October 30, 2014 at 9:41 am
A front-page news article in today's Times matter-of-factly reports, "At a time when the Obama administration is lurching from crisis to crisis — a looming Cold War in Europe, a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and a deadly epidemic in West Africa — it is not surprising that long-term strategy would take a back seat."
The Times' acknowledgment of the existence of "a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East" sent me back to this "White House Letter" from the Times in 2005, reporting somewhat dismissively about Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's warnings of a caliphate:
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration's warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda's statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq.
In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest.
"It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically," said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. "Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver."
Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon - found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda's goal of seeking an Islamic state.
The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. "There's no chance in the world that they'll succeed," he said. "It's a silly threat."
It would be interesting for the Times to go back to Messrs. Esposito and Telhami to see what they have to say for themselves. Maybe they will say they were just talking about an Osama bin Laden-led caliphate, not the threat of some other new caliphate. The paper does keep on quoting them as experts.
Related Topics: Middle East, Religion
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