And then they wonder how we reached this pass. According to this book review, former CIA analyst Pollack’s “tremulousness about Islam makes nonsense of much of his book.” “Ex-CIA Analyst Ignores Islam in Muddled Mideast Strategy,” by George Walden, for Bloomberg, August 11:
Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) — Whoever wins the U.S. presidential election this November will require a rethink on the Middle East. Kenneth M. Pollack, a former National Security Council staffer and CIA analyst, claims to provide one in “A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.”
Imagine a book on the U.S. arguing that the Protestant religion had absolutely nothing to do with the nation’s economic successes and failures, its mode of government or its attitude toward sex. That, in essence, is what Pollack writes about Islam and the Middle East. Islam, a religion that claims to infuse every part of human life, turns out to be responsible for nothing according to this book.
“Islam is not the reason for the rise of Islamist movements,” he writes. “Lack of prosperity, not Islam, tends to explain the lower rates of democracy among predominantly Muslim countries,” he asserts. And so on.
Pollack argues that Malaysia and Indonesia prove that Islam and democracy are compatible. This is disingenuous. We’re talking about the Middle East, not Southeast Asia; the whole point is that the practice of Islam in its homeland is far more rigid and inhibits progress.
The author, a research director at the Brookings Institution in Washington, should know better. Yet his tremulousness about Islam makes nonsense of much of his book.
He deplores the rote-learning and uncritical acceptance of authority inculcated in Mideast schools, yet Islam — the word means submission — bears no blame. He laments the “bizarre theocratic oligarchy ruling Iran,” yet skirts the dangers of nuclear weapons falling into that regime’s hands.
Most culpably, he’s evasive on the position of Muslim women in the Middle East. Never mind that the cycle of ignorance, poverty, brutish patriarchy and overpopulation begins with the subordination of half the population: We can’t risk offending anyone by suggesting that religion could be involved, can we?
And terrorism? Well, that stems from the intrusion of the West into Muslim lives — and from the economic, social and political problems that feed the festering despair of Middle Eastern peoples, Pollack writes.[…]
If sophisticated Muslims, whether practicing or lapsed, have called for religious modernization, why is Pollack silent on the subject? My guess is that he’s suffering from a misguided multiculturalism, whereby all religions are not just equal but equally developed. He probably dreads being labeled “Islamophobic.”
The U.S. is rightly keen to retain its liberties in the face of terrorism, yet “A Path Out of the Desert” presents a lesson in how intellectual freedom gets eroded. There can be no adult discussion of the Mideast without an honest debate on Islam.