Sunday, February 28, 2010

When A Train of Thought Goes Off The Rails

There is an op-ed in today's NYT by Efram Karsh that does a great job of showing how disunited the Islamic world is.  Not that this is really news, especially when the piece focuses on Iran vs the rest, but not a bad reminder of that dynamic.  Or that Islam's original prohibition against nationalism was tossed away long ago when more narrow appeals became convenient. 
 In this history of a single body of water, one sees a perfect example of the so-called Islamic Paradox that dates from the seventh century. For although the Prophet Muhammad took great pains to underscore the equality of all believers regardless of ethnicity, categorically forbidding any fighting among the believers, his precepts have been constantly and blatantly violated.
Still, this reminder is useful, especially after the Iraq invasion did so much to unite temporary many folks with differences of interest, opinion and identity.

The op-ed then goes off the rails when it suggests that using force against Iran is, thus, not so problematic.  Um, sure.  Not too many folks were big fans of Iraq and Saddam Hussein yet that invasion did much to solidify much of the Islamic world against the US.  Moreover, the critics of using force against Iran are not so focused on upsetting the Islamic world or not but the efficacy of the effort.  It is hardly clear that any military campaign, not to mention one while the US is already committed to two, yes, TWO, other wars in the region, against Iran will succeed in any way.  That is, using force is unlikely to remove Iran's nuclear weapons project, it is unlikely compel via coercive bargaining Iran to give it up, and it is unlikely to produce any positive side effects at all.  Even if other parts of the Islamic world would not mind.

While it is dangerous enough for political scientists to speculate about the future, it makes even less sense to pay attention to historians of religion about military options today. 

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