Thursday, October 22, 2009


When it was politically correct to do so, Democrats and the left would insist that President Bush had "taken his eyes off the ball" by fighting the war formerly known as the "War on Terror" in Iraq. It should be obvious, they insisted that the real war, the essential war, was the one in Afghanistan.

Well, talk about taking your eyes off the ball! The Obama Administration has basically closed its eyes and has no idea where the ball actually is at this point in time:

Judith Klinghoffer noted the ironical similarity between the bombings in Pakistan to the attack of the Hebrew University by Hamas in Jerusalem in 2002. The attacks were accompanied, as these these are, by the usual statements of denial. Officials quickly claimed that the “attackers were not followers of Islam”. How could they be? and Klinghoffer reminded her readers not to forget that “Iranians claim that we should not worry about their nuclear development as Islam forbids the use of nuclear weapons.”

But assuming it were possible, why would Muslims be bombing Muslims? Because they are involved in a global struggle for power among themselves and in relation to the world. World Islam is trying to define itself in a vast civil war. Perhaps it is far more important for radical Islamists to bomb Muslims attending university than it has ever been for them to kill Jews. Killing Jews is a symbolic act. Killing other Muslims is the practical side of the war. Reuel Marc Gerecht argues in the Christian Science Monitor that the War on Terror is nearly synonymous and to a large extent, coextensive, with the civil war raging in the Islamic world. He describes the battle lines as internally being between Sunni and Shia radicals and their more secular bretheren, and across confessions between Sunni and Shia communities. Sunni Jihadism has been trying to take leadership its side, he says, but has lost the battle in the Arab world. It was defeated in Iraq, an event whose historic consequences have been unappreciated by all except al-Qaeda itself. Now their last hope is in South Asia, which may be lost in a fit of absentmindeness by Washington, which sees it as a distraction from the the pursuit of a domestic welfare agenda. But the real story of Afghanistan according to Gerecht is that it represents not only a chance for Sunni radicalism to recover, but a changing of the guard from Arabs to South Asian jihadi leaders.
Unless Al Qaeda is able to reignite Sunni-Shiite strife in Iraq – and the odds of this happening seem pretty small – Sunni jihadism has lost the Iraq war, and with it, cross your fingers, the Arabs.

Mesopotamia really was the central front in the war on terror because it was the only military theater Al Qaeda and its allies had in the Arab world. Drive out the Americans, unleash a Sunni-Shiite bloodbath that just might bring Sunni Arab states and Iran into a bloody cold – ideally hot – war, and Sunni Islamic militancy might just shake the region.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, both decent strategists, knew what they were saying when they described Iraq as the decisive battleground. Victory there would have given their cause real possibilities in the Muslim heartlands.

When al-Qaeda lost in Iraq their sole change of redemption was to win a rematch in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Yet even if they were to succeed, one thing has changed for the foreseeable future. The defeat in Iraq has momentarily eclipsed the dominance of Arabs in the leadership of the Sunni Jihad in favor of the better educated and more formidable South Asians. More to the point, it has moved the fulcrum of the Muslim civil war eastwards. While the Middle East remains important, it is no longer central after Iraq.

Read it all, because it is an excellent analysis of the situation in the world today with regard to the War on Terror--or "overseas contingency operations" and as we can see with the dithering in regard to Afghanistan, such operations are not likely to happen at all under the Obama Administration.

Wretchard ends with this:

Maybe someday it will be different, Bronner says, but not right now. That doesn’t keep people from trying to use John Lennon’s Imagine as the manual for international “peace”. There are some who even now believe it is better to paint Israel into a corner by making concessions to the ayatollahs, the better to force the Jewish state to take out Iranian nuclear capability. Let them take the rap. And as to ruffling Ahmedinajad’s feathers, that is altogether too troublesome and unpleasant to those for who everything has always been a choice. Denial runs deep. It’s the logic of the man who enjoys his steak and playing on his ivory chess-set without wanting to worry about where it came from. [emphasis mine]

If Gerecht is right, then a battle for the soul of Islam is raging in South Asia. And the President may have elected to watch it from the sidelines, figuring the fires won’t jump. And if Krauthammer is right, then the West is facing a series of challenges which cannot be ignored. But maybe Obama is calculating he can ignore them; that it is better to keep talking than trying to act; because things just might take care of themselves. The world is about to find out who’s right. It should be an interesting next six months.

Denial always runs deep when ideology is more important than reality. In that situation, denial is so opaque, that to let in even the slightest sliver of the light of reality would be overwhelmingly traumatic for the denialist, and would turn their basic assumptions about the world and about themselves topsy-turvy.

The consequences of this sort of deep psychological denial can be seen every day in today's world. But like all defense mechanisms, it serves a very important purpose for the users. I have discussed this before, but it is always worth going over again.

As a psychiatrist, I would be the last person to maintain that even a primitive defense mechanism like denial doesnt have some positive results for the individuals and groups who use it. Obviously any defense mechanism that results in immediate death or injury of the person using it would probably not last long as a viable strategy in the real world; nor would it be particularly helpful for the species as a whole.

In fact, denial does work--at least for a while--and that is why it is so often resorted to in extremus.

Some of the positive consequences of psychological denial include:

• In the short-term, psychological denial can help a person maintain their sanity--which would be threatened by awareness of a painful truth or reality
• In the short-term, denial can help a person function day to day
• In the short-term, denial can prevent a person from having to acknowledge painful thoughts, feelings or behavior and help them protect both their selfhood and worldview from unacceptable reality that is threatening to either or both

The operative word in all of the above is "in the short-term." In the short-term, even the unhealthiest of defenses--such as denial, projection, paranoia-- may be creative, healthy, comforting, and coping. And, while the behavior of those in denial may strike observers as downright peculiar at times, in the short-term, they may be transiently adaptative.

In fact, psychological denial is a way to integrate one's experience by providing a variety of filters for pain and mechanisms for self-deception. It creatively rearranges the sources of conflict the individual faces so that the conflict becomes manageable (hence the 'inversion of reality' mentioned above serves to: (1) protect themselves physically from the threat of violence and (2) protect their world view from the acceptance of facts or truth which effectively negate its premises and hence threatem them emotionally . All they have to do is to creatively rearrange the sources of conflic, and shazam! Both physical and emotional danger are neatly avoided!

But let us now consider some of the negative consequences of psychological denial:

• In the longer-term, denial requires continued compromises with reality to maintain the pretense that "everything is fine!" or "If only X would happen, everything would be fine!" (or, in the case above, "If only I reach out my hand then you will unclench your fist, and everything will be all right with the world and we will have universal brotherhood and peace."

Eventually, however, denial has to escalate. It breeds delusional thinking, along with paranoia and then the inevitable conspiracy theories begin to take the place of rational thought in those who deny reality for long periods of time. (See all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists for examples in our own country; or the increasingly shrill accusations that anyone who alludes to the threat of Islamic terrorism is a fearmonger and promoting a 'culture of fear' in order to fool the American public into thinking we are at war.

• The denier must then place the blame for the unacceptable reality on someone else ("I inherited all these problems from Bush and the mess--including all the things that are worsening under my watch, are all his fault!") and that leads to increased conflict between deniers and non-deniers. Efforts to maintain their denial consumes them and will lead them to escalate their anger and rage as their denial becomes untenable and ever more obvious. You've got to wonder if all the desperate attempts to control the media and demonize Fox News (the only outlet that routinely uncovers evidence that "the mess" in question has increasingly more to do with Obama and his associates.

• The denier will begin distort language and logic to rationalize and justify their behavior(examples of this are too numerous to mention-- but just listen to the Obamites when they come on and continually change the rationale behind their lack of decisionmaking on Afghanistan, for example). Eventually, cognitive strategies and rational argument will be abandoned altogether by the denier, because those strategies are not sustainable and are unable to convince others; at which point the person in denial will simply refer to his feelings or emotions as the sole justification and increasingly demonize those who oppose him or her.

• The denier will feel justified in acting out against those who threaten the peacefulness of their fantasy; they will use psychological displacement to attack those relatively less dangerous (i.e., the cartoonists and comedians are now "fact-checked"; ad hominem attacks against people like Rush Limbaugh and even less well-known opponents, etc.). The only kind of 'power' those in denial can ever 'speak truth to' are generally the kind that won't hurt them; they are scared shitless of anyone who might actually harm them in any way. These brave, brave Sir Robins bravely run away when there is a real bully or threat that needs to be faced down. Funny how that works.

• Problem solving and decision making will deteriorate as the entire focus of energy becomes the maintenance of the denial. In place of rational alternatives, excessive emotionality in general; and specifically anger and rage escalate toward those who are "blamed" for the reality that does not conform to the denier's world view.

• In the end, interactions with those in denial are characterized by the denier's frequent smugness; sense of superiority; arrogance; belittlement of alternative views; and undiluted hatred toward anyone or any idea that questions their world view or underlying ideology.

The current Administrations frivolous and idiotic views on terrorism in general; on Iraq; and most particularly on the war in Afghanistan (which they seem to be intent on losing at all costs); the emphasis on political correctness and multiculturalism--all this is primarily based on a web of deep denial.

Those in deep denial pretend their actions are motivated from'hope' and 'change' and 'love' and 'peace' and some sort of higher form of patriotism (which involves dissing your country so it will be better liked by lesser nations); but this is only how they rationalize it to themselves. Their self-deception is simply stunning in its sweeping grandiosity and self-righteousness betrayal of the good, as they cede, one by one, every important value of western civilization in general, and American values in particular to the enemy.

They then pat themselves on the back for their compassionate sensitivity and saintly antiwarpeaceandbrotherhood stance. And, if things go wrong--badly wrong--well, it was all Bush's fault anyway, and they were just "trying to mop up the mess."

Denial is the refuge of the terrified and frightened. The perversion of reality that deep denial leads to if not recognized and corrected is often becomes far more dangerous to the individual--and the society--than the reality that is being avoided.

In the end, denial unacknowledged only facilitates and enables the real threat to life and psychological health.

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