The eminent historian of the

The eminent historian of the Middle East Bernard Lewis discusses “The Revolt of Islam” in the New Yorker. This is a lengthy piece, but worth reading. I want to pick up on one point that Lewis makes. Towards the end of the article, Lewis notes that Al Qaeda was buoyed during the 1990s by what it perceived to be weakness in America. The main evidence of this weakness was our retreat from Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. But, according to Lewis, we were also perceived as weak to the extent that our spokesmen “refused to implicate — and sometimes hastened to exculpate — parties that most Middle Easterners believed to be deeply involved in attacks on America.” As Trunk has shown, our State Department steadfastly refuses to acknowledge Arafat’s involvement in attacks on Amercan diplomats. If Lewis is right, this refusal — shameless enough on its own terms — plays into the hands of our enemies by making us appear weak.

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