many others, I've been cheering for Colin Powell in his battle within
the government against those who want to turn the WTC attacks into
a pretext for a war against all "sponsors or terror" by
which they mean all of Israel's enemies, a recipe for a terminal
conflict between the United States the entire Muslim world. Thus
far Powell is prevailing: Newsweek even reports that Vice
President Cheney told Paul Wolfowitz (the main "wider war against
Islam" advocate within the administration) to button his lip.
That leaves the war hawks isolated and on the outside: they have
the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, and
National Review, but that isn't enough to push George Bush
into a war that would be disastrous to America's long term interests.
it was worrisome to see Senator John McCain interviewed by Tom Brokaw
several hours after strikes on Afghanistan commenced. McCain charged
right into wider war cheerleading:
we take care of Mr. bin Laden, [and] the Taliban are overthrown,
then there will be other nations . . . Iraq, Iran, Syria, they will
have to either eject those terrorist organizations or they will
also pay a penalty."
in the understatement of the year, he continued, "that's when
the coalition, which we've so beautifully put together, may experience
bet, Senator: there would be significant "strains" if
the United States, without any Arab or European backing, started
attacking Iraq, Iran and Syria, -- none of which have been credibly
linked to the attacks of 9/11.
one level of danger when a neocon columnist is spouting such stuff
on a Sunday talk show; it's a greater menace when it comes from
a popular elected official who came close to winning the presidency.
minister, who has been a tower of strength and inspiration since
9/11, recommended in his sermon that we read Andrew Sullivan's New
York Times piece, "This is a Religious War."
complied. The piece is a clever and not uninteresting form of fundamentalist-bashing
-- they can't stand the West's success, resent the eclipse of Islam
in the modern world, etc. Ever broadminded, Sullivan reminds us
that irrational and violent religious fundamentalism is also a homegrown
product, permeating the West until relatively recently.
central argument is that conflict on a massive scale is unavoidable.
"There is very little room in the fundamentalist psyche for
moderate accommodation." After the inevitable quotations from
Bernard Lewis's "The
Roots of Muslim Rage" [The Atlantic Monthly, September
1990], he concludes that the coming "epic" battle against
Islamic fundamentalism -- a foe far more formidable than Nazism
or Communism -- is unavoidable. At stake, he concludes, are "not
only our lives but our souls."
as I will tell my minister next Sunday, I'm happy to have read the
piece, which has its true and interesting passages. But Sullivan
skips over some very important items, most notably anything that
would ground his argument in contemporary politics and particularly
political geography -- the reality hundreds of millions of Muslims
are experiencing and talking about every day.
instance, Sullivan hardly mentions the Israel-Palestine issue and
the gnawing hard facts of the Israeli occupation, which understandably
obsess the Arab world. No acknowledgment of the constant Western
presence in the historic Muslim lands, a presence that must seem
"in their faces," all the time: sometimes with direct
military occupation, sometimes with military bases, sometimes with
embargoes, sometimes merely with aggressive commercialism (the "Mickey
D's" outside the mosque).
does Sullivan acknowledge the interesting fact that that in those
lands where the Western presence is limited, as it has been in Iran
for the past twenty years, anti-American and anti-Western fundamentalism
is rapidly going out of business, an enthusiasm of the old, not
write this in full recognition that when a foreign power kills 6000
American civilians, the United States has no choice but to strike
back at the perpetrators, hard and unrelentingly. But it does not
follow for a moment that that the destruction of bin Laden and the
Taliban is only "Phase One" of a larger war we must fight.
The United States has no moral or strategic requirement to make
war on all of Israel's many foes (the so-called "war against
terror" as defined by the Israeli right). American interests,
both moral and strategic, would be far better served by an honest,
evenhanded effort to broker a fair peace between Israel and the
do Americans need to rally to Andrew Sullivan's call to arms against
"religious intolerance," a virus confined to relatively
poor and faraway lands, and not likely to spread beyond them.
war is forced upon us. Neither is necessary. Both struggles would
be open-ended, and would squander America's blood, treasure and
liberty. A sensible American leader would do everything he could
to avoid them.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980ís, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990ís he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchananís 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
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