Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Martin Wolf: yes but

I largely agree with Martin Wolf when he writes:

"We must recognise that the underlying struggle is over how Islamic civilisation achieves its reconciliation with modernity. Of the four great civilisations of Eurasia – European, Chinese, Indian and Islamic – it is the last that has found it most difficult to accept the transformation brought about by the first. China and India have now decided to participate in the modern world. Much of the Islamic world – and, above all, the Arab part of it – is failing to do so". (Enemies of freedom underestimate us, 12 July)

Yes, but the deep question is why many parts of the the Middle East has so failed. And at the deepest level an important factor in the equation (though not the only one) is the "oil curse". Oil makes possible rentier regimes in Iraq, Iran and the Gulf that are able resist the hard adaptations to modernity that China and India have faced (albeit with much trauma). This in turn has led to political events that have created the radicalisation whose consequences we now face.

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