micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
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Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Nick Denton is standing by his problematic and disturbing theory that the United States should attack Iraq to humiliate Arabs and force them to become like the west "if they want a future."
Denton has published the thoughts of Christopher Kotowski who says:
If you really want to humiliate, then you'd have to do it in a grand, total, undeniable and very bloody scale: Iraq + Syria + Iran + Saudi Arabia + Gulf States + others? It's not just about winning; it's about inflicting a boundless defeat that all people can relate to - death and destruction must reach every corner of society.Yeah that will convince them how great of a country America and the west is. The Ziggy Marley song "G7" comes more readily to my mind.
Not an unreasonable point. But I'd draw a different lesson. The Arab world has long felt humiliated, it's already dangerous. If you are going to defeat your enemy, do so conclusively, as the US and UK defeated Germany in the Second World War.What exactly conclusive victory against states that haven't acted attacked in the U.S. recently would constitute is left unsaid by Denton who adds, "One could equally well say, to paraphrase Winer: watch out for appeasement, that's where holocausts come from."
The theme of a future "holocaust" comes up in the next entry where Denton responds to an email from Eric Mauro. Mauro contends, correctly in my opinion, that Denton's proposal for humiliation puts the U.S. in the position of being the most likely to commit genocide since it will be Uncle Sam telling others that because they are not as advanced as Americans that they need to change and will be forced to change by bayonet and bomb. Denton replies by more or less saying that Mauro's concerns are baseless since Arabs are allowed to live in the U.S., a few states with large Muslim populations can trade with western nations and Mauro can criticize military actions and "warn against genocide."
Yes these things are true but that is the point. Denton believes that the U.S. can welcome parishioners of "a kinder gentler Islam" while at the same time humiliating Arabs through military force so the former does not refute the latter. Denton seems to be falling for the trap of thinking that if America is progressive in some respects that it either can not be regressive in other aspects or should be excused for being regressive in other aspects.
In addition to being a technologist and living on the west coast of the US, I am also the first-generation American son of Holocaust survivors, born and raised in NY. Does Nick have any insight into my thinking? Clearly not.Denton responds:
...Dave Winer's anxiety about another Holocaust is noble.I tend to be with Denton. Dick Gregory writes in Nigger, his autobiography, of an incident where he learned that being black in the U.S. does not necessarily mean that a person is qualified to speak about what it is like to be black in the U.S. The same logic can be applied to all sorts of situations and is strengthened by the fact that agreement on any particular issue amongst people with a common experience is hardly a given. There are no doubt other people who would justify their support of the humiliation goal by recalling their own experiences or the experiences of their ancestors' in the Holocaust. (Something similar often happens in the U.S. in discussions of Israel, or rather Israel's relationship to Palestinians and other states in the Middle East.) Other people thus have to make up their own mind.
Most recently Denton has linked to three entries on other blogs that are critical of Denton's justification for attacking Iraq.
There are probably other discussions of this matter that I am unaware of, but if this debate is to mover further it seems to me that Denton and other supporters of humiliating Arabs need to address some questions:
1)What moral justification do western countries, and America in particular, have to impose their way upon others? How would this imposition be different from what supporters of the "war on terror" contend Islamic fundamentalists, such as those in Al Qaeda, want to do to the entire world?
2)What would the process of humiliating Arabs look like from beginning to end? Or, since war can be something other than predictable, what would the end goal of this process be and what would means would be used to achieve it?
3)Yesterday I gave a slew of practical objections to the idea, what is your response to them?