The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, September 14, 2007

Are they stupid?

“Remember what your original question was: you were asking why, if Al-Qaeda and its fellow travellers rationally knew that they were doing us less harm in Iraq than they would do in America, they'd nevertheless choose to pour their resources into fighting in Iraq. In point of fact, that does seem to be what they're doing, so the choices are:

1. Carrying out a terrorist campaign that's actually killing far more Muslims than Americans, for some reason, is actually a bright idea.”

The majority of fighters in Iraq are not, to my knowledge Al Queda. They are Iraqis locked in civil war, and Muslims who believe America is an aggressor in the region, and look to drive us out. Of course, there is Al Queda as well.

2. Waging a guerilla war that is actually a disincentive for George Bush, the neocons, the Republican Party, and the U.S. military to just walk away from Iraq, or even draw down their troop levels, is actually a bright idea.

That assumes that those fighting all think that Americans have good intentions, or that Bush has any intention to leave. Hell, there is no reason for them to trust us more than we trust them. EVERYONE demonizes “the other.” It would be perfectly reasonable for many of them to think we want oil. Americans were TOLD that Iraqi oil would pay for the invasion. What possible reason would they have for believing we’re such nice people that we’d just waltz in and out? Is it really reasonable to expect people to extend such benefit of the doubt?


2. Generally, pouring vast amounts of emotional, economic, and political energy into tearing a country apart rather than allowing it to be reconstructed peacefully is a really, really bright idea.

Once again, you’re assuming THEY believe that’s our intent. Whoa. Really? I’m not saying they’re right, but do you really not see how easy it would be for them to believe we’re there to grab oil? And if they did, wouldn’t they want to help their neighbors? If Iraq invaded America, wouldn’t we pray Mexico and Canada would help? It doesn’t matter if you think our intentions were blissful and saintly—do you really expect THEM to believe it? Even if they are?

You know what? I give up. OK, they're all brilliant ideas. But is there any other adjective besides "stupid" that one might use for all this? "Differently intelligenced", maybe?

How about this:
1) they don’t trust us any more than we trust them/
2) As there were no WMDs, I’d bet anything they think that we never believed they were there at all—that it was a naked power grab.
3) Al Queda is there because we’re there. Our men there are low-hanging fruit.
4) My opinion? The attacks of 9/11 required virtually no resources—just a brilliant concept, and people willing to die. That strategy would work exactly one time. Our intelligence, security and police forces are very very good, and staffed by people who are very very serious. Al Queda is pretty much a broke-dick, incapable of mounting any operations against us in our homeland at all. Yes, Iraq siphons off some energy—but even if it hadn’t, I doubt they could have mounted much more than a couple of car bombs. Was stopping that worth four thousand Americans, a Million Iraqis, and a trillion dollars? Really?
5) Our presence in Iraq is giving Al Queda the best recruitment poster Bin Laden could want. The very last thing he wants is for us to pull out. He wants us to stay there, and unite the Arab world thereby. Bush played exactly, precisely, perversely, into the bastard’s hands.
6) Sun Tsu said, a thousand or so years ago: “There are battles it is not worth winning.” In my mind, Iraq is one of them. We have the need to be secure. We should seek out and kill our enemies. But this battle, in this way, is a perfect example of using a hammer to fix a cracked bottle. Right intent, completely wrong tool. Bush let Bin Laden pick the battle, and the battle field. Walking away from this one isn’t losing, it’s refusing to fight the fight your enemy is salivating to trap you in.
7) As for whether Iraq would be worse off if we left—there is intelligent reason for disagreement here. I don’t know, and neither do you.
8) As for how to best withdraw our troops safely, I don’t know, but I don’t trust George Bush as commander in chief to make those decisions. I believe the man to be incompetent.
9) As for whether there are forces within our culture and country that profit by our remaining there, separate from the publicly stated goals: remember what Eisenhower said as he left office. Where there are gigantic profits, don’t you dare believe there aren’t people willing to lie and manipulate and kill to make them. Remember the tobacco industry, for Christ’s sake. And those forces would be perfectly happy to play on the fear and patriotism of good Americans to keep it going.
10) And remember oil. We run on energy. Oil is energy. And I believe that it would be utterly absurd to think that Oil had NOTHING to do with our decision to invade Iraq—just as it would be naïve to think it was the ONLY motivation. And the gap between “nothing” and “only” is a moral abyss I fear we will be generations recovering from.
##
I woke up at 3:30 this morning with my mind buzzing (might have been that Mountain Dew smoothie I had on Cheat Day, rather than any intellectual breakthrough, though...) about the core of what I'm trying to say. I'm going to try to get closer to my position, and hope that this communicates.

The flaw in your logic, from my point of view, is NOT your belief that we are in the right, and on the side of the angels in this matter. It is your apparent belief that our righteousness is SELF-EVIDENT. That, in essence, no one who disagrees that America is in Iraq for righteous reasons could be anything but a knave, a fool, or blind. Want my test for the wisdom of this attitude? Apply the following: what is the opposite of my point of view, and could I have a reasonable conversation with that person?

In other words, the opposite of your point of view is that America is in Iraq for EVIL, VENAL reasons, and that this is equally self-evident. And that no one who disagrees with this could be anything other than a knave, a fool, or blind. And you know what? You and such a person could do nothing other than kill each other. My point of view? I believe that the average American who supports the war has positive, valid reasons for so doing...but that there is room for honest disagreement about those goals and intents. And I promise you I could sit down at the bargaining table with someone with the opposite of my attitude, and we could find peace.
##
This attitude is separate from the specific contexts and applications. Let's look at some other arenas where such a "I believe X, it is self-evident, and if you disagree you must be a knave, a fool, or blind" attitude can be found.
##
GLOBAL WARMING. "It is obvious Global warming exists. Anyone who disagrees is a greedy planet-raper, or stupid" of "It is obvious Global warming doesn't exist. Anyone who disagrees is an environmental wacko, or on the government research money-train."

GENDER RELATIONS. "Men are evil and violent and the cause of the wars. Anyone who disagrees is a sexist pig, or brain-washed." "Women are less intelligent and capable, and need men to make their decisions for them."

RACE RELATIONS. "Whites are intrinsically evil and corrupt." "Blacks are intrinsically more criminal, and less intelligent."

And on and on. In any of these cases, when you grasp that the opposite of your position would make it impossible to have reasoned discourse, I would suggest that you take a very careful look. In my experience, it is nothing but fear that we might be wrong that makes us so inflexible in our belief that we are right--and that that "right-ness" is self evident. I believe I have more reason to believe whites are evil than you have to believe that Muslims are somehow less logical or further from the divine. And all of my life (and I mean literally ALL), I've had whites trying to convince me to side with whites against blacks ("you're not like the rest of them, Steve.") and blacks against whites ("you write about it, Steve! How can you not see it? They fantasize about raping our women and killing our men. They warp the very language we speak to make us feel ugly and inferior. They steal everything good in history and claim it for their own. How can you not believe they are Satanic?") I kid you not.

And I have never been seduced by it, no matter how comforting such a system of belief might have been. It is too damned easy. Everybody plays that game. I refuse to use the same tools my enemy uses. I won't play his game.

Remember: I'm not saying you're wrong that America is right. That is another discussion. I'm saying you're wrong that it is SELF-EVIDENT, or "obvious" that we are right. Hell, there is disagreement among AMERICANS whether we should be there or not, whether we are there for positive motivations or not, whether our influence there is a good thing or not. Do you not see how much easier it would be for Arabs to see the dark side of our intent? Do you really believe that 100% of the people motivating the war, or profiting by it, are on the side of the angels? Really? If not, what percentage could be venal, hateful assholes? Isn't it at least the same 5-15% we've pretty much believed are assholes in general? At best? Can't you see that if you had been born an Arab Muslim, with the same tendency to believe that you were not only right, but that it was OBVIOUS TO ALL that you were right, that you might be sympathetic to the view that America is the Great Satan? That the leaders of America, who publicly profess (and often seem to privately mock) a belief that their religion and Prophet are wrong might...just MIGHT not have the best of intent? Can they point to casualty figures as high as those we suffered? If they were just as certain that they were right, and we were wrong, can you not see that an intelligent Arab Muslim might well come to the conclusion that America is the most dangerous foe Islam has?
##
If you can't see that, you will never understand racists, sexists, Libertarians, Liberals, Conservatives, or anyone else who not only believes in their cause but believes that the other side MUST know they're right, and that therefore the other side are knaves or fools or blind...and you and the one on the other side can do nothing save kill each other.

And it will be up to me, and people who remember that they might be wrong, and that the mountain looks different from the other side--even though it's the same mountain--to try to make peace.
##
I sincerely hope that nothing I've said here offends you. I believe you to be a good and intelligent and well-intended man, a patriot and a sincere human being. I speak of the universal human tendency to believe that we are right, and that our position is self-evident, and that if you disagree with me, you must be a fool or a knave, or blind. No. If you disagree with me, you are human.
##
Is it heads? Is it tails? To a microbe on the surface of the coin, it must be self-evident which it is. Only to someone who can stand back, unattached to the results, can you see the truth: it is a quarter. And only with an accurate map can you ever get where you are going. The alternative is war to the knife, and all our children die.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

art of approaching -
auto cash system -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
bv cures -
calling men -
camera dollars -
carb rotation diet -
cash making power sites -
cb mall -
combat the fat -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
credit secrets bible -
destroy hemorrhoids -
dirty talking guide -
dotcom income secrets -
duplicate file cleaner -
dvd copy pro -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy launcher -
easy system cleaner -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
eczema free forever -
end your tinnitus -
error nuker -
fatburningfurnace -
fat burning furnace -
fat loss 4 idiots -
final sync -
firewall gold -
fitness model program -

Anonymous said...

fit over 40 -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
forex candlesticks made easy -
forex killer -
forex megadroid -
get rid of your cellulite -
g money pro -
google shadow -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
gov resources -
health biz in a box -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
hybrid water power -
i software tv -
joyful tomato -
keyword spy pro -
kingdom of pets -
macro virus -
malware bot -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
meet your sweet -
microcap millionaires -
moles warts removal -
mole wart removal -
muscle gaining secrets -
natural cure for yeast infection -
paid surveys etc -
panic away -
pdf creator -

Anonymous said...

public records pro -
quick article pro -
quick income blueprint -
quit smoking today -
ranking loophole -
reg clean -
reg defense -
regi cleanse -
registry easy -
registry genius -
registry winner -
reg sweep -
reg tool -
reverse mobile -
richard mackenzie direct -
rig worker -
rocket chinese -
rocket french -
rocket german -
rotator cuff training -
rss feeds submit -
save the marriage -
site builder elite -
six figure yearly 2009 -
sleep tracks -
sold in 21 days -
spyware stop -
stop being tired -
stop your hair loss -
the bad breath report -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
tonsil stones remedies -
top secret magic code -

Anonymous said...

truth about abs -
turbulence training -
turn your photos into cash -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
warp speed fat loss -
wedding speech 4u -
win clear -
xbox 360 red light fix -
xp repair pro -
1st promotion -
3 redlight fix -
500 love making tips -
acid alkaline diet -
advanced defrag -
anti spyware -
anti spyware bot -
art of approaching -
banish rosacea -
blog lock down -
brad yates -
building a chicken coop -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
combat the fat -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
copy n profit -
credit secrets bible -
cure angular cheilitis -
cure morning sickness -
dirty talking guide -
domain tweak system -

Anonymous said...

dotcom income secrets -
duplicate file cleaner -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy launcher -
easy system cleaner -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
eczema free forever -
email finder -
energy 2 green -
error nuker -
evidence smart -
fat burning furnace -
fat loss 4 idiots -
final sync -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
forex enterprise -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
home job stop -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
how do i get him back -
hyper vre -
keyword spy pro -
kingdom of pets -
mafia war secrets -
malware bot -
master cleanse secrets -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -

Anonymous said...

maximum paid surveys -
meet your sweet -
mobile tv pro -
musclegainingsecrets -
muscle gaining secrets -
my dish biz -
one minute cure -
paid surveys online -
panic away -
pc tv 4 me -
pdf creator -
perfect optimizer -
pick the gender of your baby -
plr wholesaler -
private niche empire -
project quick cash -
public records pro -
pull your ex back -
quick article pro -
quit smoking today -
reality creation secrets -
reg clean -
regi cleanse -
registry easy -
registry fix -
registry winner -
reg sweep -
reg tool -
reverse mobile -
reverse phone detective -
richard mackenzie direct -
rich garbage man -
rocket chinese -
rocket french -

Anonymous said...

seize cars -
shop until you drop -
six figure yearly 2009 -
sleep tracks -
spyware nuker -
spyware stop -
sunshine 4u -
the bad breath report -
the cash1234 system -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
the free car -
the lazy marketer -
tonsil stones remedies -
truth about abs -
truth about diets -
turbulence training -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
violin master pro -
warp speed fat loss -
wedding speech 4u -
xp repair pro -
yeast infection no more -
2ip hosting -
10 minute forex wealth builder -
30 minute back links -
500 love making tips -
acid alkaline diet -
advanced defrag -
affiliate jackpot -
anti spyware -
art of approaching -
battery reconditioning -

Anonymous said...

blogging to the bank -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
carp evolution -
cb bonus domination -
combat the fat -
content website builder -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
cure angular cheilitis -
cure morning sickness -
dirty talking guide -
driver robot -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy launcher -
easy system cleaner -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
error smart -
evidence eraser -
evidence smart -
fatburningfurnace -
fat loss 4 idiots -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
forex trading machine -
forex trading made ez -
get your exgirlfriend back -
google snatch -
governmentregistry -

Anonymous said...

government registry -
grow taller 4 idiots -
guy gets girl -
hcg recipes -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
how to break 80 -
hyper vre -
instant domain cash -
i software tv -
jamo rama acoustic -
linden method -
lose the back pain -
magni work -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
musclegainingsecrets -
muscle gaining secrets -
negative calorie diet -
one minute cure -
one week marketing -
only 4 gamers -
paid surveys online -
panic away -
pc on point -
pc tv 4 me -
perfect optimizer -
phone number scan -
pick the gender of your bady -
power 4 home -
profit lance -
public records pro -
quantum mind power -
quit smoking today -

Anonymous said...

recipe secrets -
reg clean -
regi cleanse -
registry easy -
registry winner -
reg sweep -
reverse mobile -
reverse phone detective -
revolutioniz -
richard markenzie direct -
sale hoo -
simple php -
smtp 2 go -
spyware nuker -
surveys 4 checks -
tax liens made easy -
the bad breath report -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
the handcrafters companion -
the retired millionaire -
the super mind evolution system -
truth about abs -
truth about diets -
turbulence training -
ultimate content creator -
video piggy -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
viral tweets -
warp speed fat loss -
webstigate -
win clear -

Anonymous said...

win spy -
worlds best compost -
xp repair pro -
yeast infection no more -
your approved -
500 love making tips -
acid alkaline diet -
advanced defrag -
amazing resume creator -
anti spyware -
art of approaching -
av advance -
banish tonsil stones -
bookmarking demon -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
catch spouse cheating -
cb affiliate blueprints -
combat the fat -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
cure angular cheilitis -
directory of ezines -
dirty talking guide -
dish tv for pc -
dog training online -
domain sales machine -
driver robot -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy tech videos -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -

Anonymous said...

error killer -
error smart -
evidence eraser -
evidence smart -
fatburningfurnace -
fat burning furnace -
fatloss4idiots -
fat loss 4 idiots -
fitnessmodelprogram -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flattenyourabs -
flatten your abs -
flat to fab -
forex derivative -
gas 4 free -
get better grades -
golf swing guru -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
heartburn no more -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
hyper vre -
i software tv -
legit online jobs -
linden method -
london forex rush -
master word smith -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
max pro system -
meet your sweet -
membership gold rush -