Monday, December 19

Gates of Vienna and the Gates of Athens

Dear Pundita:
I'm sorry you're shutting down your blog. Pundita Encore will be a good resource but I shall miss what I believe to be one of the superior blogs -- up there with Wretchard [Belmont Club] but in your own more wide-ranging style. Aside from content, the craft of your writing is excellent. I think you do some kind of writing for a living because it seems so fluid. When I found your blog -- can't remember how I stumbled upon it -- I grabbed our readers by the lapels and told them they must go there. No one else writes in your voice or with your breadth.

I thought your Blog Awards observations were spot on. When the Baron and I went to look at them we realized we're in a little ghetto. I don't know most of those people. I did visit a few to see what I might be missing.

Since you are leaving the scene for a while, I'd like to ask a favor. Would you do a critique of Gates of Vienna and tell me why we didn't qualify for your blog roll? Are we too much in a ghetto? Too random? I'd be interested in your opinion, which I respect. And your perspective would be helpful.

I hope your leave-taking is a happy one, meaning you are just much too busy having a real life to bother blogging. I hope you are leaving your present blog up just to float in the ether.
Gates of Vienna blog"

Dear Dymphna:
Thank you for the praise and kind farewell. Analyzing your blog and explaining why I do not link to it on my sidebar are two different things. I have taken a liking to several blogs I have visited during the course of research but I rarely return to read them. But I will do the best I can toward answering your questions.

First, I've only visited your blog a handful of times; each time, I've come across an educational, well written report about some aspect of Islamic history/culture or an organization (Muslim or otherwise) in the US that is espousing values which pose a threat to American security.

These themes are in line with the Gates of Vienna (GOV) mission statement, as laid out in the essay titled The Newest Phase of a Very Old War:
The thesis of this blog is that, like it or not, we are in a religious war. We do not define the terms but we should take careful note of them. We are mistaken if we think the Enemy wants merely to kill us. Once again, Jihad offers two choices to the West: conversion or death.
However, I was struck by another GOV thesis, as stated in Part One of the series titled The Enemy Within:
...can this battle against the enemy within be fought without a religious regeneration in our own [American] culture? Does liberal humanism provide enough spiritual might to counter the Great Islamic Jihad? If not, then we have no arms to fight it with.
This thesis puts you and Baron Bodissey (GOV co-author) in general agreement with traditionalist Muslim clerics not to mention the fundamental teachings of al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri. His target is much more secular government than Christianity. And he is very clearly against the nation-state.

Also, the secondary thesis tends to overwhelm the mission statement because it raises issues that transcend the war on terror and the struggle between Christianity and Islam. The issues reflect the tension between the rise of civilization and the existence of tribes.

The laws that form a nation-state are inimical to religious/tribal laws, which is why the ancient Greeks politely but inexorably kicked the Greek gods upstairs. Same happened in ancient India. It has happened everywhere that the nation-state is shown to be a more efficient model of human society than tribes.

The conundrum is that the state's diffusion and consequent weakening of religious/tribal values leads to a weakening of purpose. This makes the nation-state vulnerable to decay from within and attacks from without, as the ancient Athenians learned the hard way. It's a lesson that has been taught countless times in history.

By placing this theme in your blog you've invited a 10,000 pound gorilla to take up residence. It's a huge, huge theme, which is quite hard to integrate with GWOT and matters Islam because it overpowers them. It's the heart of many disputes connected with civilization.

This observation should not be seen as a criticism or a call to revise the GOV mission statement. Of course many blogs, including Pundita's, make forays into topics that are outside the confines of the blog's stated theme. In GOV's case in particular I would be reluctant to criticize forays because your very first letter to me mentioned that you had taken up blogging to help you through the difficult period following the death of your daughter. I note that you mentioned this again in your most recent correspondence.

I admire that as part of your blogging you do reporting that provides valuable information to the US war effort. Yet during this endeavor you listen carefully to your heart (of course mourning and the healing process have a way of prompting special attention to intuition). If close listening leads you to forays, that is simply the personality of Gates of Vienna.

I think what distinguishes newsy blogs from other media platforms is a very distinct personality, which always reveals byways of the heart and contradictions.

In short, I don't have a criticism of Gates of Vienna. What you might want to play around with is more clearly delineating the two themes so that new readers are quickly oriented, but here I am just thinking aloud.

As to whether I can criticize any of the handful of GOV essays I've read -- I take issue with the branding of today's enemy as a German Nazi and with analogies that call forth Nazi atrocities, such as the Kristallnacht atrocity. Such branding has snowballed during the past year on American news talk shows and numerous blogs and opinion websites.

Pundita has also been guilty of mental laziness in invoking the "Islamofascism" label as a matter of convenience, but not since I've noticed the tendency to cast the enemy as the Third Reich.

Earlier this year Pundita rumbled with some fans of Muslim Brotherhood who denied the Nazi roots of the organization. However, it is getting into dangerous waters to haul a peaceful US ally into analogies that miss the mark in the first place, and secondly stimulate prejudice against Germans. Both of which play into the hand of al Qaeda and the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

Pundita thinks Ahmadinejad has gone on a Holocaust denial kick to target Germany or to be more precise, Germany's new government. I think Maddy's handlers in Iran's military want to embarrass the German government and drive a wedge between Britain, Germany and France. Since the Merkel-led coalition has formed Tehran has watched the EU Three toughen and show more solidarity in their approach to negotiations with Iran about nukes.

In any case Maddy is not Hitler; correct me if my memory is wrong but I seem to recall the latter had virtually unqualified support from the German people after he consolidated power. Maddy is in power only because he's backed by Iran's military; at least 80 percent of Iran's populace wishes him gone along with his handlers.

Iran's regime is a military dictatorship, plain and simple, and which no longer finds use to Arab neighbors or the Israelis; this since the US toppled Saddam Hussein's government. So when Maddy floats the "We're all Muslims against the World" routine what he hears back is, "What you mean 'we' Kemosabe?"

Except from Bashy -- Bashar al-Assad -- of course, and he has made his name mud in the Arab world. Iran's military is in a pile of trouble at home and they know it; they are hanging on only because of oil receipts. But stand back and look at the big picture. For decades Iran's regime was petted and feted by West Europeans and Russians and tolerated by Americans; now they're hearing that they're the Third Reich.

If I recall the majority of Iran's people are under 30; it's because so were many wiped out by the war with Iraq -- a war that the West encouraged in order create stasis in the region.

What can the West do now? Keep the pressure on for democratic reform, don't let Iran's leaders change the subject by yammering about Israel, and turn off the theoretical bubble machine. No triangulation, no chessboard thinking. Demand to negotiate directly with Iran's military.

We should take our cue from a reform-minded Iranian cleric whose answer to Maddy's talk about the Mahdi's Second Coming was to the effect, "Yes yes but we also have to focus on the deficit and inflation."

They have to focus on a few other things as well, but so far Maddy has created uproars that distract attention from Tehran's seat on a slippery slope.

To be continued.

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