Thursday, January 15, 2004

Over the months, I have pretty much come around to Steven Den Beste's diagnosis for the reasons behind Arab rage - which is pretty sobering considering that it comes between slighting remarks about people who ask 'why they hate us'.

The nations and the peoples within the zone of our enemy's culture are complete failures. Their economies are disasters. They make no contribution to the advance of science or engineering. They make no contribution to art or culture. They have no important diplomatic power. They are not respected. Most of their people are impoverished and miserable and filled with resentment, and those who are not impoverished are living a lie.

They hate us. They hate us because our culture is everything theirs is not. Our culture is vibrant and fecund; our economies are successful. Our achievements are magnificent. Our engineering and science are advancing at breathtaking speed. Our people are fat and happy (relatively speaking). We are influential, we are powerful, we are wealthy. "We" are the western democracies, but in particular "we" are the United States, which is the most successful of the western democracies by a long margin. America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, economically and technologically and militarily and even culturally. ...

We're everything that they think they should be, everything they once were, and by our power and success we throw their modern failure into stark contrast, especially because we've gotten to where we are by doing everything their religion says is wrong.

You could nitpick here and there, but it's probably better to throw the problem into stark relief. I would not dismiss those who are uncomfortable with the casual glorification of our culture and the dismissal of other cultures as merely politically correct - such concerns are in themselves one of the things we should be proud of, and they are born of hard experience with the idea of White Man's burden. For me at least, the acceptance of such a working hypothesis is a desperate measure called for by desperate times. It is the Arabs themselves who most often speak about humiliation.

This will, of course, make the successful rebuilding of Iraq more rather than less difficult. George W. Bush's reduction of the problem to a 'freedom deficit' was convenient, because a new government with different rules was something we already planned to set up. Although Steven Den Beste usually speaks well of Bush, the subtle difference in their description of the problem is important. Bush's solution follows more natuarally from Bush's version of the problem, and indeed was propounded after Bush's solution was already in the offering.

Of course, the creation of an open and stable government could reasonably be expected to lead to industrial development eventually, although we have taken no specific steps in that direction. The problem is ferociously hard, however, given the ethnic problems of Iraq. Could the Iraqi's on some level doubt themselves capable of solving it, lashing out blindly at each other and foreigners to salve what scraps of military pride they can?

We can't abandon Iraq. One major difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that the domino theory really is plausible here if we fail to finish what we started. Such a tangible defeat would cheer Al Qaeda globally, and might even create a relatively educated area with some modern engineers which might host and aid Al Qaeda in it's search for a nuclear bomb. But we may not have full success in Iraq until there has been more progress elsewhere in the Arab world.

This week, Tefen will host an international conference to promote Wertheimer's plan to establish 100 industrial parks on the Tefen model, in a joint project of Israel, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon, partly financed by the US.

Wertheimer said, "An industrial park costs $10 million to set up. Most of the investment is in education and technology training." The total cost of his plan is therefore $1 billion.

Wertheimer said, "The amount of US aid is unimportant. $10-20 million initially would be fine. The main thing is their commitment to the idea; that's it's not necessary to send money or weapons here, but to create jobs, which in the long run will enable people to make money."

This would be cheap in comparison to what will ultimately be spent in Iraq, even in comparison to what has been spend there already. And it would give Arab individuals genuine pride, as opposed to the touchy and combative sort that conceals feelings of inadequacy. Genuine reason for pride after all is the true antidote to feelings of humiliation, and perhaps the demonstration would give real enthusiasm to Iraqi's in the difficult struggle to rebuild their own country - difficult no matter how much help they may get.

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