Saturday, August 20, 2005

Might as well buy that burqa now:
In the Clash of Civilizations,
the West is a no-show

Are American diplomats in Iraq betraying the sacrifice of all those working so hard and risking so much to make Iraq a better place than it was? Reuters reports this morning that all three factions negotiating Iraq's constitution say the U.S. has dropped its objection to Iraqi laws being put to a religious test. The Shiites and the Sunnis are no doubt thrilled, since they'd prefer to drag their debilitating religious schism along with them for another millenium rather than set it aside and move on. The more secular-minded Kurds are justifiably horrified:
"We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites,' he said. 'It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

In a column printed in Arab News today, Amir Taheri points to the terrifying flip-side of American weakness: an increasingly confident and belligerent Iran. He quotes from a 700-page document that Iranian President Ahmadinejad presented to Parliament on Tuesday. It clearly defines his government's short- and long-term goals for Iran. "Leadership is the indisputable right of the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad claims, and he goes on to define how the world will be guided by the leadership of the mullahs. Taheri explains:
The creation of an “Islamic pole” is the key objective of what the document refers to as “the 20-year strategy” of the Islamic Republic. It is not clear who developed that strategy and whether or not Ahmadinejad, who is elected for a four-year term, hopes to remain in power for two decades.

The goal of the “Islamic pole” would be to unite the world under the banner of Islam, as the “final Divine message” and “the only True Faith.” But it is not clear whether this is to be achieved during the 20-year period of the strategy or within a broader timeframe.

It is not only in foreign policy that Ahmadinejad opposes “American ideas”.

His economic, social, and cultural programs, too, are designed in defiance of Western capitalist models.

He wants the state to play a central role in all aspects of a people’s life and emphasizes the importance of central planning. The state would follow the citizens from birth to death, ensuring their health, education, well-being and leisure. It will guide them as to what to read and write and what “cultural products” to consume so as not to be contaminated by Western ideas.

Sounds like a new, even more nightmarish version of the Soviet Union--one with all the totalitarian faults of the original, but now with a built-in prejudice against modernism and equality of the sexes. We should do everything possible to stave off this global conflict, lest our children inherit a new "cold and hot" war. Secular democracy can strip this menace of its power. Ahmadinejad knows this, and so he makes the Iranian government's position on democracy quite clear:
The document says that in a Muslim country power belongs to God. The exercise of that power is the privilege of the Prophet and, after him the 12 imams of duodecimo Shiism. Since the 12th Imam is in “grand occultation”, thus not exercising power on a day-to-day basis, the task devolves to “chosen ones from the family of the Prophet”. In the case of Iran today it means Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, the “Supreme Guide” who claims to be a descendant of Hussein, the third imam.

Ahmadinejad says that not only will he fight any form of democratization in Iran but would mobilize the nation’s resources to prevent the United States from imposing the Bush plan on the Middle East.

If the "Bush plan in the Middle East" includes setting up an Iraqi theocracy in which all laws must conform to Islamic principles, then Ahmadinejad is shadow boxing. It looks like America is spending $150 billion and spilling the blood of thousands just to advance the mullahs' agenda. They can get back to making nuclear weapons and let us handle transforming the Middle East into a gigantic Islamist super-state.

The Kurdish negotiator quoted above has it right. A theocratic Iraq is not at all what Americans signed on for, and the Bush administration had better get wise to that fact. If voters decide over the next year that they were hoodwinked into trading American lives and resources for the sake of bearded troglodytes, mid-term elections will make our president more of a dead duck than a lame one. The dismal reality of a theocratic Iraq could create a new bloc of American voters: those who supported the war but condemn its outcome. If the Bush administration continues to prove itself inept at achieving its high-minded goals, that bloc will look around in 2006 and 2008 for a new party. God help us.


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