Friday, June 20, 2014

Managing the Decline of Islam

At times his rhetoric feels a bit intemperate, but Spengler, aka David Goldman offers an excellent overview of our current problem with the Middle East. Since most politicians and pundits are debating tactical issues—to intervene or not to intervene in the current Iraqi conflict—Spengler’s larger perspective is welcome indeed.

As it happens, the news is grim. Spengler sees Islam as a failed civilization. One might say that it does not want to die alone, or one might say that it wants to wreak vengeance on other, more successful civilizations.

Spengler describes the current state of Islam:

From the Pillars of Hercules to the Hindu Kush, America confronts a belt of countries unable to feed themselves, let alone to invest their capital in profitable businesses or educate their young people. Without hydrocarbons their economies would resemble the worst of sub-Saharan Africa. 

It would be nice to be able to contain the decline of Islam, but that, alas, seems like a pipe dream. Spengler says, correctly, that we should be working to manage the decline. Yet, he adds, we are not really suited for the task.

In his words:

It is impossible to recruit clever young people out of American universities to the dour, depressing mission of managing the decline of other civilizations. Americans are missionaries, not imperial mandarins. 

If we had been suited for the task or if we had understood what was involved, we would have acted differently. Spengler offers alternatives, many of which were proposed at the time:

On Iraq:

Invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein was a reasonable alternative after 9/11. I supported the invasion at the time because America needed to make a horrible example out of one hostile Muslim government in order to persuade the others to cooperate in suppressing terrorists. But America should have installed a strongman and left, with the option of returning to install yet another strongman, as Daniel Pipes proposed at the time.

On Iran:

The Sunni-Shi’ite conflict was inevitable, but the US could have reduced it to a low boil by neutralizing Iran – bombing the nuclear weapons facilities, decapitating the Revolutionary Guard, and financing the opposition. That would have cost a few hundred million dollars all in.

On Hezbollah:

Israel should have been encouraged to reduce Hezbollah in Lebanon with the West’s blessing, rather than handcuffed under the 2006 American plan to end the Israel-Lebanon War. Then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice forced the Israelis to withdraw with the promise that the Iranian-controlled militia would be disarmed. With Iran unable to help, Hezbollah would have been easy to destroy.

On Saudi support for terrorism:

With Iran out of the picture, America would have been able to demand that the Saudis and Turks stop supporting the sort of militant jihadists who are now rampaging through Syria and Iraq. Absent the Iranian threat, the Saudis would have agreed.

On Libya and Egypt:

America should have ignored Libya and continued to support a military government in Egypt. The aging Mubarak had to leave, but an orderly transition plan still would have been possible.

Would these actions have been politically feasible? Some would have been; some would not have been. And yet, selling the idea that our foreign policy would, for decades to come, have to manage the decline of Islam… would likely have been impossible.

This does not, dare I say, invalidate Spengler’s point. In some sense it validates it.

Our politics is such that we are incapable of dealing with the crisis in any but political terms. A divided nation sees everything in terms of local political advantage. It cannot address larger, strategic issues.

Spengler has occasionally cast serious aspersions on both Republican and Democrat approaches. His is a plague-on-both-your-houses approach—fair and balanced, you might call it.

He explains:

On the left, we have the likes of Obama’s so-called national security team, including human-rights dabblers like Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes. On the right we have the neoconservatives, who believe that Being Determines Consciousness (democratic institutions will make people into democrats), and Catholic natural law theory, which boils down to the assertion that unaided human reason will lead everyone to the Western idea of individual liberty and democratic governance.

Americans, he continues, believe that all people in all places will be able to live in harmony because peoples from all places, when they come to America, manage to do so. If New York City is cosmopolitan, why can’t the rest of the world do the same.

He writes:

America’s genius lies in assimilating individuals of all ethnicities into a state based on a laws rather than race or language, and Americans assume that because Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians cohabit peacefully within their borders, they should be able to do so everywhere. That ignores the possibility that those individuals who wanted to leave peacefully with people of other ethnicities abandoned their home culture, leaving behind those who did not.

Worse yet, for Spengler, is our multiculturalist inability to see that some cultures do better than others, that some succeed while others fail and that all cultures are not created equal.

He writes:

It has become nearly impossible in America to ask the question: Which cultures are viable and which are not? Individuals of all cultures are viable Americans, but that is not necessarily true of the culture they left behind. I have argued for the past dozen years in this space and in my book How Civilizations Die (Regnery 2011) that Muslim civilization will not survive: it passes directly from infancy to senescence.

That does not impugn the success of Muslim immigrants to America, nor of the hundreds of head-scarf-clad girls one sees at Ariel University in Samaria, but it does mean that Muslim states will be unstable and crisis prone and that Muslim populations will be discontented and prone to extremism for the duration. It is a fool’s errand to stabilize them; the best one can do is to prevent their problems from spilling over onto us.

In the absence of American leadership and in the absence of what Spengler calls America’s ability to see things as they are, China will rise:

By default, that ultimately may the world to other players with a sturdier sense of reality. China never has cared much about the world past its vast borders. But China is not burdened with the social engineering approach to remaking the world of American conservatives, nor the affirmative-action mentality of the Obama administration.

China has seen cultures succeeded and fail hundreds of times through its long history. It has no compunction about harsh measures against restless minorities. News media reported that President Xi Jinping has called for the resettlement of part of western China’s Uyghur minority, a Turkic Muslim people. Uyghurs have perpetrated several terrorist acts recently, and Beijing is losing patience.

Chinese policy towards its fractious Muslim minority is cruel but entirely effective; I have no doubt that it will succeed, despite the hand-wringing of the human rights organizations. American policy has been generous and generally ineffective. Is there anything in between? I do not think we shall ever find out.

On the other hand, China has no interested in reforming any regime or shaping any culture as long as it does not pose a threat to its interests. China is concerned with the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf (it is Saudi Arabia’s largest customer), and the orderly expansion of the “new Silk Road” through Istanbul and into Europe. I am not enthusiastic about a future “Pax Sinica” stretching into Western Asia, but in the absence of American power, someone will fill the vacuum.

At the very least, it isn’t going to be pretty.


Kath said...

I agree with David Goldman that Islam is in decline. It does seem to be trying to take the West down with it.
What would have happened if we left Europe and Japan right after winning WW2? It would have become a terrible mess.
Installing a strongman we can control or really finishing off our enemies in Iraq and staying a long time is preferable to abruptly leaving as we did under Obama.
Our own safety and survival has become a political football.
We are soft now and too many of us have no will to do what it takes to survive as a nation.
Also, if the US bows out as a great world power a big vacuum will be left to be filled with something at odds with our nation and culture. We could lose everything.

Ares Olympus said...

You gotta admire someone willing to try to paint the big picture and point out the decline of one's rivals. at least its less depression than point out the decline of one's own culture.

It's said Islam had its heights in the first 500 years, creating order where there was chaos, and saving and expanding scientific knowledge from the Greeks and Roman civilizations, or maybe you can say the order created by islam allowed the scholars and scientists a chance to practice their skills in peace, at least until some fundamentalistic leaders decides learning natural laws threatened to limit the nature of God.

Sometimes I wonder if propaganda can do good and bad. That is if Muslims feel humiliated and shamed by the success of the west and their own declines by the loose morality of those invaders, fear-based fundamentalism is one answer, but looking back at where they came from they might use a bit of selective historical propaganda and find where their culture lead their world in brilliance and openness to new ideas and ways of seeing.

If religion is just a crutch for the weak-minded, as Governor Jesse Ventura believes, then perhaps when a critical mass of cultural Muslims stop believing, then they can rise out of the muck of fear and superstition and claim their rightful place in world affairs, right?

I know a woman who married and divorced an Arab, and it wasn't the religion that broke them up, but cultural differences that may have nothing do with religion. She said she should have known, because she saw how women were treated in the home, with yelling and ranting at the women whether the dominant males needed someone to take their frustrations out, and some physical abuse too if the women resisted. She said she didn't see any of that from her husband before married, and felt safe with them living in America, but as soon as they were married, he took on that verbal and physical abuse and suddenly no longer appreciated her input on anything he felt insecure about.

At the time I blamed that on culture, and she said she was never really afraid of him, only his anger wore her down. So now I'd call it shame, and having a woman talk back to a man reminds Arab men of some deep shame that has to be put down.

So I can't say how much that is representative of the probably diverse muslim private sphere, but it makes sense if a culture decides women's only place is in the home, and under the constant "protection" of their male family members and their husband, some fraction of women are not going to be happy in such limited roles, and abused roles.

There's some sort of psychology of respect that I don't really understand, but it is clearly important. If there is excess in feminism it is no different than the excesses of insecure men in their own dominance hierarchies.

Anonymous said...

I don't know a single example of a Civ imposing its own traditions & values on another. Or policing 1.5B people. Except by near or total genocide.

There are different kinds of Decline. Certainly, Islam stifles modernity & progress. But the birthrate is robust, and its people seem fiercely devoted to its Civ.

WCiv, OTOH, looks pretty good materially (at the moment, anyway). But an increasing segment of its people disdain it for various reasons (the denigration of Columbus, for example).

The birthrate is abysmal, confidence in its institutions & current leadership is in the pits, morale is sinking, and its youth is demoralized (one indicator is birthrate).

According to Pentagon, an astonishing 75% of US youth is unqualified for military service. Drugs (legal & illegal), criminal & psych background, extreme resistance, physical & intellectual incapacity being some of the reasons. Plus, Elite refusal to entertain the idea for their own offspring.

I think that is Decline as well. I've long feared that the Euro Civil War, 1914-1945, killed& crippled too many of its finest young men, and sapped too much of its Morale.

I believe our own problems need attention, before we embark on Humanitarian Crusades. Foreign & Defense policy should be coldly pragmatic. IMHO. -- Rich Lara