Archive for March 2008

Iraq, Islam, and Religion and Politics

March 16, 2008

An article in today’s NY Times calls attention to the largely economic–and not religious or ideological–motivation behind the Sunni insurgency in Iraq:

“In fact, money, far more than jihadist ideology, is a crucial motivation for a majority of Sunni insurgents, according to American officers in some Sunni provinces and other military officials in Iraq who have reviewed detainee surveys and other intelligence on the insurgency.

Although many American military officials and politicians — and even the Iraqi public — use the term Al Qaeda as a synonym for the insurgency, some American and Iraqi experts say they believe that the number of committed religious ideologues remains small.”

So if it’s money, and not religion, then what of the West’s fear of Islam? What of the “New Atheist” argument that Iraq is just the latest exhibit of why religion should be purged from public life?

Of course, reality isn’t as simple as the article suggests. Just as war (or anything else) can’t be reduced to conflicting spiritual beliefs, nor can it be reduced to purely economic logic. The reduction to “beliefs” is the West’s error since the Thirty Years War, and the reduction to economics is the West’s error since Marx. In Iraq, Tibet, Washington, D.C., … in all politics we find irreducible, inseparable mixtures of beliefs about the way the cosmos works–“religion”–with the concerns of a near-sighted pragmatism–be it “economics” or whatever.