“I just received the following note from one of our Inner Circle members. Below the note is my response.”
This will be in papers all over the country next week.
Washington—Depending upon where you stand, the last tortured week in Paris can be looked upon as French citizens fighting stateless terrorists or as simply another opening act, as the French Prime Minister put it, in a world “at war.”
Or, if you REALLY think about it, you might grasp the dark events in the “City of Light” in a deeper and more ultimately victorious way. You might think of those events as symbolizing a kind of morbid confrontation between people actually living out ancient principles against those existing by the principles of the modern world.
While even the most intelligent counter-terrorist specialists are still wringing their hands over the killings at “Charlie Hebdo” and the kosher supermarket in Paris, there ARE people who understand, on the deepest level, what is really shaking the world today. Sociologists, historians, a few journalists: but they are seldom called upon.
“In spite of all our information gathering and intelligence capacities we have been missing the most important dynamic that is shaping these dangerous times,” writes the man who is, to me at least, the leader of these modern wisemen, Don Edward Beck, former professor at the University of North Texas at Denton for two decades. and founder of Global Centers for Human Emergence.. “A militant, pervasive, wrathful, virulent strain of Arab/Islamic nationalism is rising and is blowing through archaic tribal/kingdom structures and even traditional nation-states.
“Israel and the United States are its archenemies; it is fueled by ancient myths of superiority and oppression and empowered by the images of a holy calling that must kill Western infidels in the name of Allah. Just as the ugly, black clouds of poison cascaded through the caverns in New York City, this blast from the Medieval past endangers civilization as we know it.”
Professor Beck’ uniqueness and brilliance as a sociologist are characterized by exactly the words expressed in that recent blog and in his classic book published years ago, “Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change.” He looks at the world and sees human beings all thrown together in everything from modern, industrialized states to desert outposts to groups like ISIS or the Islamic State and al Qaeda who want to return to the 7th century.
The outcomes? They are certainly not sitting-down-and-discussing-and-making-peace. They are surely not “live and let live.” The outcomes are that the two or more groups—let’s just call them, for now, the “Medievals and the Moderns”—are going to come up against each other violently and without surcease.
Before in history, Prof. Beck reminds us, “Heretofore acts of violence were like bacteria. We could locate the source of the infection and inject antibodies in the form of the Marines or even smart bombs launched from on high.” But, “terrorism is more like a virus that metastasizes, mutates, lies dormant until triggered, and flourishes when our immune systems are weak or preoccupied.”
The idea of looking, not only at behavior but also at the mindset and commandments of belief—the “cultural”—is only now gaining in currency, including in recent statements at the World Bank as well as other important institutions.
Another major thinker, this time on the Middle East, Robin Wright, senior fellow of the Wilson Center, very much follows a similar path in her recent historic writing tracing the birth of terrorism in the Middle East.
By far the most momentous event which led to the terrorist movements of today was the fall of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which had controlled all of the region from Sarajevo to Mecca to Baghdad at the time of the First World War, she wrote in a recent comprehensive paper for the Wilson Center.
“Modern Islamism originally emerged in response to multiple crises in the vacuum created by the Ottoman Empire’s collapse and as an alternative to the dominant ideologies of either East of West,” she continued. “Often in the context of European colonialism, Islamist leaders argued that the outside world was out to exploit, control or destroy Muslim lands. The only way to defend the faith was to fight back, politically, socially and physically.”
That collapse saw the suddenly-loosed Arab peoples struggle with everything from social democracy to military dictatorship to Baath Party secular reformism to monarchical autocracy to the supposedly “Islamist” terrorist groups of today. No model has shown total success, but one can say that Oman, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco are in the lead.
Meanwhile, the experimentation goes on in the Arab/Islamic/Persian “worlds” that are daily colliding across the Middle East, and not only in Paris! There are 50 “Islamic parties,” some moderate, grasping for power. There is more and more talk of the need for an Islamic Renaissance or Enlightenment, and Egyptian military President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi only this week called for no less than “a religious revolution.”
So, the answers are not impossible to find. But it will take a genuine willpower on the part of the Western world, which must provide the first answers in containing hostile immigration, in maintaining the military response and in backing up a moderate Islam to stand up against the hijacked radical version.
Georgie Ann Geyer