For the last week, I have been writing about the spectrum of narcissism that leads from healthy self regard through pathological narcissism to malignant narcissism and paranoia.
Part I looked at the developmental line of narcissism and the close relationship to self esteem.
Part II looked at some trends in the Democratic party which lend credence to the idea that significant groups at the core of the party have a narcissistic over-investment in a paranoid or fantasied view of the war on terror.
(For those of you who might support the "Bush lied" view point, the reason I refer to it as fantasied and/or paranoid is because there remains no substantive evidence to back up the charge; it is based on one's feelings rather than the facts. [As an interesting aside, many people prior to the war noted long lines of trucks from Iraq int0 the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and wonder if WMD may be there now; life in Syria and Lebanon is going to get even more interesting in the next little bit, but that is for another post.])
Part III was a discussion of malignant narcissism and its attendant paranoia, with a focus both on the Geo-political situation (most tyrants have significant levels of pathological and malignant narcissism, though some discussion of how much is innate, how much is evoked, and how much is acquired would be interesting) and the shape of pathological narcissism closer to home, arising from dysfunctional homes and communities.
My goal in much of this has been to understand how these personal issues conflate with our current political state. I am especially interested in how personal narcissism among members of our privileged classes endangers our efforts to win what is likely to be a very long war against Islamic fascism. Some on the left are overtly anti-American; there have always been non-democratic Americans who believe that their particular brand of Utopian ideology is necessary to save our nation. From the neo-nazis on the right to the Trotskyites on the left, these people do not believe in consensual politics. Their threat has been obvious and is not my concern at this point. Today the bigger threat comes from a vocal and integral part of the Western Political Elite, the MSM and the Professoriate. While many liberals believe Ward Churchill is a dangerous fool, too many think that his ideas, while perhaps too strongly expressed, have some relative validity. After all, the white man did take the Native American's land; shouldn't we be tolerant and understanding of their anger and the need to redress their grievances. When he argues that the 9/11 attackers are simply retaliating for our numerous misdeeds, it may be noxious to many, but isn't there some truth to his charges? After all, the United States did support tyrants in the Middle East and elsewhere. In another instance of similar logic, the ACLU is suing Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of several people who were abused by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a superficial plausibility to the case. After all, the chain of command does go through Rumsfeld, and prisoners were abused; shouldn't something be done to set things to right? In these cases, as in many others, the left and liberal aggrandizement of their own ideological ideas presents a serious danger to our prosecution of the war. The ACLU, people like Ward Churchill, groups like Moveon.org and Human Rights First insist that their motives are pure (while everyone who disagrees with them have motives that are typically corrupt.) They are upholding human rights; the right to be treated with respect; the right to counsel; the right to free speech. As abstractions, these rights are inviolate; as explanations for their behavior (which could appear to be harmful to our nation's interests) they are superficially plausible; yet, reality always supervenes. To be more attached to abstractions than to the welfare of others in one's community is a classic signifier of the Narcissist. It is one step removed from the narcissistic disavowal of the other: my beliefs are more important than your life.
Lebanon's growing democracy movement offers the Western left the opportunity to become relevant in the War on Terror -- a war that might be more accurately described as a War on Tyranny. Tyranny endures when free people do nothing to stop it; and it prospers when they cut deals with tyrants. Strategic collusion with autocrats had its place in the context of Cold War realpolitik -- but doing so in the Global War on Terror undermines the free world's main line of defense against terrorists, by giving oxygen to the tyrannical regimes that support them.
In Lebanon, tyranny's resilience is being tested. The Democrats' intransigence and incertitude with the War on Terror and European power plays that cynically triangulate the US against despotic regimes mar today's liberals. But there's an opportunity before them called Lebanon, where liberals can become progressives again. It's as though a ship built of cedar has arrived to the Left's dormant shore. Liberals can revitalize their progressive credentials by boarding the Cedar Express and embarking to help expel tyranny from Lebanon, and build a safer Middle East.
If those on the left side of the spectrum can see past their ideological blinders and recognize that through the efforts of Bush and the US military, freedom and democracy are moving throughout the Middle East, they will use the opportunity Lebanon gives them to join in the struggle for human dignity. It is not a coincidence that the Democratic politician who is currently the front runner for the 2008 presidential nomination (and gives every indication as well of being the brightest of the lot), Hillary Clinton, has been strongly supportive of our military and the mission in Iraq. Either she believes what we are doing is correct, or she is opportunistically getting on the ride side of history; either way, her speech has been telling, of late.
The leniency of Bali bombing mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir's sentence -- 30 months for the murder of 202 people -- has shocked the Australian public, not in the least because after long labor the mountain has brought forth a mouse.
He suggests some of the difficulties that arise from treating a war as a legal problem, and then points to some comments by a local observer about the degradation of the Indonesian political environment.
Veteran newsman Max Soliven of the Philippine Star who has covered Indonesia since the Sukarno era in the mid-1960s talks about the shadow of fear that is spreading where it had never been seen before.
"This sends the message to us, who live fearfully on the perimeter of the JI venom this vicious agitator has been sowing among the pesantren, the thousands of religious schools (equivalent to our Muslim madrasas here) ... the government prosecutors acted like a bunch of nervous Nellies at the trial .... many witnesses refused to testify ... Only one witness, Nasir Abbas, has linked Bashir to terrorism, resolutely testifying that the cleric had personally pit him (Abbas) in charge of "terrorist activities in part of the Philippines".
Indonesia’s turmoil had never been about religion. ... Indonesia was a society in which women played a major role, free from the fetters of second-class status ... In my recent visits, I’ve seen – while some of the smiles remain spontaneous – a visible change. An increasing number of women are wearing head scarves, and even all-black covering (ala the Middle East’s structures). Christian churches are being bombed, Christian communities embroiled in civil war with their once-friendly and happy Muslim neighbors, with the ABRI (Armed Forces) too often siding with the militant Islamic jihadis.
Salamabit*, you don’t even have to go to Indonesia. A Vice-Governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao ... is now insisting on implementing a city ordinance ... which requires every Muslim female in Marawi City, yep in our own Mindanao, to wear the head-scarve, otherwise be penalized with a fine of thousands of pesos ... (* Sonuvabitch)
Soliven notes what most of the regular newspapers have missed: that Bashir was at the nexus of the Saudi madrassa system that is the assembly line of terrorism. It is the same system that produced Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a "former Virginia high school valedictorian ... accused in federal court Tuesday of allegedly conspiring with al-Qaida to assassinate President Bush." And it is a system that has proved too powerful to shut down or even criticize.
Wretchard adds that the judge in the Abu Ali case was typically obsequious to the defendant.
Presiding judge O'Grady issued the ritual apology which has become a standard part of treating with these men of the shadows. "I can assure you, you will not suffer any torture or humiliation while in the marshals' custody". Already the victims have become accustomed to craving pardon, in advance, for their unspeakable inferiority, before the emissaries of the madrassas. If US judges are halfway to their knees how likely is it that the Indonesians will hold themselves erect?
Not too long ago, an al Qaeda manual was found in Iraq and translated. Among its directions was the admonition for any captured jihadist to accuse his captors of torture, whether they had been tortured or not. al Qaeda knows that there will be willing allies in the western press who will print such accusations without any attempts to understand what motivates the accusation. Once we know we can and will be accused of torture for daring to use coercive questioning or humiliation, are we to be reduced to "name, rank, and serial number" for terrorist captives? Thus we lose an important weapon in our battle. (Arguments as to what constitutes torture, whether abu Graib and other abuses meets the standard, and the advisability of using coercive questioning techniques have been addressed in many other places. Obviously, there is a line we should not cross, but exactly where that line is can be, has been, and continues to be debated.)
Wretchard grimly concludes:
Who was it who said that all wars of consequence were conflicts of the mind? Without getting too metaphysical, it still makes sense to regard ideas as the foundation of historical struggles; the thing that animates the visible clashes. While an idea's potency remains it will find adherents.
The casual outside observer would conclude, from the apparent fact that the Western ideal can find no public defenders, that it is not worth upholding. Radical Islam, on the other hand, must self-evidently be an idea of great worth, as so many are publicly willing to die for it. And to a limited degree they would be right, for something must be terribly wrong with the West to cause such self-hatred.
America has shown itself apt at striking the visible parts of its enemy but seems unable to touch its foundations. On the contrary, every blow it deals seemingly reverberates within it, spreading cracks throughout its own base. Sometimes I think this is fortunate because I am beginning to suspect that the foundations of Barad-Dur lie within the West and not within Islam.
The only way we can lose this war is to undermine our efforts from the inside. When our elites in the media, academia, the judiciary, ignore or refuse to look at the words of our enemies, and support abstractions over reality, it endangers our welfare, and our rights. If a judge, who can not or will not see that this is merely one more theater in a global war, is successful in engineering the release of Jose Padilla and he then causes an atrocity (he was working on a dirty bomb, and failing that, had planned to blow up an apartment building) does anyone doubt some basic rights will be curtailed at the demands of a frightened and aroused populace? Does anyone doubt that if we are attacked with mass casualties, our restraint with Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia will be over? Our system depends on the consent of the governed; when people are told they have no right to reasonably defend themselves and that abstract rights for our "victims" (ie, those who want to kill us and destroy our country) are more important than our rights to (in Dennis Miller's immortal words) "not walk down the street and get blown up", we will see a rapid erosion of the very rights we hold dear.
For those who see fascism in my words, I would suggest the meaning of the word fascism has been lost to you. At the moment we are not hauling off thousands of American citizens and summarily executing them; we are holding a very limited number of people who have been apprehended in active attempts to attack Americans and cause mass casualties. Those who fail to see the distinction are blind.