Sunday, November 8, 2009

Paralysis by analysis

One of the distinguishing traits of the political intellectual is an excessive caution, a desire never to be "caught out" by expressing a gut-hunch reaction that might be proven wrong or that might expose one to criticism. When one aims at a career as an intellectual, this ambition places a premium on striving to be correct in all one's judgments, and to express those judgments in a properly measured tone.

Intellectuals are just as capable of error as anyone else but are adept at couching their arguments in the appropriate form, with such requisite qualifiers as "perhaps" and "may" and "might," so as to avoid staking out any controversial point too starkly. All of this I say by way of introducing Vanderbilt University senior Katherine Miller, who pensively ponders whether we are being unfair about the Fort Hood massacre:
How important is it that Nidal Malik Hasan is Muslim?
[Vanderbilt colleague] Mike [Warren] and I got into it a little bit . . . on the topic of labeling Hasan a Muslim terrorist. The latter noun requires motive, but since it was and is still unclear, we both agree terrorist is a dangerous description at this point in the case.
The term taken on the whole, Muslim terrorist, also evokes and prompted speculation about Muslim extremist terror cells and al-Qaeda. This is also problematic.
But back to the word Muslim: How critical is it?
Well, it depends on the motive for the shooting. A hypothetical: If Hasan were Jewish or Christian, would the religion have been notable? Well, no, unless he were a radical Zionist or a fundamentalist Christian. Even these distinctions, however, still hinge on some related or external motive (Iran, abortion, whatever). . . .
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Does the quest for Final Wisdom really have to be so exhaustive? Hasan was a Muslim, who had defended suicide bombing and did not want to be deployed to Afghanistan in a war against fellow Muslims. He is reported to have shouted "Allahu Akbar!" during his rampage. And then there's this business about cutting the throats of infidels.

However much weight we give to other motivating factors, it doesn't seem a long-shot gamble to say that Hasan's religion was a major factor in his crime which, by its very nature, constituted an act of terrorism.

This does not mean that every Muslim shares Hasan's murderous rage. Obviously, most do not, or else such events would be commonplace. Given the more general problem of Islamic terror, however, the hunt for some other explanation here is one of those quests that run afoul of Occam's Razor. Sometimes the simple, obvious explanation is also the true explanation.

Do not succumb, Miss Miller, to the politically correct fear that identifying a Muslim terrorist as a Muslim terrorist will produce a "backlash" of bigotry.

Such backlashes do happen, of course. I recall a particularly obnoxious incident after 9/11 in which some dimwit attacked a Sikh. But dimwits are responsible for their own crimes, and I rather doubt they require prompting from political blogs to commit them. (Question: Do people that stupid actually read blogs?)

Also, Miss Miller, resist the temptation to strike a pose of earnest thoughtfulness: "On the one hand this, on the other hand that," as if the business of pondering alternatives were an end to itself. Be decisive, even if decisiveness occasionally means being wrong.


  1. "his crime which, by its very nature, constituted an act of terrorism."

    Bzzt. Bullshit. Not no way, not no how.

    Terrorism is violence against civilians for the purpose of influencing politics through manipulation of their terror.

    An attack on US military personnel at a US military base during what is generally understood to be an ongoing state of war is by definition NOT terrorism absent some other angle (for example, the attack on the Pentagon was a terrorist act because the weapon was a hijacked plane full of innocent civilians and the obvious motive was less to hit the Pentagon than to terrify still other innocent civilians).

    Every evil act is not terrorism, any more than every cancer is leukemia or every theft is armed bank robbery.

  2. Be decisive, even if decisiveness occasionally means being wrong.

    "To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects." -- Margaret Thatcher

  3. If I read right, this gal is a conservative. WHAT THE HELL PLANET IS SHE ON?! It can not be the same one we are. As I noted, this is just a part of the Long War. We are fighting a ruthless and cunning enemy. These people still think about The Crusades as if it happened yesterday. They are fighting to spread Islam by the sword. And some will be members of the armed forces of the United States. Yes, it is most important that Major Hasan is identified as who he is-an Islamic.

  4. Being Muslim was not some coincidental fact in this event, it was almost certainly the central motivation to the crime that occurred. Every fact and clue points to that. That much of the media (especially on the left) is ignoring that is absolutely appalling.

    Hasan is hardly the first Muslim to do something like this. We have had shooting and murders in Seattle, Los Angeles, North Carolina, and Arkansas. The downing of AirEgypt Flight. John Mohammed's shooting rampage in Virginia.

  5. This is the result of allowing huge numbers of mooooslim "immigrants" into our country. Did we have jihad attacks, beheadings, honor killings of daughters, say 10 yrs ago? 20 yrs ago? 50 yrs ago?

    What variable is different? Answer: The moooslim population is much larger today, due to immigration of "our enemy" over the past 15 yrs or so.

    We are now so "diverse" that we allow the enemy to populate our country via immigration and even allow them to serve in our armed forces! Can you say stooopid?