Sunday, April 03, 2011

Michael Scheuer on Looking Ahead to Next Year in the Middle East

The current issue of the American Conservative contains an important and cogent article by Michael Scheuer, former CIA operative now Georgetown University professor and noted author, writer and lecturer on the Middle East. I first become acquainted with his scholarship while reading Imperial Hubris back in 2005. I find Scheuer to be one of the clearest-headed analysists of our predicament in that part of the world. There is little danger that American political leaders--of either faction--will pay much attention to what Sheuer has to say. But it is important that it be said as much as possible. A few selections for the article, below:

A year from now, we will find that most Arab Muslims have neither embraced nor installed what they have long regarded as an irreligious and even pagan ideology—secular democracy. They will have instead adhered even more closely to the faith that has graced, ordered, and regulated their lives for more than 1400 years, and which helped them endure the oppressive rule of Western-supported tyrants and kleptocrats.

As new Arab regimes develop, Westerners also are likely to find that their own deep sense of superiority over devout Muslims—which is especially strong among the secular left, Christian evangelicals, and neoconservatives—is unwarranted. The nearly universal assumption in the West is that Islamic governance could not possibly satisfy the aspirations of Muslims for greater freedom and increased economic opportunity—this even though Iran has a more representative political system than that of any state in the region presided over by a Western-backed dictator. No regime run by the Muslim Brotherhood would look like Canada, but it would be significantly less oppressive than those run by the al-Sauds and Mubarak. This is not to say it would be similar to or more friendly toward the West—neither will be the case—but in terms of respecting and addressing basic human concerns they will be less monstrous.

The West’s biggest surprise a year out may well lie in being forced to learn that Westernization, secularization, and modernization are not synonyms. The postwar West’s arrogance—dare I say hubris?—has long held as an article of its increasingly pagan faith that these concepts are identical, inseparable, and the proudest achievement of superior Western culture. Well, not so. Muslims make an absolute distinction among the concepts.

At day’s end, the success of the United States and its allies in concluding their war with the Islamist movement depends on an adult assessment of the Muslim world. The basis of this analysis must be a realization that modernization, Westernization, and secularization are not interchangeable terms….We must begin to recognize that while America’s neoconservative and progressive thinkers fallaciously prattle on about the Islamists being on the verge of Islamicizing the West, it is the West’s half-century campaign to impose and then maintain secularist tyrants on Muslim states that has supplied the main motivation for the growing number of Muslims who believe themselves and their faith to be at war against the West. Continued failure to make this simple and clear semantic distinction will bring the late Professor Huntington’s concept of a clash of civilizations much closer to fruition.

1 comment:

Milton T. Burton said...

Superb article. The sort of thinking we need more of.