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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks for the link, Max, but he really doesn’t say anything new. Obviously if Hezbullah didn’t want to talk with us that would put an end to any type of talks. Obviously they’re an “armed resistance” movement, but that doesn’t mean they always will be, or that being such should in any way disqualify them from talks. In fact, if anything it further necessitates talks.Report

  2. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    This post must be an example of the “smart” conservatism that you’re flogging in the previous one. You use the word and its synonyms enough to transmit that message.

    So, if you’re so smart, tell me what we are going to negotiate with Hamas and with Hezbollah. What demands of theirs can we possibly meet? What are their demands besides the extermination of the state of Israel and the rule of god’s law in Palestine?

    Your post is chock-full of fallacies. For example not every insurgent group in the Middle East can be fairly called “terrorist.” The Sunni tribes you dismiss with a wave of your “smart power” are a good example of that.

    But enough carping about details. Here are the main problems with your post:

    There is no “political wing” of Hezbollah. Haven’t your heard that Muslim fanatics, and even Islam in general, do not distinguish between religion and politics? Monotheism means what it says to these folks. There may be Hizbollah members of parliament and Hamas may have participated in elections, but it’s all a shadow dance to fool “smart” people” like you.

    Second fallacy: there are no moderates in Hezbollah or Hamas. Who are the moderates? Are they the ones not fighting? Then why talk to them? They have no power to negotiate anything.

    Why don’t you write about lit-crit? It’s something you know and you’d probably be a lot better at it.Report

  3. Avatar Max
    Ignored
    says:

    Roque, you should also read that link. There is a ‘political wing’ of Hizbollah, although as Abu whatshisname rightly points out, both the political and militant wings answer to the same authority.

    Hamas is structured similarly, although with the recent violence the old organization is fraying as the party seems like it may be getting ready to split, with a moderate faction breaking off from Khaled Meshaal’s harder line.

    I thought the main substantive point of that link, ED, was to remind us that, while it may in principle be sound to engage diplomatically with enemy entities, that’s presuming we have something they want — which for Hizbollah, unlike Hamas (and perhaps Iran) is manifestly not the case.Report

  4. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    What demands of theirs can we possibly meet?

    Colonists out of the West Bank.

    What are their demands besides the extermination of the state of Israel and the rule of god’s law in Palestine?

    Atm they are happy to initiate a decade’s peace in exchange for the aforementioned, perhaps even more.Report

  5. Avatar greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    i always found the stupidest part of the don’t negotiate argument was the idea that we can give or not give legitimacy to a group in some other country. a group gets legitimacy from their own forking people not from us. if people like hez or hamas which many do, then they are legitimate. done. we get no say, over who others find legitimate. i imagine it is this kind of The World Revolves Around the US attitude that drives the rest of the world crazy about us.

    but then as RN as pointed out we can’t negotiate with them. a country like Egypt or china will never change, what can we talk to them about. or those commie bastards in Viet Nam, we just can’t talk to them.Report

  6. Avatar Max
    Ignored
    says:

    “a decade’s peace in exchange for the aforementioned, perhaps even more.”

    Would you be in favor of Hamas declaring a permanent truce with Israel in exchange for a promise that Israel removes its West Bank settlers for ten years — and possibly longer? Just curious.Report

  7. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    Yeah, but 10 years should do it. Hamas will either succeed in forging an independent Palestinian nationstate in that length of time (in which case they’ll change or die, as they can’t exist except in their current environment) or they’ll fail and take the blame, falling from favour because of it (like the kleptocrats of Fatah did).

    Either way, if you’re worried about Hamas that’s problem solved.Report

  8. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s amusing that ED Kain refuses to respond to the objections I raise to his specious arguments. I wonder how he can justify this to himself, given the high-minded mission statement he puts up for his blog. Am I spewing vitriol, or something, again? Or is it only that he can’t argue with people who he thinks are wrong? It’s very childish in any case.

    Max, I did read that link. I just don’t agree that there is a “political wing” in reality. I’m saying that such a thing is part of the strategy of such Islamist groups to take and hold power. Their goals are to establish their god’s law in the universe (or whatever). Whether they’re in parliament or run for elections doesn’t change that. Therefore, negotiations are impossible because in the end we’re not talking about any rational demands that can be met or countered with other demands in the normal give-and-take of negotations. We’re talking about a world-view that opposes ours. Nobody can or will negotiate their world-view. This has nothing to do with bestowing legitimacy on anyone.

    The above goes double for “moderates.” Both Hezbollah and Hamas are militant. If there are Hezbollah or Hamas members who don’t want to fight any more, great. But it would be pointless to negotiate with them for the simple reason that they already quit fighting.

    People like ED Kain and James haven’t realized–or won’t–that Islamists are insurgents. They’re opposed to the Western world order, which means that the very principles that underlie this world order are anathema to them since they do not derive from god’s law.

    Applied to war and peace, this means that truces, like the one James says he proposes, are meaningless. From our point of view, the Islamic way of war is based on deceit. They are not obliged to fulfill their agreements with the enemy if circumstances change and suddenly they have the advantage. This is well-known. If I were Israeli, I certainly would not support a government that exchanged land for promises, or even less, for recognition of my right to exist. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect them to do so.

    If James disagrees, then I’ve got a deal for him: he gives me his bank PIN number for safe-keeping and I’ll promise never to use it. As an extra, I’ll recognize his right to exist at no extra cost to him! He should be able to take the risk since it’s only money and he’s willing to risk the physical security of millions of Israelis for the promise of a ten-year truce. He’s a real problem-solver. Sign him up for NSC director! Ten year truce…that should do it…problem solved…next problem! In three weeks we’ll have peace on earth and good will towards men!

    I’ve already shown James and ED Kain that the settlement issue is not the central problem. It’s not reasonable to demand that Israel dismantle the settlements outside of a final peace treaty. One would think that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza would have closed this kind of argument off forever. Israel withdrew 100% from Gaza and got rocket attacks in return. The 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon got them the same results. After these experiences, how can you blame them for not giving up the settlements in return for promises that have proven to be empty ones.Report

  9. Avatar Max
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s a big mistake to try to reduce Hamas, Hizbollah, and other resistance movements to simple Islamist terror groups, and doing so does Israel and the US no favors. And it shouldn’t take you long to see that when you simply proclaim that these organizations operate from an intractable ‘world-view’ that cannot moderate, you are engaging in the same idle and ill-informed speculation of which you’re always accusing ED. Exactly why do you believe that, unlike all other militant-political movements in the world, it’s the Arab ones that are utterly in thrall to principle?

    We need only consider Hizbollah during the Gaza war to see the manifest falsity in your notion of an apolitical extremist group. Hizbollah made a conscious, political choice, as an organization, not to strike Israel in the north. The way you describe the mindset of Hizbollah and Hamas leadership, we should be expecting all war, all the time. Yet this doesn’t happen. So are you wrong, or did these two groups just forget how ideological they are supposed to be?

    As for negotiation with elements within these groups that want to cease violence, or have ceased violence — the saga of never-ending violence in the Middle East owes a great deal to the notion that parties seeking to renounce violence aren’t dangerous, and therefore aren’t worth talking to. Besides the obvious problem that this attitude is an incentive for extremists in Hamas to *continue* violence, it is incredibly short-sighted to imagine that anyone in Hamas will be content to forgo violence for very long. Hamas doesn’t believe that if they fire enough rockets, Israel will disintegrate. They fire rockets precisely because of people like you, who incoherently condemn their violence on the one hand, and advocate ignoring them and cutting them out of the political process on the other.Report

  10. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks, Max. You said all that very well.Report

  11. Avatar Chris Dierkes
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s the thing I don’t get with any of this–Islamists political groups always fail. Politically. They can not govern. They are currently across a broad swath of the Middle East/Central Asia more popular bc they are seen as less corrupt than the dictators that otherwise the region. But if and when they ever get a hold of power they don’t govern well. (Hezbol. could be considered a potential counter-example). The Iranian ayatollah autocracy being the classic example. They can’t form an alternate to the globalization paradigm (they become nation-state seeking Islamists as opposed to Third World socialists statist counter-revolutionaries) and then eventually they will try to impose public sharia which burns their legitimacy with urban populace and the young (see Iran) or they go milder like the AKP in Turkey and get on with governing.

    I imagine Iran will be the first truly secular Muslim country in the world. [I’m not counting a military-imposed secularism like in Turkey or Indonesia]. Once the religious establishment goes political and fails politically-economically (as it inevitably will) then their religious authority is lost with the failed political legitimacy. Same thing happened in Western Europe during the Reformation. Papacy tries to form a politico-religious empire, fails, and then loses not only the political fight to nation-states but the religious fight to a more individual-personal strain of religion.

    Why do we realize that their economic vision is a failed one, their politics is flawed, and yet are so scared of these guys? I just don’t get it. Let them dig their own graves and fall into them.Report

  12. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Max,
    It looks like you’re speaking for ED Kain now, so I’m glad to respond. Too bad he thinks that because we disagree, we can’t debate anything.

    Exactly why do you believe that, unlike all other militant-political movements in the world, it’s the Arab ones that are utterly in thrall to principle?

    I never said or even implied such a thing as the above. I don’t like having words put in my mouth. And I was quite clear that it’s not a matter of “being in thrall to principle” –we all are in thrall to principle to some extent. It’s a matter of world-view, which is a very different thing.

    I don’t even say that all Arab militant groups are Islamicist. I mentioned the Sunni tribes of Iraq as an example of a militant insurgent Arab/Muslim group that is not Islamicist. I say that these militant groups are Islamic fundamentalists. I say that these groups have an opposing world view to ours, which makes negotiation useless, along with the other reasons I mentioned above. I say Hamas and Hezbollah are militant Islamicist groups. I can say this because that’s how they describe themselves and that’s what they proclaim in their charters, etc. The “Islamic” part makes them opposed to our world view, which means that negotiations are useless.

    Where do you get the idea that they can be reduced to militant resistence groups?

    I say that it’s a big mistake to reduce Islamic groups like Hezbollah and Hamas to simple resistence groups, which does nobody any favors. It shouldn’t take you long to see that when you simply proclaim this, you’re engaging in the idle an uninformed speculation that you accuse me of doing.

    We need only consider Hizbollah during the Gaza war to see the manifest falsity in your notion of an apolitical extremist group.

    Where did you get the idea that I believe that Hizbollah is “apolitical?” I said I doubt the sincerity of the so-called political wing, which is nowhere near saying that they’re “apolitical.” Being “political” means that they are engaged in the political process, which means that they are not violent. An armed, violent group with political ends–i.e., that wants power–is not the same thing as a political group. If you have an armed group that uses violence to get power, you by definition have a group that’s outside the political process. In the case of Hamas and Hezbollah, the political wings do not renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to abide by agreements between Israel and the PA. Therefore, they cannot fairly be termed “political groups.” They’re simply one more aspect of the violent and armed groups themselves.

    By saying that they are Islamicist and have an opposing world view to ours, I do not imply “all war all the time.” It’s yet another instance of your putting words in my mouth. They are capable of making political and military calculations, as anyone else can. If they’re in a position of weakness, like they are now, nothing in their belief system obliges them to blindly keep on fighting. They can declare a truce, which is for the purpose of rearming and reorganizing for the next attack. Ten years happens to be the limit placed on truces by Islamic law. Nothing you’ve said contradicts this. As for why Hezbolah didn’t intervene in the recent Gaza operation, I’m sure that they did make a political and military calculation, as well as receive instructions from Iran, and so forth. I really don’t know the answer but I never said that I thought they were “apolitical” and incapable of political calulations.

    Hamas doesn’t believe that if they fire enough rockets, Israel will disintegrate. They fire rockets precisely because of people like you, who incoherently condemn their violence on the one hand, and advocate ignoring them and cutting them out of the political process on the other.

    So now it’s “people like me” who are the cause of Hamas militancy? Are you serious? I say they fire rockets because they want to kill Jews; I do condemn this; I do not advocate ignoring them; I advocate defeating them; I do advocate leaving them out of the political process until they meet the demands of the Quartet. Such demands only represent the minimum conditions any group needs so as to become “political” and not a violent insurgency. I can’t see why this is such a far-out position to take. Can you help?Report

  13. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    Roque – Seriously, until those colonies are gone we have no hope of peace. The IDF will have to remain in order to protect them. Isn’t that fairly obvious?Report

  14. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    James-Seriously, until there’s peace, we have no hope of removing the settlements. Virulent Jew-haters like Hamas would have a launch pad within range of Tel Aviv otherwise. Isn’t that fairly obvious?Report

  15. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    Hamas stopped firing rockets during the ceasefire, resuming only when Israel attacked them with missiles.Report

  16. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Chris Dierkes,

    Why do we realize that their economic vision is a failed one, their politics is flawed, and yet are so scared of these guys? I just don’t get it. Let them dig their own graves and fall into them.

    The fact that Islamists can’t govern without imposing a police state or that they can’t organize an economic system without simply selling off primary resources doesn’t mean that their world view is not dangerous. You should consider the power of ignorance guided by blind faith. The Muslim/Arab world is the most ignorant in the world, according to the UNDP. They willing to use extreme violence to achieve their ends. Since they’re attacking us, there’s no way we can simply ignore them.

    There’s an added danger since the anti Capitalist, anti American, and anti Semitic aspects of the Islamicist world view attracts leftists in the West.Report

  17. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Israel stopped attacking until Hamas started firing rockets.Report

  18. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    Wow, you know more about the matter than the Israeli government itself does? Clearly I’m talking to a very well informed man!

    According to their own accounts Israel broke the ceasefire by firing missiles at what they claimed were Hamas weapons tunnels, killing civilians in the process. Israel itself, of course, was arming up with white phosphorous and American high explosives at the time.

    Until the ceasefire was breached Hamas had honoured it, with rocket-fire slowing to a trickle delivered by the Salafists, Islamic Jihad & the rest of the even-more-extremists.Report

  19. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    The Muslim/Arab world is the most ignorant in the world, according to the UNDP.

    Dubai included?Report

  20. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    James,

    Tell the truth: Are you about 16 years old?Report

  21. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m 7 months old.Report

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