Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stating the Obvious

I have nothing to say about Romney's assertion that 47% of the country are moochers living tax-free.  Others have dealt with the salient points better and earlier -- that it is untrue (the majority of Americans who do not pay income tax pay payroll taxes, and most of the rest are retired, and the rest are mostly the very poor or students, making less than $20,000 a year*), that is is rather rich for a man who pays 13% in taxes to call people paying 18% in (payroll) taxes freeloaders, that this is perhaps one of the dumbest things Romeny has done yet.

So I'm going to reach back a news cycle (to an event that's ongoing, if forgotten) and state the obvious: we are not at war with Islam.

This is not because Islam is  a 'religion of peace,' since it is no more peaceful than Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism.**  Indeed, few religions are 'religions of peace' in any meaningful way -- off the top of my head I can think of Quakerism, various Anabaptist sects (Mennonites, the Amish), Jehovah's Witnesses and Jains.  That is  to say, these religions a) have no religious conflicts fought in their name and b) are actually pacifistic.

Nor are we not at we not at war with Islam because there are muslims that like us or at least don't hate us.  As moving as the protests held in Benghazi against the murders were, they are beside my point.

No, we are not at war with Islam because one can't be at war with a religion of 1 billion people and more.  One cannot be at war with a religion at all -- what is there to fight?  Wars can only be fought against governments  or, by analogy, organizations (and at this point the war against Al Qaeda proper has basically been won).  It is only in the context of fighting a discrete and definable adversary that you can have coherent war aims and thus, a way to achieve victory.  By contrast, when you declare every adherent of a religion to be your enemy, you are ruling out any end to the conflict other than killing or converting all of them. Such a campaign would make Stalin look humane by comparison.

But of course the 'war with Islam' trope is not a serious policy perscription.  It is one of two things:
  1. A jingoistic cry of rage, a desire to make a complicated political and cultural question (the relationship of Islam to the modern west) into a one-dimensional struggle with a simple solution -- blow them up.
  2. A cynical ploy to harness option 1. into creating popular support for an open-ended 'war' that mostly gives the US the right to act unilaterally, which is the aim of the Cheneys and Rumsfelds of the world.
Because neither of these are good faith arguments, it is with justice that the mainstream media has mostly ignored or marginalized those who promulgate these views.  People who talk about 'a war with Islam' are just trolling our national discourse.
*If your main problem with extreme poverty is that people are getting out of paying taxes, your priorities are messed up.

 **people forget about warrior monks or the Sinhalese Buddhist fanatics of Sri Lankha (though that conflict, like Northern Ireland or the Holy Land, is really about nationalism)

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