Tuesday, August 19, 2008

book notes

The Middle East by Bernard Lewis

-- In the West, the converse of tyranny is freedom. In the Middle East, the converse of tyranny is justice.

-- The Turkish dervishes, avatars of Sufism, come off as kind of Islamic hippies.

-- Interesting discussion of the Middle East as being composed of ancient cultures that, unlike China or India, were snuffed out by domination of a totalitarian religion.

-- In both the invasion of Iran and the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam calculated that 1.) the great powers and regional powers wouldn't care and 2.) it would be a quick war. On Iran he was right on 1 and wrong on 2. On Kuwait he was right on 2 and wrong on 1.

-- The Muslim world were supporters of the Nazis and then the USSR simply because they were challengers to the West. The greatest thing the West has ever done for the Muslims is prevent them from the enjoying the Nazi rule that they sought.

-- Since Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as flawed predecessors of Islam and Islam as the final, perfect revelation, they are particularly galled by the idea of Western superiority. It's literally against their religion. The current radical Islam idea that Western superiority can be corrected by a return to fundamentalism, which would be reward by God with Islam's mastery over the world, goes back to the times when Europe first gained military superiority. The fundamentalist reaction to that was Wahabism.

-- The attempts to impose democratic ideas in the Middle East, and the region's rejection of them, goes back to the French Revolution.