Thursday, April 21, 2005

State Department Tango

 
Condoleezza Rice gave a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. For the most part, it was a paean to the progress of liberty and democracy across the map of the Middle East.

She described women voting in Afghanistan, Fallujah settling down, the beginnings of rapprochement between India and Pakistan. The usual Secretary of State boilerplate speech, including a mention of every continent and most of the countries she's been to or is planning to visit shortly. The sheer momentum of the speech shows in the written word.

There followed a question-and-answer session. Here was the one that tripped her up:
    QUESTIONER: When you look at the issues you were describing before in the Balkans, in the former Soviet Union, in Africa, many of the things that unite all these trouble spots is the struggles of Muslim people. And I would like you to describe your thinking about this overall issue and if there is the success that you talk about in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, what effect do you see that having overall on Islam and its issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, it's a very good question. I think Islam, the Muslim world, is indeed going through an evolution, and as with any evolution there are both potential negative outcomes and potential positive outcomes. The negative outcome would be the continued rise of extremism and those who would hijack the great world religion to a cause that clearly has nothing to do with Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion…
…So the goal is to, in those places where Muslims are either the majority or in some cases almost without any minority, is to recognize that there is no contradiction between Islam and the Muslim world and democracy…that has to be the hope for the Middle East, that these -- that you will get moderate political forces that find the right relationship between Islam and democracy, that find institutions that accommodate both, and therefore in the democratic process can be tolerant of all peoples.
The question is: was that simply more boilerplate or does our Secretary of State believe this? There are postures one has to assume along with the assumption of an office; perhaps that is the case here.

Jihad Watch takes sharp exception to the profound lack of knowledge that could be inferred from her remarks,
    If Condoleeza Rice really believes that Islam "is a peaceful religion" then she has not read the history of Islamic conquest, has not studied the treatment of non-Muslims -- all non-Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists -- living in lands subjugated by Muslims, and has failed to fully grasp the nature of that supposedly benign "protected-people" status of Christians and Jews that, in the full panoply of what it demanded of those "People of the Book" (ahl al-kitab) was onerous, and relentlessly cruel in a way that rhetoric should not be allowed to conceal.
If she meant the quoted remarks, then she is a grave disappointment. And neither she, nor anyone else who thinks in the same vein, is likely to be able to comprehend how much vaster is the problem than anything bringing "democracy to Iraq" will solve.
Mr. Fitzgerald proceeds to fisk the Secretary's facile remarks about Turkey's example as a country which has managed democracy and Islam. As he points out, it succeeded only because Ataturk sharply reined in Islam. He abolished the fez (it made praying with one's hat on an easier accomplishment), had the Koran and hadiths translated into Turkish, gave women the right to vote and forbade the hijab at government offices or functions. He also adopted the Western alphabet and kept a sharp eye on newspapers' "Islamic" content.
    Note that Ataturk did not try to change the text of Qur'an. Nor did he try to revise Bukhari or Muslim, or to de-authenticate dangerous hadiths. Nor did he try to re-write the life of Muhammad…in order to bring Turkey kicking and screaming into the modern world…he and those who supported him had to force through all these constraints on Islam.
Ataturk was the most successful example of the quasi-enlightened despots who alone have been responsible for whatever constraints on Islam have been put in place in the Islamic world.
The picture Mr. Fitzgerald draws -- of Iran, Pakistan, Tunisia, etc. -- is grim, and grimly accurate:
    …Islam is a powerful force, and cannot be changed, only constrained, as Kemal Ataturk did. And to the degree that any country becomes more Muslim, to that same degree that country will -- no matter how long or close its seemingly heartfelt alliance with the United States has been -- pull away from that alliance, forget all that was done for it, and become hostile to the United States, as it would be to any Infidel power practicing muscular self-defense.
Here at Gates of Vienna there is sad accord with Mr. Fitzgerald's assessment. However, there is room to reasonably hope that the Secretary of State's extemporaneous remarks were merely filler. It goes beyond imagination to think what would be the consequences should our chief diplomat say the truth in the current political climate -- and certainly not to a roomful of newspaper editors.

Incidentally, the text of whomever introduced her to the audience was not included in the report. However, Dr. Rice made a humorous reference to their fact-finding ability. Evidently someone had managed to dig up a piece of her past:
    Well, thank you for that great introduction. You've got quite a research department. But I want to assure everybody it's actually not that hard to be the disco queen of South Bend, Indiana. There's not that much competition in South Bend, Indiana. (Laughter.)
Disco queen? It appears that the Secretary of State is still dancing as fast as she can.

8 comments:

Bill said...

I'd far rather it were her dancing than Madeline Albright. You can parse that on any level you wish.

Dymphna said...

Here's a Maddy Albright story you'll enjoy: she was visiting some European embassy or other and had gone to a conference room ahead of the others to prepare materials. Someone came in and started ordering her around: they thought she was the cleaning lady.

jinnderella said...

Islam is a powerful force, and cannot be changed, only constrained,

i don't believe this. ;)
Everything evolves. Islam does have a lot of stable strategies that tend to preserve its form, but so did the RCC at one point. When the stable strategy set conflicts with democracy, what will happen? Iraq is the laboratory. We have to watch and see.

jinnderella said...

And, as an afterthought, Ataturk did not have television, the most potent agent for memetic change ever devised. ;)

Baron Bodissey said...

Additional afterthought: the web is an even more powerful memetic accelerant than TV. Just ask Dan Rather.

Adam Becker said...

Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock.
-Will Rogers

LHM said...

This is becoming more and more disgusting as the days go on.

Im quite sure that the American people have had about enough of this "Islam is a religion of Peace" schitck.

LHM said...

Thanks for the laugh jinnderella I just blew iced tea on my keyboard.

Why you little masochist. Gates of Vienna might be safe but there are a few forums where you might get that intellectual beat down you seem to be so desirous of.