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Islam and the West - not a clash of civilizations, but a honeymoon
Original: Iran is not dangerous (but Sarkozy is)
Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
In yet another fascinating interview, demographer Emmanuel Todd (best known for his prediction - based on demographic trends - of the Soviet Union collapse, and his more recent predictions of the "end of the US empire") discusses Iran at length, and suggests that demographic trends in the Muslim world, and in particular in Iran, suggest a massive weakening of the influence of religion over their populations, rather than the opposite...
In "The invention of Europe", I had shown that increasing literacy rates in a population was not enough, on its own, to explain dropping fertility rates. To actually see a drop in birth rates, you needed a reduction in religious influence in addition to growing literacy rates.
As we can see in many Muslim countries fertility rates very close to 2 children per woman, this suggest that the rise of Islamism actually hides a deeper reality, i.e. a profound weakening of religious belief.
He notes that such a transition is never simple or peaceful but that, compared to our own experience in Europe, the Muslim world's own behavior is rather restrained and consequences of the upheaval of such a transition period are rather benign, overall.
There's a bigger gap, demographically speaking, between France and Germany than between France and Iran!
...In that context, the current attacks on Iran appear absurd and oppressive. Iran is not a threat today.
Pakistan is a lot more worrying. The country is late in its demographic evolution, has nuclear weapons, and is in the midst of an Islamic explosion. And yet these facts are treated with carelessness by its American 'ally'.
(22 September 2007)
In addition to the excerpts in Jerome's columns, I thought the first few paragraphs of the original interview (no longer online) were important:
Interviewer: You defend a thesis opposed to the predominant idea of "the clash of civilizations" between the West and the Islamic world...
Emmanuel Todd: With Youssef Courbage, who wrote the book with me, we wanted to show the superficial character of the pessimistic analyses about the incompatibility between Islam and the West. Demography shows, on the contrary, not a divergence but a large and rapid convergence of models.
We take as our starting point the report that the Muslim world, in country after country, is entering a demographic transition. The collapse of fertility rates after a dozen years is the sign of an upheaval of the traditional equilibriums.
The ideas in the interview are contained in the new book "Le Rendez-vous des civilisations" by Emmanuel Todd and Youssef Courbage. (No English translation yet).
A review of the book starts out:
These two demographers arrive at the conclusion: Islam and the West are close to their... honeymoon!
The books of Emmanuel Todd are rare, but often take the form of little intellectual bombs with which orthodoxy is pleased to argue, but which end up being confirmed by reality.
Emmanuel Todd (Wikipedia)
America and Iran: the spark of war
Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy
The two most recent columns in this series have focused on the increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, evident in the belligerent statements coming out of Tehran and the even more sustained, hostile rhetoric emanating from the George W Bush administration and the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party (see "Baghdad spin, Tehran war" [6 September 2007] and "Iran: war and surprise" [13 September 2007]).
On the American side, the political offensive has been accompanied by comments from the United States military and diplomatic leadership, not least General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker's related criticisms of Iranian involvement in Iraq at the congressional hearings of 10-11 September 2007.
There are strong arguments that the warlike rhetoric aids the political leaderships on both sides in their respective domestic predicaments. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has even been criticised within his own party for a cavalier attitude to inflation (now running at over 20%), while for his part Bush is widely seen as a lame-duck president. In these circumstances, the danger is that a febrile, antagonistic atmosphere reinforces a climate that could - quite possibly by accident - quickly escalate into war.
Indeed, even in the past week four additional developments have ratcheted up the tensions even further. In the context of the underlying balance of forces in the Persian Gulf region, make it necessary to analyse what would happen if there really was a war with Iran.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England.
He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001
(20 September 2007)
The war is about oil but it's not that simple
Is this a surprise to anyone?
Lt. Col. Rick Francona, MSNBC
Why are former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments that the Iraq war is "largely about oil" raising eyebrows? Of course the war is about oil - much of our involvement in the Middle East is about oil, while the rest is about Israel and Iraq has posed a threat to both.
That said, let's define "about oil": It is not about seizing Iraq's oilfields. If that was the case, we should have seized Saudi Arabia's and Kuwait's oilfields while we had over half a million troops there in 1991. We could have stayed in oil-rich southern Iraq as well. That was not the policy then, and it is not the policy now.
But, what is the policy? We are still following one first enunciated by then-President Jimmy Carter at his State of the Union Address in 1980, now known as the Carter Doctrine. The free flow of Persian Gulf oil is a vital interest of the United States and will be protected by military force if necessary. Granted, when he made his remarks, he was referring to the threat from the Soviet Union, but the policy remains.
...By 2002, it was apparent that much of the world had lost its appetite for continuing sanctions against Iraq. Once sanctions were lifted, Saddam Hussein would be free to resurrect his missile and weapons of mass destruction programs. Washington decision makers believed this potential development would pose a threat to America's two key interests: oil and Israel.
The war was not about the weapons of mass destruction, it was about the threat the weapons posed to the flow of oil from the Gulf. As Chairman Greenspan says, it's about the oil.
Is this a surprise to anyone?
(21 September 2007)