November 10, 2007

The Wars of Ideas

Rob Satloff is right when he says he haven't placed a high enough priority on the ideological battles of the War on Terror, but at the same time, Abu Muqawama doesn't think this will work:

Hughes's resignation gives Bush one last chance to get this right. This requires a conceptual revolution. Rather than expend effort on winning Muslim friendship for America, our engagement with Muslim publics -- what we call "public diplomacy" -- should focus on identifying, nurturing and supporting anti-Islamist Muslims, from secular liberals to pious believers, who fear the encroachment of radical Islamists and are willing to make a stand.

Rob's a smart guy who has studied the region his entire life, but perhaps he underestimates just how much of a kiss of death U.S. support can be for secular liberals in the Middle East these days. (Maybe that's why he suggests "covert" support at one place in the op-ed.) And Rob should be careful of another thing: a lot of the U.S.'s "anti-Islamist" allies in the Middle East -- such as Fatah, or the regime in Egypt -- have been bleeding legitimacy for some time now. This latest wave of Islamism has been sweeping across the region with stunning speed, and perhaps moderate Islamists might make for better allies in the years ahead than played-out "revolutionary" regimes from a bygone era.

If Abu Muqawama were in charge, he would just wait three years and let these kids loose on the region. They make better diplomats than Karen Hughes, anyway...