So again, the problem with the radicals in the Middle East is not the lack of capital or mental energy. Rather under the influence of Islamism and autocracy a deep-seeded cultural malady distorts human effort and creativity solely for destructive purposes. In all of these places, radical leaders such as a Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, or Sadr--the same thug has a thousand faces that come and go as we saw with Zarqawi, Saddam, and Arafat--are, like the Sultan and Grand Vizier of old, as fascinated with the West as they despise it.
They obviously want Western technology--whether the Internet or the plastic munition--but never the decadence of freedom, democracy, and tolerance that creates the very appurtenances they crave. It is like sacking European Constantinople and then moving into it as your new Window-on-the-West capital, with the requisite minarets plopped on Santa Sophia.
Such parasitism proves no lasting palliative, but only the goad for more envy and frustration.
There we have it: Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Sadr, Zarqawi, Saddam, and Arafat. They're all the same to Vic. Anyone who tries to suggest that these are different people with different grievances and conflicting goals is just another Neville Chamberlain.
Let's take Hanson's mention of the Santa Sophia cathedral. The Hagia Sophia, as it's more commonly known, was built by Emperor Justinian as a Christian cathedral, but the structure was so inspiring to the conquering Ottoman Muslims that they made improvements to its design (the original, while an impressive feat of architecture, needed constant shoring up to support the weight of its dome), transformed it into a mosque, and used it as a model for mosques throughout their empire.
Rather than view this appreciation, imitation, and innovation as a metaphor for the cultural exchange which has characterized the relationship between Islamic and Christian civilizations just as often as has "clash," Hanson views this as a form of "parasitism." This tells you a lot about his approach to the study of history, as well as his feelings about Islam in general. "We" create, "they" copy (and destroy). The fact that it was Muslim learning that turned the lights on and helped to end Europe's Dark Ages seems not to have penetrated Hanson's fuhrer's bunker of a head. I mean, sure, Fibonacci got people to abandon the abacus by introducing Arabic numerals and calculation to Italy, sure our word "algebra" comes from the Arabic al-Jabr, transposition, but who really even uses mathematics any more these days? Sure, Muslims developed the modern university, but when was the last time you heard of anyone "going to college"? What a bunch of parasites.
In short, while the Islamists get bolder and crazier, we become more timid and all too rational, quibbling over this terrorist's affinities and that militia's particular grievances--in hopes of cutting some magical deal with an imaginary moderate imam or nonexistent reasonable militia chief or Middle East dictator.
Well beyond us now is any overarching Churchillian vision of our enemies. We lack the practical understanding of an FDR that all of these Islamists loathe us far more than they despise each other. Their infighting, after all, is like the transitory bickering of thieves over the division of loot that always pales before their shared hatred of the targeted bank owner.
I feel pretty confident that no one will ever accuse Vic Hanson of being too rational. And just as a simple matter of fact, most extremist Sunnis, and certainly al Qaeda, loathe Shi'as more than they do Westerners. Westerners are merely infidels. Shi'as, on the other hand, are viewed as apostates who have abandoned the true faith and follow a false form of Islam. They hide information like this in places called "books."