S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Middle East Reflections

Reflections on saving face
Isn't it amazing? The TV pundits predicted it would happen this way. As if by magic, the United Arab Emirates found a way to delay taking control of six U.S. ports. And our current president has graciously agreed to accept some delays, saving face also. The BBC has the story.
The United Arab Emirates firm set to take control of six US ports is to delay part of the deal after objections from leading US lawmakers. Dubai Ports World had been set to take over ports from New York to New Orleans by buying UK firm P&O. But some lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, warn the deal will make the US more vulnerable to terrorism. The White House has threatened to veto any law seeking to block the agreement, but said it could accept some delays.
Everyone will be able to save face.
This following discussion is dangerous ground for an uninformed Westerner to get into, so I apologize in advance for any advance for any offence I may give. But here goes: I could be very wrong, but I suspect that the near or actual civil war in Iraq (only time and hindsight will tell) is about "saving face" taken to its ultimate extreme. Is revenge about saving face? Revenge killings escalate upward in unending cycles. Two of the three main populations differ in religion, and have done so for a very long time. Did those differences begin as one group felt offended by the other, so much so that their split continues to this day?
It seems that they are even shocking themselves. The NYT carries this story on Iraqi violence from which I quote (-NYT link inside),
After a day of violence so raw and so personal, Iraqis woke on Thursday morning
to a tense new world in which, it seemed, anything was possible.
An attack on a Shiite shrine on Wednesday set off a spasm of sectarian revenge in Iraq. The violence on Wednesday was the closest Iraq had come to civil war, and Iraqis were stunned.
In Al Amin, a neighborhood in southeast Baghdad, a Shiite man said he had watched gunmen set a house on fire. It was identified as the residence of Sunni Arab militants, said the man, Abu Abbas, though no one seemed to know for sure who they were.
"We all were shocked," said Abu Abbas, a vegetable seller, standing near crates of oranges and tomatoes. "We saw it burning. We called the fire department. We didn't know how to behave. Chaos was everywhere.". . .
Many Iraqis, including Abu Abbas, blamed the militia loyal to the Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, for the attacks. The fighters are known as the Mahdi Army but they are little more than large groups of poor Shiites with guns. Indeed, the neighborhoods in eastern Baghdad on the edges of the vast Shiite slum, Sadr City, where most of those fighters live, seem to have been hit the hardest.
The current situation in Iraq is one we feared. How it will go we cannot tell. But I do know that it is saddening. The United States is not wise enough to help the warring factions avoid the face-saving violence cycle. Nor are the people themselves able. Perhaps civilization itself has not progressed far enough to understand how to do it.
I posted about this at TPMCafe yesterday. There were some interesting comments. You can visit, if you wish.


Wally Banners said...

We as a race will not evolve until we invent other than the wheel.:)

Carol Gee said...

C-SPAN broadcast a presentation by sociologist Thomas Scheff recently, that provided me with great new insight on the mechanism of "saving face." In a nutshell, he says that fear, shame and humiliation are often quickly repressed-not felt. Then they come out "sidewise" as anger and sometimes violence. Here is the link to his idea, about which I think I will write a blog. Very interesting: Thomas Scheff. Thanks for your comment; you spurred my thinking.