At what point…

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Today I’m reminded of this little scene from Life of Brian:

REG:
Yeah. All right, Stan. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!
XERXES:
The aqueduct?
REG:
What?
XERXES:
The aqueduct.
REG:
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.
COMMANDO #3:
And the sanitation.
LORETTA:
Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
REG:
Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
MATTHIAS:
And the roads.
REG:
Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads–
COMMANDO:
Irrigation.
XERXES:
Medicine.
COMMANDOS:
Huh? Heh? Huh…
COMMANDO #2:
Education.
COMMANDOS:
Ohh…
REG:
Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
COMMANDO #1:
And the wine.
COMMANDOS:
Oh, yes. Yeah…
FRANCIS:
Yeah. Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
COMMANDO:
Public baths.
LORETTA:
And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
FRANCIS:
Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it. They’re the only ones who could in a place like this.
COMMANDOS:
Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
REG:
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

I’m a little curious. At what point of Iraq progress does the “no exit plan” argument finally lose steam. At what point does the Vietnam comparisons, quagmire calls, and “end the war now” proclamations become tired. Of course it is exactly like Vietnam, except for the bit about overthrowing the primary enemy, dismantling the army, occupying all major cities, establishing an elected government, training a new army and police force, having an embassy and walking through the process of now passing a constitution approved by the People.

Wait, a second, methinks there’s a problem somewhere in the analogy. Let’s see. Ah, that’s it. All Asians, in fact do not look alike.

So, there’s no “exit plan”, except for the bit about the elections, training, empowering, tribunals, Constitution, etc. and so on. Yeah, there are still people dying. But, if that was a sign of failure, we’d have long left Los Angeles and Detroit by now.

Just goes to so, that saying something, even a lot, doesn’t make it true. May God bless the Iraqi people as they continue to rebuild.
Oh!: a better link than the “glass is half empty” one above: Iraqis back democracy four to one. Which means, oddly enough, that everything Bush has thought about the situation thus far has been right. Now if only the anti-“war” folks could admit this, quit their belly-aching so the folks blowing up bombs in Iraq would no longer have an audience.

That’s really worth another post right there, only I haven’t quite developed the thought enough. The anti-war movement has, curiously, been likely the indirect cause for at least a 1000 deaths in my estimation. By keeping up a political opposition they have diluted the effects of overwhelming force by giving the enemy a rationale for victory. In this way it is Vietnam like, as the enemy understands there is no chance for military victory but does see the chance for victory through political defeatism. Thus, because of the protests against death, more deaths are caused. If America was 4 to 1 in favor of democracy in Iraq, the terrorists would go elsewhere. This means that Cindy Sheehan, oddly enough, is likely more to blame for her son’s death than is President Bush.

Overwhelming force must be accompanied by overwhelming resolve. This doesn’t mean all political opposition is wrong, rather it’s more a matter of timing and methods. If Bush had 80% support, there was no anti-“war” movement, and there was not the slightest indication of political fallout from our military presence there, the bombs would stop and the military would come home.

I am of the increasing conviction there’s a lesson in this.

Disengagement

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As you might have heard, Israel is pulling out of Gaza. This is a significant step which will likely not be appreciated by people who would rather Israel pull out all together, of everywhere.

I don’t know enough details to have an opinion about whether this is good or bad. Sharon is a bold man, and has proven his commitments to the security of Israel. I tend to trust his instincts, and don’t trust whatsoever the corrupt leadership of those on the other side. The Palestinian people’s worst enemies over the decades have been their own rulers, and their Arab neighbors.

That all being the case, this will be a situation to watch. Sometimes the daring step is the best.

Because some of the details were murky to me, I found this article on Sharon and Gaza quite interesting.

wee bit of archaeology

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Given that a good deal of my most influential readings are somehow caught up in the religious sensibilities of Egypt I found this discovery of an ancient church and monastery interesting. They don’t say much, and so it’s not terribly interesting, at least not as interesting as it most certainly would be if visiting.

I’d be curious if there was still yet an aura about such a place. Could it be considered holy ground? For certainly the centuries of prayer and extreme devotion seeped into the soil itself.

David’s Palace

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Israeli Archaeologists may have found evidence of King David’s palace.

This, however, is a field which is as much about politics as it is science.

The discovery is likely to be a new salvo in a major dispute in biblical archaeology: whether the kingdom of David was of some historical magnitude, or whether the kings were more like small tribal chieftains, reigning over another dusty hilltop.

The find will also be used in the broad political battle over Jerusalem – whether the Jews have their origins here and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians have said, including the late Yasir Arafat, the idea of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a myth used to justify conquest and occupation.

Hani Nur el-Din, a Palestinian professor of archaeology at Al Quds University, said he and his colleagues considered biblical archaeology an effort by Israelis “to fit historical evidence into a biblical context.” He added: “The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There’s a kind of fiction about the 10th century. They try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button, and they want to make a suit out of it.”

There is also an effort by “he and his colleagues” to deny any and all links to the Biblical narrative, an effort which goes far beyond the Palestinian academy and quite fills the broader academy with its political bias against Israel. The politics swirl about, and denying connections becomes as much a political and emotional point as does finding them. Such things are more than bits of pottery and old stones. They are infused with cultural identities which still manifest themselves today.

It’s hard to come by things which are that old. And because of the absence there are many people who would be more than happy to wash away any narrative or story which connects to that time. It is a fact that the battle over the Biblical narrative has people blinded by faith, and the fact is that such people can have their faith founded in the narrative or founded in denying the narrative. Finding people who are genuinely neutral on the subject is difficult, and so all such stories like this have to be approached with a measure of caution. But, it is interesting and worth following.

There’s a lot of money to be found in claiming Biblical connections. The fellow who “found” John the Baptist’s supposed home knew this, and wildly popularized a silly theory. There’s also a lot of power in claiming a land for thousands of years. Which is why the rubble of the Temple Mount was tossed into trash heaps. No archaelogy was done by the Palestinian contractors… because they didn’t want to find what might be found. It’s a battle, and those who think science is above such battles really needs to get out of the 19th century. Humans use tools quite well, and nothing sparks our use of tools more than warfare. Science is a tool, and study is a tool, and so we walk carefully around fields of battles.

Personally, I think history more trustworthy than not, and think the Biblical narrative more trustworthy than not. I take absence of discovery to be just that, not some sign of purported myth-making by a group of otherwise inconsequential people. I also think there must be something behind the character which has brought the Jewish people through the centuries, and such stories as David are the kinds of things which form character in reality. Simple stories and myths don’t as much.

I’d also be curious about the archaeological support behind Muslim claims over the land. I never hear anything about that story.

a wee bit o’ the history

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Yes, London was bombed again today. What else really can be said? The Australian Prime Minister had good words, worth finding. I’m not posting them mostly because this isn’t a place for continuing analysis of Muslim terrorists. I’ve made my points in posts past, and so that’s that on the subject. Only minor injuries is what I hear, and this is the sort of thing which will be a regular part of life for a long while.

So, instead of wallowing in more descriptions of the kinds of folks who would blow up other folks because of their own inner discontent, I would rather make note of this intriguing little tale of Scotland’s lesser known history.

literally and figuratively

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Psalm 122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “”May they prosper who love you. 7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” 8 For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It seems like now is a good time to do precisely that.

The Columbization of Global Politics

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In recent days there have been many articles, commentaries, posts, conversations, diatribes, philippics, tirades, examinations, considerations, studies, and explanations for the events in London this past week. Most of these have to do with some sort of Islamofascist concern or revolt against Western Imperialism, or Religious Extremists Gone Wild (video in stores soon!). I’ve had a look at what is known about the four bombers.

These are not rebels, these are not prophets, these are not insurgents, ideologues, or zealots. They are punks. They are young discontents who live in all societies and whose inner frenzy is the same but with different labels.

In Los Angeles these punks are called Crips or Bloods. In Columbine they went by the names of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The difference is that instead of a Block or societal alienation, the young punks in London put religious labels on their discontent, and were encouraged by their elders to foment their discontent into a rage.

Suicide bombers are not religious, they are not holy, they are not fighting for a cause. They are no different than the young gang members who do the worst crimes at the behest of their elders. They are willing to throw away their lives because of their massive inner discontent, and they are willing to kill because they have nothing inside which brings peace and joy and love. It’s gone, torn out by circumstances, environment, or just adolescent confusion.

So, we go wrong when we ask what these bombers were thinking and carry on about Israel or Iraq or racism. These bombers were no different than the Columbine killers, their motives were their own inner confusion and rage, and they had no wise authority to help focus their fury towards calm.

We’ve been wrestling with politics and global history and geopolitical decisions, when in fact these bombers are nothing of the sort. They are young punks with bombs, just like gang members and their glocks. Because they spout some religious ideology we take their words seriously and think it relates. It doesn’t. These are just words, labels for the same frenzy found in discontented youth throughout history in cities and suburbs.

The problem is when whole cultures decide that such punks are in fact the voices of their generation. Then they are given status and acclaim, throwing their life away with even more gusto. But, that’s not the character of a real insurgent, who wants to live and live for his family. Nor is it the character of a real religious zealot, who wants transformation not destruction. Killing and maiming is what punks do, and it is what the present generation of terrorists are about, because they are nothing more than stupid young punks without any care beyond their own massive, self inflicted, dissatisfaction.

What then is the proper response to such? With political causes one listens. With religious causes one honors and respects. With real insurgents one tries to alleviate their suffering and understand their cause. Punks are thrown into prison or otherwise stopped. They have no cause beyond the pain they inflict and so the only way to respond is to forcibly prevent them from ruining their lives and the lives of others. That’s why Juvenile Halls exist, and that’s why prisons exist. Some people have no cause and just must be stopped.

We need to get away from the political conversations and see these London bombers for what they are, and realize these kids were not at all different from Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, except in their dress and in the words they use to disguise the fact they really hate themselves.

This is not a world which is wrestling with grand ideas of political philosophy as in eras past. This world is now nothing more than Columbine writ large. We need to respond to such people the same way we would respond to petty criminals and felons, only then will we get at the root of the problem in the world.

Again if you are wondering how this fits into a page filled with spiritual musings… have you read the Psalms? God is a God of love… but there’s no doubt he is fierce with his justice, and doesn’t approve of those who wantonly kill, maim, or destroy for the sake of their own frenzied souls.

choosing targets well…

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Choosing targets is a major part of strategy. Some targets cause secondary explosions of sorts. It seems that London is not, strategically, a good target for terrorists. Some people react with fear when attacked, others find resolve. Some are better lulled into a sense of complacency for the overall strategy to work. History notes that the US and the UK are the sorts of countries which are better not provoked. They tend to get feisty when otherwise they would be lulling about.

Given this poll, though it doesn’t state it, I would guess that GWB’s approval rating in Britain also went up.

How does this relate to a growing Spirituality? Sometimes letting evil fester is more destructive than stopping it. When evil reveals itself, there may not be a response which drives one deeper into the depths, but there are responses which would help one get on with the task sooner and with more resolve. I suspect this is why Jesus made a point about personal morality in turning the other cheek before our enemies, but the NT doesn’t mention a prohibition on fighting evil when it is revealed. For such reason, also, I make note that centurions came off rather well throughout the NT narrative.

Sometimes helping the “least of these” means stopping the monsters who would do them harm.

Which is why I’m not a pacifist. Morality is never quite black and white in this present world.

Why?

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It would be hard to find a better answer to that than this article by Amir Taheri.

and now..

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Before:

“Yes,” said Ford, with a sudden and unexpected fierceness, “I’ve understood it all perfectly well. That’s why I want to have as many drinks and dance with as many girls as possible while there are still any left. If everything you’ve shown us is true …”

“True? Of course it’s true.”

“… then we don’t stand a whelk’s chance in a supernova.”

“A what?” said Arthur sharply again. He had been following the conversation doggedly up to this point, and was keen not to lose the thread now.

“A whelk’s chance in a supernova,” repeated Ford without losing momentum. “The …”

“What’s a whelk got to do with a supernova?” said Arthur.

“It doesn’t,” said Ford levelly, “stand a chance in one.”

He paused to see if the matter was now cleared up. The freshly puzzled looks clambering across Arthur’s face told him that it wasn’t.

“A supernova,” said Ford as quickly and as clearly as he could, “is a star which explodes at almost half the speed of light and burns with the brightness of a billion suns and then collapses as a super-heavy neutron star. It’s a star which burns up other stars, got it? Nothing stands a chance in a supernova.”

“I see,” said Arthur.

“The …”

“So why a whelk particularly?”

“Why not a whelk? Doesn’t matter.”

Arthur accepted this, and Ford continued, picking up his early fierce momentum as best he could.

“The point is,” he said, “that people like you and me, Slartibartfast, and Arthur — particularly and especially Arthur — are just dilletantes, eccentrics, layabouts, fartarounds if you like.”

Slartibartfast frowned, partly in puzzlement and partly in umbrage. He started to speak.

“— …” is as far as he got.

“We’re not obsessed by anything, you see,” insisted Ford.

“…”

“And that’s the deciding factor. We can’t win against obsession. They care, we don’t. They win.”

“I care about lots of things,” said Slartibartfast, his voice trembling partly with annoyance, but partly also with uncertainty.

“Such as?”

“Well,” said the old man, “life, the Universe. Everything, really. Fjords.”

“Would you die for them?”

“Fjords?” blinked Slartibartfast in surprise. “No.”

“Well then.”

“Wouldn’t see the point, to be honest.”

“And I still can’t see the connection,” said Arthur, “with whelks.”

Ford could feel the conversation slipping out of his control, and refused to be sidetracked by anything at this point.

“The point is,” he hissed, “that we are not obsessive people, and we don’t stand a chance against …”

“Except for your sudden obsession with whelks,” pursued Arthur, “which I still haven’t understood.”

“Will you please leave whelks out of it?”

“I will if you will,” said Arthur. “You brought the subject up.”

“It was an error,” said Ford, “forget them. The point is this.”

He leant forward and rested his forehead on the tips of his fingers.

“What was I talking about?” he said wearily.

–Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Increasingly now:

“It is important that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world.

“Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.”

Tony Blair

The terrorists do not know history and do not know anything outside their small circles. By these acts they are pushing people to care, and when such people care, things change.