have certain clear advantages. They have fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking. They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography, the combination of natural increase and migration producing major population changes, which could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries.Lewis notes, however, that the West also has some advantages, especially knowledge and freedom.
Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, sums up the West’s present day failure to counter Islamic extremism, a bleak picture he chastises the media for ignoring, possibly at our peril:
few in the mainstream press seem interested in tracing the full and ugly course of the six years of continual failure that dog the footsteps of the hapless Obama team in a region the White House claimed to understand. Nothing important has gone right for the small and tightly knit team that runs American Middle East policy. Most administrations have one failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking; this administration has two, both distinctly more ignominious and damaging than average. The opening to the Middle East, once heralded by this administration as transformative, has long vanished; no one even talks about the President’s speeches in Cairo and Istanbul anymore, unless regional cynics are looking for punch lines for bitter jokes. The support for the “transition to democracy” in Egypt ended on as humiliating a note as the “red line” kerfuffle in Syria. The spectacular example of advancing human rights by leading from behind in Libya led to an unmitigated disaster from which not only Libya but much of north and west Africa still suffers today.I’m comfortable laying these problems at Obama’s feet, as conservative Mead suggests, but conservative George Will is not. Will recently diagnosed the U.S., not just Obama, as suffering from “Narcissistic Polity Disorder,” a problem identified, Will said, by political science professor Greg Weiner. In an article last year, Weiner linked America’s Narcissistic Polity Disorder directly to the Middle East:
Sectarian violence in the Middle East, an ancient and evidently incurable phenomenon, an American failure? That’s . . . a powerful fantasy, with roots in the same place. . . as narcissistic personality disorder, one of whose hallmarks is the proclivity to interpret foreign events in terms of oneself. Any event, anywhere, anytime becomes a test of American leadership.Islamic extremism is an American problem, because it will continue affecting us directly. We have to deal with it. But it’s not centered on us, and certainly not caused by us. It’s in fact larger and deeper than us, a force with which we must live--or die.