Saudi Reformation?

Haaretz

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in Martin Luther’s Germany, Henry VIII’s England, or revolutionary America? I sure have. And now we can watch what it is like. That is essentially what is happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Myron Magnet wrote about it in City Journal yesterday.

How extraordinary to see a world-historical revolution unfolding before one’s eyes and not know how it will turn out: that’s what’s happening right now in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad bin Salman, a 32-year-old too young to be a partner in most law or finance firms, has managed, by intrigue not yet fully disclosed, to supplant his cousin Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef as heir to the throne and to carry out a purge of the royal family breathtaking in its sweep. Imagine: not only did bin Salman order the arrest of at least ten other princes and a score of former government ministers, now held in luxurious restraint in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton; he also supposedly had Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a major shareholder of 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter, and a host of other giant Western corporations, hanged upside down and beaten in an “anti-corruption” investigation.

No matter that “wasta”—corruption, kickbacks, and cronyism—has long governed Saudi Arabian business dealings. Now, the kingdom’s economic crown jewel—Aramco, the Saudi state oil company—is headed for sale on the public stock markets, and the financial future of the kingdom and its oligarchs is on the line. Sadly for the Saudis, Aramco is no longer as valuable, economically and geopolitically, as it once was. Natural gas from fracking has displaced oil as the fuel of the Western economy, with the result that OPEC (and, less critically, Russian oil) can no longer hold anybody’s economy hostage. […]

I’m not completely certain that the Russia part of the story is less critical, but the Saudi story is certainly more gripping at the moment.

Economic modernization and diversification, the prince saw, were essential, and they required social liberalization as the first order of business, beginning with allowing women to drive cars, the royal road to women’s liberation. Already, Saudi women are casting off the hijab and seizing modern social pleasures. The important point is that half the kingdom’s potential workforce will become free to produce, with hugely positive consequences for the economy.

But that’s only part of the social revolution that the prince’s economic transformation entails. Crucially, the royal family will find it harder to fund the radical Wahhabi Islam that OPEC has let grow like mushrooms. It’s hard to imagine that this well-established, well-fed worldwide network of terrorist-supporting fanatics, in their opulent mosques and madrassas—and especially in the more Spartan ones in Pakistan—will go quietly; little wonder that the prince has surrounded himself with a repressive security apparatus reminiscent of the Shah of Iran’s. He appears to be a quiet but inexorable foe of Muslim extremism, and consequently it is uncertain that he will emerge from his heroic and visionary remaking of the Saudi order with his head intact on his shoulders. Many a social liberalization has spun out of control and produced anarchy or fascist counterrevolution. But well-wishers have long hoped that some Muslim Martin Luther would purge Islam of its quotient of bloodlust and allow the self-perfecting, ethical version of its peaceful adherents to prevail in a secular society, where separation of mosque and state makes religion a private matter. In a medieval region like Arabia, it turns out, a king might do the job equally well—if he can survive to inherit the throne and rule from it. And then the question will be whether his revolution can last, as the Pahlavis’ and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s did not.

I tend to wonder whether Henry VIII is a closer parallel than Martin Luther, a top-down imposed reformation rather than Luther’s more or less bottom-up one, but then I’m an Anglophile, and its a pretty small point, overall.

But the ramifications are breathtaking. While we American worry more about the Iranians (not to mention their manifold connections with North Korea) Britain, who have more problems with homegrown terrorists than we do, worries quite a lot more about KSA and Wahhabism. Different experiences, different outcomes.

The US, for all our conventional power, often focusses on strategic weapons (read nuclear missiles). That’s important, and I think the Brits (and others) should pay more attention, that Nork launch last week means that all of the northern hemisphere is a target, in fact, London is closer than Los Angeles.

But that doesn’t make the British focus on KSA wrong. The Saudis have financed a lot of bad actors, especially in Pakistan, where a lot of the British problem originates. Remember Pakistan was, like India, part of the Raj, the British Empire in South Asia. It complicates a lot of things for them, and this is one of them.

What will happen? I simply have no idea, I don’t know enough. But it has many good possibilities, just as that document signed on 2 July 1776 did. But like that document, it may well have to be made good in blood, and even if it is, it may be worth it. I guess we’ll see if we live long enough.

Good luck to the Crown Prince though, I think he is on the right track.

 

Advertisements

Afraid to Teach the Truth

Yesterday we talked of the some of the heroes of 9/11. We know they are men and women that we need to remember because they epitomize the best of us. The same is true in Britain, who (other than America) lost more people on 9/11 than any other country, and whose Queen had no hesitation in expressing her sympathy for America that day.

Nor was it coincidental that the US Marine Band played God Save the Queen at the British Embassy in the aftermath of 7/7. We are both societies that celebrate brave people, and freedom, mostly anyway.

This is from Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch.

This is what a society that has capitulated looks like. UK teachers should teach about 9/11 forthrightly, and explain to their students about the Islamic teachings that motivated it, and the nature and magnitude of the global jihad threat. Instead, they cower in fear of Muslim parents and students. That’s no way to win a war. And they won’t win it.

“Teachers ‘scared’ to teach lessons on 9/11 terror attack,” by Camilla Turner, Telegraph, September 9, 2017:

Some teachers are too scared to discuss 9/11 with their pupils as they fear a backlash from Muslim parents, a leading expert in counter-extremism education has warned.

Kamal Hanif OBE, who was appointed by the Government to turn around three schools at the heart of the “Trojan Horse” scandal, said that some teachers have a “misplaced” concern that they will cause offence if they raise 9/11 in the classroom.

He said that some teachers – particularly those who work in schools with a high proportion of Muslim students – see it as a contentious topic and shy away from teaching it.

“Teachers sometimes have a fear that this might be controversial,” he said.

“[They think] if we teach about this we might get Muslim parents objecting.”

Mr Hanif, who is executive principal of Waverley Education Foundation and has advised the Department for Education (DfE) on combating counter-extremism in schools, said that such views are misguided.

“There is a fear [among teachers] but it is not really grounded in anything,” he said.

Sadly those teachers may have a point, but still, I think it reflects very poorly on them. If that is all the respect that they have for their (which parallels our) history, well, I am pleased that they are not teaching my children but rather dismayed that they are teaching anyone’s.

If one is not proud of one’s heritage, how is it possible for one to teach it, and make no mistake, British teachers are rarely reticent about inserting their views into what is taught to children. The real problem is what those teachers believe. Do they really believe in British society, or are they part of the oft rumored ‘fifth column’? Well, I don’t know, American experience suggests that many of them may simply be poorly educated themselves. Far too often the adage, “Them that can do, them that can’t teach” has been proved right. If so, the Britain, like America, needs educational reform, not from the educational bureaucracy, or the government, but from some representative grouping of the people. Perhaps the parents, maybe?

That is one of the things that are becoming more and more obvious in our countries. Education has become out of touch and out of control of pretty much any responsible party, and the so-called reforms we have seen from the government have been mostly rearranging the deck chair on the Titanic. I think the Titanic may well prove a most appropriate metaphor for government education, oversized, poorly captained, and flooding uncontrollably, because of faulty navigation.

But the Brits, like Americans, are better than some of what we hear, and perhaps they will find a solution, I know many of them are looking.

Catching Up

‘She reports, we decide she’s hot’

Well, we’ve been a bit British heavy this week, no apologies, for two reasons, it has been an important week there, and you all kept reading. But some other stuff has been going on, so let’s play a bit of catch-up. First and least important Meghan Kelly had her debut on NBC, I didn’t watch but it sounds like her interview with Putin didn’t go well. Imagine that! Why is it here, I needed a picture for the post, most of the rest don’t lend themselves to that. Too bad, back in Obama’s first term, when she was working hard on being a reporter, she was a good one.

Qatar got itself isolated from its neighbors for its support of Iran, Russia, and terrorism. Ace had the best write up I saw.

First of all, though there’s some recent news which seems to be sparking this — leaked documents showing cooperation between the UAE and Israel, leaked documents showing Qatar cozying up to Russia — in fact, those are just shots being fired in an information operation war that has been going on for years. Those are not the cause of the tensions, just the recent signs that the Gulf States are no longer willing to paper over its problems with Qatar.

Although states like Saudi Arabia are frequently charged with inciting terrorism or permitting their citizens to fund terrorism, they are, at least officially, anti-terrorist-uprising/anti-Islamist-takeover, if only for reasons of self-preservation. States that align against destablilization by Islamists are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

And Egypt, which was briefly given to the Islamists, gift-wrapped by Barack Obama.

Also Jordan, a fairly friendly country, and also, kind of secretly, Israel. The Gulf States do not openly brag about their cooperation with Israel, and Israel keeps it quiet so as not to embarrass them, but Israel is a quiet secret partner against the Islamists.

Meanwhile, there’s a pro-Islamist slate of powers in the region: the once secular, now Islamist Turkey, the Mohammad Brotherhood (not an official power, but can’t say Obama didn’t try), and… Qatar, which openly supports Islamist movements itself, and propagandizes for them through its Al Jazeera network.

Meanwhile, not only is Qatar funding and fueling Sunni Islamist movements, but they’re also cozying up to Obama’s favorite country Iran, against which most of the Sunni Muslim world is allied.

You can expect to hear more pro-Qatar propaganda from the usual sources, Anti- Saudi too, of course.


Connected maybe, or maybe not, there was a terrorist attack in Tehran this week. At the shrine to Khomeini, and at the the parliament. You remember Khomeini, of course, he was the terrorist that with Carter’s help toppled the Shah, leading to the hostage crisis, that destroyed Carter’s presidency and helped give us Reagan. From Powerline.

What seems surprising is that ISIS (or some other terrorist group) was able to carry out successful attacks in the heart of the ayatollahs’ police state. As the Post notes, security forces are deployed at prominent sites, and Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps maintains a vast network of informants and allies around the country.

The security forces apparently weren’t up to the job. The attackers reportedly entered the parliament building through the main entrance. Their siege lasted more than an hour. Moreover, according to the New York Times, one attacker left the building an hour into the siege, “ran around shooting on Tehran’s streets,” and then returned.

Perhaps the regime has become complacent given its success in taming the population. Perhaps it’s just extremely difficult to prevent these kinds of attacks even in a police state.

The regime, which must be hugely embarrassed, has responded, predictably, by blaming the U.S. and the Saudis. The Revolutionary Guard stated:

The public opinion of the world, especially Iran, recognizes this terrorist attack — which took place a week after a joint meeting of the U.S. president and the head of one of the region’s backward governments, which constantly supports fundamentalist terrorists — as very significant.

Taking a rather different line, and displaying characteristic indifference to human life, Ayatollah Khamenei characterized the attack as the setting off “firecrackers.”

Best part of the response was President Trump’s statement:

We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.

Perfect.


Former director (and current weasel) James Comey testified before the Senate this week. Seems like he might have told something resembling the truth (for a change). In any case, he more or less confirmed what Trump has been saying, and destroyed any number of fake news stories. I tried to watch, but got bored, and went back to British election news. Which is still continuing to rumble about, where it’ll come out, I doubt anybody really knows. Maybe we’ll find out next week, the Brexit negotiations start soon, so they have to get a move on. [Added] I just heard (on Sky) that her joint chiefs of staff, a couple of young American style advisors have resigned. If I got it right, these are the two fools who wrote that insane manifesto.

London, Again

NBC News

Well, 30 + injured about 6 dead, it’s been done again, in London, this time. Well, we’ll pray for them all, the dead, the injured, and yes, our British cousins, in general. It’s what one does when one can’t do much else. This may be the saddest Tweet I’ve ever read, One should never see such a warning about one of the most civilized cities in the world, but we know it could easily have been New York, or Omaha, or a thousand others both here and there.

Thursday the British will vote in the General Election, they will be voting for their Member of Parliament, who will choose the next (or the same) Prime Minister. It’s considerably different from our system, but like ours, it has defended freedom for a long time.

Terrorism raises major and fundamental problems for a free society. How much of our freedom should we give up to our intelligence agencies who may well need that information to defeat this type of threat, but it is still none of the government’s business what you do and say, within very broad guidelines. All solutions are imperfect, I don’t have the answer if there is one, neither does President Trump, or Prime Minister May, or anybody else. The solution rests, I suspect, on the other half of our rights of freedom, our duty to defend it. Pay attention, and act as a responsible person would. That is your duty. And duty is a much-underused word, and yes, concept, in our countries these days.

That also lends point to why we, and Britain, all countries who are, or aspire to be, free must control their borders. There are very strict limits to the constraints we can impose on our citizenry, and very rightly so. But we can control who enters the country, and we must. This is a most insidious form of supporting terrorism, but support it is.

And I was quite impressed with the Metropolitan Police last night, both in the way they flooded the zone, and in the fact that within eight minutes of the attack kicking off, the perpetrators were assuming room temperature, and that in a country where the average cop is not armed. Heck, it would be good in any of the heavily armed US cities. Well done, guys and girls. They have also been doing a pretty good job of letting people know what is going on.

Donald Trump Tweeted this last night:

That’s nearly all any of us can do, at this point, but we are here, as always.

Soon, it will be time for free people to find a way to remove this scourge, and we will be there then, as well. For truly, as Burke wrote…

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one,

an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

That was the Week that Was

It’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it? The horror of the attack at Manchester, the reactions following, the reactions to the Trump tour of Europe, and yes, the irresponsible and potentially criminal handling of intelligence by American officials. How do we make sense of all this information?

I’ve been fairly quiet this week, listening, and thinking, and have drawn some conclusions.

First Trump. He just might turn into one of the best Presidents we’ve had in a long while, especially in foreign affairs. His speech in Riyadh bears more attention than it got. So does his response to Manchester. Beyond the conventional and necessary expression of sympathy to our friends and allies, he made an excellent point, which we should adopt, when he said, as Scott Adams reports.

President Trump just gave ISIS its new name: Losers. (Short for Evil Losers).

If you think that’s no big deal, you’re wrong. It’s a big deal. This is – literally – weapons-grade persuasion from the most powerful Master Persuader of our time.

As I have taught you in this blog, President Trump’s clever nicknames for people are not random. They are deeply engineered for visual impact and future confirmation bias.

In this case, the visuals will be provided by future terror attacks. That reinforces the “evil” part, obviously. But more importantly, the Losers will be doing nothing but losing on the battlefield from now until “annihilation.” They are surrounded, and the clock is ticking. Oh, and the press isn’t allowed to watch the final battles. In other words, we won’t need to build new holding cells on Guantanamo Bay this time. No press means no prisoners, if you know what I mean. (American soldiers won’t be shooting the prisoners. We have allies for that sort of thing.)

As you know, “annihilation” of the Losers in Loserdom won’t stop the loser’s ideas from spreading. You still have to kill the ideas. And that takes persuasion, not bullets. President Trump just mapped out the persuasion solution: Evil Losers.

Think about that for a while. Do it while you cry into your Kleenex™, taking your Excedrin™ for your headache, and seeing the USA in your Chevrolet, send me a Xerox™ me of your results, and don’t forget the Kodachromes™ of your trip. Marketing: it’s what we do, it’s what Trump does, his name has always been his brand, and he’s done it again. ISIS now equals Evil Losers™. It’ll stick because it’s true, and it’ll stick because they’ll demonstrate that it continues to be true. A genius move.

Then there is the trip, Riadayh, Jerusalem, Rome, to start. Think there might be a theme there? Sure there is: the home of the three so-called Abrahamic faiths. Truth to power in Saudi Arabia, reinforcing something that the King believes, that his people must modernize, but he, like England, for instance, is awash in Wahabi fanatics. It ain’t going to be easy, and at least he’s trying, and the direct flight to Israel demonstrates that the Saudis recognize that Israel is part of the solution, and that one cannot separate the US from Israel, Great Satan will always stand with Little Satan, not only the government but the people.

Then on to Rome, where all of us Christians have a stake, Catholic or not, this is the last, and foremost of the Patriarchates formed by the Apostles themselves, and arguably, even for Orthodox and Protestants, the one formed by the man that Jesus himself said about, “Upon this Rock.” The current incumbent is in some ways disappointing. In the exchange of gifts, Trump gave him a first edition collection of the works of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, a highly appropriate gift, I think. In return, he received copies of Amoris Laetitia, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’. Am I the only one the who finds it a bit reminiscent of Obama giving Queen Elizabeth an I-pod with his speeches? That’s what I thought.

But writing in the aftermath of Manchester, our friend, Francis Phillips wrote in The Catholic Herald about Dietrich von Hildebrand.

In response to the Islamist terrorist atrocity on Monday night in Manchester, in which 22 innocent people died and 59 have been injured, some severely, so many questions arise: why wasn’t the suicide bomber apprehended earlier (there had been several complaints to the police about his behaviour)? Are sporadic acts of Islamist terrorism now a fact of life in Europe in the future? Is the misplaced ideology of multiculturalism to blame for this act of outrage and others like it? Can we confidently make a distinction between Islam that is peaceful and Islamism that isn’t?

These are natural human questions. But as Christians we have to ask other, deeper and more personal ones. I have been reading the chapter “Blessed are the peacemakers” in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book Transformation Christ as a way of moving beyond the highly disquieting news in the media with all the anxious questions that flow from it.

As the author says, to imitate Christ necessarily involves a love of peace and “a horror of all forms of discord, disunion and dissension”. But that in itself is not enough: to love peace is to act in a way that will help to bring it about. “Ignoring objective evils does not establish true peace”; nor does a “passive tolerance of evil”, through moral cowardice or sloth. At an individual level this means that we have” to draw [our enemy’s] attention to the wrong he has done us.” It also means engaging with the wider society and for the same purpose.

As von Hildebrand points out, “Cowardly acquiescence is not the love of peace”. True peace can only be found in close communion with Christ. This relationship alone will give us the strength to “possess, irradiate and spread peace.” We cannot always avoid suffering in this world but we can at least show others what the peace of Christ means in our lives. It calls for courage as well; in particular the courage to point out that what society calls “tolerance” is often the opposite. Christian values are not always the same as “British values” – as Christians have learned to their cost.

Indeed so, Christianity, and its allied secular powers have not built the modern world by ignoring evil, nor will we maintain it by doing so.

Then there are the inexcusable leaks to the New York Time of evidentiary material from Manchester. The British (and American) people deserve far better from our bureaucracy, as does our President. Hopefully, dismissals and prosecutions will follow. Something else bears here, as well. The Senate would be well advised to get off its ample rear (or head, it’s hard to tell) and confirm Trump’s people, a lot of this, I’d bet has to do with unreconciled Obama appointees.

On the other hand, it might have had a bit to do with waking up a few British folk about how much HMG covers up, to the point that I am hearing the word Londonistan again. And amongst my friends, I sense a resolve to solve this problem, one that I (and they) fear that their government does not share. And that is a most charitable way of putting it.

If I were asked (I won’t be!) my advice to Mrs. May would be three words from Britain’s heroic past…

Who Dares Wins

Trump in Arabia

Remember this picture of the Swedish PM (and others) in the UAE?

Well, compare and contrast.

See a bit of difference in the attitude that Melania’s dress, and the whole scene portrays? Look, this isn’t earthshaking, there a lot of difference between Sweden and the US, as well as between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But it does speak to attitude. The US is obviously being respectful, but so are the Saudi’s. The reception tells you, as it should, that the Saudi government has a good deal of respect for President Trump, and also that they want something. Which they do, but then again, Arabs and Americans, and especially this President are traders, and always have been, and signals are important.

It always signifies something, when the President’s daughter, Ivanka, an Orthodox Jew, looks quite comfortable in Riyadh, as here. But then again, what are the Saudi’s really going to say about it. But later today, for the first time (officially) AF 1 will be the first flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. That too is significant.

It speaks to the growing alignment of the Saudis and this Israelis against the Iranians, and it speaks of the gradual reform that is becoming evident in Saudi Arabia, not least because of America’s growing importance in the oil market, and thus still another way that the Arabs are losing their power.

And he gave a speech, worthy of an American President, here it is.

Now mind, words are not actions, but words often define actions we will take. It strikes me as a very good start.

%d bloggers like this: