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Thread: A civil war in Islam?

  1. #21
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    Question What is the answer?

    Sarajevo,
    Glad to get your responses.

    A question for you and other readers:

    What do you see as a path toward a sustainable peace? Would you advocate the division of Iraq into three separate states or the amalgamation of the Sunni and Shiite areas into neighboring states? Should the coalition simply pull out and wait to see who wins? Is Israel inexorably linked to this and other conflict?

    Comments from the forum? Any idea is valid and I think the time has come to think as laterally and inventively as possible.

    JD

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    Quote Originally Posted by JD
    Sarajevo,
    Glad to get your responses.

    A question for you and other readers:

    What do you see as a path toward a sustainable peace? Would you advocate the division of Iraq into three separate states or the amalgamation of the Sunni and Shiite areas into neighboring states? Should the coalition simply pull out and wait to see who wins? Is Israel inexorably linked to this and other conflict?
    Definitely. This is American war for oil and dominance over the Middle East (falling back on words of Ret. U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf) and over securing the Israel. Iraq was never and will never be treat to U.S.A. but it was to Israel. Now, why would American sons and daughters fight and die for Israel while they sitting home, I can’t tell you.

    IMHO, division of Iraq would be disastrous… For almost everyone. Not to mention that idea have no support in Iraqi people. It will create new, small Iran, small extremists Sunni state and even smaller, rich but so vulnerable Kurd state.

    About pulling out… Coalition certainly can do that (and somehow I see them doing it) but that would be so low and cynical. First going in, start all the mess, killings and then pulling out!? What is message there?

    Obviously, no peace will be possible if people are not ready for it and if they don’t came by some idea what they wish and how to go there… Major problems are big, opposite currents and wishes by U.S.A., Iran, Shiite and Sunnis in Iraq and in other states.

    “Balkan solution” is not solution at all… Nothing is finish there and hate will came out in next war. Now and from here, I cannot see any fair and tangible solutions in Iraq.

    I think, real question is, would U.S. accept and respect they fishes and solution!? U.S. seams to have poor record with that.

    Many said this and I can only repeat… U.S. is stuck in something they started and no one sees any solutions. May God help us all !
    Last edited by Sarajevo071; 05-01-2007 at 01:52 PM.

  3. #23
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi JD,

    Quote Originally Posted by JD View Post
    Marc,
    As usual, excellent and much appreciated response.
    Thanks, but without Sarajevo and Tequila (and others ), it wouldn't have happened - it's a collective response as always.

    Quote Originally Posted by JD View Post
    I do have a couple of questions for the general forum.
    JD, you woldn't by any chance be looking for an academic position where you get to assign dissertation topics, would you ?

    Quote Originally Posted by JD View Post
    1. If we are not fighting a 'war on terror' or an Islamic civil war, what are we fighting? The biggest problem in finding a solution is often defining the problem and no-body seems to have done that sucessfully.

    2. Do you see parallels between the draconian reaction of the Christian chuch to the Enlightenment and the rise of fundamentalism in East and West as a response to globalisation, the internet and the attendant wave of secualrism and diverse cultural influences. Is the search for 'traditional values' and 'meaning' a response to the bewildering amount of information, infuences and choice or is it a form of tribalism that feeds of the growing fundamentalism of 'others'. If there is a historical precedent it may imply a useful way forward.
    These two questions are, in my mind, inextricably linked together. I honestly believe that the "greater war" we are fighting is philosophical (not "religious") - a result of the macro-social "phase change" that is being called "globalization" or the shift to the network society. Personally, I don't like the term "globalization" since we have been globalized, in the sense of globally inter-connected for over 200 years. I have a tendency to use the term "phase shift" to the Information Age (which has its own conceptual baggage). BTW, I apologize in advance for a very long post - I wrote about this in my dissertation where it took over 25 pages.

    I said that I thought the root cause was philosophical, and I should expand on that, but it needs some background first. Ever since we started forming sedentary communities and getting involved in horticulture, we have based our social organizations around the concept of finite resources which are scarce, and this holds true today for most of our current forms of social organization. "Power", in many ways, has been socially defined as he ability to control the supply and distribution of specific resources (land, labour, raw materials, geographic placement, etc. - it varies with the culture and technology).

    Over the past, say, 400 years, the key "resource" has not been a finite resource in the sense of grain or wood or coal but, rather, has been "knowledge". For most of these 400 years, the "finiteness" of knowledge has been bound up with the communicative media that spread the knowledge (books, newspapers, magazines, telegraph, etc.), the availability of access to these media (e.g. going to school, having the time to read, cheap radios and/or TVs, etc.), and the speed of transmission of this knowledge (years -> "real time").

    At he same time as we are seeing all of these changes in communicative media, we have also seen a similar trend in "transformational technologies" (i.e. technologies that allow for the transformation of material goods including both agricultural technologies and manufacturing technologies). This trend (it's actually a vector) intensifies in the late 18th century with the introduction of cheap, stand alone power sources (e.g. the Watts engine), gets another boost in the late 19th-early 20th with the Fordist revolution, and a final one in the past 50 years with NPC and robotics. The effect of this trend has been to create material abundance rather than scarcity while, at the same time, becoming much more efficient in the transformation processes.

    The effects of these two trends started to become apparent in the broader social context around 1968 or so in North America where the produced, amongst other things, a complete shift in employment patterns, career paths and the entire cultural concept of "employment". At the cultural level, again in North America, this shift took the form of a basic change in social organization from a hierarchical system to a networked system (I have some papers on this at http://marctyrrell.com/research/papers/ if anyone is fealing masochistic ), and we have been seeing similar shifts in other parts of the globe.

    I said this was a philosophical "war", so let's get back to that. I would argue that each broad form of social organization produces a set of philosophies that are loosely connected. For example, fascism, communism and social democracy all place a particular value and role on the State as a major agent in social life, where the emphasis is not on whether or not the State should intervene in private lives but, rather, on the degree of such intervention - intervention itself is seem as "right and proper". In part, the justification for such intervention is that the State will act as an arbitrator in the distribution of scarce, finite resources.

    But what happens when the "important" resources are neither scarce or finite? Over the past 50 years or so, we have increasingly seen states of all political stripes ensuring that certain resources remain "scarce" - consider, by way of example, agricultural policies in the US and Canada which artificially control the supply of food that reaches the market. In Canada, for example, we have seen farmers dumping thousands of tons of meat, milk, and eggs (often in front of Parliament Hill) because they are not allowed to sell it (it meets the standards for sale but exceeds the quotas). On a personal note, I used to buy eggs from one farmer who was harassed by the government into bankruptcy because he didn't follow al of the approved forms (great eggs, too!).

    This isn't (quite) incoherent rambling . As the older social contract started to disappear, many people started to develop a new one based around network loyalties to self-selected "communities" (SWC is an example of that as is, although I hate to mention it in the same phrase, AQ). The ideologies that come out of network based cultures and societies (technically, societies based on reciprocity), are radically different from those based a hierarchical form (technically, a "redistributive" system). "Tribalism" (loosely construed) can be seen as arising from a network society, but it may take totally different forms than what we normally think of as "tribalism" such as para-kinship networks (e.g. the Masons, self-defined "communities", situational communities, etc.).

    So then, back to the philosophical root of the argument...

    Network societies and cultures have a number of problem areas they have to deal with, and he most pressing one, historically at least, is the question of how you deal with "outsiders". Do you define an outsider as someone who you can never interact with? Someone you can only interact with if they become "you" (i.e. part of your network)? Or do you define them as potential allies in some settings and competitors in other? How a network defines the "other" becomes crucial and, I would argue, that that definition is at the root of this war.

    Sorry about the long diatribe / lecture...

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  4. #24
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JD View Post
    Marc,
    As usual, excellent and much appreciated response.

    I do have a couple of questions for the general forum.

    1. If we are not fighting a 'war on terror' or an Islamic civil war, what are we fighting? The biggest problem in finding a solution is often defining the problem and no-body seems to have done that sucessfully.

    2. Do you see parallels between the draconian reaction of the Christian chuch to the Enlightenment and the rise of fundamentalism in East and West as a response to globalisation, the internet and the attendant wave of secualrism and diverse cultural influences. Is the search for 'traditional values' and 'meaning' a response to the bewildering amount of information, infuences and choice or is it a form of tribalism that feeds of the growing fundamentalism of 'others'. If there is a historical precedent it may imply a useful way forward.

    Look forward to your response.

    JD
    I'll offer that we are fighting to set the conditions for democracy to take root and grow throughout a traditonally turbulent region. The other side, be they fundamentalists, insurgents, jihadists, or whatever moniker you like, see us as trying to impose democracy, not merely set the conditions.

    I honestly think it is that black and white. In Saddam we had a madman, but he was smart enough (for a time - say pre 1991) to selectively choose allies and financial/development interests that suited him. His goal was the acendence of Iraq as the regional power, thus making him wealthier and more powerful. It took a despot to contain that cauldron of tensions between the various forces within Iraq, and he did it well (albeit ruthlessly).

    In our endeavours to set conditions, I think we will routinely be viewed as the pair of clownshoes that doesn't know how to tread lightly enough, or leave well enough alone. Unfortunately, it will always be the little things that take away a hundred attaboys. Your taxi cab and only source of livelihood was run over by a tank? Evil Americans. Your sister and brother-in-law were shot to death as they drove up to a checkpoint, trying to rush to a famly gathering? Evil Americans. The canal that sustans your crops was destroyed by the Bradley Fighting Vehicle that crushed a critical culvert? Evil Americans. See the trend? It's not at all about how we view ourselves, no matter how noble the cause or how much of a sacrifice we make for that cause.

    I think it would be dangerous to characterize the current events as a civil war within Islam. We are Americans after all, so who are we to lay blame and attempt to judge? I think we need to avoid using all catch phrases that make sound bites more palatable to Joe and Mary Six-Pack, because it is absolutely kicking our ass in the Arab media...yes, kicking our ass. I wish we had a PSYOP TPT leader in here, because I'd lay a month's salary down that he has probably cringed more times than he can remember when he saw the alternate message that the man on the street saw.

    I'll end this with a subtle observation that I think is salient. Sure, Sunnis may think that the Shi'a are a little off their rocker and maybe not be correct Muslims. I would offer that the sectarian violence isn't about that, so there cannot be a civil war within the Islamic elements. We're trying to define a problem by cultural constructs, when in fact it may be more economic, akin to the Protestant-Catholic "Troubles" of Northern Ireland. Once the blood is let, it morphs into something tribal and honor-based.

    Even the late King Hussein of Jordan probably sucked his teeth on numerous occasions and sighed, "stupid Americans," to himself.
    Last edited by jcustis; 05-02-2007 at 02:46 AM.

  5. #25
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    Default Should Iraq be partitioned?

    I guess the fundamental question is - why are we fighting? A dictator is overthrown, the people are handed the chance of building a great democracy and there is a chance to be prosperous and free. And yet there is daily incidents of sadistic barbarism and the liberators are portrayed as evil doers.

    Why? Do the violent men reject democracy because they know the people, given the choice, would never support them? Is this all just a political power grab and religion is simply used to motivate the cannon fodder. And if so, would simply including the radicals in the political process - requiring them to act responsibly - could that ease tension? Idealistically, this appears repugnant but it may be time for pragmatism.

    jcustis makes a good point about the over-simplification of messages for consumption by domestic audiences. In a democracy, what the population thinks is important. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, they are generally only capable of absorbing a simplified version of events and labels become very important. That is why I am trying to define the conflict with the help of the SWC. Most agree that 'war on terror' is not a particularly useful term and may in fact, be nonsensical as you can't make war on a technique. Insurgency is close but may fail to recognize the ingrained sectarian divide within communities. Is this something new that defies current definitions?

    A critical question, related to the nature of the conflict, is why radical Islamic groups attack the west. Is it because they are the mortal enemy or is it simply to remove western influence so they can get on with their own agenda? Or is it an advertising campaign to get their brand better known and draw more support for their political agenda. Is it an effort to be seen as the defender of Islam against the great Satan, in turn marginalizing the influence of the moderates? The answer to these questions is important because it influences the nature of the prosecution and I'm keen to get a broad range of opinions.

    A question to the American readers. Sarajevo raises the issue of the relationship between Israel and the US. How strong is the relationship and is it unduly influenced by lobby groups?

    Sarajevo defines the conflict as a war for oil, mid-eastern domination and the defence of Israel and I can see why he does so but I personally don’t believe this is the case for two reasons. Firstly, having dealt with many Americans, they appear usually to have good intentions although their apparent preference for idealism over pragmatism seems to get them in trouble. Secondly, to invade a nation to secure their resource is almost unbelievably stupid and ignores the lessons of Germany in Russia, and Japan in SE Asia (WWII). JCUSTIS I think is pretty right when he talks about establishing the conditions for a democracy. I personally believe America wanted a strong and prosperous democracy to act as an example in the region and become a firm ally as other alliances waned. Most would believe this dream is dead but I am not so sure although the path may be unpalatable as it involves discussing the possibility of partition.

    Partitioning?

    My understanding is the borders of Iraq are largely the arbitrary construct of the colonial powers therefore division of Iraq is not in contravention of any ancient concept of nationhood. Indeed, I (tentatively) believe that most Iraqi’s probably define themselves more in terms of their Islamic nation and possibly tribal alliances rather than the post-Westphalian concept of a nation state.

    Partition has advantages for the west. Presumably, the newly formed nations would either remain independent or amalgamate with larger nations of similar outlook. Either way, responsibility for stabilization of the region passes from coalition forces to the forces of the region. Nations currently accused of destabilizing the situation would have to become actively involved in stabilization if they did not want to inherit displaced persons and insurgents. Such operations would incur inevitable financial cost and that cost must either be offset through the provision of fewer services – a destabilizing influence – or the acquisition of more income, presumably through trade with industrialized nations. This trade may create an economic relationship that eases tensions. There may be some antagonism between the nations of the regions but this surely has to be better than the continuation of the simplistic west vs. Islam rhetoric - the Iran/Iraq war didn't seem to harm the west too much but hopefully it would never come to open warfare. Regardless, tensions between nation states in the region may leave them looking for allies in the industrialized world and that can't be too bad although China may be seen as a new best friend. Whatever the final arrangement, the nations of the regions will need to become involved in a more responsible manner if they do not want a disaster in their midst.

    Presumably the Kurdish regions would become a sovereign state. This may be welcomed by Turkey as it provides a Kurdish homeland outside Turkey’s borders and may ease issues with displaced persons and Kurdish political agitations. A Kurdish state may feel threatened by its neighbors and may welcome western influence and forces on its territory. So while the goal of a united, democratic, western leaning Iraq may be out of reach, it may be possible though reduced expectations to achieve many of the same goals with a partitioned Kurdistan.

    It is sad to think people of different sects cannot live together but there are several nations divided on this basis – Pakistan being one of them. There are many small nations that are affluent and independent, quite a number in the Gulf alone, so the economic viability of the partitioned elements should not preclude such a course of action.

    I know there are a lot of holes in the argument and I include the suggestion mainly to generate comment but I still think it needs to be discussed and I think it is an idea gaining traction as every other effort appears to fail. The thought of partition may be unpalatable but so is the current situation. Pride and idealism alone should not determine policy.

    Look forward to your comments.

    JD

  6. #26
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    Partition is, I think, a severely overrated "solution" that will probably not solve anything and will lead instead of a continued civil war rather than a lessening of violence.

    Reider Visser is a scholar who specializes in southern Iraqi Shia history, and he writes about why a divided Iraq is ahistorical here.

    First, we have a supposedly sovereign Iraqi national government now. Partition will require the destruction of this government. I'm not sure how this can be accomplished peacefully.

    Secondly, despite some brutal ethnic cleansing around Baghdad, in Baghdad, and ongoing in Diyala, Iraq still has ethnically mixed areas. Who sets the borders for these partitioned states, and who will cleanse the mixed areas and move the sects to their different, new nations?

    Third, the Sunnis are invested both economically and politically in the idea of Iraq as a unified nation. Breaking up the nation will see only greater violence from them.

    Fourth, several currents among the Shia militate against separatism. Visser covers them well, but I'll add that the national government and army are currently dominated by Shia - why would they surrender this power? Sadr has always been Iraqi nationalist. Indeed, the only real political support for Shia separatism has always been the Iranian-influenced SCIRI. I would say that many Shia are loyal to the nation of Iraq, but not the state. Now that they own the state, this has changed, but not towards separatism.

    Also I think your theory about an independent Kurdistan being welcomed by the Turks is upside down. The Turks' entire focus since the invasion has been the prevention of such a state coming into being. An independent Kurdistan would, IMO, be met by the Turks with immediate invasion if there were not U.S. units garrisoned there, and violent subversion if there were.

  7. #27
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    A critical question, related to the nature of the conflict, is why radical Islamic groups attack the west. Is it because they are the mortal enemy or is it simply to remove western influence so they can get on with their own agenda? Or is it an advertising campaign to get their brand better known and draw more support for their political agenda. Is it an effort to be seen as the defender of Islam against the great Satan, in turn marginalizing the influence of the moderates? The answer to these questions is important because it influences the nature of the prosecution and I'm keen to get a broad range of opinions.
    I think the answer has elements of all of these issues mentioned.

    I also think a mutually agreed partition scheme would be the only sustainable answer, but the blood-letting has been too great to avoid a full-blown civil war in order to get to a point where partitioning could be viewed as being in the best interest of all parties. Sadly, we are past the point of no return in these areas, but the way ahead is equally dark and dangerous.

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    Dress it anyway you want, it remains a mixed bag of rhetoric and mixed justifications to maintain a strategic foothold in that neck of the woods. A card up the sleeve, a contingency plan for a weakened Israel should that ever happen. Islam as it manifests its power in the political and economic arenas is the antithesis of Democracy and always will be. It is about impossible for Islam to exist separated from the power of the State as is the case in most of the the West with its religions. You can't side-step the rigid paternalism that in turn spawns rigid tribalism, both of which sustain and reinforce gender inequality sanctioned by Al Qu'ran. You can have the club but never the clubhouse and alot of blood and money is being spent on vision of the clubhouse, but it really is more akin to the fable of the king without any clothes on. I don't think the debate on wether or not Islam and Democracy are compatible has even really begun yet.

    The question of why not support to the hilt moderate Muslim allies begs some definition of the word "support" conisdering the traditoinal type of support that has gone the way of traditional allies already, including cash to the palestinian authority, of all people. What shared values would their be for instance, other than the killing of radicals? How would economic ties be in anyway strengthened? How could they even be strengthened under the most ideal of circumstances? What would the dynamics of cultural and social exchange be to solidify such a partnership? Much of the West is dependent of Gulf oil, so we are to call the likes of Saudi Arabia moderate?What would moderate muslims bring to the table, other than assitance in overpowering mutual enemies? What have moderate muslims brought to the world table prior to the need of mutually overcoming common enemies? What equtiable basis for partnership is there to even begin with?How does this paradigm of joining forces to enable a civil war in Islam juxtapose itself with the recent developments of the the US State Dept. having talks with Syria and US Politicians meeting privately with Syrians, whom the US under Bush considers to be anything but moderate?

    I don't agree with the concept that there is no longer a war on terrorism. I would suggest mixing and mingling with mainstream America first before adhering to the pontification of some high ranking politician or Pentagon person who gleans some limelight by putting himself on a pedestal and proclaiming there is no need or justificaiton or reason for a war on terrorism.

    Lastly, the Israel and US relatioship has been circumvented. Would this mutuality of supporting moderate muslim allies in an Islamic civil war include said moderates working with Mossad for instance? Wouldn't that be fun, huh?

  9. #29
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    Default A single secular holy land

    Goesh, thanks for your response.

    As far as points of commonality with moderate Islam, I beleive there are at least 3. Firstly, most of us consider ourselves the sons of Abraham. In the time of Marco Polo, all pilgrims were welcome in Jerusalem provided they obeyed certain rules so exclusivity and antogonism do not go back forever.

    As a second point of commonality, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. You can go back to Lawrence of Arabia fighting wth his preferred Muslims against other Muslims for an example of how it may work with empathetic leadership and support. In a more recent example, the west stands steadfastly against military dictators that overthrow elected governments - unless that happens to be Pakistan where the enemy of my enemy becomes my freind.

    Lastly, we have humanity in common.

    The question of Israel is an interesting one in regard to its influence on the region and the world. To be honest, most of my opinions on Israel are influenced by a group of freinds and one in particular who spent a great deal of time as a UN observer in Israel / Lebanaon. Some of these people consider it hypocrical to critisise Islamic republics for their form of government when Judaism is so much a part of the structure of the state of Israel. One person proposed amalgamating Palestine and Israel into a single secular state where all people enjoyed the same rights. Israel already spends much of its time itervening in palestinian areas - why not legitimise the process, impose better internal security and at the same time, give all the people a part in their political processes. Radical I know but is it more difficult or dangerous than dismantling Apartheit?

    Would Muslims cooperate with Mossad? That depends whats in it for them. If it helped create a better security environment and build a state in which they had a real voice then maybe. It depends on where their loyalty lies and loyalty is generally created by good deeds rather than exclusion and intimidation. The rebuilding efforts in Southern Afghanistan appear to be taking this approach and it appears to be paying dividends.

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    I would suggest, JD, that if the Israelis were not Jews and all the dynamics and politics were the same in that land, the palestinians would make the news about once a year at most. I for one grow tired of the immense stretch and reach of imagination required to continually insert Israel as the proverbial monkey wrench in the affairs and problems and quality of life issues the world's 1.3 billion Muslims have. In short, for every 100 expressions of anger and outrage expressed against the Jews, there may be at most 1 expression of outrage coming from the Muslim world against the killing of muslim by Muslims in Iraq. What are there, all of 24 million Jews on the planet occupying about .001% of the land mass occupied by 1.3 billion muslims? It seems to me in this equation of partnership and mutuality of the West and America in particular, supporting an Islamic civil war, that the Israel problem has to be corrected on the terms defined by moderate Muslims before they can be acceptable partners in the process.

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