Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Here's a thought you may not have had.

The big two reasons the U.S. won the Cold War were that citizens of the eastern bloc nations wanted reliable access to foodstuffs and that the young people wanted to partake of the mythically sexy culture of the West. These reasons are exactly why we are not likely to "win" what clash of civilizations does exist between the West and the Muslim East. Citizens of these nations are not starving and they do not want rock'n'roll or blue jeans.

Just what this "other citizenry" does want seems unlikely to be a common variable given the very different historic experiences of countries such as Egypt, Iran, Algeria, Qatar, Lebanon, Pakistan, etc. Regardless, whatever is wanted in each locale is almost certainly tied to historic validation, and we cannot provide that except by losing.

However, there is another kind of historic trend brewing very slowly in the greater Islamic culture. A friend of mine maintains that Islam needs to experience its enlightenment, akin to Europe throwing off the reigns of the Catholic Church in the 16th century. I think he is wrong, for a variety of reasons, but importantly, I think something else is happening.

As Muslim citizens acclimate in particular to Western Europe, a new sense of identity and a new set of desires are forming that will in time mutate into a form that is relevant to the experience of Islamic peoples in the desert countries of their origin. Viewed in this light, the recent civic unrest in France is the most encouraging that could possibly have happened. I say this because that rioting signified a desire for cultural acclimation, validation and fulfilment in a way that is very dissimilar to, say, unrest in the streets of Egypt promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood during recent local and parliamentary elections.

In any case, these are the movements that matter. Military operations and metaphors serve mostly to obscure what is really at play, and of course to consolidate power for demagogues around the world.

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