THE MADMAN, THE FUTURE AND THE EYE
Important blogroll update ! Three new links to some interesting blogs that I strongly encourage you to check out:
The first is Madman of Chu
by a professor of ancient Chinese history, Andrew Meyer. I stumbled upon Madman of Chu via a recommendation by KC Johnson
at Cliopatria on HNN
. Here's a sample of Dr. Meyer's writing on Iraqi Shiites:
"If Shi'a Islam is so intrinsically political, how could anyone predict that Iraq will not become a Shi'ite theocracy? The chief historical example appealed to by predictors of a future "Iraqi theocracy" is that of Iran. In Iran in 1979 the utopian impulses of Shi'a Islam burst forth into violent fruition, resulting in the founding of the world's first Islamic republic. Given that the Shi'ite clergy of Iran have so clearly blueprinted the political trajectory of a Shi'a revolution, why would anyone doubt that the same thing would happen in Iraq under the right conditions?
The answer is simple. Such "right conditions" will never come, because the very powerful hold of Shi'ite ideology upon Iraqis will always exist in irresoluble tension with the equally powerful hold of Arab nationalism. The nature of Shi'a jurisprudence and the Shi'a ulama preclude the Iraqi Shi'ite community from disaggregating itself from that of Iran. The Shi'a ulama are not a sacramentally sanctioned heirarchy like that of the Roman Catholic Church, they are a consensual community held together by appeal to precedent and tradition. The jurisprudential procedures adhered to by the Shi'a ulama rely upon a broad body of learning, decisions and precedents akin to the Jewish Talmud. Just as with the Jewish Talmud and rabbinate, the expansive community of Shi'a ulama that produced and continues to interpret this ever-widening body of jurisprudential lore does not recognize political boundaries, it flows freely over the national frontier seperating Iraq from Iran. The two great centers of Shi'a learning (which house the institutions that set the standards of training and accreditation for the global "Twelver" Shi'a ulama) are Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran. Virtually all Shi'a ulama of any stature have studied in both centers of learning (Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini spent most of his formative years in Najaf, while Iraq's Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani spent his in Qom). The Iraqi Shi'a ulama are thus all deeply enmeshed in networks of patronage and authority that tie them inexorably and inseperably to their counterparts in Iran (and vice-versa).
My second nod goes to Marc Shulman's The American Future
, like Zenpundit, The American Future is centered on foreign policy and politics. Here's a sample of Marc tackling the reasoning of Senator John Kerry:
"The bottom line is that Kerry is a convinced multilateralist. During the debate, he reiterated his position that he would never let other countries exercise a veto over actions undertaken to safeguard our national security. Iraq was a national security issue; disgreements were over how grave and imminent a threat it represented. This raises a profound question: in a Kerry presidency, how grave and imminent would a threat have to be for him to dispense with his natural multilateralism in favor of unilateral U.S. military intervention?"
An important question that no one is likely to ever see Kerry have to answer unless he consents to be interviewed on FOX or if Bush raises it himself in a subsequent debate.
Last but far from least is the well regarded blog The Glittering Eye
by fellow Chicagoan, Dave Schuler whose perceptive observations have been appearing in my comments of late ( I'm still chasing down the psycho-epistemological implications of Diglossia on the Arab-Islamic world). Here is Dave's take on the shallowness of the recent presidential debate
"But of all of the omissions the one that bothered me the most was China. China was mentioned only as an appendage to the discussion of the North Korean situation.
China is the most populous nation on earth, a major trading partner and competitor, a major nuclear power, and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council i.e. they have a veto.
So let me list some of the reasons that China should be getting a lot more attention.
China and oil
China is a major consumer of oil. As their economy grows so does their need for oil. Although China does produce oil domestically most of the increase in their consumption is derived from imports. more than half of China's imported oil is from the Middle East. Most of China's imported oil comes through the Malacca Straits. U. S. naval domination of the South China Sea is a potential threat to that oil supply. The increase in world oil prices is less due to unrest in the Middle East and other oil-producing areas than to increases in Chinese consumption (hat tip: Steven Taylor).
Chinese monetary policy and banking
Chinese monetary policy while deft is increasingly fragile. Chinese banks have recently had to write off a significant amount in bad debts. With China's increasing economic influence as a world trader monetary or banking problems in China could have worldwide impact.
China trade and Mexico
The enormous increase in imports into the U. S. from China over the last few years has large come at the expense of Mexico and other Latin American countries. This has resulted in a deteriorating economic situation in Mexico and increased immigration (legal and illegal) from Mexico into the United States.
China and North Korea
North Korea is basically a Chinese client state. Without Chinese support Kim Jong-Il's government would be unlikely to endure for long. And so long as Chinese support continues Kim Jong-Il is in a strong bargaining position with the United States. No talks with North Korea that don't include China are worth conducting.
China and U. S. debt
China is one of the largest foreign holders of U. S. debt. The Chinese are, in effect, recycling their trade surplus into U. S. Treasury bonds. If China were to stop doing this due to domestic eonomic instability or to dump their Treasury holdings for any reason whatsoever it could have a notable effect on interest rates in the United States. This is a major concern especially with the current deficit position of the U. S. government.
"One Child Policy" and social stability
The double whammy of China's "One Child Policy" and the traditional value of male children in the society has resulted in the abortion of millions of female babies. The imbalance between males and females that has resulted is likely to be a substantial source of social unrest in China as the 21st century unfolds. Historically such imbalances have resulted in higher crime rates, greater societal violence, and militarism.
China and Taiwan
Recent Chinese saber-rattling with respect to Taiwan is troubling. Defense of Taiwan in case of Chinese invasion has been U. S. policy for more than 50 years. Is it still? Human rights, industrial policy, environmental issues. The list goes on and on. Why isn't anyone asking questions about China? "
Dave's post constitutes weighty evidence that if we threw out the celebrity airhead anchormen and replaced them as moderators in the presidential debates with a panel of quality bloggers, the country would be better informed - and probably more entertained as well.
Welcome aboard !