Saturday, May 26, 2007

President Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Islamophobia

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Not long ago the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) concluded that Islamophobia was the worst form of terrorism.

As I read their complaint in the May 17, 2007 Arab News, “The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily,” I was immediately struck by how little damage the Danish cartoonists who drew Mohammad caused, and by how much more blood the Muslims reacting belatedly to the cartooning caused to flow.

If these Danish drawings are as vicious as it gets, to label them as the worst form of terrorism would seem to greatly devalue the more deadly forms.

I concluded my post: “So what is this Islamophobia, this worst form of terrorism?

First, it is a myth.

Then it is a device to label all criticism of Islam, even by Muslims, as discrimination and racism.

Finally, since a phobia is an "irrational fear," the only irrationality I have noted in this examination of Islamophobia is on the part of Muslims who think the Western bloc has not been given ample cause to fear militant Islamists.

Calling what is in essence a fear of Islamic terrorism by the Western bloc to be the worst form of terrorism is one of the most irrational things I have ever heard.

It's Islamophobia-phobia.”

A recent reader of my blog, and now a constant Commenter, waded in:

“Islamophobia refers to irrational fear of Islam, not Islamic terrorists. Fearing Muslims just because some Muslims are terrorists is as irrational as blaming every white American for the past sins of slavery, or every Christian for the excesses of the crusades.

There are two issues. One is that most muslims aren't terrorists. That is why we shouldn't fear Islam, but violent extremists everywhere. Did you know that pre-Iraq the most common use of suicide bombings was by atheists? They didn't (and don't) do it because they expect some heavenly reward. Terrorism - of all kinds - has nothing to do with religion.

The second issue is that terrorism is dangerous, but it is hardly the biggest threat of our time. To exaggerate its threat is to draw attention from other, more urgent problems, such as the low living standards in the US, the increasingly unchecked power of the central government, the snowballing public (and private) debt, the poor quality of many schools and the lack of highly trained professionals. More acutely, the endless kowtowing to China is a more direct and persistent threat to the West's long-term economy and living standards than anything AQ can cook up.

And if you missed it, please check on the recent events in Turkey. I'ld (sic) like to see a million Americans march in the streets because they think the president does not believe in the separation of church and state. Moderate muslims are speaking up, and very loudly at that. They just don't get airtime in the West.”

I answered

"One is that most muslims aren't terrorists."

True, but most terrorists are Muslims.

Do you believe, as the Arab foreign ministers do, that Islamophobia is the worst terrorism?

"To exaggerate its threat is to draw attention from other, more urgent problems, such as the low living standards in the US..."

Since the United States enjoys the highest standards of living the world has ever known, I can't appreciate how this is a more urgent problem than Islamic terrorism.

"...the increasingly unchecked power of the central government..."

Check it - vote! Didn't Democrats just win back Congress?

Of course, more Americans voted for President Bush than for any president
in history. That's probably why you have a problem.

Your other points about snowballing debt and the poor quality of many schools and lack of trained professionals have been issues I have been critical of for a long time. We are still suffering the run-away spending launched by LBJ's entitlement avalanche of The Great Society. The Teacher's Union strangle-hold on education and their opposition to improvement and reform are reflected in the poor quality of many schools. The lack of quality professionals was the subject of one of my recent blog posts: The State of Education in America – We’re Doomed!

I lived in Turkey for a year, and I know about the tension between Islamists and secularists. You are truly perpetrating a grand distortion if you think there are similarities between the forces demanding a Turkish theocracy and religious trends in America.

Where else are moderate Muslims speaking up loudly?

At this point, Commenter and I had opened up many threads, which we have continued for a total of 15 comments under the broad heading of Islamophobia, and another 21 comments loosely pertaining to Jimmy Carter, the Worst Former President of all Time.

Earlier we did 21 comments on health care, with Commenter sure that the universal health care systems failing in the UK and Canada, and facing a demographic time bomb in the rest of Europe because of rapidly aging and stagnant or shrinking populations, were the wave of the future.

Out of these voluminous exchanges, patterns emerge. Of course, there is the ever present Liberal vs. Conservative. But over and above that, I start the blame game at LBJ, who I believe, and am borne out by historical analyses, launched the entitlements tsunami called the Great Society that has been and still is inundating and sinking federal, state, and local budgets.

When discussing the Great Society, disaster terminology is totally appropriate. Even Commenter is appalled by our national debt, while unable to understand its direct link to entitlements spending launched by the Great Society.

LBJ also expanded JFK’s misadventure in South East Asia into the greatest foreign policy and military debacle in the history of the United States, an unmitigated disaster we are still paying for today.

Commenter, on the other hand, finds President Reagan totally to blame, even though total real discretionary outlays increased by 25.2 percent under LBJ (FY1964-69) and only 11.9 percent under Reagan (FY1981-86). LBJ massively increased both defense and non-defense spending, while President Reagan increased defense spending, but cut non-defense spending. LBJ launched Medicare, and President Reagan took office with it and Social Security already running deficits (which started early in the Carter administration). President Reagan not only had to restore the United States military after years of Carter neglect, he also had to bring the economy out of recession, double digit inflation, high interest rates, and high unemployment, and rescue Social Security and Medicare.

That President Reagan was able to accomplish all of these monumental tasks, and launch a period of prosperity, is testament to his greatness. "(The Reagan) economic boom lasted 92 months without a recession, from November 1982 to July 1990, the longest period of sustained growth during peacetime and the second-longest period of sustained growth in U.S. history. The growth in the economy lasted more than twice as long as the average period of expansions since World War II.”

So far I have found only a few things that Commenter and I share. Neither of us believe in the Democrats, but Commenter doesn't believe in any of the parties - so he says. Still, I bet he never votes Republican or Libertarian, as I do, and I bet he votes.

We both agree communism is a failure, Soviet style anyway. I would not label Chinese communism a failure yet, because it shows marvelous skills of adaptation and will probably soon morph into full capitalism while still wearing the communist label.

Our exchanges are good exercise, and particularly reinforce the maxim to never assume anything. I didn't think anyone would defend Carter, say it is irrational to worry about Islamic militants, and argue that Western Europe exhibits more economic promise and social mobility than the United States.

I wonder what Commenter thinks about climate change being caused by natural forces?

I invite any and all who have read this far to go my posts on Jimmy Carter, Islamophobia (and more Islamophobia), and National Health care and read the comments. Commenter and I both put in a lot of time on them, and if nothing else they illustrate how every issue is in play.

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