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Fostering stability is a failed policy. The alternative is to manage instability. By that I mean forcing the burden of uncertainty upon our opponents. We should deal with Muslim countries as a matter of national self-interest, rewarding friends and frightening or harming enemies. The Saudi regime is monstrous, but we have no reason to change it, although we need to discourage the Saudis in the harshest way from paying protection to terrorists.
In order to stop Iran’s nuclear program, we may have to decapitate the civilian and military leadership and disrupt communications. That can be accomplished through aerial assault and subversion rather than invasion, but will occasion great hardship and extensive civilian casualties. We must do so nonetheless.
Pakistan has shown itself incapable of containing the Islamic radicals in its military and intelligence services. We should not allow this failed state to humiliate us further and instead seek to encircle and contain it, with India’s help.
Turkey has become a prospective enemy, and there are a number of things we might do, for example with the Kurds, to impose a high penalty for misbehavior. Covert action to support dissident movements, human rights initiatives, religious reforms, and so forth is an important component of managing instability, As a model, I would examine Dutch military and diplomatic efforts during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648.
FP: A section of your book is entitled “Theopolitics.” What do you mean by this term?
Goldman: Actually, that was my original working title for the book, but my publishers wisely observed that it would be relegated to the “Religion” section. Our political science is rooted in Thomas Hobbes’ materialism, and assumes that actors on the political stage follow their rational self-interest, defined as self-preservation. We can gussy up Hobbes with game theory, but it makes no difference. We live in a world in which most of the industrial nations find themselves in a demographic death spiral, a Great Extinction of the nations unlike anything we have seen since the 7th century. Most of the nations of the world would rather die out than adapt to modernity; they are not much different from the neolithic Amazon tribes who succumb to alcoholism. Why do some nations find the spiritual resources to embrace life, while others chant, “We love death”? What is the rational self-interest of a nation that has chosen to become extinct? And how will nations on the way to extinction respond to their predicament? These are the great questions of our time, and materialist political science does not have the tools to answer them. Franz Rosenzweig’s sociology of religion, for example, provides a better framework for understanding these problems than the political rationalism of Leo Strauss.
FP: What is the role of Turkey in all of this?
Goldman: There were great hopes in the last Bush administration that Turkey would provide a model for moderate Islamist democracy, and the Obama administration has tried to make Turkey a partner in Middle East diplomacy. This was a profound error. Turkey is one of the tragedies of our time. Kemal Ataturk brought Turkey into the modern world, but his reforms only took root with the Europeanized elite in metropolitan Turkey. His brand of modernizing, secular nationalism was spiritually hollow, and the European side of Turkish society suffered from the same infertility that plagued Europe itself. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the standard-bearer for Muslim Anatolia against the secular metropole, and his ambitions to recreate Turkey’s dominant role in the Muslim world have been discussed exhaustively. But insufficient attention has been given to Turkey’s inherent weakness and instability. Kurdish-speakers, now a fifth of the population, have three times as many children as native Turkish-speakers, which means that half of Turkey’s military-age population will be Kurdish a generation from now. Erdogan is in a panic over this. In a recent speech he warned that on its present trajectory the Turkish nation would come to an end in 2038. Why that year, I do not know, but it’s as good a guess as any. As with Iran, Turkey’s grandiose pronouncements and reckless behavior reflect an apocalyptic sense that time is running out. In the long term, Turkey is not a viable ally, because it is not a viable country. In the short term, Turkey has become another problem to be contained.
FP: How do you see Israel’s strategic position in the context of the Arab Spring and Obama’s abandoning — and bullying — of Israel?
Goldman: The Obama administration’s attempt to force Israel into a peace settlement is deluded, obviously so in recent months. Any possible deal with the Palestinians would build on Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, which now is in doubt, and the whole idea of a comprehensive peace in the region is ruled out by the chaos in Syria. For reasons Obama himself has emphasized, he identifies with Islam in a way no previous president could have imagined, and tried to force Israel into an agreement on Palestinian terms. This is all sewage under the bridge. It is true that Israel is more isolated than before, but that is a mixed curse. Civil war in Syria and economic chaos in Egypt will degrade the capacity of both countries to make war. Syria’s troubles make Hezbollah’s position more difficult, but Hamas will acquire arms more easily in Gaza. Israel has greater risk of rocket attacks, but less risk from conventional opponents. It is also important to note that the “demographic time bomb” argument has quietly disappeared, now that the data clearly show that the Jewish birth rate in Israel is equal to the Arab birth rate. The great risk to Israel’s security has little to do with the Arab Spring. It comes from Iran, which set out to acquire nuclear weapons years ago.
FP: Overall, how do you think the United States can best survive the threats and upheavals it faces on the horizon?
Goldman: The United States must act like a superpower, rather than an NGO with a humanitarian agenda. That means standing by friends like Israel, preempting real threats like Iran, and punishing wayward allies like Turkey. We’ve been talking about a lot of unpleasant things, but it’s important to remember that two-thirds of the world population lives in countries where things are getting better–China, East Asia, India, South America. Tens of millions of people each year move from rural poverty to urban prosperity. In the great scheme of things the Muslim world is of minor importance to America, and its disintegration will make that plain over time. Far more important are our relationships with India and China. And these depend on the perception that America is the undisputed world hyperpower, such that it is pointless to test our patience. That means more military spending, not less, but also less dissipation of our resources on well-meaning but futile exercises in nation-building. China will be more willing to accommodate American security requirements, for example in Pakistan, if it perceives that American strength is past all possible challenge for the foreseeable future.
Americans have not begun to absorb how much the world has changed. We are likely to have humanitarian disasters on a gigantic scale in Egypt and elsewhere, about which we can do no more than we could in Somalia during the Clinton administration. We like to think of ourselves like the Lone Ranger, fixing everybody’s troubles. There will be occasions when our national security interests require us to stir up troubles rather than mitigate them. I wrote “How Civilizations Die” to harden American hearts, to horrify readers in order to inoculate them against the horrors to come.
FP: David P. Goldman, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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