Many of the books on the market about the management of global geopolitics
are written from the perspective of the world’s sole superpower. The War
for Muslim Minds, by French academic Gilles Kepel, provides a distinctly
French view of what he portrays as a struggle between the forces of U.S.
hegemony and Muslim religious extremists, who aspire to impose their own
hegemony. Call it “Le Clash.” Caught in the middle, according to Kepel, is
the growing Muslim population in Europe, which has the potential to have a
major influence on how this confrontation plays out…
The book opens with Kepel’s thesis that the U.S. “war on terror” is not so
much a battle between “good” and “evil” as a battle between two absolutist
visions of the world.
Kepel describes how, in preparation for the demise of the Soviet Union
during the Reagan administration, a core group of analysts prepared the
groundwork for foreign policy that would extend U.S. control over much of
the world. The group, dubbed “the neo-conservatives,” continued its
planning during the Clinton years, and emerged with a distinct vision of
the U.S. role in the world upon the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Its
twin pillars are access to oil, and the security of Israel. According to
Kepel, plans to redraw the Middle East – including having a U.S.-compliant
administration at the helm in Iraq, home to the world’s second-largest oil
reserves – were in the works as early as 1996. The events of Sept. 11,
2001, merely accelerated the neocon agenda to invade Iraq, he suggests.
Kepel demonstrates an expansive breadth of knowledge in his detailed
analysis of both Israeli security and the geopolitics of oil. Israeli
security is viewed in light of the failure to arrive at an equitable
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In analyzing the geopolitics
of oil, he dissects the dysfunction that besets Saudi Arabia and describes
the political complexities of Iraq and Iran in impressive detail.
Surprisingly, any discussion of the emerging role of China as a major oil
consumer and world power is completely absent.
Kepel also describes the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan by the
CIA-funded, and trained, mujahideen, and suggests that U.S. abandonment of
Afghanistan was a colossal mistake, as the mujahideen dispersed, and looked
to export their military zeal”¦
Sheema Khan is chairperson of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic
Relations, an Ottawa-based advocacy group