Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fathers of the Surge

General Petraeus rightly gets a lot of credit for the ongoing pacification and stabilization of Iraq, but according to Tom Ricks at the Washington Post it was General Raymond Odierno and retired General Jack Keane who initiated the idea of the surge. It was these two men who circumvented the chain of command at the Pentagon and pushed the Bush administration to implement the escalation of forces that was primarily responsible for the present state of affairs.

Anyone interested in the recent history of the Iraq war will find Ricks' article a fascinating read.


Blowing Themselves Up

Suicide bombing in Afghanistan is in decline, and Strategy Page tells us why. The quick summary is that Afghans are extremely resentful of the tactic, the Taliban lack the technical resources to support suicide bombers, and the coalition forces have been successful in dismantling the few cells which carried out these gruesome acts of terror.

They conclude their piece with this observation:

Suicide bombing is described as a weapon of the weak. What it cannot be described as is a weapon of the victorious. In the last few decades, whoever used suicide bombers not only failed to gain anything, but saw their cause harmed in the process. You can draw your own conclusions, as have most Afghans.


Who's to Say?

Over the years we have brought to our readers' attention the sublime beauty of Islamic law when instances of it came to our notice. Here's an example we came across thanks to a tip from Hot Air:

A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night. The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man.

He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night. She later discovered she was pregnant and made a desperate attempt to get an abortion at the King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces.

According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually 'confessed' to having 'forced intercourse' with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah. He ruled she had committed adultery - despite not even being married - and handed down a year's prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city.

She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child.

The Saudi Arabian legal system practices a strict form of medieval law. Women have very few rights and are not even allowed to drive. They are also banned from going out in public in the company of men other than male relatives.

Some of our readers may be thinking that, well, this sounds pretty bad, but that's their culture and what's right for them is right. After all, who's to say they're wrong? Right and wrong are relative to the time and culture in which people live, are they not?

Suppose, though, that you were visiting Saudi Arabia and this happened to you. Would you still think they were doing the right thing? Is not justice a universal moral obligation? In what sense is what was done to this woman just?

Suppose, further, that a community of Saudi immigrants in the U.S. engaged in this particular practice. Would we say that "that's their culture so if it's right for them then it's right?" It does no good to reply that they are now in our culture and should abide by our values. The fact is they have a foot in two different cultures so which should be morally authoritative? How does one decide that? Does the majority decide what's right? If so, how do we determine the majority? Is it the majority within the subculture or the majority within a nation's boundaries? Aren't these all arbitrary criteria?

And if we agree on which majority should be morally authoritative how do we determine what the majority thinks? And if we could determine what the majority thinks then the minority opinion must be wrong ipso facto. Someone living in Saudi Arabia who thinks that whipping this woman for the crime of getting raped is immoral would himself be holding to a morally wrong position, by definition. He's in the minority so he can't be right.

Islamic law is horrific. Ethical relativism is hopelessly confused. They're both for people who prefer not to think.