Category Archive 'Arabs'
27 Jul 2014
David Gutmann thinks he has figured out the Arabs’ real problem, why they are continually being moved to murderous rage.
I do not agree with many hawks that Islam by itself is the prime mover of Arab violence. When I consider the obsessions, the language and the actions of the extremists, it becomes evident that, perhaps even more than religion, overlooked aspects of national character contribute to the fevers of jihad. As a Jew who owns a Koran (Oh Imams, is this permitted?) it appears to me that the more lurid stanzas of that generally inflammatory text are being used, by Islamic extremists, to rationalize their fury over perceived insults that have nothing to do with Islam per se.
That fury is not a product of the Koran. Rather, it has to do with a prior, psychological cause: the vulnerabilities of Arab national character, which is centered on the maintenance of honor and the avoidance of shame. Some readers will probably accuse me of psychobabbling. Note, however, that some very smart observersâ€”the Israeli anthropologist Rafael Patai, for instanceâ€”have already documented the Arab phobia against the experience of shame.
That sensitivity is now at fever pitch. The Arab world is suffering a crisis of humiliation. Their armies are routed not only by Americans, but also by tiny, Jewish Israel; and as Arthur Koestler once remarked, the Arab world has not, in the last 500 years or so, produced much besides rugs, dirty postcards, elaborations on the belly-dance esthetic (and, of course, some innovative terrorist practices). They have no science to speak of, no art, hardly any industry save oil, very little literature, and portentous music which consists largely of lugubrious songs celebrating the slaughter of Jews.
Now that the Arabs have acquired national consciousness, and they compare their societies to other nations, these deficiencies become painfully evident, particularly to the upper-class Arab kids who attend foreign universities. There they learn about the accomplishments of Christians, Jews, (Freud, Einstein, for starters) and women. And yet, with the exception of Edward Said, there is scarcely a contemporary Arab name in the bunch. No wonder, then, that major recruitment to al-Qaeda’s ranks takes place among Arab university students. And no wonder that suicide bombing becomes their tactic of choice: it is a last-ditch, desperate way of asserting at least one scrap of superiorityâ€”a spiritual superiorityâ€”over the materialistic, life-hugging, and ergo shameful West.
But this tactic is not, I suggest, a product of Islam. Rather, it is a product of the bruised Arab psyche. Remember that the Japanese also turned to suicide tactics in WWII to evade the humiliation of defeat. Though their religion was Shinto rather than Muslim, they too constituted a paradigm shame/honor culture, and defeat brought about, as with the Arabs, a furiously suicidal/homicidal response. After their armies had been defeated, their fleets sunk, their cities set aflame, and their home islands invaded, they launched the kamikaze bomber offensive, thereby committing a hi-tech form of hara-kiri, their usual remedy against intolerable shame. It is in this way that the modern Arab world resembles the Japan of World War II. In both cases it is not religions but psychic wounds, the wounds inflicted by defeat and evident inferiority, that inspire suicide bombers.
It is often asserted that the changes set in train by modernization are particularly toxic to the Arabs. No doubt this is true. But if we are going to be therapeutic, our diagnoses need to be more specific; we need to identify the particular pathogens that are released by modernization. Besides sharpening their sense of inferiority relative to the West, modernization threatens to bring about the liberation of women (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). I say “threatens,” because the self-esteem of Arab males is in large part predicated on the inferior position of their women. The Arab nations have for the most part lost their slaves and dhimmis, the subject peoples onto whose persons the stigmata of shame could be downloaded. But anyone who has spent time among them knows that Arab males have not lost their psychological need for social and sexual inferiors. In the absence of slaves and captive peoples, Arab women are elected for the special role of the inferior who, by definition, lacks honor. Arab men eradicate shame and bolster their shaky self-esteem by imposing the shameful qualities of the dhimmi, submission and passivity, upon women. Trailing a humbled woman behind them, Arab men can walk the walk of the true macho man.
Hence the relative lack of material achievement by Arabs: the Arab world has stunted the female half of its brain pool, while the men acquire instant self-esteem not by real accomplishment, but by the mere fact of being men, rather than women. No wonder, then, that the Arab nations feel irrationally threatened by the very existence of Israel. Like America, the Jews have brought the reality of the liberated woman into the very heart of the Middle East, into dar al-Islam itself. Big Satan and Little Satan: the champions of Muslim women.
Read the whole thing.
20 Jun 2014
The Iraqi army has 250,000 troops; its enemy, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIS), somewhere around 7,000, but the Iraqi Army has been losing. To understand why such a large army is so ineffective, one should read the classic 1999 essay by Colonel Norvell B. De Atkine.
Most Arab officers treat enlisted soldiers like sub-humans. When the winds in Egypt one day carried biting sand particles from the desert during a demonstration for visiting U.S. dignitaries, I watched as a contingent of soldiers marched in and formed a single rank to shield the Americans; Egyptian soldiers, in other words, are used on occasion as nothing more than a windbreak. The idea of taking care of one’s men is found only among the most elite units in the Egyptian military. On a typical weekend, officers in units stationed outside Cairo will get in their cars and drive off to their homes, leaving the enlisted men to fend for themselves by trekking across the desert to a highway and flagging down busses or trucks to get to the Cairo rail system. Garrison cantonments have no amenities for soldiers. The same situation, in various degrees, exists elsewhere in the Arabic-speaking countriesâ€”less so in Jordan, even more so in Iraq and Syria. …
The social and professional gap between officers and enlisted men is present in all armies, but in the United States and other Western forces, the noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps bridges it. Indeed, a professional NCO corps has been critical for the American military to work at its best; as the primary trainers in a professional army, NCOs are critical to training programs and to the enlisted men’s sense of unit esprit. Most of the Arab world either has no NCO corps or it is non-functional, severely handicapping the military’s effectiveness. With some exceptions, NCOs are considered in the same low category as enlisted men and so do not serve as a bridge between enlisted men and officers. Officers instruct but the wide social gap between enlisted man and officer tends to make the learning process perfunctory, formalized, and ineffective. The show-and-tell aspects of training are frequently missing because officers refuse to get their hands dirty and prefer to ignore the more practical aspects of their subject matter, believing this below their social station. A dramatic example of this occurred during the Gulf war when a severe windstorm blew down the tents of Iraqi officer prisoners of war. For three days they stayed in the wind and rain rather than be observed by enlisted prisoners in a nearby camp working with their hands.
Read the whole thing.
16 Sep 2011
Strategy Page is probably too optimistic in thinking that there is any real possibility of Arabs ever choosing democracy and secular modernity over Islamic dictatorship.
In the last decade, the world has learned what Israelis have known for a long time; Arabs and their governments tend to favor self-destructive policies. Western nations have generally ignored this madness, or excused each instance as a momentary lapse in good judgment. But this bad behavior has spawned Islamic terrorism, and sustains it. Many Arabs believe what al Qaeda preaches, that the world should be ruled by an Islamic religious dictatorship, and that this must be achieved by any means necessary (including force, against non-Moslems, and Moslems who donâ€™t agree.) This sort of thinking has been popular with Islamic conservatives since Islam first appeared in the sixth century. Since then, it has periodically flared up into major outbreaks of religious inspired violence. But thatâ€™s not the only problem. Arabs, in particular, sustain these outbursts with their fondness for paranoid fantasies and an exaggerated sense of persecution and entitlement.
Read the whole thing.
16 Nov 2006
17th century shamshir by Assad Ullah
Nature reports that scientists studying the technology of Damascus steel believe the material used in Arabic Medieval weapons may deserve to be regarded as an early form of nanotechnology.
Unfortunately, they seem to be unaware of the similar technology used in the Indonesian keris, or of the far more complex metallurgy of Japanese swords. And they are evidently unfortunately also unaware of the revival of Damascus steel-making by the late American knifemaker William F. Moran.
Think carbon nanotubes are new-fangled? Think again. The Crusaders felt the might of the tube when they fought against the Muslims and their distinctive, patterned Damascus blades.
Sabres from Damascus, now in Syria, date back as far as 900 AD. Strong and sharp, they are made from a type of steel called wootz.
Their blades bear a banded pattern thought to have been created as the sword was annealed and forged. But the secret of the swords’ manufacture was lost in the eighteenth century.
Materials researcher Peter Paufler and his colleagues at Dresden University, Germany, have taken electron-microscope pictures of the swords and found that wootz has a microstructure of nano-metre-sized tubes, just like carbon nanotubes used in modern technologies for their lightweight strength.
Read the whole thing.
25 Sep 2006
Stephen Browne spent a year working in Saudi Araba, and he observes that most Americans, including George W. Bush, don’t understand how different from us they are.
Since the beginning of the Iraq phase of this conflict of civilizations, I’ve experienced the teeth-grinding frustration of watching both pro- and anti- Iraq sides make the exact same mistake – that of supposing that these people are bascially Americans in funny costumes. In this respect, George Bush and Michael Moore are equally clueless…
In the case of the Kingdom, I went there with a certain sympathy for Arab grievances, a belief that America had earned a lot of hostility from “blowback” from our ham-handed interventionist foreign policy and support for Israel etc.
I came back with the gloomy opinion that over the long run we are going to have to hammer these people hard to get them to quit messing with Western Civilization.
Hat tip to offworld.