Here's the answer. What was the question again?
Your analysis of ‘political Islam’ and its application seems to wholly ignore the overwhelming effects of ‘western’ colonialism in Islamic regions over the past 500 years. Western colonialism is not an ‘underlying cause’ - it is the main driver of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. The history of Islamic lands has been an almost perpetual history of penetration and manipulation by first of all Europe and now Europe and the US. Much of the terrorism they now apply has been learned from the colonisers, and this responsibility can not be shrugged off as a ‘possible’ and mere ‘underlying cause’ - it is a huge presence in Islamic history. (You say yourself that in the case of Lebanon that it is “dominated by the interests of foreign powers”.)
The scenario you describe under ’throwing money at a problem’ is fair as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The real problem with such endeavours is that they are carried out by people who have no real cultural understanding of any particular problem, no education as to what the problem really is, or why their understanding is faulty, and this is very often accompanied by ulterior motives which work against the actual goal. In short, the funds and directionality are held in the hands of outsiders.
Ultimately the ‘underlying problem’! is that much of the money in the world is held, distributed, used and profited from, by the ‘west’ - which too, has been and is warped by this very factor throughout its history.
Further, your dismissal of ‘underlying causes’ is, in my opinion, faulty. To illustrate, using your parable of the bridge, an underlying cause is very clear - the bridge was badly made. Further to that, it could possibly be the case that the bridge was badly made because the manufacturer worked, not in a society where workmanship and honesty were valued, but in one where profits and undercutting were the norm. That completes the analysis - in the case of the bridge there is no real need to go further into the causes of why the society is like that - the particular case is sufficiently described. This principle of ‘sufficient cause’ can be widely applied to prevent an unmanageable regression.
Might part of the problem stem from the ambiguity of the word "cause"? In physics and related fields "causality" actully works; it is the basis of the scientific method. In social and political "Sciences", areas infested by the PMC , "SCIENCE" denotes a religion, where "scientific analysis" is a term of power, usually invoked to cancel heresy. Perhaps one solution to the issue is Confucius's “rectification of names”. I doubt this will happen until the first two levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs vanish. Then the fun will start.
Sometimes the hardest thing to admit intellectually is that 'there actually isn't a solution'. But as you point out, we've created a vast network of structures designed to self perpetuate rather than solve the problem that they were supposedly created to deal with. Liberalism seems to be the ultimate self licking ice cream in that it continually sprouts solutions to the problems it has created.
That was a very interesting essay, thank you. I remember reading bin Laden's letter to George Bush but being baffled by the disconnect of “they hate us for our freedoms”. I’m happy that you mentioned “feeling superior” in you last paragraph – that did actually help to set me straight on the position “it’s our own fault” to which I sometimes feel myself drawn. Finally, I’ve always felt comfort in the thought that Universal culture is likely to win over Islamic culture, which you radically changed my view on with the beautifully written phrase “prefer a glorious death in a battle at the End of the World to an uneventful existence as a consumer in a Liberal society”. Now I’m not so sure… Also your insight about decriminalising possession in the Netherlands, leading to a larger market and more gang violence was a an eye-opener.
"But it is also the rhetoric of despair, even if some of those who use it don’t recognise the fact. It is the rhetoric of endless trying, endless funding, endless disappointment, new programmes, programme reviews, more consultants, slightly adapted programmes, more programme reviews and finally the move to a different set of programmes where the same process begins again. It is the rhetoric of endless changes of Country Directors, of desk officers, of two-year deployments. It can continue until the sun goes cold or the money runs out, whichever happens first."
In fairness, what is the alternative to endless trying? Other than abandoning all social goals. I agree that humanity and society are imperfectible, but endless incremental improvements (a reduced crime rate, for instance) are theoretically possible and, other things being equal, desirable. I would certainly think that any government should try to pursue such goals, if it could find effective means that do not cause greater harm than they remove. However, would that not also be "endless trying"?
Thanks. I missed that connection.
The much (unfairly imho) derided novel "Rising Sun" had this tidbit: one of the main characters had a reputation for having a strange affinity to Japan, somehow being able to figure out "those inscrutable people" based on his solving of the murders of a Japanese couple some years prior that baffled everyone else. His secret: he called the police officials in Osaka to learn about the murder victims. While some of the particulars of the societies/activities/whatever in question are quite that hard to find out--e.g. the Political Islam. Yes, detailed information will be hard to come by without expert knowledge, but the basic outlines are not that hard to learn, I suspect, if one approaches with open mind and genuine curiosity. But instead, we have so many people locked in their "they are inscrutable" mentality, even if it masquerades itself in multiculturalist garbs--we mustn't offend these inscrutable peoples even though we don't really know much about them except the stuff we make up out of our own prejudices. People who contradict them by, figuratively, calling the Osaka police, are "racists" not because of anything against the proverbial Japanese, but because they contradict the "multicultralists" and their conceptions about the Japanese.
What is referred to when the author uses the abbreviation, “PMC”?
Wasn't it AJP Taylor who said something like, in the end, all automobile accidents are caused by the invention of the internal combustion engine and the desire of humans to go places faster? (Yes, with the implication that trying to find "deep underlying causes" for anything is bound to run into problems, even if, or especially, they are technically correct.) Yet, this sort of sophistry, trying to look "deep" by suggesting "deep causes" for whatever that also happens to appeal to the morality of whoever their audience might be, seems never to go away.
"causes", like forces, are always hidden, however, the effects can be brutally visible.
the Universe has only one cause: energy transformation…‽
the hidden "causes" of brutal events has to be explained: GOD, whatever name it takes.
“Nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than another's; but under nature everything belongs to all.”
― Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
“I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind..."
—Albert Einstein (1879-1955)