Islam Through the Looking Glass is the third and final volume of Kelly’s reviews and essays, this one collecting work from the 1980s and 1990s. They cover numerous key crises in the region during those decades, from the Iranian Revolution to the first Gulf War and its aftermath. The thematic thread running through his work is the chronic misunderstanding of Islam’s doctrines, culture, and worldview that has compromised Western foreign policy since World War I. Reading these observations today––when the same misunderstandings and distortions are determining our reactions to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the global spread of jihadism, and the bloody rampage of ISIS in northern Iraq––is to be reminded of Santayana’s by now trite but no less true observation that forgetting history dooms one to repeat it.
How many times for nearly four decades have we heard similar justifications for Muslim violence based on the West’s alleged imperialist and colonialist sins, or the festering conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors? Yet as Kelly points out in another essay, one has only to study “the upheavals which have racked the Arab world” or “the bizarre alignments that currently adorn the Arab landscape, to conclude that the Palestinian issue is incidental to the chronic distemper” afflicting the region. This insight is confirmed today by the close cooperation of Israel with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in confronting the serious threat to all four countries posed by Iran and its attempt to manufacture nuclear weapons, a danger having nothing to do with the Palestinian issue.