By Emad El-Din Aysha, PhD
I read an offensive article the other day that is worth contemplating, for our own peace of mind and the physical security of our lands. A former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden gave a TV interview at one time where he revealed one good thing about George W. Bush: “Even in the Bush administration, I was actually rereading some of my speeches from, from my time at CIA, and it just jumps off the page at me where I say, ‘Now, keep in mind we are not at war with Islam.’ And so we went out of our way to make sure that was very clear. And it’s true. And we still weren’t.”
Then Hayden said: “But I think it’s overachieving when we pretend that this isn’t radical Islam, and this isn’t emanating from one of the world’s great monotheisms. Look, you talked about ISIS and what’s going on in Iraq and Syria and spilling over to Lebanon and so on, there are three contests underway there. Three wars in their own right, alright?… Now what’s common across all three of those conflicts? Islam. And so if we pretend this isn’t about Islam, I think we lose sight of, what’s the right word here, core causes? And when we then focus on that terrorist or this terrorist, look, we’ve got to handle the terrorists who are already convinced they want to come kill us. But we’ve also got to begin to think about the production rate of terrorists in one, three, or five years, who are going to want to come kill us. … And we can’t deal with that problem unless we have a genuine understanding of what’s causing it. And we can’t afford to confuse ourselves by refusing to label things as they are.”
Leaving cultural determinism aside, Hayden seems to have forgotten his own words at the beginning of the interview, when he correctly observed that: “I don’t mean to be overly discouraging, but this might be a generation or so before that area really settles down again, because we’ve got fundamental tectonic plates moving in the region. I think Iraq as we’ve known it is gone. Syria as we’ve known it is gone, and probably Lebanon as well”.
You can recognise this thinking a mile away; if you have a background in International Relations (IR) theory, that is. This is good old geopolitics from Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman onwards. They were very commendable thinkers and, to their credit, they didn’t understand things in cultural but geographical terms. The Middle East and much of the Muslim world is locked in what’s known as the arch of instability, because Arabs and Muslims are squeezed in between major geographical concentrations of power – Eurasia, East Asia and Oceana, a la Orwell. Or the West, Russia, India, China and whoever happens to be in charge of Africa at the time. Consequently, the borders and internal politics of this meeting point of an area is always fluid and conflict-ridden, as the major powers of the old (and new) world draw on the people and resources of such a region as they fight it out amongst themselves.
Or, as former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski once succulently put it: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” This was in an answer to a question from Le Nouvel Observateu in 1998: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski, to his credit, had also revealed that the American were funnelling in aid to the Islamists in Afghanistan, ‘before’ the Soviet invasion. In his own words: “… it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”
The point, the reason that we’re going to have conflict for the next generation or so in the Middle East, with Iraq, Syria and Lebanon falling apart – remember Dr. Joseph Kéchichian predictions – and three Islam-ridden conflicts is because of the very same geopolitical vision of the world that Mr. Hayden is pitching. Note also Hayden’s comment that: “What’s going to happen is that turmoil is going to boil over and it’s going to show up in Paris, or it’s going to show up in Brussels. Or it’s going to show up in Denmark and frankly, sooner or later, it’s going to show up in North America.”
In other words, a pretext for another bout of American intervention in the region and so even more conflicts and states falling and terrorism and Islamic radicalism. And his insistence on talking about ‘radicalism’ instead of fundamentalism or extremism, which is more political than religious sounding, is meant to tar the Muslims with the Communist brush as some ideology-class driven movement. A Cold War all over again.
Samuel Huntington, to his considerable credit, actually warned the West against getting themselves bogged down in a war in the Middle East, at the centre of the Muslim world, or else an inter-civilisation war would erupt. He used the Soviets in Afghanistan as a model and congratulated Bush Sr. for not heading to Baghdad and pulling out of Iraq as soon as the Gulf War was over. Huntington wanted an inter-civilisation world order and balance of power to maintain the peace and he wasn’t very keen on Israel either, and got harangued for it.
At the same time we don’t want to sink into geographical determinism and forget culture altogether. We have our fair share of the blame, but I’d still place the lion’s share on Bush Jr. and his misguided adventures, not to forget his misguided advisors. And we need to read up on a little geopolitics ourselves so we can at least know when we’re being toyed around with by other major powers – like Turkey and Russia and France. I’d advise 1984, not only because of the three-way division of the world in Orwell’s novel but also because of his leftist self-critique of the West through the instrument of ‘Ingsoc’ (newspeak for English Socialism), an obvious pun on National Socialism, or neo-conservative ‘radicalism’ in today’s terminology!