Saturday, August 4, 2007

Brown Mind

Gordon Brown is the new Tony Blair. Met with Bush on Monday at Camp David. Very formal. Lots of distance. Not like that lapdog Blair. No calling the President “George, old pip.” It’s Mr. President.

Bush was up to his usual standard. The cowfratboy. We’re gunna git them evil-doers. Heh heh heh. Mr. Brown was ever so much more nuanced, parsing the matter like a Byzantine grammarian: "‘terrorism is not a cause; it is a crime’. That immediately denies the terrorist the dignity of an enemy and casts him instead as a mere criminal, to be hunted down chiefly by policework and intelligence. Noticeable too was Brown's desire to be specific: the conflict was not with ‘terror’ -- an abstract noun -- but ‘al-Qaida-inspired terrorism’.”

The particulars of British politics are beyond me. I’d like for the Special Relationship to endure. We’ve saved them some several times now from various generations of the Hun, and a little gratitude in the form of political loyalty might be in order. If there is such a thing as political gratitude. Perhaps not. If Black “reparations” is an historically invalid (not to say unworkable) concept, then so is trans-generational loyalty. But we’re always looking for justice.

Well, Brown must be a smart dude. I mean, he's posh -- not Blairposh, but Britposh. Even yoiks are posh, to USAicans. But Brown needs to reconsider his lexicographical ruminations. First, whether or not we give terrorists "dignity" is irrelivant. Justice works on both criminals and enemies. Terrorism is a sort of crime, being, as it is, illegal. All "illegal" things are "crimes". But from a slightly different angle, it is no crime at all. Crime, you see, involves mens rea, a guilty mind. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea. (We exclude for this discussion "crimes" committed in ignorance.) This is why insanity is a defense. There is no question in the mind of the sneak thief that stealing is "wrong" -- wrong if only because the law defines it so. Thieves are not, after all, philosophers. The murder generally seeks to avoid punishment, and expects it if he is caught. His society, if not his conscience, informs him as to the morality of his actions.

Not all terrorism, but islamist terrorism is of a different order. Some terrorism is simply a form of extortion. Leave a million dollars under the old elm tree or else. Release Shamus McFealy or else. There is an understandable if not entirely rational motive -- a criminal motive. The islamist terrorist is, as I say, of a different order. He does not have a guilty mind. He thinks he's right. His murder is a sacrament. It is not a crime -- it is a cause. His mother wants him to be a martyr. His society approves.

As long as this most salient fact is missed, politicians of a certain stripe will cavil about a "War" on "Terror". They will scoff, How can there be a "War" on "Terror"? It's as ill-conceived as a "War" on "Drugs". Or a "War" on "Poverty". Oh. Well they'd think that last is a good idea, but you see the point. The point is that there can be wars on abstract behaviors, because such behaviors are merely the outworkings of a culture. Cultures are what we have wars with. Nazi culture. Communist culture. Prussian culture. Yes. A culture. Or as some might call it, a society -- a government -- a religion. Human beings working together to achieve a goal. And other cultures are what we have wars with.

"While [the Bush-Blair] focus was on rogue regimes that posed a threat to the west, and the use of force to remove them, Brown sees a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. While the favoured comparison of the Bush-Blair era was the second world war against Hitler and fascism, Brown looks to the cold war with Soviet communism."

Both are right, and the differences are resolved through a dialectic. The synthesis is to suppose that Hitler had lasted -- say, stopped at Czechoslovakia. That is after all what the Soviets did. They went so far and no farther. Until they could. They fought their wars by proxy. The bushmind could foresee the danger, from past actions and present potential. The brownmind could see the spheres of influence and the root causes. Neither would be wrong.

Islamism is doing exactly the same thing as the Soviets. It fights its wars not through states but through cells. Iran and Syria and elements in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia send arms and funds to their ideological agents. Osama is Che, not Hitler. The actions of these agents are not "crimes" anymore than Hitler's bombing of London, or the Japanese bombing of Singapore was a crime -- no more than the Red Chinese propping up North Korea or the Soviets aiding Cuba. These were acts of war, hot and cold. And war is a cause. Thus, the term War on Terror is accurate. Every suicide bombing is a Pearl Harbor. Every roadside bomb is a Berlin Blockade.

The surge appears to be working. The paradigm shift that allows this apparent success lies not in the US troops simply shooting up a town and then leaving, but in shooting up a town and staying. Wildfire hotspots flair up again, y'see. So you need to stay in the forest so you can stomp out every flashpoint as it shows itself. This successful strategy has application not just to forest fires, and not just to anti-insurgent campaigns. It has to do with this particular species of terrorism not being a crime, but a cause.

Suicide bombings are flair-ups. The incendiary element -- the flogiston -- is islamist culture. Some inroad needs to be made, some surge needs to be mounted, against the madrasahs and mosques of hatred which are the breeding ground for terrorism. Not only the hot Hitler war of the terrorists, but the cold poisonous culture of the victim/blame-mentality Moslem world must be addressed. Brown is not wrong.

Using his analogy of the Cold War, Brown believes that no less important than a powerful army, "was the defeat of the intellectual case for communism. In an article in Monday's Washington Post, Brown recalled the educational and cultural links and exchanges between the west and those behind the iron curtain that steadily eroded the latter's faith in the Soviet system. This leads to an intriguing possibility, that Brown is advocating a process of systematic cultural engagement with the civil societies of the Arab and Muslim world - involving the "schools, universities, museums, churches, trade unions" whose engagement in the cold war he invokes so warmly."

Yes. Brown is correct. But he's missing a key point. Part of winning the minds if not the hearts of the Moslems is to understand that Osama knows his culture better than we do. He is correct in his famous observation about strong or weak horses. Only softies pick weak horses -- oh, the poor horse, how cute and sweet and pathetic. More practical people understand that horses should be useful. Somewhere between being a swayback nag and a wild bronco, there must be a wide range of useful horse flesh. My point? We must be seen to be strong. Being made suckers at bargaining tables earns only contempt. Moslems are not the only people who think that stupidity should be exploited. Worry about fair play should end with the start of life and death battles.

Anyone who's lost a child must know this. Let the other dumb son of a bitch lose his child. After all, if it's a war then it's a war. Wars aren't about laws, for all that there are rules of engagement. A government that sends its soldiers into a battle without preparing them to prevail -- well, would that be criminal, or terroristic? I don't know. I just know it's insane. Non compos mentis.


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