POLICY PARADIGMS: KEY TO AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

I. The Role of Think-Tanks in Loyal Opposition

The reaction of American policymakers to the terrorist strike of 9/11has given birth to the new science of Americanology.  This is the study of America and specifically of what is driving American policy.  A similar science of Kremlinology was a major industry for half a century during the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union.  The need to understand what was driving policymaking and planning in the Kremlin gave birth to a number of think-tanks that acquired a decisive role in the formation of American foreign policy. 

Today the effort to understand “what makes America tick” is just as challenging to Americans as it is to everyone else in the world, because the future of America depends on whether or not American intellectuals can shift the governing paradigm of American policy both at home and abroad from obsession with security toward a commitment to justice.  Over the long run, justice will always be the key to both security and freedom.

A key to such a paradigmatic shift may come from Muslim participation in the process of networking among the intellectual elite in America, specifically in the universities, think-tanks, and the media.  In addition to the traditional three branches of government, the executive, legislative, and judicial, there are now two new branches of governance in America, each almost as important as the first three.  A half century ago, with the advent of television, the media became the fourth branch of government.  And only a little more than a generation ago the fifth branch appeared in the form of the think-tank industry.  Together these five control both domestic and foreign policy and govern America.

Many books have been written giving the history and nature of the two thousand think-tanks in Washington, at least twenty of which are research centers established to influence foreign policy.  All twenty are well-funded by foundations which guarantee the resources needed to plan ahead, attract the best expertise, and establish a track record of accomplishment in shaping the environment of policy-making.  In 1962, I was one of the four co-founders of the second such think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which today is still the leader of the field.

Beginning during the Vietnam War, a few think-tankers began to focus on the unstated premises or basic assumptions of thought as the ultimate determinants of foreign policy.  But, they had no word to describe this new field of study until Thomas Kuhn in 1969 coined the term “paradigms of thought” and effectively demonstrated that in every field of endeavor the decisive factor in human affairs is the governing paradigm and the dynamics of any shift from one paradigm to another.  The best example of such a paradigm shift occurred when Copernicus introduced the idea that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe.  Muslim astronomers knew this all along, but this was new in Western thought and changed the science of astronomy forever.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new science in foreign policymaking emerged in order to explain and shape the new constellation of forces in the world.  This new science involved the formation of policy paradigms, and in 1992 the Council on Foreign Relations held the first conference on paradigm management.

A paradigm is an overall framework of thought that explains reality.  Whoever can impose one’s own paradigm to explain the world can shape the questions that are asked and design the policies needed to answer them.  In a world of challenge and response, whoever can win in the competition among policy paradigms will control policy.

The newest policy paradigm is known as unilateral preemption.  This in essence is the right of America to stabilize the world by attacking potential sources of destabilization before they can become dangerous to American global governance.  The policy resulting from this paradigm was applied first in the American attack on Iraq.  On August 12th, 2002, Henry Kissinger stated that this attack was essential as the first step in developing a new framework of international law.  The new law would eliminate the concept of state sovereignty, which was developed in 1638 by European powers to end their Thirty Years War.  The new international law would legitimate American unilateralism in combating a new open-ended war against terrorism, or, as President George W. Bush put it, a new “crusade against evil.”  Kissinger’s paradigm centered on the need to use power to stabilize the world.  Bush’s paradigm centered on a Manichean division of reality into good and evil, with nothing in between.  The policies resulting from these two paradigms were the same, namely, unilateral preemption to overcome both instability and evil.

As a life-long Republican and personal adviser to three American presidents, four cabinet officers, and the heads of the Republican Party in both the U.S. Senate and House, I am concerned that this new venture in global governance may weaken both my party and my country as a moral leader for years to come.  Many Americans object that this new paradigm of American foreign policy is threatening their very identity as Americans, because this new 21st-century imperialism allegedly represents America.  Fortunately, in America we respect the institution known as loyal opposition, or at least we did prior to 9/11.  We are loyal to America, which is precisely why the majority of American intellectuals oppose the current Administration’s foreign policy.


II. The Role of Global Forecasting
    in the New World Order

During the past forty years, my profession both in and out of government has been long-range global forecasting.  I am a professional optimist, which is good for my business, because American businessmen generally have the opportunity mentality.  They are always looking for opportunities to beat out competitors in order to enrich both themselves and the world.

I started out my career, however, as a professional pessimist, because I joined the new think-tank industry by advising U.S. military planners and the industries that rely on the military for contracts.  They generate funds for themselves by designing worst-case scenarios so that the U.S. military is prepared for whatever the political leaders may demand of them.  The military therefore have what I call the threat mentality.  The whole world consists of threats that must be either avoided or destroyed.

Global forecasters operate within their own paradigms of reality, which range from utopian to catastrophist.  And sometimes the catastrophist forecasters cause the planners to generate utopian solutions.  All utopias are dangerous, because they do not reflect the limits of reality.  The best example is the idea of a new world order.

After the end of the relative stability that had prevailed during half a century of bi-polar confrontation between Communism and its opposite, namely, “democracy” or the “free world,” what was then accepted as reality lost its moorings.  The think-tanks therefore were tasked to identify the forces in the world that might threaten global stability and the countervailing forces that might support a “minimum world public order.”

In 1990, George Bush, the elder, became one of the first converts to the idea of a new world order, which some of its supporters openly called a Pax America.  Bush changed its popular name to pax universalis.  Unfortunately, despite the name change, the rest of the world, including Europe, perceived a “made in America” imprint.  Some of the people in the Third World feared that the objective was to destroy their cultures.  Most Americans thought that the rationale behind the new policy was to spread the institutions of pluralist democracy and private enterprise as the means to promote human dignity.

In fact, both of these perceptions were naive.  The rationale behind the drive toward a New World Order was not to promote such good things as freedom and justice or even peace, but rather only to maintain the stability of the status quo, because in an era of globalization the biggest winner from the status quo, with all of its injustices, would be America. 

The popularity of global stability as an ultimate goal or false god can be explained psychologically as a projection into foreign policy of the same fears that threatened to destroy American society at home.  The solution at home was the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994, which attempted to combat or end violence without addressing the causes.  The solution for the rest of the world was the New World Order, backed up by an increased “national defense” budget and new technology to reduce the domestic political costs of waging war in order to deter, squelch, or simply annihilate threats to America’s “vital interests.” 

The danger of attempting to impose what others might perceive to be a made-in-America order on the world is that this perception might destabilize the world and increase the very threats that American policies were designed to counter.  The result might be a mass paranoia among the policy elites, which in turn might require military intervention without any concern for the rule of law and the international community.  Many in the think-tank community worked to revive the threat mentality of the Cold War so that the profession of forecasting threats could cause this mentality to metastasize into a cancer requiring new mortal threats for the survival and growth of the think-tank industry.


III. Paradigmatic Confrontation

The art of paradigm conflict and paradigm management is a subset of psycho-strategic warfare, which is a term that I introduced to the think-tank community forty years ago.  The objective is to control the thought processes of one’s opponents or of the public media either directly through the manipulation of one’s own overt doctrines or indirectly and subliminally through what is known as mimetic warfare without them even knowing it.  This art of mind-control applies especially in confrontations between governments but also in confrontations among opinion elites and policy elites in a single country.

The most classic such confrontation occurred a decade ago shortly after the end of the bi-polar Cold War in a summit conference of America’s leading global strategists.  This is significant because here there was an orchestrated clash for the first time between the leaders of two groups that now form part of the troika that gained control of foreign policy in Washington after 9/11. 

On March 9-12th, 1992, two years before his death, my old boss, Richard Nixon, convened a summit of think-tank stars at his presidential library in Yorba Linda, California.  It was chaired by James Schlesinger, another of my old bosses, who had been Secretary of Defense during the Nixon Administration.  The two leading paradigmatic warriors at this summit were Henry Kissinger, the guru of what I call the permanent foreign policy establishment, and Charles Krauthammer, who now is a leading member of the so-called neo-conservative policy elite. 

The neo-conservatives formed a new school of thought after the Israeli victory in the 1967 war and the American defeat in Vietnam.  Generally, they are former Democratic liberals in domestic policy who joined the Republicans because of the Republican emphasis on hard-line policies toward America’s enemies. They are also predominantly secular Zionists.

As described in my memo of March 13th, 1992, to General Anwar Eshki, who this year founded the first Saudi think-tank, the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, these two masters of paradigm management, Kissinger and Krauthammer, engaged in a battle between two variants of the New World Order. 

Kissinger argued for stability based on dynamic change in reliance on American orchestration of a balance of regions, similar to his preferred balance of the Soviet Union and the United States in what he had called a condominium of power.  A few weeks earlier, Kissinger had first spelled out the nature of his post-Cold-War strategy in an op-ed piece, entitled “What Kind of a New World Order,” in the Washington Post of December 3rd, 1991.  Kissinger referred at this conference to the complementary paradigm of “stable pluralism,” which was first advanced by Zbigniew Brzezinski on March 1st, 1982, in a Washington Post op-ed piece entitled “The West Adrift: In Search of a Strategy.”  Brzezinski became somewhat of a maverick in the permanent foreign policy establishment by arranging for the selection of Jimmy Carter as the Democratic nominee for the presidency, who then appointed Brzezinski as head of the National Security Council.

As explained in some detail the next month in my Eastern Times column of January, 1992, Kissinger opposed even mention of the term “new world order,” because he said that it presupposes a commonwealth of interests among the world’s six major powers, namely, the United States, Europe, China, Japan, Russia, and India.  These correspond roughly to the civilizations that Samuel Huntington soon thereafter identified as players in the clash of civilizations, with the exception of the Muslim civilization, which Kissinger dismissed as incapable of playing a constructive role in global governance. 

Kissinger explained that these major players have different views on the nature of world order, and that “in a world of players of such dramatically different backgrounds, the basic premises of collective security simply will not work.”  His basic theme was that power in the future will be “the nexus of political, military, and economic assets,” and power in the world will therefore be regionalized.  American global strategy should be regional in design and more discriminating in its purpose.  The new agenda should focus on truly global issues to be addressed regionally.  High priority should be given to stopping nuclear proliferation, whereby the idea is that India would have responsibility for the Indian sub-continent, Russia for Central Asia, and Israel for the Middle East.

Charles Krauthammer, on the other hand, argued for maintaining the status quo through a policy of imposing stability in a new global empire.  This much more aggressive strategy is the secular Zionist prescription for the New World Order.  He explained this paradigm in his book, The First Global State, which was never published, perhaps because the policy community in Washington was not ready for such openness in discussing strategies for the future.  The focus of the conference was a debate on whether stability in Central Asia could best be achieved by helping to restore Russian imperial re-centralization or by American efforts to promote indigenous change in order to avoid a vacuum that might trigger Russian imperialism.  The secularist Zionist or neo-conservative strategy promoted by Krauthammer favored a unilateral U.S. policy as a general principle to maintain global order and the security of Israel.  Whether in Central Asia or the Middle East, the neo-conservative strategy called for direct reliance on U.S. global power rather than for indirect governance through regional proxies or through a balance of regions.

In order to work through proxies, Henry Kissinger argued at this conference that the United States can best govern the world if it avoids both Wilsonian principles of human rights, which lack realism, and the realism of the new-world-order paradigm, which lacks principles.  In order to sustain American leadership in maintaining stability in the world, Kissinger argued, U.S. leaders must convince the world that it is pursuing not merely its own national interests but principles of universal significance, and that personal morality and national morality are compatible. 

This paradigm of universally applicable principles was radically new in Kissinger’s thinking, because it does not permit double standards and thus conflicts fundamentally with the neo-conservative paradigm first articulated clearly at this conference by Charles Krauthammer.  The proponents of both schools of thought agreed at this strategic summit conference that the three challenges to the New World Order are xenophobic nationalism, radically politicized religion, and “loose nucs,” i.e., the proliferation or weapons of mass destruction.  This third threat was emphasized at the conference by the Director of the CIA, Robert Gates, with specific reference to Iran.  Kissinger, on the other hand, gave highest priority to the threat of religious fundamentalism. 

It is noteworthy that no-one at this summit conference mentioned the embarrassing fact that Israel is the only country in the world that presents all three of these threats in combination.  The need for double standards was rejected in principle by Henry Kissinger, but accepted in fact by all participants in the conference.


IV. Paradigm Formation in Mid-Century America

The neo-Zionists were the first to divorce the strategy of unilateralism from morality, but they did not invent the paradigm itself.  The concept of unilateral American leadership in the world was first presented coherently by Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupe in 1957 as the founding paradigm of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, which was America’s first think-tank.  More than a third of a century before the demise of Communism and Francis Fukuyama’s paradigm of “the end of history,” Dr. Straus-Hupe formulated what we might call the mother of all imperialist paradigms.  He forecast not only that Communism was doomed to failure and extinction but that democracy would succeed it as the world-ordering principle if the United States were prepared to seize the opportunity. 

Although Strausz-Hupe never attended the global strategy councils of the Bilderberg and other such groups, he was never far removed from the inner councils of the permanent foreign policy establishment.  His thinking was incompatible with Kissinger’s leadership of the Bilderberg group, but he had much in common with the other principal Bilderberg leader, Under Secretary of State George Ball, who spent his entire career trying to infuse morality into American foreign policy.  All three had as their common methodology the orchestration of global power by intellectual control of elite thought in America.  They knew where real power lies in any civilization, they saw the same threats to it, and they agreed on the same basic solutions.

Straus-Hupe’s paradigm was known as a forward strategy to win the protracted conflict against the forces of chaos.  The following are quotes from his seminal articulation of this paradigm in his article, entitled “The Balance of Tomorrow,” which introduced the first issue of his scholarly journal, Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs:

The issue before the United States is the unification of the globe under its leadership within this generation.  How effectively and rapidly the United States will accomplish this task will determine the survival of the United States as a leading power, probably the survival of Western culture, and conceivably the survival of mankind. …

There are many and convincing reasons why this earth should be politically one.  But these reasons, namely, the explosive forces on the loose in Asia and the implications of a multiple balance of nuclear power, are sufficient to necessitate the establishment of unitary world rule.  The collapse of ancient empires, the rise of population pressure, the disintegration of old cultures, and shifts in balance-of-power attended by radical changes in weapons techniques have always been followed by revolution and war.  There is no reason to believe that the contemporary statecraft has succeeded in “flattening out” the great cycles of history.  By the same token, upon all revolutionary ages followed the establishment of a universal order in the image and under the domination of one power.  The establishment of such a universal order has become now the sole alternative to anarchy and the destruction of what man has wrought since his ancestors left their caves.  The one and only question therefore is who will be the people that will establish the universal order in their image and under their domination. …

Nationalism is the greatest retrogressive force of this century. … The defeat of Germany and Japan and the decline of Britain and France not only close the epoch of the nation state as a viable unit of world politics but also furnish proof that the nation state cannot transcend itself.  It cannot step across its own shadow and raise itself to the plateau of federative power. …

The United States now meets with historical necessity.  The United States remains as the sole holder of federative power.  The one question to be answered is: will the United States do what must be done? …

The United States is uniquely fitted for leadership in global unification.  The immense military power of the United States is, of course, the first and indispensable attribute of leadership. …

Will the coming world order be the American Universal empire?  It must be that – to the extent that it will bear the stamp of the American spirit.  Since the American spirit is that of an open society – open to all men and all cultures – and since the political genius of America is the federative idea, the distinction between rulers and ruled will fade into a continuous process of assimilation.  The coming world order will mark the last phase in a historical transition and cap the revolutionary epoch of this century.  The mission of the American people is to bury the nation states, lead their bereaved peoples into larger unions, and overawe with its might the would-be saboteurs of the new world order who have nothing to offer mankind but putrefying ideology and brute force.

It is likely that the accomplishments of this mission will exhaust the energies of America and that the historical center of gravity will shift to another people.  But this will matter little, for the opening of new horizons which we now faintly glimpse will usher in a new stage in human history; man will have found in cosmic ventures an equivalent for war.  Man may destroy himself but then he will do so by means other than war.  This part of the human story is still mercifully veiled to anyone now living.  For the next fifty years or so the future belongs to America.  The American empire and mankind will not be opposites but merely two names for the universal order under peace and happiness.  Novus orbis terrarium.


V. The New American Empire Today

The conflict of paradigms that pervaded American foreign policy circles at the beginning of the 21st century and their various advocates seemed to recede into impotence immediately after the terrorist attack on America’s greatest symbols of financial and military power on September 11th, 2001.  An alliance of paradigm warriors now appears to exercise iron control of American policy, both domestic and foreign.

First, in domestic policy, we are facing a trade-off between protecting America from foreign terrorists and compromising the civil rights of people who legitimately visit or reside in America.  Counter-terrorism measures undoubtedly can justify some compromise in civil rights.  The question is how much can be compromised without threatening the entire American system.  At what point do we start down the road to the police state and totalitarian nightmare of “1984”?

In foreign policy the balance has shifted toward unilateral initiatives to maintain order at the expense of cooperation with the international community.  Many commentators warn that current American foreign policy threatens to become a classic example of the police state obsession, whereby the Administration ignores the potential for cooperation among persons and nations in the common interest, as in international institutions like the United Nations and the new International Criminal Court.  Since real American leadership relies on trust in America’s intentions, any moves that suggest abandonment of the rule of law tend to reduce American power in the world to coercive command, which in the long run of human history has always proved to be tenuous.

In the current crisis environment, the U.S. government seems to be afraid to address or even mention the need to overcome common injustices in the institutions of the world economic system.  In American foreign policy, justice in the sense of what Catholic scholars have called “moral theology” and Muslim scholars call the maqasid al shari’ah or universal principles of jurisprudence has never been a key word.  Now it is non-existent.

The trend may be seen in the evolution of thought in the writings of Henry Kissinger and Charles Krauthammer, who now have joined in what seems to be a single paradigm known as unilateral preemption.  They are still driving forces of policy because they are skilled in shaping paradigmatic thought and because they have been joined by others, especially the Christian Zionists, who are even more extreme.

On August 12th, 2002, a decade after his confrontation with Krauthammer at the summit held by Richard Nixon, Kissinger updated his grand strategy in the Washington Post under the title, “Our Intervention in Iraq: How a Preemptive War Could Lead to a New International Order.”  The gist of this new strategy was that controlling oil prices and hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were mere tactical objectives in a much bigger game.  The ultimate objective of an American attack on Iraq was to serve as the first step in establishing a new international legal framework to legitimize preemptive attack against any sovereign nation that from the American perspective could be classified as a rogue state and was on the way to acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  The urgent need to attack Iraq as soon as possible was not merely to overcome the “self-deterrence” caused by fear of Saddam’s use of chemical-biological weapons in response to an American attack, but to use the attack, as he put it, “to define a comprehensive policy for America and for the rest of the world.”  The critical importance of this goal explained why no amount of effort to derail the American policy juggernaut could be stopped.

The old international law, Kissinger said, first established at the Treaty of Westphalia after the Thirty Years War in 1648, sanctioned the use of force only in self-defense against actual, not potential, threats.  He stated that, “the new approach is revolutionary,” and is essential because “the terrorist threat transcends the nation state.  This is the intellectual basis of President Bush’s recently adopted concept of ‘unilaterally determined preemptive self-defense’.”  Among public figures, Kissinger was almost alone in this position paper by singling out Israel as a reason for the new doctrine.

Even this statement, however, required explication only half a year later after Germany and France did not seem to get the point and therefore were on the verge of rendering themselves and NATO and the United Nations “irrelevant.”  Therefore, on February 10th, 2003, in a new position paper in the Washington Post, entitled “Role Reversal and Alliance Realities,” Kissinger stated clearly and openly that American policy in the era of post-9/11 is to impose an American empire on the world and that all of America’s allies better wake up and shape up to this reality.

No longer would the United States rely on a balance of regional powers, and especially not on the role of each core state to police its own region, because the United States no longer needed to balance anything when it could rule directly by its sheer military and economic might.  He stated, perhaps for the first time, that the United States had made a grievous error in failing to support the British and French empires when Nasser challenged them in 1956 by nationalizing the Suez Canal.  The fundamental error, he says, came from American naivete in trying to resolve the conflict “with methods essentially of conciliation,” and from the error of insisting that “recourse to force was admissible only in strictly defined self-defense.”  This failure to support America’s allies effectively ended their empires.  Now he says that the shoe is on the other foot.

In this February 10th position paper, Kissinger admits and in effect apologizes for America’s stupidity, and concludes that it is now the turn of the Europeans to support the new American empire.  “Otherwise,” he asserts, “The credibility of American power in the war on terrorism and in international affairs will be gravely, perhaps irreparably, impaired.”  He chastises Germany and France for showing “an amazing lack of understanding of American realities.”  Of course, Kissinger’s chutzpa and that of the Republican Administration in insisting that others recognize the inevitability of the new American global empire is precisely why efforts to use an attack on Iraq as the first step to impose it ran into so much difficulty.

The threat of terrorism to a newly vulnerable America prompted Vice President Cheney on February 19th, 2003, at the Richard Nixon Library and think-tank in Yorba Linda, California, to call America’s policy of global offense “the defining struggle of the 21st century.”  Most alarming for some observers, including the ultra-pragmatic Europeans, is the openness of some who promote the new American agenda. 

More open even that Henry Kissinger, who established his career by pooh-poohing morality in anything, has been the “hottest item in town,” Robert D. Kaplan and his newest book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos.  This brilliant apologia for scrapping morality and ideals and anything that might interfere with the imposition of American imperial power comes garlanded with effusive praise by Henry Kissinger, Newt Gingrich, two former secretaries of defense, Perry and Cohen, as well as the former director of the National Security Council, Bob (Bud) McFarlane, who for many years has been the gray eminence behind American policy toward Afghanistan and his protégé, Karzai.  According to Ken Ringle’s article in the Washington Post of February 21, 2002, entitled “Oracle of a New World Order,” Kaplan’s book has taken Washington by storm and is required reading for all policymakers and their staffs.

As early as March, 2001, before 9/11, Kaplan spent an hour with President Bush to brief him on another of his books, published in 2000, entitled The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War.  Kaplan says that he has sold his pagan prescription by convincing the president that the world faces a “Lord of the Flies meltdown,” that America’s dominance is tenuous, and that “the most important moral commitment for America is to preserve its power.”  Some observers claim that Kaplan is a one-man Ministry of Truth, the evil force in Orwell’s novel, 1984, which waged mimetic warfare against all citizens in order to impose mind control so that all citizens believed that “War is Peace” and thereby made war a permanent state of being.  This reversal of truth and lies, of course, is the definition of evil and of the Anti-Christ or Messiah al Dajjal.

Perhaps from his experience in the Israeli army for a year in 1980, Kaplan writes that “our moral values … represent our worst vulnerabilities.”  Translated into Bush-speak, this means that civilian casualties can be seen as a necessary product of the war against evil, because the greater goal is to drive the barbarians away from the gates of the civilized world.

In his prologue to his book, The Coming Anarchy, Kaplan quotes Thomas Hobbes: “Before the names of Just and Unjust can have any place, there must first be coercive power.”  He adds, “Physical aggression is part of being human.”  Bud McFarlane calls this book “an intellectual tour de force expressing the enduring relevance of ancient principles.”  The new element in the world, according to Kaplan, is that barbarians have exploited a global ideology – Islam – to give them a bottomless pit of recruits and allies in a global war that has now struck at the heart of the empire.

Doomsday paranoids see in America a twenty-first century Ghenghiz Khan, who murdered eight million people alone in Persia and Iraq, then a sizeable percentage of the total population.  Less alarmist people see merely a worrisome trend and are waiting to see the results of an American attack on Iraq and any stages three and four.  No-one can doubt, however, that awareness of America’s sudden vulnerability to inchoate forces of chaos has triggered a crisis.  A crisis mentality has forced opinion elites and even the man on the street to question whether America can survive intact as the nation envisaged by its Founders.

The future is always unknown, but especially now at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  Will a clash of civilizations worldwide produce a clash within America, so that one nation out of many, e pluribus unum, will fracture?  And if so, what will replace it?

Can a third force of revolutionary American traditionalism bring out the best in all political parties, so that together they can rebuild a restored American identity?  If so, can Americans lead similar forces around the world to bring a balance of order, justice, and freedom as a new global framework for thought and action?  Or will America go the way of all empires, as predicted in the new book, The End of the American Era, by Professor Thomas Kupchan of Georgetown University. 

In his inimitable way, one of America’s foremost Islamic scholars, Professor Khalid Abou al Fadl, presents an analogous forecast by reflecting on the decline of the great Islamic civilization many centuries ago.  As do many poets, he is referring at another level to what we are experiencing today.  In his essay, “The Orison,” in The Minaret of December, 2002, Dr. Abou el Fadl refers to the universal civilization produced by the great Islamic intellectual pioneers:  “Once all the roads led to this kingdom, and all the worlds came from here.  Once, the roads were open and welcoming – once, intellects and souls fluttered through the air of its mountains, the soil of its flowers, and its underground streams.  Once, this was the abode of human conscience, the guard of the intellect, and the adornment of unbounded beauty.  Once it was the point of radiant convergence for all human souls.  Taught by a magnanimous divine Unity and a singular essence of beauty, it defied the dogmatism of boundaries.  It was the asylum of the intellects, but it is now a lost realm drifting at the edges of our memory obfuscated in the numerous folds of our contested identities.”

He continues, “The foundational element upon which all goodness and beauty is built is a dignified and just humility, for both degradation and arrogance are states of extremes.  Dignity and humility are nourished by strength, but poisoned by power. … Are we dwellers in the ruins of a dead civilization bewailing the lost memories, or are we the inventive architects of history?  Are we the refuse of bygone historical experiments, or are we part of the timeless truth etched in the conscience of humanity?”

 

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