21 September 2012

Failed Civilization Argument

Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer, 2004, Excerpts

The argument’s gist is that bin Laden, his allies, and their goals have been spawned by a “failed civilization” – one hostile to democratization, capitalism, and modernity, save for the tools of war – and that they are driven by both the realization that Islamic society is dying and a maniacal desire to destroy other civilizations that are successful and causing the demise of Islam. These men, the argument goes, recognize this failure, blame it on the West, and are lashing out with indiscriminate violence to spark an Armageddon-like battle with Western civilization. This line of analysis takes a brilliant, calculating, and patient foe and reduces him to the status of a madman, bloodthirsty and irrational.

One of the greatest dangers for Americans lies in continuing to believe – at the urging of senior U.S. leaders – that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than for what we do. The Islamic world is not offended by our democratic system of politics, guarantees of personal rights and civil liberties, and separation of church and state. What the United States does in formulating and implementing policies affecting the Muslim world, however, is infinitely more inflammatory.

Only when U.S. leaders stop believing and preaching that they are attacking us for what we are and what we think, and instead clearly state that they are attacking us for what we do, can we put aside our ill-advised and hallucinatory crusade for democracy. At that point, Americans can begin to intelligently discuss how this national security threat is to be defeated or, more precisely, to decide if status quo U.S. foreign policies toward the Islamic world benefit American enough to offset increasing levels of human and economic loss that will be the cost of unchanged policies.

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