“We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq,” New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks recently wrote. There, in the Land of the Two Rivers, he continued, the United States confronts the “core problem” of our era — “the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.”
Brooks is wrong. For starters, he misconstrues the core problem — which is a global conflict pitting tradition against modernity.
Traditionalists, especially numerous in but not confined to the Islamic world, cling to the conviction that human existence should be God-centered human order. Proponents of modernity, taking their cues from secularized Western elites, strongly prefer an order that favors individual autonomy and marginalizes God. Not God first, but we first — our own aspirations, desires and ambitions. If there’s a core problem afflicting global politics today, that’s it.
This conflict did not originate in nor does it emanate from Iraq. So to say that we live in the Age of Iraq is the equivalent of saying we live in the Age of Taylor Swift or the Age of Google. The characterization serves chiefly to distract attention from more important matters.
To the limited extent that we do live in the Age of Iraq, it’s because successive U.S. presidents have fastened on that benighted country as a place to demonstrate the implacable onward march of modernity.