Debating Islamism’s Trajectory

Dispatches3In this “information age” we are called upon to “multitask.” One of the bigger challenges we face as citizens is, at times, figuring out who is right and who is wrong on so many of the more complicated domestic and foreign policy issues. Another wrinkle to iron out is deciding who is right when the experts you typically side with have a disagreement.

How should we reform Social Security and Medicare? For example, here’s one recent domestic policy issue where allies disagree: is Mike Pence right about Medicaid or are his long list of conservative critics? It’s not made any easier in light of the fact that both political parties have failed to enact any genuine reforms over the past few decades. Thus, almost all of the domestic policies involve massive problems.

Turning to foreign policy, it seems easier to rank small to big. For example, the question of whether to intervene in Syria is simpler than the question of whether we should’ve gone into Iraq in 2003, let alone spent over a decade in Afghanistan.

When it comes to the subject of Islam and Islamic terrorism, the competing arguments can be as pitched as any. Is it the “religion of peace” as President George W. Bush famously said? Or is it…

For a long time I’ve respected the work of both Andrew McCarthy and Daniel Pipes when it comes to the topics of American foreign policy, the Middle East, and the nature of Islam. Recently they had a give-and-take on the latter — here are the titles of their respective essays:

Andrew McCarthy: “Can Islamism Evolve?

Daniel Pipes: “The Growth of ‘Moderate’ Islamism

Here is a short excerpt from a follow-up post by Pipes:

Andrew C. McCarthy and I are allies over the long term, fighting the Islamist scourge in the same trench for two decades. But alliance does not mean singlemindedness and he responded critically today at NRO in “Can Islamism Evolve?” to my earlier NRO article, “The Growth of ‘Moderate’ Islamism.”

I wrote there that while Islamism – the radical utopian movement aspiring to a consistent and global application of Islamic law under the rule of a caliph – remains in large part violent and tyrannical, developments in several countries suggest the slight possibility that this ideology will evolve in a more benign and decent direction. To which, Andy responded with three main observations, which I shall briefly answer:

1. Andy observes: “Western democracy is regressing away from a culture of individual liberty protected by limited government. If it now seems conceivable that Islamism could democratize, it can only be owing to modern democracy’s accommodation of more centralized and intrusive government.”

I reply: Indeed, democracy is a flexible concept and recent developments have mostly been negative; think of the pseudo-democratic nature of the European Union. But I am not so much talking about a debased form of democracy as an evolution toward something civilized; I am not being technical about democracy but political about freedom and the rule of law.

There is too much material to read and digest thanks to the Internet. Reading the back and forths such as the Pence/Medicaid example and the McCarthy/Pipes dialog can be a way to get more information more quickly.

Read the rest of the McCarthy/Pipes exchange at