The critical danger in foreign policy, especially true in the Islamic world, is strategic thinking based on false premises. We can identify the falsities, to a significant degree, in the Bush administration; they have taken center stage in the Obama administration.
The premise that democratic elections yield democratic systems has been given lie in the Middle East. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006 by way of democratic elections. There has not been another election since; there is no anticipation of another any time soon. Turkey has used democratic institutions to dismantle the Kemalist secular culture, secularism being replaced, step by step, with Islamism. Turkish leadership utilized democratic freedoms to remove those freedoms. It is a core strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Iraq’s election deposed al Malaki, he’s still there. Iran’s Presidential election deposed Ahmadinejad, he’s still there. The democratically elected Egyptian Parliament was dissolved by the newly elected President Morsi. In Iran candidates must be ‘approved’ by the Clerical infrastructure guaranteeing elections with a predetermined outcome. Look for the same thing in Egypt, sooner as opposed to later.
The overriding false premise is the contention that democracy and individual freedoms represent the goals of the vast majority of Muslims. The goal is not freedoms, by way of our definitions, it is Sharia. Islam teaches that submission to God is the only freedom. This submission demands an essential state of slavery to the tenets of Sharia. The very word Islam translates in English to submission. Muslim cleric Ibn Arabi; “Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery. If slavery of a human being in relation to God is a true one, his freedom is relieved from the yoke of change.”
Pew polling illustrates vast majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt want “laws that strictly follow the Koran”. That is already the case in Saudi Arabia, Gaza, Iran and portions of East Africa. Those populations are not asking for Western style freedoms, systems and accountability; that are asking for the ‘freedom’ of total submission to the Islamic legal code. Democracy and individual freedoms have absolutely nothing to do with their desires. Democracy is scorned by most mainstream Islamic scholars. Islamic democracy is the ultimate oxymoron.
The dominance of the Koran over all other possible intellectual justifications is nothing new in American history. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams encountered it as they attempted to engage the Barbary Pirates. When asked by Jefferson and Adams why the assaults on American shipping; the justification was the Koran. Adams and Jefferson were told that the Koran empowered the Pirates to take what they could from non believers; it was their “right and duty” to make war on non Muslims. Entire sections of the Koran are dedicated to how to distribute the spoils of war. Nothing has changed. Basic interpretation of the Koran has not and will not change anytime soon. Islamic scholars ‘froze’ fundamental interpretation of the Koran as perfected a thousand years ago. Jefferson reacted then with the only thing they understand to this day; confrontation and strength. It became not worth it to attach American shipping.
In the West, the basic idea is that leadership serves its citizens; no such idea exists in Islam. The very idea that there is any point of accountability beyond Islam and Sharia is apostasy. In fact the Koran addresses the believer’s duty to obey the ‘ruler’. Mubarak was not Muslim enough, nor was Gaddafi. Recent uprisings may have been motivated initially by dictatorial excess but the mass of the movement soon became the fact that those rulers were not Islamic enough. The same can be said of Anwar Sadat, murdered by the Brotherhood. Jordan is in jeopardy for the same reason. The rise of Brotherhood supported Hamas was a reaction to and the creation of a counterweight based on the belief that Arafat was not Islamic enough.
There is no significant mass movement for Western style freedoms in the Islamic world. What movements existed has been put down, in some cases violently. Whatever desire for Western freedoms exists is dominated by the Islamist power structure which controls both the educational process and the clerical population. The dominant movement in the Islamic world is aimed at the expansion of fundamental Islam. Tactics vary but the strategic goal is exceptionally consistent.
The failure to understand and accept the motivations and goals of Middle Eastern leadership and theology is to guarantee failed policy. To base policy on the premise that they want what we want is not only flawed but potentially tragic.