Friday, July 14, 2006

War vs. (r)Evolution

What wonders religious faith can accomplish! The willingness of Islamists to plunge the world headlong into Armageddon (or whatever their idiotic theology calls it) may be dragging us all into another world war. It’s clear that radical Muslims are making bids (probably uncoordinated) to escalate their various jihads. Fortunately, they are still small in number and weak militarily, and their dogmas have little appeal, relative to liberalism. Unfortunately, real (classical) liberalism appears not yet a likely alternative for much of the Muslim world, and the sheer numbers of Muslims make them a formidable potential opponent, should the world degenerate into religious war. Hopefully world war will be averted, and the forces of globalization (which at heart are liberal) will continue to take root around the world, including in Muslim countries.

But world war isn’t an impossibility. Israel’s apparent determination to wreck (or even eliminate) Hamas and the misnamed Hezbollah is completely understandable and clearly justified. These groups are a combination of military unit, political party, and government faction, they are dedicated to eliminating Israel and Israelis from the face of the earth, and they actively aggress against Israelis...hence Israelis are fully justified in trying to eliminate them. Whether Israel’s attempts to crush these organizations can be successful in the long run is another question, since the resulting destruction antagonizes the surrounding populations… but then it’s hard to see that Israel has any good alternative.

Meanwhile, the apparent Pakistani government support for the terrorist bombings in New Delhi last November and now in Mumbai are making it likely that India will respond militarily against Pakistan. Again, India’s alternative to military response seems only be to continue tolerate savage quasi-governmental attacks on its existence (which is admittedly in far less jeopardy than that of Israel). Such forbearance might make sense over a short period, if it helps to gain a peaceful resolution, but such toleration can’t be maintained indefinitely.

The blundering of the Bush administration in Iraq cost it the opportunity to finish destroying Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda now flourishes in Iraq and elsewhere. Bush’s tolerance for Pakistani and Saudi tacit and overt support for Muslim terrorists has only worsened matters. The EU efforts to negotiate with Iran are failing (blame Iran, not the EU). Russia’s foolish support for Hamas and the Iranian regime has also thrown fuel onto the fire. (“Foolish” – Russia’s decision to forego partnership with the West and Europe and forge its own foreign policy may make sense from a Russian standpoint, but its choice of alternative “allies” is inane and incompetent.) (Suggesting that Putin is following time-honored Russian foreign policy traditions dating to the tsars.) None of this is reassuring for those of us who do not want to see a Crusader vs. Jihadist world war.

I think that the Israeli position is correct: there should be zero tolerance for organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah– an armed political party that advocates destruction of anything resembling a liberal order and imposition of totalitarianism. How to actually eliminate them is another matter. The most important step is discrediting their philosophies in the eyes of the populations from whom they draw support – without this, killing their members doesn’t solve the long run problem. And the key to discrediting their philosophies is offering a superior alternative, that of reason and classical liberalism. But this means that instead of a war we need a revolution – an intellectual revolution. Unfortunately, “waging” intellectual revolution is a more subtle activity, and ultimately is something that takes effect via evolutionary means; it doesn’t lend itself to central planning the way war does, and doesn’t appeal to religious moralists, chicken hawks, munitions manufacturers, and like groups.

I’m reminded of the theory developed by Soviet cosmologists as part of their SETI program, which developed classifications for extra-terrestrial civilizations based on levels of technological advance. On the resulting scale, our own global civilization was ranked as pre-civilized, but nearly at the point of advancing to the lowest classification. The Soviet scientists also argued that this “cusp” was inherently a crisis point, during which a proto-civilization might easily destroy itself if it was unable to develop an ethics that constrained its newly-acquired technological power. We do seem to be at this cusp, and it is a crucial time for us libertarians to push reason and the rights of man as a universal standard.

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