Quote IconOne of the lessons that I focus on from my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan both as a uniformed officer and as a civilian was that there are real limits to what the United States can hope to do in either country. Because ultimately, enduring success lies in political decisions made by the host nation. And I think that Maliki deserves some responsibility for what’s taking place in Iraq

How Worried Should We Be About Al-Qaeda Taking Over Fallujah?

Samuel Helfont reviews Bassam Tibi’s discussion of Islam and Islamism.

IN FEBRUARY, The New York Review of Books’ website hosted a debate in which several prominent feminists criticized Human Rights Watch for issuing a report that whitewashed the record of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists poised to take power in the Middle East. Human Rights Watch responded by stating that this critique amounted to, among other things, “intolerance for Islam.” A year and a half earlier, numerous right-wing American activists launched a fierce campaign to stop the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. In doing so, many of them argued that Islam was to blame for the attacks of September 11 and rejected the idea that Muslims could also have been victims on that fateful day. At first glance, the views of these right-wing activists and those of Human Rights Watch appear diametrically opposed. In fact, they have a good deal in common. Most importantly, both consider Islam and Islamism to be indistinguishable. Only on that basis can they consider the construction of an Islamic cultural center to be a threat, or regard opposition to an Islamist political party to be the same as opposition to Islam as a religion.’

— Samuel Helfont, “Team Warfare

"In August 2011, my older brother Yassein—a businessman who is in no way politically involved—was praying inside the Mustafa Mosque in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, while a protest was happening outside. Security forces moved in to disperse the demonstration, arresting Yassein, who had not been participating. After his arrest, he was taken to the headquarters of Syrian Airforce Security. (Airforce Security is known for brutally torturing dissidents; it was responsible for the mutilation and killing of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb at the outset of the uprising last year.) My brother has been held incommunicado ever since.

That I have been spared Yassein’s fate—indeed, a fate perhaps even worse than his—is only because I left Syria years ago, after years of active political opposition. My current distance from my country has undoubtedly preserved my safety. But it has not at all changed my assessment of the Assad regime’s terrors: Instead, it has only made me more determined in my opposition to Assad’s rule, and more hopeful that its end is near. Indeed, I am confident that my difficult personal journey—from domestic political reformer to leader of a government-in-exile—will one day tell a tale of redemption.”

- Radwan Ziadeh, The Making of a Syrian Dissident: A Personal Journey

Photo of Yassein Ziadeh courtesy of Flickr

"But I do not come, like some others, to speak prophetically to my people. My own bitterness at certain trends in Israeli politics, and at the Israeli government’s refusal to press relentlessly and imaginatively for an answer to the most difficult question—Netanyahu’s supporters exult in his success at driving the Palestinian question from the agenda: an achievement!—my own bitterness is not all that I need to know. More precisely, it is not occasioned only by Israel’s part in the thwarting of peace. Intellectual honesty always requires that one be unhappy for many reasons. Mahmoud Abbas, too, is leading his own people nowhere, and using Benjamin Netanyahu as his excuse. His immobility, and his search for every remedy but a negotiated one, will perpetuate Palestinian statelessness and hasten an explosion. I hear that there is a new conversation taking place within Hamas, but it is somewhat vitiated by the rain of rockets from Gaza."

- Leon Wieseltier, The Lost Art

Photo courtesy of Emily L. Hauser - In My Head

How is the State Department failing Egypt’s revolution?

"Since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year, the Egyptian military—which occupies a key role in the new government—has not exactly distinguished itself on questions of human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, security forces continue to assault and imprison activists who criticize the military. Protesters are regularly beaten and in some cases killed, and the government’s abhorrent treatment of women is becoming a major cause for concern. On March 9, according to Amnesty International, Egyptian security forces detained 17 female protesters for four days, subjecting some of them to electric shocks and “virginity tests.”"

- The Editors, Business as Usual

Image courtesy of Edel Rodriguez

What’s next for Syria and its leader Bashar al Assad?

The Syrian government is holding local elections today as a sign of its commitment to democratic reform. Yet, the elections are being held amidst continuing violence between security and opposition forces, the BBC reports.

Opposition parties have called for a boycott of the polls and have launched a general strike.

Read TNR’s Marty Peretz on “How Obama Is Mishandling the Violence Wracking the Muslim World.”