Engaging the Muslim World
By Juan R. I. Cole
Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 288 pp.
The United States and the West distrust and fear Islam. Muslims distrust and fear the United States and the West. From yesterday's pan-Islam to today's Taliban, and from yesterday's Western colonialism to today's Western occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the "clash of civilizations" motif does not lack historical and cultural moorings. Such us-versus-them abstractions, however, miss a more nuanced reality. It is this nuanced reality that Cole captures with a readable mix of sound history, quantitative data (including poll findings), and challenges to received wisdom. Separate chapters treat the geopolitics of oil; Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia; the similarities and differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan; Iran, with due reference given to its regional ambitions; Egypt; and Iraq. The book offers a critique of U.S. policy (unremittingly severe on the Bush-Cheney years but also scoring Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as presidential candidates for their aggressive campaign statements on Afghanistan and Pakistan). A concluding chapter suggests moderate and manageable policies the United States should enact to transcend its "Islam anxiety."