Noninterventionists Need Not Apply

In a recent issue of Newsweek, the journal’s inexplicably renowned Muslim-world and foreign-policy expert Fareed Zakaria had a cover story called "Learning to Live With Radical Islam." To my surprise, I received a call from Newsweek editor Will Tacy, who said that the journal was canvassing other "experts" for a 700-word comment on Zakaria’s article and asked if I would write a contribution. I agreed, wrote an article of the requisite length, and submitted the piece before the deadline. Mr. Tacy acknowledged receiving the commentary, but I have never heard from him again – despite sending several notes and leaving voice-mail – and the piece was not printed.

Why? Well there is always the chance that my comment stunk. But if that was the case, it was no worse than the article on which it commented. No, I think the reason for Mr. Tacy’s silence is that my piece told Newsweek‘s readers that Mr. Zakaria: (a) had been a supporter of the neocons and the invasion of Iraq; (b) was desperately seeking Democratic friends with embarrassingly sycophantic praise for the sophisticated genius of President Obama; (c) had delineated an absolute refusal to take our Islamist enemies seriously; and (d) could not rally enough brain cells to even imagine that prolonged U.S. intervention in the Muslim world had caused and is prolonging the conflict with al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies.

I suspect the last item, on the mortal perils of interventionism, probably clinched my exclusion from the published comments on Mr. Zakaria’s article. (NB: Similarly, last May the New Republic asked me about al-Qaeda’s future. I wrote that if U.S. intervention continued, then al-Qaeda and its allies would win. The journal rejected the piece, instead printing an "al-Qaeda-is-imploding" fantasy that found no fault with the interventionist status quo.) Overall, Mr. Zakaria; Newsweek; the Obama administration; the Republicans; other journals, such as the Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Wall Street Journal; and most mainstream and cable media outlets are of one mind: U.S. interventionism must be continued, and, through it, secular democracy must be imposed on unlimited numbers of our little brown brothers by either bayonets or a U.S. taxpayer-funded overseas New Deal. Sadly for Americans, this means more intervention; higher taxes; more unconstitutional wars with Muslims; and the further erosion of U.S. national security.

My comment on Mr. Zakaria’s recent article follows.

Learning to Increase America’s Vulnerability, With Fareed Zakaria

In "Learning to Live With Radical Islam," Fareed Zakaria extends his range of misperceptions about the Islamic world. Once a champion of President Bush’s spreading-democracy mania and the invasion of Iraq, he revises his tune to please the less martial – but still feckless – foreign-policy approach of President Obama. The revision is also embarrassing, as we find Mr. Zakaria searching for buddies in Democratic Washington by urging the drafting of "a more sophisticated strategy" by Obama, for whom, he says with exquisite sycophancy, such a task "should come naturally."

Stripping the flattery of Obama and the requisite damning of old Republican friends, Mr. Zakaria’s words show no concern for America’s defense. Speaking in an anti-Muslim voice worthy of a viceroy of British India, Mr. Zakaria concludes, "The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women."

Take that, you darned medieval, superstitious Muslims. You folks may think Islam is a legitimate "world view," one that provides divine guidance for all aspects of life – from manners and morals to personal relationships to helping the poor to governing to war – but you would be dead wrong. Mr. Zakaria and Westerners know better. Their Western "world view" is superior to any religion-based world view – which by definition has "no answers" for the worldly wise – and so, can’t you Muslims see, Islam cannot satisfy the aspirations of people who are truly modern and respectable.

Mr. Zakaria’s distaste for Islam stems, it seems, from a common Western malady, an inability to differentiate between modernization and Westernization. Most Muslims – Islamists and others – appear to be eager, innovative users of modernity’s tools, whether armaments, communications, consumer goods, or information technology. The stunningly adept use of communications and information technology by the Afghan Taliban since 2001 makes this point. What overwhelming numbers of Muslims seem to oppose is Westernization, that grinning, giddy tolerance for nearly everything Allah advises against, such as the brothels, bars, and pornography brought to Kabul by Western NGOs and NATO forces. At base, for Mr. Zakaria, if Muslims are not willing to go on a whoring, whiskey-soaked bender they cannot aspire to modernity, and until they are so willing: "We [the U.S. and the West] should mount a spirited defense of our views and values. We should pursue aggressively policies that will make these values succeed." In other words, onward you soldiers of secular imperialism, teach them heathen Muslims to hate their religion and become good Westerners.

Besides finding no value in the world view of Islamists or other Muslim faithful, Mr. Zakaria finds no fault in U.S. policy in the Muslim world. He leaves readers believing Islamists have no rational basis for attacking America. On this point, Mr. Zakaria unwittingly shows the foreign-policy continuity from Bush to Obama, which amounts to: Islamists and other Muslims attack us because they hate how Americans live and think, and not for what Washington does in the Muslim world. Here Mr. Zakaria is at his most obtuse and – with his praise for such "thinkers" (?) as Gerecht, Gerges, Kilcullen, etc. – at his most use to bin Laden and other Islamists as what the Cold War-era called a "useful idiot."

America’s vulnerability to Islamist militancy has steadily risen since 2001, because Republican and Democratic leaders and their academic and media acolytes have lied to Americans about their enemies’ motivation. We are at war not because of our secularism and gender equality, but because we try to force those values on Muslims at bayonet-point, while wholeheartedly supporting those who Muslims see as Islam’s worst enemies: Israel and such Arab tyrannies as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

It is commonsense to conclude we cannot learn to live with radical Islam until we understand it and see the stark decision at hand: either amend foreign policies to make them consonant with U.S. interests or face endless wars. Sadly, Mr. Zakaria’s advice brings Americans no closer to that understanding. It viciously denigrates the "world view" of Muslim believers and leaves America vulnerable to a foe sure of why he is fighting and confident that U.S. leaders have no clue why America is losing.

Author: Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.