June 25, 2012
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: In Saudi Arabia, “Witch Hunt” Isn’t Just A Metaphor.
Absurd and even contemptible as this sort of claptrap sounds to most Americans, these beliefs are not something we can wisely ignore. When formulating our foreign policy, we must take into account the fact that many of our interlocutors believe utterly absurd things and are willing to act upon them. Simplistically projecting our own Western sensibilities onto international actors is not a basis for sound geopolitical strategy. We must rather take seriously the values and conceptual systems of those we wish to engage diplomatically if for no other reason than to understand how they will perceive and respond to our acts.
Second, incidents like these remind us what real theocratic bigotry looks like. Jumpy American liberals who see theocracy behind every Mormon temple, Baptist convention or Catholic church are as ridiculous and over the top in their way as the Saudi witch hunters are in theirs. Both groups whip themselves into frenzies of terror over imaginary threats; both groups make ridiculous accusations; both groups mistake shadows for truth.