Friday, October 19, 2018

"Jamal Khashoggi Doesn't Matter That Much"

Don't miss this important short article by Tom Rogan, "Sorry, But Jamal Khashoggi Doesn't Matter That Much."
I get that some readers will view my words here as callous, arrogant, and even delusional. But I would simply ask them two questions: How did you perceive Saudi Arabia before this happened, and how do you perceive Middle Eastern politics per se?

When it comes to the first question, the nature of the Saudi regime has long been clear. It is a regime that has no qualms about restricting human rights, treating women as second-class citizens, and paying off fanatical Sunni clerics in return for political patronage. The House of Saud uses force broadly and without adequate humanitarian caution or strategic hesitation. It beheads not just criminals, but also revered religious figures seeking religious emancipation.

In short, the Saudi regime is not nice.
Here's the money quote:
Mohammed bin Salman's reform program offers the best and, at present, only means of that nation being able to escape what it will otherwise become: a destitute kingdom full of demographically-explosive young men and Salafi-jihadist ideologues — in other words, a recipe for ISIS 2.0.
Much of MBS' "reform" program, as Rogan would surely agree, is cover for self-serving purges and extortions. So even that is not some white horse of virtue. But the alternative would be unthinkable.

We never seem to learn that shunning not-the-very-worst guys for their sins creates space for the very worst guys to fill. The problem is that nuanced realpolitik looks awful in the broad view; one appears to be cozying up to bad guys. And the perennial problem with weeding out the sinful is that in the end every last human would be weeded. So while it seems hard to argue against humanism - rewarding goodness and shunning wickedness - it's far more important to consider pragmatic actual outcomes. 

Unfortunately, that's impossible when the citizenry is consumed by one or another cursedly simple ideology. Beware of sanctimonious people pushing simple solutions! The much-discussed increasing distrust of experts stems from the viral conviction that simplicity always offers the truer path. Maybe we should call it Occam's Guillotine.

But how, you ask, does this relate to my athlete's foot? Deeply, it turns out, if you'll think about it. The redress for badness isn't glorious Good, but mere homely "Better".

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