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Washington's Un-winnable War
April 2007
The Bush administration’s so called “War on Terrorism” is un-winnable. By focusing on freedom deficit, and democratization Washington’s diagnosis and cure to the problem is as effective as voodoo medicine in the treatment of cancer. The causes of Jihadism (fight in defense of Islam) are many and inter-connected, including: Islamist extremism, tyrannical Arab rulers, U.S. support of Arab rulers, Israel’s humiliation of the Arab peoples, and now the occupation of Iraq. Political frustrations have been translated into Jihadism and the Jihadists into walking bombs. To pretend that the causes are unconnected is to breed more Jihadists.
        To end terrorism, all of its causes must be eliminated. Arab rulers should secularize as well as democratize, or at least become benevolent dictators; the U.S. should help de-politicize the Bible and the Quran in the Arab-Israeli conflict and, undo the regional consequences of its tragic misadventure in Iraq. Are these actions attainable?

The unlikely development of Arab religious reforms
To secularize is to separate Islam from the Arab state and manumit the Muslim mind from the grip of the Ulama (Muslim clerics). To secularize, a towering charismatic leader, a combination of a Martin Luther and a Kemal Ataturk must emerge. The Arab masses, ulama, and  rulers, however, would turn Islam into a shield against the emergence of such a leader.
        The Arab masses are inseparable from Islam. The Prophet, His Companions, the Quran, and the holy sanctuaries in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem are all Arabic. Also, the founders of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, which survive today were all Arabs (though, Abu Hanifa was the grandson of a Persian slave). The Arab peoples are proud in the belief that God described them in Verse 3:110 as: “The best of peoples evolved for mankind.” The Arab peoples feel that Islam is an Arabic religion and that they are the defenders of the "true" Islam. A BBC survey of 68 countries in 2006 found Egyptians as having the strongest religious identity.
        To the ulama, maintaining Sharia (Islamic law) rigidity maintains their jobs and privileges. To the rulers, Islam helps prolong their tyranny. Pandering ulama preach “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you” (Quran 4:59). They also quote the Prophet: “Hear and obey the emir, even if your back is whipped and your property is taken; hear and obey.” The ulama teach that obedience to their benefactors is a form of piety. Occupation, injustice, and humiliation have been driving moderate Arabs into orthodoxy and the orthodox into Jihadism, thus making the task of the indoctrinating ulama easier. Before religious reform might start the frustrations must be eliminated first.

The mirage of Arab democracy
How likely is it that true democratic reforms might evolve in Arab countries? The answer is “unlikely.” The Arab masses: poor, illiterate, superstitious, and under the spell of the ulama are politically quietist. The minority of Islamists among them are theocratic dictators. The minority of intellectuals has little popular support. Arab rulers fear that true democratic reforms would end their rule at the first free election. The generals substitute one dictator for another. Also, Washington’s traditional fear of Islamist regimes kept Arab democracy at bay. The American devastation of Iraq in the name of democracy has repelled the masses from this lofty ideal.
        Instead of chasing a mirage, Washington would do better to support benevolent dictatorships and fight Islamist radicalism.

The fantasy to de-politicize the Bible and the Quran
Politicizing Genesis 15:18 politicized the Quran. Genesis 15:18: “The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" radicalized despairing Arabs. Defeated, humiliated, and powerless, many Arabs took refuge in Islam, fueling a Jihad war that could possibly last for a thousand years.
        A purely Jewish state is impossible to attain. The Palestinian Israelis (1.3 millions) are a quarter of Israel’s Jews (5.2 millions). Unless the Palestinian-Israelis vanish, demographic realities will eventually make them the majority. If the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are taken into account, the Palestinians are already a majority.
Western democratic and secular ideals ought to inspire a single, democratic, and secular state for Palestinians and Jews instead of the two-state solution. Having lived together peaceably for 1300 years, Arabs and Jews can live together in peace again. Islam venerates Judaism. Arabs believe they share a common ancestry with the Jewish people. The Quran praises Abraham as the first Muslim and describes Islam as the Religion of Abraham. The Quranic Chapter 14 is named after Abraham and the Quranic Chapter 12 is named after Joseph.
         A single-state eliminates the obstacles that have bedeviled the two-state solution since the 1993 Oslo Agreement: Jerusalem, borders, security, water, settlements, and the refugees’ right-of-return. Most importantly, the Arab masses shunned Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) but would embrace a single state.     
         Whether it would be a good bargain to exchange a partial and declining Jewish exclusivity in an unstable two-state solution for a durable single state embracing Jews and Muslims is a question Israel alone can answer. The likelihood of de-politicizing the Bible and the Quran, however, is not encouraging. Confident in a superior military might and unlimited U.S. support, Zionist politics is not likely to give up the Bible.

The impossibility of closing Pandora’s box in Iraq
Iraq will be remembered as Mr. George W. Bush’s gift to Shiite Iran: a watershed since Saladin ended the rule of the  Shiite Fatimids in Cairo in 1171, a triumph for the Khomeini revolution and for Shiism. The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, concluded in 2006 that Iran is the most influential ‘external’ power in Iraq today. Without firing a shot Iran won the war for Iraq.
        Iran’s goal to control southern Iraq is age-old. Southern Iraq houses the holiest of the Shiite holy shrines, plus ninety billion barrels of crude oil. Shiites in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s oil rich Eastern Province, and Yemen would seek Iran’s help to end Sunni subjugation. Egyptian President Mubarak charged in 2006 that Arab Shiites were more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. Sectarian conflicts threaten to destabilize the region, breeding hoards of Jihadists; until the Sunni majorities either accept the march of Shiism or stop it.
        There can be as many scenarios for Iraq’s future as a fertile imagination conjures. Irrespective of whether U.S. forces stay in Iraq or depart, however, Iran’s hegemony over the oil rich eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula has become unstoppable. Staying means that the U.S. will be challenged by a nationalist/religious liberation movement and a Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict. Staying is expensive, especially when the result is to enhance the power of anti-American ayatollahs and Iraqi politicians linked to Tehran. Departure means leaving southern Iraq to Iran and a nasty regional Shiite-Sunni conflict.
        In its frustration, the U.S. might attack Iran; a move that would make the Iraq disaster by comparison look like a child’s play. Al-Qaeda must be praying fervently for such a catastrophe to happen!
      The Bush administration's misadventure in Iraq necessitates that Washington and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) recognize Iran's rapid ascension towards becoming the new hegemon over the politics of the world's richest oil region.  For more on Iran's growing power, see my article: "The March of Shiism."

A crystal ball view
Over the past five decades, the Democratic Party has been as responsible for the problems that engulf U.S. relations in the Middle East today as the Republican Party. It is naive to think that the parochial designs of those self-interest groups and lobbyists that crowd the Washington landscape and produced those policies would change much any time soon. It is doubtful that the lessons from the past decades have awakened Washington to the realities of Islam and the Arab peoples. In the November 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential and congressional elections the Bush administration was punished for its mismanagement of the American economy and for America’s losses in Iraq. The Bush administration was not punished for pulverizing Iraq, or for its defense of Israel’s occupation and humiliation of Arabs, or for supporting Arab tyrannical rulers. Unless the American electorates demand changes in these areas, Islamist orthodoxy and Jihadism will continue to proliferate, with all the consequent cycles of attacks and counter attacks.
        What is the likelihood of defeating terrorism? In the short term, as long as the confrontation involves the Bible and the Quran, the likelihood for defeating terrorism would be slim. In the long term, however, if the leaders, Americans, Arabs, and Israelis, eliminate the causes that stand behind terrorism, there might be hope. Otherwise, the confrontation threatens to engulf the masses, East and West, in a war between Christianity and Islam: a “clash of civilizations.