Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Go eavesdrop on this conversation between two westernized Algerians discussing Islam and Islamism. It's a fascinating read. Nouri's blog is great because he's a lot more in touch with North Africa than I ever will be.

Update: Nouri's statement, "It May Take a War," is summed up in this statement: "What I think he's really getting at is that if Egypt wants democracy, it's going to take a war or some sort of theocratic regime to discredit Islamism and fundamentalism so that liberalism and moderation can take hold."

He's certainly got a fair amount of history on his side. Islamism is, fundamentally, totalitarianism -- the philosophy that the government should totally dominate in every aspect of daily life. It is that intrusiveness, to a greater or lesser degree, that has sparked countless wars throughout history. A great example is the American Revolution. The screws got turned too tight, over too long a period, and some Americans decided enough was enough.

Totalitarianism, in that sense, tends to make an excellent schoolmaster. Post-war Vietnam experimented with the socialist ideal, and when it failed year after year to achieve any of the goals set by Marx et al, they piece by piece started to adopt capitalistic principles. They worked -- suddenly, farmers who were given cash incentives to, you know, actually farm and stuff produced bumper crops and the nation had enough to start exporting crops again. Then there was a communist backlash: the hard-liners on the politburo insisted on reforming the government to closer conform to ideological purity, and immediately the economy went back in the tank.

The upshot is that Vietnam learned, and is learning, from the mistake that is socialism, and over the years has taken increasing steps to modernize and westernize the government and economy. Piece by piece, experience taught the Vietnamese to prefer the system that works over the system that Marx described.

Algeria, if Nouri's description is accurate, has undergone the same transformation. Consider this: "'Listen to me,' I began again, 'Algeria is not like Iraq anymore and it isn't like Afghanistan. Things are better there now. The girls aren't looking like ghosts all the time and there are music groups singing without fear. Algeria was not defeated Tahar. It's not an Islamic Republic. It doesn't have to be that way.'"

But there was no war, no violent and sudden revolution that brought about this state. And even when a change is sudden, recent history shows that it need not be violent. Lebanon's Cedar Revolution firmly establishes this.

In other words, it may take a war, and it may take a theocracy -- it may take the blackest of nights before people again want to see the light of day. But it doesn't have to be that way. And more and more, people have living examples of nations which have abandoned extremism, totalitarianism, through peaceful steps rather than violent. There is hope yet, it would seem.