Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat

Article excerpt

Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat. By Michael Widlanski. New York: Threshold Editions, 20 12. 394 pp. $26.

To Widlanski, former journalist and Israeli security policy adviser, the current global fight against Islamist terror is missing a critical component; it suffers from a "lack of imagination" demonstrated again and again by those whom the West views as its leaders. He argues that "what kills terrorists is imagination" in what "is primarily a battle for the mind."

Widlanski's wide-ranging analysis exposes a host of astonishingly false, biased, and superficial understandings of Islam among opinion- and policymaking elites. Oil wealth flowing from Muslim-majoriry countries, for example, has had a baneful influence on the Middle East studies faculties of Western universities ("Petroleum by-products are now professors"). Central to his academic critique is the role played by the late Columbia University professor Edward W Said who "lobotomized Middle Eastern studies." Equally to blame is the mainstream media. Widlanski correctly characterizes Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Thomas Friedman's leftist view of the Arab-Israeli conflict as "not so much pro-Palestinian as . . . Philistine -superficial and unsupported by facts." Christiane Amanpour's CNN series God's Warriors, which argued for equivalence between Muslim jihadists, Jewish West Bank settlers, and Christian conservatives, was "absolute nonsense, but award-winning nonsense."

Perhaps most problematic are the failings of the mandarins within the U. …

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