Saturday, September 29, 2007


It's a grim and cynical thing, realpolitik -- but so am I. Its shortcoming is that it is only about today -- it has no interest in improving the world, only in preserving the status quo. That's okay, if you're top dog, and if the status quo is not a nightmare.

The status quo is a nightmare.

Take Saudi Arabia. Is there any other country in the world that names itself after its ruling clan? There's the Syrian Arab Republic -- something like the Germanic Aryan Nazi Reich, I suppose. Tells you a lot about the lands' corruption and backwardness. I don't mean bribe-taking corruption -- don't know anything about that ... nothing specific, that is; of course it's rampant. Baksheesh, don't you know. But I mean moral corruption. Across its westward waters, on the shores of Africa, troubled Somalia convulses in civil war, between a weak and exiled nominally secular government, and islamists who have taken the cities. Guess who's supplying the islamists with funds and materiel? Wahabbis from Arabia.

The Saudi ruling house exhibits an erratic delicacy, in its reluctance to crack down on such charitable giving from its coreligionists. But next year, or the year after, when the islamists of a Talibani Somalia have brought utter chaos to the eastern shores of a perennially fragile Africa, and that broad region of hell spills its pandemonium into other continents, well then the House of Saud will know the regret of every fallen House.

When Arabia takes the Saudi out of its name and becomes the Islamic Republic of Wahabbi Arabia, and proclaims itself as the seat of the restored Caliphate, we will look back with yearning on the proud, corrupt and contemptible Saudis and mourn for them as for our dearest friend.

Living in the real world is what sane grown-ups do. If that means having a crappy Saudi for a boss, then so be it. As long as America insists on using gigantic wasteful and unnecessary SUVs that burn fossil fuels, we will be hostage to Arabia, and Somalia, and to every feral desert cult that is primal enough to appeal to blood instincts and the basest of human drives.

There is no freedom. That's a lovely myth that we invented and need to believe. We are right to believe in it, for all that it is, in the harsh analysis of daylight, a lie. No freedom, but there is liberty -- which is the practice of the earned stability that a sane society crafts for itself out of many compromises. We must guard liberty as we would guard any fragile and vulnerable thing. By preparing ourselves against thieves and monsters of every description.

There is a kind of monkey trap, where a nut is put inside a jug. The monkey reaches in and grabs the nut, and its fist makes its hand too big to pull out through the narrow opening. The monkey is too greedy to release the nut, and so it is caught.

I don't know that we're monkeys, but I can see the greed and the stupidity. Maybe the Arabs are the monkeys, cuz somebody sure is squeezing our nuts.


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