I almost forgot how the pundit right smacked down Glenn Beck over his wholly rational concern that out of Tahrir Square a new caliphate might arise in the Islamic world until I read William Kristol's op-ed this week.
Earlier this month, Weekly Standard editor and Fox analyst Kristol had led off the anti-Beck attack with a heated column accusing Beck of "hysteria" for his "rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East" and Islamic connections to the American left. Kristol was seconded by National Review editor Rich Lowry. The New York Times' David Brooks entered the debate lambasting Beck for his "delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back" while "the conservative establishment" saw Mubarak's fall as "a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan's democracy dream." (Count me out.)
For the next week or so, taunting "delusional" Beck became a regular feature on cable TV. The pundit left congratulated the responsible right for "addressing" the Beck "problem." And maybe a solution was near. "I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand," Time's Joe Klein blogged. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon."
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Somehow it all slipped my mind.
And then I read Kristol's Wednesday lament in the Washington Post over what he sees as President Obama's dithering over what he also sees as "Arab spring." This is a jarringly dainty euphemism for a blur of regional events that now includes: the triumphal return to Egypt of the poisonous Yusef al Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's favorite cleric who just drew 2 million Egyptians back to Tahrir Square where he prayed for the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem; panicky EU promises of billions of dollars in aid (protection money?) to its "southern neighborhood"; emergency preparations for as many as 300,000 Islamic "migrants" washing up on just Italy's shores any day. By the way, one disastrous effect of mass Islamic immigration (hijra) to Europe to date may be gleaned from the current political climate in which a new edition of Jean Raspail's 1973 novel "Camp of the Saints," the prophetic account of France's inability to survive massive Third World immigration, is expected to land the 85-year-old author and his publisher in French court on "hate speech" charges.
But I digress, sort of. What is noteworthy about the beef against Beck is the rock-hard certitude with which his critics, right and left, dismiss the caliphate concept as though it were a mythological beast, not a historical system of Islamic governance still revered and yearned for by most Muslims. Speaking of Tahrir Square, a 2007 University of Maryland/WorldOpinon poll indicated that 74 percent of Egyptians favor "strict Shariah," while 67 percent favor a "caliphate" uniting all of Islam.
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But woe to anyone who takes notice. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, for example, was recently accused on a noted blog of "(slinging) caliphate tripe" when Ferguson pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood "remains by far the best-organized opposition force in the country, and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Shariah." "Hilariously stupid" was the not-so-hilariously stupid comment.
But even if "Arab spring" should fail, Kristol writes, "there would be still be a case, for reasons of honor and duty ... to stand with the opponents of tyranny." Doing so, he continues, would "vindicate American principles and mean a gain for American interests. …"
Here is what is "delusional": the belief that American principles – freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equality before the law – have a natural place as "universal principles" in a culture grounded in Shariah principles. This is the pure fantasy that has driven our foreign policy through a decade of "nation-building" wars. Meanwhile, the only way I know how to get to anything you might call "universal principles" into the Islamic world is through the establishment of ... a caliphate.