A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004 :::
Basketball is not a sport that registers on the radar of A Mind That Suits, but that does not mean he has been unaware of the antics of one Bobby Knight. Indiana finally got rid of him, but only after three freshman stars quit in one season, meaning the man had been free to work his horrifying ways on youngsters who were either too scared to admit that they hated it all or who were calculating the pain was worth the NBA contract. He ended up at Texas Tech, reportedly a changed man, but an encounter with the school's chancellor at, yes, the local supermarket has been his temporary undoing: he was suspended today for five days.

The indispensable Wall Street Journal reported some time ago that sports abuses were coming under control primarily because college presidents have themselves become superstars who finally have enough clout with boards to make their policies stick. That the same presidents are superstars because of their ability to raise cash, and only because of their ability to raise cash, is itself a kind of rot in the system, but at least it may benefit some of the kids being exploited by the coaches. The Journal, again, pointed out that LeBron James, in eluding that most corrupt of US institutions, was probably guaranteeing himself a better education than if he had gone through the degree mills that most Div 1-A teams have become.

Apparently it was those wild kids Janet and Justin--well, ok, the wild kid Justin, and the wild used-to-be-a-kid Janet--who planned the half-time stunt. As friend Tom pointed out, Justin did not strip off her jacket, but a portion of it that easily tore off; it was, in other words, built to be ripped off. Janet and Justin are now saying a red frilly undergarment was supposed to stay up but didn't, which of course explains why she was wearing a pastie.

Or "sun-shaped nipple decoration." Either way, most women don't wear them unless they expect the red-frilly undergarment to come off as well.

A disturbing report in this morning's Journal on the behind the scenes doings of Bernard Lewis, the Western world's foremost expert on the history of Islam. He is a wonderful scholar, a wonderful writer, and a wonderful thinker.

When it comes to the past.

His books are really the main ones worth reading, particularly the two most recent, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror , and What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East . One simply cannot understand the culture of Islam without him.

It turns out that Prof. Lewis may have been playing a somewhat cagey game. In his books, he limns the reasons that Islamic Culture sank from the world's dominant culture to, in many ways, the most backward of the major cultures. And he always ends with rather open-ended questions about what "Islam" must decide.

He has always maintained, rightly, that the decision to let Saddam off the hook after raising the rhetorical level in the First Gulf War so high made the US look weak. This writer would have preferred that George H.W. had lowered the temperature a little, giving the US some wiggle room, but he did not. This writer also had always assumed that what Prof. Lewis was recommending was that we take out Saddam, giving us the standing to negotiate with Muslim leaders. That certainly made sense, and, believe it or not, if the current Bush Administration had more or less said, "we are going in to clean up the mess we left behind," Arabs would have understood it (if not accepted it), and so would have the American people, and no one would really know the name of David Kay.

It turns out Prof. Lewis had other ideas, ideas that he has only hinted at in his essays, which appear often enough in the indispensable Journal. Apparently, behind the scenes, he has been expounding a somewhat more far-reaching doctrine, a very dangerous doctrine, a very dangerous doctrine that has received a more than respectful hearing from members of this administration.

As this writer has made clear (after which, some of his readers have made clear they disagree with him), when people say that we are giving the Iraqi people an opportunity to "find within their own values" the means of supporting a democracy, his only thought is, "and what values would those be?" It would seem that, realistically, what we need to hope for is a strong man we can work with. A bunch of strong men we can work with, throughout the region.

Prof. Lewis has been pushing the idea of initiating democratic reform throughout the Muslim world, an idea which, on the surface, strikes this writer as insane, at least if undertaken--as we have undertaken it--precipitously and with little thought. This writer based that conclusion in part on the writings of Prof. Lewis, which he takes to be authoritative if not dispositive, although he has also read far afield and has considerable experience with Arab students.

It turns out that he is not wrong in assuming that Prof. Lewis shares his belief that democracy is just not suited to Islam.

But Prof. Lewis has a most remarkable solution: make the entire region into the image of Turkey.

Ah, Turkey, the land where the ruling classes were so desperate about losing their empire and their control of southeastern Europe that they essentially ordered the country to de-Islamicize. There can be no public displays of Muslim observance, in exchange for which the Turkish government is quite shameless about persecuting members of minority religions. It is true that the Turkish military is reliably pro-Western, but the Turkish people are not, nor have they been successfully de-Islamicized. Freed from government control when they migrate to more liberal Northern Europe, they immediately revert to very conservative Muslim behavior.

And, in my lifetime, the country itself has hardly been a model democracy. They sank into a bloody civil war in the 1970's and 1980's, and, despite the active intervention of the military, once the democracy was stabilized they eventually elected a religiously conservative prime minister. His party, it is true, drew something like 17 percent of the vote, but they were at the head of a coalition of hardly pro-Western smaller parties. The military threw the prime minister out, only to have the people return his party yet again to form a government, after which he again became prime minister despite the military's misgivings.

This is a model for world peace?

(For a corrective to Prof. Lewis's somewhat Pollyanna-ish view of Turkish democracy, please see Islam in the Modern World by the late, equally indispensable, Elie Kedourie--a Jew born and raised in Baghdad, when it was a heavily Jewish city.)

So Prof. Lewis's suggestion is, in essence, that we convince the ruling classes to de-Islamicize.

'T'ain't gonna happen.

And Prof. Lewis's publicity shyness should not prevent this radical idea from being discussed.

As it should have been before we went in.

Prof. Lewis, in his utopian dreams, joins Michael Ledeen, a scholar at AEI without whom one cannot understand the persistence of irrational ideas such as nationalism. But he also maintains, contradictorily, that we should just march to Teheran and Damascus with some army of whose existence he has heard, though he will not tell us where it is to come from.

Scholars: good for the past, terrible for policy.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 5:29 PM



Post a Comment


A Related Website on Christian Spirituality
The Fullness of Him
The Easiest Way to Keep Up With the News:
Best of the Web
Links to Web Friends
One Good Turn
A Dog's Life
Power Line
Rambles and By-ways

What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Powered by Blogger