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A Political Rorschach Test

One of the reasons that our nation, and indeed the world, is so divided on the so-called War on Terror (which, I remind once again, is really a war on a new form of totalitarian fascism wearing the not-that-much-less malign face of Islamic fundamentalism), is that we have major divisions over what motivates the people who make war on us.

In one sense, it's like the old fable of the blind men and the elephant. If you're a traditional leftist, you see everything through the lens of capitalist, colonialist oppression, and suicide bombers look like stalwart and admirable fighters against The Man. To people like Michael Moore, they are simply freedom fighters, just like the Minute Men of our own revolution. (Of course, they only use this comparison when they're trying to make the enemy look appealing to those who disagree with them because, in fact, some of the time they're actually instead denigrating George Washington and his troops, and comparing them to terrorists, which is apparently only a bad thing when they're Americans.)

If you're a multi-culturalist, you see them as misunderstood, their culture under daily siege from an unrelenting barrage of western music, and sexual images, and women with flesh exposed to the world. It's only understandable that they would want to strike out, and even end their lives when they hear about their holy book being defiled:

He said Tanweer had never mentioned links with any militant group.

“He knew that excesses are being done to Muslims. Incidents like desecration of the Koran have always been in his mind,” Mr Saleem said, referring to US guards at Guantanamo allegedly throwing a copy of Islam’s holy book in a toilet.

(Thanks, Newsweek!)

To others, of a transnational progressivist international-law bent, their behavior can't necessarily be so easily excused, but they're still just a criminal gang, a problem to be solved by international cooperation among police agencies. Whenever they commit one of these crimes, they are to be infiltrated, arrested, indicted, tried, and imprisoned (though never executed--that's so barbarian and...American) for life, or until they can be rehabilitated, and see the error of their ways. It might even be acceptable to infiltrate them before the crime is committed, if there's some chance that it might actually prevent one of these crimes from occurring, as long as we don't go too far, and violate their civil rights in any way.

If you're like me, you see them as I earlier described them--as just the next group of vicious thugs, like the Nazis, and the Stalinists, and Maoists, and their spinoffs the Khmer Rouge and Shining Path and others, who want to make the world conform to their will, and are not only willing to murder innocents to accomplish their vile goals, but revel in doing so. And if that's the case, the only ultimate solution is to defeat them militarily, however long it takes, which sadly, in many cases, cannot be done without killing large numbers of them, because it may well prove impossible to change their minds.

Each of us is groping at one or another part of the pachyderm, and thinking that it's the whole animal: an elephant is like a tree, an elephant is like a snake, an elephant is like a rope.

And of course, if you're of a mind to seek some "root cause" for their actions, you will see what you wish as well. If your focus is the Arab-Israeli conflict, then that's a general-purpose explanation for these attacks, whereever and whenever they occur. If you think that we've desecrated holy places with the presence of our infidel troops (particularly our female troops), then that's the explanation. If you believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power was wrong, then you're pleased (though it should actually give you pause) to find Islamists agreeing with you.

I think that that's part of the explanation of a disturbing poll, in which a dismayingly large number (in absolute terms, if not percentagewise) of British Muslims supposedly agree or sympathize with the motives of the London bombers.

But how can this be? The bombers are no longer with us to even tell us what their motives were. How can they agree with motives when they don't know what they are?

There's an old diagnostic tool in psychology--the ink-blot test, named the Rorschach test for the man who invented it. In it, the test subject is asked to look at a series of randomly produced ink splotches (usually made on a folded paper for symmetry) and describe what he or she sees--a mother cradling a baby, a man stabbing a woman, or perhaps nothing at all. The answer tells us nothing, of course, of the actual nature of the ink blot (the same could be done with clouds), but does provide some insight into what's going on in the person's mind.

Similarly, many seemingly seek to look into the mind of a terrorist and his actions, and see what they want to see: anger at Israel, anger at the apparent impotence of the Arab world against the west, frustration at the inability to raise your children as properly Islamic in a secular West, even the desire for the reestablishment of the Caliphate.

Sadly, I agree that all of the above are motivating the bombers, and many of the people who agree with them. But if these are the grievances, they cannot be assuaged, they cannot be appeased. They are what we call in American divorce courts, "irreconcilable differences."

Yes, we could withdraw from Iraq, but as has been pointed out, they were doing this before we were in Iraq, and Egypt, last time I checked, had no troops in Iraq. Withdrawing from Iraq won't change the desire of many British Muslims to swaddle their women from head to toe, to force adolescent girls to marry old men they've never met, to call down Fatwas on homosexuals. Yielding to demands to allow Arabs to flood into Israel won't bring about peace in the Middle East. Once we've sacrificed the Iraqi people, struggling for democracy, once we've sacrificed the Jews to them, they'll only hunger for further expansion of their Caliphate. There cannot be peaceful coexistence with a people whose ultimate goal is to compel everyone to live under a single religion, one that is not just a religion but a way of life.

Some look at the Rorschach of the terrorists and see a people struggling for justice. I look at it and see one struggling for injustice, with a desire to spread it throughout the world, and to return us to a medievel dreamworld of their imagination that is centuries old.

There's an old joke about the Rorschach test, in which it's administered to an obstreperous teenage boy, which seems sadly appropriate (and, yes, I recognize it can be taken two ways, perhaps more than two).

What do you see in this one?

A man having sex with a woman.

How about this one?

A man having sex with two women

Do you see anything here?

A woman having sex with a man.

OK, son, that's enough. You can go now.

Hey, Doc!


Can I have those dirty pictures you drew?

[Update at 1 PM EDT]

Mark Steyn has a related column--Mugged By Reality:

For four years, much of the western world behaved like [Florida Department of Agriculture official Johnelle] Bryant. Bomb us, and we agonise over the "root causes" (that is, what we did wrong). Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that "Islam is a religion of peace". Issue bloodcurdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can't wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush, Blair and Howard. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the "vast majority" of Muslims "jihad" is a harmless concept meaning "decaf latte with skimmed milk and cinnamon sprinkles"...

...Usually it's the hostage who gets Stockholm Syndrome, but the newly liberated [Douglas] Wood must occasionally reflect that in this instance the entire culture seems to have caught a dose. And, in a sense, we have: multiculturalism is a kind of societal Stockholm Syndrome. Atta's meetings with Bryant are emblematic: He wasn't a genius, a master of disguise in deep cover; indeed, he was barely covered at all, he was the Leslie Nielsen of terrorist masterminds - but the more he stuck out, the more Bryant was trained not to notice, or to put it all down to his vibrant cultural tradition.

[Another update at 1:40]

Michael Portillo has further thoughts--he says that we foolishly let Londonistan rise against us:

It is easy to explain how the Londonistan phenomenon (the concentration of Muslim political activists in the capital) has come about. For years foreign governments have complained that dissidents settled in Britain were using the fax and the internet to foment discontent in their countries. Our response has been dilatory. Under our asylum rules we have made no distinction between the innocent victims of persecution and others intent on bringing down states.

As democrats we feel some sympathy for those who voice opposition to autocratic regimes. Maybe our response has been coloured by memories of the brave French resistance sabotaging the Nazis under control from London. It has taken us a long time to accept that not all enemies of dictatorships are either democrats or patriots.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 24, 2005 08:36 AM
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I think part of the left's refusal to take necessary action is that they would have to legitimize the military and other orginizations like the CIA (excluding their crocodile tears over the Plame affair)that they have spend their whole lives tearing down.

Their whole lives being a lie at worst and a fantasy at best and they stand unable to acknowledge the threat of the 800 pound gorillia of relaity who just cam crashing thru their front window because to acknowledge it for what it truly is would compel them to take to the tools of violence in defense.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 24, 2005 10:16 AM

Excellent post.

BTW, "Islam" actually means "submission" to God's will. As usual, what makes the difference is who has the arrogance to speak for God. When it is a band of venom-filled hateful clerics telling people that violence and blood is God's will, not peace, then there will be hell to pay.

I learned a long time ago not to pay attention to preachers who claim to speak for God. If God wants to speak, I can listen just as well as the next guy.

Posted by billg at July 24, 2005 04:32 PM

Speaking of fatwas against homosexuality and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, (and perhaps for a little comic relief), I'm curious what you'd make of Israelis, Gil and Moti's 2 minute dating video, "We are Looking for You, Arab Lover".
http://www.i f i l

Posted by icarus at July 26, 2005 05:41 PM

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