Tuesday, December 05, 2006
talk talk talk talk about everybody else when all you'd really rather do is talk about yourself:
Stanley Kurtz:
Fukuyama’s thesis does require us to believe that liberal democracy represents the only likely future for the world as a whole. That’s why Fukuyama can’t accept the idea that Islamists might actually gain and retain control of a substantial portion of the globe–or perhaps even defeat the West.
Leave Fukuyama out of this for a moment. It takes some impressive contortions to make UBLism into an existential threat. Let's count them:

1) "Islamists" -- OK, lots of people are Islamists. Not all of them -- not even most -- threaten us. Never forget that Ayman Zawahiri formed Egyptian Islamic Jihad because he felt the Muslim Brotherhood were fake MCs. That doesn't make the Brotherhood good guys. It makes them not-al-Qaeda. Similarly, Iran is not-al-Qaeda; Hezbollah is not-al-Qaeda; Hamas is not-al-Qaeda; Syria is not-al-Qaeda. The difference is not trivial, and al-Qaeda is threatening enough.

2) "Gain and retain control" -- meaning what exactly? Like control of natural resources, like oil? Never going to happen. Getting oil out of the ground, to refinery and to market is a really complex task. At best, al-Q could take a bunch of oil capacity off-market, but they're not going to be, say, running operations in Eastern Saudi. Maybe he means al-Q will take over states or parts of states. I can see that. But they'd then get bogged down in some serious, serious internal wars that they may very well not win. Better for al-Q to build alternative infrastructures in, say, Pakistan, to cleave people from the Pakistani government. But anyway.

3) "a substantial portion of the globe" -- this is too stupid to address. Our grandchildren's great-grandchildren will still be snickering at the idea of a "caliphate."

4) "Defeat the West" -- what does "defeat" mean, and what does "the West" mean? It's way easier to defeat Belgium than it is to defeat us, unless you were able to make Belgium miscalculate and, say, invade Iraq. But this is a word salad, bereft of meaning. It's time to start defining terms. If Kurtz means "the West" in terms of liberalism, bin Laden ain't defeating that either.

In short, for Kurtz's assessment to bear any weight at all, we must define all these terms in their most trivial possible sense: "Islamist" means everyone who practices Islam; "Gain and retain control" means the loosest grip imaginable on either institutions of the state or the allegiances of the people; "a substantial portion of the globe" means some plots of land somewhere; "defeat" means "embarrass"; and "the West" means the weakest ship in the western fleet. You may have noticed that this neither describes the world as it is nor as it could be, nor does it add up to an "existential threat" in any sense. And we've completely lost the idea of defeating al-Qaeda within this ludicrous, pornographic anti-fantasy.
--Spencer Ackerman
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