"Pundita, I strongly disagree with your statement [in May 19 post] that US foreign policy shouldn't take radical Islam into account. The Saudis, the Iranians, and other Islamic governments have exported extremist Muslim views, which strongly color their policy toward America. US policy has to take that into account."
Jan in Reston"
So where do you think the State Department should stand on Ahl-i Hadith or the argument about whether Shias are kadir? And what do you mean by "extremist" Islam?
The Saudi government did not export extremism; they exported their claim to be the rightful guardians of Mecca and Medina. The claim is hotly contested from many quarters in Islam. That is why the Saudi government poured many billions of petrodollars into defending their claim that Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab's teachings represent normative or "true" Islam. That Wahibism is denounced as false by many Muslims, and seen as an extreme form of Islam by many non-Muslims, are entirely separate issues.
All three issues, and the thousands of issues arising from the three, are quicksand for any nation's foreign policy. You cannot do foreign policy around religious issues, any more than you do it around tribal or clan issues. Foreign policy in the modern era is N2N: Nation to nation (national government).
Western academics who supported their families by opining on the Soviet Threat saw funds dry up for their university departments and think tanks once the union was dissolved. So some looked at al Qaeda's attack on the US as manna falling on the desert. However, to frame foreign policy in terms of an Islamic Threat depends on viewing Islam as a 'world' then saying effect, "We have to do foreign relations with this world."
There is no world or nation of Islam--any more than there's a nation of Christianity or Judaism and so on. Those who claim that religious sensibilities have anything to do with the way the world works need to get their head out of the clouds.
I once warned that it's important to keep in mind that George W. Bush is a member of the ruling class. Perhaps I could have put it more clearly if I'd written that he also thinks like a member of that class. In any case you didn't take my warning to heart. So allow Pundita to pull aside the curtain and reveal at one glance what I've been saying in bits and pieces over many essays.
When President Bush said that he'd looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and seen a person he could deal with, he was speaking to the Saudi government. Here is Pundita's translation of what he said:
You have a choice: You can kill or capture every member of al Qaeda you can find. Or you can helplessly watch as the American government teams with the Kremlin to bring down OPEC. Have a nice day.
This is not to denigrate the efforts of CENTCOM and the Coalition militaries and intelligence agencies that have turned themselves inside out to fight al Qaeda and similar terror organizations. Many hands make light work. But you can trace a line between Bush's slowly hardening rhetoric during the past year toward the Kremlin and Abdullah's decision to stop clowning around with excuses--a decision that needed to be demonstrated by more than token actions, I might add, before Bush would start to believe.
Bush has said there are to be no more US "deals," of the kind characterized by US policy during the Cold War. I like to think he's telling the truth but he has also brought US foreign policy back to where it should be, which is behind defense policy. Part of that means breaking the hammerlock of Cold War deals that are still with us, and which work against US defense.
There was no deal made with the Kremlin--unless you want to read Bush giving Putin a ride in his pickup as a deal. Yet every Gulf government knows that Bush is not bluffing. At any moment, he could reverse direction again. If that happens, we'll see the end of OPEC. I hope Vicente Fox is taking notes.
If the Saudis are worried that an Iraq with the Shia majority in charge will lead to yet more challenges from within Islam to their authority, they should think of it this way: President Bush is helping them prioritize their worries.
That's foreign policy. That's how it's done. All the rest is confusion. I hope the US Department of State is taking notes.
Readers who are new to Pundita's blog might wish to look at The plot thickens: Putin takes on OPEC.