Friday, June 5, 2009

Torture and the Middle East.

Spengler has a strong article on the culture of cruelty and torture in the Middle East, with lots of references, over at his blog. In the wake of President Obama's solecistic* speech to the so-called "Muslim world," it is vitally important that we take off the blinders about the sort of violence permitted (although, yes, there are other interpretations) by that religion:

"In countries where torture is habitual, unexceptionable and embedded in everyday life, it is foolish to imagine that our armed forces might conduct successful operations without employing torture as a matter of normal practice."

Let you think he's condoning torture as policy, note his exhortation:

"We must leave the Muslim world to its own destiny rather than to attempt to engineer a happy ending. "

Fascinating stuff, leaving plenty of room for rumination and debate.

*solecistic: benighted, catachrestic, inerudite, unable to read well


Christine said...
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Christine said...

"In the olden times every leader worked for the good of his own nation alone. The others were considered adversaries, or subjects of exploitation. There was no regard to any value but that of superiority and personal glory. For the sake of this, many moral ideals and values were wasted; many unethical means were justified; many uncounted souls were made to perish. Lies, deceit, treachery, and cruelty reigned as the signs of sagacity and the proof of greatness. Today, this view needs to be changed from its very source. Today, the greatness of a civilized leader ought to be measured by the universality of his vision and his sense of responsibility towards all humankind. The developed world and the third world are but one family. Each human being bears responsibility towards it by the degree of what he has obtained of knowledge, wisdom and civilization."

--Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature

There are voices in the Muslim world worth dialoguing with.

It bothers me that Spengler seems to conflate diplomatic dialogue with military intervention when he says things like "we should attempt to quarantine such cultures and expose our own people to them as little as possible." Have we forgotten that we owe to the Muslim world the preservation of most of Greek philosophy when Europe was still stumbling through the Dark Ages?

Besides, I don't think the concept "radical evil" as Spengler defines it can be applied to any human society as a whole, and certainly not to one with an intellectual and literary history as illustrious as that of Islam. Yes, there are atrocities in Arabic-speaking countries every day, which cannot be forgotten. But that has more to do with economic and educational disadvantages and government corruption than it does with the "radically evil" ideology that some extremist terrorist organizations espouse...

e2 said...

Ooh! I love the quote--pregnant with possibilities for new ideas...

Yes, I'm having a very hard time with this whole issue. I think Spengler gets it right when he takes issue with the president's conflation of Jewish and Arab suffering, as well as his remarks about "colonialism" and other historical errors.

But, like you said, it is wrong to write off any civilization as entirely evil. Wherever human beings are, there will be good, because our desire for good is written on our hearts. I'm very glad that Aristotle and his confreres were preserved, and that it happened to be in a Muslim culture is to that religion's credit. Spengler seems to be advocating just the sort of isolationism that kept the Greeks buried for a thousand years.

That being said, I'm having a very hard time with the idea that our options are (a) isolation and (b) the unification of all humanity by our world leaders. Diplomatic dialogue is NOT coextensive (big word!) with military intervention. I think there has to more to it than "We'll withdraw our troops" or "we'll send in more troops." I wonder if Spengler believes that, in the end, all a modern state CAN do, though, is promise military action or withdrawal. The modern state--whether Muslim or secular--is all about power, not redeeming humanity and not about "responsibility to all humankind." It's not even about the "good of his own nation." The modern state is about perpetuating itself and expanding its power.

My hope is that the "vision" of our "civilized leaders" will be to diminish government intervention overseas in order to allow and encourage the private citizen to make overtures of peace and goodwill. I'm thinking, of course, of all the charitable groups who come from the first world. The SSVM's and MC's, CRS, the Red Cross, etc., etc., are really the West's best ambassadors to the "Muslim world."

The voices in the Muslim world worth dialoguing with are those willing to acknowledge our acts of charity and goodness. The voices in the first world worth sending over there are those who are not tied to state power.

Just my random thoughts post Saturday pancakes.