Making the case for IRAQ, coming from a prominent Muslim.
I've long admired Efraim Karsh. Truth teller, fighter, academic - here he reviews Fouad Ajami, a professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University, who "has never shied away from speaking his mind, even if it meant digressing from the received wisdom. He did so for the first time some 25 years ago in "The Arab Predicament," a scathing indictment of pan-Arabism, and has been challenging the cliches of Middle East scholarship ever since."
As is vividly illustrated by the book's title,Mr. Ajami makes no bones as to where his sympathies lie. By deposing a bloodthirsty tyrant and enabling his brutalized subjects to put him on trial, he argues, the United States has established, for the first time in modern Arab history, "the precedent of holding a ruler responsible for the follies and crimes of his regime," without which there can be no civil society. This, together with the liberation of Iraq's long-oppressed Shiite and Kurdish communities to play their overdue roles in their country's future, has sown the seeds of Iraq's potential transition, if not that of the wider Middle East, to a freer and more and accountable political system.
It's an extraordinary article and a must read
In the words of Nuri Said, a longtime prime minister of Iraq and prominent early champion of this doctrine: "Although Arabs are naturally attached to their native land, their nationalism is not confined by boundaries. It is an aspiration to restore the great tolerant civilization of the early caliphate."
If, today, America is reviled in the Arab and Muslim worlds, it is not because of "the culture of terrorism that had put down roots in the Arab world," let alone its specific policies, but because, as the pre-eminent world power, it blocks the final realization of this same age-old dream of regaining "the great tolerant civilization of the early caliphate." That this is not a vision confined to a tiny extremist fringe was evidenced by the overwhelming support for the September 11 attacks throughout the Islamic world, well beyond the confines of the Middle East, in the admiring evocations of Mr. bin Laden's murderous acts during the crisis over the Danish cartoons, and in the significant reservoirs of sympathy, shown in recent polls, among Muslims in Britain for the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July.
In the historical imagination of many Muslims and Arabs, Mr. bin Laden represents nothing short of the new incarnation of Saladin, defeater of the Crusaders and conqueror of Jerusalem. In this sense, the house of Islam's war for world mastery is a traditional, indeed venerable, quest that is far from over. To the contrary, now that this war has met with a determined counterattack by the United States and others, and with a Western intervention in the heart of the House of Islam, it remains to be seen whether this "noble" endeavor, to use Mr. Ajami's words, "would prove to be a noble success or a noble failure."
Mr. Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, and author most recently of "Islamic Imperialism: A History," available from Yale University Press.