The Clash of Civilizations Doesn't Exist... Yet
By Joshua Holland
AlterNet (September 1, 2006)
The neocons who are pushing a Clash of Civilizations are mirror-images of the terrorists that inspire their hyperbolic fear -- they are just as irrational and just as great a threat to our security.
"Seriousness" has become the word of the day for the Islamophobic set.
According to some of our more serious hawks, anyone who doesn't buy that the liberal democracies of the West are engaged in a death-match with hordes of dusky Muslim fanatics is "unserious" about America's security and can't be trusted.
It's the latest in a series of attempts to forestall any meaningful discussion of the causes of violent Islamist ideologies, much less how the United States should respond to them. It locks us into the global "war on terror."
Unfortunately, all too many otherwise sane people seem to accept the terms.
But it's hard to imagine anything more profoundly unserious than taking a dozen complex conflicts that originated in a dozen countries, stripping them of all historical and political context and lumping them together in an amorphous blob called the "Clash of Civilizations." But that's exactly what we're talking about.
So let's take them at their word for a moment and think seriously about the framework they use to understand a dangerous and confusing world.
Consider this: in the epic struggle between East and West, some of our staunchest allies are the undisputed champs in spreading violent Islamic extremism. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan established fundamentalist, anti-Western madrassas all across the world, funneled gobs of cash to extremist groups, and nurtured and supported them in their infancy. It wasn't just random individuals within those countries; Saudi Arabia made it a foreign policy priority to spread its brand of Wahhabism, mostly to counter the perceived threat of Pan-Arabism and other anti-colonial ideologies. Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI -- sometimes called a "state within a state" -- not only supported the Taliban in Afghanistan but funded, equipped and helped train some of the most notorious terror groups that grew out of that country in the 1990s. Talk all you want about Syria and Iran supporting Hezbollah, these are the great terror-sponsoring states, and they're on the side of the Western democracies.
What's more, the West isn't all that unified in this great existential struggle to save itself from destruction. A recent poll of citizens in the United Kingdom, our most loyal ally and a country that largely believes the Clash of Civilizations meme, found that -- "by a margin of more than five to one -- the public wants Tony Blair to split from President George W. Bush and either go it alone in the 'war on terror', or work more closely with Europe." Just 14 per cent believed "Britain should continue to align itself with America." A Pew Global Attitudes survey in June found that in Spain, supposedly a target of "Islamic Imperialism" and the victim of one of the most spectacular terror attacks ever, "four times as many people oppose the war on terror as support it (76 percent to 19 percent)."
Of course, the hawks' response is that there must be something wrong with the rest of the world. Outside of the United States, they argue, the West is "feminized," spineless and too "politically correct" to take on the Muslim hordes. That's like an ugly, unhygienic man's sincere belief that every woman who rejects his advances must be a lesbian. If there's a consensus among your closest friends that you're wrong about something, you probably are.
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