Charlie Wilson’s War

10 Jan, '08

charlie wilson warWe’ve just come back from watching Charlie Wilson’s War [IMDB] which we enjoyed, generally, except for the various obvious censored parts which was extremely annoying and yet another affirmation of my hating to watch movies in cinemas in Bahrain. I suspect that the ham fisted attempts at controlling what we view this time is not just to “protect us from ourselves” in seeing scantily clad women, but political innuendos most probably tendered against Saudi Arabia’s joint operation – as the film implies – with the CIA and their role in supporting the Mujahedeen.

It is due to these cuts that I have added this DVD to my shopping list and will anxiously await its arrival to view it in toto.

Regardless, it is a thought provoking movie not just in how Afghanistan got “liberated” from one ditch just to fall into another, but at the deal-making shenanigans in American government. Imperfect that it is, our own fledgling parliament might want to sneak a peek as to how things could be maneuvered and done.

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  1. Neil says:

    I watched this film conscious of the tendency for self-flagellation that the more politically oriented Hollywood films go in for. I was actually aware that there were not very many references made to Saudi Arabia at all in the film, despite the actual involvement of the Saudis during the 80s. So the censorship may have been for something else… Pakistan perhaps?

  2. Mahmood,

    I regret to inform you that those censored parts were full of sexual situations and gratuitous nudity. The top-heavy topless babes in the hot tub in Vegas I found particularly appealing. You can rest easier knowing that I enjoyed the movie’s salacious bits in your stead and you remained uncontaminated by any moral depravity. You’re welcome.

    While this was the Hollywood version of Wilson’s story, I fear the horse-trading in political favors in a democracy hits the mark. As they say, watching sausages or laws being made is not a pretty sight.

    Hollywood had fun with this story until the end, where they laid all the blame on America’s doorstep, as if we were to blame for Afghanistan’s descent into madness by leaving it alone rather than the Saudis extravagant attempt to Wahhabize the Afghans through the agent of Osama Bin Laden, their hero. Without the Saudis, there would have been no subsequent tragedy in Afghanistan and no Sep 11, nor any of the events that followed. The world would be a better place without Saudis.

  3. mahmood says:

    Hollywood had fun with this story until the end, where they laid all the blame on America’s doorstep, as if we were to blame for Afghanistan’s descent into madness by leaving it alone rather than the Saudis extravagant attempt to Wahhabize the Afghans

    What impressed me most about the situation, is Wilson’s inability to raise a single million to go toward schools and education. If that is true, then America does not learn from its own experiences and repeats unnecessary mistakes time and again, vis-a-vis the ill-prepared exit game in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

    You cannot win hearts and minds with bullets and rockets Steve, you do if you are seen to be genuinely involved in rebuilding destroyed arenas, neighbourhoods and peoples suffering from the ravages of war.

    The end of war in both scenarios should have been better thought out. Leaving such arenas with “we brunged them democracy and now it’s up to them” doesn’t really work, and that is a proven fact.

  4. This movie was assigned to my son class (10th grade) for extra-credit in the government class! I have seen the full movie (uncensored)..It is a good one. I enjoyed it.

  5. Mahmood,

    Afghanistan did not host Al Qaeda because America did not provide schools for them but because the Saudis bought the Afghans out. We did not bring democracy to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion but rather helped them drive the Soviets out. We did not even insert any agents in Afghanistan for fear they would be captured by the Russians. Were we supposed to build a little America in Afghanistan with drive-in movies and Burger Kings? Had we made any such effort, Muslims would have been the first to claim the Afghans had traded one infidel invader for another.

    You’d think America would get some credit for helping the Afghans regain their sovereignty and then leaving them alone to direct their own future. Aren’t you guys critical of America for butting its nose in your business? Aren’t you the folks who criticize America for manipulating the Iranian government and installing the Shah? Here’s a case where we tacked the other way with no difference in result. The only constant here is that whatever America does, the Muslim world will castigate it. This springs mostly from the Muslim bias against any non-Muslim power and partly from the natural bias against the wealthy and powerful.

    Afghanistan went catastrophic because of the bad judgement of the Afghans and the malicious influence of the Saudis. Blaming America for the radicalization of Afghanistan is like blaming cops for crime. The perpetrators are to blame for the crimes they commit. At some point, the Muslim world needs to take responsibility for its future instead of making a mess of their lives and blaming The Other, over and over.

    Afghanistan was a purely Muslim mess. We saved the Afghans from the Soviets. We can’t save them from themselves any more than you can stop an alcoholic from getting drunk. They have to want a better life for themselves and be willing to make the effort to change on their own.

  6. mahmood says:

    We saved the Afghans from the Soviets. We can’t save them from themselves any more than you can stop an alcoholic from getting drunk.

    But you missed a golden opportunity to change the events of history then, that had your government bothered in extending a public helping hand in re-integrating the refugees and help in building hospitals and schools – all of which would have cost a minute amount compared to what was spent in clandestine operations – would probably have curtailed that Saudi influence which ultimately resulted in the 3,000 deaths we all mourn, and countless others who are still being killed because of the American government’s miscalculation.

  7. Johnster says:

    Never mind the cuts to the film, it’s the freezing temperatures, the endless phone calls and chatting that keep me away from the cinemas here.

    Its a shame because the cinemas (especially in Dana Mall) are really well designed with lots of room, good sound and comfortable seating.

    And….evryone leaves before the end….that’s like…well, I won’t say what it’s like

  8. Anonny says:

    And….evryone leaves before the end….that’s like…well, I won’t say what it’s like

    Well Johnster, the Boston Medical Clinic is
    doing plenty of business here ;^)

  9. Mahmood: “But you missed a golden opportunity to change the events of history then, …”

    Mahmood, it was the Afghans who missed the golden opportunity to change their own country for the better by selling it out to the Saudis.

    Mahmood: “… that had your government bothered in extending a public helping hand in re-integrating the refugees and help in building hospitals and schools – all of which would have cost a minute amount compared to what was spent in clandestine operations – …”

    Had we spent a hundred billion dollars building the Afghans the finest school system in the world it would have come under attack everywhere by the Taliban Neanderthals, as their rudimentary school system is now. Those schools would have been bombed and burned out, as the Taliban does to them now. Afghan school girls would have been particular targets of the Taliban, as they are now, shooting them on sight as a warning to the others that Islam wants its women kept at home and ignorant.

    Once that happenned, America would be drawn into a war with the the Taliban school bombers and schoolgirl killers which would, inevitably, be labeled as a new crusade by Muslims like you, who condemn America whichever course it takes.

    And the cost of that war would not have been cheap.

    Mahmood: “… would probably have curtailed that Saudi influence which ultimately resulted in the 3,000 deaths we all mourn, and countless others who are still being killed because of the American government’s miscalculation.”

    America helped Afghanistan rid itself of the Soviets. It then bid Afghanistan a fond farewell and left it to tend its own business, as we should.

    If Afghans welcome the murderous Wahhabi death cult into their country as good fellow Muslims and those Saudis then make a mess of Afghanistan, it is the fault of the Afghans and Saudis. It is not America’s fault because we didn’t stop it anymore than it is Mahmood’s fault if somebody’s garden across town in Manama becomes infested with aphids. Sure, you could have stopped it but is it your job to go spraying for aphids in every garden in town?

    It is the miscalculation of Bin Laden and his ilk which have led to all these deaths in the Muslim jihad. The Americans were flying their families to Disneyland and having a cup of coffee in their offices when the Muslims attacked. Bin Laden seriously thought that knocking down a couple buildings would bring America down and we wouldn’t touch him in his Afghan sanctuary. Now that’s a miscalculation.

    That plays off the larger miscalculation of Muslims around the world who think that jihad works for them, only to find that terror returns to their doorstep. They welcome the murderous radicals only to find themselves being murdered by the very radicals they welcomed. All this error springs from the flawed doctrine of the Koran which preaches Muslims must make war on the world to spread their Islam. That error must be corrected if you are ever to be accepted into the civilized world and progress into the future.

    And the Muslim world did not all mourn the deaths of Sep 11. They celebrated them. Islam might have kept its reputation had its adherents not displayed such a depraved public bloodlust in the wake of these mass murders. As it is now, its reputation will never recover with Americans.

  10. mahmood says:

    You’re mixing everything up and coming with nothing Steve. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that America, being the richest and most powerful country on Earth, has no responsibility toward the less fortunate, even those it chooses to use to wage its own proxy wars?

    Another thing. I do not appreciate being labeled by you or anyone else that I am against America just for the sake of it. I am not. I in fact love it. So much so that I want to see it succeed and take its rightful place and act with fairness and responsibility to the rest of the world without prejudice or taking sides.

    Bush is in our part of the world these days. Let’s see if he utters a single word against the despotic regimes we have, or at least insist that basic human rights should be respected or apply pressure to release the various political prisoners rotting in our jails or insist on the guarantee of freedoms of expression or any of the other excellent tenets of the US Constitution.

    You’re fighting the wrong battle here Steve. There is no one here (that I know of) who willingly hates the USA just because it is the USA. They probably take offence at its politicians positions propagated unquestioningly by the likes of you who seem to think patriotism is killing those who oppose your extremist views without a second thought.

    But again in that respect you miss the boat by miles. Let me share with you what one of your compatriots said and I hope the following will stop you to think for a few seconds before going on your holy crusade against them there Mozlems:

    “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

  11. Mahmood: “If I understand you correctly, you are saying that America, being the richest and most powerful country on Earth, has no responsibility toward the less fortunate, even those it chooses to use to wage its own proxy wars?”

    Mahmood, if you will recall, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. We did not start any war in Afghanistan. If freeing Afghanistan from foreign invaders is in both Afghan and American interests, what is bad about helping the Afghans out with the weapons they need to free themselves?

    Our support of the Afghans did not spring from a foreign policy of seeking out proxy wars with the Soviet Union at every opportunity, but rather from a policy of containing their aggression. That was a good thing. Afghanistan was better off for American help.

    The primary responsibility of America is to take care of its own citizens. There is nothing in our Constitution commanding us to ensure the welfare of Afghanistan. We have no compelling national interest to make Afghanistan a better place. Those things are the proper aims of the government of Afghanistan and Afghans.

    That said, it’s good to help out the less fortunate and improve their lot. Many an American missionary goes to the Middle East to do good. As I recall, the Taliban threw a couple missionary girls in prison. Elsewhere, in Yemen I think, an American nun nurse was shot by Muslim fanatics. In Egypt, the US government can not give money away to pro-democracy groups because the Egyptians think such money taints them.

    Muslim prejudice against America makes it very difficult to help Muslims. Nor does helping Muslims elicit their affection nor support. We stopped Muslims from being slaughtered in Bosnia and the Muslim world ignored it. We freed Kuwait and ten years later the Kuwaitis were ambushing Americans in the street. We defended Saudi Arabia and the Saudis responded by attacking America and mass-murdering thousands of Americans to the widespread joy of the very same Saudis we saved from Saddam’s troops.

    The one sure thing that will come of any American entanglement with Muslims is that Muslims will steer it toward the worst end. Our interests are best served by minimizing such entanglements.

    Building up the infrastructure of Afghanistan would not have made America more respected in Afganistan nor the Muslim world any more than building up the infrastucture of Saudi Arabia brought us Wahhabi respect. When America builds up Muslim countries it simply amplifies their dysfunction and provides them with the means to attack us. It arms Muslim bigotry.

    Mahmood: “Another thing. I do not appreciate being labeled by you or anyone else that I am against America just for the sake of it. I am not. I in fact love it.”

    Well, Mahmood, any prominent Middle Eastern blogger who says he loves America in public has to be taken at his word. And really, I hope you realize that none of this is personal. From my side, there is nothing that would stop me from buying you a nice dinner accompanied by undoubtedly spirited discussion. Heck, I’d buy you dessert. Two desserts, even. Try the apple pie. It’s delicious.

    I recognize that you are friendly to America, but even a liberal Arab Muslim like you feels compelled to criticize America at every turn. Look at your Afghanistan argument. We help the Afghans retake their country without putting a single soldier of our own in it and we’re still the bad guys for not doing more. That argument takes the wrecking ball to every good deed ever done because it was not done twice. It makes all the saints sinners because they did not do one more good deed before they died.

    Mahmood: “Bush is in our part of the world these days. Let’s see if he utters a single word against the despotic regimes we have, or at least insist that basic human rights should be respected or apply pressure to release the various political prisoners rotting in our jails or insist on the guarantee of freedoms of expression or any of the other excellent tenets of the US Constitution.”

    I don’t know of any democracy which was delivered to its citizens on a golden tray. All the democracies were made in hard fights by their citizens, their rights won, not given. I’m confident that should a popular Muslim democracy movement arise in a country, America would support it. Of course, they would have to agree to accept that support, a doubtful premise. Certainly, if the Iranian democrats made a bid to boot out the mullahs, we’d back it. Right now, Arab democracy movements appear to be boutique fads, adrift in a sea of Islamic fundamentalism. Hardly popular at all.

    That given, Bush is probably not going to make any gratuitous swipes at our nominal allies in the Middle East, nasty as some are. Rather than shame them in public, it’s better to work quietly and steadily for change incrementally behind closed doors and with innocuous support like exchange and education programs, among other things. It’s better to provide Arabs with the educational opportunities and cultural experience to make the changes themselves. Let them ingest Western ideas and use them to produce something that will work for their peculiar environment.

    While we can apply spot pressure through the media or back channels to influence specific cases or give the last push for a needed change over the tipping point, it is up to the subjects of Middle Eastern countries to make themselves citizens. We can not give you your rights. You have to take them. You have to fix your own rotten internal policies. You can not order internal improvements to your countries online from a catalog at USA.gov. You have to do it yourself. It won’t stay in place any other way.

    Mahmood: “You’re fighting the wrong battle here Steve. There is no one here (that I know of) who willingly hates the USA just because it is the USA. They probably take offence at its politicians positions propagated unquestioningly by the likes of you who seem to think patriotism is killing those who oppose your extremist views without a second thought.”

    Mahmood, you need to switch to the decaf coffee. I haven’t killed anyone all this week. I have a system administrator marked for death but only because he’s screwing up my database and making my users yell at me. So he deserves it. But he’s an American and not even Muslim. You know, Mahmood, for a genial guy sometimes you get quite excitable.

    Mahmood: “But again in that respect you miss the boat by miles. Let me share with you what one of your compatriots said and I hope the following will stop you to think for a few seconds before going on your holy crusade against them there Mozlems: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Mark Twain”

    My government deserves it, Mahmood.

  12. mahmood says:

    Our support of the Afghans did not spring from a foreign policy of seeking out proxy wars with the Soviet Union at every opportunity, but rather from a policy of containing their aggression. That was a good thing. Afghanistan was better off for American help.

    Said with a straight face no doubt.

    Incredible!

    My government deserves it, Mahmood.

    Tell that to the other 50% and see what response you get.

  13. Mahmood,

    Had we not supported the Afghans, would you not be condemning America for doing nothing? Had we done nothing, do you think the Afghans would have given up and surrendered to the Russians? Or do you think it more likely they would have continued to fight a guerrilla war against their Russian occupiers? Had that war continued do you think it would done less damage, claimed less lives than giving the Afghans the weapons to win and end it? Had America not helped the Afghans out, the Russians would have gone on periodically purging them for years. The deadliest wars are those that involved modest bloodletting for prolonged times, not the ones fought hard and fast to a conclusive end.

    We pulled Afghanistan out of the fire twice now: once from Soviet occupation and once from Taliban occupation. Not many people in Afghanistan are clamoring to bring either back. And I don’t recall the Afghans sending any of those Stinger missiles back, saying, “Thanks but no thanks, we’d rather fight the Soviets with rocks and sticks.”

    We didn’t start the war in Afghanistan but we did help end it. That’s a good thing.

    As for telling the Left that America deserves my support, I’ve been doing it all my adult life. Generally, what I find is that the other side is full of bumper sticker slogans but is poorly informed. They still think Iraq is Vietnam. They don’t know we’re winning. If they did, they’d think that was a bad thing.

  14. Nine says:

    I think the Arabs and the Muslims should forever be grateful to George Bush and America.

    I shall just ask few simple questions to explain why;

    Who saved the Muslims of former Yugoslavia from Milosevic and his henchmen? Where were the Arabs and Muslims when their fellow Muslims were being raped and killed by the fascists of Yugoslavia?

    It was the Americans of course, who came to the rescue along with their European allies. Incidentally, there was no oil in Yugoslavia in case one shouts it was all done for oil!

  15. Anonny says:

    The one sure thing that will come of any American entanglement with Muslims is that Muslims will steer it toward the worst end. Our interests are best served by minimizing such entanglements.

    Can you tell this to Mssrs Bolton, Perle
    and Wolfowitz, please? They need to read
    this more than we do.

    And their granddaddy, Mr Strauss, may he
    rot in hell.

  16. Jan says:

    Mahmood, for some real history surrounding “Charlie Wilson’s War” for those of us who weren’t around then or paying any attention, check out this article:
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/01/whos_war_separating_fact_from.html
    It’s always better to see the broader picture.

  17. mahmood says:

    Thank you Jan. I shall peruse the link provided to increase my knowledge. Hopefully.

  18. Aliandra says:

    I>Let’s see if he utters a single word against the despotic regimes we have, or at least insist that basic human rights should be respected or apply pressure to release the various political prisoners rotting in our jails or insist on the guarantee of freedoms of expression or any of the other excellent tenets of the US Constitution

    Mahmood;

    If Bush pressures for reform and your governments resist, is the US still at fault? Governments are not going to reform just because an outsider told them to. With bad regimes usually the only coercion that works is force, and the US isn’t going to be doing that again anytime soon(not it’s job anyway). It will have to be accomplished by revolution or by slow and steady internal pressure. Not easy.

    Steve may come across like a steamroller but he is correct when he says these rights must be achieved by the citizens themselves. That’s the only way they’ll be appreciated and protected. As we have sadly learned in Iraq, if people aren’t willing to address their own political dysfunctions, if they infuse murderous sectarianism into their culture, if they persist in holding pre-modern attitudes toward their fellow man, no outside help is going to make them into lovers of democracy and human rights

  19. Nine says:

    Johonster;
    I was frustrated like you going to the movies. People talk, chat and laugh as if there is no body else in the cinema.

    I vowed not to step in a cinema hall again. My cries for help went unheard and my boycott achieved only one thing; self destruction. Then I came with a plan that worked wonders. It is so simple really and is composed of two parts;

    1- Go to the cinema when nobody wants to go. This is usually the morning shows preferably in weekdays.

    Sit in areas nobody wants to sit in. These are awkward corner seats.

    I have not chosen to see this film but otherwise, I am a regular visitor to the cinema now.

    Keep this secret to yourself though and do not spread the world outside Mahmmod’s Den!

  20. mahmood says:

    The question is not whether the US continues its support. The question is for the US to stand by ITS tenets and principals. It has not been doing that universally.

    Disregard everything else about the questions of evolution or revolution to mandate change for a moment and ask yourself if you are happy to apply your principals on a selective basis.

    Once you have answered that truthfully, you will probably have reached the crux of the problem with the current antagonistic attitude held by a large swathe of the world against the US.

    Is the rest of the world justified in doing so?

    Well, to answer that, let me share with you an old Arab adage: “you only criticise the ones you love.”

    Put another way, the rest of the world holds the US at such a high esteem that it pains them to see its very ideals being destroyed by this selective application of standards.

  21. Aliandra says:

    Mahmood;

    It has not been doing that universally.

    Correct.

    The US acts in it’s own interests, is self-motivated, and erratic in what it wants. It is not much different than most other countries. No, I don’t like selective application, but hypocrisy is so mundane in politics as to be the norm. When the rest of the world meets the high moral standards it demands from us, I’ll change my mind and give more credibility to said antagonism. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

  22. mahmood says:

    By 2050 when the USA is no longer a superpower, then being surpassed by both China and India (according to Goldman Sachs and others) the world will look to China and India whom will be expected to occupy that high moral ground.

    It’s not too long – historically speaking – to hold one’s breath.

    But it is a shame; nonetheless, to await such eventuality to witness that high plane that freedom lovers throughout the world who have held the US to that mantle lose hope so utterly; while, residents of that great nation – like yourself probably and Steve – see naught wrong with hypocritical application of the foundations of your great country.

    So very sad.

  23. Mahmood: “The question is not whether the US continues its support. The question is for the US to stand by ITS tenets and principals. It has not been doing that universally.”

    You know what they say about a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. The optimum route to your desired state is not always straight as the crow flies. You don’t cross mountains in a straight line nor do you announce your intentions to every woman you want to romance. Indirection is often more effective.

    For example, demanding democracy now in many Muslim states would result in the fundamentalists winning, who would end that democracy. Mahmood, you’re using the perfect as the enemy of the good.

    And, of course, such attacks on America distract from the question: What is the responsibility of the Muslim world? Muslims are very fond of demanding everyone else be responsible and accountable but themselves.

    Mahmood: “Once you have answered that truthfully, you will probably have reached the crux of the problem with the current antagonistic attitude held by a large swathe of the world against the US.”

    Much of the Muslim world opposes America because it offends their religious bigotry to have an infidel superpower in the world. Even Muslims in remote Afghanistan have been indoctrinated by their mullahs to hate America, even when they don’t know what America is, a country or a continent or an island or what. All they know is they have been told to hate it by their imam and that’s all they need to know.

    Mahmood: “Well, to answer that, let me share with you an old Arab adage: “you only criticise the ones you love.””

    Please don’t love us so much, Mahmood. I don’t think we’re worthy of so much affection. I fear you will be featured next week on Oprah: Arab Bloggers Who Love Too Much. I don’t want to see you weeping on Dr. Phil’s shoulder.

    Mahmood: “Put another way, the rest of the world holds the US at such a high esteem that it pains them to see its very ideals being destroyed by this selective application of standards.”

    It doesn’t seem to pain the world so much that they would put those high ideals in practice themselves.

  24. Mahmood: “By 2050 when the USA is no longer a superpower, then being surpassed by both China and India (according to Goldman Sachs and others) the world will look to China and India whom will be expected to occupy that high moral ground.”

    Good luck with those fantasies, Mahmood. The superpowers of the future will be fueled by ideas, and America is the best place for producing those. India and China are full of fine people but they have many legal and cultural obstacles to developing new ideas and exploiting them. China doesn’t even know where the moral high ground is.

    And really, I’ve heard all this talk before. Back in high school, I heard Brazil would be the superpower of the 21st century. Back in the ’80s, it was Japan. Now it’s India and China. Ho hum.

    Mahmood: “But it is a shame; nonetheless, to await such eventuality to witness that high plane that freedom lovers throughout the world who have held the US to that mantle lose hope so utterly; while, residents of that great nation – like yourself probably and Steve – see naught wrong with hypocritical application of the foundations of your great country.”

    Sending Stingers to the Afghans to free themselves of their Soviet occupiers served the caused of Freedom. The Afghan dash back to tyranny once freed reflects poorly on them, not us.

  25. mahmood says:

    Good luck with those fantasies, Mahmood.

    Fantasies shared by Goldman Sachs, Harvard, The World Bank and others are facts to unblinkered minds. Yours, I fear, has been set and I’m not going to change it.

    Good luck to you with yours. I doubt that anyone would share them.

  26. Nine says:

    Mahmood,
    I like to say that I am a reasonable person and a realist and do not ask for the impossible. I think you are asking for the impossible and you are being unreasonable!

    You, me and everybody else are discriminatory in giving our love and affection. We all for example, love our children more than anybody else. Does anybody accuse us of being selfish? No of course.

    We are all selective in giving to charities. Now if you give to one but not to the other does this make you bad? No of course not.

    That is how I look at the US. The US is free to give its charity and helping hand to any country or people she wants. She can be selective just like you and me.

    The truth of the matter though is that the US has been more helpful and more charitable to the rest of humanity than any other country now or in the past. They have helped Europe defeat Hitler and then rebuilt it with the Marshal Plan. They freed Eastern Europe from Communism. They helped their defeated enemies, Japan and Germany, to become the second and third richest countries on earth. They freed Kuwait and the Iraqi people. They have stopped the destruction of the people of Kosovo who incidently are all Muslims. What more do you want? The fact that the US did not send her armies to stop the genocide in Rwanda or in Darfur does not make her bad does it?

  27. mahmood says:

    You miss the point.

    I don’t have any problem with the US charting its own course, but as its actions in this region specifically affects my quality of life and everyone else here, it is my right to criticise it to show my own feelings to the effect. If my feelings do not resound to your or anyone else’s tune is really not my concern.

    My fault, reading your argument and others, lies in that I hold the US to a high regard. And in positioning the US and its constitution as a pinnacle which I want my country and others in the region to rise to.

    I’m not sure that wanting good for our countries is a “fault”. Nor is criticising one that I still do hold to a high plain.

    If you and others find that this is an “attack” and “unreasonable”, I invite you to re-look at what I have written, now and in the past.

  28. Nine says:

    Mahmood,
    I guess you have a point there. It is obviously wrong for any country to stop progress in another country regardless of the wishes of its people if that is what you mean. Many have accused the US of doing just that. Think of Suharto in Indonesia and the Shah in Iran! Was it not GWB himself who only recently stated that the US foreign policy for so long leant on the side of dictators?

    But as I mentioned above I am a realist and do not expect anybody or country to be perfect. There has never been a perfect one. However, there are ones who are less imperfect than others and do more good work. The US has certainly done more good work than anybody else. It has fewer imperfections too. That is why I hold the US in high esteem.

  29. Steve: “Good luck with those fantasies, Mahmood.”

    Mahmood: “Fantasies shared by Goldman Sachs, Harvard, The World Bank and others are facts to unblinkered minds. Yours, I fear, has been set and I’m not going to change it. Good luck to you with yours. I doubt that anyone would share them.”

    Mahmood, you place far more trust in the prognostications of such institutions than I do. What is their track record of long term predictions? While Goldman Sachs might carry some weight with me for short and medium term financial predictions, it carries no weight for long term political predictions. Harvard and the World Bank are tainted by their own liberal bias which makes any predictions they make suspect. I don’t doubt for a minute the fervidly anti-American professors at Harvard or the Third World kleptocrats assigned to the World Bank take pleasure in forecasting America’s doom.

    Their predictions are not facts, but rather their organizational opinion. As I recall, some businesses back in the ’30s thought Fascism, even Nazism (before it was well known), were the wave of the future, that democracy was doomed. Those Fascists would make the trains run on time! After studying and working in corporations, my opinion is that big organizations often have foolish biases and indulge in fads much like cliques of high school girls.

    While America may lose an industry occassionally to cheaper foreign competition once the industry has become mature and its product commoditized, America’s true business is creating new industries. This happens due to a number of unique internal strengths.

    First and foremost, we have free speech, so that new ideas can be made public, be batted about, and improved or discarded. Not so in China. We are capitalists, so we can swiftly bring investors together to fund a good idea. We don’t need to present our idea to government to support it. We have a lot of good human capital that can work an idea. Our society is mobile. If the jobs are being created on the other side of the country, you can pack the moving van and be there next week. Businesses can spring up fast in America.

    China and India’s success, to a degree, is derived from American success. They sell to our market. They are becoming successful now because they are adopting American practices, not because we are adopting Chinese or Indian practices. While you can do very well imitating us, even occassionally beat us, you can’t make that final step to be a world leader without fundamentally changing your culture, society, laws, et al.

    For example, how can China ever expect to become a world leader when it has no intellectual property laws? You can’t nurture ideas if their authors have no rights to them and can not profit from them. Sure, China can make a mint making bootleg editions of Windows, but that handicaps them in that they are not developing the human capital to create their own. This is not a new problem for China, but an ancient one. Many new inventions have been made in China over the centuries that never made it out of the Emperor’s palace for lack of a structure to exploit them.

    There are more mundane obstacles. For example, Third World countries like India and China have governments that impose inumerable barriers to private individuals creating a business. They keep poor records of the title to their land, so they can’t use their homes for collateral for loans to start businesses. Their laws for incorporating are too loose to convince investors to put their money in them. And so on.

    These simple problems will require more than a generation to overcome, especially since these countries must prune large sections of their current law and cultural practices to make it happen. I don’t see much momentum in this direction in China. India has some bright spots.

    I don’t know many people who would bet against America. There are many people the world who think America is the best bet and invest their fortunes here, even their lives. Those investments trump all the moribund fortune-telling of the doomsayers.

    I have no doubt in the Muslim world that virtually everyone believes America, the infidel hyperpower, the Great Satan, will topple soon. That’s foolish Islamic doctrine. However, once you step outside of that domain, and stay clear of the socialists, you’ll find a lot of people who share my rosy view of America’s future.

    Mahmood, you just need to get out more.

  30. mahmood says:

    And you, Steve, are deluding yourself to believe that you are more knowledgeable than the authorities I mention.

    I suggest that you not only desperately need to get out more, but find the closest psychiatrist and pay him a visit.

    I’ll even pay for your first consult.

    I have no hope of realising a return on that investment, however. Still, charity is rewarding nonetheless.

  31. Mahmood: “You miss the point. I don’t have any problem with the US charting its own course, but as its actions in this region specifically affects my quality of life and everyone else here, it is my right to criticise it to show my own feelings to the effect. If my feelings do not resound to your or anyone else’s tune is really not my concern.”

    Yes, America does affect the quality of your life, Mahmood, starting with that big navy base which guarantees that you will not be eaten up by your neighbors, like Kuwait was eaten by Iraq. When Iran cut its ties to America, it was immediately attacked by Iraq. It’s good to be protected by America, isn’t it, Mahmood? You really don’t have to worry about Saudis or Iranians trampling your garden, do you?

    And America found all that oil, drilled it, and made sure that its Arab business partners got their fair share, and more, of the profits. Imagine what the quality of life in the Middle East would be without that benign American approach.

    Of course, you have the right to criticize America. Free speech is what we’re all about. We’re not Islamists, after all. However, rebuttal is not censorship. Give and take in robust discussion can be uncomfortable, but I think you are taking to it and getting better at it. You might look at these exchanges not as adversarial but rather as opportunities to forge and reforge your arguments, testing them, improving them.

    Mahmood: “My fault, reading your argument and others, lies in that I hold the US to a high regard. And in positioning the US and its constitution as a pinnacle which I want my country and others in the region to rise to.”

    An admirable goal, but I think most of your arguments demand an impossible perfection of America and are reflexively negative. They also demand nothing of the Arab Muslim world, only America, as if we are the only entity with a will or responsibilities.

  32. Mahmood: “And you, Steve, are deluding yourself to believe that you are more knowledgeable than the authorities I mention.”

    Individuals have a pretty good record at out-thinking institutions. I do indeed have more confidence in my opinion than Harvard’s or the World Banks speculation. I don’t know of any organization which has successfully predicted the future fifty years out. America’s fundamentals are sound. I’ll double down my bet on America.

    However, I have seen a rather amusing show on network TV that reran all the predictions that the great thinkers of journalism made back in the 1960s of what the 1980s would be like. None of them came true. Virtually nobody saw the PC or Internet revolution coming.

    Many organizations in the ’60s believed that overpopulation would result in mass starvation in the 1980s and civilization would collapse. Still waiting for that to happen. As it turned out, the world produced more food and more people and things turned out OK.

    I’ve also read many predictions made back in the 1950s of what life would be like in the 21st century. We were supposed to be eating whole meals in single food tablets, have an atomic reactor in the basement, and flying cars. When my flying rocket car gets delivered, I will have confidence in organizational predictions of the future.

    Mahmood: “I suggest that you not only desperately need to get out more, but find the closest psychiatrist and pay him a visit. I’ll even pay for your first consult.”

    You have a point there, Mahmood. I DO need to get out more. I beat on the keyboard way too much. It’s time to take in a Broadway show or something. Air out the mind.

    I’m sorry to decline your offer to pay for my psychiatric treatment, generous as it is. My original degree is in psychology so I well know that psychology is 85% BS. I’m the proof of that.

    However, if you could send the money anyway, my psychological recovery would be better effected by a lengthy session in a well-appointed bar attended by some pretty girls. Those drinks won’t buy themselves, Mahmood. Twenties would be fine.

    Mahmood: “I have no hope of realising a return on that investment, however. Still, charity is rewarding nonetheless.”

    Not true, Mahmood. You would benefit from your charity. I would be happy to toast to your good health with the first and last drinks. I’m thinking a marguerita, frozen, with salt. And, if I got lucky and married one of the lovelies with whom I intend to consort, I would name my firstborn after you: Mahmood the American.

  33. Nine says:

    Mahmood,
    Why do we talk about China and India? They are not the issue here! They may beat the US one day into the first spot but then so what? Do you think America would mind much? She would not have allowed Japan and Germany to become the power houses that they are now if she did!

    I however, as a law abiding peace loving citizen of this world would mind to see America dwindle into a lesser power. Who would have thrown Saddam out of Kuwait? Who would have pressured apartheid South Africa into submission? Who would have brought communism tumbling down? You could not have relied on any other country to do that could you?

    India a democracy yes but have they left a finger in support of freedom out of its borders? As for China, well they are too busy being the manufactures of this world to be its policeman too!

  34. mahmood says:

    If anyone is interested in the Brazil/China/India story I have alluded to, due to an excellent presentation delivered to the Rotary Club of Adliya in our meeting last night, here are the direct links to the articles discussed for your edification:

    Good reading.

  35. mahmood says:

    Steve, I shall strive to visit the US this year and shall make it a point to come share a brew with you.

    Shall I also bring my cricket bat, or do you think you can point me to a good short-term rental agency on the way?

  36. Mahmood,

    I’m not much of a beer guy but if you don’t mind me sipping a marguerita or a rum & coke, I’d be happy to buy you a brew here in the Capital of the Free World, long may it wave.

    However, if I see an angry Arab wielding a cricket bat on the streets of DC, I’m gonna take off running in the interests of world peace. Of course, I’m so old and slow that you can probably catch me. Maybe my best bet is to slip some homeless dude a twenty and tell him to introduce himself as me while I lurk in the background and see what happens.

    Also, I was treated so well in Egypt last fall that I feel compelled to return the favor. The Egyptians love-bombed me, little suspecting I was Steve the American. Twice, in Cairo and Luxor, I was accosted by schoolboys mobbing me to shake my hand only because I was an American and chanting, “WE LOVE AMERICA! WE LOVE AMERICA!”

    Didn’t see THAT coming, but hope there’s more where that came from.

  37. Mary says:

    Hey Mahmood,

    Are you coming to NYC? Let’s go party, it’s on me. Where do you need a rental, I can help out.

  38. mahmood says:

    Steve, I was talking about tea. And how charming of you to offer a beta copy of yourself to practice on, but I’d rather do so on the real thing!

    Mary, thanks! That’s the one city that I will visit, no ifs and buts. Otherwise my son, who’s planning on studying film and photography – so far – in the Big Apple, will kill me!

  39. Mahmood: “Steve, I was talking about tea. And how charming of you to offer a beta copy of yourself to practice on, but I’d rather do so on the real thing!”

    Actually, iced tea is my preferred drink. I never really acquired a taste for alcohol unless it’s masked by a cocktail.

    And as you know, it is standard practice in the software world to overpromise and underdeliver. I intend to follow that practice by sending you nonfunctional versions of Steve which improve incrementally until your arm wears out.

    I’m not too worried about the whole cricket bat thing. In an over-policed and bunkered up Washington, DC that’s waiting for the other terrorist shoe to drop, a crazy Arab wielding a weapon is going to draw a lot of attention. I can already see myself on the evening news after the cops carry you away, “He said his name was Mahmood and something about cricket or Al Qaeda, I don’t know which. I think maybe he was one of them there jee-howdys. Yes, sireebob. Thank god he was caught.”

  40. Nine says:

    Steve, just do not allow Mahmood to overwhelm you with his charm. Stay put! Nothing else to worry about!

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