The major indexes closed slightly higher on Thursday (Oct. 19).
By Alan Hall
A New York Times op-ed piece by the national security editor at the Congressional Quarterly is generating buzz this week. It describes how counterterrorism and intelligence officials, plus key members of Congress, display dismal ignorance when asked the question, “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”
The author contends that most officials he has interviewed “don’t have a clue,” and are clearly confused regarding basic facts about Islam and the Middle East -- including whether Iran is predominately Sunni or Shia.
The author states, “It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.”
An F.B.I. spokesman fired back that there was no need to be able to play, “Islamic Trivial Pursuit.”
This situation stands in sharp contrast to useful U.S. knowledge of Japanese culture in World War Two.
Douglas MacArthur, for example, gained a detailed knowledge of Japan and Japanese culture while serving there in 1904 as an aide to his father. Japan was ruled by an emperor worshiped as a god, and was at least as strange and alien to western culture as Islam is today.
MacArthur’s knowledge of the enemy served the U. S. well in naval and air battles, and helped again as he directed the successful establishment of democracy during Japan’s reconstruction. Despite his controversy, but also because of it, he was acknowledged as a brilliant leader.
Today it seems many of the officials paid to lead and protect us are ignorant of Islamic culture, and even surprised at their own ignorance.
Here’s a possibility. In 1999, The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior observed, “that a waxing negative mood correlates with a collective rise in credulity, dullness of focus and magical thinking, fuzziness of thinking.”
“Practical thinking manifests itself in philosophic defenses of reason, self-providence, individualism, peacemaking and a reverence for science. Magical thinking manifests itself in philosophic attacks on reason, self-abnegation, collectivism, witch hunts, war-making and reverence for religion.”
The “clear, unifying cognition” of bull market psychology gives way to the “fuzzy thinking” and “counterproductive decision making” of negative social mood.
This description written almost eight years ago rings familiar today. So does the following partial list of traits of the two poles of social mood, from the October 2003 Elliott Wave Theorist.
Positive mood / Negative mood
adventurousness / protectionism
alignment / opposition
benevolence / malevolence
clarity / fuzziness
concord / discord
confidence / fear
constructiveness / destructiveness
convergence / polarization
daring / defensiveness
desiring power over nature / over people
inclusion / exclusion
interest in love / interest in sex
liberality / restriction
optimism / pessimism
practical thinking / magical thinking
sharpness of focus / dullness of focus
Where is our MacArthur today? Have we “outgrown” leaders like him – is he impossible in these times? Or is he out there somewhere, and we just aren’t listening to him?
After the surrender of Japan, MacArthur spoke of the atomic bomb, though he could easily have been speaking about our era.
“This apparatus will make men like me obsolete."