- From the beginning the Bush administration has shown
that it has at best limited regard for the Constitutional separation of
church and state. His early introduction of so-called "faith-based
initiatives" has been followed by a pattern of special favors to religious
groups, and non-sectarian groups have been critical of this habit with
little effect. Bush and key Republican leaders who work most closely with
him have cultivated the Christian right and in turn have forged close links
to Zionists, especially leaders of Israel's Likud party. However, to date
no foray into Christianizing American policy has gone so far as National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice along with close in neo-conservative
supporters of the President. .
- In a recent speech in Dallas, Texas, Rice apparently
abandoned all other rationales for the US presence in Iraq, and said that
bringing democracy and free markets to the Middle East is "the moral
mission of our time". She also is reported to have said that this
mission could take at least a generation to accomplish. Norman Podhoretz,
a leading light of the neo-conservative Bush supporters, called this mission
"the reformation and modernization of Islam."
- Rice and the neo-conservatives have leaped suddenly from
the high precipice of fear for our lives to the high mission of transforming
Islam. This leap is quite startling. It puts the President, but more important
the United States, in the role of beginning a crusade against traditional
Islam. The Podhoretz theme particularly sounds like a declaration of war
on Islam. At minimum, it will fuel the Al Qaida recruitment of new terrorists,
while turning Islamic governments generally away from us.
- This agenda bespeaks a fundamental misunderstanding,
outright ignorance or both about what is happening in most of Islam. It
literally uses the behavior of the extremists, in essence the agendas and
actions of about 20 known Muslim terrorist groups, at worst count less
than 100,000 individuals including all of al Qaida and its loose affiliates,
to define the spiritual and political leanings and desires of one billion
Muslims. While the Rice/Podhoretz formula is now targeted on the Middle
East, it does an enormous disservice to Muslims the world over.
- Fundamentalist Muslims have problems of coping with the
modern world that are about on a par with the problems of fundamentalist
Christians. The basic problem for both is a pervasive set of influences
that constantly challenge the central themes of faith and practice, and
in the modern world of electronic, print and film media, as well as the
Internet, there is no sheltered place. Such exposure is an intense secularizing
pressure that practicing Muslims fear erodes traditions and provides new
and frequently corrupting behavioral examples. At the same time secular
groups criticize religious leaders who are too far behind the curve, that
curve defined as the leading edge of "modernizing" influence.
- The Islamic vectors for the modernizing process are business
and professional people and the young, especially urban youth and university
students. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran the younger
generations are likely to share a belief in the idea of secular governance
combined with a goal of overturning present oligarchic or autarchic governments,
and in the case of Iran, a fundamentalist one. On the religious side,
leading clerics and Islamic thinkers of recent times have been Shiites,
the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, and Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the
spiritual leader of Hesballah, in Lebanon. With some frequency the United
States is "the enemy" of both, because on the one hand it is
the bringer of modernizing influences, while on the other it is the >
ally of the oligarchs supporting the status quo. > In this picture,
"reformation" of Islam is a poor choice of words. The task is
not reform but adaptation, and the danger of adaptation, as fundamentalists
of all spectra know full well, is the alteration of traditional values.
The young in Muslim countries are not only at odds with the fundamentalists
but opposed to existing governments. Those elements comprise a struggle
of serious consequence for Islamic societies.
- Islam will not be responsive to promptings for change
from the outside or by outsiders. What change may come must come from inside,
and that has always been a slow process. The struggle is how to benefit
from new technologies, new ideas that contribute to survivability and the
quality of life, as well as alter lifestyles, without sacrificing belief
systems. No one does that well or quickly, but the fundamentalists of
all faith systems do it least well.
- What must be faced is that this kind of pressure brings
out the worst in fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims. All three
systems generally eschew resorting to violence, but the fundamentalists
take to it when they see their systems threatened. The young, however,
are most often fighting battles that are not about faith but about freedom.
That, unfortunately, is where we are, and all of us must understand it
or we will destroy ourselves. The solutions of these problems cannot be
left by default to the fundamentalists in any society, but at the same
time it is not productive to provoke the fundamentalists to acts that can
destroy a society.
- In this environment, the Rice/Podhoretz strategy is a
dangerous path, and it should be abandoned now. At best it would be seen
in Islamic countries as uninformed meddling. At worst, it would be taken
as a provocation to holy war. What is most likely to work with Islamic
societies is a slow process of persuading present leadership to (a) give
ground to younger generations who will bring their own mixtures of belief
and pragmatism to the task, while (b) weeding out the hard line extremists
among the fundamentalists but leaving room for pacific fundamentalist behavior.
Suppressing the young produces one kind of revolution. Suppressing the
Mullahs produces another. When they end up on the same side, as in Iran,
the combination is deadly because the traditionalists and the changelings
may share a common enemy: us.
- In approaching this challenge, it is worth remembering
that Islamic societies have been wrestling with modernization for at least
two centuries. Egyptian, Sudanese, Pakistani, Iranian, Lebanese, Tunisian
and other scholars, mostly Sunni Muslims, have written and thought a great
deal about it. Moreover, the intensity of the pressures in this struggle
has grown with each new generation of technology, especially information
- Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida represent an anti-modern
pressure on Islamic societies. However, except for alliances with extremists,
an Al Qaida presence is acceptable in few Muslim countries, and thus Bin
Laden is also an outsider attempting to transform Islam. Bin Laden's dream
of an Islamic Caliphate is a medieval, even pre-medieval scheme, and his
chances of achieving it are somewhere between dim and none. But he is using
every modern device at his disposal to challenge the authority of governments
of Muslim countries, and his minimum success may be to make the task of
dealing with fundamentalist extremists more difficult for each of those
- At present the pressures in Islamic societies are enormous.
However, given that fact the number and extremity of violent actions remain
small for Islam as a whole. In most Islamic countries, the problems of
modernization are complicated by poverty, lack of education, and disease.
But inexpensive and pervasive information and entertainment systems are
everywhere promoting change. And those systems challenge even the most
repressive of governments, because the systems are carriers of both secularizing
and > liberalizing thought. They will in time lead to more diverse
- Adopting the transformation of Islam as a moral imperative
of American policy will not succeed because it puts critical choices and
actions in the wrong hands. Recognition of the complexity of the issues
for Islamic societies and steady, enlightened promotion of diversity within
those societies will accomplish as much as outsiders can achieve, but the
outcome will take time. Christians in general would be deeply offended
and angered if an Islamic government adopted such a policy toward them.
Why should Muslims view such an interventionist policy as in any way a
- The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer
of the US Department of State. He will welcome your comments at email@example.com
From Patrick Hedemark
- Dear Sir,
- I only recently discovered your article asking a series
of questions along the lines of "If you were in Saddam's postion -
what would you do?" published in your archive section of the Rense.com
- I will say only this - there was not much he could have
done other than what he did do.
- The Bush Administration - acting in concert on behalf
of the interests of forces that have been in place far longer than this
present administration - are simply moving the "game plan" along
to the next level. Those forces never had any desire for anything other
than complete forfeiture of the control of Iraq by the Baath Regime. Saddam
is only the leader of this regime.
- What these men knew all along was that the portrayal
of Saddam as "brutal dictator" - works well in the worldwide
pool of opinion and opinion makers - but those who understand raw power
- know all too well the diverse elements that have always been competing
for control of Iraq and thus required that he or whomever will always require
a very very heavy hand to bring these disparate elements together in what
the West would call - a democratic government.
- In short - he was doing fine until he threatened their
established Pre 90's relationship - and from that point forward his departure
was most desired. His transfer of his Petro Dollars from the US$ to the
Euro roundabout 2000 was the "straw that broke the camels back"
and guarranteed that the principal power brokers in New York, London and
DC felt they now had no other choice but to find or create the pretense
for his necessary removal. Their are other forces at play in the game as
well. Israel's aspirations for land, oil, water, and security also served
to move this all forward.
- Now what could he have done or should he be doing?
- I believe that we are now seeing his actual "game
- His army - contrary to popular presentation was not "defeated".
They took a vacation. That is all.
- They knew from experience in 91 exactly what to expect.
They are now slowly delivering on their promise to exact some serious "pounds
of flesh" and they will escalate this - according to their plans.
They are now choosing when and where - the battle will occur. They are
armed to the teeth with the necessary means to conduct a guerilla war for
as long as it takes to rid their country of all foreign forces. The US
is only beginning to feel the effects of their foolish misstep in this
country. We have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the last
13 years. Sadddam is not the only Iraqi pissed off about this. This is
sure. They are now following the Sun Stzu Play book to the letter.
- There is no need to ask what we would do if we were in
his shoes really. It makes for interesting conversation but the truth
is - it is far more relevant to study what the Iraqis are indeed now actually
doing! > What we should be asking is "What would you do if you
> were the newly-elected President of the United States > in 2004"?
How would you act to restore some semblance of sanity, integrity, honesty,
clarity, and above all - morality and honor to the intentions and actions
of the United States?
- Now, THAT is a very good question and one that our present
Administration would do well to ask themselves at this present moment in
their hopefully single term of residence in Washington DC.
- Patrick Hedemark