The artists who gave us the immortal “What are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn”
It seems time to revisit some columns I wrote the summer before last, while the expedition to Iraq was still being assembled, militarily, politically, and diplomatically. Some readers may recall my attempt to describe what I thought President Bush was trying to achieve; what his “vision” was, in response to events which had been clarified by the terror strikes on New York and Washington.
I wrote then that he was trying to achieve something like the cleaning of the Augean stables, in the Greek myth of Hercules. His mind was working in a Lincolnesque way, towards a grand strategy. He would attack the root cause of terrorism, in effect by diverting the powerful stream of democracy, which had recently swept through central and eastern Europe, so that it would now wash through the Islamic world.
I did not say whether I thought this strategy would work, only that I believed it to be what he was trying. I cannot, of course, read anyone’s mind, yet still think Mr. Bush is dug into such a grand strategy. He sincerely believes that democracy in the Middle East is possible; and that American efforts there can tap deep, universal human desires for liberty and justice, that will, like great waters, finally succeed in cleaning out centuries of backwardness and tyranny.
After a couple of years of additional thought, I now have an opinion on this strategy. The problem with it is, that it requires the water to flow uphill.
“Democracy”, and Islam, are utterly incompatible. I have become convinced, in wrestling and wrestling with Islamic history and teachings, that while extremely inconvenient, this is a bald fact.
Mr. Bush thinks he is pushing universal human values, when in fact such ideas as separation of church and state, constitutional government, freedom of association, nay human liberty itself, are Western, and more specifically, Christian ideas. From beginning to end, Islam has offered a radically different view of the relationship between man and God, and between man and man. Human liberty, as we understand it, and the civic virtues we have come to associate with “democracy”, are, truly, anathema to it.
The mullahs know this. The imams know it. They ought to know, they’re on the front line of Islam’s clash with a very Western modernity. Osama bin Laden understands it perfectly. The ayatollahs all know it, too. And Mr. Bush, who gets too much of his information about Islam from writers like Karen Armstrong, doesn’t know it.
And so, under the politically-correct impression that he is not fighting a “crusade” against Islam, he finds himself indeed fighting one.