Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Autumn of War

I had read a couple of articles of his in the past that dealt pretty narrowly with classics, and found them interesting. But I'm well into "An Autumn of War" now, and I just want to make two quick observations:

1. This book is pretty much a "Binary Thought Manifesto" for our age. For binary thinkers, there is only black and white, right and wrong, etc., which is why their battle cry MUST be "They hate who we are, not what we do"; If a binary-thinker were to acknowledge that the US had wronged Muslims in any way, he would be forced by his binary worldview to acknowledge that they had an absolute right to rain death and destruction down upon the US (the same absolute right we have to rain death and destruction down on them for wronging us), which they couldn't possibly have because we're great people and we live here. Suggesting that it's a mixture of who we are, who they are, and what we, they, and others have done to them that explains the current situation, simply doesn't compute.

2. This is connected with 1., but has more to do with a problem of logic than with the values that entail a binary outlook. Note the definitiveness of the proclamation that it's who we are, not what we do, that has caused the terrorists to attack us. It's as if the principle of "action, reaction" applied everywhere in the world but in international relations. Whatever it was that we've done in the past (and specific instances from the history of US-Middle East relations are scarce-to-non-existent in Hanson) couldn't possibly have upset the Muslims as much as the freedoms we possess. However, when it comes to a show of weakness in Saigon setting the stage for a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the pull out of the Marines from Lebanon leading to an increase in hostage taking, or the impotent firing of cruise missiles inviting an attack on the WTC, then "action, reaction" makes a startling comeback, and you're a fool if you couldn't connect the dots in the first place.


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