‘To Beat ISIS, the Arab World Must Promote Political and Religious Reforms’, Rule Jebreal tells us. Picking on a writer for a headline is a mistake — who knows where it came from in the editorial process? — and, besides, this one employs (the exhortative) ‘must’ in its sole appropriate usage — as the completion of a hypothetical imperative. “If you want X, you must do Y” — that’s OK. (Y is a necessary condition for the accomplishment of X.) ‘Must’ is tolerable if it’s kept on a leash.

Once it slips the collar, ‘must’ reverts to its status as the most preposterous word in the English language, an instrument of sheer obfuscation. Watch it go:

The United States must review its policies across the Middle East. … It must take a stand against Riyadh’s promotion of exclusionary Wahhabism. […] … Likewise, pressure must be placed on Egypt to abandon its witch hunt of the Muslim Brotherhood. In undertaking an effective counter terrorism strategy, the United States must partner with the Arab states to undertake political reforms that ultimately lead to underwriting a social contract in which every group of the population are represented and protected. […] … If the United States and Iraqi government want to defeat ISIS, they must now ensure the inclusion and protection of Iraqi Sunnis, Kurds and Yazidis, along with the majority Shi’ites [this one is minimally OK]. […] … Eventually, a process of reconciliation must be initiated between Shi’ites and Sunnis. This centuries-old dispute is played out today in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has produced a monster that threatens the national security of not only Middle Eastern nations, but also the United States. It must come to an end. […] … The Obama Administration must pursue a policy of severe sanctions against any and all countries that finance jihadist — even if they are our own allies. … What will ultimately turn the tide in the Middle East are groups that actively advocate for a democratic culture and its values around the Arab world. A campaign to promote these ideas on every level must begin, as part of the counterterrorism initiative launched by Kerry. [Emphases added.]

Must they, really? Will they? Can they?

It’s irritating to see moral fanaticism — betrayed by its distinctive combination of groundless certainty and communicative fervor — masquerading as realistic analysis. The disguise is only necessary because the prescription so exorbitantly exceeds the diagnosis, tripping eagerly into glassy-eyed deontological intellectual abandonment.

“The Middle East must stop being the Middle East, and America must help to make this happen.” It can’t, and it won’t, on both counts. The musty smell is simply annoying.

September 16, 2014admin 13 Comments »

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13 Responses to this entry

  • Artxell Knaphni Says:

    It’s not as though all of Neoreaction’s “realistic” analyses don’t amount to moralistic injunctions stemming from the morality of some kind of ‘utilitarian’ outrage – the political present as an outrage against the uncertain mishmash of received ‘wisdoms’ constituting Neoreaction.

    Reality is over, listen to Baudrillard.


    nydwracu Reply:

    Baudrillard isn’t real!


    Artxell Knaphni Reply:

    Who is, nydwracu, who is?


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 12:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Motion Suggests Itself Says:

    To speak otherwise, or to be realistic, is to admit an impotency that seems to make everyone uncomfortable (politicians perhaps most of all).


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 12:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Erik Says:

    To me it feels now as though “must” belongs up there with the passive voice (paging George Orwell) in obfuscatory techniques for political writing.


    admin Reply:

    Passive voice can be used sleazily, but it is inherently aligned with philosophical sophistication. Active voice is actually soft ‘mustiness’ (paging Nietzsche). Must-mania is far more depraved — and basically just mad barking.


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 2:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • darius Says:

    Whether or not the course of action is implored or suggested, there are some actions described, which, if taken, may not be bad. Arming the minorities is one you seem to agree with. Why let the tone bother you and not regard the courses of action raised instead? If there is any problem with the actions proposed, it is not so much that they are expressed with “groundless certainty and communicative fervor” but that they are simply unworkable. That is the problem with most policy advice, that there is no analysis of the realistic constraints affecting policy change or implementation. These constraints are often totally ignored by gung-ho pieces such as this and concealed from view within political circles where a naive idealism maintains the myth that politics is what makes everything happen.


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 2:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    “You Must STFU.”


    admin Reply:

    … if you want to be permitted to live.


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    I like this entire post very much, esp your last 2 comments STFU or else.

    I’ve been listening to these “must’s” for some time and best I could come up with was “you gotta a lotta must’s”. I like musty smell, STFU your life at stake better.

    The only thing I have to offer in addition is mmm mmm sniff mmmm FEAR mmm sniff Desperation mmmm…sniff….mmm.


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 4:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • Michael Says:

    According to a senior military official, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a recent meeting: “The Department of Defense’s number one priority is combating Ebola.”


    vxxc2014 Reply:

    Honestly I don’t know how that man shaves without cutting his own throat. Dempsey.

    Hagel is actually either senile or nuts, and hints are dropped within community he’s got some bad habits. So does Boehner per right wing rumors [Boehner a drunk].


    Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 11:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • Para Além da Face – Outlandish Says:

    […] também sua extrema popularidade se seguem quase imediatamente deste arranjo. O escritor tem que assumir uma face. A estupidez destes retratos, que adornam capas de livros e colunas de […]

    Posted on September 7th, 2016 at 12:00 am Reply | Quote

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