D^2 is a pretty interesting guy, even if it is possible that we have some philosophical differences.
Scanning the older posts there (Im behind, OK?), I come to this:
Interesting things of our time … many of my compadres in the weblog trade have been bemoaning the fact that “moderate Muslims” haven’t been vocal enough to condemn all those other Muslims, the ones who are regularly quoted in news sources not run by Muslims or in dodgy translations of quotations out of context as saying something really horrible. Why, oh why, oh why, is it that the comments pages of Little Green Footballs1 aren’t absolutely full to bursting point with well-educated, secular Western Muslims apologising in wailing tones and loudly condemning those other silly uneducated fundamentalist barbarians?
To ask this question is of course to answer it; the vast majority of people don’t behave in this way because it would be monumentally weird to do so, and the vast majority of Muslims presumably and correctly suspect that when you’re dealing with the kind of person who starts pointing at things you didn’t do and demands that you sign their statement condemning whoever did them, then nothing you say is ever going to be good enough for them. I’ve half a mind to create an educated-Muslim sock puppet character and put this thesis to the test …
But anyway, people like Stephen den Beste, author of the turgidly unreadable and unsettlingly technocratic attempts to recreate neoclassical economics without the benefit of reading a word of the literature which populate USS Clueless (he has a fine line of shite in talking about mobile phone standards too), regard the absence of moderate Muslims lining up to claim that numerically the majority of their religion is made up of horrendous halfwits and ogres, as a sign that Islam is an intrinsically warlike, barbaric and horrible religion. I’m using his piece on this subject as the example because I happen to have just read it, and as an associate of the dreadful Eric Raymond, he’s a target of opportunity. But such burnt-out old hacks, U2 groupies and writers of novels which have to be put in the “God this is shit compared to his earlier stuff” category as Salman Rushdie, have also written in similar terms. And even my old mucker Brad Delong, who seems to have developed an unaccountable blindspot when it comes to these matters, is quoting him approvingly.
This is an interesting point both in and of itself, and as an example of a broader issue that ties to, among other things, the topic du jour of race in the U.S.A.
The presence of moderate Muslims is important because if we are going to negotiate, we need to have someone on the other side whom we consider rational and trustworthy enough to be our negotiating partner.
I have talked about the role of honor and self-restraint in conflict; one of the major reasons for this, I will argue, is that most conflicts are settled short of the absolute defeat on one side by the other. And for that to happen there must be an element of trust, of some mutual boundaries, and of the feeling that the folks on the other side will agree to the basic steps that will lead to and past the cessation of hostilities.
In the case of the Muslim world, a generalized rage against the West, accompanied with actions based on that rage which violate the Western norms of war which have grown over a millennium of bloodthirsty conflict within the West sets the stage for a conflict. If we want the conflict to be ended, both parties have to create enough grounds for negotiation to induce the other party to sit down.
The PA has consistently failed to do this, which is a large part of what has led to the current situation between Israel and Palestine (Israel has done it primarily in continuing their political and financial support for the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza).
Now, not all conflicts can be settled without the absolute subjugation of one side by the other. But if this conflict isnt I think that well certainly regret it , but I can suggest to the author above that if the conflict between the Muslim world and the West isnt settled through negotiation and the growing rule of law, that there will likely be many fewer Muslims on the earth than there are today. This isnt a personal threat, nor is it even close to my desired outcome; its a simple problem in the arithmetic of mass destruction, factored with knowledge of the thin skin of civility over the bloody history of Western civilization.
To restate in simple terms, its important to see an emergent moderate Muslim world if we want to avoid a cataclysmic conflict, in which I have no doubt the Muslim world will lose. Id like to avoid that conflict, if we can.
This relates (on a hopefully less dangerous basis) to the politics of race as well.
Theres been a lot of discussion about left-wing triumphalism in the wake of laffaire Lott, and the appropriate next steps for those interested in racial justice. Some, like Atrios, argue that this is the time for standing firm; some, like Hesiod, caution about overreaching.
Without getting into the overall political morality or tactics on this issue (sometime soon ), Ill suggest that we remember that both positions are important the extreme and rigid to set the marker and provide the nudge to get things moving, and the moderate and trustworthy to actually sit down and make deals and get things done.
The issue is simply in the conflict between the importance of moral certainty and of remaining a member of ones political community.
It is clear that one feature of politics today is the rise in importance of one of certainty and the decline in the other willingness to be constrained by ones community.
Now there are clear points in history where the standards of the community are so far outside the pale that any moral person must stand outside them. And it is equally clear that the standards change over time. But, one thing to think hard about is the issue of whether every issue and subissue in todays politics is more important than the integrity of the polity, and one question to ask in general is how we move the polity without destroying it.
Or, how do we create a politics that doesnt rely on the expectation and rhetoric of absolute conquest and subjugation? Cause I sure hear a lot of that from all sides these days.