The Terrible Slow Sword
Probably the most interesting angle on the Valerie Plame affair is from Syrian blogger Amaraji who manages to link it to world and Middle Eastern events. He characterizes the deteriorating situation in Syria as one example of emergent problems that have started and will fester because of what he calls the new American Civil War.
Syria, barring a miracle, has the potential of turning into an ethnic and sectarian quagmire that will make Iraq and Lebanon in the heyday of its civil war look like a stroll in the park .... While neocons and liberals ... argue ... there are parts of the world that are going to hell in a hand-basket, reflecting the new cold war climate created by this internal debate. It looks as if America is having a nice cold civil war by proxy over its own identity and future.
The ideological components of this war might be taking place in the halls of academia and the congress and through US and international media, but the physical aspect is taking place in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc. Each camp here is producing, wittingly and unwittingly, its own allies there, both ideological and tactical. And like in all proxy wars, these allies are quite capable of furthering their own particularistic agendas by stoking the debate here. ... this new American civil war ... has to come to an end. Otherwise the war on terror can never be won and Iraq will be followed by Syria, then Lebanon then Sudan, then Saudi Arabia, then… You get the point.
As a metaphor, the idea of international factions mirroring American political divisions is a vivid one. The feeling that internal political gridlock projects itself on foreign policy is not particular to America. Bhim, commenting on the latest (sad word that, "latest") terrorist blasts in crowded New Delhi markets on the eve of Diwali restates Amaraji's observation from an Indian point of view.
The Indian state needs to ensure the safety of every citizen ... On the contrary, what signals are we getting? Ceasefire with ... militants, unconditional talks ... There are reports of the Assam militants shifting base from Bhutan to Bangladesh and the ISI [Pakistani intelligence agency] running dozens of camps near the Indian border in Bangladeshi territory. What is India doing about it? ...
... [in Assam] Today some 6 districts are Muslim majority and another 5-6 are on a verge of becoming one ... during the partition, Jinnah demanded that Assam be a part of Pakistan. There has been mass migration of Bangladeshi Muslims in to Assam from the thirties. ... There has been a statement by one Bangladeshi Prime minister that Bangladesh is economically viable only of Assam is clubbed with it. We need to wake up to these realities if well crafted, intentional plan to change the demography of India and usurp her territory by the Islamists.
An unprecedented series of simultaneous bomb blasts in Bangladesh is a "clear indication of a growing Islamic fundamentalism in our country," according to a Bangladeshi church leader. ... "It's unbelievable that 63 of our 64 districts witnessed explosions without police and intelligence officials having a single clue," said Augustine Dipak Karmakar, general secretary of the Church of Bangladesh. ... "The secular space is shrinking in my country". "This is a matter of serious concern to Christians and others," he said, while noting that the minuscule Christian community in Bangladesh was "safer compared to the Hindus whose condition is miserable". ... Since Bangladesh's breakaway from Pakistan, the non-Muslim population has shrunk, especially Hindus who accounted for 30 per cent of the population prior to the independence of Bangladesh, but were less than 10 per cent by 2000.
The political "civil war" described by Amaraji is hardly unique to America. The same kind of hesitation over how to deal with terrorism afflicts nations in Europe, Asia and Africa -- almost anywhere in the globe. But while India and Bangladesh are regional and national powers the United States is a global power; that Scooter Libby's statements to a prosecutor should be the fulcrum around which US policy turns would seem comically disproportionate to foreign observers unless it were part of a deeper struggle within Washington.
Yet it is possible to regard 'paralysis' in the face of terrorism as sober deliberation instead of 'knee-jerk reaction'; and measured responses (or even nonresponses) as the correct strategy policy to follow. According to this point of view the 'New American Civil War' is a feature, not a bug. An article in American Prospect by Robert Boynton describes how Francis Fukuyama came to the conclusion that Islamic fundamentalism ought to be left alone to collapse within itself. What America needs to do, he argues, is to manage the collapse of a doomed Islamic civilization, as it did the Soviet Union's.
... Fukuyama’s group portrayed the conflict between democratic capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism as so lopsided that Huntington’s formulation overstated the strength of America’s foe. ... Fukuyama argued that while Islamic terrorists are dangerous, they don’t resemble anything close to the threat once posed by communism or fascism. ... The depths of Fukuyama’s apostasy from the Bush doctrine became clear when “The Neoconservative Moment” was published last summer. In it, he accused the movement of having lost its bearings, leading the country into an unnecessary war. ... "They are extremely dangerous totalitarians, but pose threats primarily to regimes in the Middle East."
The most divisive aspect of Fukuyama’s argument has been his claim that Islamic terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States. It is a theme that he says has been influenced by the French scholars Gilles Kepel (The War for Muslim Minds) and Olivier Roy (The Failure of Political Islam), who argue that political Islam has demonstrated itself to be a failure everywhere it has taken power, and that the Islamic terrorist movement had been largely a failure prior to 9-11. Those attacks, as well as the Iraq War, gave it a new lease on life.
Fukuyama's analysis, like Pat Buchanan's, may ironically be based on too narrow a world view, where the memories of Hitler, the Cold War and post war Liberalism loom large while the story of the Ottomans, the Islamic conquest of northern India, the Czarist expansion across Eurasia, and the Islamic missions across the Malay barrier are banished to history of exotic and irrelevant places. Yet it is precisely this forgotten world -- India and China to use one example -- that is coming to the forefront of the post-European era. To the new economic and demographic powers of the 21st century, it is the Partition not the McCarthy hearings for which 1947 should be principally remembered. From that point of view one could invert Fukuyama's dictum and say 'while communism or fascism are dangerous, they don’t resemble anything close to the threat posed militant Islam'.
It might even be possible to argue that what Amaraji calls the 'New American Civil War', instead of driving events in Syria and Lebanon, is itself being driven by the structural shifts of the new century. It would go a long way toward explaining why the political structures of the late 1990s have been so deranged by September 11. The United Nations, transAtlantic diplomacy, the doctrine of deterrence which underpinned Cold War strategy, the entire multicultural and globalizing agenda -- all of it -- has been called into question not by a small cabal of neo-conservatives -- that would be ludicrous -- but by the pent-up force of thousands of events in a world now striding to the center stage of history.