Last week I published an article in FrontPage about the University of California at Irvine professor Mark LeVine. Yesterday several people brought to my attention the fact that a reply from LeVine had been posted in the comments section here, as well as at Juan Cole’s website. You can read my response to his reply in the comments field linked above.
After I sent my reply to LeVine and Cole, I had an email exchange with LeVine in which he grew increasingly angry with one sentence in particular from my FrontPage article: “LeVine owes his status [as wunderkind] to his willingness to place the responsibility for the strife between the West and the Islamic world squarely on the shoulders of the West.” He has asked me for a retraction, accusing me of not having read statements he made about the responsibility of the Islamic world, such as this one in his notorious piece calling for the West to conclude a hudna with radical Muslims: “Beyond the criminal minority, The 9/11 Report was right to demand that Muslims worldwide confront the violent and intolerant version of their religion that is poisoning their societies and threatening the world at large. Religious leaders and ordinary citizens alike must engage in soul-searching about the toxic tendencies within their own cultures similar to the one they demand of Americans and the West more broadly.”
Actually I did read them, and I did not intend my statement in the FrontPage article to mean that LeVine never mentioned the responsibility of the Islamic world. In this regard another sentence from my article is clearer: “Glaringly absent from this analysis, and from most of what LeVine also writes, is substantive respect for these ‘mosquitoes’ as actors in their own right in today’s great global drama…” “Most,” but not “all.” Insofar as the sentence to which LeVine objected gives the impression that LeVine takes no notice at all of the role of the Islamic world in today’s global conflicts, I happily retract it. I am glad these are elements of LeVine’s thought, and in fact I did not mean in my article to deny their existence outright.
But I do stand by my judgment that the general emphasis of LeVine’s writings is elsewhere: on the West’s responsibility. Here, for example, is a passage from LeVine’s same (pre-election; hence the references to a future “President Kerry”) hudna piece, with commentary by me:
European leaders face the threat of an increasingly bloody conflict with Muslim extremists thanks to the continent’s imperial past in the region and, more important today, their perceived support for US policies in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They would be wise to suggest that president Kerry call a truce so that the United States, the European Union, and more broadly the “West” can have the time collectively and publicly to explore the root causes of the violence against them that emanates from the Muslim world – something the 9-11 Commission should have, but did not, do. At least there’s a chance Kerry might listen, especially if the war in Iraq continues to spiral out of America’s control.
LeVine is thus calling for a hudna in order to give Western nations a chance to “explore the root causes of the violence against them that emanates from the Muslim world.” It seems that in the same paragraph he gives those causes: the “increasingly bloody conflict with Muslim extremists” is declared to be the result of “the continent’s imperial past in the region and, more important today, their perceived support for US policies in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”
Now that looks to me as if LeVine places the primary responsibility for the increasingly bloody conflict on the shoulders of the West. So does his breathtaking statement in another article: “America, in short, has become a criminal nation, and it must be stopped.” (Ironically, in the hudna piece he says: “Criminals can’t offer truces, and bin Laden and other groups that use terroristic violence are indeed international criminals whom the world community has an obligation to bring to justice.” If America is a criminal nation, then, by LeVine’s own reasoning it cannot offer a truce in any case.)
In the hudna piece, he also writes this:
I find it frightening (yet unsurprising) that the [9/11] report would go on to position the US as an innocent bystander to a “clash within a civilization” whose solution “must come from within Muslim societies themselves”.
Now, there is no doubt that LeVine wrote right above this that “the 9/11 Report was right to demand that Muslims worldwide confront the violent and intolerant version of their religion that is poisoning their societies and threatening the world at large.” However, if the Report was wrong to say that the solution “must come from Muslim societies themselves,” it would seem to me that the self-examination LeVine calls for among Muslims is not the decisive aspect of the solution to terrorism that he envisions. This is underscored by the hudna article’s conclusion:
No matter who wins the upcoming Presidential election, European leaders need to demonstrated the courage to explain to president Kerry (or even Bush) that without both an acceptance of responsibility for past policy and the transformation of future policy toward the Muslim world, there will be no solution to terrorism, only continued violence and war. No matter how “smarter and more effectively” the next US president might hope to prosecute such a war, it would be no more winnable than Vietnam or the war on drugs, with far higher losses likely in the near future.
That’s LeVine’s final summation, and it contains no mention of the Islamic world’s responsibility. Thus I think it is entirely reasonable to conclude, as I did in my article, that LeVine places “the responsibility for the strife between the West and the Islamic world squarely on the shoulders of the West” — squarely, but, to be sure, not solely.