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Old 11-03-2007   #1
JD
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Default Fighting Ideas with Ideas

There has been much dialogue recently espousing the notion of 'fighting ideas with ideas'. It seems logical, but I also suspect extremely difficult. If it is such a good idea, then it is highly likely that it would have been done before and that there would be historical examples from which to draw. Unfortunately, I am drawing a bit of a blank. I can come up with Alexander the Great adopting Persian affectations but after that I am a bit stumped.

So the question is, who in the past has successfully fought ideas with ideas and are their techniques still valid today?

JD
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Old 11-04-2007   #2
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Originally Posted by JD View Post
There has been much dialogue recently espousing the notion of 'fighting ideas with ideas'. It seems logical, but I also suspect extremely difficult. If it is such a good idea, then it is highly likely that it would have been done before and that there would be historical examples from which to draw. Unfortunately, I am drawing a bit of a blank. I can come up with Alexander the Great adopting Persian affectations but after that I am a bit stumped.

So the question is, who in the past has successfully fought ideas with ideas and are their techniques still valid today?

JD
I don't quite get what you are saying. Do you mean adopting your enemies ideas to win them over or more of creating an equal ideology. Perhaps you are talking more of indoctinating them in our "western" ways." Please elaborate.

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Old 11-04-2007   #3
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Default We did...

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So the question is, who in the past has successfully fought ideas with ideas and are their techniques still valid today?
We did, in the cold war. The fall of the Soviet Union would not have been followed by the transition of former eastern bloc countries to democracy/capitalism if we had not "won the war of ideas."
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Old 11-04-2007   #4
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Really, all wars are about ideas.

Both sides try to convince the other that it's pointless or not worthwhile to keep risking your life for the ideas you're fighting for. Those ideas usually involve the widely held worldview of the each side -- who should rule, and how. Both winning and losing will profoundly influence ideas of who was right and wrong and why.

The U.S. Revolution was primarily fought over the idea of Independence. The U.S. Civil War was fought over the idea of preserving the union versus the right of self-determination.

Power, and my right to use it, is an idea many have fought and died for.

Most World War II victors -- Communists, Western Democracies and monarchies -- believed their collective ideas had triumphed over the twin ideas of fascism and militant royal imperialism. Many important battles took place in the arena of ideas.

The 30 Years War involved interpretations of religion and how they would affect political power.

The Arabic/Muslim conquests after the death of the Prophet were so successful because they were accompanied by religious ideas that a billion people continue to find compelling.

Turn the question on its head. Has any successful military compaign been devoid of ideas? Has any successful, long-lasting victory taken place in the absence of convincing the population that the victorious power deserves to rule?
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Old 11-04-2007   #5
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I don't think the point is that war is devoid of ideas -- that would be a pretty tall order for any human endeavor. The question is whether "our" ideas could "win" against "their" ideas. Presumably, then, this would amount to an Ideological Death Match between the western liberal-capitalist world order and the non-western Islamist theocratic world order.

I think the answer is, "no," not because "our" ideas are weaker or worse or what-have-you, but because any battle of ideas presupposes some common frames of reference. Colonial revolutionaries in Mass, Georgia, etc., could challenge their royalist neighbors and the crown on shared ideological ground -- the common inheritance of the Magna Charta, etc. Blues and greys could challenge each other's interpretation of federalism and state's rights.

But Marines and Japanese naval infantry were never really able to reach consensus of the validity of Bushido, were they? And I think the same problem is at work here. It isn't that democracy or human rights aren't in some sense global concepts, but that the basic frames of reference -- what, for example, constitutes a "right"? -- between the two sides today are polar opposites.

So I'm not at all sanguine about the notion that the now-departed Karen Hughes or her successor can "win" Muslim voters over to our side. That is a fight, in idea-based terms, that Islam has to manage for itself.
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Old 11-05-2007   #6
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JD--
When actors representing forces/states in conflict appeal to (a.) noncombatants in theater or (b.) civilians of the opponent , the appeal is likely to be largely in this vein. Thus 'propaganda/public-relations' will be weighted with such content.
*
--Syrian King Assad was interviewed recently {August...September'07 ?} . Concerning the American initiative (liberation\\invasion/occupation) in Iraq , he made a comment to the effect that " 'Democracy' is done to better one's condition , not for chaos ".
*
--Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a remarkable public letter to U.S. civilians one year ago <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15952309/> , addressed "Noble Americans" , observing that :
"Both our nations are God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, and both seek dignity, respect and perfection.
"Both greatly value and readily embrace the promotion of human ideals such as compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity, and defending the innocent and the weak against oppressors and bullies."
[Note that the Iranian head of state emphasizes the commonality between our and their cultures/civilisations , anticipating Professor Bs concern over "some common frames of reference."]
*
--Abu Musab al-Zarqawi revealed what might be considered 'bias' when he proferred that "Shiites are infidels" (ca 2005 , from recollection of news report).
*
--Osama bin Laden's letters to Americans have a different thrust...[2002]
<http://islamcommentaries.com/binladen_letter.htm>
"iii) The blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged.
(b) You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon.
(c) Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis;
(i) These governments prevent our people from establishing the Islamic Sharia, using violence and lies to do so.
Also, <http://www.ucgstp.org/bureau/wnp/wnp0044/binladen.html>.
--[2007]
http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007...transcript.php . on September 7, 2007 Counterterrorism Blog SITE Institute: Transcript of Bin Laden Video {excerpts}
"The genocide of peoples and their holocausts took place at your hands: only a few specimens of Red Indians were spared, and just a few days ago, the Japanese observed the 62nd anniversary of the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by your nuclear weapons."
"And among the things which catch the eye of the one who considers the repercussions of your unjust war against Iraq is the failure of your democratic system, despite it raising of the slogans of justice, liberty, equality and humanitarianism. It has not only failed to achieve these things, it has actually destroyed these and other concepts with its weapons - especially in Iraq and Afghanistan- in a brazen fashion, to replace them with fear, destruction...."
"Then you claim to be innocent! This innocence of yours is like my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th - ...."
"It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and how it plays with the interests of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations to achieve the interests of the major corporations."
"And with that, it has become clear to all that they are the real tyrannical terrorists. In fact, the life of all of mankind is in danger because of the global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations"
[Finally , waxing supply-side, manifesting a Marxist slant...]
"There are no taxes in Islam, but rather there is a limited Zakaat [alms] totaling only 2.5%. So beware of the deception of those with the capital. "
* * *

In conventional war concerned primarily with subduing uniformed combatants (as Japanese occupation , followed by Allied liberation of Pacific islands in WWII), the war of ideas is minimized.
The recent transition of status of Coalition forces in Anbar, from Enemy#1 , to forces due cooperative approaches, involved a re-mapping of Sunni perceptions of Shia, AlQaeda-in-Iraq , and Coalition forces . No longer are Zarqawi & binLadens' views supreme.

The flowering of liberal democracy and free trade agreements through Latin America during the 1990s, and the present movement toward socialized autocracies and directed trade , represent the surge of victory and the sigh of defeat in the political-economic sphere, regarding aspects of trade policy and tariffs, local industries , mobility of capital , ownership of assets, partisanship and terms of office ... all of which have engendered armed conflicts at other times.
* * *
Much criticism (some well-earned) has been directed toward the Bush Administration's war 'of choice' in Iraq. The formation of a functional government in Iraq will/is require(ing) Shia and Sunni , Arab , Kurd , and Persian , of various local , tribal , and clan affiliation, to weigh and assess the relative merits of Wahabism, Pan Arabism, Marxism, Baathism, Islamofascism, nationalism, Zionism, etc, from all these perspectives. Thus the entire region , and the Islamic world at large , has been forced into a searing dialog concerning 'extreme' versus 'moderate' Islam , etc. This forced dialog has accelerated the 'Muslim Reformation' and probably decreased the duration of the invective directed toward the West (if/while amplifying the latter).
T m
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Old 11-05-2007   #7
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Default The attraction of ideas

Thanks for everyone's reply's.

I was thinking some more on this and I came back to the idea of winning over people by the attractiveness of an argument or an ideal. One example was the 'idea' of Rome, this great civilisation that people wanted to be a part of. Throughout their empire were symbols of their great power, such as buildings, that must have impressed the locals enourmously. Another example may be the British Empire where the idea of being British held weight. Further, the French revolution empowered the masses and delivered the civil code. Lastly, the Moslem Empire and the attraction the new ideas held at that time.

In the contemporary sense, the encouragement of open debate with radical ideas rather than just assuming nobody will listen to them has merit. People will fight for big ideas - religion, freedom, survival etc - and if they are convinced one idea is right and another is not, then they will fight for that cause. Similarly, if they can be encouraged to modify that view, it may be to one side's advantage.

I may be off the mark here, but there appears to be sound reasons for seeking to fight ideas with ideas and I think there are many examples in the past, the American Revoltuion among them, that owe a large degree of succes to motivating power of grand ideas.

Your thoughts?

JD
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Old 11-05-2007   #8
Brian Hanley
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Default Islam cannot work it out for itself. The ideology of Islam must be confronted.

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So I'm not at all sanguine about the notion that the now-departed Karen Hughes or her successor can "win" Muslim voters over to our side. That is a fight, in idea-based terms, that Islam has to manage for itself.
Islam won't. It can't. It is an algorithm of hermetically sealed thought that has no foundation within it for synthesis or argument with itself. It enforces itself by death sentences. It's ideological base is fundamentally opposed to the value set we of the West depend on for democracy and our way of life. Islam, just like Communism, must be confronted head-on at its roots, and the message needs to be repeated over and over again.

I should point out that Islam is crystal clear about this ideological war. They have published manifestos that couch this century in terms such as, "There are three great ideologies in the world. Communism, Capitalism and Islam. Islam defeated Communism in the last century. Islam will defeat Capitalism in this century." Etcetera, etcetera, tracts, blah, blah.

The roots of Islam to be relentlessly attacked intellectually are:
- Koran was not the word of god, but of man. Mohammed committed many crimes and was not perfect. Men decided what was and was not from Allah. Therefore men decided what was and was not in Koran. Parts of Koran have already been edited. Therefore Koran can be renovated for the modern era.
- Islam allows slavery. Islam has committed greater crimes of enslavement by an order of magnitude than the USA did. (Over half of all slaves out of Africa went to Muslim lands. 4.5% to North America.) We fought a war to rid ourselves of slavery. Islam is still enslaving "those who your right hand possess in war" in Sudan.
- Islam is an obligate religious dictatorship. It is written without possibility for misinterpretation. This is wrong and it must be directly attacked as wrong.
- Islam dictates that anyone leaving Islam is to be executed. Remember how much it took to save the life of that Afghan who converted to Christianity?
- Mohammed gave Arabs the imprimateur of superiority by virtue of race. Only Arab Muslims cannot be made slaves. All others, including Muslims, can be slaves. Thus it is a racist creed.

Those are the core issues that must be raised over and over until Islam and the whole world cannot help but incorporate the argument into their conciousness.

To make drive it home, one must make the points about where those ideological choices lead. They lead to poverty, class division, war, backwardness. It's 10th century thinking frozen in time.
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Old 11-05-2007   #9
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I'm afraid I don't have so apocalyptic a view of Islam. I've certainly encountered similarly Manichean rhetoric from the American Right (the pamphlets of the John Birch Society in the 1960s are particularly instructive), various Christian sects, and any number of radical/New Left movements. Life-or-death, us-or-them rhetoric is splendid when you're recruiting, and that's generally what it's used for. Remember President Bush -- you're either for us or you're for the terrorists. That kind of all-or-nothing approach makes for good T.V. and little more.

Incidentally, it also bears keeping in mind is that we did not confront Communism "head-on" -- the entire history of the Cold War is a history of avoiding head-on confrontation (by both sides). The particular genius of Ronald Reagan was that he managed to sound like a doomsday prophet but was actually remarkably flexible when it came to managing relations with the Soviet Union -- much to the chagrin, one notes, of the most ideologically reliable members of the Republican Party coalition.

Last edited by ProfessorB; 11-05-2007 at 07:49 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-05-2007   #10
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I don't share your view of Islam either, Brian, and I think the notion that the "ideology of Islam must be confronted" is perhaps one of the most counter-productive approaches that one could possibly have to current CT challenges.

Islam varies substantially over time, place, and social class. As the World Values Survey and various regional barometer studies have shown, Muslims hold many of the same core values as non-Muslims, and on relatively few issues is Muslim religiosity even a very good predictor of socio-political attitudes (compared to education, age, gender, class, country, etc).

Islam has shown considerable adaptability over time, with examples ranging from Turkey's democratic, pro-EU Islamist AKP government to the dramatic (even revolutionary) innovation in Shi'ite political thought represented by Iran's velayat-e faqih system of government.

You're aggregating well over a billion and a half people, and assuming (frankly, against much evidence) that they subscribe the the views of a hardline, militant minority.

Finally, the policy suggestions that you are making would be a disaster. Are you seriously suggesting a PR campaign based on the idea that "the Koran was not the word of god, but of man" as a way of improving intercultural relations? Can you imagine how a "Jesus was just a normal guy?" and "lets rewrite the bible" would work if it were directed at Christian populations?

Sheesh.
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Old 11-06-2007   #11
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Originally Posted by Brian Hanley View Post
The roots of Islam to be relentlessly attacked intellectually are:
- Koran was not the word of god, but of man. Mohammed committed many crimes and was not perfect. Men decided what was and was not from Allah. Therefore men decided what was and was not in Koran. Parts of Koran have already been edited. Therefore Koran can be renovated for the modern era.
- Islam allows slavery. Islam has committed greater crimes of enslavement by an order of magnitude than the USA did.
- Islam is an obligate religious dictatorship. It is written without possibility for misinterpretation. This is wrong and it must be directly attacked as wrong.
Brian,
I used to think this of Islam, but I don't anymore. Most of the things you said can be equally applied when debating with, for example, an atheist about the Bible. (written by men, not the word of God, condones slavery, theocracy, etc.) I know I often take offense when people say stuff like this about my beliefs, so......

And, IMO, you can't equate Communism with Islam. One is a form of government, the other is the religion of many people.

Last edited by skiguy; 11-06-2007 at 01:34 AM.
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Old 11-06-2007   #12
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Islam won't. It can't. It is an algorithm of hermetically sealed thought that has no foundation within it for synthesis or argument with itself. It enforces itself by death sentences. It's ideological base is fundamentally opposed to the value set we of the West depend on for democracy and our way of life. Islam, just like Communism, must be confronted head-on at its roots, and the message needs to be repeated over and over again.
Interesting. Christianity spent between 500 and 1,000 years in this kind of inflexible character. I believe the last religious-based death sentences in Europe took place less than 200 years ago. In post-Moorish Spain, it was not illegal to be Jewish or Muslim. The principal targets of the Inquisition were the large numbers of Conversos, and to relapse was punishable by death.

Many non-Christians find tenets of Christianity to be disturbing, particularly its powerful insistance on conversion, which has had the multiple effects of self-rightiousness, intolerance and the overwhelming of local cultures.

For 1,000 years, the most religiously, culturally tolerant empires were those that followed the Islamic conquests. Much of Western antiquity was preserved by these empires and rediscovered by Christian invaders during the Crusades, laying the foundations of the Western Renaissance.

To see Islam synthesized with the modern world, I recommend visiting Cairo, Istanbul, Sarajevo, Baku, Jakarta, even Tehran (where the current populist president was elected in opposition to the more moderate candidate preferred by the powerful religious elite).
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Old 11-06-2007   #13
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Interesting. Christianity spent between 500 and 1,000 years in this kind of inflexible character. I believe the last religious-based death sentences in Europe took place less than 200 years ago.
Although hardly involving the death penalty, the last successful legal prosecution for religious (Christian) blasphemy in the UK was in..... 1977.
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Old 11-06-2007   #14
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Brian,
Most of the things you said can be equally applied when debating with, for example, an atheist about the Bible. (written by men, not the word of God, condones slavery, theocracy, etc.) I know I often take offense when people say stuff like this about my beliefs, so......
No. There is too much difference between the parts - New Testament and Old. It's there with complete consistency in Koran, Sharia and Hadith. An entire chapter devoted to how to divide the booty of war.

The reason to bring these things up is that it requires the religion to answer and puts it rightly on the defensive. There are a few modern fatwas saying in effect, "That was then. We don't do that anymore." But even those don't take it far enough. So we see how after a hiatus of a few generations after the collapse of the Ottomans, we have a resurgence of the "pure form".

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And, IMO, you can't equate Communism with Islam. One is a form of government, the other is the religion of many people.
No. Islam is a form of government, absolutely. It's been that from the beginning, it's specified in Koran, in Sharia, and very clear in Hadith.
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Old 11-06-2007   #15
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No. Islam is a form of government, absolutely. It's been that from the beginning, it's specified in Koran, in Sharia, and very clear in Hadith.
No Brian, it absolutely isn't. Nothing in the Koran outlines a system of government. The Hadith and Sunna are unclear on the matter (with the former, at times, pointing in the direction of democracy: "My community will not agree on an error," while practice in Medina in the Prophet's time during his absences varied). Indeed, it was the absence of clear directives on issues of governance that gave rise to the Sunni-Shi'ite split.

Sorry, you really don't know what you're talking about here.
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Old 11-06-2007   #16
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Interesting. Christianity spent between 500 and 1,000 years in this kind of inflexible character. I believe the last religious-based death sentences in Europe took place less than 200 years ago. In post-Moorish Spain, it was not illegal to be Jewish or Muslim. The principal targets of the Inquisition were the large numbers of Conversos, and to relapse was punishable by death.
A total of some 3,000 or so over hundreds of years. Compare that to a single one of many under the various Muslim empires which killed all men between 15 and 45? Last one was in Europe in Belgrade AFAIK. Additionally, since Jesus very clearly did not support killing in this way, it was not supported by doctrine, rather by politics. (Post revolutionary politics. Compare with Russia circa 1930's.) That is the reverse of what Islam has in doctrine. Doctrine matters. In point of fact, the Moors violated Koran by not allowing Christians to convert to Islam, probably because they needed the tax base to support the Muslim overlords in the style to which they were accustomed.

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Many non-Christians find tenets of Christianity to be disturbing, particularly its powerful insistance on conversion, which has had the multiple effects of self-rightiousness, intolerance and the overwhelming of local cultures.
Do they now? And how many have found the choice between conversion to Islam or death disturbing? And how many have found the choice between conversion to Islam and life as a marked formally second class citizen or slave disturbing? How many have found the choice between remaining in their religion and being charged a head tax as a dhimmi to the point they had to give away their children disturbing?

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For 1,000 years, the most religiously, culturally tolerant empires were those that followed the Islamic conquests. Much of Western antiquity was preserved by these empires and rediscovered by Christian invaders during the Crusades, laying the foundations of the Western Renaissance.
Invaders during the Crusades? Let's see. 600 years of brutal conquest starting in the Arabian peninsula and radiating out across North Africa and into Europe and across Turkey and into Europe responded to by a few brief sallies into the "holy land"?

Yes, there was a time that ended with the Abassid Caliph, when Islam was marginally more tolerant and valued learning. There was a time when parts of Europe did not. But it was based on a system of economics that disallowed lending money for interest. Consequently, when the empire stopped expanding and the net real interest rate went negative because conquest wasn't bringing fresh booty in, there was a recession/depression that lasted for almost 1000 years. This coincided with the death of the Abassid Caliph who ruled that Koran was the word of man, not god.

Besides, I thought it was the Irish that saved civilization? (There's a book by that name.)

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To see Islam synthesized with the modern world, I recommend visiting Cairo, Istanbul, Sarajevo, Baku, Jakarta, even Tehran (where the current populist president was elected in opposition to the more moderate candidate preferred by the powerful religious elite).
You think I haven't seen some of them? Cairo, the city were fathers have recently cut the heads off their daughters and paraded around with them on poles, with no legal action taken. Istanbul, the capital that elected Gul, an Islamist who is pushing the Army into "doing something" to show those Americans - turning back the clock as we speak. Tehran, a place where non-Muslims are allowed to live if they pay the jizya and don't convert anyone. I suggest that you look at the streets, their poverty, and pay attention to the undercurrent that has been hacking away underneath the militarily enforced secularism descended from Ataturk.

Perhaps you are unaware that there is no democracy in the entire Muslim world that does not exist as a pageant controlled by military rule to enforce secularism. (Iran is an odd one, it is a democracy that exists within the militarily enforced religious rule of the Ayatollahs, the descendents of Ali.)
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Old 11-06-2007   #17
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No Brian, it absolutely isn't. Nothing in the Koran outlines a system of government. The Hadith and Sunna are unclear on the matter (with the former, at times, pointing in the direction of democracy: "My community will not agree on an error," while practice in Medina in the Prophet's time during his absences varied). Indeed, it was the absence of clear directives on issues of governance that gave rise to the Sunni-Shi'ite split.
You think that's what gave rise to the Sunni-Shia split? Check again. http://islamfortoday.com/shia.htm

I'll spare you quoting chapter and verse on the form of government being specified as one man rule of the Khalifa. (Hey! That's what bin Laden's about! Gosh!) But yes, it's most definitely there. The argument between Shia and Sunni is about who should have been that one man, not whether there should be one or not.

I think what you mean by government is form of succession specification. There is a huge difference. One can find many authors who discuss that and its roots in the "strong man" culture of the Bedu that Mohammed came from. Go to a library and pick one up that discusses his life.
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Old 11-06-2007   #18
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[QUOTE=Brian Hanley;30548]You think that's what gave rise to the Sunni-Shia split? Check again. http://islamfortoday.com/shia.htm

You link adds nothing, other than to confirm that the split revolved around perhaps the most core issue of governance: the selection of leadership.

For Shia, a hereditary principle was to be applied from among the ahl al-bayt. For Sunni, Abu Bakr's role as prayer leader (and community consensus) were the initial operative principles.

The principle of the Caliphate was developed AFTER Prophet, and soon developed into a self-serving concept to support the claim to power of the individuals and the dynasts of the time. It has much support among traditional Sunni theorists--hardly surprising, given that medieval Christian theorists had no difficulty in justifying absolute monarchy either.

It is true that Bin Ladin has a particular view of the Caliphate, and that many radical islamists support its reestablishment based on the model of the rashidun. This is hardly a majority view among Muslims.

At various times Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan (under Zia al-Huq) and Afghanistan have all claimed to be "Islamic" systems of government. The ruling AKP in Turkey is an Islamist political party. The absence of any common thread among these highlights the absence of a single mode of governance.

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One can find many authors who discuss that and its roots in the "strong man" culture of the Bedu that Mohammed came from.
Actually, tribal leadership in Bedouin society is traditionally rather more complex and accountable than all this (although it grew less so with the impact of first Ottoman and British indirect mechanisms of local governance, and later oil revenues).

Thanks for the suggestion, however, that I go check out some library books. I somehow missed doing this while earning the PhD in Middle East politics

So far on SWC I've seen you pronounce on the trade in illegal US visas (until Stan and Jedburgh called you on it), your proximity to Bin Ladin, the need to convince Muslims that their core religious beliefs are wrong, your intimate knowledge of the CIA and the intel community, the value of dating foreign women as a military and intel community training method, and your efforts to warn the FBI about Hizb al-Tahrir and avert 9/11, and the secret Iranian plan to take white orphans from Georgia and train them as spies for insertion in the West.

'nuf said.
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Old 11-06-2007   #19
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I'm not seeing much of value in this discussion...at least anything that couldn't be found or pursued on any number of political and/or religious boards (fringe and otherwise). Kindly relate this to this history of small wars or we'll be a'lockin' this one.
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Old 11-06-2007   #20
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I'm not seeing much of value in this discussion...at least anything that couldn't be found or pursued on any number of political and/or religious boards (fringe and otherwise). Kindly relate this to this history of small wars or we'll be a'lockin' this one.
Hi Steve !
Jeez, yet another thread 'locked up' for bad behaviour.

Rex, loved the summation
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