Thursday, January 31, 2013

Settlements, War Crimes, Israel and Palestine

It is a war crime for an aggressor to settle its citizens in a conquered area.

Is it the most serious of war crimes? No, initiating a war is the most serious of war crimes.

Why is it a war crime, when an exactly similar settlement of foreign citizens may be legal in times of peace? Well, a peacetime settlement by foreigners would occur through the invitation of the host country, or through the normal process of paying for land from people who are willing to sell. Settlement during or after a war indicates a plan to retain territory conquered in a criminal manner. It is like the difference between an honest trade and a theft.

Why bring up this topic now? Because today the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a preliminary report noting that the most recent Israeli settlement in eastern Palestine violates this war crimes law. The implications are large. [See the Press release, Israeli settlements symbolize the acute lack of justice experience by Palestinian People, which links to the full report.]

Is there a statute of limitations on war crimes? I don't think so, though there probably should be. I know the Israeli and other governments continue to hunt down and prosecute alleged war criminals from the Nazi era, over sixty years ago.

If there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, or if the statute of limitations is 60 years, then the entire state of Israel is in trouble. Most Jews in Palestine had converted (perhaps not voluntarily) to Islam by about 700 A.D. Jewish communities that remained were small until the Zionist movement of the late 19th century. The early Zionists were legal immigrants, and as a result several small areas of Palestine had Jewish majorities by World War II.

Most of the post-war Jewish immigration to Palestine can be characterized as illegal. The war that established the State of Israel in 1948 coincided with the ejection of non-Jewish Palestinians, followed by Jewish settlements on their land. Thus it is not just the remnants of Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza, that are at stake. The creation of the State of Israel can be characterized as a war crime.

It is often said that the United Nations (then newly formed, and basically a war organization for fighting Germany and Japan) created the State of Israel. It appears that all the U.N. did was endorse a Jewish semi-autonomous partition zone within Palestine. But supposing the U.N. did in fact back the creation of Israel by settling Jews on lands taken from Palestinians. Then the U.N. itself should be said to have committed a war crime.

The implications are staggering the further we go back in history. What if, after a war of aggression takes place, there is a peace treaty? Does that make it legal to settle on land occupied in a war of aggression? Peace treaties tend to be imposed by aggressors. They are not really voluntary agreements.

What about the settlement of Europeans in colonial nations? What about the United States, which would not exist except for a constant clamor of wars, occupations, and settlements?

If the purpose of war crimes laws is to stop wars and war crimes, then they must be enforced. American settlements occurred, in the main, before the war crime laws were written. Israel, however, creates a different case. It came into existence after the war crimes laws were on the books.

But the real question is, will anyone enforce the war crimes laws? Conquered nations like Japan and Germany have had their leaders prosecuted for war crimes. But no victorious nation has ever been prosecuted for war crimes.

Like Hitler marching into Russia, it looks like the Israeli occupation of eastern Palestine has gone too far, endangering the entire Israeli project. A sane leadership of Israel would cut their losses to hold onto their gains. A sane leadership would trade forgiveness for their earlier crimes against humanity and war crimes in order to hold onto the lands gained by those crimes. A sane leadership would offer to remove all Jewish settlers to Israel proper, in return for an immediate and permanent peace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chiang, Diem, Hamid Karzai and Sheikh Mohamoud

Chiang Kai-shek was not a bad guy. He did not lose China to the communists on purpose, any more than the monarchist governor of Virginia Colony meant to lose the Americas to Republicans.

The Communist victory in China during the Truman administration created the mindset in which cold warriors like Joseph McCarthy and John Kennedy came to power. Not losing nations to communism was as important to American politics between 1948 and 1990 as not losing nations to radical Islam has been since 2001.

Chiang was a remarkable guy. Born in 1887, as a youth he was disgusted by the inability of China to modernize and by the depredations of imperialist nations: Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and the United States. Even Japan, which modernized quickly after the U.S. attack on it in the 1850's, was acting like an imperial power in China by 1900. Chiang went to military school in Japan, then joined the Chinese republican movement, the Kuomintang, started by Sun Yat-sen. Showing intelligence, efficiency, and bravery, Chiang became the military leader of the Kuomintang and did much to create a modern Chinese military and government capable of liberating China from foreign aggressors.

Unfortunately, China was more of a mess than Chiang could handle. He came to rely on generals who were more like war lords than loyal members of his government. He married a member of a Chinese banking family who had been educated in the United States. He decided he could not fight all the imperialists at once, converted to Christianity, and increasingly allied himself with the United States. His government became more Fascist than democratic. The man who easily defeated other Chinese warlords found he could not effectively fight the Japanese, even with considerable American help.

The Chinese communists, in contrast, lived among the peasants and workers, in fact most were peasants and workers. They also were not very effective fighting the Japanese during World War II, but they did far more with far fewer resources. When the Japanese withdrew Chiang's troops took over most of the country, but they were unreliable troops. Vast quantities of U.S. aid meant to feed and equip Chiang's troops disappeared into the pockets of Chiang's generals. While there was certainly fighting in China's civil war, for more important movement was troops deserting Chiang's generals and enlisting with the Communists. Ironically, it was Chiang who had given military training to the Communist leaders at the Whampoa Military Academy in the 1920s.

Chiang did not seem to be able to comprehend what was happening. He expected orders to be obeyed. He believed he was reforming China. He was not corrupt, but he tolerated corruption because he did not feel he could risk alienating his warlord generals. He simply was no match for Mao and the Communists. In the end billions of American taxpayer dollars either disappeared or ended up as weapons captured by the communists.

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon showed a remarkable ability to learn from U.S. mistakes in China and repeat them exactly in Vietnam. After the Vietnamese defeated the French in 1954, the U.S. supported a Roman Catholic Vietnamese political leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. Let's just note that most Vietnamese were not Roman Catholic, a religion associated with their former French colonizers. Although the young Diem moved up quickly through the ranks of the Vietnamese who served the French, in the 1930's he joined a call to create a Vietnamese legislature and was dismissed from office. Diem became a nationalist and rival to Ho Chi Minh. But unable to compete effectively among the Vietnamese, he instead sought help from the United States and the Vatican. It was President Eisenhower who chose Diem to rule South Vietnam, over French objections. His rule was reinforced by hundreds of thousands of Catholic refugees from the north.

Eisenhower sent a lot of money to Diem, who used to to consolidate his control of the south. He imprisoned anyone who disagreed with him. President Kennedy sent in U.S. troops when Diem's could not handle a nationalist uprising against him. As with Chiang, money and arms were used to buy a lively life style for Diem's cronies, and little effort was made to either win the hearts of the peasants or even win the war against their (mostly communist) leaders. In addition Diem discriminated against Buddhists, the dominant religious group. Diem was assassinated by his own followers working with the CIA on November 2, 1963 with the okay of President Kennedy, who wanted to put a more effective leader in place. Kennedy himself was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

In Afghanistan the U.S. chose a different sort of puppet, Hamid Karzai. Born in 1957 in Kandahar, to a powerful, corrupt political family, he was educated in Afghanistan and India, then became a CIA contractor during the Afghan civil war against the Soviet-backed government. When the Taliban took over they offered him a post as an ambassador, but instead he joined the monarchists in opposition in Pakistan, as well as traveling to look for support in the United States. He worked closely with the United States during its war of aggression against Afghanistan in 2001. He was selected as Chairman of a U.S.-backed government, then was appointed President of Afghanistan by American-vetted "leaders."

For over a decade now the U.S. has poured money and troops into Afghanistan. Karzai's family, and a few other upper-level crooks, are now rich. The Afghan Army is, if not quite a joke, not very effective in fighting the Taliban. We can pretty much plan on Karzai & friends taking their loot into exile fairly soon after the U.S. military withdraws in 2014. Unless, of course, President Obama changes his mind and wastes even more American blood and taxes on Afghanistan.

Compared to the immense sums of money wasted in China, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, the nation of Somalia has been a side show. Neither President Bush nor Obama have sent in troops. Instead they have trained, equipped, and bought troops of African nations to do the fighting. Somalia was moving towards a stable governance supported by a majority of the population under the Islamic Courts Union, but that frightened the anti-Islamic U.S. corporate security state. So Ethiopia (a Christian nation), Uganda, Burundi, and lately Kenya were paid to invade Somalia. Meanwhile the Shabab, a very radical Islamic group, became first the de-facto government and later the main armed opposition group.

No one strongman is associated with American attempts to control Somalia. The newly selected American puppet is Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Mr. Mohamoud probably has some good qualities. At least he is not a warlord. He was believed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was chosen by his U.S.-approved fellow leaders as President of Somalia in September 2012. He heads no powerful faction, so is not a likely threat to the clan and militia power bases of the other members of the government. He hails from an area until recently controlled by Shabab, now controlled by the Kenya military.

Mohamoud's lack of clout is revealed in this report from 2011: "Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud remains the leader of the Peace and Development Party (PDP) for the next three years after being elected unanimously by 155 members of the PDP ... [attendees included] members of Hawiye traditional elders" Network Al Shahid, Nasongo Willy, "Somalia: new independent political party leader", April 20, 2011.

Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is being reconstructed with American taxpayer dollars. It gives a nice appearance to things. But without the foreign militaries the government would not even control Mogadishu, much less most of the rest of Somalia.

I don't know if there is any alternative for Somalis other than working with an American puppet and hoping to defeat Shabab, or working with Shabab to drive the Americans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Ugandans and Rwandans out of the county. Somalia is a mess of truly historic proportions. It is a witch's brew that, a poison pot that was started when Portuguese pirates (well, the official Portuguese navy) started raiding the area back in the 1500s.

The likely outcome in Somalia is probably the same, in a generalized way, as we had in China and Vietnam, and will soon have in Afghanistan. Whether with ballots or bullets, the Somalis will eventually get rid of the foreigners and govern themselves. Meanwhile, America continues its relative decline as a global power, as its economy wilts while it feed its military establishment and its puppets around the world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wittgenstein, Determinism, and Probability

One of the oldest philosophical questions is whether the Universe is deterministic or indeterministic. In a strictly deterministic universe everything that happens unfolds, causally, from the previous configuration of the universe. In such a universe, the thinking typically goes, man has no Free Will. We do what we are compelled to do by the rules of the Universe, or by the gods, if you prefer religious terminology. Our lives are controlled by Fate.

The advent of quantum physics threw a monkey wrench into the deterministic view of the universe constructed by scientists between 1600 and 1900. After considerable debate and experimentation, quantum physicists decided that at least some things in the universe happened by chance. This gave strength to the Free Will schools of philosophy and religion.

As far as I know my favorite philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, did not decree the universe to be deterministic, or indeterministic either. Wittgenstein was a philosopher's philosopher. He offered no direct guidance to living life, unlike say Friedrich Nietzsche or Henry David Thoreau. In fact it is hard to find a place where he said anything definite about the universe, at least not after his earliest work, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

In his later works, including Philosophical Investigations, you might say that Wittgenstein deconstructs philosophy. But he is not a nihilist. For Wittgenstein the universe exists, it is no illusion. Instead what gives the aura of illusion to much philosophy, religion, and magical thinking is a swarm of errors that result from careless reasoning and the inexact nature of English and the other languages we use to do our thinking.

So what can best be learned from Wittgenstein is a technique, a critical attitude. It is similar to the ancient Socratic method of asking questions that lead a student to a correct, if complex, viewpoint. The trick to the Socratic method is asking the correct questions. I've never seen a formula for generating the correct questions. Wittgenstein provides no explicit formula, but his later works provide large numbers of examples of trying to apply an analytic (but often intuitive) process to philosophy itself. Frequently we are led to conclude that philosophy, like religion, is riddled with nonsense. Eliminating nonsense is one Herculean task that must be done if you want a clean stable for your ideas about the world.

Based on looking at many human and natural phenomena, we don't need to abandon the terms deterministic and indeterministic. What we have to do is use them more carefully and to realize that in certain situations there are shades of gray between them, and even room for both to be present in the same phenomena.

One of the most interesting and well-examined domains is probabilistic phenomena. We can speak of the probabilities of drawing an inside straight in poker, of an atom of radium decaying within the next pico second, of fog in the morning in London in February, or of Aunt Betty calling unexpectedly. But probability is another big word that may be misleading if we over generalize. Does shuffling a deck of cards create the same sort of probability as weather or quantum uncertainty?

Probability can exist in both a determinate world and an indeterminate world. From Newton's time until Heisenberg every throw of the dice was believed by scientists to be subject to the laws of (what we now call) classical physics, laws that were totally deterministic. Sure, with 2 dice, snake eyes came up every so often, and seven came up a reliable percentage of the time, but that was because humans had devised this method to introduce randomness. The dice were supposed to be shook up or thrown hard, making slight variations in muscle movements, too small to consciously control, result in outcomes that the thrower could not predict. A man of skill, throwing carefully, might cause dice to produce specified results at least some of the time, but other men monitored such cheating. The end result, fair or cheat, was determined by the placement of the dice in space, the momentum of the throw (including angular momentum), the exact characteristics of their bounces, and even the friction of the air.

When quantum physicists first discovered random atomic events many thought that there would prove to be underlying non-random, deterministic events that could explain the randomness. Much like Newtonian physics could explain, at least in theory, any particular throw of the dice. Einstein, for instance, believed that. But they were wrong, as far as anyone can tell. Many atomic and subatomic events do follow classical physics. Momentum, for instance, is preserved in atomic collisions. But decay processes, including radioactive decay and the emission of a light quanta by an electron "falling" from a high energy "orbit" to a lower energy orbit seem to be random events. At least within an envelope.

An envelope? They always leave that factoid out when religious gurus who specialize in the mechanics of separating their followers from money are elevating Quantum Physics to a Recipe for Mysticism. An envelope, here, is a metaphor for bounded probabilities. For instance, no matter how many times you role a pair of dice, the results are limited to the numbers between 2 and 12. That in itself is a kind of fuzzy determinism. Casinos, the old-fashioned kind with roulette wheels and people dealing cards, were built of fuzzy determinism. You could not predict which gamblers would win or lose any given hand or turn of the wheel, but at the end of the night the casino had more money than it started with.

Likewise a radioactive atom. You can't know when a particular atom will decay, but you can bet on a large group of atoms of the same element and not lose your shirt because the group emits radiation at a very predictable rate.

Once you start putting atoms together you quickly reach a point where quantum physics becomes pointless and you might as well fall back on classical physics. Yet engineers can build machines that make use of quantum mechanics for devices humans use, as shown by almost every electronic device made since the invention of the transistor. We use quantum uncertainty in our devices, yet we do that to increase predictable, deterministic behavior. If our devices get a glitch, the most likely sources are not quantum mechanical fluctuations outside the expected envelope but the failure of old classical components like a battery or solder joint.

So be careful about philosophical extrapolation. Or remember the modern key to all knowledge and wisdom: It's Complicated. You are made up of the same stuff of the rest of the universe, the arrangement is just different. We are arranged like mammals, only more so. Thinking about Free Will or Not Free Will will not help you make a decision. So take a deep breath and know that causality and randomness, determinism and indeterminism, are both going on all the time, within you and without you.

This essay is offered as a sacrifice to the Roman goddess Fortuna, and to the lucky Roman soldiers who won Jesus Christ's clothes at the crucifixion.

More quantum physics and philosophy

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mali Sees French in Action

The French, or the government of France, are now fighting a war in Mali, which used to be a French colony. Officially it is the Republic of Mali, but it isn't really a republic. It was a French colony until 1960. Mali is a multiethnic state created by Europeans drawing lines in the sand in the 19th century, butting up against the colonies of other predator nations, notably those of the British Empire.

The current leader of France is Francoise Hollande, of the French Socialist Party. He is not religious.

One of the militias that took over northern Mali is both ethnic (Tuareg) and religious, the Ansar Dine, which is Sufi Islamic. Ansar Dine is allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mghreb, which Salafist (ultra-orthodox) Islam. One of the militias is mainly ethnic Tuareg, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.

President of the United States Barack Obama is believed to have encouraged the French, who are supporting a military junta imperialist-backed "government" of Mali who have so far shown themselves to be utterly incompetent in everything but overthrowing the previous incompetent, corrupt government.

If ever there were a situation showing that "politics makes strange bedfellows," this is it.

In the United States the Tea Party Republicans, and for that matter the entire corporate security state, Democrat and Republican alike, have based their claims for legitimacy and looting the public till on the danger of the new post-communist enemy, militant Islam, as best known from the poster child Al-Qaeda. Extremists on the right accuse the President of being a socialist and secretly a Muslim, and they hate France and everything socialist France stands for, with the possible exception of foie gras.

It should be noted that the current "government" of Mali is Islamic. 90% of Malians are either Sufi or Sunni Islam. Only about 5% are Christian and 5% subscribe to traditional African pagan beliefs. Atheists and agnostics are rare in Mali.

My guess is the Tea Party will rally around French military intervention, while continuing to criticize socialism and atheism. American liberals will rally around the President.

The key factor here is the propaganda about the cruelty and human rights abuses of the "rebels", in particular of those associated with Al-Qaeda. The cruelty and human rights abuses of the government of Mali will be ignored, because they are western puppets, not Al-Qaeda, and hence Good Fellows. Liberal American and French women in particular can be counted on to believe any anti-feminist tale told about the male puritanical Islamic fighters.

The ongoing oppression of women in France and other American-allied nations will be ignored. A woman in France can't even make a traditional face covering a fashion choice any more without being bullied and arrested by French police. Instead of sending predator drones to take out, say, Irish bishops for their stomping on the rights of women, we send the drones into Islamic nations. We must send the drones somewhere, since the drone makers must have their profits. There is not much of an Islamic vote in these United States.

Al-Qaeda was a small gang of nutter criminals when Bill Clinton started going after them in the late 1990s. I am pretty sure they would still be a small gang of criminals today if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Now with their network of allies they effectively control a large part of Pakistan, most of Somalia, a chunk of Yeman, and northern Mali. They have friends all over the Islamic world.

Like most Puritan sects, their real hatred is reserved for non-Puritans of their own basic pursuasion. Leave them alone and they will spend all of their energy fighting more liberal brands of Islam, and the modern secular people of their own nations. Fighting Al-Qaeda decreases U.S. security, but it increases the defense and homeland security budgets, which is the real objective.

The French once were a very tough people. They defeated Islamic invaders at the Battle of Tours, in 732, thus preserving the Roman Catholic Church and the burning of women as witches and heretics. Under the atheist Napolean they conquered most of Europe in the early 1880s. But lately their fighting skills have been laughable. The Vietnamese defeated them at Dien Bien Phu, and they lost most of their empire in the next few years. Today they should stick to cooking and fashion design.

If the Tauregs and Islamists in Mali are defeated, it won't be by the French. It will be because their puritanical culture alienates their fellow citizens, who eventually chose to follow a different course.

Francoise Hollande should be arrested and tried for war crimes, but he won't be. Only weak Africans and Balkan leaders are ever arrested for war crimes.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Puritanism, Taliban, and Shabaab

"So, now prosperity begins to mellow
And drop into the Rotten mouth of death."
Richard the Third, Act IV: Scene IV

Prosperity is always just around the corner in America. In American History we are taught that the Pilgrims, or Puritans, founded our nation. Because of their high standard of civilization, things were rough at first, but prosper they did. The survivors, anyway.

The Pilgrim paradigm was developed by American educators in the 19th century. Children were taught that Protestant Christianity, the free market economic system, Anglo-Saxon culture, and democratic self-governance were tied in a bundle that marked a high-tide in the history of civilization. America triumphantly expanded westward even as the homeland, Great Britain, conquered the world's largest empire ever.

Puritan Christianity included a number of sects that, in Britain, were more Calvanist than the Church of England (Episcopal Church). Politics, too, was changing rapidly in Britain around the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620. Economic growth fueled by the exploitation of the developing empire and by technological advances was creating a class of business families that sought more political power. This led to the English Civil War (1642-1651), the beheading of Charles I in 1649, and in general to the decline of the power of the old English aristocracy.

The Pilgrims and the larger influx of Puritan Christians who established other towns in what is now the Boston metropolitan area were fairly typical of puritanical social movements in general. They did not believe in religious freedom, and proved it by exiling and executing people who deviated from their sect, including Quakers. They at least pretended to a rigid code of monogamy. Women had no legal rights (except, interestingly, the right not to be beaten by their husbands). Local democracy was possible because they all agreed on almost everything. In contrast back in England, disagreements led to the Cromwell dictatorship, then later the restoration of Charles II.

In England, puritan or not, for the next few centuries the punishment for stealing was execution by hanging. A lucky person might escape the gallows to be exported to labor in Georgia or, later, Australia.

Puritanism is typically a reaction to an excess of corruption. One might say it is an overreaction. Certain puritan ideals, like monogamy and virginity before marriage, may last in cultures for decades, centuries, or millennia. In politics people get tired of injustice and paying bribes to corrupt officials. In economics people react to being ripped off by merchants, or being underpaid or otherwise unfairly treated. Protestant Puritanism was a direct reaction to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the late Middle Ages.

We should not be surprised when puritan social organizations arise. Even in the United States today there is no shortage of puritanical energy. The Tea Party can be seen as a puritanical reaction to poor governance, just as fundamentalist Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) in the U.S. are partly reactions to our libertine culture, with its alcohol and drug problems, fatherless children, and unrelenting greed.

The Afghan Taliban ("students" of the Koran) are clearly puritanical. Western propaganda has emphasized their brutality and crimes against women. Why do they still have so much support in Afghanistan? Because the Afghans are not comparing the Taliban to a Saturday at the mall in an American suburb. They compared them, first, to the warlords who ruled various parts of Afghanistan after the Russians exited. Now they compare them to essentially the same group of warlords who try to give the American puppet government the appearance of popular support and democracy.

Aside from the almost universal hatred of Americans that now permeates Afghanistan, with American troops entering a former Taliban area the Afghan "government" also enters. Pretty soon things are back to the old system: theft and corruption. The locals may resent the Taliban for banning music, women may want an education, but no one wants a government that steals. Cutting off the hand of a thief (or corrupt official) sounds barbaric to us, but to most people if that is what it takes to provide security, they will put up with it. At least thieves don't get the death sentence, as they did under the British Empire.

The story of Shabaab ("boys" or Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen) is similar. Corrupt warlords ruled Somalia. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was set up almost spontaneously by the people of Somalia to provide a just government that would end corruption and theft. But the U.S. corporate security state, in a paranoid phase, decided the "Union" was anti-American because it was Islamic. The U.S. paid proxies to destroy the ICU. The militants of the ICU, mostly very young men, survived as Shabaab and eventually became the de facto government of Somalia by defeating the American proxies. They adopted a puritanical version of Islam that wanted Sharia law rigidly enforced, which had not been true of the ICU. Along with a decline in theft and corruption, however, sexual repression and brutal treatment of opponents was thrown in. Just like the American Puritans.

It isn't puritanism, or even Islamic puritanism, that brings forth the wrath of Barack Obama & crew. The Saudi's are the most systematically puritanical Islamic society. But they are pro-American, so they get kisses from Hilary while the Shabaab gets drone attacks. Nor is feminism required for alliance with the United States. Abortions and even birth control are crimes in many countries, and limited education, employment and property rights for women and not uncommon either. But from Chile to Ireland, as long as the anti-feminism is not anti-American, it's okay.

I believe a little puritanism from time to time is not a bad thing, especially if it pushes the scales to the moderate center. It is better than corruption, rampant crime, and the disintegration of education, culture, and ethics. However, the best puritanism is voluntary puritanism. In any culture people have some individual choices to make, like how much to drink and how hard to work. Puritan choices can be good individual choices. In a democratic society corrupt officials can be voted out of office and corrupt police and judges can be fired or jailed. It is when there are no easier choices for reform that people will turn to violent, dictatorial forms of puritanism to try to set their world straight.

There is plenty of corruption, violence, and anti-social behavior in America. We should clean up our own house rather than bombing the houses of our international neighbors. Instead of rebuilding the Afghan army or the Somali army we should rebuild Detroit and Flint and tens of thousands of smaller American communities that have been harmed by the recession and globalization.

Back to the Pilgrims, they had some admirable traits, but they don't provide an example we should emulate. They did not even start us on the road to America. The Virginia colony was well established long before Plymouth was founded. But the South lost our Civil War, so whatever merit Virginian culture might have had, it was eliminated from our educational mythology in the late 1800s.

More Info:

Al-Shabaab at Wikipedia
Taliban at Wikipedia
Pilgrims at Wikipedia