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RubinReports | By Barry Rubin

“I had always thought wishful thinking a motive frequently underrated in political analysis and prediction.” — WALTER LAQUEUR

In Egypt, moderate Arabs don’t understand why Obama is pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Here an opponent of Muhammad Morsi holds up a picture of Barack Obama and the American flag saying ‘no’ to Obama but ‘yes’ to America, during a rally outside the presidential palace in Cairo on July 7 2013.

 

If you have never understood U.S. Middle East policy here it is: The (wrong) response to September 11. What do I mean? Simple.

There are two ways to respond to September 11:

A. There is a struggle on with revolutionary Islamists which is a huge battle that is parallel to the Cold War or the Allied-Axis conflict. America must organize a united front to fight this battle against the Islamists:

Sunnis or Shia; Turkish, Iranian, or Arab; the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist, and al-Qaida. Hamas, Hizballah. And the Taliban.

B. Or, what appears easier, having a lot more allies and fewer enemies (I said seems) only to focus on al-Qaida. That’s the problem! After all, who else attacked the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and Kenya? Etc.? And anyway, the conflict is probably America’s fault or a lack of communication.

That’s it. Honest. And guess what? The Washington insiders, “experts” (anything but), officials, lots of intelligence (people and also John Brennan, the head of the CIA), a lot of military officers, and lots of sectors of the Republican party (especially Senator John McCain) believe this.

It is not healthy in Washington for one’s career not to believe it.

But after all, it is understandable (albeit also inaccurate and stupid).

Look at this point:

Who do you believe is an enemy who wants to fight and hurt America and the West?

A. The Syrian and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods, the Salafists, al-Qaida. Hamas, Hizballah, the Taliban, Iran, and Turkey.

B. Just al-Qaida?

See what I mean?

Think some more:

Suppose we could get all these non-al-Qaida Islamists as allies?

Suppose we could get all these non-al-Qaida Islamists to repress al-Qaida and so stop terrorist attacks?

Wouldn’t that be an easier task? One that would theoretically involve costing fewer American lives, less money, and be more popular with voters?

Of course.

And finally, of course, that’s what the president and mass media believe.

The problem is, though, that gets the Islamist ideology wrong. Al-Qaida and the other revolutionary Islamist have different tactics but not different goals. Learning that lesson will take years and be very painful. The wrong ideas are deeply embedded in large parts of the arrogant, ignorant, and financially interested establishment.

You should understand that: It is not acceptable in official Washington or its peripheral sectors to say that the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt, Syria, Hamas) is a terrorist group.

It is not acceptable in official Washington or its peripheral sectors to say that the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt, Syria, Hamas) is an anti-American group.

BUT IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO CLAIM THAT THE REPUBLICANS ARE TERRORISTS, HOSTAGE-TAKERS, AND ANTI-AMERICANS. STRANGE, HUH?

Well, consider this from my mentor Walter Laqueur who is now in his 92nd year and still writing brilliantly:

“Another factor frequently overlooked is the reluctance to admit mistakes which also seems hardwired to the human brain. Perhaps most important of all is the crucial factor of moving with the right crowd. As Jean Daniel put it: Better to be wrong with Sartre than right with Raymond Aron (originally it was Camus). Sartre might have been consistently wrong in his political judgment and Aron almost always right. But did it really matter very much? Aron and Isaiah Berlin might have been right but during the cold war they were pro-American and this was not good at all — even if their American connections were mainly with liberals. This is how reputations quite often develop and how they endure. It is an interesting issue certainly in need of further investigation.”

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, “Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. His latest book is “Israel: An Introduction,” also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including “The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict,” “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” and “The Truth About Syria.” His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.


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Quotes and Sayings

About the Region, Islam and cultural totalitarianism...

    (Unlike Muslims), the other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defence… They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. This is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority for about four hundred years. Their only concern was to establish their religion.

    — Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, Translated by Franz Rosenthal, pp.183-184, Princeton University Press, 1981

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