The notion that America managed, under Bush, to lose some kind of special place in the affections of the Muslim world — a special place that it possessed because America “had no colonial legacy” — is the kind of thing you read in the cheesiest potted summaries of the postwar period (“because, boys and girls, America had no colonial legacy….”). Does Obama think that the Muslim attacks, from without and within, on the Hindus of India have to do with some “colonial legacy”? Does he think that the attacks on Christian Filipinos in the southern Philippines, or on Buddhists in southern Thailand, have to do with a “colonial legacy”? Does he think that Muslim aggression against non-Muslims in southern Sudan, or southern Nigeria, has to do with a “colonial legacy”? Well, only insofar as Muslims, wherever they do not yet completely dominate but are present in sufficient numbers to attempt to work their will on non-Muslims, will do so.
The business of America not having a “colonial legacy” and thus being somehow more natively attractive to Muslims misses the point, misunderstands reality. The Arabs of the Arabian peninsula — present-day Saudi Arabia — never suffered from “colonialism.” The Arabs of the littoral areas — Muscat and Oman, Yemen (and the Hadramaut), the tribal sheikdoms that became the United Arab Emirates — never endured colonialism. What they did have was the Royal Navy, suppressing the slave trade from offshore, and then, in this century, a few small garrisons, one at the entrepot of Aden Town, guarding the route to India, and a few among the sheikdoms known Trucial States — so-named because, of course, they were constantly warring, and it was the British who kept the constantly-warring Arabs from being at each other’s throats.
The only “colonialism” in the Middle East was that of the Ottoman Empire, and it was the British (and, to a lesser extent, the French) who freed the Arabs from the Turks. The British remained for all of ten years in Mesopotamia, roughly from 1922 to 1932, creating, and attempting to stabilize, that region. In Syria-Lebanon, the French were there until just after World War II, and similarly, were there as a Mandatory power, not a colonial one. It was the British who ripped out all of Eastern Palestine and handed it over to Abdullah, one of the Hashemites, as a consolation prize, the Emirate of Transjordan, because Abdullah’s younger brother Feisal had been given the kingship of Iraq.
Even in North Africa, the French were hardly “colonial” powers for very long. In Morocco and in Tunisia, they controlled things for about 40 years, and in that period the non-Arab Berbers were given rights that the Arabs have been taking away ever since. The only long-term “colonial” presence in the Arab world is that of the French in Algeria, who arrived in 1830 to suppress, after years of other attempts, the war made on Christian shipping, and who remained until 1932. In Algeria the French established, in this “colonial” period, the first schools, the first universities, the first hospitals, and built beautiful broad-boulevarded cities (Oran, Algiers); they brought in modern agricultural methods, too. Since the French left, Algeria has slowly descended into violence that is unlikely to stop. No, this business of the Arabs once being “friendly” to America because America had no “colonial legacy” implies that the Arabs suffered greatly from colonialism. Not only did they suffer far less than any other peoples in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, but they were themselves, and remain, the practitioners of the most successful colonialism, or imperialism, in human history. They conquered vast lands and imposed their language and their culture, everywhere causing the pre-Islamic civilizations of those they conquered to wither and die, with no one to take an interest in them, and everywhere used Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism. It is naÃ¯ve to lump together the experience of those who did indeed suffer from colonialism, such as sub-Saharan Africa, with the history of the Arabs and their extensive conquests.
No, America is not liked for the same reason that the European former colonial powers are not liked, and for the same reason that Hindu India, for that matter, is and will remain a target of Muslim hostility and, whenever possible, aggression. For these are all Infidel lands. If Barack Obama or those who advise him are, just like their predecessors, unwilling or incapable of learning what is in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, incapable of studying and then assimilating what the ideology of Islam inculcates, incapable of recognizing that it contains both a politics and a geopolitics, that its hold over the minds of men is far greater, far more akin to the ideologies of Communism and Nazism as a totalitarian regulation of every aspect of life, or at least would like to attain to that in its ideal, most comprehensive reception, then they are likely to make the same kind of colossal mistakes as the Bush administration did in Iraq, with its squandering of men, money, materiel, and morale.
The new administration may think it is “turning a new page,” but is it? Is it not repeating the mistakes of the previous administration? Is it not, like that administration, equally unable to come to grips with Islam as a Total Belief-System, still unwilling to consult the Western scholars of Islam who studied and wrote long before the Age of Arab Money (that has so corrupted academic studies of Islam) and the Great Inhibition, such people as Snouck Hurgronje, Joseph Schacht, Henri Lammens, Arthur Jeffrey, David Margoliouth, Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, Georges Vajda, and many others? Is it not still unwilling to listen to, much less heed, the testimony of the articulate Defectors from the Army of Islam — Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina? All of those people should be invited to deliver, in solemn conclave assembled, their views directly to Obama and to his chief aides, so that, indeed, “fresh thinking” can take place.
But so far, it appears that it will be some approximation of the mixture as before, that is, hopeless, hapless, pointless “peace-processing” that may result — such things always do — in tangible concessions by Israel, a giving up of its legal, historic, and moral claims to land. These concessions will be made in order to obtain a “peace” treaty that on the Muslim side is — and must be — merely a “truce treaty” that will, as all treaties made by Muslims with Infidels must be, broken at the earliest opportunity, in ways little and big. For the lasting model is the Treaty of Hudaibiyya, and unless and until that phrase — “Treaty of Hudaibiyya” — is well-understood in the White House and the State Department — there will be all sorts of wasted efforts and naÃ¯ve hopes, always to be dashed (but at Israel’s expense, and not ours, not at the expense of those who pressure Israel into these colossal, largely undoable surrenders).
And so, ignorant of Islam, we continue to lavish aid on Pakistani generals, for it was the Americans who paid for, who provided the discretionary funds for, A. Q. Khan and his science project. It is the Americans and Europeans who now keep the Slow Jihadists of Fatah going, who supplied Arafat with billions that have disappeared into the ether, and who continue to supply aid to his longtime henchman and Holocaust-denier, Mahmoud Abbas, who more recently says he has “chosen peace as a strategic option.” (But unless we know about Islam, and about Hudaibiyya, we do not know what that phrase must surely mean.) Abbas is having a good run as the nobody-here-but-us-accountants public face of the Slow Jihadists. They are more worldly, more corrupt, more willing to delay a bit in order to get that Western aid steadily coming in, so that so much of it can be diverted for the use of the Fatah bigshots and their retinues. They seem “good” only by comparison with the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, but with the latter, in reality, they share the exact same goals, and differ only on questions of tactics, timing, and who gets the lion’s share of what loot.
The same goes for Egypt, a country that has not fulfilled a single one of its solemn commitments under the Camp David Accords to encourage friendly relations, at the level of both governments and people, with Israel. Egypt is in the forefront of the diplomatic war waged against Israel. Egypt has allowed, its government even encouraged, antisemitism on its official television channels, Recently a whole series was based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But this gets no attention in Washington. Meanwhile, the United States has lavished close to seventy billion dollars on Egypt, that is, on Mubarak and his courtiers, to pay for his Family-and-Friends Plan.
The corrupt Mubarak regime, one more in a series of stratokleptocracies in Egypt, allows itself to be given credit in the West for its supposed “moderation,” as reflected in its new enmity toward Hamas. But for years the Egyptians not only allowed Hamas to smuggle in gigantic amounts of weaponry, but many Egyptians acted as partners, and received a cut of the proceeds from Gazan Arabs in the tunnel-building and the arms smuggling through the Sinai to those tunnels. If Egypt today is not happy with Hamas, this has nothing to do with a change of heart toward Israel, but reflects only the Egyptian regime’s fear that a Hamas victory, or the perception of such, might encourage the Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt proper. And that is something the Egyptian regime cannot abide.
The failure over many decades of successive American governments and its peace-processors to learn about Islam has resulted in all those Rogers Plan and Kissinger Plans, and the plans of James Baker, and in all the endless shuttling-diplomacy of all those peace-processors, including those four horsemen (in declining order of intelligence), Dennis Ross, Richard Haass, Martin Indyk, and Aaron Miller. All of them are innocent of Islam, and by this point willfully so. For if they allowed themselves to learn about Islam and to figure out why exactly it matters and what it means, then they would also have to admit to themselves that their past efforts were exercises in missing-the-point, squanderings of time and effort, while the real subject — the worldwide efforts to promote Jihad (that is, the “struggle” to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam) — wandered off by itself while the American government, fixated on making “peace” between Arabs and Israelis, did not so much lose the plot as never figure out the real plot in the first place.
American diplomacy in the Middle East, so time-consuming, so exhausting, so largely vain, has been based, as the goals in Iraq, and even perhaps the original invasion of Iraq, on a misunderstanding of the real situation. Just look at those professional peace-processors. Their entire professional lives have been spent ignoring the relevance, the centrality, of Islam. Islam, of course, is not something you can see. It is not something that accompanies a smiling Arab leader or diplomat, as he tells you exactly what he wants you to hear (which often overlaps with what he thinks you want to hear). Only after years and years does the meretriciousness, the deception, as a way of life manage to sink in. And even then, what is not being talked about, what is the Great Unspoken — the Great Unspoken is Islam, which you have to know about in order to recognize what it does to the minds of men, or so many men, that it cannot be ignored, cannot be minimized. In the life of individual Muslims, and Muslim states and societies, Islam is the central fact.
Yet, even those who Middle Easterners of Muslim background remain, out of filial piety or fear or other considerations (“effectiveness” might be one that they rely on), those who are certifiably fine people, the kind you might spend an evening with, real charmers such as Fouad Ajami and Azar Nafisi, never ever discuss Islam straight on, flat out, with non-Muslims in public — and instead refer glancingly or obliquely to this famous Elephant In the Room, the first by offering adjectives about “this tragic land, that had never known peace” (well, why was that, Professor Ajami?) or “the Arabs, who preferred to live in the past, in a dream world” (well, how does that connect to Islam?) and, in the Nafisi Persian-patriot Hafiz-Sa”adi-Firdowsi version or variant, we get “Irahn has a 3000-year-history, Irahn is much more than the Islam that the Arab invaders brought, and you cannot put all Muslim countries together.” And thus even Fouad Ajami and Azar Nafisi are in the end unsatisfactory guides to Middle Eastern reality. Do they in fact see right to the bottom of the thing, or do their own family memories get in the way of understanding, because they confuse those who ignored much of Islam with Islam itself, and do not grasp the truth of that statement that “there are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate”?
They have invested too many years, even decades, of their professional lives — in essence, their entire professional lives — on the notion that there is a “solution” to the “Arab-Israeli” “problem,” and that this “solution” involves surrender of territory by Israel in exchange for “guarantees” by the Arabs, that is, the Arab Muslims. They think that this will constitute a durable “solution” even if, necessarily, it means that Israel loses essential control of the “West Bank,” with its invasion routes through the Jordan Valley, and is reduced to the ridiculous dimensions in which it was left at the end of the 1948-49 war, dimensions which the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a study commissioned in 1967 and not released for fully sixteen years, recognized as absurd and militarily indefensible. Not one of these professional-lives-devoted-to-peace-processing and a search for a “solution” — full of American naivete, they assume that everything is a “problem” and everything, therefore, must have a “solution” — has considered the difference between Making A (Delusive) Peace and Keeping the Peace. Right now Israel is, through deterrence, Keeping the Peace. It’s the best, given the texts and tenets and attitudes inculcated by Islam, that Israel or those who wish it well can ever hope for. Hardly perfect. Intermittent violence, no doubt. But it is only deterrence, only the concept of Darura, or Necessity, that will keep the peace. Darura is to be invoked by Arab leaders, in order not to go to war, and it can be invoked only if Israel is perceived to be overwhelmingly more powerful, so that a war would lead to certain Arab defeat.
But if you don’t study Islam and don’t recognize that Fatah consists not of peacemakers, however reluctant, but rather of warmakers, Slow Jihadists willing to be a little more patient and various in their methods than the impatient Fast Jihadists of Hamas, then you will continue to prate about “two-state solutions” and, with great self-assurance, tell the world, as does Aaron Miller (“adviser to five presidents and a Middle East expert”) hither and yon, that there are four core issues: settlementssecurityrefugeesJerusalem, or securitysettlementsJerusalemrefugees, or Jerusalemrefugeessecuritysettlements or”¦well, you get the idea), and once these “four core issues” are settled, it will practically be some variant of Edward Hicks”s “Peaceable Kingdom” smack in the middle of the Middle East. Oh No It Won’t.
And of course, inattention to Islam has been encouraged by Mr. Big, that is, Saudi Arabia. Decades ago the propagandists of ARAMCO, churning out material for that glossy magazine ARAMCO World, and also helping supply material for those National Geographic articles on Saudi Arabia (usually with photographs by the ubiquitous Robert Azzi) helped to present a picture of, and spin a tale about, Saudi Arabia that, as J. B. Kelly wrote, “the ghost of Scheherezade could not have bettered.” There was Saudi Arabia, so ably ruled by the noble Al-Saud, who brought peace and harmony to the warring Arabs (even as Muhammad did, in the early seventh century A.D.), and who had been fast friends of America ever since Ibn Saud had met with FDR on that warship. And things had only gotten better and better. Yes, Saudi Arabia, with a little help of a small army of Western hirelings who served as such able propagandists, was presented, and until just the day before yesterday continued to be perceived, as a “staunch ally” of the United States. It is, of course, nothing of the kind. It is a country that has spent one hundred billion dollars all over the world on mosques, madrasas, Islamic propaganda, and buying votes at international organizations, buying “friends” in the capitals of the West, buying “academic experts” by setting up pseudo-academic institutes where nothing contrary to Saudi desires may be done, where all those of independent bent (see Denis MacEoin, and his experiences at Exeter, or was it Durham, in England) are driven out. The field of Islamic studies has, in too many places, become the preserve of apologists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, for Islam. Saudi Arabia is a state based on Islam, more fanatical in that state-supported Wahhabism than any other Muslim state, and it cannot be anything other than a dangerous enemy of all Infidels, even of the United States. It is true that the Saudis and the Americans collaborated in Afghanistan, but they did so for different reasons, and the Americans did not quite understand. Saudi Arabia was not so much waging war against international Communism, etc. as it was waging war against Russian Infidels. The temporary miscomprehension allowed the Americans to make the fatal mistake of opposing the Soviets by building up the muhajedin. No one seemed to understand that the Soviet Union, already greatly weakened, was hardly in the same league as a revived Islamic world, a world in flames (and not in flames because of Israel, as the apologists say), with Jihad on worldwide scale now seemingly made plausible by OPEC trillions, and by the millions of Muslim immigrants now settled deep within Western Europe.
Saudi Arabia is a permanent enemy not only of the United States, but of the entire Infidel world. And the fact that the Al-Saud have a taste for planeloads of food flown in from Hediard and Fauchon, for buying sprees and gambling junkets to the West, and summers spent in villegiature in Monte Carlo, and of course those planeloads or boatloads (right out to the yachts anchored off Marbella) of Western girls who arrive to console those Al-Saud for their oh so difficult lives (“my wives don’t understand me”), doesn’t change that fact at all. Basta con all this. Stop putting on yet another production of “Hamlet” without the prince. These student productions in Washington are really getting on everyone’s nerves. Unless you have a cadre of reliable advisers who have studied Islam, and studied the history of Muslim conquest over 1350 years of lands populated by Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, that is, people who have studied, and have had the leisure to thoroughly assimilate, both the doctrine, and the history of the practice, of Islam, more failures, different ones perhaps — in Afghanistan rather than in Iraq, for example — but still failures, will be the inevitable result. And so too will the continued dreamy belief that the Arab war made on Israel is a “problem” that has a “solution,” rather than what it is — an unassuagable, and inextinguishable, Jihad against the intolerable presence of an Infidel nation-state in the midst of Dar al-Harb, and what’s still more intolerable, one run by the long-despised Jews. And so the survival of Israel, if you care about it, depends not on any treaty-making that will result in further tangible concessions of land by Israel, but rather on Deterrence. Deterrence worked, during the Cold War, and amazingly, it was Soviet Communism that crumbled. Though Russia remains a despotic mess, it is no longer the military threat it once was to Europe, or to America. No one can predict what will happen if the Muslim world continues on its present course, a world of violence and aggression that is beginning to have its clear effects in Western Europe (the new center of the worldwide Jihad, and the place that Obama ought to be worrying about most). No one can predict what a determined effort to get off oil will do to Muslim or Arab influence, and furthermore, what might be the effect if the Western world, its elites made more aware of the meaning, and menace, of Islam, started to discuss, openly, Islam as a vehicle of Arab supremacism, and thus help make the non-Arab Muslims, who constitute 80% of the world’s Muslims, to think again about Islam and what it does to art, to science, to human possibilities and human happiness. If the non-Muslims themselves can begin to make the connection between the political, economic, social, moral, and intellectual failures of Muslim states and societies, and Islam itself, that will surely have its effects on the most advanced people who, through no fault of their own, were born into Islam.
But that requires study of Islam and of the history of Muslim conquests, and the subjugation of non-Muslim peoples, over 1350 years. Can the new Administration spare a little time for such an effort? If it wishes to avoid the colossal mistakes and squandering of the Bush Administration, it had better.