Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bret Stephens's Blind Spot

Bernard Lewis

Bret Stephens

In his Tuesday’s column in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens writes in President BuzzFeed:

There’s a sense in which the president’s foreign policy reminds me of Francis Fukuyama ’s “End of History” thesis, though it is typically associated with American neoconservatives. Following the publication of Mr. Fukuyama’s book in the early 1990s, the argument was attacked for ignoring all the history—the breakup of Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda, and so on—that continued to take place after he had declared it over.
Mr. Fukuyama’s rebuttal was that none of that really counted, at least in the dialectical, Hegelian, capital-H sense of “History.” History had ended because there was no plausible ideological competitor to liberal, democratic capitalism, and sooner or later everyone would get the point.
Maybe that’s even true. Yet in the words “sooner or later” lie the great political questions of our day, matters of life or death for the Ukrainian soldiers encircled by Russian troops, or Western hostages held by Islamic State, or everyone threatened by Iran’s slow and steady march toward regional hegemony.
Iran’s slow and steady march toward regional hegemony?  That would be the better scenario. Apparently, Bret Stephens has a blind spot for the more dangerous possibility. The possibility that Iran would use nuclear weapons regardless of the consequences for Iran. This scenario Bret Stephens never considers. Why not?    This article is not an exception. Only last week in the Jerusalem Post, in A conversation with Bret Stephens, he said:

The second source is that there are theological resources within Shi’ite Islam and its “quietism”; the political tradition argues that religion and politics shouldn’t mix, and that we should not have “guardianship of the jurist” – the concept that Ayatollah Khomeini [argued], insisting on clerical political leadership

There are other traditions in Shi’ite Islam, epitomized by the Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq; this provides  the deeper theological basis for rejecting Islamic government, which we do not find much in the Sunni world. And it was important to hear Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ask the clerics of [Cairo’s] Al-Azhar University to do some thinking. But Sunni Islam needs to develop its own quietist tradition if it is going to save itself from its radical impulses. 

Yet he never mentions the Shi’ite Twelver eschatology and Bernard Lewis with his famous quote “For people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement.”  Why not?   In  Why MAD will fail with Iran, in 2010, I wrote

They managed to do it.  Two leading U.S. journalists from the two most important U.S. papers, Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal and Roger Cohen from The New York Times, succeeded in the impossible. 

In The Iran Debate on Friday, April 30,  they debated  for an hour and a half without mentioning the very crux of the problem - that Iran may use the bomb because MAD, the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, does not work with the Iranian regime. 

Bret Stephens is by far one of the best and most knowledgeable journalists writing on the Middle East and Israel. But even he skips the famous Bernard Lewis quote. Will he finally mention it when on March 3 Benjamin Netanyahu ends up quoting Bernard Lewis’s “For people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement.”  before the US Congress?