Sunday, March 12, 2006

David Warren on Islam and the post-Christian West

Very interesting article by David Warren, here, in the Ottawa Citizen, on the nature of the confrontation between the West and Islam, and Bush's role in it. Thanks RCP.

***
March 12, 2006
Ottawa Citizen

Revisitation

By David Warren

The Americans went into Afghanistan and Iraq with my blessings, as my reader may recall. I thought both decisions to invade were right, before either had been taken. But I thought this for reasons I never fully explained, that were never quite George Bush’s reasons -- more those of Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938). I was, for instance, sceptical about the project of bringing Western-style, bourgeois democracy -- and everything needed to support that -- to countries where politics by violence had so long prevailed. But if anyone could do it, I thought the Americans could, with their own history of heroic optimism, prevailing against insuperable odds.

A new book just landed in my mailbox, Redefining Sovereignty, ed. Orrin C. Judd. It contains an essay by me from four years ago, in which I tried to explain President Bush’s Lincolnesque thinking on world order. I think the essay has borne up fairly well, to this short passage of years. I said that Mr Bush was trying to vindicate and uphold the existing national state-system in the world, in exactly the way Lincoln went about upholding the American union. And that, Mr Bush’s commitment to spreading democracy was like Lincoln’s commitment to extinguishing slavery -- not the key point, but necessary to the key point of recovering order. If Lincoln could have preserved the union, and it meant keeping slavery, he would have done that.

Ditto, if Mr Bush thought he could restore the status quo ante of a Middle East that was no threat to the West, without pushing democracy down anyone’s throat, he would do that. But as he examined the problem presented to him by the Arab raids on New York and Washington, the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001, he saw that something more would be required. He believes, still, that there can be no lasting peace in the world until the “root cause” of this terrorist violence is removed. Hence, the evangelizing for democracy. Hence, the willingness to kick-start, by taking out two of the most abhorrent regimes known to man, and trying to repeat in Afghanistan and Iraq what the Americans accomplished in Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II.

In this view -- which I hold to be Mr Bush’s -- we are dealing with what amounts to a planetary civil war, between those who accept the state-system descended from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), and an emergent Islamist ideology that certainly does not. To Mr Bush’s mind, only legitimately-elected governments, presiding over properly-administered secular bureaucracies, can be trusted to deal locally with the kind of mischief an Osama bin Laden can perform, with his hands on contemporary weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr Bush was staking his bet on the assumption that the Islamists were not speaking for Islam; that the world’s Muslims long for modernity; that they are themselves repelled by the violence of the terrorists; that, most significantly, Islam is in its nature a religion that can be “internalized”, like the world’s other great religions, and that the traditional Islamic aspiration to conjoin worldly political with otherworldly spiritual authority had somehow gone away. It didn’t help that Mr Bush took for his advisers on the nature of Islam, the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong, or the profoundly learned but terminally vain Bernard Lewis. Each, in a different way, assured him that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.

The question, “But what if they are not?” was never seriously raised, because it could not be raised behind the mud curtain of political correctness that has descended over the Western academy and intelligentsia. The idea that others see the world in a way that is not only incompatible with, but utterly opposed to, the way we see it, is the thorn ever-present in the rose bushes of multiculturalism. “Ideas have consequences”, and the idea that Islam imagines itself in a fundamental, physical conflict with everything outside of itself, is an idea with which people in the contemporary West are morally and intellectually incapable of coming to terms. Hence our continuing surprise at everything from bar-bombings in Bali, to riots in France, to the Danish cartoon apoplexy.

My own views on the issue have been aloof. More precisely, they have been infected with cowardice. I am so “post-modern” myself that I, too, find it almost impossible to think through the corollaries from our world’s hardest fact. And that fact is: the post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam.

1 comment:

P-BS-Watcher said...

Warren tiptoes right up to the edge and then backs away. See The Heart of the Matter