In this straightforward article on how honor plays a role in Muslim society, Jonathan Rauch observes that "traditional honor cultures value vindication over freedom and wealth. Militant Islamism and Baathist-style national socialism offer narratives of restored greatness and heroic resistance. Ballot boxes and shopping malls offer neither. If freedom brings humiliation, what good is it?"
He makes a good point. The point being that those Muslims who seek to avenge their damaged honor will not find satisfaction in the "revenge of living well," as the Japanese and Germans did. Not at this point, at least. It is a good question to ask in the face of the Bush doctrine, which asserts that all humans yearn for liberty, so we'll give it to them, and if we don't get their gratitude, at least they'll be too busy hashing out their own matters of governance to come after us.
I am a pessimist by nature, and frequently despair that life will ever get any better. My life, that is. But I have a hard time shaking the feeling that democratizing Iraq has got to work. It's got to because the alternative is not particularly palatable, either for the Iraqis or for the rest of the world.
So how far does this honor thing go? Has it evenly penetrated all corners of the ummah, or is it present mostly in those who crave power: the malignant narcissists and their enablers, young men, and some imams. At what point would some of the Muslims who currently march in protests or vandalize cars say "hey, we're not willing to go that far to protect our stupid honor"?
Or at what point will naive Westerners, including myself at times, realize that it's going to be a choice between defeating and being defeated, that the moderate Muslims will stick with the ummah as long as they appear to be winning (and for some time after that), and that the moderates who bail out earlier than that will be killed?