May 18, 2007
Those Who Cannot Learn from History Get All the Sweet Gigs
Robert Dreyfuss on Bernard "Huntington's Choreographer" Lewis writing in the WSJ.
[T]here is this gem from Lewis:Dreyfuss doesn't mention it here, but one of the oddities of Lewis' failure to recall how the Islamic Religious Right was cosseted by the West as part of Cold War strategies to marginalise Third World nationalism and leftism is that these were policies he approved of at the time.
For a long time, the main enemy [of the Muslims] was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.But where Lewis is wrong, of course, iis that the USSR wasn't seen as an ally by religious Muslim organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahhabis, and other fundamentalist and Salafi-oriented groups, all of whom were bitterly anti-communist. As I document in my book, Devil's Game, it was precisely because the Muslim fundamentalists were so anti-Soviet that they often got American support throughout the Cold War. The "Muslims" who joined with the USSR were the (often secular) nationalists, leftists, communists, Baathists, and Nasserists who were "anti-Western" because they saw the British and French as colonial masters. (Later, the United States joined that list, by virtue of its Cold War opposition to Arab and Iranian nationalism.)
Dreyfuss' take down also notes that Lewis appears to be under the impression that the Taliban chased the Soviets out of Afghanistan, rather an important mistake for a historian to make, although not for those who like to pretend nothing of relevance has happened since the siege of Vienna.