Friday, August 11, 2006

If only we could

I was doing some reading I found myself over at Dean Esmay's blog reading some comments on one of his posts. One of the commenters, Eteraz, remarked
Let me put it like this: would you rather go to Pakistan and kill the fanatics who are trying to put women in face covering? Or would you rather give some cash to the civil society groups who are using Islam against the fanatics?
his point, in my opinion at least, is that force cannot win the War on Terror. That's incorrect. The proper application of overwhelming force can solve many, many problems. The solution isn't always clean, and it's rarely pretty, but it's solved. The issues though is the two sides in this battle will not, and can not, apply that force. The fanatical islamist/islamofacist/terrorist (whatever the term is) side lacks the capability to end this conflict by force. They don't have the manpower or firepower to do so. And the West/America doesn't have the will/see the need to apply such force. So it becomes a cultural/societal battle.

I'd be curious what Pakistani civil society groups are worthy of American funding? Maybe it's just me and my close-minded, chickenhawk, neo-con Bu$hitler supporting stupid Americanness but it seems to me that far, far, far too many civil societies in the Arab world are a bit too closely tied to people willing to blow up Americans, or our allies.

I lived in South Boston for a couple years. There was this quaint Irish pub on Broadway where I'd stopped in a couple times for a beer. I was far too not-Irish to ever be treated as a regular, but I was a tolerated presence since I tip well. During one of these visits a regular came up to me and asked if I had some money to give for him to send back to his cousin in Ireland. I'd had a couple in me, and I didn't want to seem like I was a jerk to one of the guys who was always there, and he'd already gotten some cash from everyone else in the bar, so I took out a fiver and gave. Turns out "cousin in Ireland" is some sort of code for Real IRA member in North Ireland. This was in 2000. It was later explained to me that there were a couple people from the various Irish terror groups who'd come into Southie during the year to try and get money for their organizations. Money for their "cousin" was, apparently, the code for such a transaction. Maybe I was having my chain pulled, but regardless it revealed to me just how easily a "good intention" could be used for ill.

How many middle eastern "civil society" groups have overly close connections to known terrorists? Heck, how many are blatant fronts for terrorist groups? How likely is it for money given by the US to one of these civil society to wind up being used to fund the weapons being used against the US? In essence, how likely would it be for the US to pay a terrorist organization to attack the US? Without any research whatsoever I'm guessing that there's a 10% chance the any money given by the US to any random Middle Eastern-based aid group will wind up being used to attack US assets. So, my question to Eteraz would be "Which groups would you suggest we give this money to?"

But throwing money at the problem isn't an answer. No amount of money can fix the Middle East. It's a problem of time. And it's not a problem of time that can be solved by, ironically enough, time. The most depressing thing I've ever learned about the Middle East is this:
[T]he total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year.
Think about that for a second.

1,000 years and the culture has been enriched by fewer books than the Iberian Penninsula has added to their culture in the past year. It's probably not a fair comparison though because I'm sure Spain translates books for consumption by Spanish readers around the world. But still, in a millenium all the countries in the Middle East couldn't equal the annual production of one European country. That is depressing. Deeply depressing.

I've met many people of Arab and Persian descent in my time in recruiting. I've found my 09L vein and I'm going to milk it for all it's worth. These are people who are grateful for the opportunity that the US has given them and their families. Some have even been grateful enough to eagerly enlist into the Army, knowing full well that they're going to be sent into harm's way.

And yet I remain depressed by the implications of that translation thing.

Does anyone know if The Federalist Papers have been translated into Arabic? If not can someone get on that? How about the Constitution? Maybe a copy of that included in the Baghdad Morning News will go a long way. Hell, forget the big, meaningful bits of literature. How about the simple good reads like Clive Cussler's books? I'm not so egotistical or ethnocentric as to think that American/English language books are the only way to go, but it's revealing to me that so few written works are translated. How much thought is stifled by the simple act of denying the resources necessary to develop a different way of thinking?

It goes deeper than the translation issue though.

How many Middle Eastern universities are recognized as being among the best in the world? How many that are not in Israel? I'll save you the trouble. 6 and 1. And the one non-Israeli university was Hacettpe University in Turkey, which isn't even a Middle Eastern country.

I don't even want to delve into the treatment of women, suffice it to say though if your culture is going to restrain 50% of the population from participating your culture is screwed.

I'm painting with a very wide brush here, and I know it. I'm also out of my element and stand ready to take a justified verbal lashing for what I've said.

Tome though, this comes down to the simple fact that the only readily available solution to the problems in the Middle East remains at the tip of a sword. There simply aren't enough (any?) "civil society groups who are using Islam against the fanatics" to bother using that route. And even if they are how are they using Islam to fight fanatics? What accepted scholarly research into further meanings or intreptations of the Koran are being taught in the mosques and cultural centers of the muslim world? Where are these anti-extreme-Islamic groups when it comes to a car bomb in a marketplace, whether the market is in Basra or Tel Aviv?

For all our flaws as a country America and her citizens are pretty good at trying to get something done. The moment it's more effective to deal with "civil society" groups I'm sure that's what will happen. It hasn't happened yet because there simply isn't such a group that will accomplish what the US needs.

Anyways, it's late, I'm tired. Got someone who should be joining the Army tomorrow.


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