Michael, Andy: I just wanted to jump in with an angle I raised at a recent AEI event on reform in the Arab world (which btw was organized by Michael).
I asked one of Michael’s guests at the AEI event whether anyone in Lebanon talks about the crimes Hezbollah committed against the laws of Lebanon. His response (this was a Lebanese moderate) really brought home for me the vast gulf in political consciousness between the Islamic World and the West. He said, in essence, that if we resolve the issue of the Sebbah Farms, then Hezbollah will not have an excuse to continue armed resistance, because of course everyone has a fundamental right to resist the occupation of their land.
This response seemed to me so strange. Imagine that the Canadians went berserk and occupied Minnesota. Then imagine that a militia formed to “resist the occupation” but the Federal Government ordered it to disband. Would any American say that the right of resistance trumped obedience for the rule of law? No, of course not. Nothing trumps obedience for the rule of law in this country, not even religion.
But in the Arab world, as another one of Michael’s Lebanese guests pointed out, there is something that trumps the rule of law — and that is the concept of justice, especially Koranic justice. The fundamental problem in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq, is that those societies have not internalized universal respect for the rule of law as the supreme social ethic.
And now I understand that there is an important sense in which the war on terror is a clash of civilizations, or rather, a clash for supremacy between the texts of two religions: Islam, with its supreme law in the Koran, on the one hand, and the Enlightenment, a secular religion whose supreme law is captured in the constitutions of its disciple democracies. And except in Iraq, where it is trying to make a stand, the Enlightenment is in retreat all along the front. That is why the recent cancellation of a Mozart opera in Germany, in deference to Islamist sensibilities, was so symbolic, disheartening, and historic.