The unrest across the Muslim world, ostensibly in reaction to a tasteless video defaming Islam, which led to the tragic death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya, dominated news coverage this week. Via Meadia’s two essays tried to grapple with what it all means.For Obama, his foreign policy choices are looking more and more like a liability in the election:
The Middle East mess calls President Obama’s policy of engagement with democratic forces in the region (much more similar to his predecessor’s approach than either President Obama or anybody else is willing to acknowledge) into question. The events in Libya and Egypt—combined with the bloody chaos in Syria—make Americans more eager to wash their hands of this tormented region. They don’t want to bomb, they don’t want to build; they want to get out. Getting out of Iraq was popular; getting in to Libya was not—and going in to Syria looks, politically, about as smart as sticking your hand into a wood chipper.
For the world as a whole, it appears Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis is being borne out by events. And not in the vulgar sense that some read the man’s work—that Islam and Christianity cannot coexist peacefully. But rather that civilizational fault lines are real, and are a source of instability that radicals are now doing their utmost to exploit:
Unfortunately, Islamic radicals are deliberately hoping to promote a clash of civilizations in the belief that a climate of polarization will strengthen their political power in the world of Islam. Attacking the embassy in Cairo is an effort to push Egyptian opinion in a more radical direction, but the radicals hope that this is part of a larger push that will bring them to power across the Islamic world. Like Boko Haram in Nigeria, which hopes to provoke a religious war with the Christians partly in order to achieve power in the Muslim North, radicals use the prospect of a clash of civilizations to further their own cause throughout the troubled Islamic world.
Other stories of note this week:
- The teacher union strike in Chicago, pitting Obama’s right-hand man Rahm Emanuel against one of the Democrats’ very important constituencies, may be the president’s first big test of the fall campaign.
- The Fed embarked on further trying to stimulate the economy with more monetary easing. There’s no way around it: the economy’s need for yet another round of stimulus is a red flag, not a green light.
- The temperature went up a few more degrees in the South China Sea. (No, we don’t mean global warming.)
- Xi went missing, then Xi turned up. It’s not clear what exactly happened, but Via Meadia certainly looks forward to writing more punny headlines when Mr. Xi finally assumes power in China.
- Sometimes, insight into political cultures comes from unexpected places. For example, here’s what a £300m London Mansion Tells Us about the Middle East’s Feudal Politics.
- As Europe continues to struggle economically, some of its more vocal champions of human rights are feeling stymied by the continent’s military impotence and irrelevance. Is the post-European age of world politics well and truly here?