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July 27, 2006



Agreed, Abu-Aardvark, agreed. We liberals are paying the price, in the lofty intellectual and policy circles where you work, and in the more mundane, simple life I lead. For years I've argued with Arab-American and Arab friends and relations that America is not the evil empire. Really, let's be reasonable, I'd say. Israel isn't bent on destroying Lebanon's economy out of spite, and America isn't just about murdering Arabs for power and profit.

I feel I have lost that argument. I have nothing to say any more. The most extreme positions no longer seem that outrageous. Somebody like Angry Arab has now won every dispute and I really, really don't have anything to offer besides some weak hope that maybe, just maybe, somebody else will become President who won't want to let Arabs die by the tens of thousands...

After listening to Hilary Clinton on Israel, I don't have much hope of that either.


I think you've hit the nail on the head. Fundamentally this comes down to a war of ideas. Al-Qaeda is ground zero for the lunatic fringe of fundamentalist Islam. Their views are way out of the mainstream, and I think the majority of Muslims see Al-Qaeda for what it is. But our cause is not helped with images of Israeli Jews dropping US-made munitions on innocents being televised all across the Mid East. The little effort we may have made on the "war of ideas" front is completely erased.

BTW, keep up the good work. I’ve been reading your blog regularly since this latest flare-up began; it’s the only place I’ve found that gives genuine expertise in following these issues.


I was recently in Eastern Europe, where a well-educated and otherwise well-informed young intellectual, after a couple of bottles, began to claim that Al-Qaeda was a legitimate political agent (as distinct from a suicide cult that found itself in the right place at the right time, as I recall arguing). I am afraid that the AQ "meme" is not only playing at home, but that it has moved well beyond the Islamic world.

rodolfo Buaiz

this meme seems to be replicating widely in Brasil, as well...
and it's truly awful to lose the Ideas War, this could cost decades of world wide terror...
I'll second Leila: good work!

Hedley Lamar

You guys don't get it.

On the US conservative planet, Liberalism is Evil.

The US is virtually the only country on earth where the term "liberal" is synonymous with "subversive" and "dangerous" in the mind of the political Right.

So when political reformers in the Middle East advocate liberalism--representative government, rule of law, free elections, human rights, all that good stuff--conservatives in the US immediately tune them out.

We're not talking about steel-trap minds here. Nor are we talking about much knowledge of anything outside Republican Party handouts and the assorted gurglings of right-wing talk radio..


Hedley, I do get it. But I'm not going to cede the term liberal just because a bunch of mouth-breathers have decided it means something it does not.

Liberal values may be on their way to the dustbin of history, crushed by the barbarian hordes, but I'll cling to them to very end. Liberal arts, liberal politics, liberal thinking: all the values that matter to me. Without them, I am just another bloodthirsty sheep.

Hedley Lamar

Relax Leila (refraining from Eric Clapton references). The above was intended to be snarky. I fully endorse your interpretation of the term "liberal", especially since I happen to share it. My point was that in a spin-dominated, historically-ignorant ideologically-befuddled place like the US one must tailor one's political lingo to fit the circumstances. If political reformers in the Middle East would only call themselves something besides "liberals", such as "conservatives", "born-again Christians", "finger-lickin' goobers", or just plain "good guys", they might gain more traction with those primarily responsible for shaping and influencing foreign policy in these here United States.
Jest sayin' :)

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