integral esotercisim pt2

Alan writes the following (summarizing his disagreements with Wilber):

Points of Disagreement:
–its restrictive exoteric (sect 1-ii) and agnostic (sect. 1-viii) perspective, which means that it cannot acknowledge or understand esoteric or occult realities without trying to water them down to serve the needs of some sort of pseudo-academic respectability (TLDI 2-ii – 2-iii), kow-towing to the standards of the present-day consensus paradigm, or buying into physical-mind-derived (sect. 1-ix) scepticism or limitation of insight
–and a widespread na├»vity and religious and devotional attitude among many but by no means all of its representatives and members towards (pseudo-)spiritual and often abusive (TLDI 2-iv) authority figures.
–Wilberanity, by which I mean Ken Wilber as a religion: Wilber fundamentalism (sect. 1-xi) and the religious-devotional worship of Wilber himself as a bodhisattva or enlightened being (TLDI 2-x) (an attitude of excessive religiosity that Wilberians themselves show good humour in
referring to as “Wilberitis”).

It’s a good summation of Kazlev’s views.

As to points 2 and 3, those are more moral-practical questions not necessarily theoretical in nature. As even Alan admits, not everyone who follows AQAL is a devotee of abusive gurus–which is codeword for Adi Da and Andrew Cohen. Wilber recommends reading their works, meditating on their ideas–which I think if we are advocating truly open and free integral thought than how could we not?–without advising becoming members of the community. Again, let the reader decide as s/he sees fit.

Certainly there is a great deal I agree with in terms of people who have unhealthy absorption in the messenger (Wilber) over the message (post-metaphysical integral). And as to the devotee question, I leave that up to the reader. I would highlight one (under the rubric of what Alan calls Wilber fundamentalism): taking the map for the territory (mean yellow/turquoise meme). Particularly this shows up in individuals reading Wilber’s works as an end to thinking and not a beginning. Instead of giving them capacity to delve more deeply into thought, Wilber’s version of any teacher, teaching, system because he said so. Wilber may be right (I often think he is) but he isn’t right because he’s Ken Wilber. He’s right, if so, because he’s right, because the analysis is sound, clarifying, illuminating.

But beyond all that, the issue I am interested in is point #1.

And back to esotericism. Alan writes:

As used in this essay, “Esoteric” refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or “wisdom tradition” that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge, is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness.

In post-metaphysical AQAL integral there are states and stages of consciousness. The states of consciousness if practiced through life and awoken to our become state-stages. States may or may not have an influence on promoting stage growth–perhaps in certain lines (cognitive)–although I’m less sanguine on that reality than Wilber. But either way, the point is that a simple dichtomy between esoteric and exoteric religion breaks down at a certain point.

A state/stage distinction allows more flexibility and conceptual power in my estimation. Kazlev writes that AQAL states that religion is exoteric blue and then jumps to scientistic orange. Only if seen from an exoteric/esoteric split. First off for p/m integral there are multiple stages of faith–the conveyor belt imagery, so there is orange, green, teal, turquoise, violet, etc. religion. And states at each of those stages–what Wilber calls horizontal enlightenment. And one awakens to those or not at each level and affects deeply how that level feels, what emerges, while the stage itself helps shape the experience itself–how experience is interpreted. Not to mention the other quadratic factors.

So Muslim fundamentalism might be exoteric and Sufism esoteric, but classical Sufi mystics tended to still accept many of the dominant Islamic revelation-“exoteric” teachings: the seal of all revelation in Islam, Muhammad flying past Moses and Jesus during his mystical trip to the third heaven as proof of him as the Seal of the Prophets. Not to mention their de facto assumption of the Islamic imperial regime.

And there is nothing particular about Islam in that. Meister Eckhart considered by many to be the greatest nondual Christian mystic still said repeatedly that all Muslims and Jews (and even Christian schismatics/heretics) were going to hell.

An exoteric/esoteric split does not give room to explain how these individuals could both be experiencing mystical wisdom and still have it translated through blue-meme mythic frames. A state/stage distinction does.

To me what Alan has done is confused the map as psychoactive (pointing to actual dimension-perspectives and simply begging people to take those perspectives, follow the appropriate methodologies/exemplars with the recognized communities of the adequate) versus the map as final reality. Many others who are pro-the map make this mistake. At least Alan actually practices and reads on his own.

The AQAL map only places markers to remind people to take perspectives. When it says state-stages or states of consciousness that it no one way reduces or even explains or gives access to nor what those realities are from within. Words like states, state-stages are just signifiers if their referents are not contacted, then Alan is right, it is the colonization of the spiritual by the mental which can not handle the mystical. The inner wisdom of spirit.

But for me that is the difference, which I stress repeatedly in my writings on this subject, between what (as I see it) post-metaphysical AQAL is and how it is used and sadly in many abused.

But that is a key difference between the two of us. AQAL is only a relative truth and therefore is never the Absolute, but the Absolute is nothing other than the ground/essence of relative truth, so having the best relative truth we can is important.

But even further AQAL only gives rise at its best to a turquoise or (low?)indigo worldspace. It is the wisdom of the centaur and will have its own version–as its best–of interpreting the states that will later be negated, elements thereof preserved.

And Alan’s point about the lack of discussion in AQAL circles of the Psychic Being (Soul) in Aurobindo is valuable here I think. With the proviso that we are starting to see indigo/violet as co-constructed stages (again those are just signifiers not reducers) that are not set but are going to be shaped in part by the perspectives taken. Which is not the same as New Age talk about creating your own reality. Because the individual is only creating, as it were, at most 1/4 of their own reality. And even then there is no such thing as “yourself” but rather your-selves, up and down and across your own psychograph many with varying even conflicting agendas/missions “creating’ multiple realities simultaneously in conjunction with all others.

In another way though esoteric can refer not only to mystical wisdom but to paranormal capacities. And here is one element where more Aurobindian emphasis would be helpful. In Integral Spirituality Wilber says that Mike Murphy’s Future of the Body is the best book on the subject (which I agree, it is magisterial in my view) but that since it does not have a method for seeing the ways in which even paranormal capacities are (in part) co-constructed by the intersubjective spaces it is not given attention.

As an example, only Western Catholic mystics receive the stigmata: the physical wounds of Christ’s resurrection on their bodies. And interestingly they do so on their palms typically because devotional paintings (the culture, LL) of the era depict the nails going through Jesus’ hands. Modern scientific research shows that crucifixion nails went throught the wrists. They would not have held and ripped the hands apart if on the palms. The palms were not strong enough to hold the body up to be crucified. Modern scientific types (right-hand absolutists) say this proves that the stigmata are false. But of course the point is that they are influenced by the religious-cultural construction not the scientific evidence.

And again notice that is is only Western Catholic mystics and not Eastern Orthodox Christian mystics who receive the stigmata–and not all Catholic mystics do. Mysticism is union with God, stigmata is a paranormal manifestation. The Eastern Orthodox meditate on the Transfiguration of Chrsit on the Mountain and surprise, surprise their typical paranormal manifestation is radiant faces–they become walking icons, the most important devotional aspect of Eastern Orthodox Christian theology. Not to mention that none of them have visions of Krishna or the Buddha, nor Buddhists stigmata. Think that coincidence is just because of esoteric knowledge only?

AQAL Integral does leave room for what have been called paranormal capacities. It just wants to see the introduction of more sophisticated technology to test these claims (modern, right-hand) as well as recognition of the ways in which they are shaped by technology, economics, culture-religion (postmodern, lower left/right).

When we do not recognize the postmodern inter-subjective nature of truth construction, then esoteric paranormal as well as meta-physical realities simply have to be stated as truths. The only argument is the argument from authority. The authorities in his case being principally Aurobindo and the Mother.

And of course there is always more in this world than is ever dreamt up in our philosophies. The authorities may be right. Certain mystics may be gifted with sight that blows open systems. The agnosticism inherent in post-metaphysics should not become a closing off or de facto assumption of negation as to these realities. But nevertheless we have to live with choices and at the end of the day we have to work with our minds, so for general purposes of bringing spirituality back into the world (which is a deep passion of mine and not to be dismissed I think as “pseudo-academic respectability” so easily) I find it the beginning of the way forward. The beginning, not the final word, but certainly a new plateau from which to explore and work, with adjustments and additions no dobut to come.

We always have to be drawing boundaries. There are many spiritual seekers from different traditions who either do not believe outright or don’t care about such realities. They care more about waking up, following what we already know and practice to that, and living with love in this world. As Alan calls for the acceptance of esotericism in integral, are these folks out? Will esoteric belief be demaned and imposed on all integralists?

AQAL post-metaphysics tries for me to build a bridge–in practice I don’t know how well it succeeds–it can be applied by those who definitely do not hold to estoericism and well as those who do. Post-metaphysics is not New Age in my experience, in my practice. There’s my boundary drawing. I think post-metaphysics calls for a deep letting go of the certainty that comes with an perennialist metaphysical (even New Age esoteric) position. It is to be stripped in many many ways and be left with less baggage as we journey in this world. The real question is of the baggage that is let go–was it unnecessary or essential. Likely some of both, but perhaps more of one than the other. That is the question that gives the answer to what position one takes more than anything else I find.

Part of this of course is a matter of personal choice and intuition on the path. For myself I do believe in the existence of life after death (as does Wilber btw) though I think it is a rather unimportant issue. At least while we are alive we should be alive. As Jesus said, this day has enough evil of its own; no need to worry about tomorrow or even future lives.

I think a little more emphasis on paranormal, bodily evolution could help, but would be on a spectrum not as strong (I suspect) as Alan. So I think there is something still really valuable in Alan’s writings on the subject, particularly as he, like Aurobindo, stresses so much spiritual practice and exploration/experimentation. From the point of view I maintain, Alan may discover truths that would otherwise go unknown because his view allows him to. Even though there are some fundamental differences in spiritual philosophy, those truths whatever they may be, I would bet, could be re-formatted and fitted into a post-metaphysical frame. [Which is why even if someone holds a post-metaphysical spiritual view, s/he can still learn from AK’s writings].

But whatever, if one does accept such a position than Alan is a wonderful guide. Even if one doesn’t accept a more metaphysical view–as I don’t–I still find I learn much from his writings.

And one more thing I forgot to mention. Alan does a good job of reclaiming some oft-forgotten names in the integral pantheon: Haskell, Thompson. He linked to my post on integralisms awhile back on openintegral. Check it out here. His list of thinkers is far more extensive and much better than mine.

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

estoeric integralism pt1

Another post in the thread on multiple integralisms. Alan Kazlev’s integral esotericism. He has multiple posts on Visser’s Integralworld site–click on his name under Reading Room link.

First off, the action is always in the difference, so while I focus on my differences vis a vis Alan’s writings, I want to say I think he is a very intelligent soul. And there are a great deal of things we share in common–care for and dedication to the spiritual path probably being foremost. So the differences, whlie they do exist and are even fairly substantial I would say are not so different that we are completely worlds apart.

Alan refers to his position as Neo-Aurobindian. This title refers to his deep admiration and mystical connection to the writings/vision of the great masters of Pondicherry Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If you have never read any Aurobindo, I can’t recommend it enough. The Life Divine is one of the greatest spiritual texts ever written.

Alan has correctly stated that Aurobindo’s primary vision is about divinization of matter–what Aurobindo called the Descent of Supermind. The infusing of the spiritual into every crevice of the material world, lighting up the whole realiity.

Aurobindo did create a spiritual map/system and Wilber has criticized what he considers the partial elements of the map. Alan does not accept this criticism, but it is really important to remember that Aurobindo did focus principally on spiritual awakening and embodiment (what Aurobindo called integral yoga).

And it is important to remember that Aurobindo did not come from the Vedanta-Shankara-Ramana strain of Advaita Hinduism, but rather the Vedic-Upanishads. Aurobindo’s spiritual practice was his writing, but his writings involve deeply devotional writings. And Wilber in his own spiritual life has been influenced more by Zen, Ramana, and Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism–though he does practice tonglen and deity yoga–and Wilber doesn’t speak about Aurobindo’s devotional writings. Not that I have no room in his integral scheme; just doesn’t emphasize it. Michael Murphy is the Aurobindo devotee of the group.

Keeping in mind all of that, Aurobindo still has translated his spiritual insights into mental categories. And those interpretations are open to judgment, while not in any way criticizing Aurobindo’s spiritual genius.

Which is what Wilber has done, particularly in his latest phase of writing post-metaphysics (Wilber-5). The key argument of Wilber’s is that the higher stages/levels of consciousness are not pre-set but rather tetra-constructed through kosmic patterning. The tetra-construction is part of Wilber’s assertion that the quadrants go all the way up and down through the Kosmos. In other words, for Wilber material objective world (3rd person objective pov) co-arise with the subjective. Wilber describes consciousness as being intra-physical (co-arising) to the material world, not meta-physical. As well as, following his (Wilber’s) argument that spirituality has failed by not being able to answer the postmodern constructivist, contextualist nature of postmodern philosophy (the lower quadrants, particularly left intersubjective one).

Aurobindo, Wilber argues, had his stages of consciousness already set and the Descent of the Supermind was therefore a meta-physical reality. Aurobindo did unite nonduality with an evolutionary worldview, but one in which for Wilber the steps are already established, all we do is walk through them. There is more to it than that–at least in terms of the super-divinization of the planet–but that characterization is not I think as it is incorrect. Just again doesn’t emphasize as much as Aurobindo did what happens when the end point is reached.

Along with meta-physical stages of consciousness for Aurobindo (and Alan K) there are esoteric realities. [More on that later].

For post-metaphysics it is not that one has to believe in the non-existence of metaphysical realities: e.g. heaven/hell, reincarnation, etc. Post-metaphysics is agnostic on the question of metaphysical issues. One is free to believe them or not as long as one admits that there is no proof–even comparable to the proof of phenomenological mystical evidence for this life–as to the existence, just as there is no proof against their existence as well. But for Kazlev (and Visser too I think) post-metaphysical is really more like anti-metaphysical and therefore by their lights physicalist, reductionist, and psychologizing. Post-metaphysical spirituality, in their view, essentailly throws up its hands and surrenders to the flatland world of modernism.

What we do know is that leading with such metaphysical realities is a complete non-starter in the world. I see post-metaphysics more in the light of wise evangelism adapted to the situation of the day rather than a final declaration of all reality.

Post-metaphysics is not a denail of supra-physical realities as Alan states but rather a bracketing of the question in phenomenological style. Post-metaphysics may be wrong–although since it does not take a position formally on the matter either way don’t know how it could be considered wrong–but it may be unhelpful, it may have misread the need for adapting itself to the modern and postmodern worlds. That could be and people have to think these things through and make decisions for themselves. But I’d rather they do so with the right information at hand.

in the next section, i’ll look more closely at Alan’s main criticisms and his own esoteric integral thought.

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 8:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Update on Bush’s Unassail Isolation

The Baker-Hamilton Study Group has perhaps already deflated before its announcement.

It did not call for a timeline; The Democrats (Obama, Reed, Levin) are now rallied around this position. So the Democrats don’t totally buy it.

And Bush, at least according his recent press statement is staying the course.

The Democratic talking point has already been decided upon–saw just now with a Dem. consultant on Joe Scarborough. The Dem. consultant Rich Masters said, I’m paraphrasing here: “We set dates: a date for the elections, a date for Constitution, and they followed through.” So the Democrats are now using the constitution and elections timetable. Bush is so isolated now and the Republicans on the downslide that the Dems can co-opt Bush “successes” (whether they were successes or not, the elections intensified the sectarian divisions).

The Republican strategist was even harder on Bush than the Democratic one. This is going to be the trend. The Republicans are fast becoming Bush’s biggest problem/enemy, the Democrats running a close second.

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bush’s Unassilable Isolation

Bush Dismisses Calls for Drawdown in Iraq, reports the NYTimes.

NSA Condi Rice stooge Stephen Hadley’s leaked memo that questioned the strength of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Moqtada al-Sadr’s political appointees who Maliki is beholden to, has temporarily left the government in protest of Maliki’s visit with Bush in Amman, Jordan.

I’m more concerned than I was a week ago that Bush will not listen to any of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. He will not, I fear, diplomatically engage Syria and Iran, nor move the American presence towards training and away from insurgency fighting, tamping down of sectarian violence. He will become increasingly isolated, particularly within his own party, and the domestic discourse will turn venomous.

We are at a point where we can not win under the Stay the Course model and any option of drawing down is going to give rise to a massive uptick in violence. I think we are only delaying and the inevitable the longer we stay. And this will be on our nation’s conscience.

Whatever the political discourse in the US, our Army is deeply broken as an institution because of this war and can not sustain a 140,000 troop level for another 2 years. For Bush to drawdown means in some way or other he has to admit he was wrong. And I just don’t see that happening. The only evidence to the contrary was how days before canning Rumsfield he publicly supported him. Theoretically he could do the same with the drawdown but I just don’t see it.

Bush just doesn’t f–king get it. He should have fired Condi and Hadley simultaneous to Rumsfield. They have failed and are continuing to fail with their pathetic replay of trying to take down Iran. They give no public anyway, understanding, that the primary issue is the daily rising of violence and instability.

This is one moment where our form of government is not helping the situation. When in an election in whch Bush himself was essentially defeated, he stays in power and technically (other than Democrats pulling the purse strings) can’t be held accountable for this failed post-Saddam policy. It is very hard for me to imagine anyone being able to screw things up as badly as Bush has in this second term. The Constiution was written with a powerful legislative and fairly weak and isolationist-intending (George Washington’s influence) executive. World events have moved the power to the executive and given that it was not the important branch at the founding, it’s roles were not as clearly spelled out. Which has allowed over the centuries the executive to aggregate power unto itself. Bush is simply the (il)logical fruition of that movement. Especially when Congress has passed laws and Bush refuses to follow them with his executive signing orders. He is really unaccountable. He doesn’t even care about his own political party which I thought would have been enough to force him to amend slightly. He can’t be held accountable in this life.

I’m very very concerned he is going to pass the responsibility off on this one.

Nevertheless back to the events the even greater fear is the fallout from this rising violence. I don’t know if even James Baker can prevent that now.

Saudi Arabia has quietly strengthened itself in the recent years but this new violence could upset that new strength. As soon as the US draws down, Saudi Arabia will enter to stem the rising influence of Iran. This could push the two towards war, with Israel acting as an interesting 3rd party.

Syria and Iran have obviously been strengthened, particularly the latter, in the wake of the Hussein and Taliban fall.

The two ME countries that have changed the least and therefore I fear are the most vulnerable are Egypt and Jordan. Hosni Mubarak is getting old and is clearly wanting to pass the reins on to his son who adroitly from a political sense is calling for Egypt to get a nuclear weapon. But Egypt has stayed out of the press recently but they are very vulnerable I think. I think their relative physical distance from Iraq has given them (falsely) the hope that they can keep out of these trends.

And Jordan. Jordan’s King Abdullah could very well be their last king ever. He is young and could rule for quite sometime or be a figure of transition. But there also deep questions about Jordan as this recent trip has highlighted.

Of the two I still think Egypt is the more vulnerable, but Jordan has the challenge of being right next door to this Frankenstein’s monster that is growing out of control as well as the pincer movement of Israel acting unilaterally and the rising Shia crescent (Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria).

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iraqi Exiles

A great piece on OpenSourceRadio on a very little covered story in Iraq–the massive refugee crisis and exodus to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran.

The piece interviews an Iraqi refugee who blogs here. It is truly heartbreaking to hear her story of fleeing to Jordan.

Nir Rosen, author of the best book on Iraq (in English) on the situation on the ground in Iraq is interviewed. His analysis is quite bleak and has been since the beginning.

Something like 8-10% of Iraq has left since the war (that would be in American terms 25-30 million fleeing the US in 3/4 years).

The richest have left long ago and the exodus now is more middle class. The US it seems has been putting influence to not call these groups refugees. Therefore they have no refugee camps, rights, or international advocacy in their new countries.

These groups may become radicalized due to lack of food, water, education, and job opportunities. Rosen calls them a new nation of Palestinians who won’t really ever be able to return to Iraq. He sees these groups as people who “won’t forget.” Don’t know what I think about this assertion but extremely dark if true. What I do think likely is they could form a fedayeen fighters based out of Jordan, if not Syria, who will continue to attack the Iraqi (soon to be Shia) government.

And that exodus is only perhaps half of the displacement. The other half is internal displacement. Neighborhoods are being cleansed and have been since the fall of Saddam. Shias fleeing to the Eastern Baghdad neighborhoods and the South; the Sunnis to W. Baghdad and Anbar. Christians are targeted, Turkomens, Iraqi Shia who supported the Baath party, secular types, anyway with money, Shia, Sunni, whatever.

Criminality, sectarian death squads, insurgency, occupation army. As one American soldier in Basra said, This is a war between gangs and we (the American army) are just the biggest gang. The US Army estimates something like 40-50 people are kidnapped daily, the ransom money helping to fund the insurgency and militias.

The key is none of these groups can win and can not topple the central government as long as the American stays. But their existence stops the US and the cetnral government from ever gaining control either.

As Newsweek has said Moqtada al-Sadr is perhaps the single most powerful man in the country. But even he can not control even his own militia, which nevertheless has exploded recentliy. Sadr’s Mahdi Army now comprises 40-60,000 people. The Iraqi Army (battle ready to fight without the US battalions) is 10,000.

It is not a civil war in the traditional sense between two armies. The key issue is the devolution of power to the local (Global Guerillas), their ability to self-finance through global black market. There are wars within wars within wars within conflicts within Iraq.

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saudis will intervene in Iraq

Important piece from Saudi advisor to Amb. Turki al-Faisal (himself the smoothest of operators) Nawaf Obaid.

If you want to know what King Abdullah said to VP Cheney in Riyadh last week, bet your back side it was something of the following:

One consequence of American withdrawal on American timeline will be: “massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.”

Here’s the key passage:

Because King Abdullah has been working to minimize sectarian tensions in Iraq and reconcile Sunni and Shiite communities, because he gave President Bush his word that he wouldn’t meddle in Iraq (and because it would be impossible to ensure that Saudi-funded militias wouldn’t attack U.S. troops), these requests have all been refused. They will, however, be heeded if American troops begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world’s Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene.

The Saudis will start funding Sunni militias as self-defense and hopefully move to pincer the AQ in Iraq groups (which they certainly don’t want next door).

There have been a chorus of voices arguing that engagement with Syria and Iran is no good bc they are the ones stirring trouble in Iraq. The Saudis will be as soon as the American starting drawing down troops levels (or even moving to more secure locations and work on training Iraqi Army). The whole argument about not talking to Iran and Syria then isn’t about as short term and tunnel visioned as whether nor not that can stop violence in Iraq (less than we would hope I suppose) but the long term creation of a regional security and re-made Middle East.

The Iraqi Army is going to become essentially an all-Shia and Kurd institution once this happens–basically already is but the Sunnis are going to walk out on this goverment I imagine within 3 months give or take. The Saudis quietly have been undergoing a massive re-vamp of their military, education, and especially security. They have come to realize their long co-option of radical Islamic elements (since ’73 when King Faisal allowed such elements in to the Saudi mosques and teaching faculties) has backfired and they need to extricate themselves from this relatonship. Their efforts in Iraq will win them praise from conservative ulemma (scholars) and tribal leaders who they hope to use to isolate the more radical elements I think.

The need for a regional security umbrella is the only thing that the Americans can still do positively in the region: prevent an all out regional war. The biggest gain that could come out of America’s pullout and loss of prestige in the ME is that Iran and Saudi Arabia finally step up to the plate, get over their historic riff–and here Syria can become the kingmaker–and finally take up the work of securing their own region. America to be a good arbiter will have to come to security agreements with Iran. Turkey would of course be involved and for good behavior the carrot would EU membership.

That is the positive outlook. Not guaranteed by a long shot–Israel as the unknown X Variable in this whole equation–and even if it does come around it will be bloody in the meantime.

Hat tip to WashingtonNote for this one.

Published in: on November 29, 2006 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Christian Coalition in trouble

Their in-coming President Elect has decided to leave (before taking office). Read here.

His reason? According to the article he wanted to expand the agenda of the Coalition beyond abortion and gay marriage to (you might have guessed) poverty and the environment. I.e. in addition to not substitution for.

Christian Coalition is Pat Robertson’s group. Robertson has been isolated for among other thing recently: saying Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans bc of their sin; the US should assassinate Hugo Chavez; and Ariel Sharon had a heart attack bc God was pissed he gave away the Gaza Strip.

The Moral Majority (Jerry Falwell’s organization) is suffering right now. Ralph Reed, the golden boy of the movement in the 90s lost his bid for Lt. Gov of his homestate in the last election.

The National Evangelical Alliance within the last few weeks saw its Leader (Rev. Ted Haggard) accused of having ilicit sexual affairs plus drug use with a gay prostitue.

Not to mention the Republicans loss in the midterm elections.

In fact the only real hard core member of that crew left is Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. He is increasingly isolated and is himself very disappointed with the Republican party.

And now this. Yikes–bad year all around.

As I’ve said before I sense the evangelicals will return in cyclical fashion as per their history to a movement back towards personal conversion and social justice/mission and away from political involvement. [e.g. after the Scopes Monkey trial].

What evangelicals theologically have always known–in their best moments–is that political power corrupts and that humans are tempted by sin. Maybe they have forgotten their own wisdom for a bit–some anyway. Perhaps now a more honest humble recognition of needing to return to their core principles is in order.

Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pope’s Visit to Turkey

Interesting news out of Istanbul.

Pope Benedict has signaled his support for Turkey’s bid to the European Union. Prior to his election (when Cardinal Ratzinger), he opposed Turkey’s entrance. So, one good thing has now come out of the whole German-speech debacle.

Pressure is rising against Turkey’s entrance–fear of Muslims being only one of many issues involved. Denying Turkey’s bid would I think send a shivering effect and isolate Western Europe even further. The same voices that call W.Europe leftist secularism to the carpet–particularly right-wing voices in US–are the ones that need to be most vociferously supporting Turkey’s entrance. That is if conservatives still believe that free markets are the best form of economics. Sometimes liberals for a variety of reasons show more trust in markets in terms of foreign policy than conservative elements, who are afraid (I think) of Islamic infiltration to the West.

Turkey’s governing party is Islamist is the secular republic of Turkey. But they are actually a good example–as opposed to Hamas–of how an Islamist party can go about ruling in a conservative but not authoritarian sense. Cutting them out sends exactly the wrong signal–Europe is ghettozing itself and wants out. Combinations of conservative anti-globalization left wingers with nationalistic right (Europe-only) elements. Not a good combo especially given Europe’s history of flirtation with far right and far left elements.

Cutting out Turkey of the EU would send the same signal that cutting off the funding to Hamas sent. All Islamist groups, by Western standards, are verboten. This is suicide. And I use that word on purpose, as in there will be more suicide/homicide bombings if carried through.

Hopefully HH Benedict’s support will sway opinion in (what I think is) the right direction–although I’m honsetly a bit doubtful.

Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hoagland’s Heroes

Hat tip to Thomas Barnett for this one.

Brilliant op-ed by Jim Hoagland from WashingtonPost. Title has got it perfectly: Right Vision, Wrong Policy.

Right vision for Bush on ME, wrong policy. Says it all in a nutshell. Why the Democrats (minus Biden) offer nothing. They do not recognize the right vision only criticize the wrong policy. Republicans will now be the real bane for Bush as they want out before ’08 election cycle. My worry is that the right vision will fall with Bush’s inept policy and execution.

The piece involves a sharp and correct rebuke to the realist school of George HW Bush–Brent Scowcroft in particular, also Jim Baker III, and soon to be SecDef Robert Gates. What the realists did do well was the transition after the Soviet collapse–unification of Germany against Margaret Thatcher’s early hesitation and the Madrid Conference which brought Jordan (and should have Syria) to recognize Israel. Both of those Baker initiatives.

On the negative side–they never handled the issue of our alliances with Sunni autocrats and gave us the isolation policy towards Iran (they move towards bomb) and the no fly/embargo on Iraq (killing children).

Key quote–my emphasis:

But even Baker will have to struggle to keep the faux realism of conventional thinking on the Middle East from making the study group’s report instantly irrelevant. There was a time when let’s-pretend policies — championing regional or international peace conferences doomed to go nowhere, or naming special U.S. envoys to give Arab rulers a bone to toss to their publics — usefully bought time, even though they were anything but realistic for the long term. For better and for worse, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, and the bloody breakdown of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians have accelerated a profound radicalization of the Middle East that had already been unleashed by the pressures of globalization. Trying to get back to the 1990s is another bridge to nowhere.

What I’ve always credited George W. Bush (43) with doing correctly was realizing that the old order in the ME was falling. Hoagland agrees but what according to him:

Bush’s going on the defensive does not mean that the radical positive changes he had hoped for cannot come about on their own, even if on a different timetable and with much greater costs than he ever imagined. True realism lies in recognizing that his diagnosis of a crumbling order in the Middle East was sound, even if his prescriptions were not.

Whether or not the problem was the prescription (the war itself) is arguable, but what is not whether pro/anti invasion was the execution and total (and I’m mean TOTAL) mismanagement of the post Saddam fall occupation.

Bush has never gotten to realize that what is arising in the new Middle East is not secular democracy but the following:

–Iran and the Shia more generally. Even with rigged elections the Shia party gained 50% of the Parliamentary seats in Bahrain this week. Bahrain. Not Iran.
–Islamism. Not all Islamists are created equal. Some are amenable to economic openness and more or less regional stability.

Bush and particularly Condi Rice in her dual roles as previous NSA and now SecState have failed in not getting on with the business of deal-making with the new order that is arising and accelerated by the Saddam ouster.

The realists who are coming back will never get to be as completely amoral as they were at their worst from the 70s-90s. As Hoagland said, the real realism is visionary: to see the ME old order crumbling and get on with actually strategically placing ourselves to do this the best we can with the crazy transition that is only going to intensify in the coming years. Buckle up folks, gonna be a wild ride.

Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 12:33 pm  Comments (6)  

anbar lost

This report from the WashingtonPost is profoundly disturbing. It’s a summary of a recently declassified internal Marine memo detailing how the Marine Corps now admits they can not win in Anbar (the Western Sunni province).

The beginning says it all–read the whole thing:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda’s rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military’s mission in Anbar province.

Between al-Qaeda’s violence, Iran’s influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, “the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point” that U.S. and Iraqi troops “are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar,” the assessment
found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1.

But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country’s Sunnis — once dominant under Saddam Hussein — now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq’s Shiite majority, or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while “official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad.”

Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq,” or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says.

Global Guerillas has long talked about how al-Qaeda groups increasingly use the global black market to self-fund operations. The attack in Madrid was supported by sale of ecstasy of all things.

Also, not as much reported in the Western press is the massive exodus from the country. Nearly 10% of the population (2 million+ to date) have left the country, mostly Sunni, mostly well enough to leave. Leaving the Sunni provinces with even less in the way of administration capacity–the article also goes on to say that the Shia who control the purse strings in Baghdad have long since stopped paying the salaries of Anbari Sunnis.

What I think this will do will give support to the idea of a short-term (very short term) increase in troop buildup to be followed by a drawdown and a move towards training the Iraqi military and letting the Shia I fear have a free hand. The reason the Sunnis have moved towards AQ is they see it as their only means of protection. The Baathist Sunni insurgency for about a year now is profoundly scared. A buildup of the Iraqi Army at such a point can really only be, it seems, an essentialy Shia force. The police we know are totally infiltrated with the Shia death squads, but the army we’ve been told is non-partisan. Increasingly there is evidence that that is not the case–or at least not perceived to be the case by the Sunni, which in this case is all that matters, paranoid (to a degree) or not.

Frighteningly, this is exactly what Ayman al-Zawahiri, #2 for AQ said in his book (and letters to Zarqawi) was the next strategic goal: namely to create a haven/mini-state within the heart of the Arab world. Partisan force or not, the key will be its diminution. Once entrenched to the degree that is financially independent, no longer dependent on a figurehead (like Zarqawi), and weaved into the social fabric, al-Qaeda, or any Global Guerilla group, can never be fully extricated. The key will be to disrupt as much as possible their operational capacity.

But if these gruops have learned their technqiues fighting the most capable Army on the planet (American) and have played to a draw/won, then there is strong fear that the Iraqi Army however quickly trained is not going to be up to the task. Whether the Shia militias will want to take the fight to them remains to be seen. But I’m deeply worried about carnage either way.

Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 7:04 am  Leave a Comment