Friday, July 06, 2007

The Zawahiri Tape

Power Line thinks al-Qaeda is having a rough time of it, and Ayman al-Zawahiri's video, which describes their travails in Iraq and elsewhere is clear proof. The Zawahiri video with subtitles is shown. The video is worth watching in detail to get more than a superficial sense of Zawahiri's message. Here was how I heard it:

Zawahiri reminds his listeners of the establishment of the Caliphate-in-exile "which everybody applauded"; but bitterly notes that some of those who once clapped now opposed the Islamic State of Iraq "because it is not empowered", which I can only take to mean "in declining fortune". But never fear, he now claims, the "wind is blowing against Washington". Then he digresses and excoriates the Saudis, contrasting the way they sent the youth for Jihad into Afghanistan and but now have forbidden young men to go into Iraq; and who Zawahiri accuses of working tirelessly on behalf of the Americans to deliver Muslim lands into the hands of the Jew! He then switches to a audio clip from a commander who asks why he is getting no reinforcements, why Muslim scholars are hanging back from endorsing their struggle. At this point in watching the video, I realized that although the idea of the "moderate Muslim" may be laughed to scorn by conservatives, the concept was real to Zawahiri at least, as a bitter and galling reality. He seemed disappointed that the Ummah was not prepared to go as far as he.

The degree of despair can be gathered from the video's choice of metaphor. The Al-Qaeda tape compared the Muslim debates over whether or to follow it's lead in the Jihad to the idle discussions within Constantinople over how many devils could stand on the tip of a pin as the Muslims were battering the walls with catapaults -- except this time the roles were reversed. It was the hated Americans were doing the battering and the bickering Muslims who were counting the devils upon the pins. Even allowing for hyperbole, the choice of metaphor does little to convey confidence.

His commander exclaims "May Allah pluck your eyes out if you don't come an join the Jihad!". Quite a line that. It might be that al-Qaeda has been missing its recruitment targets lately and this video is the equivalent of the America's "Army Strong" pitch, except in this case it is more like Jihad On It's Last Legs.

Zawahiri urges the "youth" to hurry to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Palestine and the Atlas Mountains. Support through propaganda (books and cassettes) are not enough. What he needs are sandals on the ground.

As to his boys in Iraq being too "unempowered" for recognition, Zawahiri ask bristlingly whether the Islamic State of Iraq could be any weaker than the Jihadis in Gaza, who only exists he says, at the sufferance of Israel and who commute to the West Bank only after consenting to a search? He asks if those semi-prisoners of Israel can be a government, why can't his boys in Iraq be given the same standing? (These passages were immensely revealing, because they frankly conveyed the fact that despite their bluster, and the media's amplification of it, the bald truth was that mighty Hamas and Fatah lived only because Israel let them. Whether the Israeli hand was stayed from decency or fear of Western political correctness is an open question, but clearly not out of a fear for Palestinian firepower, which Zawahiri can hardly conceal his contempt for. Indeed, Zawahiri goes on so long and hard against Palestine and Hamas that I strongly suspect he dislikes the spotlight on Gaza and the West Bank because, were he frank enough to admit it, it is a competitor for resources for his own project, the Islamic State of Iraq. Shorn of his holy Joe attitude, and Koranic pretensions, what Zawahiri is actually talking about is money, just like a used car salesman. The message is gimme, gimme! This is a better model than that Gaza jalopy you've paid so much for. Gimme.

Zawahiri then goes and declares how pure the al-Qaeda in Iraq is compared to Hamas, how unstained by innocent blood. He says this with a straight face, but his whiskers have me at a disadvantage. Then having denied any misdeeds, he makes the extraordinary offer to submit the Caliphate's leaders and men to Muslim judicial proceedings -- some kind of Islamic International Criminal Court -- strange that the Brussel's ICC's writ runs so short that Zawahiri doesn't even consider it from across the Mediterranean Sea. And my guess on hearing these words is that Zawahiri is feeling the heat, despite his disclaimers of innocence and heading off the complaints about al-Qaeda's bloody tactics in Iraq. He is saying "I promise to cooperate fully with any investigation". That would be the way it would be phrased in Washington. Then he claims is being wronged by the Mainstream Media, which reserves favorable coverage for those bozos Hamas when they are thugs, while his pure warriors are depicted as baby-killers by ignorant correspondents.

Zawahiri's explains that al-Qaeda's counterattacked in Iraq was to save it from the defeat which overtook Afghanistan. He says so plainly. He saw it -- initially at least -- as fundamentally defensive in character; a blocking action to an imminent American threat. And in my opinion, his great fortune lay in that Iraq was so close, to the sources of his Arabian manpower pool that he was able generate a much greater force than has been possible in Afghanistan. And yet despite the advantage of fighting in the heart of the Arab World he was running out of recruits, which is the entire point of his whole video. Maybe the American strategy of turning the Sunnis against the al-Qaeda has had international repercussions on his recruiting. Word is filtering back to other Arab countries that al-Qaeda is the enemy; that it's not all it was cracked up to be when it could be viewed from the romantic distance of Afghanistan. Up close it was ugly. In an indirect way the battlefield has produced what diplomacy was supposed to and could not. It has alienated al-Qaeda from some of its Sunni base. If I am right, it's a thunderclap. And I suspect I am right because right aferward Zawahiri waxes poetic on the great "conquests" of Islam. The attacks on the embassies, on the USS Cole. September 11. Attacks in Europe. But he has no victories to offer after that. Except one. Political victories in America. He offers a clip from Thomas Kean saying that America is facing a tough challenge as if to underscore how the winds are now turning against Washington, though the winds blow from Washington itself. Zawahiri then plays clips asserting that al-Qaeda has grown to Pan-Islamic power, with cells everywhere, even in London. (Interestingly enough, one of the reasons his cited experts give for al-Qaeda's increasing strength "is not just American policy" but the repressive policies of Arab governments. The same people our "realists" want us to rely upon once we withdraw from Iraq.) His cited experts say that if al-Qaeda can drive America from Iraq then not only will al-Qaeda's stock rise but those of Arab governments will correspondingly decline. But he fears those governments still and in his last statements warns of cryptic dangers "outside of Iraq", to pefidies of all types and I wonder whether he meant Iran.

I think anyone who has the time should watch the video in its entirety. Especially Senators, though I doubt they have the time. Zawahiri is not a man who exudes the air of a winner. The entire 23 minute segment shows a man who seeking comfort from past glories, is agonizing over a quagmire, worried he is losing international support, and whose army is breaking down from overstretch.


Blogger Unknown said...

Everyone loves a winner. Al Quaeda does not have the look of a winner this summer. We do, one only wonders if anyone in Washington is looking.

7/06/2007 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

At this point in watching the video, I realized that although the idea of the "moderate Muslim" may be laughed to scorn by conservatives, for Zawahiri at least, it was a bitter and galling reality. Or at least he was disappointed that the Ummah was not prepared to go as far as he.

Reaching for straws is unbecoming of you.

Polls of Muslims are so embarrassing that they are usually not spoken of...they are embarrassing because they show the extent of support that Al Qaeda had at this moment. But worse they show that Al Qaeda had tremendous support right after 9/11 but before we went into Iraq. What you are grasping at isn't so much a lack of support for Al Qaeda but the simple human desire to not die. In any religion there are those who are absolutely faithful to the word and those who are somewhat less so devoted to the word. It stands to reason that those who are not so absolutely devoted to the word might be a bit slower to take up arms against the United States since it is apparent how risky that might be.

Those who talk about the moderate muslim need to explain why in Indonesia in 2003 there was over 56% support for Bin Laden. Now of that 53% not all of them are willing to leave their families and take up arms.

Does the fact that only 1% of the Americans are in arms mean that we do not support our soldiers or their mission?

A War by any other name is still a war

7/06/2007 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

That was an interesting analysis. Zawahiri sounds like a man in need of men and material. This doesn’t bode well for him.

If Zawahiri is being harbored by Iran then one would guess he would have access to said men and material from the mullahs. But, that does not appear to be the case.

He reminds me of Abu Nidal. A man with out a country and possible about to lose his head.

7/06/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/06/2007 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Keith Laumer observed in one his sci-fi books that the Native Americans had no memory of the Great Trek they made across the Bering Strait to reach North America. And the probable reason for that -- and the reason why prehistory and even written history is doubtful -- is that we revisionist tale-tellers. The Chinese Whispers or Telephone Game proves that even over short time spans, the signal gets corrupted with the telling.

Our ideas change. They cannot help but change. It is impossible for them not to change. And Islam is not exempt from this rule. Allah did not make an exception for them. At some historical point a guy called Mohammed went and created a tradition which shot the Arabs off on a different tangent. Nothing forbids the same thing from happening to Islam today and altering the trajectory Mohammed began.

I would go so far as to argue that Islam is doomed to change. And it is precisely out of the fear of this change that folks like Zawahiri keep trying to hold back the tide. Made him try with one burst of hideous discipline to turn history back to the 8th century. But it's useless. Even his Islamic Caliphate is beset with bickering and revision. Even the core of his Jihad is rotten with ambition, greed and doubt. Al-Qaeda does not fight for "God". God changes. He renews. He makes us look to the stars. One day the growing grass will cover Osama's edicts against tomatoes and cucumbers; the damp will mulch his presciptions for mutilation and beheading. Zawahiri and Bin Laden will no more be remembered by Muslims than the Native Americans remember crossing a particular creek on the Great Trek.

But what will make them change? Them and us. Them I will leave. But we can speak of ourselves. We can speak of us. Imagine how bitter al-Qaeda must be that US military personnel have been able to turn Arab Muslims against them. They! The Paladins of Islam outdone by sergeants and captains. Now that may not be the definition of moderate as we would want it. But there are various ways of persuasion and I am not too choosy. There were few Nazi moderates in 1940, but there were many more in April and May of 1945. Facts are persuasive, even to the Japanese fanatic and Nazi die-hard. Nothing so moderates a fanatic as the manifest proof that his fanaticism is futile.

If we want moderate Muslims we must be resolute infidels. Or if you will, true believers. They will be moderate in proportion to our resolution. But resolution does not require cruelty. Back in May 1945 the "moderate" Nazis fled West not because the Allies were irresolute; but because the Allies were both resolute and fair. But the Soviets on the other hand were resolute and brutal. And in that dire strait the lowest common denominator of moderation manifests itself.

Those who wish to conquer (Zawahiri uses the word "conquests" repeatedly) are dissuaded in different ways. Some by logical argument; others by their decency. Still others are converted by their fears. The Islamic moderates will come forth the day it becomes plain we will not yield. And not before.

7/07/2007 04:10:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Zawahiri speaks with more honesty than just about any Western politician. Global jihad is hard. There are ups and downs. You adapt and move on. Zawahiri never talks of quitting.

Contrast his speech with the bunch of self-serving incompetents we have slinking around Washington and London and establish your own over-and-under for the number of murdered Westerners it will take to get some real leadership. Is the Boomer Generation itself a lost cause?

If I hear or see the phrase "moderate muslim" again I am going to start screaming. Zawahiri IS Islam. Read the Koran and the biographies and tell me I am wrong.

7/07/2007 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Nothing forbids the same thing from happening to Islam today and altering the trajectory Mohammed began.

That is certainly true so far as it goes but that belief assumes that Islam can escape the bounds of its foundational principles. The Judeo/Christian value system, as narrated in the Bible, involved hundreds of actors and developed over a period of several thousand years.

Islam's wisdom documents are the work of a single author and reflect his personal experience over the span of a couple decades. I can find the passages in the Haidith where Mohamed made exactly the same kind of complaints about the lack of fighting spirit among the muslims that Zawahiri makes today.

For so long as Mohamed remains the central figure of Islamic beliefs - and could it be any other way - there is not enough ideological wiggle room to develop an alternate Islamic value system.

7/07/2007 04:59:00 AM  
Blogger ADE said...


Your first sub-comment is absolutely superb.

Never have I heard it so well put:

Al-Qaeda does not fight for "God". God changes. He renews. He makes us look to the stars.

My own view (as an extreme sceptic)has been that , for man to survive, one must believe. I have never been able to work out what it is that one must belive in.

Now I know, thanks to your insight. It is the look to the stars. The roll of the dice, the que cera, the belief that it will work out.

Anything that closes that down is to be opposed, is being opposed. Looks like even the most backward culture on the planet gets it now. No, I don't mean the Democrats.


7/07/2007 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...


I wouldn't equate the swell of sympathy we were granted upon 9/11 as real support. Sentiment given a victim is not the stuff a leader can bank on to conduct real-world international affairs.

Real support, the stuff we can use as a leader, comes from respect for our power, influence and effectiveness. After all, the type of international support we want is really a transaction - it's an investment on their part. If we can fulfill our promises, shape the world order, and benefit them, then we're worthy of their support, their investment.

However, a victim is not worthy of investment, only sympathy and charity. I suppose that's a kind of support, but it's not the kind that a leader can rely on. Did 9/11 really *reduce* us so much that we now can only grasp at sympathy and charity as the best investment we can expect from the international community?

For the support we want as effective world leaders and controllers of our fate, the path to it is not 9/11-generated sympathy. The path to support goes through victory.

7/07/2007 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Coach Mark said...

A question still not being asked or answered by our incompetent press is WHY IS IRAQ IMPORTANT TO AL QAEDA???

If Zawahiri and others are calling for help there and sending men and money it is obviously important to them. How about someone ask Barack Obama or Hillary why al Qaeda is making these statements and then ask why we need to get out ASAP and how those two things can both be allowed to happen?

7/07/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre said...

I wouldn't equate the swell of sympathy we were granted upon 9/11 as real support. Sentiment given a victim is not the stuff a leader can bank on to conduct real-world international affairs.

I believe that you misunderstand me. My point was that all of this talk about moderate muslims is infuriating to me considering the polls in lands that are supposed to be filled with "moderate" muslims, like Indonesia. Those polls of "moderate" muslims showed after 9/11 overwhelming support for a person who had just murdered 3,000 innocents. What exactly was the grievance of these "moderate" muslims that could see them supporting a mass murderer?

I am not with Wretchard in believing that there is a way of moderating Islam. I do not believe there is...which leads to a very dark place. So once you get into that dark place I have no way out that is not horrible.

But just because it is horrible does not mean it is invalid and just because Wretchards solution is palatable does not mean it will work.

I think that we are currently trying a bunch of strategies that won't work because they don't involve much sacrifice from us or our enemies. By attempting policies that are doomed to fail we waste time and allow our enemies to gain strength and possibly gain the control of horrible weapons that virtually guarantee the nightmare that I have.

Had we straight away declared that Islam had to reform for us to consider it an equal we might be in a very different spot right now. Instead we put forth an image of weakness and misunderstanding. That will not be a reassuring vision to actual moderate muslims if such beasts exist.

Wretchard I am sorry but there are no such things as moderate muslims. There do exist muslims who don't believe...but calling them moderate is a mislabeling.

Islam's founder was not someone you would be likely to invite to dinner...that is exceptional and telling. No other major religion was started by someone you would likely draw a gun on these days.

7/07/2007 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Delightful comment thread -- with the usual suspects leading discussion (W, peter, pierre).

wretchard writes: "Nothing so moderates a fanatic as the manifest proof that his fanaticism is futile."

Indeed, in the 1920's and 1930's millions around the world thought what Mussolini and the National Socialists were up to in Europe was the coming thing. They quietly put away their armbands and sympathies once fascism was thoroughly discredited.

peter follows with: "Zawahiri never talks of quitting. Contrast his speech with the bunch of self-serving incompetents we have slinking around Washington and London . . ."

How much easier would this war be without the encouragement provided our enemies by their cheerleaders in Western newsrooms, or the conflict-resolution fetishists who are always gamed by ruthless and clever opponents, or the self-appointed moral scolds who insist that our moral authority evaporates should we fail at any moment to observe Marquis de Queensbury rules against enemies who abide by no rules at all.

7/07/2007 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/07/2007 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

A year and a half ago, I finally read Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. I was impressed, but ultimately unpersuaded. When I then read Decline of the West, I felt the same disconnect. Anyway, here's what I wrote then, which I think is still accurate:

Much of the viability of non-Western civilizations will depend on them incorporating the values and first principles of the West, if not the trappings. Where Western first principles irreconcilably contradict the first principles of the host society, clashes and conflicts will manifest. Huntington is right about that.

But what will these clashes look like? I think they will resemble the intramural competition of the West--an interior selection of identifiers and ideologies--rather than the inter-civilizational warfare that Huntington predicts. The Western-ideological battles of the 20th century will replay in new forums, as cross-pollination leads to mutations that then compete within their particular civilizational arenas. The fitness of the West will create a gravity that pulls others towards it, and much like the matter that gets burned off when approaching a black-hole, the unfit paradigms of each civilization will get discarded the closer the society gets to Western norms.

Of course, if the society itself is fundamentally contradictory to Western values, thereby precluding any successful mutations from appearing within its sphere of influence, it will burn up entirely as its contact with the West increases.

Bobbitt predicts the Market State. Perhaps a better name for the new geo-political game is The Marketable State. The society that wins will be the society that sells.

In this century, marketability will be the core value of a successful society.

7/07/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...


I'm with Wretchard. The point you miss is that there is a war within Islam.

Salaam eleiku.

7/07/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...


I know your comment was not addressed to me but I have something of an issue with the "war within Islam" phrase.

I have stated many times that my negative opinion of Islam is based entirely on its wisdom documents, i.e., the Koran and the biographies. I do not address theological issues. They are too personal and too difficult to explain adequately for one thing.

One topic that is open, or should be, for fair discussion are the social and political institutions which well intentioned people could construct from the so called wisdom documents of any political ideology. In other words, if one could use only the blueprint from the Koran and the biographies what kind of society could one build?

Where am I wrong if I say that the Islamic blueprint requires a social order controlled exclusively and completely by Muslims? Can you point out any part of the Koran and the biographies which taken in context encourage or even permit a non-authoritan form of government? I can find hundreds of commands which order Muslims to obey Mohamed, follow his example, and respond to his orders alone.

7/07/2007 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre said...

I'm with Wretchard. The point you miss is that there is a war within Islam.

Not sure why you would believe that I miss that there is a war within Islam? What have I said that leads you to believe that?

Furthermore why do you believe that it makes a difference?

7/07/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

The desire for victimhood status is in my view a huge red flag indicating the complete feminization of our political discourse. Lifetime movies present "beautiful victims" ... generally attractive but older actresses who's characters are widowed or cheated upon divorcee's, who every one feels sorry for, and uses her victim status to attract a younger hunkier flannel clad mate who is also secretly rich and powerful.

That over and over again I hear people lamenting our loss of "political capital" of our victimhood status after 9/11 indicates to me a society completely dominated by feminine concerns. Particularly for status. Which in turn of course leads to extreme divisiveness since the ordinary men in the Lifetime movie is the walk-on extra or the cheating husband who gets his comeuppance. The A-Listers of course get the starring role.

I don't see that changing (a cringing, feminine response to terror to achieve beautiful victimhood, see Angelina Jolie / Marriane Pearl) and moving onto more important things, such as achieving the highest status possible. Unless or until we lose so many cities that we are jolted out of the status race and elites are overthrown.

Our own society is terribly, terribly static and stale.

And Wretchard, the reason Keith Laumer is wrong is because he thought like a Westerner. Tribal peoples have no memory of migration because ... they are tribal. The ideas of place and continent and journeys are those settled, abstract thinking Westerners. Not tribal peoples who if they don't like the way things are going, simply split off and walk away. And even though the political changes of tribal hunter-gatherers who made up the Amerind ancestors were so numerous any knowledge of journeys made were lost within generations, culturally they remained as they always were.

Just as Islam might be roiled by political conflicts, but culturally has not changed, and can not change. I submit it makes not one dime's worth of difference if AQ is eventually beaten everywhere or not. Because Muslim family formation will be the same most everywhere: cousin marriage, culturally closed therefore, beset by genetic defects, subject to horrendous competition for available wives by men, therefore wracked with violence and NEEDING to conquer other areas.

Weaker cultural neighbors who cannot muster up great amounts of "yeoman" to fight to annihilation the Muslim enemy will as always, fall to Islam. Stronger cultural neighbors who can offer yeoman like resistance will likely prevail for the most part.

The only way Islam will change is through near-annihilation that forces a change for pure survival of it's people. The problem is NOT the Koran, Hadith, or even in the end Osama. Since all religions can be filled with that nonsense, and most put it in a box where it's rarely let out. Though certainly the Koran, Hadiths, etc are worse by far than any other religion.

The central problem is how Muslims are organized by FAMILY. They are NOT like us (or much of anyone else for that matter).

The next time you are accused of Islamaphobia, ask your interrogator: do you and everyone you know marry your cousin? Do you and everyone you know require a virgin for a bride? Do you and everyone you know practice polygamy and bride-purchasing?

THESE few practices make Islam like glass or cement, impermeable to any change or moderation at all Wretchard, in my estimation. They are at the heart of what Islam is and who Muslims are. And under enough sustained blows, their culture will break apart, utterly.

Forget the religion. Look at the family and how it is formed.

7/07/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Can't have a war if only one side is fighting... that is known as 'ceding the battlespace'. Also known as 'losing'.

One of the main problems with a 'war within Islam' is that there is no singular thing of Islam: there are more splinters, factions, sub-groups and folks with their very own, as Mohammed spake it, texts. Yes, there is a Koran, and while it serves as a collection, it is just that: a collection of recorded works. Not everything made it into the collection, like the Alawite texts, and those very withheld works and 'special texts' meant that there would always be sources of differences within Islam. The fantasy put forth by al Qaeda and Iran is that there can be *just one brand* of *true* Islam. Theirs.

They are different from each other.

There can be agreement amongst these competing segments for some things, but on the basis of what is believed... well, we can look to early Christianity and the Monophysites, or look to pre-Islamic Egypt to get a flavor of what Christianity was like during that same phase. Pretty shocking to think that the concept of 'monks' in Alexandria corresponds pretty well to the modern day radical jihadi. Christianity did have a dominant Church in Rome, but Constantinople was also important and lesser Orthodox and other sects are still around today. The great binding that was done back then, putting the Bible together, will not suffice in Islam as the Koran already serves as a basic text, but with widely divergent views as it has no centralized authority structure within it. The radicals are trying to put one in place, which also winds up with one large body count if they can really get things going.

The 9/11 attack, and others against the West, were supposed to gain the favor of the Divine and see the West quiver and fall to the might of devotion. They were, perhaps, just a few years too early as the West was already teetering on the brink of self-dissolving into Transnationalism. Letting an enemy self-destruct is not something well thought of amongst those looking to spur activity via radical means... even a war of attrition is preferable to that.

Now they actually have a fight on their hands, and the Muslims may not say much against the radicals, but they are also voting with their feet on getting into a glorious fight. Or voting with their butts, as the case may be. Somehow that glorious inspiration hasn't worked out quite like they expected it to. No great shattering of Nations, no swarm of the devout coming to them, no great mass upheaval to bring the Caliphate back from the grave.

And as they don't have the tools of thought to create something better, they are stuck with destruction. Radicals love to destroy and put forward how they are unafraid of death. They forget that they also say they are afraid to live in this world as it is. As victory is not graced upon them from on high, they now seek the victory of the grave. Unfortunately for the moribund West *that* is enough to cause what is here to start going down with them.

Market vitality does not indicate freedom nor the will to retain liberty. It measures trade of value, not wealth of spirit and soul. The trade is looking great... the spirit and soul part appears to be running on Empty. The West no longer sees need to fight for liberty and freedom *anywhere*, and that is the surest way to lose it with those who would be friends, and to soon lose it for oneself because no support can be put forth because it just might cost a bit in that dollar amount. And yet serve as the wellspring for the spirit to keep freedom and put it to the use of liberty.

7/07/2007 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Forget the religion. Look at the family and how it is formed.

So, are you suggesting that nineteenth century Mormonophobia was justified?

Or, for that matter, anti-Jewish resentment during the Greco-Roman period when polygamy (and cousin marriage) was allowed among Jews?

7/07/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

AJacksonian (btw, love your site and read it every day, good luck with the move) --

I would suggest that the early Christian debates aka sectarian fights over extreme celibacy (end result, no more Christians) and the more moderates (go forth and multiply) provide a useful lens to see what actually motivates the doctrinal disputes among Muslims.

Yes there is a war between Islam. But it's not what people THINK it is.

Alexis -- I think this addresses your comments/questions:

The "pattern" of Islam is the same over and over and over and over and over again. Polygamy, cousin-marriage, bride-prices, etc. all make extremely scarce the supply of available women for men. It's estimated that 30% of African marriages are polygamous, and about 10-15% (the high side being Saudi) in the ME are polygamous.

Now what oh what pattern emerges? A group of young men, being poor, and not connected, go out into the desert and/or bush. Band together and tell themselves that the religion and regime that has sequestered all the women into harems is ungodly, and god commands them to overthrow them. The stage raids until the central regime is overthrown, and naturally fight amongst themselves (the first eight Caliphs IIRC were murdered). Over women.

This pattern under the Chinese Emperors and their princelings also replicates itself. Note the Taipeng Rebellion? How many millions dead with Muskets and black powder?

Alexis: the Jews and Mormons being polygamous were by definition aggressive and thus faced being crushed by a larger more generally monogamous nation that could muster superior manpower. Mormons are still not trusted today (Twain hated them with a passion). Today of course we face superior manpower on the part of polygamists. So it's far more dangerous.

Because the root cause of the conflict won't go away.

AJacksonian: WHY the Salafists? The average Muslim barely knows the Koran. But he sure as heck knows: he can't get married to a proper Muslim girl, "infidels are whores" not fit for a proper Muslim (and they would not put up with him anyway) and his choices are homosexuality, pornography (substitution), or jihad. And if "enough" jihadis get together they can make themselves damn Caliphs. After all, isn't Muslim history FULL of conquering the Infidel and taking their women as concubines? He could have a proper Muslim wife AND the infidel whores? What's not to love?

Contrast that with the West's relative stability. Peasant revolts COMPARED TO either Chinese or Muslim revolts are far fewer. Generally centering around taxes (affecting a man's ability to wed or improve his family's life), revocation of rights (same), and so on.

What this suggests is that the problem with Muslims and the West is systemic and based on how families are formed and the enormous pressures on young men who cannot form families (which makes them far more conservative generally) to something, anything, to get round the barriers.

So Zawahari might be hard pressed, but there is sure to be another.

No one has satisfactorily answered WHY a man like Zawhari or bin Laden would give up comfort and security for life of Jihad.

MY answer is that: they plan to win. And be Caliph. Have a whole horde of concubines and wives. Wealth beyond imagination. Through conquering. If nearly every unwed Muslim man is like them to some degree, and operating from the same influences, peace there will be only when most/all of them are dead.

7/07/2007 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


So, what effect do you think there will be with sex-selective abortion in India and China? Using your logic, sex-selective abortion (and informal polygamy) would create gigantic armies of angry men to rival any from Islam.

Although polygamy is codified in Islam (and early Judaism and early Mormonism), it exists informally in other societies. Sometimes a rich man will keep a mistress, and while this relationship lacks the legal protections of marriage, it does succeed in keeping young women away from young men. Traditionally, the hatred engendered through this informal polygamy has been aimed at the mistress, not the powerful man. So, how would you account for the effects of informal polygamy?

What do you think the effect would be on Islam's family structure if the Shi'ite institution of temporary marriage were incorporated into its social structure? If temporary marriage existed as a sexual outlet, would there be less Muslim aggression against the outside world?

7/08/2007 12:01:00 AM  

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