Monday, November 07, 2005

Bernard Lewis snarks on Brent Scowcroft 

Bernard Lewis, the great scholar of the Middle East, wrote a letter to the editor of The New Yorker (November 14, 2005 issue, no link) responding to an accusation from Brent Scowcroft, who was himself the subject of an article by Jeffrey Goldberg a couple of weeks ago. The backdrop is that Scowcroft is one of many alumni from the administration of George H. W. Bush who have been sharply critical of Bush 43's foreign policy. Lewis, however, is one of the intellectual godfathers of the current administration's grand strategy in the war on Islamic extremism. Lewis' letter is both ruthless and classy, a combination that I find extremely entertaining:
In Jeffrey Goldberg's article ("Breaking Ranks," October 31st), Brent Scowcroft quotes me as saying, "I believe that one of the things you've got to do to Arabs is hit them between the eyes with a big stick. They respect power." General Scowcroft is of course entitled to disagree with me -- I would be surprised, even alarmed, if he did not. But he should disagree with what I really think and say. Yes, I do think that Arabs respect power, as do most people, and that they despise meek acquiescence in tyranny and aggression. But the pseudo-quotation he uses is a grotesque caricature, equally alien to me in language and in content. In its place, let me offer a quotation from the great Arabic thinker and writer Ibn Hazm, who died in 1064: "He who treats friend and foe alike will only arouse distaste for his friendship and contempt for his enmity."

Bernard Lewis
Professor Emeritus of New Eastern Studies
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey

Needless to say, bold emphasis added.


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