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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Illogic of Empire

The British Empire may have made a mess of the Middle East but at least it knew what it wanted to do with it. That is more than can be said for our latest round of aimless fumblings in the region. Our latest project to flip Syria from the Shiite into the Sunni column might at best balance out the time we flipped Iraq from the Sunni into the Shiite column, but that just means we're moving territories back and forth between two groups that hate us equally.

Our accidental empire was built on 20th century rhetoric that depicted a world caught between the forces of freedom and tyranny. Naturally we were on the side of freedom. And we are still on the side of freedom, even if it's the freedom of Egyptian and Syrian Islamists to persecute Christians. Over the years our freedom crusade has worn thin and now we are left with the tawdry task of liberating the majority to persecute the minority. A majority that will thank us for it with more terrorist attacks.

The idea that introducing free and open elections to the Muslim world will restructure its governments in alignment with our freedom agenda is naive. More naive than the British thinking that processing a few future Arab monarchs through Sandhurst and Oxford would accomplish the same thing.

The British were at least following in the footsteps of the Romans, even if they forgot that what happened to the Romans was that a religion from one of the annoyingly combative parts of their empire overran them and displaced their native belief systems. Islam seems on track to do to Britain what Judaism and Christianity did to the Roman Empire. But the end result will likely be a lot less civilized.

The Romans assumed that destroying the Jews as a nation, destroying their Temple, massacring large numbers of them and using population replacement to fill the country with foreigners while deporting the native population as slaves would solve their Judean Problem. What they actually did was import two religions into their own cities that were unlinked from temple or nation. The rest is history.

Conquests are rarely one way. The invaders may force their culture and laws down the throats of the invaded, but the invaded end up returning the favor. Wahhabi Islam has been working strenuously to purify Islam of all the extras that the non-Arab peoples they incorporated into Islam, particularly the Mongols, added to it. And incorporating the Persians has burdened them with a bulwark of Shiite Islam. Most religious warfare among Muslims is taking place because of their own past imperialism.

It has not yet occurred to the scimitar waving Salafis that their mission of conquest and their dedication to Islamic purity are at odds with one another. That if the Muslim Brotherhood ever succeeded in bringing about Eurabia and Amerabia, that would be the Mongol wars all over again. It also hasn't occurred to the Saudi bandits that a Muslim America and a Muslim Europe would have as little compunction about taking their oil along with Mecca and Medina as the Ottoman Empire did.

The cons of empire rarely occur to people who believe that they are born to rule the world. They just naturally assume that things will fall into place if they follow the true path, whether it's Islamism, Marxism or the Democracyism. It helps to assume that most people are just like you and want what you want. Americans assume that what Muslims really want is to live like them and Muslims assume that what Americans really want is to live like them. Both are dangerously wrong.

Americans will make bad Muslims and Muslims will make bad Americans. The only restraint on the use of American power is a cultural tolerance that Islam would sweep away. And the only limit on the abuses of the Arab Street are its tyrants. The fate of Coptic Christians and women in Tahrir Square should be adequate reminders that importing democracy will unleash the worst instincts of the mob without any of the cultural tolerance that prevents Americans from behaving like Egyptian Muslims.

The Muslim conquest of the West is senseless as success would only lead to a new Ottoman Empire and a new Mongol horde carving up the dysfunctional Arab world. In a very literal sense, the efforts of the Arab Muslim world to export Islamic violence and theology is bound to lead to their conquest and destruction one way or another.

But the Western attempts to integrate Islam on any terms are equally senseless. The British Empire began the import of Islam into Britain with its imperialism in the Middle East. H. St. John Philby, Lawrence of Arabia's successor on the imperial front, converted to Islam (while his son converted to Communism) followed by a number of prominent upper class personalities who had spent time in the Muslim world.

The British succeeded in breaking up the Ottoman Empire but replaced it for only a few decades and left behind chaos. The same sort of chaos that our own democracy projects have left behind. But the British at least had clear political and economic objectives. They knew that they had an empire and knew what they wanted to do with it. The Pax Americana however is a much more unfocused brand of empire. It is an empire that seeks some greater good that is no longer fixed to the good of the nation. It is a good that is expressed in such abstract terms as to be meaningless.

The great fallacy of the Pax Americana is to think of the Middle East as a problem to be solved. In the Cold War, American Middle Eastern policy picked up where the British had left off, finding rulers we could work with and propping them up to keep the Commies out of the oil wells. But the Commies are gone now. There are commercial empires in Russia and China looking to dip their trade tentacles everywhere without regard to ideology. And there are developing Islamist empires looking to export their ideology the way that the Commies used to.

It might make a certain amount of practical sense to stomp on those, but instead we have been aiding and abetting them on the theory that they will bring stability to the region. Because Islam is nothing if not a great stabilizer, as the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq could tell you if they weren't busy shooting each other.

The tempting illusion that the American policymakers fell into after September 11 was the belief that our practical and moral goals would be one and the same. That we would act as liberators bringing freedom and stability, overthrowing dictators and leaving behind countries that would aligned our way because they were democracies with human rights and fast food franchises. Instead our interests have taken a back seat to the romance of liberation. Like Lawrence of Arabia, we have fallen in love with a myth of liberation while ignoring its tawdry reality.

Very little of what we have done since September 11 has served American interests. And all that we have really been doing is cleaning up old messes by creating new messes. It hasn't been entirely ineffective.

There is a reason that no major terrorist attack has hit the United States since 9/11 and it isn't because of our security alerts or our random airline groping programs. The opportunities we created diverted the resources of the terrorists, but not so they couldn't plan and carry out major terrorist attacks elsewhere. What we did, flawed as it was, did frighten the hell out of our enemies, with its sheer scale. The Saudis aren't willing to put up the money for a major attack that might lead us to do something damaging to their interests. Neither will any of the other Gulf states. And that just leaves smaller attacks outsourced to third parties who recruit terrorists without proper training or experience.

After ten years of chaos and destruction, the Muslim world still hates us, but they also hate Al Qaeda, for giving us an opening and for the massacres of Muslims that the more vicious incarnations of Al Qaeda created by the conflict carried out. The conflict that Bin Laden began has spun out of control and its chaos is creating its own ripple effects. Muslim leaders understand this better than our own leaders do. The Arab Spring is their attempt to turn the chaos in their favor, but the chaos may not go where they expect it to.

While we expect Muslims to think like us, to want nothing more than peace and prosperity through democracy and freedom, they expect us to think like them. And they know what they would do if they had our power. So they assume that we are doing it to them. We assume that the Muslim world is much less subtle than it is and the Muslim world assumes that we are much more subtle than we are.

Both the Pax Americana and the Pax Islamica are behaving in ways contrary to their interests for ideological reasons. We think that it is in our interest to turn Muslims into Americans. The Arab Spring should have dissuaded us of that. They think that it is in their interest to turn us into Muslims; the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire and Persia should have dissuaded them of that. But neither of us is very good at learning from history.

There is no sense in trying to impose a global order on a billion Muslims for their own good. Their own good is their problem. Our own good is our problem. We are not an empire, nor do we need to act like one except in temporary emergencies. Our interests lie not with a global order, but with our own domestic security.

Empire is the surest path to Islamization. It isn't an empire that we need, certainly not an ideological crusade to liberate Arab Muslims from the cultural consequences of being Arab Muslims. What we need is to return our focus to the nation, to the fundamentally unilateral prerogatives of putting ourselves, our borders, our freedoms and our security first. When we can do that, then we can meet the Islamic empire, as we have met all the other empires, on the right side of a secure border that we can protect and defend against Islamization and the armies of Islam.


  1. You can't change a leopards spots.

  2. I had this brief flash of hope then was quickly brought back to the reality that this is just Daniel making perfect sense, and not anything we can expect our so called leaders to even contemplate.

    I think your blog should be required Congressional reading every day.

  3. Anonymous22/10/12

    Re: American Genie

    > .. not anything we can expect our so called leaders to even contemplate.

    On the contrary, I am certain that many Senators and Congressmen possess adequate knowledge and understanding of many things under the sun (meaning that it is unlikely that certain things in question may present a real mystery to them).

    Which makes their perceived and factual silence and indifference and absence on number of pressing and critical nowadays issues rather mysterious.

    > I think your blog should be required Congressional reading every day.

    Some brave Korean man's method comes to mind, he used to send weather balloons, or something like that, with attached self-opening bags of printed leaflets, stapled to 1 dollar bills, from South to the North.

  4. Anonymous22/10/12

    Great, penetrative stuff.

    As ever.


  5. Passer by22/10/12

    "They think that it is in their interest to turn us into Muslims; the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire and Persia should have dissuaded them of that."

    Yes, but they think that they will be able to turn those new muslims against the infidels around them, and they are correct.
    Muslims will be fighting the British in Britain, the French in France, the Russians in Russia, the Serbs in Bosnia.
    Only if Europe and Russia are fully islamized, the new muslim entity will turn its attention to the older islamic world and the Ottoman Empire moment will come. This is because muslims prefer fighting infidels isntead of other muslims when there are plenty of infidels around, and only turn against other muslims when infidels are weak or insignificant or far away. This is why Pakistan, for example, prefers fighting Infidel India instead of Shia Iran.

  6. Anonymous22/10/12

    Our politicians and the "intellectual" minds
    behind them are idiots.

    The muslims bomb our embassies, etc, torch the American flag, etc. and we give them money.

    Other than preventing the middle east from having nuclear capabilities, our military needs
    to stay away. We can't solve their problems.

    We should only entertain humanitarian efforts and cultural and scientific exchange of ideas.
    Be partners with them on the good in the world
    and let them kill each other on the other.

    The problem is the muslim infiltration en masse is going on all over the world. What does the US do when the savages take over the rest of the world? When they bomb Israel? Where is
    China and Russia when all this is going on?

    I am afraid it is far more complicated than your article or my comments would suggest.
    And therein lies the problem.

  7. Tacitus22/10/12

    Agree with a lot of points in this piece, but I have a problem with your reference to 'the Muslims', as in, "While we expect Muslims to think like us, to want nothing more than peace and prosperity through democracy and freedom, they expect us to think like them."

    This is inherently flawed, since "the Muslims" are not a monolithic or single entity. I am not even talking about Shia/Sunni divide, but practical political/ideological/religious divides that straddle the "Muslim" world. Are the Muslims of Albania the same as Muslims of S.Arabia? Do they all want to wage an eternal jihad in the name of Dar al Islam? No.

    Its an unhelpful and muddling classification that is inaccurate. Are Jews a single and monolithic people? Do New York Jews share the same convictions as the ultra Orthodox settlers of Samaria? Same goals, same zealotry? What about the so called "Christendom" - if there is such a thing left?

    I agree that US goals and actions in the region are unfocused and often harmful, and that we need to stop pumping money to despots there, but the notion that the "MUslims" are a single bloc acting as an Islamic Borg entity is comical.

  8. Anonymous22/10/12

    Tacitus, they certainly seem to act with one accord.

    We keep hearing about so-called "moderate" Moslems---but they never seem to speak up against things such as persecution of Christians, in Islamic countries, acts of Islamic terrorism around the world, the attacks on freedom of speech. Maybe they deplore all these things in private---but their disapproval remains just that, private. They certainly never act against their radical brethren.

    I remember, during our splendid little war in Yugoslavia, we were repeatedly told that the Moslems in Albania were tolerant, weternized, multi-culti and not like those bad Moslems, from Saudi Arabia, or Iran. We were told that Islam in Indonesia was much more gentle, and tolerant, than that practiced in Riyadh.

    Both these claims turned out to be untrue. Maybe all Moslems dont' think the same, but enough of them are acting as a single bloc---with no opposition from their co-religionists---that, yeah, I think we can say Islam is acting as a pretty much unified entity, at this point.


  9. Anonymous22/10/12

    And where is the Islamic group that speaks out, openly, against all the terrorism directed against Jews?

    Islam certainly seems united on this particular issue.


  10. Anonymous22/10/12

    Mr. Knish, it's good to see that someone knows who Kim Philby was.

  11. occupant 922/10/12

    Tacitus, when you say, "...the notion that the "Muslims" are a single bloc acting as an Islamic Borg entity is comical," I refer you to the OIC, a bloc of 56 Islamic nations + "Palestine." (Obama's "57 states.")

    Only Islam has jihad. Only Islam, as far as "religions" go, curses other religions within its "sacred texts," five times a day. Only Islam permits deception in order to further advance Islam. Islam is an ideology; a way of unthinking, a lens for seeing only red, a rationale for misbehaving, a touchy nerve for injustice and humiliation, underscored with the worst message for unearned self-aggrandizement possible, that Muslims are "the best of people."

    To use the Sesame Street meme of the day:

    Consider Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism etc and Islam ...

    One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong. Can you guess which thing is not like the other before I finish my song?

    Besides, no less an expert on Islam than the president of Turkey says there's no "moderate" and some such, "there's only Islam." Did he mean the one that he knows and enforces or the mythical other Islam one signs a hudna with?

    I often wonder why so many Muslims now living in the West want to maintain an Islamic belief system ... then I remember, only Islam has a death penalty for apostates and naysayers towards their "perfect man," Mo.

  12. Excellent points about empires. And I'd concede your points, except I believe you have left out a major reality. While Rome was considered a global empire, it was not a truly global power. There is a true global power that exists now that never did in all of history. It is international, not national. It doesn't care about culture, race, nationality, American or Muslim. This elemental power owns the Fed Reserve. Major giant corporations that most Americans assume are American are in fact multinational, international powerhouses. While nations spar against nations, culture against culture, this global power continues to consolidate. And it dictates US foreign policy along with other nations. The real battle for an empire is taking place within this context, where nations jostle for the greatest leverage. But the US doesn't own its own money much less an empire. That's a fact. Muslims, by infiltrating a spectrum of pistons powering the engine, hope to gain top position. I would agree with your assessment that such an eventuality would result in cannibalization and implosion of the global infrastructure as the Islamic House of Peace would self-destruct. I believe that the current international government knows this, hence the Global War on Terror. However, there is no historical reference for the modern State of the World. And I am unconvinced that an alternate system would truly be any more successful than Islam. The economic structure is already showing its foundations are faulty. Sure, America can focus inward, but that won't relieve our military from wearing the blue colors, it won't relieve us from international rule of law, to which we are already subject. Subjects do not rule empires, they pay taxes and do their civic duty.

  13. Obama would have an Imperial Presidency. But, why choose Caligula as the model?

  14. Anonymous24/10/12

    There is no sense in trying to impose a global order on a billion Muslims for their own good. Their own good is their problem.

    Indeed it is. But there are advantages for us if we have a caliphate to deal with, rather then 50 odd disparate Islamic states, some openly hostile, and others pretending to be our friend.

    That is why we are making a Caliphate for them, as Muslims on their own are clearly unable to do so.

    Its going to be a long war. 40 years more or less. It took the West some 40 years to bring down the Warsaw pact. The same with Islam. The death knell of Islam sounded as the Twin towers came down.




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