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Saturday, 11 March 2006
All bark and no bite
Rich Lowry’s vast ignorance of Islam, not to mention the history of Iraq, is once again on display in this new cover story for National Review. He labels those who disagree with the President’s stay the course approach in Iraq as “to hell with them” hawks. It sounds like he’s been getting an earful from the party faithful, but nonetheless plows forward with an argument that isn’t much of an argument at all, as he ignores the actual option of troop withdrawal and what the likely outcome of such a move would be.
It is filled with howlers like this:
They want us to quit the Middle East, and the “to hell with them” hawks wouldn’t mind quitting; our enemies say democracy is incompatible with Islam, and the “to hell with them” hawks believe them.

Bush’s foreign policy has obviously needed adjustments: more of an emphasis on diplomacy and allies; a realization that creating democracy through military intervention is deeply problematic; a greater measure of prudence. Secretary of State Rice has made many of these adjustments in a neo-realist synthesis, taking the idealism of neoconservativism and leavening it with the practicality of realism. But what deserves preserving from the original Bush approach?

First, the contention that Islam is a religion of peace. Even if this seems a polite fiction, it is an important one. Influential Muslims believe it to be true, and it is crucial that they prevail in the Muslim struggle for self-definition. Rather than scorning them, we should be doing what we can to support the likes of King Abdullah of Jordan, who has launched an anti-terror initiative, and Iraq’s Ayatollah Sistani, who has been consistent in condemning terrorism. Whatever the theological niceties of Islam, religious cultures take on different colorations across time. Some people wondered whether Christianity was a religion of peace 300 years ago when rival Christian princes were warring over questions of faith.

Like Christianity, Islam has within it resources that can be used both to promote liberty and peace and to repress these things. The relative strength of these dueling resources depends in part on the political and economic conditions in which they exist. We should want to do all we reasonably can to create the conditions in which the positive elements within Islam flower.
Rich,  I have news for you.  The history of Islam did not begin with Khomeini and for all your labeling of us as "simplistic and naive." you have not mounted much of a defense for Bush-Wilsonianism in the ME.  Try reading Elie Kedourie on Iraq.  Look into the British experience in the 1920s and 30s.  Read the letters of the pitiful Gertrude Bell.  Check out Hugh Fitzgerald's work.  Or Andy Bostom's.  In short, read the actual history of the place before you pontificate about all the "positive elements" we all seem to be missing.
Plus, I find your suggestion that our foreign policy should be based upon a "polite lie" ridiculous and appalling.
Posted on 03/11/2006 11:17 AM by Rebecca Bynum
11 Mar 2006
Juan Golblado
I think you're right about the problem with Islam. But I think Rich Lowry may be right about the fact that the people in a religion determine what it is at the end of the day. In other words, the scripture and history of the religion count for a whole lot and explain the problems we see today. But they don't necessarily determine the future. It may sound right to say that people like Sistani will never cooperate in the undoing of their worldview, but it may not be true. Why, you may ask? :) Because they recognize that their worldview, nor the Iranian theocratic revolutionary worldview will serve their society well, will bring it success, that their options are being narrowed down to the Iranian way or something that is compatible with liberal democracy. In other words, because they recognize that liberal democracy is better for them than theocracy is and better for them than tribalism is. Anyhow, if he makes the opposite decision, we'll kill him, or see that it gets done, and work with people who will work with us. And if that fails then we'll do what you say we ought to do. But it's worth the try because the costs of not doing it are very high. Read The Coming Normalcy by Robert Kaplan (he who wrote The Coming Anarchy in 1994 and got it right) if you want to get a up-close and positive view of transformation in Iraq. I'll email it to you if you like, if you don't have access to the full text. Rife with problems, of course, but not stagnant and certainly not moving backwards. Just moving very slowly forward. Yes, damn it, women may be the last to benefit. But surely they will benefit sooner this way than any other.

11 Mar 2006
Esmerelda Weatherwax
"we should be doing what we can to support the likes of ..... and Iraq?s Ayatollah Sistani," No, not the Ayatollah Sistani ; I can?t find the bit on his site where I rank somewhere below camel sweat and doggy doos in the list of what is unclean but I know it?s there somewhere. The Q&A column is a revelation.