Well, actually, nothing mysterious. The reasonable Islam of the real
world is unimaginably weak, simply overwhelmed by its tormentors,
compromised by its putative leaders, deluded by its wealth, unsure of
what it really believes, afraid that its supposed adherents actually
support its enemies and, both metaphorically and practically, have
their suitcases packed to decamp for Europe where, hope assures them,
they can live perhaps another generation in smugness and comfort.
This is the lesson of Mumbai, and specifically of Mumbai, for up to know the ferocity of contemporary Islam could have been debited to the Israelis and the Jews. Dishonestly debited, to be sure, but debited nonetheless. Oh, yes, I know, Mumbai Muslims also targeted the Lubavicher Jewish Center. But it was almost as an afterthought or a routine: Jews are Jews. What do you expect? Why shouldn't we kill Jews when we are killing and maiming hundreds of others in hotels, a movie theater, a hospital, a railroad station, the streets, a backpackers' center?
Yes, this is an effort to dissuade high computer technologies and other ventures at the frontiers of science and industry to desert India which has made great strides in the very enterprise of modernity and deepened its commitments to democracy. In contrast, Muslim Pakistan is hardly a state and certainly not a nation-state. Its only real knowledge-based accomplishment is its atomic bomb, fathered by a demented nuclear arsonist to whom the regime still pays homage. If you want a quintessential instance of the hostility of Islamic politics to modern politics all you need do is take a look at western Pakistan, in its relationships to terror, its own tribal groups and the Taliban of Afghanistan. At the beginning of his campaign, Barack Obama pointed at western Pakistan as the most incendiary battlefield against civilized relations among states. He was correct. And one must be careful not to enmesh in our minds the hopelessly struggling government of Pakistan with the wild men who have it among its enemies.
The stakes for militant Islam are enormous in Mumbai and in India, more generally. Progressive India -an independent judiciary, parliamentary government, a free press, and at last some real social mobility- is the negation of everything to which the warriors of Islam and their mobs are so enthusiastically indentured. No, India is not all perfect. Yes, it does have many Hindu irreconcilables, among whose victims are also Christians. Still, whatever brutalities imperialism and colonialism imposed on India (and they imposed many), the legacy is progressive.
In some broad sense, Pakistan may have been involved in this enormity. But I very much doubt that this was a deliberate act of the Pakistan government...and certainly not of its pro-American but kleptomaniac president. The relevant point is that no one really rules in the country so any mob and moblet can. In that sense, it is like Palestine.
I know that General Scowcroft, Zbig Brzezinski and James Baker (who, wise man that he is, armed Saddam Hussein) believe that Palestine is at the core of the world's troubles. But even if Palestine could somehow be invented and made whole, become prosperous and take revenge on the Jews, nothing in the world would be pacified. Not even Palestine.
Militant Islam is in a war against civilization. Deny it if you want to. (Maybe you'd prefer to think that George Bush, simpleton, is at war with civilization.) We've already seen how pathetically reasonable Islam does against its Muslim enemies. The real zone of conflict is in central and west Asia. You want the Israelis to give up another street in Jerusalem, they will. It will bring the world nothing. You want the Israelis even to make the road that clings to the Mediterranean two-way? Some in the Israeli peace camp would agree. But that, too, will bring you nothing. Stop wasting our time and energy. Focus on another place and another land.