Table of Contents

Of memes and men

Join me in a thought experiment. As you know, in 2003 Turkey refused the US access to invade Iraq from the North. Let us now suppose that in retalliation, president Bush booted Turkey from NATO.

Furthermore, let us suppose that history unfolded completely unchanged. So, between 2003 and now Turkey went from a democracy to a strong-man police-state. Just as it happened in reality. And Turkey supported the nascent ISIS, by allowing passage for jihadi's, weapons and ammunition. Finally, terrorism spread from ISIS all over Europe, just as we have seen.

In that case, we would have a "Bush lost Turkey" meme, holding that Bush's visceral insult resulted in the decline of Turkey's democacy, and the rise of ISIS and its terrorism.

That meme would be popular in our media. It would be considered received wisdom by college professors, journalists and talking heads.

But this did not come to pass.

Bush was ever respectful of Turkey, and still we did have all the bad news above. So we know that such a meme is complete and utter nonsense.

On the other hand, we are familiair with sundry memes which lay the blame for bad news in the Islamic world at the feet of the West.

The "CIA lost Iran" meme comes to mind, which holds that the root cause of the theocracy is the CIA's involvement in a 1953 coup in Teheran.

And how about the "Clinton lost Libya" meme? It holds that Libya would not have degraded into warring fiefdoms and an ISIS foothold if only Secretary of State Clinton would have refrained from a lead-from-behind strategy.

And the ever popular "Western oil consumption lost Saudi Arabia" meme. It would have us believe that by filling up your tank, you support a corrupt monarchy and be extension Al Qaeda itself.

These memes continue to fester, because they cannot be proved false. We have only one universe and only one course of history. We cannot spawn a test-branch of history in which the CIA stays out of Teheran, in which Clinton stays out of Libya and in which we forgo the internal combustion engine.

But by the same token, we should realize that none of these memes have been proved either.

In fact, such memes are speculation, living in the realm of the unknown. Even living in the realm of the unknowable.

So, you might ask, are we or are we not to blame for the present state of the Islamic world? Occam's razor dictates that we resolves questions by the simplest among many hypotheses. Which is a simpler explanation: The state of the Islamic world is caused by the people living there. Or is it caused by people living on the other side of the Globe?