Rocket Man’s brother has written me regarding the Stephen Schwartz post on Wahhabism. He notes that, if Schwartz is correct that Wahhabism is a truly distinctive Islamic voice behind much of the terrorism, then it should be possible to isolate and challenge it. In this regard, the Rocket Prof wonders whether we should be moving against Iraq. Although not wishing to be confused with the Democrats, he suggests that our focus should be on the Saudis and on the radical Muslim idelology that is at the root of the current plague of terrorism. He acknowledges that Saddam poses a real danger, but also considers him an anomaly — “essentially a secular megalomaniac with an insatiable will to power.”
It seems to me that, even if Schwartz is correct, moving against Saddam makes sense. First, in my view, there would be a strong case for toppling Saddam even if there were no Islamist terrorism, given the independant threat that Saddam poses, or will soon pose, with his weapons of mass destruction. Second, although Saddam can be viewed as a secular anomaly in the terrorism racket, this provides no assurance that he will not work with non-secular terrorists, including those of Wahhabist orientation. Indeed, there seems to be good evidence that such cooperation has occurred in the past and continues today. As President Bush has said, any cooperation between the world’s most dangerous terrorists and the world’s most dangerous state poses an unacceptable risk to our security. Third, Schwartz’s prescription for dealing with the Saudis consists of making various demands of them. The overthrow of Saddam would likely give us more leverage with the Saudis and more influence in the region as a whole. Thus, we would be in a better position to reduce Wahhabi power and influence.
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