Obviously, I've had this experience because from the moment the stock market collapsed onward, these people have been pushing the idiotic memes that our economy is in such abysmal shape because of "the free market", and that capitalism needed to be "saved from itself" just like when FDR rushed in and "saved the day" in the 1930's... All in spite of the fact that real free market economists had been warning of the bubbles in real estate & stock prices for years before the collapse, and in spite of the obvious fact that far from being a laissez-faire guy, Bush was a big government catastrophe.
So naturally, I've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain to the statist yokels that they are wrong, and as a result, their policies are doing significant harm to the economy.
This has made me temporarily well liked by a few Republicans & "conservatives", and somehow I've managed to collect a fair number of Republicans as "friends" on Facebook and such. To an extent, I'm fine with that... I welcome debate, and on some issues, like monetary policy and the deficit some of these people seem to be alright.
But until yesterday, I'd honestly somewhat forgotten about the paranoid, crazy & xenophobic element to the Republican Party.
An article I read the other day considered the modern Republican Party a "three-legged stool" consisting of Social Conservatives, Military/"Defense"-Hawks, and Libertarians.
I suppose that's generally accurate, but since I primarily talk to the most "libertarian" of Republicans, I don't usually see a lot of the other two "legs".
Obviously, I have nothing in common with "social conservatives", who tend to be both extremely religious and fans of every possible iteration of the nanny-state. As an atheist who believes that no activity adults engage in should be illegal unless it explicitly harms someone else, I am not exactly going to wind up on Pat Robertson's speed-dial anytime soon.
The "Religious Right" are often on the hit-list of my atheist friends & acquaintances - many of whom are moderate leftists to socialists - but the Social Conservative thing really doesn't scare me at all. These people are a dying breed and basically everyone except for themselves knows it. The whole anti-science schtick is not winning those folks any prizes - nor is their despicable treatment of gays and virtually anyone who doesn't subscribe to the pre-ordained, "Christian" lifestyle. Their own stupidity, hatred and just a little bit of time will finish them off without any special effort from me.
However... I realized yesterday how little in common I have with the War-Hawk types as well - and how much more dangerous they really are.
It all really started when Ron Paul won the CPAC straw-poll. Suddenly, "Neo-Conservatives" were out in full force - predictably denouncing the man as some kind of lunatic for wanting to end the nearly decade-long occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan.
A lot of the ridiculousness involved the assertion that all Ron Paul fans are anti-Semitic Jew-haters who want to see Israel get annihilated by surrounding countries - never mind the fact that it is entirely possible to dislike the idea of sending gobs of foreign aid and US military support to Israel, and to disapprove of their domestic & foreign policies while also not actually hating the Jews. As any of my many Jewish pals could tell you - I do it all the time.
Also, I've been told that all Ron Paul supporters are pot-smoking college kids who might as well be America-hating Democrats. Speaking as a moderate fan of Dr. Paul, and as someone who is emphatically not a Democrat and maybe most importantly; as someone who has never smoked a puff of marijuana in his entire life... I have to say... Uh... What!?
I'm pretty sure it's easy for most sane people to realize how crazy those "arguments" are, so I'll probably just leave them alone.
Indeed, the main argument I want to deal with now centers around "Islamic Extremists" or "Radical Islam" and the Neo-Cons' perceived need to bomb the ever-loving crap out of countries which might be home to Muslims. Because... You know... They're probably towel-headed terrorists who want to destroy the United States by any means necessary. Pretty much all Islamics are... Or so I'm occasionally told.
For instance, here's one comment directed towards me:
"Anybody that blames America's foreign policy for the Islamic radicalism---is at best a well meaning idiot. Such people must be marginalized. They are similar to a little child playing with matches."Over the course of the ensuing discussion, all the standard Neo-Con arguments came into play...
- Extremism is "mainstream" for Muslims
- The Terrorists(tm) hate us for our "freedoms"
- Ignore the 50+ years of American interventionism and military occupations in the Middle East... Ignore the damaged reputation, ignore the unaffordable costs & economic damage, ignore the ridiculous loss of life, ignore the man behind the curtain... None of it matters. Boogeyman! Be afraid!
All this fear mongering is remarkably stupid and dangerous.
|Thanks, but... No thanks.|
Christian theocrats won't succeed in imposing religious law here, and neither will Muslims.
Moreover, Muslims are not only NOT even succeeding in getting illiberal laws implemented in Europe - where they have an arguably better opportunity than in the United States - they are actually losing ground substantially as "multicultural" havens like France actually ban the wearing of Burqas* and other religious head-coverings and European leaders are starting to rail against non-assimilated Muslims in the UK & Germany.
*I don't agree with the banning of Burqas, as it is the opposite of what any society valuing freedom of speech & belief should be doing... But it does go to show that Muslims aren't just going to "take over" everything and impose Sharia Law as I was told the other day that they wanted.
So from the start, the Neo-Cons I was talking to were blatantly making up stuff about what "most Muslims" think and about the dangers Muslim extremists actually reflect...
In fact, the single opinion poll one guy had linked me to only talked about Muslims in Egypt, as well as Muslims in Pakistan and a few other Middle Eastern countries. It did not address the opinions of Muslims living in the US, in Canada, in the UK, Germany, France, etc. nor did it address the immense population of Muslims living in most of Asia.
Furthermore, contrary to what nonsense I was told about the poll from the Neo-Con I had talked to, actually reading poll led me to discover that while the Muslims questioned tend to view Hamas & Hezbollah somewhat positively, they almost universally rejected Al Qaeda and Osama bin Ladin. This actually reflects a shift in how Hamas & Hezbollah are classified to some degree because for the last several years, both organizations have been readjusting their public images to appear less extremist and more mainstream.
Their PR campaigns may not reflect the reality of those organizations perfectly, but people's perceptions are naturally effected by Hamas' branding outreach - and the fact that people have grown to support those organizations as they've gotten less extreme certainly seems relevant, doesn't it?
But that's not all!
While we're on the subject of opinion polling Gallup's survey of 50,000 Muslims found that just 7% thought the 9/11 attacks were acceptable. And of those, virtually all based their opinion on US foreign policy and not on religious differences.
So let's get that stupid myth out of the way right now.
Additionally, my Neo-Con "buddy" wrongly assumes that what someone might like to see happen (i.e. more theocracy in America) is representative of what actually can happen... and worse, their paranoia makes them believe that people who believe in a different religion are intrinsically prone to radical acts of violence.
And it's simply crazy... if not pure projection.
The mistakes in their reasoning and in their "information" are glaringly obvious... And while I realize at this point that they're unlikely to admit to them, the kinds of policies Neo-Con war-hawks have been supporting have put us all in more danger than we were in before 9/11.
A pretty large subset of professionals in the military & US intelligence agencies agree, too... Take note this, from the New York Times:
"The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.And from Foreign Policy magazine, there's the matter of this:
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe."
"But in a broader sense, America has become perilously unsafe [since the "War on Terror" began].And meanwhile, here in the United States, the fear-mongering that's got this group of Republicans & "conservatives" all worked up has allowed the US government license to spy on people, to detain people indefinitely without cause or a trial, to pass all manner of new laws dictating people's lives personally & economically, and they've made traveling internally into a hellish nightmare.
New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.
More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically -- from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans."
All in, America is losing ground on every conceivable metric of freedom that exists - and virtually any of the groups that rank freedom in the world (Heritage Foundation, Fraser Institute, Freedomhouse, etc.) confirm the trend that everyone with a pair of eyes and a reasonably well-functioning mind can already see.
So seriously, let's review:
- The War on Terror and occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan has increased and not decreased the radical element of Islam.
- The War on Terror has resulted in vastly more US citizen deaths, not to mention dozens of times more Iraqi & Afghani deaths, than the 9/11 attacks themselves caused (thus making the cost-benefit seem more than a little bit skewed).
- We cannot actually afford an endless, war which is already into its 10th year and is currently a massive contributor to the deficits & debt bankrupting the US (not to mention misallocating capital resources into bombs and tanks instead of meeting peaceful consumer demand in the market)... Small detail.
- Only a tiny fraction of the Muslim people actually support violence in the name of their religion - and of those, most actually respond to US foreign policy more than any religious differences. Did I mention that there are something like 1.57 Billion Muslims in the world, and by even the most generous estimates, extremists & terrorists are measured in the 10s of thousands? Out of the whole population of Muslims, even if there were 100,000 suicide bombers out there, that would still only an infinitesimally small fraction (maybe 0.00637%!) of all Muslims... Far from "mainstream" as I was told. Again... Small detail.
- As a result of the War on Terror, US citizens have lost substantial amounts of liberty and are routinely treated without due process and the presumption of innocence has basically been tossed out the window.
- Warfare is economically disastrous for everyone involved, and that is to say nothing of the immense loss of life - far outweighing the human cost of terrorism actually in the United States.
Not only does this seem to me to be a morally reprehensible and utterly insane position to take regarding United States foreign policy... It's also not all that "conservative" when you think about it.
But most of all... It flies in the face of one of the greatest pieces of advice many of our "founding fathers" gave to this country:
"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none" --Thomas JeffersonForeign policy honestly just shouldn't be so complicated... Given that we have a government, its primary role must be that of defense of the individual citizen, and of the citizens' natural rights to life, liberty & property.
This probably means being prepared to thwart any actual attack on the United States, but it most certainly does not mean imperialism and empire-building world-wide. Meddling in Middle Eastern politics, installing or supporting dictators like Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and even terrorist dirt-bags like Osama bin Ladin (all of which the United States government has done!) is not... under any reasonable definition... "defense".
So frankly, on a pragmatic note... Apart from having a kick-ass anti-ballistic missile system, and a top-notch & well trained Air Force or Navy to defend the borders of the United States from foreign invaders... I honestly don't think the military should have much of a role in people's lives at all.
The majority of "foreign policy" should be simply staying out of the way of people who wish to trade and interact with each other. No more tariffs and protectionism, no more travel restrictions for US citizens, no more CIA coups.
Any activities beyond that scope merely sets up the kinds of "unintended consequences" that we've been dealing with in recent years... Dictators we used to support get over-thrown or they turn on us and use the weapons we provided them (ostensibly to fight the USSR, for instance?) against our own soldiers.
It is utter madness to want to continue these courses of action - and yet, that was precisely what the Republicans I was talking to yesterday wanted.
Sanity in US policy - economic, social, foreign... doesn't even matter - really is a long way off, isn't it?