Picking up the Pieces

Peter L. Bergen: “If the attackers [on Sept. 11] were not motivated by economic discontent, then, what drove them? Religion, of course -- although not everyone is ready to fully admit the role of Islam in September's attacks. In her essay in How Did This Happen?, for example, the religion scholar Karen Armstrong doth protest too much when she says that the Koran tells Muslims they "may never initiate hostilities ... and aggressive warfare is always forbidden." Her claim is simply false. Some verses in the Koran, it is true, seem only to allow purely defensive wars: "Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those attacked, because they have been wronged." But the Koran also exhorts the believers to aggression: "When the Sacred Months are past, then kill the idolaters wherever you find them." Turn the other cheek this is not. Bin Laden, in fact, quoted this very verse when he declared his war against the West in 1998.”

This very much parallels Alastair Johnston's argument that there is a myth of the Chinese preferring non-violent strategies in dealing with potential conflict.

Much to like in this review: like the counter-evidence that the United States is belligerent towards Islamic groups and countries; that the United States should do a better job of selling itself to Middle Eastern countries; that the United States media is too U.S.-centric. And ooh, in one of the books there's apparently an essay by Niall Ferguson, who has argued that Britain's entry into World War I was the worst mistake of the twentieth century. He's apparently, in his essay, argued that an American Empire would do the world some good (he's probably a believer of the hegemonic stability theory). Great, as if I didn't already have enough to read.