2002 November 17 Sunday
James Hoagland: Europe Behind In Understanding

James Hoagland argues that European desires to maintain a stasis in the international order demonstrate an ignorance of the powerful dynamic forces at work that can't be contained with negotiation.

Diverging attitudes over what is sustainable and what is doomed are rapidly becoming divisive factors in transatlantic relations. An intellectual investment in the status quo ties France, Germany and others to the Arab governments of the Middle East at least as much as commerce and oil do. Cataclysmic change in the Middle East is a notion that falls somewhere between inevitable and desirable for the Bush White House. It is anathema to Europe's leaders and intellectuals.

Europe was more strongly socialist than the US ever was and this fact betrays something about European intellectual culture. An assumption of socialism is that the relevant factors can be known, controlled, and managed to maintain whatever kind of social order the leaders choose to have. This assumption that things can be managed and that the system is more stable than reality really is. It should not be surprising that even after socialism has been discredited as an economic system that European intellectuals still tend toward the view that they can manage things that are more complex than they realise because that view predated the development of communism and socialism.

How powerful are the forces that are changing the Muslim world? Technological advances are increasing the amount of exposure that members of Muslim societies have to modern Western Civilization while simultaneously increasing the amount of communication that is happening within and between Muslim societies. Islam's historic view of itself is being challenged. The existence of the West as a more advanced and powerful civilization is being brought home by advances in communications, transportation, and military technology. The reaction Muslims are having to the West can be seen as a crisis in faith in Islam where the entire religious belief system is threatened by greater knowledge of and exposure to the West. Diplomacy is an inadequate response to the size of the forces that these changes are unleashing. The growth of resentment, jealousy, and hostility can not be contained and managed by multilateral institutions and negotiations between governments.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 17 10:52 PM  Civilizations Clash Of


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