Rants and Raves

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

The lesson of Frank Capra

Last night I stayed up later than I should have. I've got studying to do and work due tomorrow, but I switched by FOX news and caught most of "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West".

Finally! Someone has put together a "Why We Fight" for this war.

In the middle of the Second World War, Frank Capra was approached by the US government to put together a series of propaganda films for the American public and new army recruits. (I'm not afraid of the term propaganda, look it up in the dictionary. Though it has come to have the popular meaning of "political lies", its lexical definition is basically mass persuasion and morally neutral. Same root word as "propagate".)

Capra had seen Leni Riefenstahl's brilliant and disturbing piece of Nazi propaganda, "The Triumph of the Will" and his series was by way of a reply to it. What Capra suggested, to the consternation of some, was that he show our people their propaganda. In effect saying, "This is what they are saying to their people, this is the message of evil and hatred they proclaim to their own."

That's what this film was, jihadist speeches and demonstrations, plus commentary by Western experts and people like Noni Darweesh, daughter of a shaheed ("martyr") and Walid Shoebat, a former terrorist who claims to have killed upwards of four hundred people before having a "What have I done?" experience. He has since renounced jihad and converted to Christianity, for which his father has vowed to kill him. I have enormous respect for the courage of these people - but I wouldn't want to be their insurance agent.

I've got some quibbles with how this film was made, which I'll keep to myself at least until I've seen it again. But this has needed to be done for a long time. What we are shown are the leaders of jihad, telling us plainly that they hate everything about the West and intend to destroy it - by any means necessary.

There are those who say, it's our fault, we brought it on ourselves with our interference in their affairs and our support of Israel. This is a comforting belief for many, because it means that if it's our fault then it's within our control. Stop doing it, say you're sorry, and they'll say "OK, now we'll leave you alone."

Doesn't sound that likely when you put it that way, does it?

And listen to them, their stated grievances go back to the Crusades (which by the way, was not an example of American imperialism). And those who believe this can't seem to face the fact that part of the price the jihadists demand is for the West to become complicit in the extermination of the Jews. Not just the Israelis, the Jews. Worldwide. The fact that there are a fair number of Jews who have bought into this only proves that "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Lots of intelligent and sophisticated Jews in Europe thought they'd ride out the last anti-Semitic binge too.

I believe there are a fair number of the lumpen intelligentsia of Western Europe who have tacitly concluded that this is an acceptable price to pay - give them the Jews and they'll be rid of them, while keeping their own hands clean. (Does anyone remember that the Vichy French collaborationist government in WWII passed racial purity laws that were actually stricter than the Germans demanded?)

I do not believe that this war, and that is what is is by any sane definition, is our fault. I believe it comes from a repressive culture that makes a certain percentage of its members literally psychotic. But even if it were our fault, what would it matter? We have enemies dedicated to our destruction, and that's the reality we have to deal with.

20 Comments:

  • At 6:33 AM, Blogger agirlscout said…

    "There are those who say, it's our fault, we brought it on ourselves with our interference in their affairs and our support of Israel. This is a comforting belief for many, because it means that if it's our fault then it's within our control."


    In a odd sort of way, it is a kind of arrogance to believe you are responsible for somebody else's actions. For this "arrogance" our society is paying, paying with rape of our daughters today, and with our lives at some later date. Though, some have already paid the ultimate price fighting islam.

     
  • At 7:54 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    Mr. Browne,

    I find your blog very interesting. Be assured, I am not an Islamophile. Still, though 9-1-1 was in no way deserved, nothing comes about in a vacumm.

    Other than energy, we get nothing out of being in the Middle East. I suspect your comments about it being a psychotic culture are true, as you have been there.* That they hate us might be stupid, but everyone hates an uninvited guest eventually no matter how nice or generous the guest might be.

    We are losing this war because it can't be won. The only way it can be won is to disengage, bring the forces home and secure our borders. A culture or elite class that will keep this up is no more sane than Islam.

    Islam is not going to come after us with a carrier fleet or a long range bombers. They can't build the stuff or maintain it, as you've pointed out. They win if we fight the war that favors them.

    *Your KSA stuff was fascinating.

     
  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger Gayle Miller said…

    Saw it twice over the weekend and had trouble sleeping as a result!

    tvoh - moral relativism is completely out of place in a discussion of murderous and insane religious lunatics who believe it's their way or die you infidel!

    We are only losing this war in the opinion of the New York Times and other MSM outlets who don't know the facts.

    Why do you think a delegation of Gold Star Parents, on their own dime and at great risk to themselves, have just journeyed to Iraq to see the truth - and that truth isn't what you're seeing in 90% of the mainstream media - newspapers or television!

    While I appreciate your inate kindness, it is completely misplaced in this instance.

     
  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    Dear Gayle,

    I do not know if those mothers could go where they wanted or were given the old Potemkin tour.

    Other than the ridiculous idea that we fight them there so we don't here, what do we get out of this war?

    Anyway, as to who is winning the war, just wait.

     
  • At 10:30 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Thanks for the comments everyone. They'll lead in very nicely to a future post.

    You're right tvoh, nobody likes an uninvited guest. But I don't think they want to be left alone exactly, they want to be taken seriously by the First World. And they definitely want the toys that industrial civilization makes - and who can blame them? We've got cool toys.

    Since they can't make them, they have to buy them with what they have that we want - oil. And they can't produce or protect the oil by themselves.

    As to how Iraq is going, I don't know, I'm not there. People whose opinions I respect have come down on both sides of that issue. But Stephen Vincent, who was killed there last year when he went to see for himself, gave the reconstruction effort only a C minus.

    And I confess that I have to watch myself for bias, because I want the effort to help create a descent place to live to succeed. I'm biased because, in spite of some of the criticism, in general I like Arabs and wish them well.

     
  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger The hooded thug on the corner said…

    but I switched by FOX news

    Mmm hmm?

     
  • At 3:15 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    "And I confess that I have to watch myself for bias, because I want the effort to help create a descent place to live to succeed. I'm biased because, in spite of some of the criticism, in general I like Arabs and wish them well."

    All the contradiction contained within the quote above and all your other writing suggest that this is not entirely sane (please forgive me, I am trying not to offend).

    The effort to bring the millenium to our brothers reminds me of the joke I heard as a kid.

    Three scouts: We did a good deed today. We helped an old lady cross the street.

    Scoutmaster: it took three of you?

    Three scouts: She didn't want to go.

    I do not believe it is the mission of the United States to bring democracy to those who have shown no inclination toward it in the past. I do not believe it is the mission of my country to bring democracy to those who have actually shown an inclination toward it.

    The Arabs may be likable, even good in their own way, but they should not be our problem and that is not the reason we were sold this war.

    You claim to be an unabashed Western Civ supporter. Look around you. There is not much left of it here. Your countrymen listen to music I doubt the Alaric's horde would have listened to. They dress worse than his followers. I could go on to the educational system and our racial justice regime and other insanities.

    I really don't think we should be trying to export that which we don't ourselves have in abundance.

     
  • At 6:10 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Excuse me sir, but who said anything about "bringing democracy" to them?

    First of all, I'm not an enthusiast for "democracy" in the sense of counting heads to decide what to do. I'm a "republican" in the sense the Founders meant. And yes I'm aware that the terms are often conflated in popular usage and that I often do so myself.

    British Hong Kong was in no sense a "democracy" - but was nonetheless a freer place than many that bore the label.

    Our "democratic" institutions rest on legal and cultural foundations centuries old, which do not exist in much of the world. Nor do I have faith that all hearts around the world yearn for participatory government.

    It does not follow from this that a people prefer regimes and gangs that murder them at their whim. What I said was, "help create a decent place to live" not "create a democracy".

    From what I've seen of the Islamic world, one place that seemed pretty decent to me was Tunisia. It has flourishing tourism - and a wine and spirits industry of all things. It's a one-party state but the official attitude seemed to be something like, "Make money and have fun - just don't ever forget who's in charge." We probably wouldn't much care for it, but it's livable with, compared to what's next door in Algeria for instance.

    I agree with what you say about our own "democracy", but "Free men will fight and die for that which they know is not perfect" (Eric Hoffer).

    And thanks again, that's more inspiration for another post!

     
  • At 6:15 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    P.S. A quibble - Alaric the Goth may have made things a bit hot for the citizens of Rome, but the Gothic Kingdom of Italy was a reasonably decent place to live for a couple of centuries afterwards. Among other things, the Goths didn't care for religious disputes.

    This lasted until the Justinian's attempt to reconquer them, in the process destroying a rather promising civilization.

     
  • At 7:57 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    Alaric's nation did attain a higher standard of living. At the time of the sack, they were not yuppies. Justinian was a "vandal" for what he did to them and Italy.

    You may not have said democracy, but it is a mantra of the crew that wishes (or did wish) to stay the course.

    Bringing a happy Tunisia type govt. to a country would fail as it would be resented and resisted no matter the benefits it might promise.

    Oh it could succeed, if we killed one heck of alot to finally make them happy.

    I too have republican sympathies. In our constitution, I have never perceived a call to missionary work.

    Happy to inspire.

    Thanks.

     
  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Any historians out there? I've read that the reason "Vandal" has come to mean "destroyer of property" is that when they invaded the Roman empire, they freed slaves.

    "You may not have said democracy, but it is a mantra of the crew that wishes (or did wish) to stay the course."

    True - but I ain't them.

    Permission to divide the question:

    1) Was invading Iraq justified?
    In my view, yes. For reasons mentioned elsewhere.

    2) BUT, was it wise, was it prudent?

    Ah, that's another question. One which needs to be divided further.

    Should the coalition have: i)Ignored all of Saddam's cease-fire violations indefinitely? ii) Went in, shot Saddam and all the Bathists they could lay hands on and left? Or iii) attempted this present exercise in nation-building?

    I've leaned towards iii, but obviously it ain't gonna fly without total committment, which seems to be lacking. Alternative ii has much to recommend it, and might have been a better choice. Alternative i is not a choice but a decision to delay a choice.

    Again, in my view we are in a war whether we want to be or not. The fact that the war is sith non-state actors with the covert collusion of various states makes things complicated for sure. And it's kind of funny that some of the folks who most object to this formulation are libertarians of anarchist bent who are passionate in their defense of non-state groups to behave, and be treated like states.

    At present there is not much point in arguing about it, if I am right we will all know beyond doubt soon enough. If trying conciliation is what the majority thinks will solve the problem and are determined to try it, well, I disagree. I think it's a recipe for disaster but I believe it's called "the peoples right to be wrong".

    If I am wrong, I'll breathe a sigh of relief with everybody else and the beer is on me. If I'm right, I won't be in any mood to crow about it, it'll be my children living in the world I fear is coming.

     
  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    British Empire style colonial governance doesn't seem like such a bad idea at all, now that you mention it.

     
  • At 9:01 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    "British Empire style colonial governance doesn't seem like such a bad idea at all, now that you mention it."


    If it had been such a great thing, it would still exist.

    Once the Brits realized it was a loser, they dropped it like the proverbial hot potato.

    We will be dropping ours too or it will ruin us.

     
  • At 7:31 AM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    "If it had been such a great thing, it would still exist."

    Oh, but it does, in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Singapore...

    "Once the Brits realized it was a loser, they dropped it like the proverbial hot potato."

    When they decided, in the mid twentieth century, that it was no longer an asset to have a formal empire, they disbanded it, which is quite another thing entirely than what you're suggesting.

    "We will be dropping ours too or it will ruin us"

    We don't have an empire. My argument is that it might be for the best if we established one.

    Damned if we do, and damned if we don't, but non-intervention is going to be the greater of two evils.

     
  • At 8:37 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    Well, Plastic Yank, I hope you are the first to volunteer. Don't come looking for my son.

    "When they decided, in the mid twentieth century, that it was no longer an asset to have a formal empire, they disbanded it, which is quite another thing entirely than what you're suggesting."

    No, they dropped it and ran from it. It always costs more in the end and it was never really a benefit to the mommy country. It only benefits the first set of adventurers.

    "We don't have an empire."

    Then what are we doing with troops in so many countries?

     
  • At 4:47 PM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    "Well, Plastic Yank, I hope you are the first to volunteer. Don't come looking for my son."

    That's his decision, isn't it?

    In any case, I plan to.

    Volunteer, I mean.

    "No, they dropped it and ran from it."

    Once it was no longer tenable. You're acting as though the British government just woke up one morning and gasped "we see it all now!! What fools we were to maintain an empire for all those years!"

    "It always costs more in the end and it was never really a benefit to the mommy country."

    That really depends on who you ask, but true or not, it's irrelevant to the fact that the British Empire gave birth to some of the most succesful countries in the world today, which is really my point. I'm not interested in Empire for the sake of economic gain, but rather Empire for the purposes of promoting our way of life to other people more effectively.

    "Then what are we doing with troops in so many countries?"

    To promote democracy for other people, and defend it for ourselves, last I heard.

     
  • At 5:00 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    "Once it was no longer tenable."

    Guess in the end it was not successful.

    "British Empire gave birth to some of the most succesful countries in the world today"

    The succesful coutries were not built by the empire but by people who escaped England or in the case of Australia, were kicked out.

    "To promote democracy for other people, and defend it for ourselves, last I heard."

    I hope you don't believe that.

     
  • At 9:02 AM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    "Guess in the end it was not successful."

    People may very well be saying the same of democractic government in the future.

    All good things come to an end, and often sooner than they deserve.

    "The succesful coutries were not built by the empire but by people who escaped England or in the case of Australia, were kicked out."

    Sorry, I'm afraid that's just wrong.

    "I hope you don't believe that."

    To quote The Princess Bride, "get used to disappointment."

     
  • At 7:09 AM, Blogger tvoh said…

    "Guess in the end it was not successful."

    "People may very well be saying the same of democractic government in the future."

    As I made no comment on democratic government, I must take it as an admission the empire was a loser.

    "Sorry, I'm afraid that's just wrong."

    Deep logic there.

    "I hope you don't believe that."

    "To quote The Princess Bride, "get used to disappointment." "

    No,I am not disappointed. You have met all my expectations.

     
  • At 8:25 AM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    "As I made no comment on democratic government, I must take it as an admission the empire was a loser."

    As you seem to have no way of addressing points raised rather than ignoring them altogether, I'll assume that you've conceded the argument.

    "Deep logic there."

    It seemed appropriate, given how dense was the comment it was made in response to.

    Perhaps this is just my being Canadian, but to insist that America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, ad infinitum, owe nothing to the British Empire, to the British culture, is simple ignorance. America does not represent a departure from the ideals that made Britain great, but rather an expansion and strengthening of them.

    "No,I am not disappointed. You have met all my expectations."

    In which case, you can have had little reason to hope that I don't believe as I do, no?

     

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