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Sep 28, 2006 12:15 pm


BROOK'S GRAND DELUSION



I know this Brooks column is pessimistic but it makes me optimistic. Brooks is no alarmist and, yet, he gets the Grand Delusion:

Worse, more and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can’t seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn’t somehow responsible for. Others think the entire threat has been exaggerated by Karl Rove for the sake of political scaremongering.

He even gets the reason it is a Grand Delusion:

The Arab world, though famous for its bazaars, has not defined national glory economically, Greenfeld adds. Instead, the rising radical groups today define greatness negatively through acts of anti-Western defiance.

Superseding market entrepreneurs, there are terror entrepreneurs competing to see who can issue the most militant call and perform the most galvanizing act of violence. They are driven by resentment toward the West, but also by the internal competition for prestige and standing.

Hence, unilateral withdrawal would not work. He is also right that the Bush administration has not opted for a World War II type military victory but for hopefully a less expensive (in terms of both life and treasure) but lengthier and more ambivalent Cold War type of struggle. Of course, it may not get its way in which case we may find that 2006/7 will be more like 1938/9 than 1946/7.

The rise of the New Antisemitism points to the former but than history may repeat itself but never precisely. Just how precisely will depend in part on our ability to wrestle much of the control of formulating the global"view of the world" from the hands of an instinctively anti-Western powerful transnational leftist intellectual elite which has been romanticizing, legitimizing and empowering the Jihadist competitors.

Brooks' article is a useful antidote and that is the reason I am posting it in its entirety bellow.

September 28, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
The Grand Delusion
By DAVID BROOKS
You probably know Daniel Defoe as the author of “Robinson Crusoe,” but he was also a journalist, and in 1705, he noticed a gigantic change occurring around him. “The Power of Nations,” he wrote, “is not now measur’d, as it has been, by Prowess, Gallantry, and Conduct. ’Tis the Wealth of Nations that makes them Great.”

In other words, nations had begun measuring themselves not by whom they conquered, but by how they fared in the competition for economic success. This was a major shift in consciousness, and as the great historian of nationalism, Liah Greenfeld, observes, today you can see a wide variety of societies — the U.S., Japan, China, India, Europe — that define their national greatness in this way.

The Arab world, though famous for its bazaars, has not defined national glory economically, Greenfeld adds. Instead, the rising radical groups today define greatness negatively through acts of anti-Western defiance.

Superseding market entrepreneurs, there are terror entrepreneurs competing to see who can issue the most militant call and perform the most galvanizing act of violence. They are driven by resentment toward the West, but also by the internal competition for prestige and standing.

To his eternal credit, after 9/11 George Bush quickly understood that the terror threat was fundamentally an ideological threat, a product of deep historical consciousness. To his eternal discredit, he didn’t commit enough resources to successfully defeat and discredit that ideology. The chance to deliver the sort of blow that the Six Day War delivered to an earlier version of Arab nationalism may now be lost.

As a result, as the National Intelligence Estimate makes clear, the West now faces a diverse and metastasizing set of foes. The report also makes clear that while the Iraq war has so far enhanced the prestige of the terrorists, Iraq remains the crucial battleground where they will either gain glory or face humiliation.

If we lived in a serious political culture, we’d be discussing what we’ve learned from Iraq and how to proceed. Instead, all of Washington is involved in a juvenile game of gotcha. Bill Clinton is fighting about what did or didn’t happen 10 years ago. The White House is still exaggerating the positive. Democratic senators purr like happy kittens as retired generals slam Donald Rumsfeld, and then stop up their ears when those same generals call for more troops and a longer war.

Voters now confront a Republican Party that understands the breadth of the threat but has bungled the central campaign, and a Democratic Party that is quick to criticize but lacks an understanding of the jihadists and a strategy for confronting them.

Worse, more and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can’t seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn’t somehow responsible for. Others think the entire threat has been exaggerated by Karl Rove for the sake of political scaremongering.

Perhaps it’s understandable that many Americans would fall for this Grand Delusion. The Israelis, who have more experience with Islamic extremism, recently did. They imagined that they could build a security barrier and unilaterally withdraw from their historical reality. It took the war in south Lebanon to make them see there is no way to unilaterally withdraw. There is no way to become a normal society. Even if they pulled out of Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, they would still have to confront an existential foe, so long as the forces of political Islam continued to wage their competition for anti-Semitic glory all around.

The blunt fact is that groups of Islamic extremists will continue to compete and grow until mainstream Islamic moderates can establish a more civilized set of criteria for prestige and greatness. Today’s extremists are not the product of short-term historical circumstances, but of consciousness and culture. They are not the fault of the United States, but have roots stretching back centuries. They will not suddenly ignore their foe — us — when their hatred of us is the core of their identity.

The National Intelligence Estimate predicts terror violence will get worse in the years ahead. The scarier estimate was made by a veteran of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in conversation with his grandson who now lives in Boston: “This is forever.”




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