First, what makes the Islamists tick, or perhaps, why don't we get rid of the Israel problem so we'll have world peace.
The insufferable Seamus Milne, of the Guardian of course, dedicates his column this time to how bad Israel is for the world. Seamus is so ideological and predictable, along with being consistently easy with his facts, that you really needn't read him. He's a waste of your time. His main theme in life is that Colonialism is the greatest crime ever, more or less, and he dedicates much of this column to reminding us that Israel is a creation of British colonialism and is itself colonial. The introductory paragraph ot the column, however, as well as it's final shot, explain how Israel is so especially bad:
The commitment to Palestinian rights should first of all be a question of justice. But, given the toxicity this conflict brings to the entire relationship with the Muslim world, it is also a matter of obvious western self-interest.Israel is the reason for the ill-will between Islamists and humanity.
Well, no, says Malise Ruthven at the NYRB, who has just taken the time to read nine (9) new books about Islamism, and has come to report. There is the obligatory dig or two at Bush and even one at Kissinger, but all in all, it appears that Islamist terror is a complex thing, building on a variety of impulses, some of them centuries old.
Conventional wisdom generally holds that a resolution of the problems of Palestine and Jerusalem is the sine qua non for addressing wider geopolitical issues afflicting relations between the Islamic and Western worlds. By removing images of Palestinian persecution from Muslim television screens, a peace settlement would take the sting out of an issue that carries a formidable symbolic charge. But the Israeli occupation, though a constant source of pain and humiliation, is only one of many issues the global jihadists have in their sights.(In an aside, and for the record, allow me to state unequivocally that "Conventional Wisdom" is a fool.)
Seamus is not worth reading; Ruthven actually is, if you have the time.
The second theme where the NYRB beats the Guardian this week, is the possibility of an Obama presidency ending the war in Iraq. Both of the following articles agree that an Obama presidency is what we all want (tho the NYRB one pretends Hillary is still in the running). They also both agree on the bottom line. It's their different lines of reasoning that make the comparison interesting.
Jonathan Steele (Guardian) really likes Obama, first and foremost because as a six year old in Indonesia, young Barack came to understand how evil an imperial power the United States really is. (I assure you, this is the essence of what he says. It doesn't seem to occur to him that if this was an accurate description, no American electorate would ever send him to the White House). On the other hand, Steele is already bracing himself for disappointments, because - you guessed - Obama is already failing on Israel. In a fine demonstration of how obsessed people like him are with Israel, Steel dedicates about a third of his article to how awful we are. Bottom line: Since Obama has failed on the "Israel test", he will probably also fail on the "Iraq test".
Thomas Powers at the NYRB agrees that the US won't leave Iraq anytime soon, but his article is at least interesting. He read ten (10!) books, and parts of what he tells isn't even so well known. The degree to which a mind-set from on-high seems to have blinded American decision-makers on all levels, comes as a mild surprise. Not a total surprise, mind you. There really is something disconcerting about the way the present administration decides what reality is and acts accordingly no matter what: in the belief that Islam is a Religion of Peace, for example, or in the inability to see how awful the Saudis are. And I don't think any reasonable person can commend the Americans for the events in Iraq those first years after the invasion, no matter which side of the divide you started out on.
At the end of his review, however, Powers describes what he expects will happen after January 2009 - ad it's not what Conventional Wisdom says.