Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fukuyama, Arabists and Islamist War


Whenever like now, my note must be to correct misapprehensions or misconstructions, I hesitate to write it, especially if I sense the motive behind the note to which I am responding to be hostile; however. . .

An “Arabist” is one who has embraced the Arab nation to which he has been diplomatically assigned. He identifies with it, takes up its causes, and chooses its side. Arabists in the past often took the side of their Arab nation against the U.S. This is not what is wanted in a diplomat, and the U.S. began shifting people about in an attempt to overcome this malady. The downside, as Kaplan explains in The Arabists, is that the U.S. loses some expertise, but the gain in loyalty is a desirable trade-off. Martin Kramer’s thesis in Ivory Towers of Sand, the Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America is that the Title VI expenditures have not resulted in expert advice about the Middle East but instead have produced Arabist responses. He didn’t use that diplomatic term as I recall, but that is the effect. The experts called upon by the government under Title VI were hostile to the U.S., unresponsive, and any advice was likely to favor Arab countries. Thus, it is good that “Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes and others” are not Arabists.

What I may have implied in regard to Fukuyama is that I found his thesis about “The End of History” credible. I read his The End of History and the Last Man in December of 1999 and was very impressed by it, but I have been puzzled by everything he has written since that time – or perhaps I should say that the emphasis (i.e., foreign affairs) that I focused upon, didn’t seem to be Fukuyama’s primary interest. In retrospect one must take him at his word and see that Fukuyama’s primary idea of “the end of history” came from Kojeve. Fukuyama gives him credit for it. And while Fukuyama deserves credit for fleshing the concept out, it now seems to me that he didn’t have quite the same interest in it that Alexandre Kojeve did. His subsequent writings were on other subjects or disengagements from the results of his (Kojeve’s) thesis.

As I indicated in previous notes about Fukuyama’s America at the Crossroads” I criticized Fukuyama for accepting the arguments of the French experts Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel who are at least nodding toward French multiculturalism in that they take a “soft view” of the Islamist threat. They see the threat emanating from a few “Jihadists.” If they are right then we in the U.S. are over-reacting, and this is what Fukuyama concludes. However many others take a very different view. They see Fukuyama’s Jihadists as being the activist element of Islamic Fundamentalism which wants to sweep the Middle East and then the world. With all of Fukuyama’s other interests I doubt that he has had time to read many authors on these subjects. He lists only the two, Roy and Kepel, and he does not respond to the idea that we are at war with Islamism.

It is a bit ironic that our successes in Iraq open us up to the charge that Roy, Kepel, and Fukuyama were right after all: see, look about. Al Qaeda is in retreat, hardly anyone is getting blown up in the Middle East, let alone America nowadays. Therefore, the U.S. over-reacted to the Islamist threat. Perhaps any victor is open to such criticism: the South was never that serious a threat to the North. Japan was never in a position to defeat the U.S. Germany could never have defeated Russia and the U.S., etc. We were successful not just against Saddam’s forces. Those were defeated years ago, but the Islamist attempt to capitalize on the Iraqi opportunity. They were defeated as well. And all while the Anti-Americans called the Islamist attempts an insurgency. Of course these anti-Americans don’t care about the truth. But if they did, they would be interested in some of the things being said about the Anbar turnover. It was made possible largely because the Sunnis became fed up with the Islamists who were trying to take over the “insurgency.” So they joined the U.S. in opposing the Islamists and now they have their Anbar province largely free of the Islamists.

Could the Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds have opposed the Islamists on their own? No. Why, oh Anti-American Ahmed, did the Sunnis work with the U.S. in Anbar? Why, if not that our cause was just. We were not there for nefarious reasons. We were not there for any of the reasons described in your Conspiracy Theories, and the Sunnis came to believe that. And now Anbar province is in Sunni hands.

Is it all over now? Shall we bring your ships home and put them in moth balls? Or does the threat still exist? In my view it still exists. There is a serious Islamist threat in Pakistan. Islamists are creating trouble in India. The Rogue State, Iran, continues work on its nuclear weapons, and two autocracies, Russia and China are supporting Islamist elements. This is no time, in my opinion, to view the “war” as over.

Lawrence Helm

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