Sunday, April 29, 2012

Experts Agree: Anti-American Repressive Radicals Taking Power in the Middle East Makes the World A Better Place

Let me sum up the situation regarding U.S. policy toward revolutionary Islamism like this. A man threatens, "Surrender or I'll kill you!" The victim surrenders and then boasts of how he put an end to violence by offering an alternative, peaceful "channel of expression"!

By Barry Rubin

Michael Hirsh has responded to my critique of his article. Amazingly, yet in the context of our era, he did not  engage with a single —not a single—idea that I presented. It is also rather clear that Hirsh knows nothing about the Middle East and so is merely arguing based on unsuitable analogies, a lack of knowledge about history, and a blind faith in "experts" who don't seem to be very expert at all. About their political philosophy I couldn't care less.

First, Hirsh relies on a partisan political characterization This is how things work now. You cast the person in a political category your readers will detest, signaling your readers to ignore the substance of what that person says. Thus, Hirsh begins:

“On the Web, other conservatives joined in: Barry Rubin, a zealously pro-Israel writer, addressing what he called the “great controversy” that “erupted” over my article, acknowledged that Obama had discarded the GWOT.”

Incidentally, I'm not a conservative but a foreign policy analyst of the Realist school who has dealt professionally with the Middle East for 35 years almost to the day (happy anniversary!). I also guess he didn't want to write a zealously pro-American writer, too.   Indeed, I'm the one here who represents a liberal position here, not those who are indifferent to a right-wing repressive, dictatorial, and clerical regime gaining power.

So that makes me one of those silly, strange people who think that when your worst enemies take power in key countries, through violent revolution or election, this is not a cause for celebration. I discuss the proper alternative policy here which is as "conservative" as Franklin Roosevelt's strategy in World War Two and Harry Truman's strategy for the Cold War.

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I’m also amused that he said I “acknowledged” his claim when what I actually proved that I'd scooped it by three years.  More important, however, he ignored my point that this is not a political issue:

“Still, why should someone have to be `right wing’ to oppose a group that in Marxist terminology would be called `clerical-fascist?’ Why should those on the `left wing’ (or mainstream, which often seems to amount to the same thing nowadays) back a group that wants to suppress women, kill homosexuals, wipe out Jews, crush basic freedoms taken for granted in the West, and holds an ideology that resembles fascism more than any other Western ideology? Since when does the `left wing’ love those who could be called 
reactionary religious fanatics?”

There is absolutely nothing “conservative” in my article nor anything that necessarily relates to Israel. But Hirsh maintains the myth that good liberals should want to engage and foster the Brotherhood and other such groups while conservatives don’t. To understand how upside-down Hirsh's view is, think of these analogies: right-wingers explaining the Communists are moderate; left-wingers insisting the Nazis are ok.
Incidentally, that is why those on the Western left must always insist that their opponent can never be liberal: because they must conceal the anti-liberal nature of their own views.

He continues:

“But then Rubin went on to lament how misguided this approach still was. `In this context, then, all other revolutionary Islamist groups—the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so on—are not enemies. They can be won over or at least neutralized as threats to U.S. interests,’ he wrote. This is dangerously na├»ve, Rubin concluded. The truth, he said, is that America’s “interests and allies are increasingly menaced by a growing threat [revolutionary Islamism] whose existence, meaning, and scope current U.S. policy does not even recognize yet, much less counter effectively.”

It is nice he quoted my argument. But he did not respond to it!  Hirsh goes on:

“Yet Rubin’s contention no longer appears to stand up well to the developing realities in the Arab world. Not only are bin Laden and most of his senior lieutenants (except for Ayman al Zawahiri) dead; the so-called Arab Spring has opened up new channels of expression, supplying for the first time in decades an alternative to violent jihad.”

But I’ve been describing this reality for a long time. Hirsh twists my words that were mostly written only hours before his response. My contention is designed as a response to “developing realities” not as a failed prediction that they wouldn’t happen. He simply repeats the contention that I have just critique in detail.
The fact that this supplies an alternative to “violent jihad” is not so marvelous for two reasons.

First, a violent jihad is a form of revolutionary struggle. If the revolution wins you don’t need to continue the struggle on that front. For example, in the past there was violent revolutionary Communist activity in Latin America. If Latin American countries were to become fundamentally transformed and taken over who needs guerrillas in the mountains?

Second, as I pointed out:

“At least today it should be clear that a group capable of taking over a country with millions of people and running it for decades (the Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hizballah) is a greater threat than a group that can stage a few terror attacks each year. But it still isn't even on the radar of the Western mainstream debate or the Obama Administration's strategy.”

Yet Hirsh assumes that the question of power doesn’t matter, what’s bad is violent jihad but if the jihad triumphs that’s okay.

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