Monday, June 18, 2007

Bacevich, Bush, Islam

Gentle Reader, hie thee to this Los Angeles Times link for Andrew J. Bacevich's op-ed piece, "More troops, more troubles," subtitled, "Candidates who call for beefing up our armed forces to deter terrorism show a profound misunderstanding of the Mideast."

Bacevich dismisses calls for a larger U.S. armed force which are being made by many--and, for the purposes of this essay, especially presidential nominee contenders. He calls, instead, for an "alternative" plan to Bush's failed strategy.

Money quote: "To pass muster, any such strategy will have to recognize the limits of American power, military and otherwise. It must acknowledge that because the United States cannot change Islam, we have no alternative but to coexist with it.

Yet coexistence should not imply appeasement or passivity. Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

Over time, of course, Islam will become something other than what it is today. But as with our own post-Christian West, that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. Our interest lies in nudging that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West. In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism."

We cannot delay. We must assist those 21st century Muslims who see the wisdom in modernizing their religion.

We must take to heart the too obvious fact that reform cannot be changed by military threat.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Irresponsible Assertions?

Over at, the use of unattributed assertions continues apace.

For instance, a columnist named John Andrews has a contribution, Can Muhammad and Jefferson Coexist?

As far as it goes, it raises interesting questions. Islam, to the best of my knowledge, is both a religion as well as a way of governing. It is, basically, generally understood, to be a theocracy. I don't know for certain. I've never seen citations for a particular surah which would give credence to that understanding.

Andrews' column also provides an assertion, "How can Muhammad’s teaching that women and unbelievers, especially Jews, are inferior square with Jefferson’s “all created equal”?

Good question, and an interesting assertion, but there is no citation for the claim that Muhammad teaches anything like women and unbelievers and Jews are inferior. Haven't we Westerners been told that Muhammad taught that people of "the book" were to be left to their own religions? (Of course, there's generally no provision of a surah for that teaching either!)

Making such assertions without the accompanying citation is either academically lazy or partisanship at its worst. We know how important context is. We've seen its misuse in advertising and in politics. We know spin doctors' first law is "Do whatever it takes to stress the point."

Any westerner who writes anything about Islam without citing a Surah should be held suspect.

The American prople have been credulous too long. We must demand honesty and openness in our politicians as well as, and probably more importantly, from those who would be exponents of policies.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 8, 2007

Really, Dave?

My old pal at The New York Times, David Brooks, has an interesting column today (sorry, folks, it's a Times Select--ain't free) in which he writes "Children do better when raised in stable two-parent families."

Now, on the face of it, you might agree with the statement. It sounds plausible. On second thought, though, and in the light of our experience over the past 40 years (since the '60s--the beginning of vast social changes), you might wonder--"Really?"

I wish Dave had cited a source for the statement, but he didn't. To give him credit, he did write later on that a government program could offer "Nurse practitioners who make home visits can stabilize disorganized, single-parent families." That sounds, also, plausible.

Isn't there another problem, though? Doesn't the tenor of the two statements assume a certitude about single-parent families? Doesn't that certainty assert all single-parent families are unstable and disorganized?

Again, Dave, you needed to provide a source for this assertion. Otherwise, your entire column is called into question; and I don't want that. I liked it--we do need to educate more thoroughly than we have been lately. Our economic viability demands a better educated work force.

Sorry, Dave. I have to fall back on Trust, but Verify. Cite sources.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Same Argument--Same Lack of Substance

Over at The New York Times, a couple of adversaries from the Vietnam War Argument era are having none of the possible benefits of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

PETER W. RODMAN and WILLIAM SHAWCROSS are arguing that the American departure from Vietnam was "disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region." They go on to write, "Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting."

Well, maybe. Not, though, according to the evidence they offer. There are too many conditional words, too many what-ifs, and, most importantly, a strange view of Vietnam in the immediacy of 1976, but not at all in 2007.

Sorry, guys. It doesn't sound like anything other than more of the 1970's "light at the end of the tunnel." Back to the drawing board. You might be correct, but not with this argument. This one doesn't pass the smell test.

For the rest of us: Trust, but Verify.

Sphere: Related Content