Friday, August 13, 2004

We've Heard This Story Before

Sebastian Holsclaw does not like the case that John Quiggin is trying to make for giving Muqtada al-Sadr yet another chance after he's already attempted to raise a general insurrection not once, but twice. Needless to say, I don't like it either.

There is almost certainly a place in the political process for many of his followers if 'followers' is used in a loose sense of the word. There almost certainly is not a place for Sadr himself, now that he has tried to start a civil war on two separate occasions. You can't keep accomadating someone who thinks that armed insurrection is the solution to each political disagreement.

I would find "rig them in favor of their preferred clients" a funny description of trying to maintain some sense of secular government, except it is just so sad.

The whole thing smacks of wishful thinking about Sadr and Islamism.

But far worse is Prof. Quiggin's extension of these thoughts in the comments.

When challenged on "The only remotely feasible option is to make a place for Sadr and his supporters in the political process, and to hope that he is moderated by the attractions of office, as has happened in many cases before...." he suggests:
Steve, the most obvious example is the Lebanese Hizbollah which was one of the leading participants in the civil war there, and committed numerous terrorist acts, but is now a more-or-less normal political party in the Lebanese context.

Hizbollah is still violently anti-Israel, but that is true of any party with significant popular support anywhere in the Islamic world.
Prof. Quiggin wants to use Hizbollah as a model for Sadr? He apparently doesn't see any difficulty caused by the calling it more-or-less normal in the Lebanese context. That is exactly like dismissing the gulag as more-or-less normal in the Soviet context. It isn't wrong in a descriptive sense, but as a model for how anything ought to work it is morally shocking. Or ought to be.
Indeed. Holsclaw is too polite to note that there's an even more disturbing precedent for the "he'll be moderated by the attractions of office" argument than the one he mentions, to which I'll make do by given a few hints: think December 1932, and the political maneuvrings of a certain Messrs. F. von Papen, K. von Schleicher and P. von Hindenburg. The trouble with making room in a government for extremists is that rather than office taming them, it may well be that is they who end up taming the office, along with everything and everyone else.

PS: Now Quiggin's added a statement to his original post in which he says that
the bloody campaign to destroy Sadr was both morally indefensible (as well as being politically stupid)"
Say what? "Politically stupid" I can understand (although I don't agree), but "morally indefensible?" According to which moral code is it wrong to get rid of a man who's tried twice to seize power by force, and who initiated the current hostilities that are underway, by having his men violate the terms of the previous ceasefire and start shooting at American troops? It's statements like this one that tell me Quiggin and I simply don't inhabit the same moral universe - it seems as if for him the only right response Americans can make in the face of aggression by thugs like Sadr's boys is to simply hoist their arms in the air and passively wait to be mowed down. This is lunacy.