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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Friday, April 04, 2003

 

Iraqis, Kuwaitis and the fallacy of monoliths
One of the major problems with the mentality of much of the world is that nations and ethnicities are treated like a single entity. "France" disagrees with "America." The "Arab Street" is against the war. "Iraqis" support/don't support Saddam. Ahh, if life was only that simple. There are a few Frenchmen who agree with "America," and plenty of Americans who don't. There are Arabs who support the war. There are obviously many Iraqis on both sides of the Saddam question. No matter how often Islamic fascists such as Saddam and Bin Laden try to tell us that all Muslims are with them, or all Americans are evil, none of these "entities" truly acts with one mind--they're full of their own rational actors who make their own decisions. There are those who harp on "American individualism" and how other cultures are so much more communal and blah-de-blah-blah--but the fact is, we all have seperate minds, and all make our own seperate decisions. America has picked up on this fact, and emphasized it, others haven't. But it's a fact.

And this fact is being overlooked too often in this war, and was too much before the war. "The Iraqi's will do such-and-such." Which Iraqis? Where? There are several million of them, you know. And now, those who said that the Iraqis would do certain things are either pointing to the ones who are doing what they predicted and saying "I told you so," or looking at the ones who are not and saying "how could I have been so wrong?" This misses the fact that every Iraqi has to choose for himself which side he or she is on, whether they want to be on a side at all, and how they want to define that.

Via the Agonist, here's an example of this complexity playing out--plus the added complexity that nothing happens in a vacuum, also missed too often these days, by all of us. It's a very good analysis of why many Iraqi Shiites are not rising up against Saddam's troops as some anticipated. The gist of it is, most muslims, the Sunni most vociferously, are against this war, and if the Iraqi Shiites rose up en masse on the opposing side, the result could be bloody repurcussions against Shiites around the world. So, influencial Shiite leaders outside Iraq have requested that the Iraqis lay low, and not take either side. This, of course, explains the mildness of the recent Shiite fatwa in Iraq. But note the complex interplay here--because of threats by various peoples in one group, the leaders of another group ask their followers not to intervene in a conflict between an outside group, and a group related to the first group. And even then, it is up to millions of independent members of the second group--the Shiites, if you're lost--to decide whether or not they are going to follow the instruction of their leaders or ignore it. And even then, there are countless nuances to how they will follow, or not follow, the instruction. Therefore, it becomes absurd to say that "Iraq is doing such and such," or even "Iraq's Shiites belive such and such."

And then, we have the Kuwatis. Amidst all the ballyhoo about Arabs doing this and Muslims doing that, the vehemently pro-US, anti-Saddam majority of Kuwaitis is being overlooked, ignored, marginalized and even attacked. No matter what some cleric says, or some Saudi Arabian sultan, or some Palestinian terorrist, the Kuwaiti people will make up their own minds about this war. And they generally seem to be in favor of it--no big surprise, all things considered. And they've been downright ignored or guilty by association the whole time. But now, some of them are fighting back. Go read the article, via The Command Post. It paints a picture of many intelligent and influential Kuwaitis who are downright cheesed off at the way in which the Arab world, and the media specifically, has ignored or attacked the Kuwaiti perspective, and are launching both a PR and legal campaign to change things. Again, we have a group of independent actors, shaped by their own experience, reacting to a situation very differently to the way others, ostensibly in the same group, would like them too. And I wish them very well in their reaction--the Arab world could use some diversity of opinion.

But while there is a distint majority, there is no Arab monolith, and there is no Muslim monolith--they are each myths, and the experience of Kuwaitis and Iraqi Shiites shows that very clearly. All sides should be aware of this when discussing the war, and, for that matter, when discussing anything, especially regarding a people very distant and different. Because whatever the differences, they are still independantly thinking and acting people (even if it's hard to tell sometimes).
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!
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