Having gone to war to overthrow the Gadhafi regime in Libya, knocking that country back into tribalism and anarchy, the United States now is outraged that what passes for national authority there was unable to protect the U.S. ambassador and the other Americans who were besieged and murdered at the consulate in Benghazi.
The U.S. wars overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan have had similar consequences, making both countries murderous and ungovernable. Meanwhile the “Arab spring” in Egypt, the revolutionary overthrow of the Mubarak regime, has just unleashed religious persecution and reiterated authoritarianism.
So much for nation building and nurturing democracy in the Islamic world. How could anyone ever think that it would turn out otherwise? For Islamic culture is the opposite of Western culture.
After religious wars that were catastrophically bloody but inconclusive, the West gradually decided to separate religion from government, making a path for democracy, innovation, and prosperity. But Islam remains a totalitarian system of thought control. It cements primitivism into place. Any hint of dissent or innovation can be fatal — as was shown this week when Egyptians and Yemenis attacked U.S. embassies in reply to a movie made in the United States mocking Islam. From Marrakesh to Jakarta, heresy can be a capital crime, and being a woman means being a slave.
Western governments usually try to humor Islamic primitivism, sometimes for diplomatic reasons and sometimes out of cowardice, though this only provokes more indignation. If only the West had a leader who dared to talk back frankly to the Islamic world about its primitivism and to defend liberty.
This week President Obama did scold the new Islamist government in Egypt over the attack on the embassy in Cairo, warning that the Egyptian government’s failure to take responsibility for the attack would be “a real big problem.” But having subsidized both Egypt and Israel with many billions of dollars over several decades on the condition that they would not go to war against each other again, the United States is entitled to lecture Egypt. Without those subsidies, Egyptians would starve, their military would rust away, and their political class would have to stop grafting.
The president might start by quoting Galatians to the Islamic world: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” That is, God can take care of Himself and doesn’t need self-righteous mobs in the street proclaiming His greatness. He will be quite as great anyway.
* * *
Jim Calhoun’s retirement as the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball coach is well-timed. While he remains a vigorous 70, Calhoun’s health failed for much of the basketball season last year, he recently hurt himself badly in a bicycle accident, he has grandchildren to dote on, and he can depart at the top of his game, only a year after winning his third national championship.
The UConn men’s team’s forthcoming year is likely to be disappointing. The team is banned from the playoffs because of recruiting violations that, while exaggerated, have caused its best players to scurry away to become pro early. This will be a rebuilding year that, even if it goes well, will end abruptly while many other teams keep playing. That probably would diminish Calhoun’s reputation but not the reputation of a new coach, Calhoun’s favored understudy, former UConn and NBA player Kevin Ollie.
Calhoun’s contribution to the university has been more than immense — it has been decisive. UConn’s growing success in basketball put it on the national map two decades ago and gave it the claim on public affection and state government support that was necessary to finance renovation of the entire university, which will keep UConn on the map. Calhoun’s charity work is unmatched by any celebrity in the state. There’s room for a statue of him outside Gampel Pavilion and now is the time to commission it. But the whole university may be his monument and legacy.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.