Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Is Islamism A Threat?
Check out this great review of a new book in Islamism. According to the author's thesis, 9/11 was a result of Islamism's decline, a final act of desperation, not their growing threat. Luckily for them, the incompetence of Bush and the blind zeal of the neocons saved them from self-destruction and oblivion. Osama has been remarkably lucky in his enemies and their blunders. Too bad the rest of us had to be dragged along.
"The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West
by Gilles Kepel
A Review by Peter Beinart
Four years ago Gilles Kepel, a scholar of Islam at the Institute of Political Studies, in Paris, published a very good book at a very awkward time. The book, written in French, was titled Jihad: Expansion et Déclin de l'Islamisme. Its thesis, illustrated in impressive detail, was that Islamism -- the movement to replace existing Muslim governments with ones that rule according to sharia, or Islamic law -- was falling apart.....
The turn to violence, he argued, was a desperate attempt to create across class lines the widespread revolutionary fervor that years of peaceful organizing had failed to arouse. And it backfired. Not only did it provoke ferocious government counterattacks but it horrified the very people it was supposed to inspire.... Violence... had "proven to be a death trap for Islamists as a whole, precluding any capacity to hold and mobilize the range of constituencies they need to seize political power."
"He attributes the Iraq War in part to the fact that the "strategic planners" in the Bush administration were "culturally incapable of grasping an actor that was not, in the final analysis, a state." ...
"The premise behind the Iraq invasion, after all, was that Islamism was on the march. Unless America forcibly injected liberalism into the Middle East's bloodstream, the theory went, Hosni Mubarak would eventually lose to Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Crown Prince Abdullah would eventually lose to Osama bin Laden. But if Islamism is not on the march -- if al-Qaeda lacks inherent appeal and can mobilize followers only by capitalizing on America's blunders -- then competence, not ideology, is exactly what America needs....
"Just after 9/11, when American commentators were bursting with exuberance for the next great struggle against totalitarianism, Kepel's vision would have seemed crimped and insulting. But perhaps today, in an America bewildered and exhausted by Iraq, it holds some appeal. If realism is returning to fashion, Gilles Kepel may finally have the intellectual wind at his back."