Even Kevin Drum is starting to fall a bit off the deep-end:
Bernard Lewis is one of America's most influential scholars of the Middle East. To the public, he became famous with the fortuitous publication a few weeks after 9/11 of What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, but among Washington policymakers he became more than just famous — he became influential. Deeply influential. Michael Hirsh explains:Lewis's basic premise, put forward in a series of articles, talks, and bestselling books, is that the West — what used to be known as Christendom — is now in the last stages of a centuries-old struggle for dominance and prestige with Islamic civilization.
....This way of thinking had the remarkable virtue of appealing powerfully to both the hard-power enthusiasts in the administration, principally Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, who came into office thinking that the soft Clinton years had made America an easy target and who yearned to send a post-9/11 message of strength; and to neoconservatives from the first Bush administration such as Paul Wolfowitz, who were looking for excuses to complete their unfinished business with Saddam from 1991 and saw 9/11 as the ultimate refutation of the “realist” response to the first Gulf War.
....Bernard Lewis was persona grata, delivering spine-stiffening lectures to Cheney over dinner in undisclosed locations. Abandoning his former scholarly caution, Lewis was among the earliest prominent voices after September 11 to press for a confrontation with Saddam, doing so in a series of op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal with titles like “A War of Resolve” and “Time for Toppling.” An official who sat in on some of the Lewis-Cheney discussions recalled, “His view was: 'Get on with it. Don't dither.'”
But what was behind Lewis' vision of "a secularized, Westernized Arab democracy that casts off the medieval shackles of Islam and enters modernity at last"? And is it right?
Hirsh explains that too. Click here when you have a few spare minutes to read about it.
Let me just start by issuing the following disclaimer: I admire Lewis greatly, and consider him the greatest academic of the 20th century, and quite possibly of the 21st. Consider yourself warned.
I've read Hirsh's piece, and it basically accepts without questioning the beliefs of Richard Bulliet, an anti-Lewis historian at Columbia University. Bulliet considers Islam to be the key to achieving democracy in the Middle East. Lewis considers it an impediment. Lewis is right. Bulliet is wrong. There has never been an Arab democracy; more on topic, there has never been a nonsecular Muslim democracy. Turkey and Indonesia are the only Muslim democracies on the planet; both are fiercely secular, in Turkey to the point of oppression. This is no coincidence. As Lewis pointed out in his groundbreaking essay, "The Roots of Muslim Rage", there is a history of separating religion from government in Western society. The Bible says, "render ... unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things which are God's." Muhammed, on the other hand, was more than a prophet. He was the founder of an empire. Islam has a history of religious, undemocratic rule. There is no history of the separation of mosque and state. Thus, once this foreign concept is accepted, as Atatürk made it be in Turkey, the other foreign concept of democracy will likely be accepted more easily. This was bad news for Atatürk's dictatorship; it's good news for U.S.'s efforts in the Middle East. Secularization is the only proven method of bringing democracy to the Middle East; thus, it is the only method that should be employed in doing so.