[lit-ideas] Re: Five Years Ago

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 12:22:03 -0700



I believe that Barnett in his CSPAN 2 interview claims to be a determinist.
I heard Fukuyama all the time I was listening to Barnett, but he never
mentioned his name. In one respect he doesn't need to.  He has worked out
details and procedures that go far beyond Fukuyama -- but, I hasten to add,
all in the same direction.  Fukuyama is the quiet, soft-spoken retiring
intellectual, the polar opposite of Ann Coulter, by the way, as well as
Thomas Barnett.  He'd love the anonymity thing we've got going here on


A few considerations in response to what you've written: 


I had an ongoing debate with Omar about how many moderates there were in the
Middle East.  He assumed what I've heard many assume, namely that the
Moderates in the Middle East are in the majority, but I couldn't find
support from that anecdotally.  That is, I had not read any major Muslim
writers speaking from within the Middle East.  So I challenged Omar in
different ways to produce evidence that the Moderates were in the majority
and he couldn't do it.  There are moderates but they write from the U.S. or
Europe.  They could still theoretically be the majority and just not happen
to have any intellectuals capable of writing, or they could be in the
majority and be intimidated into silence by the Islamists.  I've found
anecdotal evidence from reading that 1) Islamism has become so widespread
that it may now be in the majority in the Middle East, but 2) Muslim
intellectuals who disagree with Islamism do not feel safe enough to voice
their disagreement from within the Middle East.  


Consider the following as an example of anecdotal evidence:  Olivier Roy in
Gobalized Islam, p. 250 writes, "The ambivalence of their relationship is
reflected in the Wahhabi condemnation of Sayyid Qutb.   Paradoxically his
books are found everywhere and mentioned on most neofundamentalist websites.
He fascinates Islamists and certain neofundamentalists for different
reasons.  His political message of revolt and action appeals to radical
Islamists, but his more pessimistic views on the modern world, his radical
contempt and hatred for the West, and his mystical approach resonate more
with neofundamentalists, who are obsessed by Hell and salvation."  


So the "Qutbist movement" as Olivier Roy calls it is out there and
pervasive, but how do believers in Qutb get to the twin towers?  Osama bin
Laden was an especially committed believer in Qutb's theology.  His
experience fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan seemed to vindicate
his understanding of that theology.  Though the holy warriors were poorly
armed, their faith in Allah was strong, and true to the promise the Soviets
were defeated.  Surely, Osama reasoned, the Soviets were much fiercer than
the US.  Maybe the US had certain technological advantages, but they
cowardly ran away time and time again when they were made to bleed and die.
He and his base, his Al Quaeda, would provoke the US.  They would cleverly
entice them into the same killing ground where they decapitated the Russian
bear by hitting the US so hard and in such a way that the US people would
demand that its government do something about it.  He would force the US to
come to Afghanistan.  And so 9/11 occurred and Osama got his wish.


It would be possible for a determinist to claim Qutb as the root cause and
Osama as the proximate cause, but as I said I am not a determinist.  I
recall for example the poor level of knowledge and information in the Middle
East and the prevalence of Conspiracy Theories.  It can be readily seen that
Osama had an extremely poor understanding of the US.  


Also, the very fact that the US was the only remaining superpower is a
contributing cause, given Osama's understanding of Qutb's theology.  Allah
blessed Osama by letting him defeat the Soviets.  Surely he will bless him
again and let him defeat the next logical power.  


The CIA's giving of stinger missiles to the Jihadists (using the defensive
meaning of the word Jihad) was a contributing (as well as inadvertent)


Another contributing cause according to Olivier Roy although I can't find
the reference is that the 9/11 participants were what he calls "born again"
Islamists.  There was evidence of their profligacy but after that they were
dramatically converted and were impassioned with new and true belief.  I'm
going to look for that Roy reference again because I seem to recall some
Arab hanky-panky just days before 9/11.









From:  Judith Evans
Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 10:44 AM


OK, full reply 


JE>> if you don't want to answer the questions, how about defining "root


LH>  Ah, I didn't realize that you intended a quibble. 


this is not, Lawrence, a quibble.  


LH>Well, without Qutb there would not be Islamism as we know it 

LH>today; so he is a necessary cause.


I think I agree (but am not sure how much we are saying when

we say this).  My argument is that this does not explain 9/11,

and it does not explain other terrorist acts. 


 LH>I am not a determinist (as Barnett and Fukuyama are, 

LH>by the way); so I have a problem with applying the term 

LH>sufficient cause to social events.


 Fukayama certainly is a determinist, I'm not convinced Barnett is 

(but my definition of "determinist" may be too strict) 


LH> so I have a problem with applying the term 

LH>sufficient cause to social events.


So you would agree that (the holding of) Qutb's ideology does not, by

explain 9/11 or indeed any other terrorist act carried out by Muslims.

Good. But then you might want to consider other causes.  And

I do not mean other ideologies, other Islamic writers; I mean,

other types of cause.



LH>Could a modern day Jihadist become militant without ever having 

LH>heard of Qutb?  Probably.


that isn't the only question (the answer is "probably", yes).  How do people

become Jihadists?  How do they move from holding such beliefs

to acting on them and acting violently?  Why do some, exposed to the same

stimuli, not act?  **Why did the fifth 7/7 bomber turn back? **



Judy Evans, Cardiff

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