Bernard Lewis on the Big Picture

Bernard Lewis is a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He is recognized as the preeminent historian of our time on Islam and its history. Last year he granted a wide-ranging interview on the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. His assessment of the West’s timidity in the face of Islam’s arrogance is chilling:

I think that the way that Ahmadinejad is talking now shows quite clearly his contempt for the Western world in general and the United States in particular. They feel they are dealing with, as Osama bin Laden put it, an effete, degenerate, pampered enemy incapable of real resistance. And they are proceeding on that assumption. Remember that they have no understanding or experience of the free debate of an open society. Where we see free debate and criticism, they see fear, weakness and division; they proceed accordingly, and every day brings new evidence of that from Iran.

I think it is a dangerous situation. And my only hope is that they are not right in their interpretation of the Western world. I have often thought in recent years of World War II — you were told earlier that I’m ancient myself. The most vividly remembered year of my life was the year 1940. And more recently I have been thinking of 1938 rather than of 1940. We seem to be in the mode of Chamberlain and Munich rather than of Churchill.

It’s a long read, but well worth the time.

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