November 03, 2007
Strategery, Indeed: Lewis and Huntington
I have to borrow from the discussion on the previous thread the quotation below. It's from a book review of at-best mixed value but by someone with the knowledge to make the statement. Tell me its assertion is false. Please, God, please......
Today, however, more and more of our strategic judgments are being built upon the untested edifice of two books: Bernard Lewis' The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror and Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order . . . .[F]or the most part they have become the basic canon of 21st century strategic thought . . . . In military publications and briefings these works are now cited repeatedly and uncritically as authoritative support for developing strategic concepts.
And people wonder why Iraq has been a disaster, why Hizbollah semi-won the Lebanon fracas, why the Israel-Palestine miasma has only grown more rancid, why Iran is staring us down somewhat adroitly, and why bin-Laden roams uncaptured and undead.
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Don't forget The Arab Mind!
Remember children, the only language that Arabs understand is force, so don't bother learning Arabic. Oh, and humiliating them is the best way to get them to do what you want.
Posted by: Djuha at November 4, 2007 02:00 AM
It was obvious from the start that neither Bush nor his main advisers, career or political, knew what they were getting into.
Consider the following story by former ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith that occurred only a few weeks prior to the most recent invasion of Iraq.
American leadership knew very little about the nature of Iraqi society and the problems it would face after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
A year after his “Axis of Evil” speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq’s first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.
Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!”
Unmentioned in this anecdote is the obvious complete lack of awareness of the existence of Orthodox and Catholic Christian minorities that, at the time of the invasion, numbered about 1.8M and the extreme danger they would be placed in if Saddam Hussein was removed.
That 1.8M figure has rapidly moved south since the invasion for reasons related to some of the 100 misconceptions about Islam included in the data base that Aqoul plans to launch some time before the arrival of the Mahdi.
In the final analysis Bush is no worse informed than the top echelon of the US State Department that supposedly has a large and varied cadre of high level realists and experts swimming around the bottom of their think tanks.
Had Bush and, more importantly, his advisers taken the trouble to informed themselves by reviewing the opinions of historians with a bit of genuine knowledge and insight such as, let us say, the late Gertrude Bell, then they would never have considered an invasion of Iraq as a sensible option and would have been happy to play “Whack a Mole” with Saddam Hussein until he, and everyone else, died of a ripe old age.
As almost all high level experts employed by western governments have been informed by fantasist historians such as Lewis, Lapidus, Esposito, Said, Marcus and Armstrong, there is no hope of any improvement in the foreseeable future.
Posted by: Ahem at November 4, 2007 05:17 AM
Interesting to pull out.
I'd like to add that while the underlying article from which you pulled the quote is critical, I found it hard to agree with the concept of Arab culture / civilisation is collapsing with the implication that is current. Perhaps I misread, but I understood the argument was one of ongoing collapse, whereas on the ground I see opportunity (as well as some situations that generate despair if one looks long term).
The highlighting of the youth component to current social stress and the basic sociological fact of a demographic bulge of this type has produced violence and stress generally wherever seen globally is a good one. Equally the question of opportunity and outlets.
Rather than falling into sweeping "historical" narrative a la Lewis (who I note again as a historian in his prime was quite good if rather old school and at times myopic to historical sourcing and views outside the archives) or Huntington, it's far more useful to examine sociological and economic drivers.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at November 4, 2007 07:22 AM
I find it a bit strange that you throw Lewis in the same box as "Lapidus, Esposito, Said, Marcus and Armstrong", since those five are pretty much on the opposite end of the political/academic/whatever spectrum.
Ya'nii - had they been listened to, none of the current mess would've happened.
Posted by: MSK at November 4, 2007 07:59 AM
Hm. Best figures on the number of Christians in Iraq pre-war was about 800,000.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at November 4, 2007 09:07 AM
I like the book review a good deal, it has a rather realistic and informed appraisal of facts and society, as you note; more importantly, it reaches the people who need to be reached in terms they need to hear. Just some weird-out xenophobic prescriptive stuff towards the end, though, that I don't want to endorse.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 4, 2007 10:30 AM
Good to see that Marxist determinism is at home in the US military - "If a country wants to be on the winning side of history..."
Posted by: Simon at November 4, 2007 10:57 AM
I don't understand where the high praise for this article comes from.
The figures it cites might be accurate (though I have reason to doubt some of them) but it is by far not the first one to make such a list. Nor is it the first to connect the young populace explosion with terrorism and lack of opportunity.
You are bound to find the same thing in a any number of editorials in Alsharq Alawsat of all places.
The way I read it is this: "You are going about this the wrong way; it is not Muslims that the are the problem it is Arabs!"
And guess what, it is not the first one to make that claim either.
So like I said, basically rubbish.
Posted by: Ali K at November 4, 2007 11:12 AM
On rereading I could not miss out these lovely quotes:
"In many other [Arab] nations primary education is accomplished through Saudi-financed madrassas"
"we must help Muslims outside of the Arab world find their own interpretations of their faith and not fall prey to those being espoused by the Arab world—Wahhabism."
Where do I start?
Posted by: Ali K at November 4, 2007 11:22 AM
Alot of crap in the article, especially the prescriptions, but he generally got the right point, to the right audience, for key right reasons.
But much more work to be done.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 4, 2007 11:29 AM
Audiences mate, I passed over the prescriptions to focus on the critique.
Achievable things, pragmatism, etc.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at November 4, 2007 11:51 AM
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 4, 2007 11:59 AM
I thought these comments from a rare public speech given by the director of MI5 to the Society of Editors in Manchester, England, were worthy of interest:
"We must also pay close attention to our use of language. It is easy to forget, in talking of actions, aims and approaches, how what is said affects what is done. Yet you will be as conscious as I am of the consequences of words. And we are tackling a threat which finds its roots in ideology, so words really do matter.
"This is not political correctness. We cannot create hard and fast rules, but we must recognise the extremist message for what it is.
"Anything which enables it to claim to be representative of Islam; anything which gives a spurious legitimacy to its twisting of theology will only play into its hands.
"One of al-Qaida's key aims is to provoke divisions within and between communities, and we have seen their own media department - to which they attach great importance - seeking to do this. So we've got to be sure that what is said neither explicitly nor implicitly makes this easier for them. The terrorists may be indiscriminate in their violence against us, but we should not be so in our response to them."
selected from the full text as it appeared in the Guardian on Monday, November 5th:
Posted by: dawud at November 5, 2007 08:56 AM