Two decades of delusion
Muslims and multipolarity post-GWoT (2001 - 2021). Also, welcome to The Dragoman.
I won’t sit here and bore you with a yawn-inducing tale of how I was a Muslim American middle schooler when 9/11 happened, a boy who would grow up amid the Global War on Terror (GWoT) which followed. That has been done a million times at this point (and it will never stop being cringe). That is the old story. With the GWoT now over, the new story will be how Muslims navigate a post-American multipolar world.
The GWoT come to a screeching halt on August 15th, 2021 with Afghanistan recapture by the Taliban. All sorts of questions entered my mind in the months after, but what was most crazy to me was the degree to which I felt as if America had woken up from a kind of long, collective delusion as to its place in the world.
Let’s recall a little about this delusion. Following 9/11, America embarked on a spending and killing spree of incomprehensible magnitude. According to Brown’s Watson Institute, the US spent around $8 trillion alone. The GWoT resulted in the direct deaths of at least 929,000 people, with that number going well above 1 million deaths when one accounts for indirect killings and serial underreporting. 38 million people were displaced.
Looking back 20 years later, I am baffled at how irrational it all seems in hindsight. Why did America go down this path? Why did the death of 3000+ civilians in 9/11 (a horrific disaster, no doubt) result in what such a costly overreaction? Even if we assume that all Muslims were mischievously plotting to take down America and that the threat to the country was existential (and this was obviously not the case), both you and I and America’s military establishment know now as they knew then that sum power of Muslim states is a mere mouse compared to the elephant that is the USA. Yet American elephant was mobilized against this mouse for twenty straight years. This is no mere misstep; historians looking back on these two decades hundreds of years from now may in fact identify this as the key decision which solidified America’s decline.
And it’s not simply that the US began to lose its way, its that others started catching up. I am obviously first speaking of China. In these two decades alone, millions there were lifted out of poverty, GDP exploded, education levels grew, and the Belt & Road Initiative was launched. What China did not do was squander untold amounts of blood and treasure for the sake of foreign adventurism.
Now with that backdrop in your mind, let’s return back to August 2021. While I felt sad for the state of the Muslim world and its uncertain future, I felt a brief glimmer of hope that with the US finally withdrawn from both Afghanistan and Iraq, America could turn a new corner and focus on domestic issues such as social unrest, polarization, economics, crumbling infrastructure, cultural degeneracy, keeping China at bay, and more.
Yet this hope would be squashed a mere six months later with the Russian invasion. America has decided it wise to toss untold billions to beat back Russian designs in Ukraine. According to the New York Times back in May, the US had committed $54 billion, and so the number is surely far higher as of this writing. I am not saying that Russia is a non-threat. But I do not see the defense of Ukraine as meriting the cost, not when China continues to rise unabated, and not when America has so many festering domestic issues. This is a clear case of a bruised ego seeking purpose and lost glory. That is the general scene now.
But what of the millat’s caravan in this time? Those with even a nominal degree of honor and historical consciousness will remember that there was a time not too long ago when the Darul Islam was itself a geopolitical bloc that could hold its own on the world stage. However, Muslims now find themselves dispersed among competing poles of influence. We will have to navigate this multipolarity while living under the shadow of what seems to be either the US, China, or Russia (to a lesser extent). While under these shadows, the temptation to become Khizr Khan type “patriots” or reactionaries tied to the failed “Islamic” movements of yesteryear must be rejected from the outset. These did not work, their intellectual discourse was poor, their spiritual framework was weak. Here, too, the past two decades have with few exceptions been an abject embarrassment for Muslim thinkers.
This newsletter is an attempt to think out loud a way forward for Islam and Muslims in the world today, and to help raise up a new cadre of Muslim mufakkirin in the Anglosphere. I don’t have close to any of the answers, but I believe that Islam is God’s Religion. Thus, by definition, if Islam is not flourishing in the world, then neither are the generality of human beings.
I have begun this blog because I pray that, by sharing my thoughts, Allah will provide the tawfiq to spark a microniche of smart, traditional, Sunni Muslim thinkers and commenters, a community where we can respectively trade thoughts and views on how best to give succor to humanity materially, spiritually, intellectually, economically, and more.
If you too are excited about issues like these, I implore you: first, subscribe to me, and second, start your own! Message me about it. I will do my best to engage you. We have to raise the level of our discourse. No less than the fate of humanity is at stake. This is just my small attempt, and I pray for barakah in it.
اللهم صلِّ على سيدنا محمد النور الذاتى والسر السارى فى سـائر الأسمـاء والصفــات وعلى آله وصحبه وسـلم