We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Game, Set and Match Erbil?

I have been arguing since 2005 that propping up the Iraqi state was never a good idea. ‘Nation building’ was always a preposterous delusion, as if Iraq and Afghanistan could be turned into an Islamic version of Arkansas, if only enough schools were built and wells were dug. Ludicrous.

Also if an independent Kurdistan gives Syria, Turkey and Iran the vapours, I fail to see why from a western perspective that should change anything at all. I mean seriously, well ain’t that too damn bad. Moreover, there already is an independent Kurdistan in all but name, and it has the only viable army in Iraq, which now even controls Kirkuk. Game, Set and Match Erbil… and if Baghdad thinks that is ever going to change, well if they reckon ISIS is rough, good luck taking on the Peshmerga. Even politically, it is clear the Kurdish leaders have consistently outclassed the other players, be they Arabs, Turks or Iranians.

It is by no means clear the current festivities are inevitably heading somewhere undesirable, as it might end up producing something far more stable than a unitary Iraqi state. Yes, ISIS must not be allowed to take over all of Iraq’s oil producing areas, but frankly it is hard to see how they would manage to take and hold anything in the areas that are not overwhelmingly Sunni… they sure as hell will not be taking Kirkuk this side of hell freezing over, that much seems certain.

A dissenting view on Iraq and intervention

I recognize that some of the other contributors to this blog believe that military intervention in Iraq was justified.

However, it appears that, after expending literal trillions of dollars, and after countless deaths, Al Qaeda, which had not even a slight foothold in the country before the U.S. led invasion, is in a position to take over the bulk of the country. Certainly it is a real risk in coming days, even if it does not actually happen.

Iraq had no involvement in 9/11. Trained weapons inspectors said that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction, and that claim proved to be correct, while the claims of politicians that they were actively developing WMDs proved to be wrong. Today, however, Iraq stands on the threshold of being a location actually controlled by Al Qaeda, an outcome that would have been unimaginable if Saddam Hussein had remained in control.

Some might ask, “who could have predicted that the U.S. would leave the country with a corrupt, ineffectual government capable only of looting foreign aid and oil revenues?”

I would argue that anyone with an understanding of what government programs are like could have predicted that.

One might have a beautiful, seemingly airtight argument for why an ideal intervention into Iraq might have been of enormous benefit both to the Iraqis and to the world. This is not very different from the beautiful, seemingly airtight arguments made by Statists for why the government should run health care, or why it should help train the unemployed for new jobs, or a raft of other claims.

However, in the end, your beautiful idea will not be executed by angels, or even by you. It will executed by bureaucrats.

Perhaps (and I say at most “perhaps”) if angels had invaded Iraq they would have produced a wonderful outcome. However, the nation was invaded by the same keen minds responsible for such disasters as the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration hospitals, the Internal Revenue Service, and other organs that are hardly paragons of good management and reliable execution.

Libertarians are (correctly) fond of telling collectivists in debates that utopia is not an option. One cannot compare one’s idealized government program against the alternative, one must compare what will realistically happen under state control with the alternative.

The current disaster is simply another example of this. Iraq was not, in fact, invaded by angels, it was invaded by the U.S. government, the occupation was run like any government program, and the resulting disaster was entirely predictable.

The lesson to us all is that it is all fine and well to muse “if I ran the world”, but in reality no one person can run the world. Even if a leader actually has the best of intentions (which is rare in itself), they plan as men do, not as gods do, and they rely upon men, not gods, to execute their plans. Dreaming about what might be accomplished by gods is insufficient. One must instead discuss what is actually achievable by men.

Blame Bush and Blair like it’s 2003 forever

Forces of an offshoot of Al-Qaeda advance on Baghdad

“Blame Bush!” “Blame Blair!”

Can anyone explain to me why the starting point for anything newsworthy that Muslims do is eternally set at 2003?

Why not September 11th 2001 – one might have thought that was the big day this century for violent beginnings connected with Islam? Or why not date it from 1988, with the formation of Al-Qaeda? Or from the year 622, first year of the Hijra – if you take a long view of history, as ISIS themselves undoubtedly do? Or why not start the count later? How about late 2011 when President Obama took the last American troops out of what he called a “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” just “in time for the holidays”?

Not that it is likely, as Muslim Iraqi fights Muslim Iraqi in a land from which the infidel was so delighted to absent himself, that comabatants on either side think much about American presidents at all.

Islam has no truly moderate wing

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in the course of being interviewed by Sam Harris:

The reason the so-called Muslim “extremists” are so successful at recruiting, keeping, inspiring, and mobilizing people – and then finally getting them to wage jihad – is that what they’re saying is fully consistent with the teachings of Muhammad.

My thanks to the ever alert Mick Hartley to alerting me to this interview. Hartley entitles his posting “The faith has no truly moderate wing”. That is certainly how Islam seems to me when I read its scriptures.

It may of course just be wishful thinking on my part, but I predict that, some time within the next hundred years or so, there will be a mass-abandonment of this horrible religion, by all those who find themselves being raised as Muslims but who just want to be human beings, rather than in a state of perpetual war – at best mere ceasefire – with all non-Muslims, and constantly at the mercy of lunatic preachers nagging them to actually do what they still go through the motions of saying they believe. The only truly effective way of shaking free from such influences is to say that the lunatic preachers are wrong about everything – about Allah, about the obligation to submit to Allah, about the whole damn thing. It is because they fear what I hope for that devout Muslims have always threatened such mayhem if anyone now proclaims themselves in public to have abandoned Islam, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The effort to establish the right to abandon Islam unmolested is a key locus in the righteous struggle to reduce Islam to insignificance and political impotence.

Christians often complain that atheists only complain about Christianity, rather than about Islam. This criticism does not apply to Sam Harris.

Discussion point: Boko Haram

I would so like to believe this video is a sick joke. The grinning idiot, swaying and bobbing around, scratching his bum, fiddling with his little red cock’s-comb topknot or bobble hat or whatever that is, rubbing his thigh while talking about the market for slaves… surely he cannot be real, cannot be serious?

Yet those who ought to know think it really is Abubakar Shekau speaking. And if it is, that is further confirmation that the abducted children have already been raped and enslaved.

Faced with Abubakar Shekau’s statement that he will sell for sexual use girls as young as nine, many of those who are usually firmly of the opinion that interference in foreign quarrels is always an evil rediscover a use for Hellfire missiles.

What should be done? Anything?

A wrongheaded act

Syria al-Qa’ida rebels apologise for beheading the wrong man, reports the Irish Independent:

Syrian rebel fighters linked with al-Qaeda have begged for forgiveness from Allah after cutting off the head of one of their allies by mistake.

In a video posted on YouTube, fighters affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were pictured holding up the head of a bearded man before a crowd in Aleppo, claiming that he was an Iraqi Shia fighting for President Assad.

Several people recognised the dead man and ISIS began an internal investigation and confirmed that the dead man was probably Muhammad Fares, a Sunni Islamist rebel whose group fights alongside ISIS.

Sir Simon Jenkins’ response to the Kenyan shootings: get rid of large buildings

I haven’t read anything by the Guardian columnist Sir Simon Jenkins for a while. He’s one of those infuriating grandees of the media who can be relied upon to say a mix of sensible things along with some jaw-dropping pieces of rubbish. Case in point in the rubbish department, regarding the mass murders by Islamists in a Kenya shopping mall (H/T, Douglas Murray in the Spectator) :

The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.

“Celebrity building”. Note the sneer. So what is Sir Simon’s suggestion: that Kenyans go back to living in all those cute little mud huts and not frequent markets where more than a handful of folk are in the vicinity, is that it? And that Westerners, or indeed anyone else, should stop going to large buildings, such as theatres, football stadiums, rock concerts, large rail stations, underground stations, skyscrapers….? We stop running marathons, or gathering for other peaceful reasons, lest nutters go on the rampage? Of course, people can choose to avoid such events and places as much as they want, but Sir Simon, a fan of planning legislation, no doubt would not draw the line at just letting people associate where they want.

It is not as if he is even consistent about this issue of density of people in certain places anyway. Jenkins and those of like minds often also decry suburbia, and wish we all went back to living in denser cities and used public transport (which tends to be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks). It is obscene in my view, as people were still dying as a result of the shootings in Kenya, that this fuckwit writes about “the modern obsession with celebrity buildings”, as if there was something almost shameful or foolish about erecting them and enjoying visits to them.

What this man is proposing is, to put it simply, a form of surrender. I remember when George Bush responded initially to 9/11 by urging people to continue shopping and enjoying life as a way to defeat the Islamists. He got criticised for this, but he was right. According to the logic of what Jenkins says, we should stop being Western, stop making big things, or glossy, flash buildings that people enjoy visiting, and revert to a smaller set of gathering places instead, at least for however long it takes before the death-cultists of Islam decide to turn their attentions elsewhere. Great. Let’s hide under our beds. (So long as the beds are not too large or ostentatious, of course.)

Of course, Jenkins is an opponent of large, modern buildings and has been banging the drum in opposition to such things as long as I can remember. But I did not think he would resort to this line of argument. What is this man going to say if a bomb is set off in one of his favourite classical pieces of architecture, I wonder?

(I have updated my item a bit to remove some clunky expressions. Insufficient coffee and anger do not make for great writing.)

 

Islamic dress… the question that needs to be asked is rather different

The Guardian has been talking about Islamic dress for woman and I keep waiting to see someone frame this as more than just either “the state needs to ban it” or “it is a matter of freedom of choice for individuals”.

These are both useful points but they actually miss the real issue, which is allowing civil society to actually function.

Yes, I agree the state has no business telling people what they can or cannot wear other than in the most limited utilitarian circumstances (for example you should have to show your face when giving evidence in court and similar situations where identity and personal reactions to question need to be judged by a jury). So if someone wants to wear a burqua or pink rabbit slippers and a tutu or a Nazi arm band, that should be entirely up to them in almost every circumstance.

But that leads us to the real question: I support the right of people to wear whatever they wish. But I also support the right of people to react to that decision as they wish, as long as it does not involve violence or threats thereof.

The reason I mentioned a Nazi arm band in the above examples is that it is an item of clothing that is likely to produce a very negative reaction from many observers. People refusing to do business with, or offering a job to, or actively criticising someone, for wearing a Nazi arm band would strike many as acting perfectly reasonably and within their rights. Hopefully things are not yet so bad that an employer refusing to hire someone who turns up to a job interview wearing a Nazi arm band would find themselves in trouble with the law (but hey, anything is possible these days).

A ‘reasonable man’ on most juries would accept that as a Nazi arm band strongly implies that person supports Nazi values and ideology, it is perfectly reasonable to discriminate against such a person if you find those valued abhorrent, and not want such a person to represent you in the marketplace. After all, that Nazi arm band represents an ideology steeped in collectivist violence, irrational prejudice, misogyny, the complete replacement of civil society with ideologically directed interactions… in short, the totalitarian imposition of certain ways of life on everyone.

Now what else does that remind you of?

In other words, a Nazi arm band is very much like a burqua in the eyes of a great many people.

So yes, I demand that people be able to wear whatever they want without being threatened by the state. And I demand that other people be allowed to infer certain things from what others wear, and treat them accordingly, without the law preventing them from doing so.

That is right, I am in favour of people’s right to discriminate on the basis of another person’s views.

Syria: a scenario of awesome splendiferousness?

Fortunately Obama and assorted hard-of-thinking folks across the political spectrum in the USA seem to have backed away from becoming allies of Al Qaeda in Syria. But that means it looks like a fascinating lose-lose-win scenario is coming to pass: Al Qaeda and its allies lose, Hezbullah and its Iranian and Ba’athist allies lose, everyone else wins.

Syria’s deputy prime minister says the civil war has reached stalemate with neither side strong enough to win.

So Hezbullah and Al Qaeda are bleeding each other white in Syria in an attrition war that shows no sign of ending, and moreover this state of affairs costs us in the West not a penny.

Awesome.

I still think selling both sides ammo would be a really great idea as it would be hard to overstate the need to keep this on the boil as long as possible. Perhaps now is a good time to urge the UN to remain fixated on vital issues such as ‘climate change’ in Kazakhstan or ‘gender inequality’ in Nicaragua or ‘indigenous rights’ in Mordor or whatever, so they do not make any meaningful attempts to broker any unhelpful ceasefires.

The critics’ verdict

American “Jihadi Rapper” and British Islamist executed by former comrades.

Karl Marx was nearly right

The quick version of something the old plague-carrier said is that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Second time as tragedy and farce would have been more accurate.

Top comment: “I did not set a red line, Bush did it and you are a racist”

David Cameron will sleep well tonight

Humiliated? As a prime minister and party leader, yes. But there are compensations.

To President Obama he can say, “Sorry guv, tried to help, but the boys just wouldn’t let me. We are going to remain neutral”. And then sotto voce he can add, “Neutral like you are ‘in terms of the Maldives or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term is’”

To Parliament, and through Parliament to the voters, he can say, with great ceremony “I respect your decision” and get all sorts of strange new respect from anti-war people while not losing the respect of those who thought British support for US military action against Assad was necessary, because, after all, he did try.

To Syria he can say all the right things without having to do anything. Given that it is damned difficult to know what to do, or even what is happening over there, that is a silver lining for him. In that link, Jim Miller says, “we need an explanation for the attack — whoever is responsible — that includes a motive.” Assad was winning. Why jeopardize that? A member of my family suggested that Assad might have said to his henchmen something equivalent to Henry II’s “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” “Destroy those rebels in Ghouta, and I don’t care how you do it.” Bashar Assad is an evil man, which does not make his enemies good.

Was this vote a good thing or a bad thing to happen? I do not know.

It is a generator of ironies, and not just for Cameron.