The alternative resolution or the other Islamic state, the one that avoids the tyrant’s despair – or, put more politically-philosophically, allows for a liberal-Islamic assimilation that would also be integrative or unitary rather than irrecuperably conflictual – would appear to rely on modes of idealization of religion that would evolve simultaneously and bi-conditionally, or, as Fadel or Fadel’s Khaldun puts it, “organically.” Their current impermissibility is a reflection of the same problem.
In Egypt, what Hussein Ibish calls “accommodation” would for Islamists, as well as for the felool, equate with capitulation, under the longer term prospect of extinction. This prospect is deemed intolerable, just as the proposed or traditional “accommodations” of liberal or other minority aspirations under Islamist or nationalist-authoritarian regimes may be perceived as intolerable to those “accommodated.”
As long as the liberal-seculars and the Islamists in Egypt view their belief systems as mutually exclusive except under the ultimate and effectively permanent neutralization of the adversary – as long as each sees the other as evil – the decision between them will be determined as a matter of the violent conversion of the errant believer that is for each held to be a foundational impossibility, so must develop under a mutually external power or authority. The connection might otherwise be a beginning point, an at least half-shared location of the sacred, if it did not remain invisible amidst the teargas, and unheard among the shouting. It will still be there, nowhere, whoever happens to be declared the winner.
I am thinking about the confrontation between “liberalism” – in the form of “liberal democracy” – and Islamism, but with a focus, in response to current events but perhaps also to larger necessity, on Egypt.
If there really is a coherent argument for U.S. intervention in Syria, however, it is one in which humanitarian concerns as well as Islamophobic nightmares play an at best secondary role. It may therefore come across as amoral or worse, making it ill-suited for public diplomacy and patriotic myth-making. That the desirable level of intervention squares with the semi-covert policy that the U.S. actually put into effect suggests that the Obama Administration, intentionally or not, is following just such an approach.
Hussein Ibish sees the workings of a master plot, not quite the same as a the plot of a mastermind, in Morsi’s Egyptian maneuvers. Yet the strengths of Ibish’s criticism undermine themselves: The picture of Egypt that emerges – of the real Egypt rather than the Egypt of liberal aspirations – is of a nation dominated by non-liberal forces, in which the primary negotiations are effectively two-sided, between the forces of the nationalist-military deep state and of the Islamists.
On, appropriately enough, July 4 of this year, via Twitter as @hhassan140, Hassan Hassan (“HH” below) offered a provocative summary of an article on Islamists and the Arab Spring by Hussein Ibish (@ibishblog, “HI”). A colloquy between Hassan, Ibish, and myself (“CM”) ensued, its terms anticipating the same arguments, and the same situation, that informed that tweet of Hassan’s at the head of my “1st Précis.”
The day that the forces or vectors currently aligned against each other in Egypt as “Islamist” and “opposition” no longer treat each other with suspicion, mistrust, and fear would be the day that they no longer recognized any meaningful contradiction between their beliefs, the day that reason and revelation were the same, the day that the theocratic utopia and the liberal-democratic utopia were understood and experienced as the same utopia, which would also be the same day that neither was utopia any longer – “and many nations shall join themselves to the Eternal in that day.”
Those who see or portray sharia as inherently illiberal will have already given up on a liberal politics in Egypt for the foreseeable future, while, as so often, expressing their liberal commitment to the inclusive and tolerant society through pre-emptive exclusion and intolerance.
Since John Derbyshire brought his family into it, I feel free to imagine a response on the part of his child - in effect to mark the transition via adolescent resistance on the way to autonomous adulthood. "Why should I follow what you advise, father? So I can grow up to live a life as morally impoverished, as safe from the risky vitality of others, as immune to hope, as yours?"
The Alt-Right is criticizeable in many ways, and is undoubtedly full of unpleasant people given to saying repugnant things and taking pleasure in doing so, but the Alt-Right is not wrong to point to a transformation whose existence is obvious, but whose significance is difficult to discuss. The denial their statements receive may in turn reflect a determination on the part of a type of true believer to accept the narrative as a kind of sacred truth, rather than as an even conceivably debatable proposition.
The un-clarity or confusion, or confusion of confusions, regarding the meaning of these two terms is typical of this historical moment, which in one sense can be thought to have simply befallen us, having never been willed into existence by anyone, but in another sense can be viewed as the predictable and desired product of choices made over the course of at least two or now three presidential elections, in as self-conscious a manner as a mass democratic system is able to undertake.
TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.
For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.
The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.
Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.
[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.