by Lev Tsitrin
One can learn an awful lot by reading the New York Times. Who would have thought, when watching this week’s mayhem in Afghanistan, that “This Is How Theocracy Shrivels“?
Yet, according to David Brooks, this is what we are witnessing. His apparent recipe, I kid you not, is letting the Islamists rule, and fail at that task, causing public’s disillusionment and disapproval. He has a sure empirical proof that this approach works. “If extremists thought they could mobilize Muslim opinion through acts of clarifying violence, they have failed. Across 11 lands in which Pew surveyed Muslims in 2013, a median of only 13 percent had a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda.” “Fewer than one in every 100,000 Muslims had become an Islamist terrorist in the years since 9/11.” (This latter statistics is fascinating, but odd. At that rate, world’s 1.2 billion Moslems would generate 12,000 terrorists. I checked Wikipedia’s entry for “Hamas’ military wing” to learn that apart from “a core of several hundred members who receive military style training, including training in Iran and in Syria” it has “an estimated 10,000–17,000 operatives.” Thus, Hamas alone more than exhausts Mr. Brooks’ statistics; apparently, Islamic Jihad, Hezbullah, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Yemeni Houthis, the Taliban and others are, in Mr. Brooks’ and the New York Times‘ definition, not “terrorists.” That is a very elegant way indeed to “shrivel” the theocracy — just do not notice it! Paper it over, “the paper of record”!)
What a triumph! Only 13 percent of Moslems approve of Al Qaeda! (We are not given the number of the undecided; a better question would be, what percentage disapproves of it enough to want to crush it. From the fact that it has not been crushed, it appears that this number is rather low). Likewise, “Across the Arab world people are turning against religious political parties and the clerics who helped bring them to power. Many appear to be giving up on Islam, too.” Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi of Iran noticed the trend in his own country: “Iranians are evading religious teachings and turning to secularism.”” Please quantify it, Mr.Brooks, and tell us at which point will the Iran Revolutionary Guards run out of conscripts because there won’t be any Moslems left in the land, everyone becoming pacifist Baha’i?
So, why worry? “In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria notes that “most Islamist terrorism today tends to be local — the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa. That’s a major reversal from the glory days of Al Qaeda, when its leaders insisted that the focus must be not on the ‘near enemy’ (the local regimes) but rather the ‘far enemy’ (the United States and the West more broadly).””
So, Mr. Brooks tells us, let’s let Islamism collapse under its own weight. If that weight increases — as it now does in Afghanistan — it is only for the better: the public disillusionment with be the greater, and the resulting implosion will be the surer.
There is, of course, a bit of a problem with Mr. Brooks’ logic. The clerics don’t care for the public opinion. Only God’s is of importance, and they know what it demands with absolute certainty: that their rule be maintained. If God’s rule is harsh, so be it. People must submit to God — and must be made to submit if they got other ideas, and refuse to. This, Mr. Brooks, is why ayatollahs are still in power in Iran despite public discontent: God speaks through the brute force of his self-appointed enforcers. This is how Taliban maintained power, and will keep maintaining it. This is from where Hamas and Hezbullah derive their authority.
So dream on, Mr. Brooks. Keep publishing drivel, The New York Times. We live in harsh times, and your pious lies may the best consolation available on the market.
Lev Tsitrin is the author of “The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly“
Well, Brooks overstates one thing in particular- some calls from AQ notwithstanding, most Islamist terrorism has always been against apostate regimes, as they see them. Even the AQ types never forgot that.
SO to some extent Brooks is overstating that case.
It is not impossible that this approach to Islamism would ultimately work. We need not care how Muslim countries are governed, at least not to the degree of excess and enthusiasm of the last two decades, and in some ways our incompetence has made that counterproductive. And Islamism is probably not the wave of the future- China or some such will eventually dispose of them.
But the issues are twofold:
1. Can the West manage a world in which Islamism rules in its own region, defend itself against attack, punish attack, and yet not succumb to false dreams of reform or nation building, and thereby wait out the problem over the next century, and all while dealing with more important challenges?
2. When were Brooks or Zakaria last right about anything?