Jun 21, 2015

What the “Coexist” Bumper Sticker REALLY Means [Meme]

By on Sunday, June 21, 2015

From the 1960s to the late 1990s, John Barrett Kelly was one of the most influential advisors, writers, and commentators on the Middle East. In 1980 his book Arabia, the Gulf, and the West was prophetic in its analysis of the strategic importance of the Middle East and the need for a Western “forward policy” in the Gulf in order to protect U.S. and European interests, particularly oil and its transport, against both Soviet adventurism and the greed of Middle Eastern potentates. Like all his writing, his advice was based on an intimate knowledge of the region and its culture, especially the tribal mentality intertwined with Islam, a faith historically hostile to Western civilization.

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.
One of Kelly’s insights is that Westerners, particularly the British, serially suffered failures of imagination in analyzing the motives of Middle Eastern regimes and their actions. The lead essay of Kelly’s new book, “Islam Through the Looking Glass,” documents Western misunderstandings of Islamic culture and the misguided policies that resulted . Back in the 1980s, when he delivered the talk on which this essay is based, Kelly criticized the mentality, still with us today, that claimed “we have nothing to fear from Islam, least of all any deep-rooted animosity against the West.” Also like today, evidence to the contrary was rationalized as the result of “justified resentment felt . . . at past oppression and exploitations by the peoples of Europe and by the creation of Israel.”

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.
This foreign policy mistake of assuming other peoples think and believe as we do has been continually made by the West for decades. …


Post a Comment