The next election will tell the world whether George W. Bush was an anomaly, or, in fact, that the US intends to pursue a self-destructive and world-threatening course of hostility and war on Muslims. Juan Cole knows more and communicates more about the Middle East than anyone I have encountered (see blogroll).
All the major Republican presidential candidates have bought into George W. Bush’s rhetoric of a central struggle against Muslim extremism and have thus committed themselves to a generational, often self-generating war. By foregrounding this issue, they have ensured that it will be pivotal to the 2008 presidential race. The Democratic candidates have mostly been timid in critiquing Bush’s “war on terror” or pointing out its dangers to the Republic, a failing that they must redress if they are to blunt their rivals’ fearmongering.
The Republicans are playing Russian roulette with America’s future with their bigoted anti-Muslim rhetoric. Muslims may constitute as much as a third of humankind by 2050, forming a vast market and a crucial labor pool. They will be sitting on the lion’s share of the world’s energy resources. The United States will increasingly have to compete with emerging rivals such as China and India for access to those Muslim resources and markets, and if its elites go on denigrating Muslims, America will be at a profound disadvantage during the next century.
Some Muslim extremist groups are indeed a threat, but they have not been dealt with appropriately. Bush has argued that terrorist groups have state backing, a principle that authorizes conventional war against their sponsor. In fact, asymmetrical terrorist groups can thrive in the interstices of states, and September 11 was solely an Al Qaeda operation. In his speech about the conquest of Iraq on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, George W. Bush announced, “We have removed an ally of Al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.” It was a bald-faced lie.