24 Jan, 2009
Truman’s was a difficult, extraordinary, time in office; Bush’s was worse. Bush leaves office in similar circumstances, too. Will Bush bounce back like Truman?
- President George Bush leaves office on Tuesday, 20 January 2009, amidst a dismal 34% job-rating. His two terms in office has been a tumultuous period: the September 11, 2001 (9-11) attacks, his waging of global war on terrorism, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He leaves behind all his wars inconclusive, indeed, messy; he could not catch Osama bin Laden, the 9-11 mastermind. His waging of these wars also prompted, see critics, the worldwide jump in Islamic extremism and violence. The U.S. economy is left in doldrums, affecting the global economy in similar way. The charges of illegal detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and harsh interrogation tactics and torture of prisoners in violation of international law, plus abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, further taint his presidency.
Most observers will undoubtedly view Bush’s presidency as a dark chapter, a disaster, in U.S. history. Still he leaves office defending his tenure as he told the nation in farewell speech: “I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind”. He propped up defense of his presidency by touting: “America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil”.
In a country like the U.S.—highly conscious of its defense and security and investing so much resources in it, particularly since the WW II—attacks like the 9-11 by non-state actors like al-Qaeda would not occur easily under any President. So the claim that no further attacks like the 9-11 occurred during Bush’s presidency does not add up.
Bush said he would leave office with a “great sense of accomplishment”; Vice-President Dick Cheney agreed. He has repeatedly touted that history will judge his legacy, which he repeated in his closing press conference, saying: “I don't think you can possibly get the full breadth of an administration till time has passed”.
I subscribe to Huntington’s Civilization Clash thesis. Huntington talks about likely emergence of a multilateral clash between some eight civilizations. As a researcher of Islamic theology and history, I see the clash between Islam and the rest would stand out and overwhelm all others.
Huntington recounted ongoing conflicts of Islam with their neighbors all over the world; he most accurately retorted to the deniers of Islam-West conflict that “The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often have been stormy. Each has been the other's Other.”
“The twentieth century conflict between Liberal Democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relations between Islam and Christianity”, he added.
Islam’s conflict with greater humanity is much wider in scope. Historically, Islam’s relationship has been much more conflictual with the pre-Islamic peoples of all creed, color and race—Pagans, Jews and Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Animists—of Arabia, West Asia, Persia, Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and India. Many of these civilizations have completely succumbed to Islam: they have vanished; estimated 300 hundred million people perished to the sword of Islam, wielded since its birth in Arabia in the 7th century.
The civilizational clash is thus not new as far as Islam is concerned. Islam was born in Arabia as Islamic God Allah’s master-plan, His politico-military tool, for creating a global Islamic state by making Muslims His “agent and inheritor of the earth” [Quran 6:165] and promising to make Islam victorious over all peoples and places [Quran 8:39]. Since then, Muslims have divided humanity into two houses, nations, civilizations: Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (House of War). Islam’s mission has been to turn the non-Muslim Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam through Jihadi wars to realize Allah’s ultimate goal of creating a global Islamic state. Islam’s history reflects exactly that.
Muslims have achieved stunning success in this mission, but it remains unfinished. The ongoing conflicts of Islam—in Kashmir, Southern Thailand, Mindanao, Balkan, Chechnya, and parts of Africa—are a part of Islam’s continued civilizational clash with the rest of humanity. The Arab Islamic world’s war against Israel, Muslim immigrants’ conflict with the socio-political order of Western societies, the 9-11 attacks and the worldwide violence by numberless Islamist groups are a part of this age-old civilizational clash, too.
Remarkably, this clash has sustained 14 centuries since Islam’s founding at immense cost of innocent humanity. Bush’s legacy, for me, should be judged by whether his administration—in the backdrop of spectacular 9-11 attacks—understood that the attacks was part of this age-old civilizational clash of Islam with the rest of humanity; and whether he took necessary measures to fight it.
His administration probably understood the conflict reasonably well, but failed to undertake decisive measures. This war of Islam against the rest of humanity can only be fought by exposing what the clash is all about. His touting the slogan that ‘Islam is peace’ undermines the fight. His “war on terror” was a necessary component to neutralize the clash, but insufficient to kill it forever. Only by exposing Islam’s design—based on its religious foundations—against the rest of humanity can this age-old menace to humanity be neutralized forever.
Understandably, the world today is held hostage by oil-producing Muslim states; this constraint prevents the taking of necessary actions, namely pointing to where truly lies the root of this global conflict. Working under this constraint, the Bush administration could, undoubtedly, do much less than what is needed to win this battle decisively. Under the circumstances, another President, Al Gore for example, in all likelihood, would have done much less.
This is a war that must be won against immense odd, fighting huge ignorance of the global population. We have noticed the hypocrisy of Europeans: they overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for his naïve but goody-goody gesture toward Islam, whilst a great majority of them feel uncomfortable with Muslims living amongst them: their attitude toward Islam is hardening, becoming unfavorable.
In a world, not ready to take an oil-shock, creating this awareness, this unfavorable attitude toward Islam, will be crucial—probably the first step—toward defeating Islam’s age-old war against humanity. Bush’s war on terror, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—although failed to achieve short-term objectives—have undoubtedly played a central role in this vital “awareness creation” about Islam.
An unconditional conflict against wider humanity, waged by few hundred impoverished Arabs under Prophet Muhammad’s leadership, has sustained 14 centuries. And Islam has achieved much: today, Islam 1.4 billion volunteers push Islam’s civilizational clash forward in one capacity or another. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand the kind of vitality and resilience, Islam exudes into this battle.
It is not difficult either to understand the difficultly, the odds, global non-Muslim humanity faces in this battle with such staggering army of volunteers, so much of world’s vital resources on Islam’s side today, whilst its opponents are handicapped by restraints like international law and human rights etc., for which Islamists have nothing but contempt.
For a keen observer of Islamic history, who understands its theological foundations and cares for the immense sufferings it has caused to humanity, attempt at winning this battle decisively is much more noble than Bush administration’s lapses in upholding international laws and human rights of dreaded terrorists, who are hell-bent on, and take gleeful joy in, causing mass-murder of innocent men, women and children, inspired by a demented theological doctrine. Of the reformed, low-risk terrorists released from Guantanamo, 61 of them have returned to Jihadi trail for mass-killing of innocent people. Some measure of harsher tactics may even be essential to tackle these dreaded breed of mass-murderers, who deem dying in the hands of their perceived enemies most desirable, a martyrdom, which lands them in paradise.
It is a battle either side can win from here, but in historical context and present reality, the balance tilts in Islam's favor unless, extraordinary measures are being taken. Given the circumstances, the Bush administration made a reasonable attempt at neutralizing this dreaded enemy. This battle, lasting 14 centuries, cannot be won overnight; it will take decades if not centuries; more real, determined, measures must come. It can be won only by following the trail of Bush administration’s measures and strengthening the resolve further. Bush’s message to his successor—that “with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail"—is probably the least that will be needed.
Whether Bush’s commendable, but insufficient, attempts at winning this war leads to sustained effective measures will determine the fate of this lasting civilizational clash of global expanse. We have to wait for decades to see the outcome. Bush is correct: only history can judge his legacy.
Harry Truman left office in 1953 with a miserable 32% approval-rating to the relief of most Americans amidst his unpopular war and gloomy economy, so is Bush’s departure. Yet in a decade, Truman became rated amongst nation’s top ten presidents. A movie was made entitled, “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”; Chicago group sang “America needs you, Harry Truman”.
Truman’s was a difficult, extraordinary, time in office; Bush’s was worse. Bush leaves office in similar circumstances, too. Will Bush bounce back like Truman? It all remains to be seen.