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Radical Islam as its own Antidote

Reader comment on item: Radical Islam as Its Own Antidote[, Argues Reuel Gerecht]

Submitted by Peter J. Herz (Taiwan), Jun 23, 2005 at 22:37

Actually, if you have correctly reported Gerecht's views (and I think you're a good enough scholar to have done so), I admit to a certain sympathy with them. Ideological burnout happens, and I doubt that radical Islamicism will prove immune from it.

One reason why traditionalist monarchies, authoritarian republics, and other Middle Eastern governments lost their legitimacy was because they failed to undo "an-nakhba". Yet, can you imagine for a moment what would happen if a coalesced Arab state under Islamofascist leadership gave Israel the usual choice of clear-cut victory or extinction, then launched some "Glorious Army of Martyrs for the Liberation of al-Quds", and then saw it become, well, just that, while losing the West Bank, Sinai, and Mt Hermon all over again--possibly Amman and Damascus as well? I daresay certain leaders would lose their legitimacy pretty quickly.

Radical racial nationalism as a political option (in the West at least--it is alive and well in China) died with Hitler in the rubble of Berlin. V-E Day also succeeded as well in making certain topics of discussion, no matter how politely and delicately posed, or aware of the counterfactuals, taboo in social science.

In China, Marxism-Leninism as an ideology is dead. The regime now legitimatizes itself using a combination of rising prosperity and jackboot, Hohenzollern-style nationalism. This is because Mao's radical egalitarian Marxism burned itself out and discredited itself in the Cultural Revolution. Indeed, after Mao got through with it, China had almost nowhere to go but up economically--despite all the promises of unleashed productive forces that would accommodate the Marxist revolution's "ecoomic justice". The economic failure, especially with ethnically Chinese Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore on the doorstep, was perhaps the most glaring failure of this particular radicalism.

An anti-Christian enlightenment in the West also depended on political Christianity's self-discrediting in the French Wars of Religion, German Thirty Years' War, and Britain's 17th century intra-Protestant upheaval. So powerful are these theological-cum-political conflicts as negative images that they are undisputed even today--despite the fact that radical secularism managed to wrack up more victims in the 20th century alone than suffered for the wrong kind of Christianity or none at all in the 15 centuries between Constantine and Ruggles v. New York. Perhaps the re-Christianization of eastern Europe and the rise of an Evangelical right (which would probably crack the minute a credible Democratic candidate shook an olive branch in its face) also represent widespread disillusionment with triumphant secular radicalisms.

Apart from slogans, which are always easier shouted than performed, radical Islamicism has nothing to unite the Islamic countries or solve their important economic and social problems. It specializes in the politics of ruthlessness and intense emotion, which can briefly create a desert and call it peace, and, in so doing, lose its own ability to answer questions about itself. This would probably intensify rather than solve national and sectarian divisions in Islam. Already the revolutionary Islamic regime in Iran is losing touch with a rising generation. In Lebanon, the Sunnis and Druze have sided with Christians against the pro-Syrian and radicalized Shi'ah. In Sudan, Arab and Fur are in conflict despite their common Islam; possibly because the long-standing influence of people like Turabi has made everyone more radical.

I'd also keep the USA out as much as possible. It's highly significant that the US has a positive image among the people in states where the government is fiercely anti-American, and a negative one where the governments are US allies. This tells me that the Islamic world still has an enormous talent for misgovernment and the ever-unstable combination of regimes at odds with their own people--and the USA does itself no good by serving as the enabler in such cases. We probably did have to do something about the Taliban and Sodom Insane in the wake of 9/11 and the latter's Catch-me-if-you-can game with the UN inspection regime; but otherwise, it would be wisest to let the Islamic world stew in its own juices for a while. There are limits to US power, and remaking an entire civilization and religion of over a billion people is a very tall order.

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