The Middle East Mess Part One: Over ThereDo yourself a favor
Posted 15 September 2012 - 09:24 AM
Walter Russell Mead
Coming in the middle of the American campaign season and timed to coincide with eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the violence now shaking the Middle East has inevitably turned into a US domestic issue. I’ll write about that as the situation unfolds, but at the moment it seems most important to think about what is happening over there — and then to think about what this might mean for US policy or politics.
If Americans are going to understand what’s going on and process it effectively, the first thing we’ve got to realize is that this isn’t all about us. The riots in Cairo are basically part of a local power struggle. Radical Salafists are in a power struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood; attacking the US embassy forces President Morsi (as the radical strategists presumably expected) to side with the US, however slowly or reluctantly. That’s a win for the radicals, who want to tar the Muslim Brotherhood as soft appeasers who side with the Americans against their own outraged people.
The person who comes out of all this looking smartest is *Samuel Huntington. His book on the “clash of civilizations” was widely and unfairly trashed as predicting an inevitable conflict between Islam and the west, and he was also accused of ‘demonizing’ Islam. That’s not what I get from his book. As I understand it, Huntington’s core thesis was that while good relations between countries and people with roots in different civilizations are possible and ought to be promoted, civilizational fault lines often lead to misunderstandings and tensions that can (not must, but can) lead to violence and when conflicts do occur, civilizational differences can make those conflicts worse.
The last few days are a textbook example of the forces he warned about.
The Islamic value — and it a worthy one on its own terms and would certainly have been understandable to our western predecessors who punished blasphemy very severely — of prohibiting insults to the Prophet of Islam clashes directly with the modern western value of free expression. To the western eye (and it’s a perspective I share), a murderous riot in the name of a religion is a worse sin and deeper, uglier form of blasphemy than any film could ever hope to be. To kill someone created in the image of God because you don’t like the way God or one of his servants has been depicted in an artistic performance strikes westerners as an obscene perversion of religion — something that only a hate-filled fanatic or an ignorant fool could do.
* Too many on out side see this also....ie Islam is evil....and of course the ever popular Nuke Mecca....morons.
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