Monday, April 30, 2007


Victor Davis Hanson on Iran and its plans for the end of days:

Ahmadinejad faces two hurdles: He must get the bomb, and he must create the psychological landscape whereby the world will shrug at Israel’s demise.

Oddly, the first obstacle may not be the hardest....

But the second obstacle — preparing the world for the end of the Jewish state — is trickier.

True, the Middle East’s secular gospel is anti-Semitism. State-run media in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan broadcast endless ugly sermons about Jews as “pigs and apes.” Nor do Russia and China much care what happens to Israel, as long as its demise does not affect business. But the West is a different matter. There the history of anti-Semitism looms large, framed by the Holocaust that nearly destroyed European Jewry. Thus the Holocaust is now Ahmadinejad’s target just as much as downtown Tel Aviv.

Holocaust denial is a tired game, but Ahmadinejad’s approach is slightly new and different. He has studied the Western postmodern mind and has devised a strategy based on its unholy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and cultural relativism. As a third world populist, he expects that his own fascism will escape proper scrutiny if he can recite often enough the past sins of the West. He also understands the appeal of victimology in the West these days. So he knows that to destroy the Israelis, he, not they, must become the victim, and Westerners the aggressors who forced his hand. (emphasis mine)

This is a must-read by Hanson, who goes on to discuss at length various strategies to deal with Iran.

What is most interesting to me is context of Iran's "psychological landscape", i.e., the extreme religious fanatacism driven by a shame culture.

Let us consider for a moment how a shame culture--like Iran and all these Islamofascist terrorists for that matter--deal with success and failure.

For a typical shame culture the most important issue--indeed the issue that trumps truth or reality every time--is what people believe.

What others believe to be true has a far more powerful impact on behavior than what any particular individual believes; since the desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else, is one of the primary foundations of the culture/religion. This need to avoid shame motivates and exculpates the individuals in the culture to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or if he piously disavows that he did it.

It also motivates them to do whatever is necessary to give the impression that honor has been preserved.

As long as others in the culture believe that honor has been preserved, then neither the individual or the group will experience either guilt or shame. It is not surprising therefore, that a great deal of effort and planning goes into making sure that others are convinced of your innocence (even if you are guilty); your victimization (even if you are the oppressor); and your victory (even if you are the loser).

Do you begin to see why Ahmadinejad's tactics play so well in the West--particularly to the intellectual and cultural elites whose intellects are drowning in a toxic brew cooked up in the postmodern kitchen?

Since shame cultures work best within a collectivist/totalitarian framework, it is often fairly easy to manipulate appearances in order to avoid shame and claim honor has been preserved. When you control the media and/or the social structure; have unlimited money and sophisticated tools for the development and dissemination of propaganda, then it is even easier.

It is an absolute cake-walk if you also happen to have a bunch of useful idiots managing the media of the enemy you hope to shame and give the appearance of defeating.

Remember, in this kind of culture, nothing is more important than making sure you do not experience feelings of humiliation and shame.

In a true shame culture, the goal is not necessarily to win a war, particularly since maintaining conflict with the traditional enemy--i.e., the "Jew"--is part of what is perceived as an "honorable" way of life, and should never really end. The primary goal of Iran and its proxies in Iraq and elsewhere is very simple: to impose shame on the West and Israel.

As long as they do that, then they have "won" by their standards. Faking photographs to demostrate the evil of their enemy; hiding among women and children to force the enemy to kill those same women and children; transforming every loss of personnel into a condemnation of Israel for attacking "innocents"--all these tactics serve the purpose of shaming the enemy and inducing guilt.

Thus, by these standards, the new barbarians of the Islamic world, know they cannot lose in any conflict with the west--no matter what the reality is.

By these standards, all that is required for them to proclaim victory is to avoid shame and make their enemy feel it instead.

By these standards, they will ALWAYS--always-- be psychologically empowered, encouraged; and reinforced in their delusions of grandeur--not to mention in their violent, aggressive and barbaric behavior-- by any compassionate or concerned humanitarianism on the part of their despised enemies; by any cessation of conflict before they are utterly and complete defeated; or by any attempts on the part of the west to negotiate a real and lasting peace.

Is it surprising that in the mullahs eyes, the Democrat's insane desire to ensure defeat and utterly surrender in Iraq is a source of honor and status?

And, in a shame culture, the granting of "honor and status" from the culture's perceived enemies will not induce them them to compromise or negotiate in good faith. Instead, it will breed the exaggerated arrogance; even more swaggering rhetoric and veiled threats; more taunting of the Jews, Israel, and the West; more oppression of its own people, and more flaunting of its nuclear ambitions in the face of the world.

This, by the way, is exactly the same dynamic that charges our relationship with North Korea, yet another shame culture run by a megalomaniac. In that instance, the forces of appeasement, surrender, and complete moral idiocy are working hard to bring honor to Kim Jung Il and shame to America.

What motivates regimes like Iran and North Korea is the avoidance of shame, and maximization of honor. For them it is is simple elementary psychological math. In such cultures maximizing their honor involves shaming you. Thus, the recent spectacle of Iran's aggression against Britain, the taking of hostages and flaunting them on the world stage; and the ultimate grandiosity--"graciously" granting them pardons after honor has been maximized.

Then all you have to do to stretch honor out a little further is sit back and watch your leftist allies in this peculiarly postmodern game engage in the usual displays of gratuitous self-flagellation and mea culpas. This is music for the thuggish souls of the Islamofascists (even if music and most other forms of pleasure are forbidden).

They can now offically consider you as weak and inferior to themselves. By their cultural standards, they have won and you have lost.

It is only a matter of time until they logically proceed toward your complete subjugation. Only by your total humiliation and defeat can their own honor continue to be maximized. Just ask the women in their culture (the ones that are not brainwashed by this cultural dynamic anyway).

By allowing these shame-avoidant and repellant regimes to preen and flout their sense of superiority at the expense of the West, the intellectuals of the postmodern political left regularly prove to the mullahs that there is no one strong enough to stop them now from obtaining (or using) nuclear weapons.

By ceding Iraq to the thugs of Iran; by treating Ahmadinejad and his mullahs as moral equals; by granting them the honor and status of --in short, by imagining that they think like you do; value and seek peace like you do; and in general believing that they are motivated by reason and truth and reality like the West--only makes them anticipate your eventual submission more strongly.

The well-meaning, but ultimately stupid projection of our own deeply ingrained cultural values onto this extremely pathological shame culture by our politicians and media; combined with the perverse and irrational leftist multicultural-politically-correct-victim pap that derives from an ideological agenda that shares common goals and rhetorical strategies with the terrorists; has further enabled and encouraged these fanatics to believe that they can easily wipe us off the map (just as Kruschev wanted to "bury" us) or force us to submit to their religion.

In their frenzy for power and regaining the White House, the Democrats have outsourced their rational cognitive processes to their unconscious feelings and fears; they have closed their eyes to the unpleasant reality about the inevitable psychological consequences of their defeatist and continually appeasing behavior. And they are in the grip of a profound and near-suicidal psychological denial and projection, where they can even (with a straight face) pronounce their actions political "realism".

Such are the everyday delusions that arise from the interaction of the postmodern mindset with psychopaths like Ahmadinejad and all the religious fanatics of the Middle Eastern shame cultures.

As Hanson clearly recognizes, this toxic interaction will not produce peace in our time; but, on the contrary will inevitably lead to more war and even more death and destruction than is now able to be imagined. Because, these Islamic fanatics--who do not let reason or life interfere with their jihad; who abide by no treaties, follow no rules, and scorn the very values upon which western civilization is founded will not be appeased and will use the postmodern lunacy very well to their advantage against us.

We could have lived with them if they did not insist that we must submit, become what they are, or die. But they have defined the groundrules (or the non-rules) of this conflict; and eventually, we will have to meet them at their level--or they will win. They have set the psychological landscape of this war, and the political left in our own country and around the world has done all it possibly can to ensure that those committed to our destruction have the advantage and that we must operate under a vicious, self-imposed handicap.

However, Hanson, an expert in history , cautions rightly:
But what the Iranian theocrats, like the al-Qaedists, never fully fathom is that if the American people conclude that their freedom and existence are at stake, they are capable of conjuring up things far more frightening than anything in the 7th-century brain of Mr. Ahmadinejad. The barbarity of the nightmares at Antietam, Verdun, Dresden and Hiroshima prove that well enough. In short, there are consequences to the rhetoric of Armageddon.

So far the Iranian leader has posed as someone 90 percent crazy and ten percent sane, hoping that in response we would fear his overt madness, grant concessions, and delicately appeal to his small reservoir of reason. But he should understand that if his Western enemies appear 90 percent of the time as children of the Enlightenment, they are still suffused with vestigial traces of the emotional and unpredictable. And military history shows that the irrational ten percent of the Western mind is a lot scarier in the end than anything Islamic fanaticism has to offer

The dire consequences of not understanding the motivations and behaviors of a shame culture are paralleled by the shame culture's inability to understand the motivations and behaviors of the democratic and freedom-loving Western mind.

When it comes right down to it, the cost of this war will be more than all the lives lost; it will also be for the humanity and civilization the West will temporarily abandon to win. In the real world, the good and virtuous whose cause is just do not always win; and bringing a knife (unsharpened at that) to a street fight where the other side has guns is suicidal.

The ultimate advantage a guilt culture like ours has over the shame culture is that, when we are finally cornered and must allow our own barbarism to surface to combat theirs head to head, then we will always be prepared to live with the consequences--including the agonizing guilt that will properly ensue--or else everything we hold dear, everything we aspire to become, will forever perish from the earth.

Just ask the Japanese.

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