How—and Why—the U.S. Can Support the Reform of Islam

Ayaan Hirsi Ali castigates the United States and its allies for not taking to heart that the war on terror is also a war of ideas, and for not waging it as such. She suggests how they could do better (free registration required):

American presidents and secretaries of state need not give lectures on the finer points of Islamic orthodoxy. But it is not too much to ask them to support Islamic religious reform and make the fate of Muslim dissidents and reformers part of their negotiations with allies (such as Saudi Arabia) and foes (such as Iran) alike. At the same time, U.S. officials need to stop publicly whitewashing unreformed Islam.

There is a precedent for this proposal. During the cold war, the United States systematically encouraged and funded anti-Communist intellectuals to counter the influence of Marxists and other fellow travelers of the left by speaking out against the evils of the Soviet system. In 1950, the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom, dedicated to defending the non-Communist left, opened in Berlin. Leading intellectuals such as Bertrand Russell, Karl Jaspers, and Jacques Maritain agreed to serve as honorary chairs. Many of the congress’s members were former Communists—notably, Arthur Koestler—who warned against the dangers of totalitarianism on the basis of personal experience. . . .

The conventional wisdom today is that the cold war was won on economics. But this is a misunderstanding of history. In fact, in the 1950s and again in the 1980s, the United States appealed to people living behind the Iron Curtain not only on the basis of Americans’ higher standards of living but also—and perhaps more importantly—on the basis of individual freedom and the rule of law. . . .

Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam with as much courage as the dissidents who spoke out against the Soviet Union. . . . They are . . . challenging an orthodoxy that contains within it the seeds of an escalating jihad. Yet the West either ignores them or dismisses them as unrepresentative.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Cold War, Islam, Islamism, Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy