Mike Lofgren Responds to William R. Polk’s, “Intellectual and Political Foundations of 21st Century Jihad.
Lofgren retired after 28 years on the congressional staff. He held senior staff positions in the both the House and Senate Budget Committees, where he specialized in Defense and Foreign Policy. After he retired, he authored “The Party Is Over: How the Republicans Went Crazy, the Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted” (Penguin 2012), which made the New York Times Best seller list for a short time.
Lofgren’s opinion piece addresses the logical policy implication of a U.S. counter-terrorism strategy that is playing into the hands of the strategy enunciated by Abu Bakr Naji, as so well described by William R. Polk.
It’s Time for a Total Withdrawal from the Middle East
This fundamentalist insurgency certainly feeds on Western (specifically US) stupidity and avarice. But it is highly self-limiting. For the US to pack up and go home and stay out of the Middle East was always the most attractive strategy, especially now with the greater world diversity of energy supplies. But regardless, the West is merely the subsidiary enemy of the Salafists. The Sunni-Shia divide is the main front; I don’t see how the Salafists’ having an admittedly clever anti-colonial strategy will magically conquer the Shiites who are indigenous to those societies.
And the Salafists appear to me to be totally unsuited to running a modern society and maintaining their autonomy even in the medium term. The most successful example of a quasi-Salafist state, Saudi Arabia (which only exists because, ironically, it has been propped up by US military and diplomatic support for decades) can only function with a huge, oppressed foreign work force to actually make society operate smoothly. Some might object to my characterization by saying that the real fundamentalists consider the Saudi monarchy apostate, but the fact remains that Saudi Arabia has been the principal state funder and egger-on of Jihadist movements.
Looked at from the historical perspective of, say, the year 2500, a putative Salafist caliphate would be a bizarre and anomalous footnote. I doubt it could exist autonomously for long in a world, not just with the West, but among rising modernizing civilizations like China and India. Salafism exists partly because of Western crimes and blunders, but also because of the inherent limitations of Islam insofar as it is the codification of Bronze-Age nomadic tribal mores. As the Japanese and then Chinese learned, you must modernize while adapting or become an irrelevant anachronism.
All the more reason for total withdrawal from the Middle East. As any idiot can see, intervention merely artificially sustains Jihadist movements. As old Karl would have said, withdrawal will “heighten the contradictions” within the ideology of Salafism.