On God Complexes, Neoconservatives and Libya

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  1. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I was trying to explain the religious resistance to the French Revolution the other day without just pointing to how anti-clerical the revolutionaries were- although, of course, that was a huge part of it. Anyway, it seemed to me that most of the political programs of the time assumed an inevitable perfecting of society at some point in the future, but Christians would have to reject this because society is made up of people who can’t fully be perfected- man having been born with a sinful nature that, to some extent, comes standard. The Revolution eventually resorted to messianic rhetoric to justify very extreme violence on the continent and within the country. Purifying the nation in the fire of war and such crap. It’s good to be a little warm-blooded about human beings and their potential to life freely, but after a while, you learn to keep a little cold blood on reserve.Report

  2. Avatar gregiank
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    While this is a good post, think some of the urge to intervene in Libya and other places is not about playing God but about us taking our rightful places as rulers of the world. Many of the Right voices urging intervention have consistently pushed for intervention and military dominance of important ( read as oil producing) areas.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    It is wholly within Richard Perle’s power to end a significant source of the world’s evil.Report

  4. Avatar Matty
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    Maybe it’s because I’m on the other side of the Atlantic but most of the calls for intervention I hear seem to be coming from David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy. You can add to that at least some of the National Council of Lybia, the Arab League and several people interviewed by the BBC on the streets of Benghazi.

    I don’t recite this list to argue for intervention, I still think that would be a bad idea, but to make the point that what happens in Lybia is not about America.

    My oposition to a no fly zone is based on two things, first it probably wouldn’t achieve much as most of what Gaddafi is doing is with ground troops or low flying helicopters and second it would reinforce the old argument that Arab dictators are defending their people from foreign attacks. The second point might be addressed if any action was not merely supported but led by the Arab League but this would have it’s own problems and still do nothing to address the situation on the ground.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Matty
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      Has David Cameron no military? Has Sarkozy no air force? Does the Arab League find itself with no planes of its own to order about?

      Someone needs to tell those guys “you are the ones you have been waiting for!”

      Unless, of course, we’re all agreed that America is pretty much the only country that qualifies as a moral agent in the world anymore… in which case, I suppose we should have that written down somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Jaybird
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        Well last I heard what they were waiting for was a UN resolution although Cameron has been hinting that he would send British planes if one was vetoed (and I thought the Tories were supposed to understand history). If they are waiting for US forces you are right that they should be honest enough to admit it.

        Since you raise it I’m enough of an indivdualist to be skeptical than any country qualifies as a moral agent. That seems more like the kind of thing that applies to human minds.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Matty
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          The UN is worse than useless.

          The UN has never issued a resolution condemning the harsh treatment of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. They languish in those camps, forbidden to do any meaningful work. They cannot integrate into Lebanese society. They are the victims of prejudice: Lebanon will import Syrian workers before they will allow the Palestinians to do that work. In Jordan, the situation is slightly better, but they are still confined to their camps. Jordan’s treatment of Iraqi refugees is worse than the Palestinians, where the children call them savafi, an ugly term for Shiite, though most of the refugees are actually Sunni, often Christian.

          Put it this way, the refugees on the West Bank and even Gaza have more rights in Israeli law than Palestinians in any Arab state.

          Curiously, the Palestinians did have rights in Iraq, where Saddam put up several thousand in apartment blocks on the road to the airport. But the Iraqis expelled them all, en masse, when the Americans arrived in Baghdad, right under the noses of the Americans. The Shiites set up sniper positions in those apartment blocks and killed very many Americans on what became known as Route Irish.

          There is an ethical component to the Rights of Man. It starts with the refugee. The refugee is the only yardstick we may ever have to judge the world. The refugee runs away from the Bad Guy and toward the Good Guy. While it is true countries cannot be ethical scored, their governments and policies can.

          The UN serves only as a bad excuse for getting bad grades on BlaiseP’s Little Test whereby the world may be judged: they run the camps. And they run them very badly. The UN is sposta issue these Resolutions but they’re binding on nobody.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            > It starts with the refugee. The refugee is the only
            > yardstick we may ever have to judge the world.
            > The refugee runs away from the Bad Guy and
            > toward the Good Guy.

            This is a damn fine idea. Nobody deserves more recognition than the folks who take in the dispossessed.Report

          • Avatar Matty in reply to BlaiseP
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            I didn’t say they were right to wait on the UN just that is the current excuse for waiting. Maybe they do mean “we want the Americans to do all the work” I wouldn’t expect great honesty from any of those I mentioned but they aren’t saying it.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Matty
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              The Americans always do the work. It’s dirty work, and we’re the dirty bastards. It’s so goddamn convenient, shrink wrap the world’s problem in the American flag and throw it in history’s dumpster.

              And yes, that’s exactly what they’re doing, waiting for the UN. Shouldn’t say “they”, the USA are doing it too. Well, thank God Colin Powell isn’t up there on the podium, Dodgy Dossier in hand, trying to gin up some resolution so we can have us a nice li’l war of liberation.Report

          • Avatar Heidegger in reply to BlaiseP
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            Mr. BlaiseP writes: “Curiously, the Palestinians did have rights in Iraq, where Saddam put up several thousand in apartment blocks on the road to the airport”. Curious, but not that curious. The ever-charming Saddam never stopped believing in all endearing young charms of the Palestinians as long as they kept up the brutal suicide bombings of innocent, unarmed Jewish men, women, and children. Saddam even gave $25,000 to every Palestinian family who was connected to the suicide bomber.

            Frequently, the fact that Jordan truly did “occupy” the West Bank in 1948 and later annex it in 195o–facts that get tossed under the rug because no one wants to see this as anything other than Jewish occupation–it’s simply not good propaganda to have the occupiers be anyone other than Jews. Why was the subject of “occupation” never brought up from the years 1948-1967? Which was the period when Jordan annexed the West Bank. No, it never became an issue until Israel captured the land in the 1967 war. Blaise, I’m sure know much better than I, but from my perspective the treatment of the Palestinians by the Jordanians was exponentially more violent and deadly than anything done by the Jews or Lebanese. We’re talking killings by the thousands–in the 20,000-25,000 range. Black September. Why are the Palestinians the only group of refugees who have remained refugees for 63+ years? No one wants them. Under any circumstances. It has noting to do with discrimination–they bring war, bloodshed, and destruction to every country they’ve have ever entered. Syria, Jordan, West Bank, Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt. And their attacks against Israel, which always happens, brings a strong reprisals and a brutal response by the IDF. How could it not? And why should it not? Just a week ago, an Israeli family of 5 were slaughtered in their sleep. Among the victims were the parents and their three children ages, 11, 3, and 3 months. Can you even begin to fathom the slaughter of these three young children. To multiply stab a 3 month old infant. THREE MONTHS???? And what do you think was the response of the Palestinians in the street? Horror? Shame? Disgust? Ha! They laughed, honked horns, passed out candies and pastry. One dapper gentlemen even said, “this is a good.” “we need to let Israel know we want that wall taken down.” TAKEN DOWN???? To make is easier for monsters to kill more Jews. Multiply stabbing a 3 month old infant is now justified as sending a message to your enemy. Sigh…the world is growing more heartless by the day.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger
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              And Saddam used to pay bounties to the families of suicide bombers. The horrified Palestinians refused to accept his money.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to BlaiseP
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                Blaise–are you mocking the very idea that Saddam used to pay bounties to the families of suicide bombers? As in, it never happened? And anyone making such an assertion is a foolish ass.

                And the horrified Palestinians refused to accept his money.” What would Palestinians ever be “horrified” about other than the fact that they didn’t kill enough Jews for the day? The only thing Palestinians ever care about is how many Jews they can kill in a single day.
                It’s just wonderful dinner conversation. Read the recent news story I just wrote about the family of five slaughtered by three Palestinians in West Bank. MURDERED BY THREE Palestinian terrorists. I nominate you to be in the next group of “Dancing With The Stars”. Your extraordinary ability to waltz on the head of a pin and be on both sides of almost any issue leaves me speechless. No offense, but would you mind if I addressed you as, “Zelig”? You’re everywhere! Brazil, Columbia, Mt. Whitney, Great Britain, Thailand, Nicaragua, Detroit, how do get around to all these exotic locations? To distill such absurd idiocy into a halfway coherent idea is not easy. You are filled with such venom and vitriol and hatred–how such a soul could love Bach is so far, far and away and beyond my comprehension, I wish you all the peace possible in this world, Blaise. I’m very saddened that you have morphed into this this utterly unrecognizable character. Those pods are without mercy! Have fun! H.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger
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                I am not mocking. Saddam was a brute who used his Palestinians as showpieces. He preferred them to the Shiites and built them nice apartments, the Shiites he condemned to the slums of Sadr City.

                When Saddam was overthrown, the Shiites made a special point of taking over those apartment blocks.

                I am a missionary’s child, a soldier, a student, a refugee worker, a linguist and a consultant and several other things besides. I have worked in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon, Ein el Hilweh, to atone for two terrible sins and an act of betrayal you will never understand. I have lived out of a suitcase, rucksack or a duffle bag all my life. If I have been to all these places, I have never lived anywhere for very long and have been in hotels for six solid years. All my worldly goods, the ones not in long term storage or in Guatemala, fit into the back of an Isuzu Rodeo. I write you from a hotel now. It has been my fate to live my life with the understanding I will say goodbye to everything in time. I take a lot of pictures: it’s like being Proust in reverse, I grieve for places and things I have just come to love, knowing I will lose them. I raised my children, my wife and I drifted apart, she to Guatemala, I to the road and I am alone again, as I always was.

                Now get the fuck off my back. You couldn’t make my life up if you tried, it’s been hard enough to live it and the world has gotten very small over time. I will be glad to be gone when my life is over.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                To my dear, gregarious friend, Blaise, so great to hear from you! Okay, I’ll back off my comments–how about 1 every three months?

                In any case, we have MUCH to talk about. Eternity, black holes, redemption, all animals, I’m a complete nut over animals, forests, penguins, etc. In short, all of God’s creatures. There is nothing in my life that I love more than going for long walks with my Lab Trinity of yellow, chocalate and black Labs. And, noble soul, I just knew you would be a lover of all of God’s creatures. Oh well, better stop–you most certainly do not want to have any any connection with this deranged creature–all the best, HReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger
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                says:

                Yeah, a little bit of that goes a long way. One good thing you’ll find about me, I don’t stay angry long: I tend to do stupid things when I am. When anger runs in the front door, terrified reason runs out the back door.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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        [sarcasm] No, no, Jaybird. These countries are the moral arbiters, we are their agents. They get to sit on the sidelines while monstrous dictators abuse their people. They sit around the flowerpot-bedecked conference tables at the UN, issuing communiques, etc. viz. Bosnia, Saddam, the Taliban.

        But when it comes to actually doing something, that’s what Americans do. You see, in this way, they get the best of both worlds: the right to condemn the dictator, then c0ndemn the USA for doing it wrong. [/sarcasm]Report

        • Avatar Heidegger in reply to BlaiseP
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          Blaise: “When anger runs in the front door, terrified reason runs out the back door.”

          God, I LOVE that! Succinct, powerful, but not over overbearingly powerful, poetic–I wish I could just pull something like that out of brain.

          I’ve always been fascinated with tribal science, both animals and humans. It’s something everyone can do and participate in, and indeed, probably most people actually DO participate in it on a regular basis without consciously being aware of it. It’s almost impossible not to. Wolves and wolf-pack behavior I find endlessly entertaining and instructive especially as it applies to humans and their psychological constructs.

          I find it quite interesting as it applies to this site, especially how you so skillfully knocked off the previous Alphas, DAR and Professor Hanley. That wasn’t easy–especially as you were a newcomer and always a gentleman about it and never needing to resort to obnoxious, breast-beating, antics. And I thought, this guy doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Well, they ran. They knew they were dealing with a superior intelligence and they also knew that they couldn’t pull out their strawman arguments or hyper-abstract philosophical glossary of endless isms. Almost all of which were entirely worthless and merit less when taken out of their suffocatingly small contextual confines. The sole purpose of these tactics being, to confuse and obfuscate their “opponent”. The opening moves invariably start with an illogical premise but with enough logic to sway the discussion into no man’s land, a place where they’re quite comfortable in, because it gets increasingly difficult to challenge Jabberwockian nonsense.

          And Tom is an endless delight. His skill at turning the tables frequently leaves his antagonists painfully speechless. What’s even more funny is they often don’t even know he’s doing it!

          I should stop. Don’t want to hurt feelings. One last thing–in high school wrote a term paper on” The Lord of the Flies”. Just loved that book. I broke all the characters into a Freudian construct– Ego, Super-Ego, and ID–Ralph, Jack and Simon. I found it interesting that while these characters manifestly defined these Freudian characteristics, there were several and interesting gradations between them. This was especially true with the other characters in this novel. Ralph, clearly the voice of reason and conscience, Jack, the warrior, leader, a future tyrant, and Simon–the quiet, thoughtful, mystic.

          Damn. Sorry for going on for so long, Blaise. Have to run now. Time to go catch some perch!Report

          • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Heidegger
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            says:

            Blaise–forgot to leave this–“Schafe können sicher weiden (BACH) Leon Fleisher”.

            Had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Fleisher after a concert here–we have exactly the very same neurological disorder, focal dystonia, except his got better enough to resume playing. Hey, attending New England Conservatory wasn’t a total waste–I’ve taught myself to play the hammer dulcimer. And to get my daily Bachian “fix” in, I’ve recorded the bass lines of Bach’s WTC with the left hand and use that as my accompaniment for the right hand so it all remains pure with no alterations of any kind. And much of John Dowland’s music works without any recording gimmicks necessary. I’d love to build my own virginal this summer–be fun to go miles out on the lake with my little boat and virginal, kill the engine and have nothing but the wondrous, glorious, celestial orchestra to be my accompaniment! Soli Deo Gloria!Report

    • Avatar Sean B. in reply to Matty
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      In a way, yours is almost exactly my point.

      First, rest assured there has been no shortage of interventionist talk on this side of the pond – yesterday The Wall Street Journal alone featured both an editorial and an op-ed urging action on the subject.

      Second, you are correct in asserting that what happens in Libya is not necessarily about America. In fact that is precisely what many interventionists seem unable to grasp. As I suggest above, their arguments for action appear to be based less on an analysis of the actual situation in Libya and more on the principle that “bad things shouldn’t happen on America’s watch… especially if the President comes out and says they shouldn’t,” or something of that nature.

      My contention is that the U.S. often has a choice whether or not an event is going to be, in your words, “about America.” I simply think we’d be wise to say “it isn’t” more often.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to Matty
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      Reading again I’m confused by my own comments so lets try again. I do not argue that intervention is a good idea, that the UN is a paticularly admirable organisation or that US planes would not be involved.

      I was trying to respond to a general tone I’m seeing across blogs that the impetus for action started in the US and that the main advocates internationally were using US national prestige as their key argument. I just don’t think either of those claims is factually correct and not pointing that out risks losing site of what I think are the real issues – the impact of any intervention on Lybia and nearby countries.Report

  5. Avatar Kyle Cupp
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    says:

    Good post, Sean. What I find particularly interesting, odd, and disconcerting is the extent to which Christians, who really should know better, conceive the State, specifically the U.S., as a salvific institution whose power is the chief response to evil in the world. In addition to (or in placement of) preaching the Gospel, these Christians attribute to American military might the role of amazing grace, and in so doing preach a materialistic, militaristic, and political gospel of salvation.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kyle Cupp
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      Evil does exist in the world, a great deal of it. America does meddle in the world, this is true. But blaming the Christians for it? If America cuddles up to these dictators like Mubarak and the Saudis, I am not sure this can be squared with Christian influences. No, this particular Salvific Institution is the Corporation, not the Church. When the Corporation gets offended, that’s when America goes to war, and not one minute before.Report

      • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to BlaiseP
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        Wasn’t suggesting Christian influences upon or blame for American war policy.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kyle Cupp
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          That’s excellent. For just an eensy, weensie moment, I thought you were remarking on the extent to which Christians were preaching the US Military, not Jesus, was the solution to the world’s problems.Report

          • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to BlaiseP
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            A preacher ain’t always an influence.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kyle Cupp
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              Then your disconcert is an interesting thing, indeed. If the Christians do believe these things, and we are in fact a large majority of the people of faith, then the odd part would be to realize that belief structure doesn’t really have any influence.Report

              • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to BlaiseP
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                Some Christians buy into this militaristic gospel narrative, but I don’t think most of them do. Maybe I didn’t make that clear. My surprise is that even some Christians think of the State in salvific terms; such a conception of the State is antithetical to the Christian spirit.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kyle Cupp
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                It is my observation the Cult of Warrior Jesus arises from within the military itself and has spread to the fanbois and fangrrls such as Ann Coulter who famously said “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”.

                We have seen instances of it at the Air Force Academy and many other locations. I am particularly angered to see the oppression of atheists in the military.

                Now some Christian folks condescend to the Jews, rah-rah go Israel, ad nauseam sic transit gloria mundi etc. Me, from my outpost in the Christian camp, I sorta condescend to the atheists. They are the canaries in the coalmine of democracy: as goes it with the atheist, so goes it with everyone else.Report

  6. Avatar Jonathan
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    At the end of the day, there is only so much that can be solved by killing people.

    What a simple, lovely, sad and true statement. And such further sadness in the fact that it need be stated and re-stated so much.
    Good post, Sean.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jonathan
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      There is a flip side to that tragic statement. Some problems don’t go away quietly and evil has never been amenable to reason.

      This essay began with a reference to the Mass, which contains this statement in the Doxology: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day.. We are not delivered from evil or granted peace by mere supplication: we are called upon to be the Light that Shines in the Darkness, a light the darkness will never understand.Report

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