Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dinesh Dsouza Needs to be Learned

His op-ed here, imo one of the worst (and there have been some bad ones) on the GWOT front.

The op-ed, in support his new book which contends that the Cultural Left is responsible for the attacks of Osama bin Laden shows no signs of DSouza having read Peter Bergen, for example, the world authority on Bin Laden. Bergen recall interviewed bin Laden--first Westerner to do so--back in the 90s.

Here's DD setting the stage on what is wrong with the liberal pov:

For many Western liberals - and even some conservatives - the war on terror is a clash of opposed fundamentalisms: Christian fundamentalism vs. Islamic fundamentalism. And the solution? Promote secularism both here in America and throughout the Muslim world. This means urging our Muslim allies in Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere to get rid of Muslim laws and have secular laws. It means closing down the Muslim schools and replacing them with secular schools. It means encouraging secular programs on radio and TV.
First off many liberals do not see equivalence between Bush's War on Terror and bin Laden's jihad, some do (as he quotes). Many see it more as American hubris--secular hubris--not Christian fundamentalism that is the issue. But anyway, on the real point.

Then this comment from Dinesh:

Not only is this diagnosis of the problem wrong, but the solutions proposed are actually fueling Muslim rage and making future terrorist attacks against us more likely. The reason is that, from the point of view of Islamic radicals, America is not hated because it is Christian. Rather, America is hated because it is secular, what Osama bin Laden has called "the leading power of the unbelievers." So by promoting secularism, we are corroborating the charge of radical Muslims that we are the enemies of their religion, and this also alienates traditional Muslims and pushes them into the radical camp.
Never mind bin Laden usually does mean "unbelievers" as both Christianity and secularism--seen in his eyes as the logical end of Christianity--but what, if this were true would it mean? Should we cease struggling for transparent governance, human rights, and markets in the rest of the world?

More DD:

This view of the war is founded, however, on a superficial understanding of bin Laden's rhetoric declaring a religious war of civilizations. Bin Laden does speak of the world as being divided into a "region of faith" and a "region of infidelity." And at times he defines the clash as one between Muslims and the "crusaders." But the context of bin Laden's arguments clearly shows that he is not speaking of a religious war between Islam and Christianity. In the same videotaped remarks in which he posits these conflicts, he praises Christianity. In one statement, he observes that Islam respects the prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam "without distinguishing among them."

So please pay attention to what happens in this next quotation because its slick:

Islamic radicals such as bin Laden make their case against America and the West not on the grounds that these cultures are Christian, but on the grounds that they have abandoned Christianity. In his May 2006 letter to President Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faulted America not for being Christian, but for not being Christian enough. Many years earlier, the radical theoretician Sayyid Qutb made the same point: The main reason for the West's moral decay is that in the modern era, "religious convictions are no more than a matter of antiquarian interest."

Notice how DD went from bin Laden to Ahmadinejad? All are "Islamic radicals."

bin Laden, again read any Peter Bergen on this point, is only interested in American foreign policy--that is why he says his Jihad is against the Crusaders and Zionists. It is true that bin Laden was advocating boycotts of Pepsi in the Afghan 80s because of America's support for Israel not because of the secularism of caffeine.

Read the list of grievances by bin Laden:

--American troops in Saudi Arabia
--Support for Russia over Chechyna, Philippines over Moros, China over Uighurs, Indian gov't over Kashmiris Rebels, Israelis over Palestinians
--Support for Arab autocrats: Mubarak of Egypt, Saud family, etc.

The Iranian Revolution, which is Shia not Sunni as al-Qaeda, has always been about Death to America and the imperialism of Western culture. Social-cultural hatred. Not foreign policy--0ther than the Shah, assassination of their president by CIA, and hostage crisis of course. It was Khomeni, not bin Laden, who called for the murder of Salman Rushdie. A country who has cultural-religious battles but not necessarily foreign policy ones if ripe for a neo-realist policy of simultaneous bargain and containment. If nothing else, the Iranians have a state, al-Qaeda does not.

DD concludes:

Thus, the liberal doctrine that the war against terrorism is a battle of two opposed forms of religious fundamentalism is false. This is not why the Islamic radicals are fighting against America. From the perspective of bin Laden and his allies, the war is between the Muslim-led forces of monotheism and morality against the America-led forces of atheism and immorality. Secularism, not Christian fundamentalism, is responsible for producing a blowback of Muslim rage.
First DSouza is right that it's not a battle of two religious fundamentalisms. The American versus Salafi jihadism is if any kind of battle between fundamentalisms, a democratic Marxist utopian variety (neoconservatism) and politicized modern Islamic one (Qutbian jahiliyah jihadism). Although fundamentalisms is only one of many factors involved.

But the notion of a Clash of Civilizations (Christian versus Muslim, Western v Muslims, secular versus Muslim) is mostly a right-wing meme from Sam Huntington.

Of course there is destructive moral relativism (green wave) that is unable to handle distinctions around these topics. Slogans like Bush is the Real Terrorist, etc. But D'Souza's main flaw, as I see it, is the deep American egocentric analysis---it is all America's fault. Either right-wing from relativists or the Cultural Left via DD. A more nuanced analysis is needed. How can the complexities of the modern world be reduced to a bunch of burned out Boomer hippies who ought to lose their jobs in academia?

A few other notions are necessary:

1. The Islamic world is in the midst of its War---Shia versus Sunni and modernist verus traditionalist.
--America was pulled into this fight by bin Laden, a rather marginal jihadi, as a last act of desperation in jihadi ideology. The invasion of Iraq resuscitating the dead movement and giving them training fighting the greatest army on the planet in the heart of the Middle East. The blowback in years to come is going to be deeply painful.

2. Globalization, which is far stronger than just the US or West (China, India), seeks out transformation of all economic systems that do not meet its modernist ways. It is coming to the Middle East no matter what US foreign policy may or may not be. US policy certainly will affect how globalization happens there but the Chinese for example are the ones investing in the oil fields of Iran.
--Globalization always brings revolutionary ideologies, conservative backlashes, and all the rest.

None of this due to the American Left, which if it is as powerless and ignorant (if not more so) than other right-wingers have told us, and I tend to agree with, than how are the primary ones to blame for the attack?


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