Sunday, August 20, 2006


How Are They Different from Us? Wahabi Edition

Back when we were defending Saudi Arabia against Saddam Hussein, even many Republicans thought a wee bit differently about Wahabi Islam than many do now.

P.J. O'Rourke, "'Somewhere in Eastern Saudi Arabia': January 1991", Give War a Chance:

Wahabis are strict like old-fashioned American Baptists are -- no drinking, dating, mixed dancing or movie going. [...] The religious practices and attitudes of Saudi Arabia are no more peculiar than those of Billy Graham. A church-going, small town American from forty years ago would be perfectly familiar with the public morality here. Only the absolute segregation of the sexes would seem strange. And I'm not so sure about that. At O'Rourke family Thanksgiving dinners in the fifties, all the men were in the living room watching bowl games and the women were in the kitchen washing dishes.

So what's changed: Wahabi Islam or our perception of it? And which perception is right, our current one or the above quoted one? And is it really healthy to view the "enemy" as alien? It might boost our self-esteem to figure that those who attacked us have wildly different values than we, but is that healthy or strategically wise? Shouldn't we confront how much the enemy is like us?

Note this says something about what the right wing of our country wants. The "American Taliban" is not too far off in as much as the lifestyle to which they want to "return" us is not really that different than the lifestyle in an orthodox Wahabi nation.

Of course, perhaps the answer to my question about what's changed is nothing. P.J. O'Rourke is a thorough-going conservative much different politically than the so-called conservatives of the GOP. Even back in the days of St. Ronnie, P.J. O'Rourke noted about the anti-drug hysteria of the time and the Reagans' response to it (which could just as well apply to the anti-terrorism hysteria of our time and the Bush response to it):

To be "doing something about the problem" is a fundamental American trait and by and large a good one. But, in our love of problem-solving, we sometimes forget to ask what the problem is or even whether it's a problem. And once we start doing something, we often lose sight of whether that something is the thing to do. I give you Vietnam, just for instance. -- "Studying for Our Drug Test", Give War a Chance

Where are real conservative voices like these? To me the difference between the GOP of Goldwater and the GOP of Bush II is not the statism, as some have suggested -- though not Goldwater himself, many of his supporters were statists, and their beef was not with government power but with federal power and how it was being used -- but the lack of consideration of the above quoted point about "doing something". There may be all too few liberal and progressive voices in the public discourse (in which someone like me would pass for a lefty moonbat) nowadays, but there are even fewer actual conservative voices. What passes for conservative thinking nowadays is hardly conservative except in terms of conserving a hierarchical society our nation is not supposed to have in the first place, while real conservatives are either also whack-jobs a la Buchannan supporters or have been exiled to the Democratic party where they lie somewhere to the left of the DLC and Blue Dogs that our so-called liberal media is wont to define as the left wing of acceptable political discourse.

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