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05 January 2016


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Trivialities. The essence of the culture is not changing very much and IMO the essence of the Islamicate culture in its central territories in the ME, N. Africa and South Asia will change slowly and in an evolutionary way. At the same time a massive wave of resistance to change is underway in the form of the salafi jihadi movements. The Kemalist revolution in Turkey with its adoption of Latin script, a secular constitution and proscription of traditional dress was supposed to do what you are talking about. Did it? pl

Christopher Fay

My history is no where clear, but I thought Lebanon gave it a try. It is overpowered by its belligerent neighbor Israel that spilled its ethnic cleansing into other parts of the Levant and the center of terrorism Saudi Arabia. The Black Swan author has written about this.



I see. You still believe that people are all the same. That is sad. That is the kind of thinking that led us to expect that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. pl


Christopher Fay

Lebanon has never succeeded in functioning politically as other then a group of factions described as parties that really are just the entourage of a "za'im," (an essentially tribal leader). There is little real national consciousness and the paralysis that this brings on is now expressed in their inability to form a national government and/or divide up cell phone licenses, garbage collection contracts and the rest of the loot. It is true that the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel have meddled with the Lebanese but the Lebanese should not be thought of as children. they could solve their political problems if they had the will to do so but in fact they can't deal with the governmental forms that the French left them. pl


Wasn't it 'a Republic, if you can keep it'? A very different thing.



One election's result does not adequately demonstrate the untruth of what I wrote. Democracy was doing quite well in Egypt in the latter stages of the monarchy but it all fell to bits. Babak will have something to say of your claims for Mossadegh's Iran. pl


Here's an article by an American Colonel who lived in the Middle East trying to train its soldiers, explaining why Arab/Muslim culture prevents them from becoming copies of Americans.



Yes. Armies are not collections of equipment and assemblages of men. They have an organic life and if they are built on Western models must accept the attitudes and values of Western civilization to function well If they do not have those attitudes then there is always a certain hollowness that shows up in battlefield performance. Egypt would be an example of that hollowness. There have been some small forces that through long exposure to really adaptable and understanding foreign trainers have developed into capable forces for their size but this is unusual. Jordan would be an example. IMO, with the exception of the Green Berets (always treated as marginal by the US military establishment) the US and its military have little talent for dealing with military forces that are not really Western oriented in their culture. pl


So could then the determining factor not be Islam as to why Western liberal democracy has not taken root there? Perhaps it's the malign after effects of colonialism which probably explains why there are so few functioning democracies in sub Saharan Africa too. Out in the Far East parliamentary democracy is quite different to the European/North American version. It's usually described as being "guided democracy" or coming with "Asian values". Even with an American military presence it took a long time for it to take a hold in South Korea and the Phillipines.



Islam is a seamless garment in all the aspects of life. Religion, business, family life, politics, etc are all facets of the same gem. The more Islamic and less acculturated people are the more they are "un-Western." This has nothing to do with colonialism. Colonialism and its predecessor in the Ottoman tanzimaat gave countries like Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon what tools they have in dealing the realities of modern life.It has everything to do with a radically different attitude towards life in all its aspects. pl


Well, if by democracy you mean western economical, social and foreign policy mores forced onto ME with the hope the people here will support that, then obviously that is never gonna work. It doesn't work even in the West. If US were some third world country doing things against US elite interests, it would be easy to run the same "analysis" how history shows you guys are not cut for democracy, love your strongman, are beating blacks, etc., so lets regime change you and install some benevolent democracy inducing leader that will clean things up.



Multi-cultural relativist claptrap. You, like Bill H want to believe that "people are all the same." rubbish! pl

William R. Cumming

P.L.! Thank you for this very important post that reflects your lifetime of training, education and experience.

As always one question! Are Western historians correct in labeling [perhaps without understanding] ISLAM a "warrior" religion? There seems to be a consensus on that terminology!



In their ideals Christianity and Islam are quite different. Christianity now sees itself as a pacifist faith. Islam does not. pl


In fact I believe people aren't the same at all. Which is why I don't think you can force them to do what you think they should be doing and even expect they will like it and vote for it.

ex-PFC Chuck

With regard to the Kemalist revolution in Turkey, Erdogan has led a heretofore successful counter-revolutionary movement. But with regard to the "final" outcome perhaps, to channel what Chou Enlai purportedly said during his first dinner meeting with Henry Kissinger in 1971 when the asked what he thought of the French Revolution, "It's too early to tell."

Old Microbiologist

You make a very good point. I retired to Hungary which still espouse Christian values (despite the country being 80% non-practicing Catholics) and is being horsewhipped for refusing to accept any Muslim "refugees". In fact, before walling the country off from the seeingly endless tide of Islam flooding into Europe, they did try and apply the policies enacted. Something like less than 100 qualified as actual refugees out of something like 350,000 processed. These people are escaping from already safe havens. Most left Syria over 4 years ago and have been living in Turkey or Jordan and only after Merkel promised safe haven did the deluge begin. They are in fact economic migrants and as such must qualify for immigration just like anyone else, myself included. You have to prove a police background check for the past 5 years, p[rove sufficient income, prove you have medical insurance and prove you have a return ticket out of the country should you be refused a visa.

I digress though from my point. Even in Hungary western democracy has been an abject failure. Over 65% of the people would welcome a return to communism as things worked better. Here, just as in the US, the plutocracy is shifting all wealth from the majority to a very small minority. The difference here is the people will actually revolt eventually. Hungary is already considered an enemy of the US for its limp support of Russia. Hungary has declared US NGOs, especially anything created by Soros, to be enemies of the State. Hungary paid off in full all loans forced onto them by the IMF and World Banks and promptly kicked them out of the country. I rather enjoy living here as it is very peaceful, the people have a high work ethic, excellent moral values, refuse to live off credit, and in general are pleased to just remain they way they have been for the past 40 years. They are poor, but also proud and have had a significant impact on the arts and sciences over the history of modern Europe. Even the poorest people maintain their properties and dress cleanly and properly.

So, I agree, all people are not the same nor should they be. Europe made a horrible mistake in trying to accept the Muslim immigrants and I am certain it is going to end badly. I can easily see another genocide occurring, perhaps soon. Here Muslims are openly hated and there is no political correctness about it. It isn't the reason we moved here but it is a nice side effect.

William Fitzgerald

Pat Lang,

It has occurred to me that our pacifist faith isn't doing so well in Syria, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Libya, India, Pakistan and some more. With tongue in cheek, I propose that Pope Francis, other Patriarchs, and the Archbishop of Canterbury journey to Clermont and proclaim a crusade.


Babak Makkinejad


The best that could happen is for them to follow on the path of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini's amalgamation of the principles of Islam and those of Republicanism.

Now, if only we could have Muslim Thinkers who could likewise amalgamate the principles of Islam and those of Liberty....

Babak Makkinejad

No surprises there... It is the same culture and civilization that never experienced a even a whiff of Seljuk Culture.

It will get progressively worse - just as English and French legacy got worse and worse when they left ME.


Perhaps you are right, but a difference is Kemalism, as I understand it was top down. Today, Islamic resistance mouvements as well as the changes I briefly mentioned are bottom up.


Thanks for the insight. I sent it to my many friends.


I'm not sure Tunisia fits well in the series, since it's democratic turn seems to be holding. The second exchange of power is the most important test of a democracy since the first exchange of power, even if finalized by democratic forms, is usually just the coronation of the winners of the revolution. It's extraordinary that the winners of Tunisia's first election lost favor so quickly and let go peacefully. It's a mild counterexample that doesn't overturn the thesis, given so many other examples. And Tunisia's stability is helped by the fact that they've allowed their most violent jihadis to go fight elsewhere. But still, their accomplishment deserves to be recognized.

It's interesting that Tunisia's relationship to the west is in part defined by medical tourism. This reverses the typical post-colonial relationship, and it may be part of why the psychology of Tunisia was not so defined by that Islamic unity mentality, which I believe to be a sort of inferiority complex.

Indonesia is another interesting exception, a democracy beset but standing.

And again, I don't think these places 'disprove' anything. They are small exceptions that may point to possibilities, but are not sufficient to generate much optimism.



"Today, Islamic resistance movements as well as the changes I briefly mentioned are bottom up." I don't see how you can believe that in the context of present jihadi movements. bin Laden, Zawahiri, Mursi, Baghdadi, etc all head or headed movements that were very much top down. pl


@What tale had the appropriate line...?

How far off your use of appropriate would I be if I substituted following in this specific context?

But then I might miss a certain meaning layer.

On the other hand:
"He is so devilishly sneaky that even he doesn't know what he is going to do next."

From the top of my head and within the premise/precondition set above. The neoconservatives did not write Machiavelli's Il Principe.


Irony Alert: If we accept an "Jewish State" in the ME, why shouldn't we accept an "Islamic" one? If it isn't about culture, but religion, why not have a larger Shia state or federation and a Sunni one?

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