrations of smaller numbers. Several tens of thousands of Somalis are more disruptive, by orders of magnitude, than a couple million Russians in the Philadelphia-New-York corridor. A reduction of the numbers, along with a cultural filter of sorts, would screen out most of the folks likely to concern us, without being quite so explicit about it. The left would howl, but they howl about everything. That said, I'd not object to the admission of largely secular, educated, moderate Muslims, because this, too, would be a way of calling the bluff of the Muslim community: if our policy has the effect of favouring a secular Turk who goes to mosque three times a year, and excluding the devout tribesman from the hinterlands of Pakistan, this compels the Muslim community to confront the greater probability that the latter applicant will prove immoderate.

In order to pressure any community or grouping effectively, one must require that its members take their own doctrines and proclamations more seriously: if Islam means peace, then it must exclude the violent, and here is what that will entail.

Because, unlike banning Muslim "religious comforts" in American prisons, a jihad sedition law would accomplish two laudable purposes:

But obviously, I think stopping Muslim prison imams would accomplish laudable purposes as well. Otherwise I wouldn't endorse it. Again, the question isn't whether you endorse this or that policy or what your reasons are. The question is whether you think we should take seriously the bully argument in some given realm. You made a statement at the beginning:

If we are referring to various forms of advocacy pursued by individuals, then this is a perfectly valid principle. We ought not be cowed, or at least not always cowed by such threats or intimations of retaliation.

Presumably that doesn't mean that you accuse yourself of being un-nuanced w.r.t. forms of advocacy by individuals, or of being foolish and reckless, unwilling to judge things on a case-by-case basis, etc. It just means that in that area you see the wisdom of the warning, "It's a bad idea to be cowed by bullies."

What I allege, from your actual positions on actual policies, is that you don't really see much wisdom in that warning when it comes to the actions of _government_, whether foreign or domestic, and that you apply the "blowback" argument as a kind of add-on which you think has force just in case you oppose the government policy on other grounds, as though it suddenly _becomes_ relevant just when you think the policies bad anyway.

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.