What can be said about the likes of Obama's "Policy Review Panel Co-chair," Bruce Riedel? One would love to get such a man, such an adviser, in a room in front of a large number of other people (ideally, with Obama, Clinton, and Holbrooke present) and ask him a series of questions about Islam. What has he read? What does he make of these dozen or five dozen passages of the Qur'an (handouts dutifully passed out)? What does he make of these Hadith, "authentic" hadith (or "ahadith") from the most "authoritative muhaddithin"? (more Handouts, silently distributed to everyone present). And what does he make of the figure of Muhammad, that Perfect Man, that Exemplar, and his own campaigns against Unbelievers? And what does he, Bruce Riedel, make of such things as the beheadings of Buddhists in southern Thailand? Oh, but that, he will tell you, is simply a case of "Islamic nationalism" (!). Very well, then, what would he like to say about the mass murder of non-Muslim black Africans in the southern Sudan, with nearly 2 million victims? And what would he like to say about the beating to death of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh?
Or what would Bruce Riedel like to say about the relevance of the war being made on Israel by Arab Muslims to the mass killing of Christian Ibo that precipitated the attempt by Christians, and not only the Ibo or Igbo, to declare the independent state of Biafra? What does Bruce Riedel make of the treatment of the Christians in the Moluccas by Muslims, and how does he explain the burning down of thousands of churches (see the reports of the British Barnabas Fund)? What does Bruce Riedel make of the deep drop in the non-Muslim percentage of the population -- consisting chiefly of Hindus -- in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, while the percentage of Muslims in the Indian population has only gone up since Partition? What does Bruce Riedel make of the clearly articulated goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States, to take over this country from within? How would that be lessened by throwing Israel to the wolves?
What does he make of the future envisioned by a thousand or ten thousand Muslim commentators, eagerly foreseeing the demographic conquest of Western Europe by Muslims for Islam, a takeover from within that was predicted at the U.N. by Houari Boumeddienne of Algeria back in 1974, when he said that "we" (the Muslims) would take over through the "wombs of our women"? Does Bruce Riedel believe he has a responsibility, in his position, to read, re-read, study, study some more with appropriate Muslim and non-Muslim commentaries, the texts of Islam? Or does he think that unnecessary to begin to understand what Muslims are taught to believe, and how they are taught, especially, to regard Infidels?
One might ask Bruce Riedel to explain why he assumes Muslim jurisprudence about treaties embraces the Western notion of "Pacta Sunt Servanda" (treaties are to be obeyed) and not some other, Islam-generated rule, such as "treaties with Infidels are to be breached by Muslims just as soon as they feel able to do so." Bruce Riedel does not, in his writings, or even in his chamber-of-commerce smalltown-booster look, inspire confidence. One doubts that he has retired to read a dozen, or ten dozen, of the great scholars of Islam who wrote in the period 1870-1970, beginning with Goldziher, Schacht, Snouck Hurgronje, Jeffrey, Lammens, Zwemer, and many others. If he did, and if he realized, as he surely must, that Islam is an aggressive and fighting faith, a Total Belief-System with a politics and a clear geopolitics, he would have learned that Islam lays claim not to this or that strip of territory, but rather to the entire world. It may seem fantastical to him, to Bruce Riedel, but so what? Muslims beg to differ.
And above all, the behavior of Muslims, as has been testified to by every real scholar (hold the espositos and armstrongs, stick with the schachts and snouck hurgronjes) of Islam, shows that they do not accept the idea of permanent compromise, but only temporary compromise, with Infidels, in order to buy time when necessary. And every yielding or surrender by Infidels is pocketed, but regarded as a sign of weakness, and will lead to further demands, and more, and more. That is, every concession by Infidels will whet, not sate, Muslim appetites. And what fun it would be to have Bruce Riedel in a room, and ask him these questions, and wait for his tortured, stuttering, ill-informed replies, and then, sweetly of course, to make mincement of him and all his works.
No special rhetorical flair necessary. Just knowledge.
That is something, alas, which Bruce Riedel apparently thinks, and official Washington so far lacks the people trained in this matter who prove him wrong -- is not really necessary. And because the Arab diplomats and leaders keep telling any American who will listen that "if only" the Americans pressure Israel, all kinds of good things will happen, and everything will calm down -- for god's sake, what do you expect them to say?
The bruce-riedels and, come to think of it, the madeline-albrights of this world, who credulously and incredibly continue to take at face value what Arabs say in order to obtain their goals, actually give this kind of obvious special pleading, designed to fool, yet again, the Americans, respectful attention. What do they expect the Arabs to say? Do they expect them to say: if you pressure Israel, and we push Israel back, then we can, at our leisure, go in for the kill? Do they expect the Arabs to say: You know, we want the Infidel nation-state of Israel to be destroyed, and if it is, that will hearten Muslims everywhere, who have their minds and hearts set on conquering, however long it takes, the entire world -- for Allah did not tell us that any part of the world should be exempt from dominance by Islam, from rule by Muslims? Can Bruce Riedel figure out why the Arabs might not say that?
Can those who for some reason have taken such a comical figure as Bruce Riedel seriously figure it out? Can they now turn to the scholars of Islam, whose books are available, and whose subject -- Islam -- has not changed, and because it rests on texts deemed immutable, will not change? Can they now turn also to the "defectors from the Camp of Islam," that is, the highly articulate apostates, who are ready, willing, and certainly able to explain, Islam and what it inculcates, to those who make policy in Washington? Call Wafa Sultan, call Ibn Warraq, call Ayaan Hirsi Ali, call Ali Sina, call a dozen or ten dozen others who are ready to speak, even if some will do it only in private, and some will not wish their identities ever to be known, for obvious reasons.
Leave Bruce Riedel to make the Grand Tour of a grateful Araby, possibly in tandem with John Esposito. He deserves a rich reward. Let him receive it. But he should be kept from squandering more men, money, materiel, morale, in the pursuit of various fata morganas and will-o'-the-wisps -- Iraq and the "bringing freedom" to "ordinary moms and dads in the Middle East," or Afghanistan, and the bottomless pit of Pakistan. There, American money and effort is trying to win hearts and minds through vast expenditures of American and other Infidel money. Yet the real problems of such countries are a direct result of Islam itself, and can only in the end be solved by putting limits, as Ataturk did, on Islam. And that can only be done once a local despot, or a local elite, finally faces such calamity that it begins to recognize that Islam explains the political and economic and social failures of their societies, and they, from within the Dar al-Islam (no pressure from the West can help), recognize the need to contain or constrain Islam as a political and social force.
When someone presumes to recommend policies on which the most important matters now rest, where trillions of dollars and millions of lives are at stake, that someone has a duty to study, to know whereof he speaks. If someone can with a straight face argue that if only Israel is pressured or, some might say, thrown to the Arab Muslim wolves, that this will somehow change the texts and tenets of Islam, that someone is a fool. And he should be treated as a fool, perhaps an amiable one, but one who will cause unnecessary losses of Infidel lives and the expenditure of Infidel billions or trillions. Ideally, he would be publicly cross-questioned, by those who know more, and in a public setting, where he could not escape revealing how illogical and how ignorant he is, in all his amiable self-assurance. Someone should arrange for such a meeting. Quite a few people would be happy to serve as his telling interlocutor, would see such service as a patriotic duty.
Who can make that encounter happen? And who realizes just how important such public exercises would prove to be, if there is to be any hope of rousing out of their deliberate drowse those who presume to make policies that will instruct and protect us?