Monday, March 10, 2008

Provoking the Clash of Civilizations

Yesterday, I quoted the short history of U.S.-Palestinian relations from 2006 until today so pointedly written by Uri Avnery. It portrays Washington as provoking precisely the outcome it presumably least wanted: the empowerment and further radicalization of its most feared opponent (in the case of Palestine, Hamas).

This raises some very important questions for those concerned about U.S. national security and the possible emergence of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West:

1. Is this a pattern seen more broadly in relations between the West and Islam? (The rise of al Qua'ida in Iraq following the U.S. invasion, the strengthening of Ahmadinejad's circle in Iran, the exacerbation of militancy in North Waziristan, the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon as a result of Israel's 2006 invasion, and the war in Somalia come to mind as examples with considerable face validity.]
2. To the extent that it is indeed a pattern characterizing post-9/11 Western interaction with Moslem societies, is the West moving toward acknowledging it and learning how to overcome it, or are we fated to live with such a pattern for the foreseeable future?
3. Can the world "muddle through" in the face of continuation of such a pattern or is it likely, if it continues, to spread and intensify, provoking the emergence of an Islamic political fault line (which might be seen as a fault line between Islamic and Western societies and/or a fault line within Islamic societies)?
4. To the degree that such a fault line is emerging within Islamic societies, is it likely to push committed reformers into the arms of violence-prone extremists, making hopes of compromise with the West increasingly remote?

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