Preachers, Milestones & The Muslim Brotherhood

I’ve been trying to get a handle on left blogosphere opinion but I’m having a hard slog of it. The problem is, I think, that there are no lefty equivalents of The Belmont Club, TigerHawk and Captain’s Quarters. None that I know of at any rate. The best I’ve been able to do over the past few weeks is go back to some of the original bloggers that convinced me of their intelligence and insight four years ago when I started. Those would be Kevin Drum, Sean Paul Kelley and Matthew Yglesias. For added measure I included Winds of Change and The Moderate Voice.

Today I am doubting my selection, if not the wisdom of my decision. This is because of the way the commenters at those blogs are interpreting the soundbites of Mitt Romney vis a vis his perspective on the enemy in the GWOT.

Last week I got into some discussion over at Yglesias over misinterpretations of Romney’s comments on the nature of the Islamist threat to global security. I’ve since dropped Yglesias from my reading list because I have found most of his interesting memes redundant to those of Kevin Drum. I pick Kevin, as he tends to write less about sports. I don’t like to drop Yglesias, but I really have too much to read. Moderate Voice is dropped too.

At Cobb, I try to be analytical when I don’t know something, and haughty when I do. On this subject I’m in the middle. I know clearly that Shia, Sunni, and AQ are enemy combattants in Iraq, and I know clearly that it is perfectly reasonable to wage a political culture war against radical Islam. What is not clear is the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood is ideologically Islamist with respect to giving aid and comfort to Jihadis. It’s a gray area that requires a bit more focus. Aiding in my perception of such matters is my subscription to the CounterTerrorism Blog which has excellently informed writers. One of those writers is Doug Farah who is in the process of debunking the pacifism of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The campaign to portray the Brotherhood as a moderate, non-violent political force is predicated on the notion that the Brotherhood has turned away from the radical teaching of Sayyid Qutb and embraced a more moderate theology that now supposedly holds sway. Unfortunately, this line, while demonstrably untrue, has been seized on by academics and policy makers anxious for some type of engagement with the “moderate” Muslim world.

In a nutshell, the argument, put forth by Leiken and Brooke in their controversial Foreign Affairs piece, as well as James Traub in the New York Times Magazine and others is this: That the radical tract Milestones , written from prison by Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb calling for violent jihad against non-Muslims, particularly the West, and apostate Muslim regimes, has been repudiated, at least tacitly, by the current Brotherhood.

Replacing Milestones, the argument goes, was a book written by a fellow prisoner named Hassan al-Hudaybi called Preachers, Not Judges.

The conversation at Farah’s blog is exactly as I would hope. We even have a relative of al-Hudaybi in the comment section. So while some facts remain in dispute, at least we are dealing with some authoritative folks deep into the weeds on the significance of the philosophical basis of the Muslim Brotherhood’s politics.

Be that as it may, and it must be said that Hudaybi the younger claims anti-terrorist intent, it’s difficult to assess the influence of a publication on the Arab Street. I find it unlikely that heads of Wahabbi madrassas, for example, are likely to deal at that level of subtlety with such students as eventually become suicide bombers. How is it then, that such people emerge from the embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood or any other such political organization without the express backing or consent of their leadership? I think the explanation is simple, it is one of compatibility with militant radicalism and a lack of control.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from my perspective, stands as a fine target of a political culture war but not as a target of military action or diplomacy. There is no command and control here that I can see, there is influence and support however. The conversation continues.