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Lee Smith talks about The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, And The Clash Of Arab Civilizations

Saturday, February 27, 2010

HH: Special edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show today. As you’ve known since 9/11, whenever a crucial book to understand the war comes out, I devote an entire show to talking about it and the issues about the war raised in connection with the book with the author. And today is one of those shows. Lee Smith has put out a brand new book called The Strong Horse. The Strong Horse: Power, Politics And The Clash Of Arab Civilizations. It’s published by Doubleday. It was brought to my attention by our friend, Michael Totten, who’s done such great reporting from the Middle East. And I’m pleased now to welcome Lee Smith to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Lee, welcome, great to have you today.

LS: Thanks very much, Hugh. It’s a pleasure to be here, and thank you to Michael Totten, too, for bringing the book to your attention. I really appreciate it.

HH: Well, he’s not one to lavish a lot of praise, and so when he sent me the e-mail and said you’ve got to read this book, I was more than happy to. And I read it in three sittings, not two like Michael Totten, and so my compliments to you. Before we dive into the book, I want to establish for the audience, Lee, who you are and where you’re from. Give us a little bio on Lee Smith.

LS: Sure. Okay, right now, I’m in Washington, D.C., where I’ve been based the last few years. Before that, I was in Beirut for a couple of years, where actually Michael Totten and I first met and hung out. Now, we run into each other across the region periodically. I’m originally from New York. I was born in Puerto Rico, raised in New York City, worked in journalism and publishing. And then when 9/11 hit, as I explain in the book, I decided to figure out what had happened to my hometown. So I picked up and I moved off to Cairo, Egypt.

HH: Now you made a passing reference, before we go off to that, to having been at Cornell. Were you a student of Allan Bloom’s there?

LS: No, I wasn’t, actually. I studied in the English department. And what did Professor Bloom teach?

HH: Political theory.

LS: Yeah, no, I…did you study with him?

HH: No, but you reference Leo Strauss in one of your footnotes. So I thought you might be one of Bloom’s Straussians.

LS: Right. Yeah, no, I mean, I’m a huge fan of Allan Bloom, and actually, I sort of inadvertently cite him in another part of the book. I’m talking about a regime of Arab enlightenment. I think that’s probably a paraphrase of a line from one of Professor Bloom’s books. So I’m a big fan of his, and I do, I’m a big fan of Leo Strauss’ as well.

HH: So after 9/11, you up and move from publishing and journalism circles to Cairo, and you begin to study Arab…give people sort of a rundown of where you’ve been since 2001.

LS: Sure. Yeah, I was in Cairo for about a year, came back to Brooklyn, at which point I was traveling around the region a lot – Jordan, Dubai. Then I moved off to Lebanon shortly before the Hariri assassination, which actually we just, sadly, commemorated the 5th anniversary of that yesterday. So it was right around this time five years ago that I moved to Beirut. I was there for about two years, and I let in the middle of the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah. So yeah, and then from there, I moved back to the States, and now I still travel frequently to the region, usually to Lebanon, though a fair amount to Israel as well, a little bit to Egypt, but mostly to Lebanon. I was in Lebanon, I guess, six times the last year, in 2009. And I’ll probably be there a lot again this year, too. A lot of friends…

HH: I want to explain to the audience, we are recording this interview on February 15th. The 5th year of the Hariri assassination was on Valentine’s Day, on the 14th

LS: Oh, right.

HH: Even though we’re airing it on the 26th, I don’t want people to be confused by that. Lee Smith, what is your ethnicity? How do you manage to move so apparently effortlessly around the various precincts of the Middle East?

LS: Well, I was born in Puerto Rico. My mother’s Puerto Rican, so I guess whether I’m in Lebanon or Egypt or even Israel, people frequently take me to be a local native, until I open up my mouth, whether it’s in Arabic or Hebrew. Then, they realize that I’m just a foreigner. So yeah, I mean, one of the things is, though, I mean, I don’t…I’m an American, so when I go to these different places, people ask me not so much even there, but even here in Washington, people say well, are you pro-Israeli or pro-Arab, and which I think as an American to have to answer that question is kind of ridiculous. I mean, you know, I like to say that I’m on the side of the good guys. And that sounds a little simplistic. I think it is pretty simple. I mean in Lebanon, for instance, I’m on the side of March 14, the side of the people who were fighting for, in some cases, still are fighting for a democracy and sovereignty over their own country, and I’m against the bad guys, like Hezbollah, like the Syrian regime, who, you know, who are killing politicians, who are killing journalists, civil society activists. So I’m neither, I don’t see myself as, I see myself as both pro-Israeli and pro-Arab.

HH: Now in The Strong Horse, you’ve got very decided opinions. You just articulated a couple of them, and we’ve got three hours to walk through them.

LS: All right.

HH: But I want to start with you opinion of the American foreign policy elite by giving people…had you been interested in American foreign policy prior to 9/11, Lee Smith?

LS: Not so much. I mean, some of the work I did in journalism was on foreign policy. I mean editing, I was mostly editing, and some of it was on domestic politics. But I did a lot more literature. I was much more of a literature and book person. So no, this was, you know, and really my introduction to the Middle East was mostly through literature as well. I mean, I was interested in a body of literature and a poetry which I had no access to, knowing only English. So that interested me, as did things like music and other sorts of cultural entertainments. But getting there, getting to Egypt, and then living there and seeing things up close and sort of recognizing or believing that what I was seeing in front of me didn’t bear much relationship to the way this part of the world was typically described either by American journalists or foreign journalists, or U.S. policy makers. So I saw a huge difference between what was really happening what people typically described was happening.

HH: Now at one point in the book, in a very fascinating couple of pages, you describe meeting Omar Sharif in Cairo.

LS: Yeah.

HH: And he says to you, “Is it your Orientalist fantasy that’s brought you here, isn’t it?” And we’re going to have to explain. What is an Orientalist fanstasy, but also, was it true? You didn’t really answer the question in the book.

LS: Yeah, right. Well, you know, one of the funny things is that Omar Sharif was a, he was a schoolmate of Edward Said’s. And Edward Said is the sort of person who made this idea, Orientalism, famous. You know, what Orientalist used to mean. It used to mean someone who studied Orientalist languages, meaning Arabic or Turkish or Farsi or Hebrew, Kurdish, a number of other…I think, I believe…I say that without knowing for sure, but I believe Kurdish is counted as an Oriental language. But Edward Said turned it basically into a slur word, that an Orientalist was someone who looked down on Muslims and Arabs, and other people who lived in what we used to call the Orient. And this was part of his entire sort of, this was part of his entire critique, that the people who studied this part of the world had served empire to subjugate third world peoples. So when Omar Sharif said this, I mean, I think largely, he was just kind of joking. I mean, he was an interesting, fascinating character. But of course, any of us, you know, any of us who have seen Lawrence Of Arabia, I mean, any boys, young men, middle-aged men, old men who have seen this, and certainly American women, and it’s just loaded with romance. There’s this whole thing about being in a desert and riding horses, and liberating vast tracts of land and people. So I mean, it was kind of a gag, but it is also true. Lawrence Of Arabia, and lots of different aspects of representations of the Middle East, and Arabs do partake in this romance. So I think he was mostly being a character.

HH: He was scratching at you, though, to figure out what your motive was. And I think motive is always very, very interesting to me.

LS: Yeah.

HH: And The Strong Horse is a fascinating book. But what is Lee Smith’s motive?

LS: Well, I mean, it really was, again, New York is my hometown. And it’s not a nice thing to have your hometown attacked, and to have 3,000 of your neighbors killed. So it’s to find out exactly why this happened, and what had gone on, that really sort of motivated me. And in a sense, I think, actually, to come back to Omar Sharif, I mean he was joking around and being funny and pretty playful. As I also write in the book, you know, he led me over to the bar by my jacket sleeve, and we drank for the better part of the evening.

HH: Yes.

LS: That was a fun night. But I think that a lot of people there understood what an American was doing in Cairo, basically, two months after 9/11. There were a lot of Americans who came to the region, a lot of students, a lot of journalists. Either they came out of curiosity, or they came out of, I think most of the time they came out of curiosity. But I mean, it also was something, it was for journalists, writers, I mean, it still continues to be a bit story. But certainly a few months after 9/11, it was an enormous story.

HH: Yeah.

LS: So you know, I think they understood basically why I was there.

– – – –

HH: Lee Smith, let me start with a couple of quotes to center our audience from early in the book. From The Strong Horse, you write, “The Arabic-speaking Middle East is not a sea of some three hundred million Arabs who all have a common interest, but a region with 70% Sunni population, and dozens of minorities. The size of the Sunni majority and its concomitant power and prestige have allowed it to rule by violence, repression and coercion for close to 1,400 years.” A little big later, you write, “Force is at the core of the way most Arabs understand politics, and that therefore there is no way to understand how the Middle East works without understanding the concept of the strong horse. It is not a moral judgment, but a description.” These are candid but controversial statements. How have they been received by sort of the professional Middle East watchers and manipulators?

LS: I mean, you’re right, it is controversial. I think it shouldn’t be that controversial. I mean, you talked about Leo Strauss before, and one of the reasons that I use that quote, or I use that section from Strauss in the introduction is to sort of drive home the point to people that this is the way that politics has always been organized in the past, through violence and coercion. And most people have never had the great good fortune that we do to conduct our political lives free of this sort of force and violence. I mean, we are extraordinarily lucky, and we take our luck and our good fortune for granted. At a great cost, we take it for granted. And since I was explaining this to an American readership, I really wanted them to understand first of all how lucky we are, second of all, that this is how the region works. But your observation that this sort of goes against what the professional class of Middle East experts believes, yeah, that’s not something that you’re supposed to say, because people immediately reduce that to the notion that Arabs only understand violence, or they only understand force. And this was something that people wrongly, incorrectly associated with the Bush administration. This is not what the Bush administration believed. The Bush administration actually, the idea of democracy promotion was to give Arabs another choice, another option, not to organize their politics in terms of violence, but in terms of consensus and terms of agreement. So yeah, I think that already people have been critical of my position, and I’m sure more people will be critical as time goes on. I hope, I mean, I’m happy to have the argument. I’m looking forward to it.

HH: You quote a 14th Century Muslim historian, and my pronunciation is not so great, so feel free to correct me often.

LS: Okay.

HH: Ibn Khaldun, is that correct?

LS: Yeah, yeah. That’ll do it.

HH: And his masterpiece is Al-Muqaddima, in which you write a summary. “History is a matter of one tribe, nation or civilization dominating the others by force until it, too, is overthrown by force. And it this, what I call the strong horse principle, not Western imperialism, not Zionism, not Washington policy makers, that has determined the fundamental character of the Arab-speaking Middle East, where bin Ladenism is not drawn from the extremist fringe, but represents the political and social norm.” That might be controversial, Lee Smith, because it’s very scary.

LS: Yeah, it’s very unfortunately. I mean, I think this is the case. I mean, if you look at…I mean, one of the arguments that I was trying to make, one of the arguments I was trying to make is that you know, we have, Islamic extremism. We have al Qaeda. We have bin Laden. We have all of these different…we have Hezbollah, Hamas, all of these different, vicious, ruthless outfits. But if we look at the other side, how do people rule? I mean, if we look at even the so-called friendly Arab states that are allied with us, whether it’s Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you know, these are rulers who rule by force. I mean, the security services are very important. Security services, as we know, do things like extraordinary rendition. I mean, they torture people. So it’s a very, very hard…the political forms in that part of the world are very, very hard. Another point that I make is that it’s not, I think in lots of ways, the Bush administration saw the real problem being the regime, you know? Once you get rid of Saddam Hussein and these really vicious rulers, then you sort of will unleash the natural democratic energies of the Arab people. And unfortunately, this is just not the case. And it’s not a biological thing, it’s not a genetic thing. It’s a cultural thing. This is just the way it’s been going on for a very, very long time.

HH: You know, Lee Smith, I’m going to jump to the end of the book. We’ll come back. We have plenty of time.

LS: Okay, great.

HH: But I want to get to the heart of it. Book 8 of the Republic, you quote at the end, “The states are as the men are. They grow out of human character.” So I think as I thought about this book for the last few days, what you’re saying is the Arab character formed by history, not by genetics…

LS: Yeah, right.

HH: …is one that understands the world to be violent, and understands regimes to be violent, and understands that’s what survival requires. Is that fair?

LS: Yeah. I think that is a fair way to put it. And again, I mean, just to come back to repeat what you said, I mean, it’s not genetics, it’s not biology. I mean, look, this is a country, our country, the United States, where immigrants come here from all over the world, and they make it and they succeed. And they want to leave their parts of the world, because they know they’re bloody or ruthless or have failed. And they come here, and they see success. So it’s not as though Arabs come here and they live the same way. They don’t. They live like we do. They live the way all of us Americans do. But in those particular cultures, yeah, those particular cultures, I think that’s just the way it’s been going for, I mean, even long before the advent of Islam. I don’t see the problem as Islam. The problem is not religion. The problems are problems deeply embedded in the culture.

HH: I found it fascinating and very focusing. In fact, this is odd. You don’t quote him in the book, but I was thinking about Hyman Roth in the Godfather, Part II.

LS: Right.

HH: And this is the quote. He said when I heard Moe had been killed, I wasn’t angry. I knew Moe. I knew he was strong-headed, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen. I didn’t ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business. And it seems like Arabia is just, in your world and your understanding, it’s just the region the way it is.

LS: Yeah, it’s just the way it is. I mean, and we can’t…it’s interesting, you know, because I mean, there’s a number of different things. I think first of all, we have U.S. interests at stake, including the Persian Gulf, including oil in the Persian Gulf. And then we have U.S. lives at stake, which we saw on 9/11, and we see, you know, we saw with the Christmas bomber. This guy nearly came over and killed quite a few people. So those kinds of things are of course very upsetting. But really, I mean, as I start the book saying, we can’t take it too personally, you know? So yeah, right. It’s like the Hyman Roth speech, which is an awesome speech. I’m really glad you quoted that. But that’s it. You can’t take it too personally.

HH: It’s very fatalistic.

LS: Yeah.

HH: It’s very fatalistic.

– – – –

HH: All right, Lee Smith, as I said when we were going to break, you’re very clear-eyed about the Bush administration and what the President knew and didn’t know, and what the Vice President knew and didn’t know or didn’t understand. But at the end of it, you know, your argument is that Americans underestimated completely, didn’t understand, really, Arab character. But I thought to myself, again out of Chapter 8, the states are as the men are, they grow out of human character in The Republic, our American character wouldn’t allow us to do anything but what we did after 9/11.

LS: Yeah, I totally agree with you.

HH: And so aren’t we doomed, really, to have this cycle over and over again until either the Arab character or the American character changes?

LS: Boy, that’s darker than my book.

HH: Well, (laughing)

LS: (laughing)

HH: I don’t mean it to be dark. I just mean it to be the logical conclusion of what you wrote.

LS: Yeah, I think you’re right, and that is something that I say in my conclusion. I say you know, I mean, I believe that we’ve learned something of a lesson about democracy promotion, and how difficult this is. But I think that we believe, you know, again, we sell ourselves short. We think that what we do here, we think that having created this republic, that this is a fairly easy thing to do, and all it takes is people of good will and fortitude, and it can be done. And it’s not that easy. And we shed a lot of blood over it, and it took a long time to get to this stage in what I believe is human progress. I think this is the best way to live. But not everyone can do it. Not everyone’s up for it. And I’m really happy that you keep coming back to that bit from the Republic, because I think that really is important. I mean, I think it’s a very important insight to realize that cultures, states, how peoples are ruled, they reflect the culture of the people themselves. You know, these things are inseparable.

HH: Have you spent time in Russia?

LS: No, I never have.

HH: Well, because I think I have read arguments about the Russian soul that parallel some of what you’ve written about the Arab soul in this book, in that it’s just not a happy place. It’s not an enlightened place. It’s not going to have a Voltaire. It’s not going to have anything…Putin is its natural expression, in other words.

LS: Yeah. Yeah, I believe that. And I mean, you know, there’s still wonderful things that come from Russia. I mean, we have Dostoevsky, but I mean, it’s not something that you read, it’s not something you read to cheer yourself up. But I guess I wouldn’t put it in terms of, I myself wouldn’t put it in terms of soul, even though I believe in a human soul. But to talk about a national soul, for me, anyhow, I’m just a little uncomfortable with it. That’s why it’s a little easier for me to describe it in terms of culture and cultural values, and how a culture operates like that. I definitely believe in those things.

HH: If you go back to your quote, though, from Plato, the states are as the men are, they grow out of human character…

LS: Yeah.

HH: I mean, soul is just a different word for human character.

LS: Yeah.

HH: Let me ask you if it was intentional that at the heart of your book, smack dab in the middle, pages 112-113, had George W. Bush’s November, 2003 National Endowment For Democracy speech. I mean, it’s right there. It’s the hinge of the book. And you come off with, in short, “A president usually characterized as a swaggering cowboy, a warmonger, was pushing a Middle East policy that could only be described as liberal, if not leftist.” He was Woodrow Wilson dressed up for the 21st Century.

LS: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s correct. I think, I mean, I think this has generally been the tendency of American foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson, I mean, to sort of step outside of a Wilsonian, even if you look at the people who are, you know, if you look at the people who are so-called realists, I mean, what they believe, I mean, the basic realist principle is that it doesn’t matter, right, what a regime looks like, the internal character of a regime. All regimes are rational insofar as they want to continue existing, and that’s all you need to deal with – how they act outside, right, their behavior, how they pursue their so-called rational interests. And I just think that’s preposterous to believe that everyone is like us? It doesn’t matter what a regime really looks like on the inside? I think that’s crazy. So even the so-called realists are people who dismiss the idea that other people are fundamentally different from us.

HH: You don’t have much, you don’t hold any brief for Francis Fukuyama. I mean, you kind of run him over very briefly here.

LS: Yeah…

HH: But that’s the opposite of your view.

LS: Yeah. I mean, also, I really don’t get, you know Paul Berman?

HH: I don’t.

LS: Well, Paul Berman, you know, he wrote Terror And Liberalism, and Paul Berman came up with a great line, I think he was reviewing him, and he said something like I really don’t understand what Fukuyama is about. I mean, maybe he doesn’t understand his own book. But what is he doing going back on the whole end of history thing now?

HH: Yup.

LS: So I think Fukuyama’s a really brilliant guy and a very interesting guy, but I think he’s also deeply inconsistent.

– – – –

HH: Have you actually been successful in memorizing some of the Koran, Lee Smith, as you set out to do?

LS: Yeah, I did. I memorized large chunks of it when I first moved to Egypt. And to hear it, to hear someone who knows how to read it, or actually recite it, yeah, it’s a really astonishing experience.

HH: Are you yourself religious?

LS: Well, it’s interesting that you ask that. Coming back from the, I mean, I sort of separate it into a couple of different things. I mean, I was, you know, raised Catholic, and I certainly believe in God. But coming back from the Middle East, you know, your religious identity, especially living in Lebanon where you have Shia Muslim, Sunni Muslim, and Maronite Christians, and religious…it’s partly about the practice of religion, but it’s also a part of religious identity. You know, what I mean?

HH: Yes.

LS: Like every woman who has a veil, or every guy who has a cross, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re observant. It means that they’re attached to their religious identity. So I understand that a little more clearly now, and I’m a little more sympathetic to it. And insofar, yeah, and insofar as I identify with a Judeo-Christian civilization, yeah, I certainly identify with who we are in that way.

HH: Well, because my friend, Robert Ferrigno, who writes the books, the novels…

LS: Oh, sure. Right.

HH: Yeah, Robert is very unspecific about what he believes when he comes on my radio show, having encountered Koranic thinking for a long time, and spent a lot of time studying Islam. I think he’s, I think he’s hesitant to say anything definitively. It sounds like you’re in the same camp.

LS: Yeah, you know, I’m not a scholar. It’s very interesting. I mean, one of the wonderful things about the last eight years of living and traveling so much in the region is getting to learn large chunks about stuff I knew nothing about before. Again, whether this is literature, whether it’s about religion, whether it’s about Islamic history, whether it’s about the politics of the region, and how they intersect with our politics and our strategic interests, I mean, all of these things are fascinating. So part of it’s, you know, part of it’s just sort of, even though again I’m not a scholar, part of it’s scholarly interest. It’s just fascinating stuff.

HH: Well, part of the book also is not analytical so much as descriptive. I love the line, by the way, “Like all men who spend the better part of their day on top of a horse, this particular guy is vain.” I thought of Ronald Reagan. I mean, horsemen are not going to like this at all.

LS: No, no. I’m a horseman myself. I mean, know…I mean serious, I haven’t ridden in about a year now, but no, you know, my grandfather owned a race horse that won the Kentucky Derby back in ’76. So no, I say this from experience.

HH: Which horse was that?

LS: Bold Forbes.

HH: Okay.

LS: He won the Derby and the Belmont, and then finished third in the Preakness.

HH: Why all the stuff about horses and poetry, and the Arab music, and the difference between the Koran and poetry? Is that essential to understanding Arab character?

LS: I think it’s a very important…I mean, some of the stuff is very important. Some of it was just fascinating to me. I mean, again, it sort of depends on how far you want to go in. I mean, I think that for people to understand what sort of makes the Koran work as it does, not just as a book but as sort of this cultural, first of all, as a cultural artifact, then as this religious marker, I think you do need to know some of these things. Or it was helpful to me. And when I explain it to different people, they find it interesting, and they find it helpful as well. Some of the other stuff, like why I’m interested in the poetry, again, I just think to get a sense of how people live, what matters to them, what they cherish, what really means something to them, I mean, I think that’s a very, very important thing. There’s also…

HH: How many people that you read actually have any understanding of the region? How many people writing with authority, or attempting to assert authority on their propositions about the region have a clue about the underlying Arab culture?

LS: I’m not sure. I mean, you know, I think a lot of people aren’t interested in that. I think a lot of people, you know, a lot of Americans who write on American culture, or American politics, aren’t very interested in our own culture, right? I mean, remember that Tom Frank book that came out a few years ago, Whatever Happened To Kansas?

HH: Yup.

LS: I mean, this seemed to me to be an entire misreading of American culture, right?

HH: Yup.

LS: As Americans, what do we believe? We believe that at any time…I mean, first of all, politics is never entirely rational. It’s never rational, right? I mean, whether it’s American, or whether it’s Arab or whatever, I mean, a lot of times we’re flying by the seat of our pants. And as Americans, God bless us, we always think we are about the next one, who through our hard work, our blood, sweat and tears, and our labor, we’re going to hit the lottery, right? Not as a matter of luck, but through our hard work. So again, like Tom Frank’s book is like a total misreading of American culture. So I think that people do this all the time. I think that writers do this all the time with, you know, with their own culture, never mind other people’s culture.

HH: And we also, you know, I came away thinking gosh, are we really that foolishly optimistic? On Page 18, you write that, “This unbroken cycle of strong horses, columns of them, one after another rising in the desert, to replace the predecessor and rule until he, too, is put down by a more vital force.” That’s just so not American. It’s so alien.

HH: Yeah, but it used to not be so alien to us, right? I mean, there’s something…I mean, for us, by and large, our elite, anyway, I’ll leave it at that, our elite is not so interested in power, right? Even if you look at our novels, if you look at what we write about relationships, I mean, this is an important part of intimate relationships – power, how power is expressed and articulated. It’s a very important subject. And you asked before about horses. One of the important things about horses and horsemanship, again, this is like you ride a horse. Any one of your listeners who’s ridden a horse knows what it is, and knows how deeply the horse responds to you. If you’re fearful, the horse knows it. If you’re confident, the horse knows it. So all of these different things that I think yeah, maybe we’ve gotten a little bit away from like how we exercise authority, how we exercise power, what it means to vie with other people for power, I think these are deeply important things. And yes, in lots of parts of American culture, we don’t take these things seriously anymore. But it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

– – – –

HH: Lee Smith, I don’t know if you’ve read Thomas P.M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, Great Powers, but he spent a lot of…

LS: I’ve heard about it. I haven’t read it, yet, no.

HH: He spent a lot of time on this show, and it’s almost the antithesis of your proposition. His proposition is we have a gap, we have to connect it with technology, and everything will be well. It seems to me that your proposition is, I think at one point, I don’t have the quote right in front of me. We treat a democracy as an iPhone left out for the Arabs to try and figure out, and it just doesn’t work the way that the technologists believe. Fair enough?

LS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that there is sort of this…you’ve probably heard, I mean, I don’t know exactly his thesis, but I mean, the thesis I do know is that well, with all the Bluetooth and internet connectivity, and cable, and satellite television, that Arab youth will have a picture of the Western world, and they’ll be so attracted to it that they’ll put down all their old ways, and will say who needs that, all we want is a ticket in the globalization sweepstakes.

HH: That’s his proposition.

LS: And I just think that’s wrong. Yeah, I just don’t believe that. And I know that this has been…I mean, the Arabs have been, the Muslim reform movement was quite explicit about this. What they said, what the Muslim reformers said in the 19th Century, they said by all means, adopt Western technology, especially Western military technology. But all the science you want, all these other things, fine. Take them, incorporate them into your lives. But as far as adopting the underlying values of Western culture? Do not do it. Stay away from it. And we have to look at this, and we have to look at how it bears out in reality, right? Everyone wonders why are there so many doctors who are jihadis? What’s this with Ayman Zawahiri? Here’s a doctor, you know, here’s a doctor who’s like bin Laden’s number two. But I was just reading a piece in one of the Israeli papers the other day, and a guy was speculating why there was so many engineers who are also, you know, Hamas militants or jihadis. Because there is no, because this is part of the whole thing. This is part of the, you know, this is part of the think – adopt Western technology, but not Western values underneath.

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