Krauthammer in his latest article on The Washington Post hit the nail on its head on the issue of the November 4 election. Indeed, and I’m paraphrasing, the crucial issue for Americans on November 4 will be to identify the lion-hearted and the lamb-hearted. If lacking the will or cognitive ability to make this identification and vote– out of irrational hate for Bush-Cheney and the Republicans as a result of their lack of understanding of the immeasurably intricate strategic situation that the Bush administration was placed in the aftermath of 9/11 and the ‘razor-edge’ difficult decisions it had to take to protect America from the deadliest of foes- for the “lamb” Obama, then America like sheep will be taken to the ‘slaughterhouse’. And there will be no shortage of intellectual shepherds—one of them will be Steve Clemons holding almost the longest staff in his hand—to lead it to the abattoir. And ironically their arch enemy fanatical Islam will be licking its chops.
Posted by Paul Norheim
“some folks would like to move forward again…”
Kotzabasi apparently wants to move backward straight into the
Posted by kotzabasis Oct 25, 10:43PM – Link
Since you appear to be a ‘Nostradamus’ on apocalypses you should be able also to pose the right question about them. What kind of society has a greater potential to ‘bring on’ an apocalypse, a civilized one, such as America and Scandinavia are, of which you are one of its offshoots, or one that is versed and mired in religious fanaticism?
Posted by Paul Norheim Oct 26, 1:09AM – Link
OK Kotzabasis, I`ll try to answer this in a less polemical
because you actually raise a very interesting question.
What about one of those most “civilized” ones, like for example
Germany 70 years ago?
Cambodia 30 years ago?
Rwanda less than 15 years ago?
As you notice, I mentioned actual apocalypses in modern time,
not “potential” ones; some confined to a national scale, one of
them on a more or less global scale.
All of them had strong elements of ideological fanaticism –
which perhaps may be interpreted as a surrogate for religious
fanaticism. In the top leadership of the Rwandan genocide, it`s
said that religious hysteria (of a Christian type) played a certain
role as well, but I don`t think it was crucial.
You may also think of WW1, where a certain stupidity and lack
of fantasy among the European political and military leaders
may have played a role (most of the even thought that the
calamities would be over in a matter of weeks…)
In the nuclear age, I have no trouble seeing some of the bigger
powers, or even the biggest of them all, “bringing on” an
apocalypse, perhaps aided by a smaller state with a ruthless
leadership or leaders lacking judgment regarding dangers on a
geopolitical level. In a different political climate, the crisis in
Georgia may have escalated.
I could easily imagine several scenarios, some including states
where religious fanaticism certainly plays an important role,
some where religion plays no crucial role, or no role at all.
And one of those scenarios is the Global War on Terror – this
could bring on an apocalypse on a huge scale, due to lack of
sound judgement, BOTH from the “civilized” society and
societies “mired in religious fanaticism”. And as you may well
know, there are both moderate religious worshippers and
fanatics both in a country like, say Iran, and in a country like,
say USA – although this kind of fanaticism obviously may play a
more dangerous role in a theocracy. My point is: the division
between those mired in religious fanaticism and more sober
worshippers, does not respect national borders.
During the Cold War, the world was close to such a scenario at
least once (Kennedy/Khrushchev), and this had little to do with
religious fanaticism. I would say that ideological fanaticism of
various kinds presents a danger equal to religious fanaticism in
One of the important questions during conflicts in the nuclear
age: what role do the mainstream media play? The role of
propaganda from both sides? And more important: how does
the leadership of a nation interpret the situation? How does it
balance threats with diplomacy? How does it interpret
intelligence and rumours?
And in cases of asymmetrical warfare, terrorism or failed states:
how does it avoid overreacting, or using a certain situation as
an excuse to legitimize other agendas?
My impression is that you, kotzabasis, have a rather simplistic
view on these matters. That you divide the world into two
forces: the civilized (”good”) world against the dangerous
societies “mired in religious fanaticism” (read: Islam). (Correct
me if I`m wrong in my assumptions).
In our contemporary world, I believe that the issues are much
more complicated than that. This is not to say that religious
fanaticism does not present a potential danger. Kashmir is just
one example of a hot spot where a fusion of nationalism and
religious fanaticism may be a crucial factor if it all blew up.
Iran may become very dangerous if it feels seriously threatened.
But so may Israel (and not due to “religious fanaticism”). Or
North Korea, in a state of paranoia, enforced by propaganda,
and lacking credible intelligence.
Even America may become dangerous if it should go in decline
– and if some hardliners in politics or in the army became
desperate to regain its hegemonic position. And if the GOP wins
this election and McCain`s VP candidate Sarah Palin should end
up as the woman in charge of the world’s only superpower, that
could be another example of an apocalyptical scenario where
religious fanaticism may play a role.
In fact, the potential apocalyptic scenarios are legion. However, I
doubt that Norway or Australia will play a crucial role in any of
those scenarios in the near future.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on this.
Posted by kotzabasis Oct 26, 6:59AM – Link
Paul, you have a very weak definition of “polemical” to consider my gentle ‘strokes’ upon you as being polemical. You would have been rejected as a weak ‘general’ under Gustavus the Great. You also have a very weird definition of a civilized society if you include as such Cambodia and Rwanda. As you well know a civilized society includes not only cultural factors but also political and juridical ones such as democracy and habeas corpus. Neither Cambodia nor Rwanda was in that category. Both of them were inflicted by apocalyptic “religious hysteria,” Cambodia’s rising from the Althusserian school of apocalyptic Marxism whose students included some of the future leaders of Cambodia such as Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan, and Rwanda’s partly from a primitive understanding of Christianity and tribal hatred which is the bane of Africa. Your examples by the way by an intellectual acrobatic lapse support the core of my argument, i.e., apocalypses are incubated and arise from religio-politico fanatical ideologies.
I also notice that your cognitive tools of analysis are rather blunt, refraining myself from the temptation to be polemical. You seem to be unaware that apocalypses have a greater potential to come from the deliberate action of religious and ideological beliefs than from the accidents of war due to the “stupidity and lack of fantasy among…political and military leaders.” No Western leader ever had an apocalyptic agenda nor was he imbued with ideological fanaticism, with the exception of Hitler and Stalin, but Ahmadinejad of Iran has such an agenda. This is the fundamental difference which you miss. But it’s obvious that you are not strong on fundamentals.
And you are not wrong in your “assumptions.” Once one identifies by the scrupulous method of historical knowledge and examples one’s irreconcilable, implacable, and malicious enemies one is compelled “knowing thy enemy” to make a clear and unequivocal stand between good and evil. The question is which is more “simplistic” to continue the ‘fine tuning’ of one’s intellectual deliberations, which obviously is your inclination, at a time when it’s simply evident who your real enemy is. “Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.” (Thucydides)
In your penultimate paragraph you fantasize when you depict the politically femme fatale Sarah Palin could potentially unravel an American “apocalyptical scenario.”
I enjoyed this civilized discussion sans name calling and sarcastic vitriol. But your apocalyptical equilibrium between fanatical Islam and the ‘pockets’ of religious and ideological fanaticism that exist in the West is dead wrong and has no historical legitimacy.
Posted by alan Oct 26, 9:12AM – Link
One curse that every President has had to bear is an **sh**e relative. It’s almost a given.
Posted by Paul Norheim Oct 26, 1:41PM – Link
Just a short reply now – I`m preparing for a trip to Berlin
Re: the misunderstandings…
What I meant to say was that I decided to answer in a less
polemical manner than I originally planned (it did not refer to
Secondly I did not intend to imply Cambodia or Rwanda under
your concept of “civilized” societies – only the one I explicitly
called civilized: Germany.
Thirdly: I mentioned that ideological fanaticism “may be
interpreted as a surrogate for religious fanaticism, and “that
ideological fanaticism of various kinds presents a danger equal
to religious fanaticism in modernized societies.”
You seem to agree. Fine.
And then you said: “You seem to be unaware that apocalypses
have a greater potential to come from the deliberate action of
religious and ideological beliefs than from the accidents of
war due to…”
I am well aware of the dangers of deliberate actions of religious
and ideological beliefs. This is the reason why I consider
Pakistan the potentially most dangerous country in the world at
the moment: a collapsing economy, a weak state control, strong
fundamentalist elements in the population, the military, the
intelligence and in various organizations (like al Qaeda and
Taliban) — if you add to that the risk that these elements
could obtain control over the nuclear arsenal, and the question
of Kashmir, there is a huge risk for an apocalyptical scenario.
The main point of my post above was to show that in the
nuclear age there are countless of other potential risks as well –
NOT involving religious fanaticism. And on that point, I guess
And then to the last misunderstanding: “You would have been
rejected as a weak ‘general’ under Gustavus the Great. (…)
“Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one
was totally unfitted for action.” (Thucydides)
You seem to have misunderstood my role: I am not a man of
action involved in a war, I am a writer. A writer who, unlike you,
is not involved in a manichaean struggle of global proportions
“against one’s irreconcilable, implacable, and malicious
Life seems boring and trivial in Australia, as well as in Norway,
doesn`t it? You seem to have chosen Don Quijote`s strategy,
fighting a “war”, acting as if you were surrounded by enemies.
Must be entertaining for you.
In my next post, I`ll paste from an article in the New York
Times. Some food for thought, and somehow more directly
linked to Clemons’ original post.
Posted by Paul Norheim Oct 26, 1:48PM – Link
This one is for Kotzabasis, a column by Nicholas Kristof from NYT today, titled “The
Endorsement From Hell”.
If you are a writer two things follow. First, you should have been able to pick another’s position from his writings. I did not pick my position out of trivial boredom in Australia nor as an escape to “entertainment” but after thinking many hours about it. And if you think that my position is a “Manichaean struggle” or a Quixotean attack on windmills after the dire transformative events of 9/11, then all I can say to you is that you are trivially shallow and intellectually flippant in your considerations. Secondly, if you are merely a writer avoiding action like a plague, then you should not be so judgemental about issues of war and pontificating on the latter ex cathedra.
Further, you would not pass a test in logic, and Plato would never allow you into his Academy. If you accept that 9/11 was an action of fanaticism in pursuit of the seventy-two virgins, how can you doubt that America’s and the West’s enemies are “irreconcilable, implacable, and malicious?”
I did not mention Germany as it was a special case, since you yourself made only a passing comment on it and concentrated your argument on Cambodia and Rwanda. The First World War had put an arrow into the pride heart of Germans, and the Great Depression had emptied their pockets. Thus civilized Germans at the time were susceptible to the slogan of “stab-in-the-back”, and to the beer hall seductions of Hitler’s unsurpassable oratorical skills. Not that such a special case cannot happen again. If American populist stadium politics in the presence of a current ‘Depression’ have their say and vote for Obama and his ‘changing’ and ‘transformative’ policies diminished America’s global power and weakened its stand against its enemies, then Obama could unwittingly become during his administration the sire of a future American Bonaparte. And America will in turn have on its calendar the Eighteenth of Brumaire all by courtesy of Obama.
Nicholas Kristof’s article in the New York Times is unworthy of a reply. It regurgitates and pays court to the politically and strategically bankrupt conventional wisdom of the chattering classes about the war on the extremists and continues, by implication, the mantra that the best strategy against militant fanatic Islam is to go to it with an olive branch in hand. As to the issue of jihadists recruits the answer is given by events in Iraq. Why al Qaeda and other jihadists groups are in dearth of recruits presently and use women and children as a substitute in their suicidal missions? The simple answer is that they have been defeated on the field of battle. This is the way to dry their well of recruits.
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