Things have been quiet here lately as we prepare for January, which will be a big month at the Wordyard, what with Dreaming in Code arriving. More anon — as soon as we get through the holidays and I shake off my traditional solstitial cold virus.
In the meantime, a couple of odds and ends of valuable reading — links to curl up with next to the fire when you’ve got some time:
If you don’t have time to read the full texts of books like Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine and Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, you owe it to yourself to read Mark Danner’s New York Review of Books piece, “Iraq: The War of the Imagination,” which summarizes them and puts them — and the disastrous war they chronicle — in a grimly coherent context:
Nearly four years into the Iraq war, as we enter the Time of Proposed Solutions, the consequences of those early decisions define the bloody landscape. By dismissing and humiliating the soldiers and officers of the Iraqi army our leaders, in effect, did much to recruit the insurgency. By bringing far too few troops to secure Saddam’s enormous arms depots they armed it. By bringing too few to keep order they presided over the looting and overwhelming violence and social disintegration that provided the insurgency such fertile soil. By blithely purging tens of thousands of the country’s Baathist elite, whatever their deeds, and by establishing a muscle-bound and inept American occupation without an “Iraqi face,” they created an increasing resentment among Iraqis that fostered the insurgency and encouraged people to shelter it. And by providing too few troops to secure Iraq’s borders they helped supply its forces with an unending number of Sunni Islamic extremists from neighboring states. It was the foreign Islamists’ strategy above all to promote their jihadist cause by provoking a sectarian civil war in Iraq; by failing to prevent their attacks and to protect the Shia who became their targets, the US leaders have allowed them to succeed.
…Saddam Hussein and the autocracy he ruled were the product of a dysfunctional politics, not the cause of it. Reform of such a politics was always going to be a task of incalculable complexity. Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope—in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.
- And over in Wired, don’t miss Gary Wolf‘s excellent discussion of the new evangelical atheism, “The Crusade Against Religion”. Here’s its rousing peroration, in a direct line of descent from Mill’s On Liberty:
The irony of the New Atheism — this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism — is too much for me. The New Atheists have castigated fundamentalism and branded even the mildest religious liberals as enablers of a vengeful mob. Everybody who does not join them is an ally of the Taliban. But, so far, their provocation has failed to take hold. Given all the religious trauma in the world, I take this as good news. Even those of us who sympathize intellectually have good reasons to wish that the New Atheists continue to seem absurd. If we reject their polemics, if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve lost our convictions or our sanity. It simply reflects our deepest, democratic values. Or, you might say, our bedrock faith: the faith that no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.
[tags]atheism, iraq, mark danner, gary wolf[/tags]