Democracy and the Neo-Orientalists

Further thoughts on David Brooks’ appearance last evening…

It is amusing that David Brooks and his Jacobin pals have become big fans of the need to adapt Western ideas of Democracy to the conditions of local culture and tradition that prevail in Iraq.  (and maybe the Greater Middle East [GME]?)  It was not always so.  Until it became evident recently that Iraq was in the process of devolution into geographically bounded ethno-religious communities, the Jacobin neocons had little interest in local culture.  What they had was a great deal of interest in general principles of political philosophy which they identified with "progress."  Regional experts were notably absent from their councils except for "house experts" like Harold Rhode and the ex-ambassador to Morocco who explains the GME on Fox.

Douglas the Feith famously was quoted in the New Yorker magazine a few months ago as saying  something to the effect that "it is a shame that experts on the region know so much and understand so little."

I represent that remark.

"Orientalism" was the name of a now out of fashion tendency in Middle East focused scholarship.  It dominated the field for a couple of hundred years.  In that way of thinking, the general obsession was to study, catalog and more or less "worship" the uniqueness, richness and generally photogenic qualities of alien cultures, the more alien the better.  Orientalist writers, artists, curators, professors, etc. regretted deeply any trend toward modernity or attempt to change these cultures.  The practical needs of the peoples of the region and the suffering and unrealized potential of individuals held down by local tradition never seemed to bother them much.

The whole premise of the Bush "crusade" in the GME was to break up the cultural matrix of the Islamic World and re-make it into something different that would not feel itself to be apart from the "Globalized World Culture" (read Western Culture).  The belief was that if this could be done, then Muslims would stop being vulnerable to recruitment by Jihadi movements.  That was what the code word "democratization" was all about.  The Muslims understand this to be true and that is why one hears all this raving from some of them about "Infidel Constitutions,"  "Crusader invasions," etc.

There is and has been a lot of talk about our respect for other peoples’ cultures even while we clearly intended to cut the guts out of those cultures and replace them with plastic tubing.  What did the Jacobins and Bush people intend to leave of the indigenous cultures?  Folk dances and Shish Kebab?

But now we have a change!!

In the aftermath of the collapse of the WMD, Saddam-AQ alliance, and personification of the struggle (Zarqawi, etc.) explanations of the war, the Jacobins have been pushing hard for "Democratization" which we are now assured (by them) was always what they were after.

Unfortunately, the Iraqis are not "playing ball" with our idea of how this was supposed to develop.  Instead of "signing up" to the American fantasy that they are "all Iraqis together," and happily staging a re-enactment of Philadelphia in 1788, they are acting on the imperatives of their societies which are such as to make them a "clutch" of ethno-religious "nations."  All of those "nations" share one thing.  They are resolved not to do things our way.

Brooks and company have now gotten the word on this and so are "backpeddling" into a position in which they essentially say that we should be happy with having done all this with the outcome of having substituted one or more Islamic Oriental Despotisms for a single Secular Oriental Despotism.

After all, they say, it’s their culture and their ways.  If that was true and Saddam was not a menace to us…..

Pat Lang

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11 Responses to Democracy and the Neo-Orientalists

  1. hfiend says:

    What ever happened to Zarqawi? I haven’t heard his name in quite some time, at least at the level I heard it a few months ago…

  2. Pat Lang says:

    The administration is just fickle. pl

  3. b says:

    The Zarqawi “Make Your Own News” scheme was published mid June.
    There were some 25 examples showing that Zarqawi was just a show. After that got some traction, they shut the scheme down. It was just too obvious.
    Otherwise good post again PL

  4. McGee says:

    Colonel – another great post! Can hardly wait for “Brooks on The American Revolution”, perhaps to be followed by “Brooks on Life on Mars”?! (Ever think you might be shooting fish in a barrel here?) Cheers!

  5. Pat Lang says:

    I shoot my fish as they present themselves. Brooks on ….? Hmmm. pl

  6. Pat Lang says:

    Actually, I like shooting at Brooks and intend to continue “until he spouts black blood and rolls dead out.” pl

  7. Pat Lang says:

    As I said, fickle, even to their own “favorites.” The whole “cult of personalities” as cause of Jihadism is absurd, so why should one be surprised when they give up one “theme for another. pl

  8. sbj says:

    Brooks has been a prominent promulgator of a calculated scheme of lies and deceptions for a very long time. I was particularly dismayed when the NYT chose him to contaminate their op-ed page with his aggressively dishonest rhetoric.
    P.S. I like your line; “…”until he spouts black blood and rolls dead out.”
    His is one of the leading voices now tasked with shifting the blame for the unfortunate mess in Iraq onto those of us who disputed the Bush gang’s rhetoric and challenged their strategy, competence and objectives in Iraq and the GME.
    I was fortunate enough to have a letter of mine published in the NYT critical of one of Brooks’ incredibly ridiculous op-eds about the Bush AIDS policy in Africa. I paste it in here for fun.
    To the Editor:
    Re “In Africa, Life After AIDS,” by David Brooks (column, June 9):
    David Brooks’s references to “American money” and “the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief” seem intended to heap praise on the Bush administration for its efforts on behalf of AIDS victims in Africa. Tragically, the truth of this president’s policies regarding AIDS is the complete opposite of the hopeful image Mr. Brooks attempts to portray.
    The president’s “global gag rule” – the refusal to make funds or supplies available to any organization that advises on abortion-related matters – has created a situation that actually facilitates an increase in the spread of AIDS because condom donations have been reduced on a vast scale throughout the region.
    Shame on Mr. Brooks for trying to laud the president for a miserly and actively destructive approach to the terrible scourge that is AIDS.

  9. Pat Lang says:

    I have always liked Melville and Gregory Peck declaimed that line well in one of the movie versions.
    We shall see.

  10. Some Guy says:

    “After all, they say, it’s their culture and their ways. If that was true and Saddam was not a menace to us…..”
    Excellent argument. I had not caught how the double-backing on democracy directly undercuts the demagoguery around tolerating Saddam’s existence. Thanks for spelling that out.
    And about Bobo, yes. The first couple times I heard him speak on the Newshour I found him innocuous and less objectionable than a lot of mouthpieces for the administration. But oh how that changed the more I heard him.
    His penchant for drastic, oversimplified either/or’s and broad, meaningless attributions of social causality for said oversimplifications . . . it gets so tired. And somehow everything always points back to the supposed wisdom of neocon political “philosophy,” particulary its willfully ignorant assumptions about human motivation.
    By all means, keep a lock on him. He is every bit as disingenuous as Bill Kristol but less abrasive and so easier to overlook.

  11. Jerome Gaskins says:

    Dude, you’re mesmerizzing me!

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