City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Bruce S. Thornton
Policies Based on Illusion « Back to Story

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Excellent and erudite thinking. I am a white Christian and my wife an Arab/Indonesian Muslim. We both share an inate frustration firstly, that the power and money within Islam today often lies with some seriously dysfunctional regimes and individuals who distort the reality of Islam for their own needs and secondly that the West does not wish to truely examine and understand their motives for fear of being politically incorrect.

My wife is very straight forward on the matter "What is the matter with you white guys" she said recently "...why do you go out of your way to give no offence. These people are destroying my religion from within and will destroy us all ultimately"

re: Policies Based on Illusion
I would argue that all peoples are essentially rational and that human nature puts a high priority on personal freedom and material prosperity for everyone, and moreover that peoples go about acquiring those goods by whatever means they deem appropriate. It would follow, then, that if some Muslims (for example) were to learn faulty lessons at an early age, -- for instance that financial markets are zero-sum -- then since Jews (whom they have learned to hate, anyway) are more prosperous than they, an expedient solution to their relative poverty could be to secure their freedom from their perceived oppression by Jews, perhaps by killing them (they are, after all, infidels), thereby acquiring the material prosperity that is rightfully theirs. An immoral conclusion, to be sure, but an eminently rational one.
So human conflict should be predictable simply from an understanding of human nature. Logic is a process of inferring a conclusion from a premise, and if a Muslim (for example) should, as a child, learn a set of invalid assumptions, any conclusions based on those faulty assumptions could appear to be illogical even if his thought process were to be impeccably logical.
We clearly frame policies based on illusion, but we do so because of our disparate culturally learned values, not differences in our parochial common sense. This is not a trivial misconception. If we are to succeed in protecting our way of life against enemies determined to destroy us, we had jolly well understand the fundamental problem. It is cultural, not variability in human nature.
Unfortunately what the conservatives never seem to get is that the world does want peace, freedom, democracy and so forth. These people just want to do it on their own terms. I think Munir's comment nailed it. The West always tries to militarily force its way of life around the world and the rest of the world won't stand for it. I think Iraq was the perfect example; at first the Iraqis actually liked the fact that the US deposed Sadaam. But when the US began imposing rules on how Iraqis were going to live under US rule, that's when all hell broke loose.
"President Obama has attempted to “engage” the Islamic world with a diplomatic outreach predicated on American guilt—as if sufficient American penance will dissuade jihadists from their religious fanaticism."

Precisely. Solipsism is the soul of the American liberal, and the guiding principle of this administration's foreign policy. It is akin to that species of narcissism known as co-dependency, that treats others' pathological behavior as a response to one's own actions. It doesn't work for the children of alcoholics, either.
Thank you for a great article; I share your believe that mirror-imaging of other cultures which are based on completely different values leads to many misunderstanding and policy failures. Also, politicians tend to be optimists, while their advisers (especially those from intelligence circles) tend to sceptics.
A truly magnificent diagnosis of the ills of Western policy.
When it comes to scientific progress, technological advancement and organizational skills, Europe and America are superior to any other civilization that this earth has ever seen. Civilizations and cultures are influenced by each other, and the culture that is scientifically, financially and militarily stronger gives more than it takes from the “weaker cultures”.

Why then has Islam resisted the European and American influences so emphatically? The western armies have always defeated the armies of the Muslim countries and at short order most of the times.

The fault lies in the arrogance that goes with being militarily stronger. If the interaction _ or the clash _ of the civilizations was allowed to proceed without interference, the western influences would diffuse and permeate down to all the strata of the Muslim civilization. Some aspects of the Islamic culture, civilization and religion would have percolated up and become part of the western civilization.

But the west, particularly America was too impatient and could not wait for the diffusion of ideas to follow the natural process. It tried to push it along. The consequences of that are what we face now. That and the moral decline afflicting the western societies are putting the brakes on the process.
America, like Europe, continues to allow tens of thousands of people who hate our values and way of life to immigrate to our country. We are not only fighting them "over there", but ever more evidence shows that the battle against Western Civilization is becoming a homegrown phenomenon. Lam astalem!

Thanks Dr. T (another Fresno treasure)!