News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: US Army War College: Detente with Islamic Moderates

Thursday, October 06, 2005

US Army War College: Detente with Islamic Moderates

I have been advocating the position proposed by the following article for some time now: 1) the Huntigton model is outdated and ultimately promotes a self-fulfilling prophecy and 2) any viable model will involve getting moderate Moslems on our side.

As I have noted before, the US needs to hold Israel to the line and get a Palestinian state established or revoke all US tax-payer dollars headed to Israel; use back-channels and public statements to reassure Iran that the US will take a N. Korea approach to its energy and security problems; and promote goodwill in the worldwide Moslem community by feting Islamic moderates.
An Analytical Framework to Demystify the Radical Islamist Threat
From Parameters, Autumn 2005, pp. 72-86

In the Winter 2004-05 issue of Parameters, Philip Seib makes a laudable effort to establish the imperative for journalists, policymakers, and the American public to “undertake a more sophisticated analysis of how the world works.” This is critical because the analytical framework adopted by the media and policymakers has a direct effect on how they approach news coverage and frame discussions regarding the threat posed by radical Islamist extremists. This in turn directly affects public opinion in the United States and the world, which in the context of a war of ideas is directly related to the success or failure of both sides. Professor Seib also pointed out the fact that the “clash of civilizations” theory espoused by Samuel Huntington has been widely criticized, and this article rejects it as an appropriate analytical framework. Our purpose is to provide an alternative framework that portrays the current global conflict as a clash of systems, not civilizations.

The central danger of accepting Huntington’s model as a basis for analysis is that it is the chosen model of radical Islamists, who in turn use it to mobilize support. If a clash of civilizations is accepted in the West—or worse, accepted by the populations in Muslim states—then the forces attempting to overturn the global system could eventually succeed. Success, however, is not battalions of extremist Islamists marching down Pennsylvania Avenue; rather, it is the replacement of “apostate” regimes with an Islamic Caliphate, which can occur only once the current US-led global system is destroyed. Therefore, it is imperative that the wider global war on terror focus on the systemic implications of the struggle, which provides a credible methodology to address and mitigate the root causes that fuel the ideology of extremist Islamism.

. . . . . .

Bridging the Gap: The Struggle Across the Middle East

From a geostrategic perspective, these areas include a variety of states across the region where Islamists are actively engaged in attempting to instill their vision of a sharia-based Islamic umma. Currently, radical Islamists do not wield complete control in any state. The only state that comes close is Iran, but even Iran is caught in the struggle between religious fundamentalists and moderates who seek to modernize their country and bring to it some of the benefits of globalization. A second category of states is those in which the leaders have attempted to strike bargains with their nation’s indigenous Islamist elements in order to remain in power, such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Finally, there are also states whose governments have chosen to restrict or even eliminate all Islamist elements from gaining enough power, influence, and authority to establish themselves as a true force for change, such as Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

A further complicating factor is the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which is truly about land and not religion or ideology, counter to what the Islamists would have us believe. This aspect represents a true conundrum for US Middle East policy, as it presents an opportunity for Islamists to encroach in an area that allows them to sway the opinion of the Arab street toward their ideology. Bin Laden’s attempt to hijack the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for his own purposes, adding the removal of the “Zionists” from Arab territory as one of al Qaeda’s stated goals, illustrates clearly his attempt to develop a clash of civilizations.

If the United States is to be victorious in the Global War on Terrorism, it must not allow the situation to devolve into Huntington’s simplistic, apocalyptic vision of a clash of civilizations. Instead, the United States must understand the implications of its leadership in the global system, and how to use this position to demonstrate to moderates in the Islamic world why they should join us rather than attempt to beat us.

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