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Assume the worst and hope for the best

Reader comment on item: Islam's Future [Can Be Modern]

Submitted by F. Hennick (United States), Aug 17, 2002 at 22:33

I think we in the West are mistaken in our attitude towards Islam. We are approaching the problem of militant Islam in the same way that we approach our own domestic social problems, as a problem to be analyzed and solved. Too many armchair sociologists are offering predictions about the future of Islam based on glib theories of "the historical stages of religious development". Too many naive liberals would have us put down our arms and pin our hopes on some sort of "Marshall Plan" for the Middle East. We need to study the lessons of the downfall of communism more closely; human societies cannot be engineered or molded like lumps of clay from the outside. Especially when that society is over a billion strong, residing on sovereign soils, and 100% opposed to meddling from outside do-gooders.

Will Islam "modernize", or remain mired in violence and hate? This is a great academic question, which I am happy to leave to the likes of Mr. Pipes for scholarly reflection. But the burning issues before us are not academic, they are political and strategic. Clearly, the future of Islam is quite unclear. Even if every last historian of the Muslim world agreed that Islam is on the cusp of modernization, it would still be our responsibility to prepare ourselves for the worst-case-scenario. When our own survival is at stake, we must not allow for margin of error. We must assume that Islam will become a unified body ready to use all resources and available means to destroy us, even if the experts tell us this is unlikely. Meanwhile, we are free to encourage positive developments when we see them.

America has grown accustomed to quick results, and is becoming impatient with the Muslim world. We expect measurable results within the span of a 4 year presidential term, but we need to buckle ourselves in for the long haul. I certainly do not have all the answers to this problem. But I am surrounded by legions of armchair generals, fresh from losing their life savings in a stock market they didn't understand, offering up adventurous battle plans.

I think our success in this conflict will in great measure be determined by our ability to isolate the national defense strategizing process from the fickle whims of short term electoral politics and public opinion. Our democratic system and ethos, the very source of our power and moral strength, are directly challenged by the nature of this conflict. The hit-and-run desert raider is expert with patience and timing, and is using our own weaknesses against us. How many years elapsed between the first WTC attack and the second? They are watching in patient amusement at our rash pronouncements about their motives. So, adjusting our internal modes of communication and and planning will be our greatest challenge. We need to stop thinking in terms of a "grand solution", and start thinking about processes we need to put in place internally to adapt ourselves to this conflict.
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