When is enough?

tree_huggerI’m a liberal – I make no bones about it.   I believe women are my equals and that people of all shades and sexual proclivities have the same rights that I do.  I believe that governments should exist to serve their people and not merely to maximize opportunities for Capitalists.

In short, on most questions, if there’s a liberal and conservative axis, you’ll find me on the liberal end of things.

But, I have some exceptions – places where liberals might shun me.

If an individual’s committed violent crimes repeatedly and is obviously incorrigible, I see no point in the state locking them up and feeding them for the rest of their never-to-be-paroled life.   Terminate them – and let’s move on.   When you’ve got a cancer, you cut it off.

Guns?   I’m not at all sure that we all need military assault rifles.   But, I do like what the U.S. Second Amendment says … and why it says it.   When governments lose their way, citizens need a way to have their say.

Nanny States?   I think they go way too far sometimes.   As the Buddhists say, ‘Everything in balance’.   Laws should be balanced and mete out the same punishments to both the rich and the poor.  And victim-less crimes should be recognized as the oxymorons that they are.

And I’m all for cultural diversity – to a point.   If your culture believes that you are one of the chosen or the saved and you also believe that I’m not, or if your culture believes that women belong to men, or if your culture believes in slash and burn agriculture, or female genital mutilation, or in casual and needless cruelty to animals, or that some men are just better than others and thus have a right to rule them, then I think it’s probably time for for your culture to go – sorry.

But, if you like to wear a small square hat and dance outside at the new moon, or paint your house bright red, blue and gold, or if carrying a dagger and wearing turban are your thing, or if you are a strict vegetarian or anything else that doesn’t mess with our common biosphere or with other’s folk’s rights, then good on ya, I say.

We all need to live and let live, honor and respect each other and realize that this small planet belongs to all of us.   If your cultural beliefs deprives some people of their freedoms, if your cultural beliefs are messing the with common environment we and all of our descendants are going to have to share, if your cultural beliefs are all about trying to corner and monopolize money, knowledge, political or military power over the rest of us – then bugger off.   How can I make it plainer?

, , , , , , , , , , and are all examples of what I’m talking about.

What’s this rant about?

So what, you wonder, is this little rant about?   Well, it’s about a couple of things that have come together in the last few days.

Just the other day, The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pointed out that the government of Pakistan is buckling before pressure from the Taliban.   The most recent and telling example of this was when the Pakistan government ‘allowed‘ the Taliban, who control the Swat Valley and, indeed, much of the northwest of Pakistan, to practice Sharia Law there.   And they, of course, did this hoping that it might result in peace with the Taliban.islamabad-pakistan

Then, just days later, we hear that the Taliban are now taking over areas adjoining the Swat Valley and forcing the people there to adopt the Taliban’s rules and killing or driving off anyone who opposes them.

Mortal Threat

The Pakistani government, in deep denial, is losing ground against the Islamic insurgents and it badly needs to decide which side it is on and get focused.   Clinton said, speaking to U.S. lawmakers, that Pakistan’s government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and the country now poses a “mortal threat” to the world.

I don’t think she’s exaggerating the ‘Mortal Threat’ business.   Pakistan has nuclear weapons (are you paying attention here?) and Pakistan is a weak state literally crumbling before strengthening Taliban insurgent forces.   If that’s not the definition of ‘Mortal Danger’ for the rest of us, I don’t know what is.

Then, finally, a friend of mine sent me the a link to the following video.   I encourage you to stop now, click on the video and then return here to continue reading after you are done.

Click here for the video: 

Got that?  A suitcase full of four pounds of Anthrax?   This guy has very little idea of how to try to get along with other cultures.   And, as someone who considers himself pretty liberal and tolerant, I find myself seriously wondering what we should do about people and movements like this.

Yeah, right!

Yeah, right!

I have a little movie of my own that plays over and over in my head when I think about this stuff.   It involves a time in our not too distant past when other tyrants were on the loose and wanted to take over the world.  Back then, a lot of time was spent trying to appease the beast, trying to see their good side, assuming that if we were nice, they’d be nice to.   And in my little movie, I see Neville Chamberlain getting off the plane from Germany over and over again and proclaiming, “Peace in our Time.

There’s a nice biography/documentary around about the life of Winston Churchill and it makes your skin crawl to see how very long and hard the British tried to ignore the Nazi monster and how, in the end, it almost cost them their freedom.   And without a doubt, it did cost them the loss of a lot of British lives that were lost unnecessarily because of how trusting and unprepared they were when the German Nazis finally took of their ‘Nice Mask’ and showed the world who they really were.

And here in the U.S., we refused to get involved until the Japanese literally brought the party to our shores and, like the British before us, we then suddenly had to get over our idealism and isolationism and start a massive and desperate game of catchup.

Islam is OK

So, what am I saying here?

islamFirst, let’s be clear.   I am not anti Islam.   Of the many millions of Islamic people in the world, it is only small fundamentalist core which wants to push their agendas by any means possible, who believe that terrorism is a valid tool in their struggle to make the world over in the image they want and who believe their every action, no matter how reprehensible, is blessed by their God.  But, I believe that the vast majority of Muslims in this world would simply like to live and get along just like we would.   So understand, please, that it is only these intolerant crazies that I am on about here.

Weapons of mass destruction have changed the face of warfare forever.   The leverage that can be exerted by the use of a biological or nuclear weapon can be totally out of proportion to the size of the group wielding it.   We’re not in the world anymore where we need large armies to fight our conflicts.    We’ve all been very lucky since the end of the  Second World War.   Because, in spite of our many conflicts, we’ve managed to keep the nuclear and biological genies in their bottles so far.

symbol-biohazard1symbol-nuclear1

But ask yourself, if the Taliban take over Pakistan and gain control of the weapons there, do you think it is going to turn out well for us?

Yes, I’m a liberal – but I have limits and I think for our own survival, we all should have limits.

If we think we can cure the cancer of radical Islamic fundamentalism, then by all means, we should try.   But, if we don’t think we can cure it, then we are only wasting valuable time while it spreads and becomes more and more intractable.

What should we do?

That’s a tough question. But, while we think about it and consider various half measures, those who want to destroy us and make the world over into a prison of intolerant fundamentalism, wherein women are property and human rights are irrelevant and where we all have to worship as they tell us or die, are moving inexorably forward towards the possession of nuclear and biological weapons.

This is not a place we can allow history to go.

Their culture is toxic to our future and to the future of a world based on multiculturalism,  tolerance, sustainability, science, democracy, religious freedom and human rights for everyone.   They want to take us back to the 7th century – and I, for one, don’t want to go.

In truth, I don’t know what we should do nor when we should do it.   But I see what some have called a ‘clash of civilizations‘ coming.

Some folks think that there must be something more we can do to defuse their animosity.   But, when I look at the deep roots of why they do what they do, I despair that there’s more we can do – save move forward to the final chapter in this story of human history.  The chapter in which we realize that there can be no reconciliation with a blind faith determined to convert the world to its vision or die trying.   A chapter in which we see, finally, that they will keep coming at us relentlessly until they have either won or until their vision of Islam is extinguished from the world.

We are too nice for our own good.   We will wait and wait, hoping for a way out of this quandary, and all the while we’ll be risking that they will acquire deadly weapons of mass destruction.   We may, in our tolerance and goodness, wait too long and suddenly find ourselves in a very desperate world.

But if they cannot be turned from their course, in the end, we will, we must, use whatever force it takes to eliminate their threat to our survival.   In the end, we’ll  recognize that if human civilization has a cancer and we want to advance rather than regress, then the cancer must be cut off for the greater good of the whole.

These are tough thoughts for a liberal to espouse.   But, if you’ve got  better ideas, I’d love to hear them.

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– Some additional related stories:  and and

6 Responses to “When is enough?”

  1. Bruce says:

    Hey there Dennis,

    You asked if I thought you were over the edge? Well, there are no edges, really, edges are just artifacts of the way humans perceive things– we draw a box around something, so we can then apply our interpretive frames of reference. The edge is the box we have drawn.

    So of course you will have gone over some people’s edges, and not others.

    If you are wondering where my particular edges are on this matter…

    Very briefly, highly empowered Islamic extremists are, IMHO, a direct byproduct of a long period of other countries screwing around in that part of the world.

    The history of Pakistan in particular is full of US intervention, and I reckon you are familiar with the long story of many countries’ intervention in Afghanistan. Note also that we have been at war with the people of Afghanistan for years now, at one time we supported the taliban until they stopped the production of opium, the trafficking of which is important to our military/industrial/espionage complex…

    In fact the Clintons have a long connection to this hidden part of the US economy and control structure. So be careful how you interpret Ms Clinton’s words and acts.

    Now we see that the technology of warfare has turned a new page and that insurgents can pose credible threats to nation states with large battlefield superiority oriented armies. In fact the US gave these folks a lot of training and support in how to take out a super power when Russia was intervening there. Bin Laden at one time was a valued CIA asset, whether he still is now or not is another question.

    Anyway, the US in particular as well as other technologically sophisticated countries have been waging war on these people for quite a while in one form or another. Guess what? they have figured out ways to fight back.

    So within that box, the US is at war, so kill the fuckers, yeah.

    The problem is, the next page in the history of warfare has not yet been turned, so no one is really sure how to beat these folks. I notice a lack of this sort of specific in your proposal.

    Now, me, you know my solution to these sorts of problems. I have done what I can to defuse them by withdrawing my energy and support from the war system.

    Short of killing them (or us) all, or reducing the level of technology the whole planet is at, there isn’t a way to defeat them that I am aware of.

    To me the only way to avoid what you are talking about is to stop fighting them. Because as long as we are fighting them they will fight back.

    Wouldn’t you?

    As long as there are external threats to a people, however they define themselves, they will support a government or authority structure geared towards defeating that threat. In times of peace such governments look unpleasantly authoritarian, but in times of war they are the appropriate way to go. I say, remove the war and popular support for extremist government will fade.

    Note the extremist government in the US has been keeping us at war since at least WW2 for this very reason, among others. Hasn’t solved too many problems since Hitler, as far as I am aware.

    Bruce :-\

  2. K. says:

    Dennis, I’m in the same boat with you. I am mostly a liberal but I have a streak of — what, populism? — in me. I do not believe we should sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya; there are bad people in the world who need to be dealt with like the rabid dogs they are. Let God sort them out. I believe in a highly tolerant civilization — imposed at the end of a gun, if necessary. “Everyone be nice… and if you can’t be nice, I have this 2×4 with nails sticking out of it, and I will wallop you until your ears bleed, if you make it necessary. So be nice…. or you will lose the opportunity to do anything else.”

    Once upon a time, when I was 20something, I was sitting in the back row of a church during a Catholic Mass. In the row in front of me were 3 giggling juvenile delinquent 13 year olds. (Yes, they were in Church, but they were the Catholic version of delinquents.) In front of them was a little old lady in her 80s or so. So these guys started putting spit balls in her hair, and giggling at each other about how funny it was. And I, inveterate bookworm and sensitive new age guy that I am, stewed, angry at what they are doing, but, you know, wanting to be “civilized”. Finally, I channeled my inner Hulk: I leaned forward and put my hand on the ring leader’s trapezius muscle (the “Mr. Spock death grip” location on the shoulder, for those who don’t know), and said, all quiet, icy menace: “Take those spit balls out of her hair… and if you do that again, I will break your arm.”

    Needless to say, he complied. And I felt like my life had just had one of its high water marks.

    Sometimes the right thing to do is to threaten, or actually, break someone’s arm. That’s the world we live in. What would I have done if he had not complied? I would have bent that little jerk’s arm backwards, dragged him outside, and gamely done my best to kick his ass — and punched any usher who interfered. Swear to God.

    Fortunately, my threat was convincing. I think he could tell by my voice I was as serious as a heart attack. I am quite a mild mannered chap, but I harbor a considerable reservoir for violence that I simply don’t tap, and sometimes people sense that. It comes in handy when I need to intimidate someone — and if intimidation is not enough… yeah, I suspect I could beat someone to a pulp if I had to. I repress a lot…

    Point is, that is the world we live in. Like Camus said, sometimes you have to stop sun bathing long enough to collectively kick the ass of the guy throwing sand in everyone else’s faces… you do it because it is necessary, and you don’t do it halfway. Pound him. Render him incapable of throwing even one more fistful of sand. Stomp on his hands and break his fingers. Then call him a medic — and go back to sun bathing, like a civilized person… Guaranteed, that is the last time he will be throwing sand…

    A genteel civilization, imposed at the end of the biggest gun in the neighborhood. That is my political philosophy, on a bumpersticker: herbal tea and a loaded .45. 😉

    That said… pretty poor raw material to be a Buddhist, eh? There’s a reason I like the Wrathful Deities the best. I am coming back as a hermit crab…


    “Você nasceu com asas. Por que passar sua vida engatinhando?” — Rumi
    ““You were born with wings. Why crawl through life?” — Rumi

  3. Robin Scott says:

    I am personally torn on this issue. For the first time last week, I began to believe that I may be obliged to view them as a military threat. I’m undecided. I compare them with the disgusting tactics of the Israelis, and of the Christians down the centuries – same shit. All religions basically say the same thing, per Aldous Huxley, my hero; but they all have a nasty violent element too, all of whom I dislike equally.

    I think one has to be very wary here of getting caught up in a demonisation of Islam. At heart, it is a very pure, cultured, civilised religion.

    One thing is for sure on a planet with not enough food and too many people: at a certain point, war becomes the most attractive option. Our generation has taken peace for granted for sixty years; sadly we can do so no longer. I now describe myself as an armed Buddhist!

    Love & Peace, Robin
    http://www.fortressnewzealand.com

  4. Dennis says:

    Bruce,

    An excellent and thoughtful reply. Yes, I know and acknowledge the various historical things you cited.

    A couple of things come to mind right off.

    First, cause and effect do not always stay tightly coupled. Once a movement is in motion, it has its own life and will resist dissapation. Regardless of why militant Islam came into being, it is a fact now and I’m not at all sure that they will quit what they are doing if the western powers back away from interaction with their sphere of the world. And, in such an interconnected world, I’m not sure how we could do that anyway. Media and oil are at least two reasons why we cannot vanish as an irritant from their world.

    Second, here’s a story:

    http://samadhisoft.com/2008/08/30/fundamentalist/

    about folks who are, I think, nearly as crazy as the Islamic militants and I cannot think of who has been waging war on them to provoke them. And that makes me think that given large groups of human beings, there are always going to be a certain number at the fringes who are going to go looking for a fight. Ernest Callenbach made this point nicely in his book from many years ago called, “Ectopia”.

  5. Dennis; I have to agree with you totally. Any group that would destroy works of art because they didn’t agree with their philosophy doesn’t deserve to exist. This is in reference to the giant budhhas destroyed by the Taliband(oh and a roc and rol group they are)destruction of ancient art is a bloody nose for all mankind and puts them beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned.. Along with their detsruction of film libraries of priceless ethnic documentary material that cannot be duplicated. What do you do with folks that think lying is sport and anyone not from here is fair game for pilage. Well myself I think we should pull out of where they are and arm them all with fresh AK-47’s and oodles of ammo and let them settle their differences so we can walk in and annoint whoever lies to us the best(plez this is toungue in cheeck but makes great sense in that our presence has given them something to coalesce resistance around). The threat of bio or nuc weapons precludes my humour I realize and definately puts these folks where they should just be put down like the sick dogs they are. The guy in Iraq that has his own army and pretends to be a holy man is another hitler without a beerhall but a mosque instead. Saddam was right to impose himself, fear of him kept them from killing each other. now we have a power vacumn and we’re looking for locals to fill it. The kurds are another group to worry about. They’re in Turkey,iraq,Iran and the ones in Iran already have bargained there way to semi-autonomy. the turks are scared shitless of the ones in Iraq because Takriet is where the major oil is and they can fund their breatheren in turkey. This is why nobody talks about the turkish armored division bivoucked outside Takreit since we took over and not moving!So I don’t envy MS Clinton as she has to know all this and more and has to get something done without too much “wet work” and obvious intervention! always enjoy your clear and to the point missles. I just bought a gun that shoots .45 long colt and or .410 shells with 00 buckshot. The number of home invasion robberys around here has me spooked and I do not intend to become a victim. If you need it once and it saves your life,just like a fire exstinguisher, it was worth having available. The amendment that gave us the right to keep and bear arms was written with the idea of the population having the same weapons as the military!!! I am thinking of a 6 shot semi auto .50 caliber at $4000 its a steel, really stop anything over a mile away( blackhawk down de javou)!!! But then I come back to Jerzy Kosynski’s idea that if you need a weapon to extracate yourself from your situation you were already in over your head and beyond help!Have you ever read his book “BLIND DATE”??? The whole premise is that life is a blind date, Latah bro Martin

  6. Freddie says:

    Dennis,

    I love your latest screed!

    I’ll also be surprised if our little group finds much to disagree with — short of the death penalty — in your impatience with the violent and the unrepentant, at least until we introduce some estrogen into the mix.

    You know, of course, where I strenuously disagree with the sentiments you express. Since we’ve never seen eye to eye on them despite decades of dialogue, there’s no point in belaboring the matter. Suffice it to say I am as much opposed and as determined to resist you as ever on that point.

    [Freddie is referring to our long-standing disagreement about some cultural practices being OK and some not (which is my POV as I stated in the main piece). As a member of a minority, Freddie feels that letting the dominant culture (white American Anglo-Saxon males) decide what is valid and what is NOT valid is far too dangerous. The dominate culture has in the past made far too many questionable decisions to be trusted now. – dennis]

    I am most impressed and in strongest agreement with you on the issue of how to deal with those who pose a nuclear threat to America and Americans. Not because I am certain of where a cut-off line lies, but because I am convinced there must be one. Therefore, I agree with you that we need to pose and debate that cut-off now, before we are confronted with a crisis so that, when one arises, if we do not act or react in consensus, we can at least do so in clarity.

    I’ll commence. I accept the Neville Chamberlain analogy as apt.

    I regret Hiroshima’s destructiveness in humanitarian terms, but do not believe we were morally constrained in our weapons of choice in the face of an enemy who secretly launched war against us.

    And here’s where my K-type testosterone goes global: I don’t believe that we are morally constrained from forcibly disarming an apparent enemy who rattles a nuclear sword.

    But I do accept that strategic restraint may well dictate a less assertive cut-off point.

    Still, I ask others who disagree, where is YOUR cut-off point? What justifies disabling someone’s destructive capacity in self-defense?

    Dennis is right to pose that question, and tell us that the time fast approaches when we must engage each other on this volatile point.