The Members of the “So What” Coalition

Christopher Hitchens has an informative column in today’s Slate Magazine detailing various schisms within Islam. After describing the divisions, Hitchens then chastises “very hard-line right-wingers” for asserting that violence between the different sects is of no interest to the outside world…

I have met a few very hard-line right-wingers who say: So what? If one lot of Islamists wants to slaughter another, who cares? It’s very important to repudiate this kind of “thinking.” Religious warfare is the worst thing that can happen to any society, and it now has the potential to spread to societies that are not directly involved….We cannot flirt, either morally or politically, with divide and rule.
My question: is it fair for Hitchens to assign an attitude of indifference to Muslim-on-Muslim sectarian violence exclusively to “hard-line right-wingers”? Doesn’t “So what” accurately describe the Jack Murtha-Hillary Clinton attitude towards the people of Iraq that is fast becoming the mainstream Democratic position?

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crowd surfer
14 years ago

Hitchens is a weekly guest on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. He is often critical of the left for its indifference to the plight of the Iraqi people, and the catastrophe that would result from our quick withdrawal. I would venture he would be just as critical, likely more so, of those on the Murtha left.
In the same article, he holds his sharpest criticism for those who say we should show “respect” to Muslims who are violent, or who refuse to condemn the violence. It would seem he is suggesting right-wingers who subscribe to a “so what” position are worthy of chastisement as well as the Murtha crowd, not exclusively.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

“I have met a few very hard-line right-wingers who say: So what? If one lot of Islamists wants to slaughter another, who cares? It’s very important to repudiate this kind of “thinking.”
Why is it important to repudiate this thinking, Mr. Hitchens? Because it’s the worst thing that can happen to a society?
That would seem to be that particular society’s problems.
Because it could spread?
As Americans, we’re not going to be able to contain foreign Muslim on Muslim violence indefinitely.
Call me a hard-line right winger, but Hitchens doesn’t give a good reason for making this statement.
NEWSFLASH: If they are busy killing each other, they’re not killing us.
NEWSFLASH: This was Ronald Reagan’s thinking during the ’80’s Iran-Iraq War.

Matt Jerzyk
14 years ago

Andrew, have you endorsed a candidate for President?

mrh
mrh
14 years ago

Doesn’t “So what” accurately describe the Jack Murtha-Hillary Clinton attitude towards the people of Iraq that is fast becoming the mainstream Democratic position?
No.
There, that was easy! 🙂

Perry Ellis
Perry Ellis
14 years ago

Opression, which denies liberty, begets violence. I don’t think letting them kill each other makes us any safer.
What will lead to greater security in the world (AFTER we defeat terrorism) is what Rudy Giuliani describes as “bringing them into the modern world”.
Sectarian violence will not end when basic human rights are denied. Liberty will not spread and democracy will not stand in those parts of the world until terrorism is defeated.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

The War on Terror is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan and will continue for decades. Our goal was never to build a stable Iraq. It was to eliminate Islamic extremism that is a threat to the United States.
We thought that creating a stable democratic Iraq would help eliminate extremism, but let’s not forget that the creation of a stable Iraq was a means to an end, not the end in itself.
Bin Laden has warned his fellow lunatics not to increase Muslim on Muslim violence that will detract from al-Qaeda’s primary mission of destroying the US.
I say let Hussein and Ali beat one another up until they’re tired of it.

Andrew
14 years ago

Crowd Surfer:
I agree with 100% of your interpretation. My point was that anti-war advocates and those we mistakenly call “pacifists” these days think they deserve a free pass when they take an attitude of “so what” towards foreign violence. But they don’t deserve to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions any more than the very hard-line right wingers do.
Mr. H
Murtha’s plan is to use parliamentary moves to cause the military situation in Iraq to deteriorate, so the President will be forced to withdraw troops. (Murtha’s not willing to take the chance that the surge might work). He won’t support a measure to actually bring the troops home at this point — too much political risk there — he just wants to deny them reinforcements.
Allowing the situation to deteriorate means that American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will be getting killed and injured in greater numbers than they are now – that’s the definition of deterioration. And Murtha’s reaction to this? “So what”; he’d rather risk increased danger for the people on the ground in Iraq, than take any purely political risks himself, to get to his ends.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

Okay, so how does Bush react now that Tony Blair decided not to be his lapdog in heat anymore?

Perry Ellis
Perry Ellis
14 years ago

Rhody, typical liberal purely emotional, devoid-of-any-thought response.
This is a victory for Bush’s strategy. The areas of Iraq that have been under British control are ready to be handed over to the Iraqi’s.
Looks like the terrorists have already broken your will. The majority of Americans would still rather win!

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

The goal of this war, as presented to us when Bush asked for authorization from Congress, was to oust Saddam from power. By that standard, indeed, the U.S. won.
Unfortunately, Bush had to come up with one excuse after another to keep us there. He turned victory into a gigantic quagmire (unless, of course, you own Halliburton stock).

mrh
mrh
14 years ago

Andrew,
I’m not sure that’s the most fair possible summary of Rep. Murtha’s plan, but even if it were it’s non sequitor to say that he’s indifferent to Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

Andrew
14 years ago

Mr H,
Here’s about as charitable as you can get describing the Murtha slow bleed plan…
Murtha says the current strategy has failed. The President wants to change strategy. Murtha says, no you have to stay with the strategy that’s failed, until I can amass enough votes to openly call for a withdrawal. Then we can switch to the strategy of walk away and hope for the best. And if the best doesn’t happen, *shrug*.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

Would you perhaps prefer that we have to fight the terrorists here on our own soil Rhody?

mrh
mrh
14 years ago

Andrew,
I guess we’ll have to disagree about whether that really is “as charitable as you can get” in describing Rep. Murtha’s plan. 🙂 I’m sure I won’t convince you otherwise.
Also, I think saying that “the President wants to change strategy” might be being too generous. More troops (or extending the tours of troops already deployed) doesn’t constitute a change in strategy. It’s barely a change in tactics.
I’m not going to change your mind.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

Smm, we should be beefing up our homeland security instead of blowing more billions in a quagmire. Let’s make sure we’ve sufficiently protected our own people before we dive into other people’s problems.

Andrew
14 years ago

No, Mr H, you’re not going to change my mind, if you can’t be bothered to make any actual arguments.

mrh
mrh
14 years ago

No, Mr H, you’re not going to change my mind, if you can’t be bothered to make any actual arguments.
Why so hostile? I had a smiley face in my last comment, for cripes’ sake! A smiley face!
I’ll just note that you’re not really making arguments either; just assertions. We can debate the merits of the “surge” or of trying to resist the “surge” or what have you, if you like. I just don’t know how to convince you to look more charitably on Rep. Murtha’s plan, or less charitably on the President’s.
I asserted that, “More troops (or extending the tours of troops already deployed) doesn’t constitute a change in strategy. It’s barely a change in tactics.” I think that “you have to stay with the strategy that’s failed” is a bad reading of the Murtha proposal. I think judging “strategy change” solely by changes (or consistency) in troop levels is too-narrow thinking.
You said, “Murtha’s plan is to use parliamentary moves to cause the military situation in Iraq to deteriorate.” I think this is inaccurate. Murtha’s plan is to resist deploying more troops into a losing cause. The end result might or might not be that the military situation will deteriorate, but it’s a calumny to claim that such deterioration is the INTENT.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

I’ll take that as a Yes Rhody… and now we know why you are not a military strategist. Don’t you see any impracticalities with your Fortress America idea? Like, not enough people maybe? Like, cost prohibitive maybe? Like, they only need to be on our soil long enough to commit suicide maybe? I doubt you can prove that what is going on in Iraq really is just somebody else’s problem. That’s too trite to be anything but a talking point that you borrowed from your neighborhood defeatist.

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