Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Shah is Dead

I truly think it's about time to introduce the readers of this blog to Limited, Inc.--an exquisitely written, lucidly engaging and thought provoking alcove of commentary. Just yesterday, I occasioned on a post that spoke of the Straw men liberal hawks construct to flog what they see as a soft fringe left--more concerned with the rehashing of punitive historiography of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

As I so often do when I'm made to reflect more subtly on a particular issue, I responded with a flurry of comments--of which related to the narratives interested parties frame around both their understanding of historical antecedents and their reaction to immediate contingencies.

This passage from the author's post was the impetus:

The dirty secret about the ‘war on terrorism’ is not that poverty causes terrorism, or the war between Israel and Palestine causes terrorism – no, we can be much more specific than that. We have the history, if we want to look at it. The terrorist network was set up, physically, financially, intentionally, by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan in the eighties. It was a specific, long range operation, with a specific goal in mind: defeat the atheist infidel. Because, in the U.S., the triumphalist school of Cold War scholarship has prevailed, a very blind eye has been turned to a very dirty history. Thus the curious silence that has surrounded, for instance, the first attempt to blow up the WTC, which had the spiritual seal of approval of a blind Newark mullah who came to the U.S. on a visa signed by a CIA officer after having had his travel bills paid for by the CIA in their jolly attempt to move the wogs against the nasty Russians. Payback for Vietnam was the theme back then, and damn the consequences.

To this, I replied something to the effect that realpolitik is necessarily a pragmatic strategy that, as an instrument of statecraft, is as essential, if not more so, than diplomacy. Only with the judicious and banal methods of realpolitik do we truly appreciate our contingences-- unencumber from the doctrines and dogmas of floating ideologies.

Perhaps by using my actual words some clarity may be gained:

Agreed! But what is your point then? Should "we"-- by we I mean to say the project of Western Civilization-- disengage our ties with unsavory bedfellows-- in so doing relinquishing any realist mode of IR? The material corollary of which finds “us”—again, I understand the nomenclature is used too loosely—in a ridiculously untenable international order.

Though, to be fair, not much about the particular state of play in International Relations inspires any confidence in stability, but the circumstances could, nem con, be much worse.

The problem with Pakistan and by extension the ISI (the most nefarious intelligence organization in the world today, next to professional spammers and the CIA) is that the geopolitical viability of the Afghanistan wars now and then is nil. I’m loathe to engage in Hitch style rhetorical sleight but if the responsibility lies in these hands, then can’t an effort at least be made to repair what has been broken, as disingenuous as it will most certainly be perceived.

Clearly an uneasy alliance governs the stasis of morally unpalatable relationships; yet, I fail to see who’s supposed to be keeping score, and by whose metric failure should be ascribed. I despise myself for sounding like a reader of the New Criterion, but the terms for which the debate can be framed need be stated clearly, it seems likely we’ll talk circles around each other—points well made on each side

The monsters we fight today create the monsters we’ll fight tomorrow. I’d be the first to sign up to the most pristine, blank slate strategy of absolving all the sins of our fathers, but being a rootless pragmatist by disposition makes me disinclined for such doctrines, if they were to actually exist.

The war inside the left will, I think, be determinative of the, dare I say, nuance vital in characterizing the threat from with in (foreign policy, in general, institutional ideologies, specifically) and the threat from with out (Islamic Fundemtalism and Asymmetric terrorism). I’m not exactly sure if I have a point to all this, though I’d be interested know what type of strategy needs to be deployed; whether or not a more agreeable strategy exists; or if this talk of strategy needs to be dropped altogether since the dialectic will unfold as if should?

The author then gave an abridged version of where he thought this dynamic, as regards Iraq, is headed. Today, the author posted the extend version. Measure for measure, it is possibly one of the most intelligent posts I’ve read this year. This is how it opens:

Chess came to Europe through Persia. The pieces were re-configured, the moves changed, from the Indian original. Europeans also inherited the phrase, check mate, from the Persian phrase ‘the shah is dead’ – Shakh mat.

LI has no inside information, but we believe that Sistani, at one time, must have been a hell of a chess player.

No comments: