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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good stuff from Lee Smith at The Tablet: High Morals - A condescending moral double standard allows Western thinkers--notably Times foreign-affairs columnist Roger Cohen--to praise the Middle East's worst regimes

Look around the region: Every bloody government and non-state actor has attracted a cohort of Western fans who feed off of the brand of gore in which those institutions specialize. Some people, like former British intelligence official Alastair Crooke, praise Hamas and Hezbollah as proud resistance organizations. As Michael Young, the Lebanese journalist and author of The Ghosts of Martyr Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle, says, "To many Westerners it represents an Arab authenticity, in contrast to the pro-democracy March 14 movement whose members too much resemble Westerners like themselves." An entire Beltway industry, including former and current U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and intelligence officials, is devoted to rapprochement with Syria's vicious and kleptocratic regime, the importance of which to U.S. regional policy they wildly overstate lest anyone scrutinize too closely how Damascus targets U.S. citizens and U.S. allies. Then there are the cheerleaders for the Islamic Republic of Iran, for whom the country's leaders and security services are incapable of any rape or murder so vile that would lose it the support even of fans like Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

And let's not forget the many hundreds of professional and amateur Middle East analysts who have argued since 2003 that Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein. They knew that the Baathist regime prosecuted sectarian wars against Iraqi Kurds and Shia, massacred its neighbors in Iran and Kuwait, used terrorism as an instrument of its regional and international strategy while pursuing a policy of rape, torture, and murder at home.

The more prestigious the forum, the more this kind of moral blindness to the suffering of others and the norms of justice is presented as proof of sophistication. Roger Cohen of the New York Times recently suggested that Hezbollah should be rewarded for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. With indictments expected soon in the U.N.-sponsored Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating Hariri's assassination, Hezbollah has, as usual, threatened violence in the event any of its foot soldiers are named--meaning, in Cohen's view, that "It's time to drop either-or diplomacy to address a many-shaded reality."...

Love this:

The paradox is that while it is man's ability to tell good from bad that makes him most human, certain Western intellectuals take the unwillingness, or inability, to do so as a sign of the genius to rise above the small-minded morality of the masses. Excusing Hezbollah may seem like the rational decision-making of a thoughtful intellectual who is observing a society ostensibly different from his own, but in reality the moral universe of the Middle East is no different from in the rest of the world.

The rest.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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