Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Archive for August, 2017

Political correctness reaches a new milestone

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2017

Until today, I felt pretty certain that over the past couple of decades, I had witnessed every variation of political correctness, to the point that I could no longer be surprised by whatever lunatic nonsense is foisted upon us by those who believe in the right to never be offended.

Until today.

That’s when I read this story over at Outkick the Coverage. I encourage you to read the story, and the comments, yourself. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe this actually happened at first. But let me summarize: In the wake of the unfortunate events that recently took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, ESPN was apparently very concerned about mentioning anything to do with the Confederacy during their broadcast of the college football game between William and Mary and the University of Virginia. How concerned, you ask? Enough that they re-assigned one of the broadcasters scheduled to call the game to a different game because of his name: Robert Lee.

That’s right, because the sportscaster happens to share his very common first and last name with the Confederacy’s legendary general, Robert E. Lee, whose statue was the focus of the protests in Charlottesville, ESPN thought someone might be offended by HIS NAME.

Incidentally, Mr. Lee does not appear to be any sort of white supremacist, seeing as how he’s an Asian-American fellow. But apparently, ESPN thinks just the sound of his name might be too triggering for some.

The phenomenal idiocy of this is almost too much to comprehend. How many people named Robert Lee do you think there are in this country? Should they all have stayed home for a week so as not to offend anyone by their existence? Should Robert G. Lee, professor of American Studies at Brown, have taken an immediate sabbatical so as to preserve the campus as a “safe space”? Should Robert Lee, the English golfer, have stayed off the links for a week out of extreme politeness? Should Florida Episcopal preacher Robert V. Lee have let someone else spread the word of God for a little while? If anybody at ESPN happens to be reading, here’s a whole list of folks you probably don’t want to mention on air for a while.

Hyperbole, yes. But I am merely illustrating the logical extension of the ridiculous notion that someone should be hidden from public view because they happen to share the same name as an unpopular historical figure. It is neither rational nor reasonable to order a society on the basis that you ought to be able to go through life never hearing the name of someone you don’t like! Germany has some of the strictest anti-racism laws around, but even they didn’t try to ban people from naming their kids “Adolf”.

It would be easy to write this off as a “cover-your-ass” overreaction by a TV network already struggling as a result of their own over-politicization. What is disturbing is not so much the stupidity or craven cowardice of ESPN brass, but rather the larger prevailing climate of political correctness that leads to this kind of idea not being laughed right out of the meeting room.

I respect those who feel that leaders of the Confederacy should not be honored on public property. I understand why people might find their statues offensive. But if a person is going to be thrown off the rails simply by hearing the name Robert Lee, or even the odious Nathan Bedford Forrest, then it is that person who has a problem, and it is not society’s job to cater to them. When we have created a climate where a major media outlet like ESPN genuinely fears they will be the target of protests if they let an Asian-American reporter named Robert Lee call a game in Virginia, then it is time for some man-made climate change.


Posted in Current Events, Domestic News, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What can we learn about Trump from his new Afghanistan policy?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2017

Last night, President Trump publicly announced a major shift in his position on Afghanistan. He plans to increase the number of American troops there by roughly 50% in an escalation of the campaign against the Taliban and their terrorist allies. This is a reversal of Trump’s campaign statements in which he called for a speedy withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. So what does this tell us we can expect going forward from Trump? Here are a few takeaways:

1) None of Trump’s campaign promises can be believed. This was a major plank of Trump’s foreign policy that attracted significant support from libertarians and isolationists, and he has completely reversed it. Don’t count on Mexico paying for that border wall either, on which no new work has been authorized to date. And don’t expect the recently commenced negotiations on NAFTA to end up with anything more than small tweaks. It’s been clear to long-time Trump watchers all along that Trump likes to shoot his mouth off, but feels absolutely no compulsion to align his deeds with his words.

2) Trump does occasionally listen to someone. He’s gone on record many times as wanting to give military leaders more say in decision making, and that’s what he’s done here. Trump’s generals managed to convince him that pulling out of Afghanistan would be like a winning lottery ticket for terrorist groups seeking a safe haven in that country. They also probably pointed out that as operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq start to wind down, it will be possible to shift resources from that theater to Afghanistan, resulting in little net increase in overseas deployments and their cost in the long term.

3) Steve Bannon has left the building. If anyone wondered if Bannon’s firing was mostly for PR reasons and thought he might continue to wield influence behind the scenes, this decision puts that idea to rest. Bannon was one of TrumpWorld’s most vocal proponents of withdrawing from Afghanistan. It’s not a coincidence that the announcement of the new policy comes shortly after Bannon’s departure.

Stepping back from Trump and looking at American defense policy¬† over time, it is striking how consistent it has been regardless of which party controls the White House. Presidents Bush, Obama, and now Trump all campaigned on the idea of reducing our foreign commitments, then ended up increasing them. What this reflects is that American defense policy, and foreign policy more generally, tends to be driven less by ideology and more by a practical analysis of the nation’s security interests. If the isolationists ever want to make gains, they’d need to start by infiltrating the “deep state” of civil servants at State, Defense, and Homeland Security who marshal the facts, figures, and projections that go into the security briefings every President receives. These officials have little incentive to suggest policies that would result in the reduction of their funding, shrinking of their departments and possibly the loss of some of their jobs. It seems to me, however, that most Presidents perceive that it is preferable to fight dragons in someone else’s backyard than to wait until they show up in your own.

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A brief guide to the ideological roots of Islamic terrorism

Posted by sanityinjection on August 21, 2017

It is hard for most Westerners to understand how Islamic terrorism fits into the spectrum of Muslim theology. We are told, accurately, that terrorist fasadis like ISIS and al-Qaeda represent a fringe extremist view that most Muslims disavow. But where does this view come from, and what has caused it to become more popular and prominent over the last few decades?

First, let’s recall that most of the Muslim world is divided between the two major dominations, Sunni and Shi’a. (There are other minority sects that don’t fall into either category, but their influence on politics is minimal.) The Shi’ites are fewer in number and their political power is mostly restricted to Iraq and Iran. Most Muslim countries, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, are predominantly Sunni.

Within Sunni Islam, there is also quite a bit of variation in views on both religious and political matters. The particular strain of thought that today’s terrorist groups generally arise from is called Salafism, and it began as a reform movement over two centuries ago. Salafism is essentially a form of Islamic fundamentalism, which holds that the oldest forms of Islam practiced by Muhammad and his immediate successors are the most pure, and any modifications that have occurred within Islam since that time are errors that should be corrected.

It should be noted that there is nothing inherent in Salafism that requires political involvement or necessarily endorses violence. The first Salafists were mostly concerned with stamping out what they saw as idolatrous veneration of Islamic saints and places of worship. (ISIS’ habit of destroying historic monuments is an extreme manifestation of this viewpoint.) There are many Salafis who advocate staying out of politics, and many politically activist Salafis who do not condone violence. But this is the larger ideological context that most violent Sunni groups fit into.

Salafism as a political force first came into its own in Arabia, when the founder of a sect called Wahhabism made an alliance with the tribe of ibn Saud. The Wahhabis agreed to support the Saudis politically, and the Saudis agreed to promote Wahhabism as the correct form of Islam. The Saudis kept that bargain, and when they became masters of most of Arabia after World War I, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and subsequently became rich from Arabia’s oil, they began to have a major influence on the Islamic world. Saudi oil money paid for mosques, Islamic schools and charities, all of which dutifully spread the Wahhabi version of Salafism. Conservative even among the fundamentalist world of Salafism, Wahhabism is responsible for the many cultural restrictions on dress, music, and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that slavery wasn’t abolished there until the 1960s. The terrorist groups’ adoption of these cultural restrictions can be traced directly to the Saudi-funded schools and mosques where they were educated.

However, the real shift occurred with the victory of Islamic groups over the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. This effort was heavily backed by Saudi money and many of the jihadis who fought there espoused Wahhabi beliefs. The lesson was that violent jihad against the enemies of Islam was not only appropriate, but could be successful. The prestige of Wahhabism, previously viewed among the Muslim world as more of an Arabian oddity, increased dramatically.

A final group that must be mentioned is the Muslim Brotherhood. Based in Egypt, the Brotherhood is an international coalition of political Islamists, generally Sunnis but not tied to any particular orientation, instead stressing the need for Muslim unity. The Muslim Brotherhood is devoted to the goal of establishing Islamic government and sharia law, by democratic means if possible. However, they have at times engaged in violence. (The US continues to debate whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as Russia and Saudi Arabia have done; many experts argue this would be neither accurate nor helpful.) The Muslim Brotherhood has specifically disavowed any support for ISIS or al-Qaeda, but it was a Brotherhood leader, Sayyid Qutb, whose anti-secular, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic writings influenced the founders of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Saudi Arabia was once a supporter of the Brotherhood, but they fell out as a result of the Gulf War and now are confirmed enemies. However, both the Saudis and the Brotherhood now find themselves unhappily dealing with the fallout of these terrorist groups they helped to inspire. (Ironically, within the past year the Saudi monarchy has been moving to liberalize Wahhabi cultural restrictions, both to improve the country’s image and to try to curb the power of Wahhabi clerics and reduce potential support for jihadi groups within the Kingdom.)

To sum up: Today’s terrorist groups were birthed in the 1990s amid a soup of Saudi-financed Wahhabi fundamentalism and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Islamist politics, and inspired by the success of violent jihad in Afghanistan.

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