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Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Sullivan on Abu Ghraib, "Sex and Humiliation":
[T]he nakedness and the sexual humiliation might be far more potent in a sexist, homophobic and patriarchal culture than in less sexually repressed societies. One of the most important things to remember about today's Muslim extremism is that it has taken what is the submission of women under Islam and turned it into a political pathology. Like most variants of fascism, it is deeply troubled by women's equality and by homosexuality. Hence the impact of these images could be psychologically devastating to many Iraqis - and far worse to those in countries where Islamism has made even deeper inroads. This was not simply a p.r. debacle; it was a p.r. catastrophe.
Yes, if p.r. is about getting them to like us. But consider Spengler, "Horror and humiliation in Fallujah" (and remember that the derivation of catastrophe is turning everything upside down):
The Islamic world cannot endure without confidence in victory, that to "come to prayer" is the same thing as to "come to success". Humiliation - the perception that the Ummah cannot reward those who submit to it - is beyond its capacity to endure.

Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands. The West can break the revolt by inflicting even worse humiliation upon the Islamists, poisoning the confidence of their supporters in the Muslim world. ...

[S]etbacks to the Ummah are a challenge to the faith of every believer, for all events are in the hands of Allah, not those who have submitted to His will. Success therefore is a theological necessity for Islam. Humiliation for Jews and Christians is a chastisement from God; did not Christ accept His humiliation on the cross? For Islam, humiliation is a refutation of the faith itself.

For a generation, Western policy towards the Muslim world has emphasized deference towards Muslim sensibilities, the Bush White House emphatically included. It does not occur to Muslim radicals that their enhanced status in the Islamic world might prompt the West to undertake the opposite, namely to humiliate some aspects and some leaders of Islam, if not the religion itself.
RTWT, especially his notes on the West's incapacity in the face of horror - one very real way we could lose the war and our civilization (as Europe has increasingly lost its way in the long aftermath of 1914).

As only a semi-Jacksonian, I have real problems with the prospect of killing large numbers of Muslims - especially those whose barbarism extends "only" to dancing in the streets when Westerners are slaughtered, or admiring the seemingly strong horse. But I have far fewer problems with humiliating their leaders, systematically and deliberately. In public, not in private behind prison walls, as interrogation prep by over-reaching reservists and non-military contractors.

Al Qaeda intended to humiliate America on 9/11, anticipating that undefended strikes at the centers of commerce, military power, and government (remember flight 93) would shake our arrogance and self-confidence. Killing wasn't the central point; just a feature. No one really expected the towers to fall. But what we reacted to was the horror: the randomness, the helplessness on the airplanes and the top floors, the NYFD's courage going up the stairs: the jumpers.

Antiwar warnings before Afghanistan and Iraq largely focused on the horrible carnage to come: the carpet bombing, the refugees, the starving civilians, the body parts. The Pentagon's Shock and Awe tactic is far less effective against people who don't react the way we do to horror; thank goodness we leapt ahead to try decapitation instead, and pushed forward from there.

The lightning drive to Baghdad and the exposed lies of Baghdad Bob were humiliating to everyone who expected a stiff defense. But after major combat was over, we stopped attacking the point of weakness. The Iraqi army shouldn't have been disbanded and allowed to slink away; they should have been paraded through the streets in disgrace, perhaps with stones provided along the route, and then put to work rebuilding infrastructure and digging up mass graves.

We became concerned with Iraqi sensibilities, and sought to minimize casualities - which is our concern, not theirs. We stopped addressing the central point of Muslim pride - what they call arrogance in us, because we're not entitled to Allah's favor. The result is Fallujah and Najaf, and growing disdain for the occupation.

In the short run, we're trapped. We have to return sovereignty on July 1 before the Iraqis publicly acknowledge that they couldn't have removed the Baathists on their own, and that they're not really capable of running a free and functioning country by themselves. Maybe the light will begin to dawn with the first sectarian massacre, but I'm not hopeful. Denial is definitely a river in the Middle East.

In the next campaign - and there are many campaigns to come in this long war, the variables being When and Where and Why and How many deaths - I hope we don't continue to make the mistake of not targeting the central Muslim pressure point.

Islam could very much use some humility. And humiliation is the usual necessary path to it.

posted by Kelly | 11:23 AM link