Ajami Offers Wisdom on Islam and the Middle East

My old professor Fouad Ajami, who flourished at Johns Hopkins after starting his academic career at Princeton, discusses Islam and the Middle East on Peter Robinson’s well-crafted Uncommon Knowledge video series.  There is no transcript, but I’ve painstakingly transcribed a few passages, and in some cases I’ve added links to my own posts along similar lines.  (I didn’t take notes this well in the good professor’s course, but I might have if his lectures had a pause button.)

We can be proud of what we have done in Iraq.  America has midwifed a binational state — that means Arab and Kurd — and we have midwifed a democratic entity in the heart of the Middle East…. I think history will be immensely kind to what he [President Bush] did in Iraq. [Hear, hear.]

I don’t think President Obama should make Afghanistan the so-called “central front” in the war on terror.  Because in the bazaar, that just increases the price of the Afghan real estate. It gives the Afghans the sense they can blackmail us — that we’re so dependent on their largesse, so dependent on their hospitality.  We must tell the Afghans unequivocably that we have other concerns in this war on terror.

Iran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear [weapons]… There are two men in the world, and only two men in the world, who can prevent this.  One of them is President Obama, and the other one is Prime Minister Netanyahu.  So either President Obama, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, puts a halt to this Iranian drive, or the Iranians will have what they want.  [There may be two men who could, but only one who likely will.]

People who say that there is no moderate Islam trouble me, because I know that the battle for Islam is not yet lost… We believe it’s an open battle. We know that the radical Islamists are trying to hijack the faith and “weaponize” Islam so to speak… but I can’t go that far and say there is no moderate Islam. I know for example there are many jurists in the Islamic world who are keen to get Islam back from the radicals. [From his lips to Allah’s ears.]

He [Obama] doesn’t understand this Arabic expression… “My brother and I against my cousin.  My cousin and I aganist a stranger.” There’s one thing Arabs and Muslims don’t like, which is someone who comes into their midst and trashes his own.  President Obama walked in to Cairo and spoke poorly of the Iraq war, and apologized for America.  It was a terrible mistake. And even the people at the receiving end, they may enjoy his taunts of President Bush and his attacks on the Iraq war — but you are never respected.  If you break with your own, you break with your own.

We need less of the global apology tour and more of the ringing assertion of America’s role in the world that Obama delivered so effectively in his Nobel Prize speech.