Left Out

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What is it that has led so many members of the secular political left today to sympathize with Islamist groups, particularly Hezbollah and Hamas? Fred Halliday of the London School of Economics answers the question, and manages to do so without abandoning his own roots on the political left. He writes:

The most recent manifestation of this trend arrived during the Lebanon war of July-August 2006. The Basque country militant I witnessed who waved a yellow Hizbollah flag at the head of a protest march is only the tip of a much broader phenomenon. The London demonstrators against the war saw the flourishing of many banners announcing "we are all Hizbollah now", and the coverage of the movement in the leftwing press was notable for its uncritical tone.

All of this is–at least to those with historical awareness, sceptical political intelligence, or merely a long memory–disturbing. This is because its effect is to reinforce one of the most pernicious and inaccurate of all political claims, and one made not by the left but by the imperialist right. It is also one that underlies the US-declared "war on terror" and the policies that have resulted from 9/11: namely, that Islamism is a movement aimed against "the west".

This claim is a classic example of how a half-truth can be more dangerous than an outright lie. For while it is true that Islamism in its diverse political and violent guises is indeed opposed to the US, to remain there omits a deeper, crucial point: that, long before the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis and other Islamic militants were attacking "imperialism", they were attacking and killing the left–and acting across Asia and Africa as the accomplices of the west.

Halliday goes on to investigate the relationship between the left and militant Islam, and while he sees parallels in their rhetoric, approach to political action, and organization, he underlines that these only conceal a more fundamental rift. He concludes, "It does not need slogans to understand that the Islamist programme, ideology and record are diametrically opposed to the left–that is, the left that has existed on the principles founded on and descended from classical socialism, the Enlightenment, the values of the revolutions of 1798 and 1848, and generations of experience."

The article provided an apt echo to my reading of a nutty piece of writing by Norman Finkelstein, introducing an even nuttier one by his friend Samah Idriss, Lebanese editor of the literary magazine Al-Adab. Finkelstein writes, "In the U.S. Congress yesterday one of our "representatives" said we are all Israelis now. I beg to differ, and I say this without fear: for those who believe in freedom and dignity, We are all Hezbollah now." Quite why Finkelstein should imply that fear is appropriate here is beyond me. The worst he risks by such a phrase is an extra half hour of earnest debate in the faculty lounge.

However, it is Idriss' text that merits a lengthy reading, for precisely the reasons that Halliday outlines. In his zeal for militancy, for ideological purity of action, Idriss drifts into the messianic, never able to separate between what is of the left and those who have systematically demolished the left in Lebanon in recent years: "What I pity about you, Lebanon, is your class of phony leftists (specifically the "Democratic Left") who have no other concern but to suspect everything redolent of dignity and to seek out anything with which they can denounce the Syrian and the Iranian regimes, HizbAllah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP-General Command–anything, even that which might result in the ultimate release of heroes who paid the price of their freedom to attain ours."

You have to wonder about someone who implies that the Syrian and Iranian regimes, as well as Islamic Jihad and the PFLP-General Command, qualify as being "redolent with dignity." You have to wonder, too, why Idriss, like Finkelstein on a visit to Lebanon several years ago, never mentions that the Syrians and Hezbollah at one time participated actively in the killing of leftists fighting Israel, because Syria wanted Hezbollah to seize control of the anti-Israeli resistance. Should you have any doubts, ask one of the leaders of the "Democratic Left", Elias Atallah, a former member of the Communist Party, who was among the first to bear arms against Israel in the 1980s, yet is now taken to task by Idriss (who has never taken up arms against anyone).

That Idriss and his many comrades worldwide should find themselves on the side of the anti-humanitarians, on the side of religious intolerance, on the side of the gun and the totalitarian slogans; that they do so and still claim to be of the left shows a lack of direction not at all visible on the other side. Here is what Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah had to say about his teenage years in his village of Bazzouriyeh:

But, later on, when we moved back to [Bazzouriyeh], I joined the ranks of the Amal movement. That was a choice that I made very eagerly, because I deeply admired Imam Musa al-Sadr. At that time, I was just 15-years-old and the Amal movement was … known as the movement of the underprivileged. I was becoming less interested in the village of [Bazzouriyeh], because that village was turning into an arena for the activity of intellectuals, Marxists, and especially supporters of the Lebanese Communist Party.

At least Nasrallah knew who his enemies were.

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  1. This is a strange phenomenon. During the Israel-Hezbollah conflict I actually was quite vocal about Israels stupid and immoral actions, but I don’t think that should lead anyone to think Hezbollah are admirable or ‘good guys’ by any stretch of the imagination. As I said plainly then Israel is easily the most decent and free nation in that area (despite its deplorable treatment of the Palestinians, but just as urged pro IDF fanatics to see the more complex picture with regards to Hezbollah I would urge Israeli critics to see that the Palestinian issue is a complex one for Israel). To put it bluntly any liberal would not want to live under a Hezbollah or Hamas government for one minute. The same can be said for their darlings of past years Castro, Viet Cong and the USSR (in the USSR homosexuals were locked up and free speech was banned, so much for freedom of lifestyle and expression). Those who condemn some of Israels actions should be clear that Israel is being judged by its own civilized standards, which are usually higher than their opponents.

  2. The enemy of my enemy is probably still an asshole.

  3. David Horowitz already wrote a book about this, “Unholy Alliance”

  4. The Left has never been able to conceive of any real enemy except for the Western right.

    The Left interprets every negative act of anyone not of the Western-Right as being a mere reaction to some historical or current action of the Western-Right. Leftist don’t feel sympathy for any of Hezbollah’s beliefs but they support or enable the organization because they view it as a mere epiphenomena of the West’s own internal political contest. They do not conceive of Hezbollah members and supporters as fully mature human beings capable of intellectual and moral choice. Instead, they believe that Hezbollah (and other similar groups) merely react reflexively to actions of Westerners. This silliness has been going on for over 150 years.

    I think the major driver of this world-view is simple subcultural narcissism. They believe that everything in the world revolves around them, therefore any conflict in the world must have its ultimate cause in the Left’s conflict with the Right. You can see this pattern of thought quite clearly in traditional Marxist thought. (Historical inevitability also feeds into it.)

    Frankly, if your typical Leftist woke up tomorrow to see flying saucers firing disintegration rays into skyscrapers his first thought would be, “What did Bush now?”

    Adopting a world-view in which other peoples have their own cultures, societies, histories and foibles that cause them to act independently of the West would mean that Western-Leftist are not the center of the universe. They can’t accept that.

  5. In terms of modern-day examples, I saw Hugo Chavez, Ken Livingston, and a Basque militant cited. Who knew I was made up of equal parts of these people?

  6. Part of phenomena is that the left tends to side with the underdog, even if it’s rabid.

  7. A big lie by your resident goon there. Nobody on the legitimate left defends “Islamic extremists,” whatever that means nowaways, we sympathize with the innocent victims of Israel’s ILLEGAL terror bombing of Lebanon. Even the World Court is in agreement on that. Enough of this soft McCarthyism. It was boring forty years ago.

  8. Shannon:

    When you argue that the Western Left enables Hezbollah, aren’t you making a permutation of the Left?s own argument that the Western Right gave birth to terrorism. Should we imagine that Hezbollah draws power from the Western Left, but that it doesn’t react to the Western Right?

    No, the world doesn?t revolve around either the Western Left or the Western Right, but, on the other hand, it’s folly to imagine that we aren’t both affecting and affected by our environment. That doesn’t relieve terrorists from moral responsibility when they act like sociopaths, but that also doesn’t mean that Western policy shouldn?t take a realistic and intelligent view of causality. The gravest sin of the far Left is that they abuse and marginalize the very sensible notion that our policies often have long-term and unintended consequences.

  9. Ken,
    “(in the USSR homosexuals were locked up and free speech was banned, so much for freedom of lifestyle and expression)”

    In the USSR people were murdered by the millions …(60 million is one estimate), by the communist regime.

    “Free speech was banned”… well, yes. Dead people are incapable of free speach….

    Compared to the (western)left’s sympathy for the USSR, it’s sympathy to Hizbollah is a big improvement.

  10. There are no good guys in the Arab-Israeli conflict. And even if you disagree, the U.S. shouldn’t be taking sides. There’s no advantage to American security to do so. We are not all Israelis now. We are not all Palestinians now. One hopes we are all Americans, and realize that their fight has precious little to do with us.

  11. Even the World Court is in agreement on that.

    uh-oh guys, the WORLD COURT (eyes get wide)! What are we going to do?

    Seriously, though, the reason the Left sides with people who would gladly put them against the wall is because of the doctrine of altruism. Not joking here. The West and capitalist countries are doing well? There must be a victim, and the Left just HAS to find that mythical “victim” and uplift him as the noble savage, embattled with the insidious forces of “free-markets”. Hence why they romanticize mass murderers (Lenin, Stalin, Guevara, Castro) into “revolutionaries” who are going to counterbalance the West’s dominating influence. Never mind that Stalin went on a program to slaughter Jews at a faster rate than Hitler, Hitler was Right-Wing, so he must’ve been worse. Never mind Che’s penchant for shooting intellectuals and gays; he cuts a romantic, lefty figure, so let’s put him on T-shirts and walk around like idiots, not realizing that the free speech (used by the useful idiots) that classical liberals like the Founding Fathers believed in wouldn’t last five minutes under any of these people.

  12. The Left interprets every negative act of anyone not of the Western-Right as being a mere reaction to some historical or current action of the Western-Right. Leftist don’t feel sympathy for any of Hezbollah’s beliefs but they support or enable the organization because they view it as a mere epiphenomena of the West’s own internal political contest. They do not conceive of Hezbollah members and supporters as fully mature human beings capable of intellectual and moral choice. Instead, they believe that Hezbollah (and other similar groups) merely react reflexively to actions of Westerners. This silliness has been going on for over 150 years.

    Was going to write something on this same line, but I think Shannon did it better, so there it stands.

    I’ve posed the question myself about why the Left see militant Islamists as being a kind of simple-celled group of creatures which simply react ‘naturally’ to the machinations of whatever occurs in the west. For instance, the charge repeatedly leveled by the left in this country is that with each military action in the Middle East, we unwittingly create a thousand Bin Laden’s. I wonder if the Islamist intellectuals ever worry if the next group of car bombs or acts of terrorism will create a thousand new George Bush’s? Do they concern themselves about the possible ‘radicalization’ of the American populace?

    I chalk it up to the left seeing militant Islamists as simply foreign and exotic, and therefore much like a group of native animals: not to be interfered with, regardless of how irrational their actions seem to us Westerners. It’s a Middle East thing, you wouldn’t understand.

  13. Who on the left isn’t concerned about the ‘radicalization’ of the American populace? And don’t people on the left often make the argument that 9/11 and other such attacks DO create a thousand (or a million) George Bushes? Moreover, 9/11 indisputably DID alter the U.S. psyche, and it certainly made us all more willing to accept war.

    Apparently, unlike Americans, Iraqis aren’t affected by such things. It’s ludicrous to suggest that the Iraqi war has had any effect on extremism. Talk about exotic animals…

  14. Paul:

    Who on the left isn’t concerned about the ‘radicalization’ of the American populace? And don’t people on the left (and the right)often make the argument that 9/11 and other such attacks DO create a thousand (or a million) George Bushes? 9/11 indisputably DID alter the U.S. psyche, and it certainly made us all more willing to accept war.

    Apparently, unlike Americans, Iraqis aren’t affected by such things. It’s ludicrous to suggest that the Iraqi war has had any effect on extremism. Talk about exotic animals…

  15. Chris S. nailed.

    Shannon, why do you always assume that those who disagree with you are the ones with the simplistic ideologies and myopic outlooks?

  16. “What is it that has led so many members of the secular political left today to sympathize with Islamist groups, particularly Hezbollah and Hamas?”

    Fuck you, Michael Young.

    It’s tough to take Reason’s Coulter bashing seriously when you run something like this. What the hell?

  17. Chris S.

    Who on the left isn’t concerned about the ‘radicalization’ of the American populace?

    Three reasons:

    Context, context, context.

    The tangental point here, Chris is that I would argue that the left has the proper view of the radicalization of the American populace. Get it?

    Just in case you don’t, allow me to clarify. The criticisms hefted by the left on the arguably radicalized elements of the American populace at least attempt to deconstruct it and show it for what it is. The left’s view of the Islamic militants tends to lean to one of apology, appeasement or curt arguments of rationalization.

    Let me break it down even more simply. Often times, when viewing the actions of terrorism, the left sums it up as:

    What do you expect?

    Would the left ever give the right in this country such a pass? I think not, as well the left shouldn’t.

  18. Paul:

    How silly of me to think that you were caricaturing arguments from the left. If only you were a leftist and I were a terrorist, then you?d give me a ?pass? for my transgressions.

  19. “I wonder if the Islamist intellectuals ever worry if the next group of car bombs or acts of terrorism will create a thousand new George Bush’s?”

    If you consider Ayman al-Zawahiri an Islamist intellectual, then I would say they do not worry if the next car bomb will create a thousand W’s, they hope for that. His and Bin Ladin’s actions are designed to radicalize the Americans and provoke military responses. The same is true of Hamas and Hezbollah, but they provoke Israel instead. The over reaction from the more powerful strengthens the hand of the underdog by giving them “atrocities” for use in their PR campaign.

    Sorry Shannon, but Chris S is right, your argument doesn’t seem to take the intelligence and indepedence of other cultures any more seriously than those on the left your criticize.

  20. How silly of me to think that you were caricaturing arguments from the left. If only you were a leftist and I were a terrorist, then you?d give me a ?pass? for my transgressions.

    Great response, Chris. I’m not sure ‘silly’ would be what I’d call it. Just in case you’re confrused, I’ll quote Michael Young’s opening line lest we forgot what started this:

    What is it that has led so many members of the secular political left today to sympathize with Islamist groups, particularly Hezbollah and Hamas?

    Let me take it down one more notch for ya:

    George W. Bush: Criticized (in many cases properly) by the left for his ham-fisted Middle East foreign policy– especially for the farce that is the Iraq war. No quarter given.

    Yasser Arafat: Receives Nobel Peace Prize.

  21. “In the U.S. Congress yesterday one of our “representatives” said we are all Israelis now. I beg to differ, and I say this without fear: for those who believe in freedom and dignity, We are all Hezbollah now.”

    How ’bout we just retire this presumptive rhetorical device. I am me. You are you. If we chose, we are us. But don’t include me in y’all unless you ask me.

  22. If you consider Ayman al-Zawahiri an Islamist intellectual, then I would say they do not worry if the next car bomb will create a thousand W’s, they hope for that.

    Ok, a response I can work with. This is a very good and valid point. I certainly don’t have all the answers about what the proper response is to every action taken by Islamists in (or from) the Middle East. As I said before, I have merely posed the question as to whether there are elements of the Islamic chattering classes (sympathetic to Islamic Militants) who gnash teeth when Hamas detonates a bomb in an Israeli food court? In full disclosure, I suspect not (anyywhere near as much). And, as you state above, it certainly seems to be the actual goal of the militants themselves, although this insight ins’t particularly new. Terrorism is primarily a political act violence in an attempt to sway opinion, not so much a military act meant to take down an army.

  23. The most interesting aspect of this entire post is its timing.

    Just after Labor Day, two months before an election that threatens the end of the Neo-con dominance in Washington through the victory of America’s leftish party, and a few days after the President submits a bill to do something he’s been refusing to do for five years (which, btw, is likely to produce a debate in Congress that will involve Republicans accusing Democrats of coddling terrorists), Michael Young decides to write a post about how the left is sympathetic to Islamist terror groups.

  24. Paul:

    You?ve got me on your first point regarding the title of Michael Young?s post. It looks like I?m going to have to either take Michael Young?s statement as sacrosanct, or I?ll have to admit that I think he was also caricaturing views from the left. I could also assume that when you attribute certain ?apologist? positions to ?the left? you don?t mean to mischaracterize ?the left.?

    Regarding Yasser Arafat, what can I say? He didn?t deserve the Nobel peace prize, and so what? One example doesn?t make a trend, and one bogus award doesn?t make the entire left a bunch of apologists. Otherwise, we?d both have to concede that the mainstream media (or maybe the entire West if we?re going to generalize) is dominated by right wing fascists, as Hitler was once Time?s man of the year.

    Gee, this world is so complicated. Please ?turn it down another notch? for me. I need more generalizations and strawmen before I can understand your concept of ?the left.?

  25. Joe,

    Michael Young isn’t trying to say that the Left in general, or even the Democratic party, is sympathetic to militant Islamism. I beleive he is saying that the most likely place to find non-Muslim Westerners who sympathize with radical Islamic groups is on the Left.

    This is a fact, in the same way that saying the GOP is the most likely place to find someone who supports Pat Robertson.

    If you read the Halliday’s link, they are broadly discussing something of this nature:

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/09/20/1330218

    It is actually very important that Reason have articles which legitimately criticize the right (a la Coulter) as well as the left, so in fact Young’s piece makes taking Coulter bashing that might occur here more compelling, not less.

    In any case, it wouldn’t be so easy for the GOP to “accuse Democrats of coddling terrorists” if Democrats didn’t appear to tolerate the views like those Young describes.

  26. I make a distinction between the Establishment Left and the Street Left…really two different things.

    The Establishment Left supports most of the assumptions of the GWOT…and that’s too bad, actually. One of the default settings of the GWOT is that the takeover of any major Islamic society by Islamists would necessarily be a world-historical catastrophe.

    This is the Mainstream view. Y’know…we must not “fail” in Iraq, or Afghanistan (or Viet Nam).

    The Street Left is a decay product of discredited Marxism. In America its throw-weight would be, at most, about the measure of Ralph Nader’s peak vote…what, 5%? In Europe it may be somewhat more important. The social basis for it consists mostly of students – people passing through a stage in their lives, replenished by new-comers while others move on.

    RE Marxism, in 1940 Trotsky’s movement was split by dissenters who wished to sever the 4th International’s “critical support” for the Soviet Union, following the Hitler-Stalin pact. In Trotsky’s last major completed work – “In Defense of Marxism”, a polemic against the Shachtmanites – he posited an example eerily like the present, only set in Imperial India. An anti-British rebellion is reactionary in every conceivable way. What is the duty of good Marxists? Support the rebellion, of course!

    joe may be interested that the Schachtmanites evolved into several sects, including the cult around Lyndon LaRouche.

  27. mewsifer,

    What is it that has led so many conservatives to sympathize with Shiite militias and death squads?

  28. Mewsifer:

    You can?t really equate Coulter, Jerry Falwell, et al. with, for instance, Norman Finkelstein. Marginal figures like Finkelstein are routinely linked to ?The Left,? ?Liberals,? and ?Democrats? in a way that fails to recognize just how out of touch they are with mainstream Democrats. Yes, Coulter, Falwell, et al. are used for a similar rhetorical purpose, but Coulter and Falwell are immensely popular.

    The group Andrew calls ?the street left? is basically dead, at least in America. Why are the few survivors of that group yanked out from their dank academic caves for a rhetorical beating every time someone wants to criticize ?the left?? Is it for the sake of some artificial balance, so that people don?t have to feel bad when they?re criticizing someone with actual influence, like Jerry Falwell?

  29. What is it that has led so many conservatives to sympathize with Shiite militias and death squads?

    Joe, everyone’s inner vigilante is familiar with the term ‘Street Justice’.

    I’m not saying it is right and of course innocents are probably being killed also but, if you were a shiite and your family had been oppressed for decades with members tortured, raped, killed or disappeared, and now the Sunni Ba’athists were no longer in power, wouldn’t you want a little payback? Especially if you could get away with it?

  30. The Street Left isn’t quite “dead”…and will likely always be with us. But they are a self-contained phenomenon, and will never get significantly bigger.

    There is a similar Gutter Right. You find it, of course in the trailer parks and rooming-houses, prisons and biker/skinhead gangs etc.

    It has been taboo for any Republican or conservative circles to have any interaction with this fringe for a generation or so now. But connections are still posited to discredit the respectable Right. It isn’t fair…but I venture that joe would not always be above such demogoguery 😉

    Probably some interaction exists, in that the Gutter Right might be some part of the audience – making ratings for Limbaugh or Coulter.

    Similarly, the Street Left supplies activists, and political “entertainment items”. Michael Moore and Al Franken, the Kossacks and such seem to straddle the divide between the Establishment and the Street.

    It is ironic that Moore made so much of the “stolen” 2000 election. Ralph Nader stole the election from Gore…and Moore helped him do it.

  31. This post makes a very nice contrast with the one about Dinesh D’Souza. Is Mr. D now a leftist, since he so obviously sympathizes with the goals of militant Islam?

  32. Compared to the (western)left’s sympathy for the USSR, it’s sympathy to Hizbollah is a big improvement.

    well said, but note that it is an improvement not of thier own making.

    I very important destinction i think.

  33. jeez, what broad brush, generalizing bullshit.
    The ONLY reason I got on the Left when I came back from Viet Nam was that everyone else insisted it was a great idea, and shoved thier heads firmly up thier asses when evidence to the contrary was presented.
    Then there was the fact that the side pimped by “serious thinkers”- you know, decent people- were a pack of murderous opportunists with a long history of selling thier own people down the river. Does that make me “pro communist?” No, it makes me pro let THEM sort it out, like they were supposed to, in ’54, with national hero, non sellout , non quisling Ho Chi Minh winning an open election.
    Then came the Central American Wars (round…..5?6?7?) and again, the “serious thinkers” supported murderers, rapists, torturers, oligarches & quislings. Couldnt HELP but make the other side look better, or even decent, in the case of Nicaragua.
    But I resigned my commission from the Left around 91. It had ALWAYS been, for me, a very uneasy marriage of convenience. Im a Bill of Rights jihadist, ALL of them, including the Second.
    And I think the Israelis have become everything they fought against: murderous, thieving, torturing rascist thugs. And indeed Id last about a week in Hez controlled anywhere……..but it wasnt just Hez dying, it was boatloads of other people, and I wanted every fuckin CENT of US cash & arms pulled from Israel.
    This dont make me pro Hez, as much as bumpersticker deep guys like Shannon like to think so. But to see US
    “progressive” types wavin Hez banners? …..well, like I said: I quit the Left……

  34. I can’t speak for Michael Young, of course, but I wouldn’t characterize most of you, especially joe, as ‘the left’-the left being quite distinct from liberals/democrats. As Andrew says, there are democrats, and liberals, and there’s the left, which is a different group that doens’t buy into the basic assumptions of a liberal polity (a market-based economy, open discourse, the importance of procedure). And that difference is I think why leftists (not liberals/democrats) tend to sympathize with groups like Hezbollah. They see the current order of society as fundamentally illegitimate, and so applaud those who try to break it.

  35. joe, if you’re trying to insinuate that Reason’s writers are on the take, then I have a very simple question for you:

    Why can’t they afford a better comments server?

    Explain that one!

  36. http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=38

    Something like the Euston Manifesto wouldn’t exist unless there was some truth to what Young writes.

    Also, I don’t equate Coulter with Finkelstein.

    But I do equate Coulter with Michael Moore and as most people know Mr. Moore, who’s propaganda is dangerously close to (or is outright, depending on where he’s speaking) anti-American, was featured prominently at the Democratic Party convention in 2004.

    It’s a very slippery slope from anti-American to apology for America’s (and the West’s) enemies. I seem to recall Mr. Chomsky had some trouble with that in the 70’s.

    Among 7 or 8 other Democrats, John Dingell and Jimmy Carter have recently come dangerously close to proffering sympathy for Hezbollah. You can quible if you wish and try to carefully parse what they say, but the typical person listening to them is going to read between the lines and not like what they hear.

    Now it’s true that the vast majority of House Democrats, for example, voted to condemn Hezbollah and to support Israel, but the party at least tolerates what I describe above.

    It does so because it needs leftist voters.

  37. Well

    apart from saying “anin’t it awful” and “ain’t it Ironic”, is there anything illuminating to be learned from the apparent alliance of the Street Left in Western societies and reactionaries in the Third World?

    Yes, I think. Michael Young assumes that leftists in Paris and Berlin (and New York) should CARE about the Lebanese and Iraqi and Afghan Communist parties. But instead, they fancy Hamas and Hizbollah.

    But that is just it. The default position of the Street Left in democratic societies, is that the real players in societies that are un-democratic, or in Civil War, like Lebanon, are these “resistence” organisations.

    Put to it, Chomsky might acknowledge that anyone in the Lebanese Communist Party should quit…and join Hizbollah. Participating in avowedly Leftist organizations is a strategy ONLY in societies enjoying a stable democracy. Otherwise, get with “the men who fight”, right?

    It is an evolution forward from the Trotsky position I cited above. And it is logical – contrary to what Young contends, it DOES make sense, in a madman’s logic.

  38. thoreau

    Shannon, why do you always assume that those who disagree with you are the ones with the simplistic ideologies and myopic outlooks?

    I don’t. Don’t confuse simple rules with great explanatory power with shallowness. F=MA is simple but powerful. Likewise, I think that relatively simple rules underlay everyone’s political behavior. The same fundamental casualty model shows up repeatedly in many different seemingly unrelated issues.

    My own political beliefs arise from two rules/models:

    (1) Our information about most real-world and real-time phenomena is highly incomplete. We cannot predict the evolution of large systems like societies or economies. Any attempt to base policy on the illusion of predictability will fail.

    (2) People (myself included) are ultimately Darwinian bastards. They will pursue selfishly optimum strategies and create moral justifications later. All policy must be designed with this in mind.

    These relatively simple rules form the basis of my political beliefs in all areas. I think these are simple rules with great explanatory power.

    Leftist annoy me because they believe themselves to be wholly altruistic. Like secular Pharisees, they preen about their unselfish compassion while in reality they are just as selfish as everyone else. Ever since Plato wrote the Republic, articulate intellectuals have been telling each other that only they have the right to be highest status and most powerful members of any human society. In the last 200 years, Leftist stubbornly clung to self-agrandizing models even as millions suffered and died as a result.

    The simple but powerful rule of Leftism is that Leftist define both problems and solutions that will create circumstances where they will be the critical decision makers. They oppose redistribution plans like vouchers because it places decision making power in the hands of ordinary people. They define foreign policy problems as mere reactions to Western internal politics because articulate intellectuals can only influence the Western internal debate. Defining the problem as an externality means that the Leftist has no input on the problem.

    For example, If martians invaded tomorrow what role would articulate intellectuals play in the struggle? An alien species would care little for the pronouncements of human intellectuals. However, if they could convince everyone that we provoked the invasion by our own behavior, they would play a central roll in convincing everyone to alter the offending behaviors.

    I think that Leftist are ultimately the most dangerous segment of the political spectrum because they are the most unselfaware. They believe that they have escape the human scourges of selfishness and they have not. As a result they adopt policy based accidently on their own self interest to the extreme detriment of others.

  39. Lots of people hate Israel–live Jews–more than they love Islamists.

  40. Well, if Andrew speculates what Chomsky would do if “put to it,” than I guess that’s good enough for me.

    This thread reminds me of the alien tee-shirts: I want to believe.

  41. Joe

    actually Chomsky usually gets himself off the hook by calling himself an ‘anarchist”, although much of his “analysis” is Stalinist boiler-plate from two generations back. But he is a “non-sectarian” Leftist – they ALL are,now – and he would not tell a Lebanese what to do…exactly – he would merely “exlain” why the most understandable choice is to join Hizbollah.

    And, no he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to Lebanese communists, any more than he gives a fuck what happens to Lebanese Christians.

    If you were being sarcastic in your post above joe, then give me your take on the Radical Left?

  42. Shannon,

    “These relatively simple rules form the basis of my political beliefs in all areas. I think these are simple rules with great explanatory power.

    Leftist annoy me because they believe themselves to be wholly altruistic.”

    I find these two sentences an interesting juxtaposition. I would believe you have dispassionately examined their position more if you said “Leftist who believe themselves to be wholly altruistic bug me.” but you don’t.

    Leftists base their political beliefs on a different set of simple rules than you, which say that not all human actions are selfish, and need not be. They believe society can be structured to maximize sharing between individuals, rather than competition between individuals.

    I would bet that they are as close to right as you are. Selfishness and altruism are both important basic drives in human behavior. Ignoring one or the other leads to a simplistic view of the world. The trick is to develop policies which balance these two trends in human behavior. Feeding the egoist view enough to drive and motivate innovation, without stifling the altruistic tendancies is a tricky policy problem. No one has found the perfect solution yet.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like your two rules (rule one is very close to how I see things), but you need a third that recognizes the role of altruism in human actions. Altruistic behaviors have an important role in the survival of a species. Genes may be selfish, but there are survival advantages to altruism in individuals.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/

  43. that explains it…..
    (2)” People (myself included) are ultimately Darwinian bastards. They will pursue selfishly optimum strategies and create moral justifications later. All policy must be designed with this in mind.”
    Theres more than a few defective people who are in your camp. Im sure you never close an eye in each others company.
    Folks like you is why I argue, forcefully, endlessly, on behalf of the Second Amendment.

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