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Welcome to reality–Obama admin prepares for possibility of new Islamist Regimes in Middle East

Apparently the moon pony contingent is slowly fading from prominence in Washington DC and the administration is preparing for what now seems most probable  outcome in the Middle East – the new “post-revolt” regimes may be distinctly “Islamist”.   Note the word – not “Islamic”.  Most of them are that already.  The term used in the Scott Wilson Washington Post column is “Islamist”.  And Williams says:

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region’s politics.

However, apparently they want to diminish any concern by pretending that such an outcome isn’t really that significant:

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

"We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It’s the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam."

That speaks to a basic misunderstanding of the role of Islam “in the politics of these countries”.   Unlike Western countries, there is no “separation of church and state” in an Islamic country.   Islam is about politics, governing, the law, you name it.  It is as much a political system as it is a religion.  And that’s why assurances such as those the White House is putting forth here are just not accurate.   The “behavior of political parties and governments” are going to be fundamentally grounded in … Islam.

That takes us to the term “Islamist” which most have used to distinguish the broader religion of Islam to those who have hijacked it and made their version an aggressive theocratic and expansionist version of the religion.  Islamist included the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well as other murderous and anti-Western groups throughout the Middle East.

However, WaPo wants to assure you that it’s just not as bad as you think:

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

Unmentioned, of course, is Turkey’s new belligerence and aggressiveness toward Israel and its seeming turning away from the West and apparent desire to be a, if not the, power broker in the Middle East.  The “largely secular political system” in Turkey is much less so than it was a decade ago when that party took power and it is likely to be even less so as it retains it.

But, you say, what’s made the administration suddenly take off its rose colored glasses and begin assessing anew the probable outcome of these revolts? 

None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces. An influential Yemeni cleric called this week for the U.S.-backed administration of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced with Islamist rule, and in Egypt, an Islamist theoretician has a leading role in drafting constitutional changes after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power last month.

A number of other Islamist parties are deciding now how big a role to play in protests or post-revolution reforms.

David Warren made the point that no “Walesas or Havels” have emerged in these countries to steer the revolutions down the path of democracy.  And that’s true.  But the Islamist equivalents are emerging – and attempting to subvert the revolutions to their own ends.  And, as Warren points out, they have an advantage:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

They don’t have to do much selling of their vision, they have the institutions and traditions of Islam to turn too and it just isn’t a very big leap from “Islamic” to “Islamist”.  Democracy and freedom, on the other hand, have no such institutions, traditions or leaders to turn too.  So when figuring probability, it is clear which scenario enjoys the most probable outcome.

Having been forced to accept the obvious, don’t expect the administration to give up all its moon ponies.  There will still be plenty of rationalization which ignores the fundamental differences between what “secular” in the West means, and what it means to Islam.   You can expect to see “Islamism” and “Islamist” defined down:

Paul Pillar, a longtime CIA analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University, said, "Most of the people in the intelligence community would see things on this topic very similarly to the president – that is, political Islam as a very diverse series of ideologies, all of which use a similar vocabulary, but all quite different."

Yeah, “Death to Israel” doesn’t mean the same thing in Egypt that is does in Gaza.  And Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban don’t necessarily represent what an “Islamist” regime would look like, do they?   And don’t forget, as they continue to try to throw Turkey around as an example of “not so bad” – Turkey has been slowly changing from a true secular democracy to an Islamist state.  And the change has not been a good one for the interests of the US.

The White House has an internal study that it is studying and is still believing that there are good Islamists and bad Islamists:

The report draws sharp distinctions between the ambitions of the two groups, suggesting that the Brotherhood’s mix of Islam and nationalism make it a far different organization than al-Qaeda, which sees national boundaries as obstacles to restoring the Islamic caliphate.  

The study also concludes that the Brotherhood criticizes the United States largely for what it perceives as America’s hypocritical stance toward democracy – promoting it rhetorically but supporting leaders such as Mubarak.

"If our policy can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won’t be able to adapt to this change," the senior administration official said. "We’re also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."

Really?  Have you been watching the timidity with which this President has faced the change in the Middle East and N. Africa?  This sudden equivocation about “Islamists” is a statement of fear.  A firm stand against the Islamist movement taking over any of these countries vs. standing up for secular democratic movements in those lands is evidence of fear.  The equivocation about the word and the accommodation the administration seems ready to make with some “Islamists” says all that needs to be said. 

There’s a reason “Islam” and “Islamist” are defined in a particular way.  What the administration is trying to do is blur those lines substantially in order to make what was and has been unacceptable to the US suddenly acceptable (at least to the degree to which “Islamists” appear “secular” to these rocket-scientists). 

We have been at war with “Islamists” for a couple of decades.   Is this redefinition of “Islamist” the first sign of our capitulation?

~McQ

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43 Responses to Welcome to reality–Obama admin prepares for possibility of new Islamist Regimes in Middle East

  • We capitulated the second we elected Obama.

  • ShaaAAAAaaa-Zam…!!!
    How CAN this be…!?!?!
    (As an aside, did you get the State Dept. spokesidiot who equated the Frankfort jihadist killing with the Giffords shooting???).
    We are totally governed by idiots in the executive branch.

  • .   Is this redefinition of “Islamist” the first sign of our capitulation?
    No.  It is ANOTHER sign of Obama’s capitulation, which started BEFORE he took office and has continued with little abatement.

  • Wow, you really have no understanding of Islam do you?  I have a colleague who is an expert at Islamic politics (she has courses and has done work in the Islamic world), and we’ve also taught on the subject.   There is indeed separation of governance and religion — Ayatollah Sistani embraces that in Iraq.  Islam’s tenets stress individual freedom.  You seem to have taken very extreme views and somehow believe that the extremists define Islam.  You clearly don’t know about the diversity of positions and ideas within the religion.   Luckily it sounds like the Obama Administration has people who understand this, who actually have educated themselves on it, and are taking a mature view.
    Because, like it or not, change is coming.  You may prefer sociopaths like Gaddafi or corrupt to Islamist governments, but it’s based on ignorant and even bigoted views of Islam.  The youth are going to force change.  We can’t and shouldn’t try to stop it.  We can treat Muslims with respect as they overcome tyranny and enter the modern world, or we can cower in fear and use rhetoric that isn’t too far from how Goebbels talked about Jews.  You can do the latter, hopefully those with actually responsibility will understand that demonization of a great world religion is only the stuff of bigots.

    • A mother lode of bullshit.  No need to pick through it for undigested kernels of grain.  Bullshit is just bullshit.

      • Party line is party line. Talking points are talking points. However, reality may not be real to some. The redefinition initiative obviously has its first convert.

      • The CIA is full of guys like Erb.  That is why US intel is so screwed.  Self deluding idiots

    • If demonization of a world religion is only the stuff of bigots then most of your colleagues and nearly every academic on the left in the last thirty years are a bunch of bigots with their inordinate fear and loathing of Christianity.

      • But note: NOBODY demonized Islam.  Not McQ.
        Certainly not me.  I get grief sometimes for defending Muslim clients and friends.
        I DO make the RATIONAL acknowledgment that Islamists are trying to destroy my culture, and that has nothing to do with me being Islamophobic.

    • Islam’s tenets stress individual freedom.

      Where in the five pillars of Islam is the emphasis on individual freedom.  Because I see a lot of obligations and rules.

      You seem to have taken very extreme views and somehow believe that the extremists define Islam.

      How many hundreds of millions of women are forced to wear a burka or hijab and prohibited from exercising basic freedoms that women in other countries take for granted?  In how many places are homosexuals, apostates, and others persecuted with violence and murder?
      I know it’s not everywhere, but it is common enough that it’s irrational to use the term “extremist”, which suggests only a tiny percentage.

      You may prefer sociopaths like Gaddafi or corrupt to Islamist governments…

      Ah, there’s the expected BIG LIE.  If you’re worried about the bad guys taking or keeping power, then you want the bad guys to take or keep power.
      And, as is often the case when you toss about another BIG LIE, you ironically mention your archetype:

      …isn’t too far from how Goebbels talked about Jews.

      Double points for accusing people who are concerned that Islamists will take power are the ones who engage in a sort of “blood libel”.

      • He always shakes one of those voodoo dolls when he knows he’s ground glass. If it’s on the less intense side, he shakes the talk radio voodoo doll (meaning Limbaugh, essentially); at medium intensity it’s the Joe McCarthy voodoo doll; at high intensity, when he has nothing left at all, he goes for the full Goebbels voodoo doll.

        But the Goebbels tip-off aside, that spew up there is psychotic, especially with the attempt to blend the flower power youth movement for democracy and change with the baton-wielding Sharia of the Islamists. He has gone nuts.

    • Using Ayatollah Sistani as a model doesn’t really whole well for the Middle East as a whole.  Iraq, even under Saddam Hussein, was one of the th most secular countries, save Turkey, in the region.

    • That’s just psychotic.

      He doesn’t even catch the distinction between Islamic and Islamist. But that’s the least of it.

    • “Islam’s tenets stress individual freedom”
       
      No, dickweed, they do not – if they did, you wouldn’t have sharia law making it okay for your to honor kill your daughter, you wouldn’t have laws forcing your females to dress a certain way, be unable to speak or interact with males not of their family, whip women to death for adultery, or suggest it’s okay to kill people who do not worship Allah via the teaching of the Koran or promise heaven for martyring yourself in killing ‘infidels’.
       
      Every one of those things implies that you’re restricting ELSE’s freedom to act, dress, or worship in their own way, making it antithetical to ‘individual’ freedom.
       
      Your ‘expert’ (probably you) is full of it – the word ‘Freedom’ doesn’t mean the same thing in Islam as it does in western thought.  Other ‘experts’ have claimed it means the freedom to be a good Muslim.
       
      That’s okay though, you go on with your childish fantasies, even the government (hence this post) has started to admit that YOUR kind of thinking, which was formerly their kind of thinking, is incorrect.
       
       
       
       

      • Well, when I think of the big two Islamic theocratic states…Iran and Saudi Arabia…”freedom” is not what springs to mind.  (I don’t include the Taliban at present.)  When you have formations of “morality police”, that seems like kind of a dead give-away.
        As I noted on another thread, there is a clear school of Islamic thought that says that democracy is an affront.

        • If Erb were the barrista at Star Bucks, or the guy who stocked the dairy freezer at Kroger I wouldn’t care that he had these distorted wild ass idiotic views of the world, but if this kind of distortion of reality and western culture is not a mild aberration in academia then he and those like him are only a half dozen aisles down in the dangerous department from some Imam at a madrassa that preaches Islamic supremacy and the necessity of restoring the Caliphate.
           
          I’ve known night watchmen who’d try and fob off pamphlets warning of the dangers of the Illuminati who sounded more realistic than he does at times.   I suppose the good news is, when he spouts off like this to the kids in his classes, as he no doubt does, fueled by the same need there that he demonstrates here, at least SOME of his students must realize how full of rubbish he is when his moon pony predictions fall flat on their keesters.

          • I always like it when he has a friend who is an “expert” and “teaches” this stuff. Yeah, at Moose U. Nuff said.

          • Rather reminds me of the apocryphal ‘they’ in the statement that starts out
            ‘they say’, or an equally reliably source, such as ‘my second cousin’s uncle’s sister’s wife’.

          • Watch documentary programs on one of the Science channels and count the number of times the narrator says, “Scientists say…..”
            I always think, “Which scientists?”

          • Makes you wonder when Erb relies on a friend who is also an “expert”.  When he needs legal assistance does he call on Dewey, Cheatham and Howe?

    • “Islam’s tenets stress individual freedom.”

      Of course. That is why the very definition of Islam is ‘submission”. And those who excercise their individual freedom are punished. Perhaps your so-called ‘expert’ can tell us the relevant passage(s) is the Koran where free will and individual freedom are extolled over sumission and obedience. 

      Evidently Mohammed is being replaced by Orwell.

      • And, speaking of individual freedom, I’ll bet you also believe “Arbeit macht frei”.

      • You dense rightie grunt engineer types get sooo hung up on “definitions” don’t you. {giggle} If you understood post-modernism, you would be able, like me, to dismiss actual word definitions with a wave of your hand if that becomes necessary to win the argument.

        Post-modernism, baby. All the best people in the faculty lounge know it. It lets us just demolish you silly righties in debate, all the time, like I do here, and Paul Krugman does in the New York Times twice a week. LOL

        {eyes rolling} Don’t you get that, with post-modernism, one leftist expert is able to overturn any amount of history, semantics, logic, or other enlightenminty stuff? It’s our godlike powers, of course.

        The fact that it all lets me have fun irritating the living h^ll out of you guys is just a bonus. Which is not either a sign of psychological disturbance on my part. Stop saying that. LOL {giggle} Oh, look, another caterpillar is squeezing itself in the door frame….

  • I caught a report that George Soros is predicting that Iran will fall … really hard and bloody.
    Readjust your stock portfolio accordingly.

    • That’s BS spin to make it look like Dinnerjacket and his bosses are they type of dictator going out in most of these overthrows covering the fact that he’s the likely type of dictator dictator coming in.

  • McQUnlike Western countries, there is no “separation of church and state” in an Islamic country.   Islam is about politics, governing, the law, you name it.  It is as much a political system as it is a religion.

    The same might be said of Judaism or Christianity, yet many nominally Christian countries as well as Israel manage to have populations that are (more or less) “devout” without having theocracies.  I recall my brother telling me about Bosnian Muslims he encountered as a peacekeeper: they were not notably different in their basic attitudes than the average American Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, or Jew in that they were religious in the personal lives but not so much in their public lives.  Obviously, Islamists want something very different, and I fear that they predominate in the Middle East these days.  We can hope, however, that in more modern countries like Iraq, Egypt and even Iran (when the mullahs are finally toppled) the people will learn to make Islam their religion but not their STATE religion.

    The report draws sharp distinctions between the ambitions of the two groups, suggesting that the Brotherhood’s mix of Islam and nationalism make it a far different organization than al-Qaeda, which sees national boundaries as obstacles to restoring the Islamic caliphate.

    This sounds to me like more wishful thinking: “Oh, they aren’t exactly like AQ, so they aren’t bad.” What it overlooks is that religious zealotry combined with nationalistic fervor can be a damned dangerous combination.  I’m guessing that Uncle Sugar knows little or nothing concrete about the MB other than what Leon Panetta sees on CNN, so they are basically hoping for the best.

    • Actually the same can’t be said about the other two – in Christianity, for instance, even Jesus separates state and religion with his “render unto Caesar” comment. What “Christians” decided to do after the fact was a corruption of Christianity. The discussion of Islam v. Islamist is much the same. However, with Islam, there is indeed much more of a doctrinal mixing of politics and religion than in the other two.

      And before whack-a-do hijacks the comments, remember, this is about the rise of “ISLAMIST” regimes, not just Islam. Islam is already a large factor in all of these places. The fact is Iraq was Islamic, not Islamist, under Saddam is because Saddam was more ruthless than the Islamists.

      • Saddam was more ruthless than the Islamists
        That is the key.  Most of those holy-in-private,secular-in-public types aren’t really that ruthless.  It’s the folks who are “holy” or secular, both in public and private, who spent fulltime making sure that their desires are met.  The remainder are merely hobbyists.

      • Going back to the Shinto cult prior to and during WWII is instructive.
        The religious practice of Shinto was unobjectionable IN ISOLATION.
        When it was made into a political/cultural/military expansionist amalgam, it became something dangerous and far outside a mere religion.

      • “with Islam, there is indeed much more of a doctrinal mixing of politics and religion”

        It’s a mixing that is absolute. To call it “theocratic” underplays its totality. To call it “totalitarian” suggests too much modernity. The “modern” Islamic states, where powerful political leaders like Mubarek, Saddam and Gaddaffi put political (regime) preferences above Islamic preferences, required varying degrees of force to suppress the theocratic impulse that is always there. The roots of the deadly Iran-Iraq war were in the conflict betwen the fundamentalist Islamic revolution in Iran and Saddam’s Ba’athist ideology, which was a variant of German national socialism cooked up by Arab intellectuals living in France (with an admiring glance at Stalin thrown in). Saddam started that war because he was afraid that the Shia inside Iraq (70% of the population) would be radicalized and the Iranian revolution would essentially overrun and depose him. So he struck first.

        The Palestinian political movement, backed by the Soviets, started out as a typical popular front enterprise, but has now morphed into a fundamentalist operation co-mingling Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas) and Iranian varieties (Hezbollah). That’s been the trend.

      • McQActually the same can’t be said about the other two – in Christianity, for instance, even Jesus separates state and religion with his “render unto Caesar” comment. What “Christians” decided to do after the fact was a corruption of Christianity.

        While I agree with you that that a Christian theocracy is counter to the Gospel (Christ being concerned with getting His flock ready for their REAL home in Heaven rather than their temporary quarters on earth), it’s something of a distinction without a difference: it hasn’t stopped fallible humans from trying to make Christianity (and its Judaic roots) into a political system, or using a political system to enforce Christianity.  A notable example is the Puritan colony at Massachusetts Bay, which used the power of the state to persecute “heretics” (witches, Quakers, etc.) with a zeal that would not be unfamiliar to the average mullah.  The Puritans eventually learned that mixing their religion with their government did NOBODY any good.

        I believe that the vast majority of Muslims in America and other western countries understand this idea, too, and that “islamists” are a distinct (though determined and bloody-minded) minority outside of some countries in the ME.  I hope so, anyway.

        • That doesn’t make it “Christianity”, that makes it, for lack of a better word, “Christianist”. I.e. a corruption of the religion like “Islamist” is to Islam or so it is claimed. The point I’m trying to make is the basic theology of Christianity (Jesus’s words lay it out) don’t mix government and religion. A corruption of it did, centuries ago.

          OTOH, the basic theology of Islam does mix both. The corruption just takes it a lot farther.

        • The Puritan colony analogy is a false one, doc, IMNHO.
          This was a closed group of people who ascribed to the same belief system.  They disciplined their own, just as many religions have always done and do today.  Now, disfellowship or excommunication are the norm.  The norm 300+ years ago was harsher, but the witch thing is largely myth (tho not all myth).
          Hence, I think the idea they were a “state” as we use that term is weak.
          At the time, pretty much all Christian sects…but especially those like the Puritans…both were victims and persecutors of other sects.  Again, it was the norm.

          • Ragspierre – [The Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony] was a closed group of people who ascribed to the same belief system.  They disciplined their own, just as many religions have always done and do today. 

            I suggest that this is also how the Muslims in many countries view the matter: they are (or wish to be) a uniform group, closed to all but the most neccessary “outsiders” to avoid contamination / heresy (i.e. challenge to the ruling orthodoxy).  The islamists, of course, are more aggressive: they want to bring EVERYBODY into their group, by force if neccessary, and kill anybody who won’t come along quietly.

            RagspierreHence, I think the idea they were a “state” as we use that term is weak.

            Aside from their official status as a colony of Great Britain, I would say that they were indeed a “state”: they had a constituted government with the rule of law.  They collected taxes, passed and enforced civil and criminal laws, punished crimes, maintained a military, made war on the Indians, etc.  Sounds like a state to me.

            But this is beside the main point: while Islam (and especially “radical” Islam) is antiethical to democracy, there have been other cases in history where organized religion was also antiethical to democracy and liberty.  While I am no pollyanna who expects democracy to bloom across the Middle East tomorrow, I do think that Muslims, like people everywhere, have within them the desire for self-government and liberty.  Else, we wouldn’t see the revolutions against the mullahs in Iran, and nobody in A-stan would lift a finger against the Taliban.  Nobody likes being ordered about and persecuted by thugs, no matter how “holy” the thugs claim to be.

          • As to you last point, we forget too quickly that there have been pluralistic states that were dominated by Islam, and there still are.
            The trend, however, is decidedly in the wrong direction.  This is why Erp’s blather is so baseless.

  • On the Hildabeast’s slobbering love of al-Jazira (which mirrors a certain Collectivist poster here)–

    Does she have any idea what goes on in the discussion shows, where a radical faces off against a moderate, the host sides with the radical, all the telephone callers side with the radical, and some make death threats against the moderate? When al-Jazira began it was staffed by radical Arab nationalists. At a certain point several years ago, as Qatar moved closer to Tehran, they were almost all replaced by Islamists.
    In the “good old days” must of the American intellectual and sometimes governmental establishment sided with the Arab nationalists–including Yasir Arafat–against Israel. I at least could understand that. But now we see many of these people siding with revolutionary Islamists against both Israel and the Arab nationalists!

    But no need to worry.  There are young people using Facebook.  So…unicorns.

  • One more time, from the greatest Western scholar of the Islamic world, Bernard Lewis: For Islam the solution to the problems of Islam is always more Islam.

    • Ironically, that’s a variation on the progressive theme for dealings in this country,  The progressives solution for the problems of government is always more government.
       
       

      • Which possibly explains the good feelings that the left has for Islam.

        Come to think of it, the left also probably likes the submission part of Islam, as opposed to Christianity’s promotion of individual decision making.

  • And there’s nothing in the tea leaves of these “revolutions,” so far, that suggest anything more than factional conflict over who will run the next dictatorship. Islamist governments will be more repressive culturally, more hostile to the West, more hostile to Israel.
    People of good will hope for the best, but there is good reason to expect something worse than what is being replaced, with the possible exception of Tunisia.

    • Oh no, somehow we’re evil and we want tyranny to triumph in detailing our expectations that ‘less democratic’ governments will probably rise in the place of the current ‘less democratic’ regimes.
       
      As if our wishing would influence it one way or another.
       
      I view it as being prepared to get the water bucket ready if the camp site next to mine gets a little carried away with their cooking fire.