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21 January 2009

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John Howley

How can we help our fellow citizens detect and debunk American nationalists who masquerade as American patriots (using your definitions)?

Do we have any other instances of the regular armed forces of a UN member state repeatedly attacking UN facilities?

J

Amen!

JetSetter

Thank you for that. It is so rare that I find a voice which so closely echoes the thoughts in my own head and heart.

Imagine there's no country, indeed

Leanderthal

This might be the most important message you could publish. Nationalism and tribalism are the currency of divisive and cruel hate.
The history of the Middle East, going back four thousand years, is the documentation of brutality, land theft, occupation and exile, mostly in the name of God or gods. Karen Armstrong's, A History of God, is an eye opening source on this. Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" in his '70's book, The Selfish Gene, to describe and account for the passing on from one generation to the next of the cultural practices and habits of all types and stripes. Nationalism and tribalism are two related memes, and thrive, with the most toxic of nourishments, in the sands of the Middle East. AIPAC in the U.S. supports such nationalism and tribalism with direct funding and the co-opting of our politicians.

Thanks for helping with how to respond to accusations of anti-semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Islamism.

R Whitman

We dwell too much on these sick people. An imposed peace without recourse is the only solution, if we really want a solution.

Byron Raum

I would suggest that nationalism is a fairly benign idea by itself. It is when exploited that it becomes dangerous. Has anyone noticed how so many Arab populations are offered up Israel as an enemy to hate by their leaders? The Arab leaders and media ruthlessly exaggerate and distort the worst statements made by Israel, Israelis and friends of Israel in order to create an image of an unstoppable monster, hellbent of destroying the Arabs. This allows the leaders to justify quite a bit of murder and suppression. The truth of the matter is that most Israelis only want to be left in peace, to follow their own lives as they see best.

And it is, perhaps, even more interesting that swapping "Arab" and "Israel" in the above leaves it just as true :-

Has anyone noticed how so many Israelis populations are offered up the Arabs as an enemy to hate by their leaders? The Israeli leaders and media ruthlessly exaggerate and distort the worst statements made by Arabs and friends of Arabs in order to create an image of an unstoppable monster, hellbent of destroying the Jews. This allows the leaders to justify quite a bit of murder and suppression. The truth of the matter is that most Arabs only want to be left in peace, to follow their own lives as they see best.

Arabs and Israelis are the same people. No, not similar. The same. It is always brothers who are the bitterest enemies, all over the world..Jews and Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis, so many of the countries and tribes in Africa..What do these conflicts have in common? They are all amongst a people extremely similar to each other. Mexicans and Americans don't fight; Russians and Americans were able to resolve their conflicts without a war - the conflict was over resources, and was a model of amicability in comparison to these other conflicts. The only thing that seperates each of these people from their opponents is their belief that their nation is superior to their brother's.

Jose

CSM, also has the following article which shows Likud opening a huge lead against Kadima and Labor:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0121/p11s03-wome.html

To nationalism and tribalism we should also add the stupidity of political expedience.

pbrownlee

Mel Brooks's 2000-year-old Man talked about the first national anthem -- "They can all go to Hell except Cave 76" -- and all chauvinistic mutterings since have seemed slight variations on this theme.

mlaw230

Diderot I think, or perhaps Voltaire rather than Twain, i.e. Man will be free when the last King is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. Twain wrote "War Prayer" which rather plainly cuts through the glory of war stuff.

In any case, there appears to be a percentage of all populations that are not comfortable unless they can identify, or manufacture, a common enemy.

We appear to be on the cusp of something entirely different. Perhaps evolution is possible, and those who cling to the tyranny of tribalism will simply fail, those genes no longer providing any competitive advantage. Surely, at least the concept that persuading ones opponents by killing their children is in disfavor?

Charles I

R Whitman, it is beyond the capacity of the democratic powers, the UN., or any conceivable constellation of states to impose a peace, whether we want to or not.

Beyond it materially. Psychologically. Certainly politically.

The evidence shows our governments cold-bloodedly work to these deadly ends, whatever they say. Reports of the American Anti-pirate task force being sent after 60,000 tonnes of Hamas-bound Iranian rockets in the Mediterranean was of course preceded by reports that the United States had been considerate enough of something - your guess here - to not delivered a whacking great shipment of new munitions to Israel until the end of the current slaughter, which it, occurs to me, was logical, no place to put 'em until the old inventory was dumped on Gaza. Just in time delivery science keeps your forces lean and mean - but never hungry.

I dare say Israel could be attacked with shock and awe by a coalition straight out of Revelations and forced to cede the Occupied territories from the rubble as long as we could secure their nukes, which we cant, but it'll never happen. Israel is not Serbia.

We don't have the patience.

Our governments have no intention of imposing anything on the Middle East but instability, which they imagine they shall negotiate more cleverly than all the rest to some imagined benefit, blind to our true interests, and, oh yes, our humanity.

So start agitating Robt., I'm with you. I was the antiwar demos in Toronto and the antis outnumbered the pros. My heart is bleeding. But it Aint gonna happen

FB Ali

It is deeply disappointing. In his inaugural address the new President said he wanted to find a “new way forward” to interact with the Muslim world. Then, his first act is to phone Mubarak, Jordan’s Abdullah and Abbas. These men are hated or despised, or both, by Muslims everywhere, including their own people. The message this sends is that it’s business as usual between the USA and the Muslim world. If he really meant what he said (and I believe he did), then he squandered a golden opportunity to change the whole tone of the dialogue between Muslims and the USA.

I had hoped (dreamt, perhaps) that, as someone who seems to appreciate the deep significance of symbolism, his first step would be to send out a ME envoy (Mitchell or someone like him) and give him, as his first task, to work with others to ensure the immediate alleviation of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. In the wilder regions of the dream was the hope that he might even announce significant US aid for Gaza, not just money but perhaps also US medical teams (a field hospital?) to treat the thousands of injured civilians, including children.

Gaza is today a bleeding wound on the psyche of the Muslim world. Even a gesture to recognize and salve this anguish would have resonated throughout the length and breadth of this realm. I remember the impact on public opinion in Pakistan when the US sent in a few rescue and medical teams to help the country after the terrible earthquake of 2005. Media reports and pictures of US helicopters rescuing people, and American doctors and nurses treating the injured, resulted in a spectacular change in people’s hitherto negative feelings towards the US.

Obama may yet do the right things about Palestine and other such issues of concern to Muslims, but it will still take a very long time to turn Muslim public opinion around. It could have been done in a day. What an opportunity gone to waste!

Cold War Zoomie

I have often labored to draw parallels between Northern Ireland and much of the strife in the ME, mostly because I'm a one-trick pony and don't know enough history about any other conflict that was a toxic mix of religion and politics and economic subjugation and centuries old tribal allegiances. Add the stubbornness of Celts in general and this stubborn mule in particular to make matters even more difficult. (One sweeping, generalizing comparison I'll make between Americans and most everybody who inhabits any portion of the British Isles is that they can hold some serious grudges over there for the most petty of reasons for a very, very long time. You Brits out there know I'm right!)

Interestingly enough, George Mitchell helped bring most of The Troubles to an end and also has some Arab blood running though his veins since his mother was from Lebanon.

It gives me hope.

Ormolov

When Bush was handed the presidency in 2000 I put a sign in my window:

HELP
Nationalist Thugs
Have Stolen
My Country

After the Cold War ended we have devolved into this worldwide brushfire war of borders. We are breaking into smaller pieces, finding justice and security in evermore localized identities. We all know the only real solution is an invasion by hostile space aliens. Only then can we unite, etc.

But it almost makes one nostalgic for monolithic global ideologies, which crushed nationalists all over the world for generations. Can't we all just shop each others' goods and be tourists in each others' lands?

Commentators have remarked on the universalist themes of the inauguration speech. Maybe the ground has shifted, not only from under the feet of the cynics, but from under the feet of the nationalists, the thugs, the hooligans and jingoists, the security contractors and torturers, who up until 2009 were considered pretty cool.

jr786

I disagree. Certainly Hamas is the expression of a politicized Islam that assumes nationalist characteristics but that is more of a reaction to the situation in Palestine. In the light of zionist occupation, what else can Hamas call for except a Palestinian state rooted in Islam?

Barring a call for the return of the Caliphate, the only logical, and non-nationalist, political project available to Muslims as Muslims, there is little else Hamas can do. Everyone is aware that the Prophet spoke strongly against tribalism, the nationalism of his day, but I'm afraid that most of the Arab world is still afflicted with what is essentially a vestige of colonialism.

In that sense I agree, but who speaks of pan-Arabism these days? It is the failure of previous projects like secular nationalism and the various leftist fronts that has condemned the Muslims of Palestine to their current misery.

Hamas will evolve. Between it, Hizbollah and the surging Muslim Brotherhood, we are witnessing the formation of more flexible ideologies than we have known, at least among the Muslims.

Muslims are obliged to stand up against oppression and tyranny, not negotiate with its perpetrators. That will be the function of the PLA. Hamas

Mad Dogs

According to Haaretz:

"Report: How IDF's legal experts legitimized harming civilians

The idea to bombard the closing ceremony of the Gaza police course was internally criticized in the Israel Defense Forces months before the attack. A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the IDF's international law division and the military advocate general were undecided.

After months of the operational elements pushing for the attack's approval, the international law division, headed by Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, gave the go-ahead. In spite of doubts, and also under pressure, Sharvit-Baruch and her officers also legitimized the attack on Hamas government buildings and the relaxing of the rules of engagement, resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties. In the division it is also believed that the killing of civilians in a house whose residents the IDF has warned might be considered legally justified, although the IDF does not actually target civilians in this way..."

So were all those Israeli attacks on Gaza Palestinian civilians accidental or deliberate?

I think the debate on this point must be considered closed.

Cujo359

You saw that sort of confusion here, too. When you criticize one of the wars we're in or the way it was handled, you're unpatriotic. People often confuse their own deluded ideas about what our country ought to be doing, or the foolish actions our country takes based on those ideas, with the country itself. They're not the same.

It's the same with Israel. Being upset or angry at what they're doing isn't the same as hating them or wanting them to not exist.

mo

Colonel,

I once read a line, maybe by Twain not sure, that I thought so profound and true that I have kept it at the front and center of my political thinking.

It was that the difference between a patriot and a nationalist is in the honor of the flag. When the actions of ones government are bringing dishonor to the flag, the nationalist will continue to support that government, the patriot will fight it with the best means at his disposal.

I have to disagree that Zionism and pan-Arab nationalism are two sides of the same coin.

Zionism is merely colionalism that is limited to a narrow race of people. It is based on mythology and disinformation and its only goal is to replace the inhabitants of an area of land with a, and pardon the pun, chosen people. This is done via repression and emasculation of any who may resist.

Zionist, for all their claims, have no historical, political or even religious right to the land except for the right bestowed upon those who are strong.

Arab "nationalism" is most definitely a victim of pastiche of fable and propaganda; that i will not argue. And the notion has been used and abused by various Arab leaders for their own ends.

But nevertheless, I would argue that the word "nationalism" in this context is not the same as the word in the patriotism vs nationalism context. In this context it is not a description of unfailing support for an Arab cause, my tribe right or wrong, because God knows, there is no single Arab voice; and those groups that most support the notion of a pan-Arab identity which is what we mean by Arab nationalism, are also accused of being the least patriotic by their erstwhile political opponents.

And while an Arab from Morrocco is certainly a diffrent beast than an Arab from Kuwait, I would argue that their differences are no more than a New Yorker and a Texan.

Clifford Kiracofe

"his first act is to phone Mubarak, Jordan’s Abdullah and Abbas....The message this sends is that it’s business as usual between the USA and the Muslim world."

FB Ali, All

I took note of that also.

The dual citizen (unless he has renounced his reported Israeli citizenship), Rahm Emmanuel, was included in the first meeting of our President with key national security advisers/Cabinet members yesterday afternoon. Will this be standard practice/protocol for the next 4 or 8 years? Are there issues here?

IMO, there will not be a very large window for Team Obama to make it plain to the world that it is NOT business as usual and that CHANGE is taking place in US foreign policy.

YT

Re : They don't get it.

Col., sir : There WILL always be fools like this everywhere, in any era.

All you NEED is propaganda.

Trust me, I've got an associate who's so deeply fanatical 'bout our ancestral land, that he DISSES me off whenever he mentions anythin' 'bout our history or culture. Hell, I mean, who in THAT country of several billion inhabitants even ACKNOWLEDGES his existence?

It's people like him who set the path to conflict with states like yours, Col.

Minus bread, minus circuses, & they'll still be as loyal to their muthalunds as if it were their fathers' graves. Sad.

David Habakkuk

CWZ,

I am always interested in your remarks on British attitudes. This is partly because I think that they are based upon extensive research in pubs. After a few beers, people commonly loosen up and start expressing what they actually think and feel, rather than what they think those they are talking to would be comfortable hearing (or indeed what they themselves think they ought to think and feel.)

And I am quite prepared to own to cherishing a few old grudges. However, I think many of us here would feel that the Northern Irish -- Protestant and Catholic alike -- are some way ahead of the pack in this regard.

But certainly, George Mitchell's appointment is encouraging.

Will

Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer (of the famous Walt & Mearsheimer AIPAC paper) has a new article in the American Conservative.

In it he describes the Iron Wall strategy of the Israeli state toward the Palestinians.

John, the father of the Offensive Realism school of international thought coined terms such as offshore balancers.

He is an interesting person. After enlisting in the Army at 17, he wrangled an appointment to West Point b/ managed to serve five years in the Air Force!

When I recover my HTML template I"ll post some links.

Byron Raum

FB Ali, Clifford,

I would suggest that since we don't know yet what got said in the conversations with Mubarak and Co., it is somewhat pre-mature to dismiss Obama as "more of the same." He does need to talk to everyone..If we can congratulate him for wanting to talk to Iran, surely we can give him a pass for talking to Mubarak. And for better or worse, Abbas does have a relationship with the US, too. What I found most interesting was a question our Colonel asked, "Does Tenet report directly to Hilary?" The implications, given the history, are going to be most revealing as to what is on Obama's mind. For the most part, though, I think Obama really doesn't know, at this point, where he's going to go. Eventually, good will turns into concrete action, but it's not going to be immediate.

B.R.

Byron Raum

In my previous post I got "George Tenet" and "George Mitchell" confused. No good reason. Apologies.

Cold War Zoomie

I am always interested in your remarks on British attitudes. This is partly because I think that they are based upon extensive research in pubs.

Hi David.

Yes, the pubs are a great start. And four years as the drum instructor for a small-town Scout & Guide marching band helped, too. After about a year the gossip started leaking out. After three years, the smell of dirty laundry airing out was overpowering! Watching the tellie and reading the papers all helped, too.

But...

...by and far, the best window into the British soul is through a Yorkshire Rose's eyes. After the Lizard Brain attraction subsides (hmmm, there's absolutely no way our two gene pools have ever mixed!), the "British attitudes" really come into focus - along with the flying plates and other high velocity bric-à-brac hurled at my head. Don't forget, the northern women never bothered putting on airs by sipping half pints of lager like their southern sisters. Nope, downing pints of bitter at The Drovers is more their style.

Living together as a couple opened my eyes to how we truly are two completely different cultures that happen to somewhat share a common language. Much more than hanging 'round the pub - although that is a worthwhile pastime in itself.

Maybe we should have a permanent team in the ME that lives there for years and years. They don't have to fall in love with the local lasses and "go native" to suss out the situation. Of course, that's what the State Department should be doing. Maybe they are and Bush just never listened to them. I don't know. I suspect Obama and Clinton will be smarter in their approach.

On the other hand, shipping all the 18-35 year old Yorkshire Roses to the ME may do the trick - as well as erecting a clone of The Drovers in every city. A "softer" crusade, of sorts. The men would have their hands full to say the least, and no time to fight amongst themselves.

(I rest my case.)

David Habakkuk

CWZ,

My suspicion would be that people in the State Department don't 'go native' nearly enough.

One thing about the British in India was that, although they kept themselves apart -- as a separate caste as it were -- the difficulties of transport, combined with the habit of fact that small children were largely brought up by servants, meant that some people at least had learnt local languages as children, and had partly 'gone native'.

Kipling is a case in a point -- as one sees in the marvelous passage where Kim decides that, contrary to what he has been told, the ethnographer-spook Colonel Creighton is probably not as foolish as he makes himself appear. At first, Creighton talks to him in English, and Kim pretends not really to understand:

'Then the Colonel, seeing his mistake, turned to fluent and picturesque Urdu and Kim was contented. No man could be a fool who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs.'

But, as is evident, Creighton is presented very much as an exception.

On the subject of Yorkshire, incidentally, there is a Kipling story, entitled 'Pig', about a man from South Devon who is foolish enough to sell a Yorkshireman a bad-tempered horse, and is subjected to an elaborate, ingenious and protracted scheme of revenge.

Explaining his mistake, Kipling writes:

'Now, a Dalesman from beyond Skipton will forgive an injury when the Strid lets a man live; but a South Devon man is as soft as a Dartmoor bog.'

(The Strid is apparently a narrow rocky passage on the River Wharfe in Yorkshire -- if you fall into when the river is in flood, you're dead.)

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