Thursday, January 27, 2005

...for Dummies

ReligionNewsBlog.com reports that senior Army Officers are asked to read a eight books about Islam before their tour in Iraq begins. And Professor Malcolm Clark’s “Islam for Dummies” (Wiley, 2003) is the very first book on that list. I'm not a big fan of the Dummies or Idiots book series, but I admit it is somewhat comforting to know that someone in the Army is at last realizing costly mistakes can be avoided with a little knowledge. Unfortunately, I must also admit I am surprised that this requirement is only being pressed for the officers and not all US reps -- both civilian and military -- serving in the Middle East. In fact, perhaps what we really need is a course/book called Foreign Relations for Dummies. The 2000 US Election Special Edition of said book would of course be subtitled:
Yes, Presidential Candidates with No Real Experience -- and their Potential Administrative Appointees -- Must Read This Book (Start crackin', W!)
Yes, I know it appears that all opportunities for educating the leadership of this country and salvaging this nation's reputation are rapidly decomposing in the dust bin, but we should probably still make the effort and request that some kind of ... for Dummies reading be required for all folks in public office (or those who simply aspire to it). For starters, I would suggest Bruce Feiler's Abraham - A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths or Karen Armstrong's A History of God - The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That would cover the monotheist traditions, which are pretty central to any activity going on in the Middle East. I would recommend some other books or programs to get the Bush Administration up to speed on other faith paths, but "W" probably couldn't get through the first few pages of Armstrong's scholarly work (maybe one of Bush's aides could dumb it down for him?), and I doubt he's up for learning -- let alone accepting -- anything outside of his nice little Protestant box. Come to think of it, a ...for Dummies book just isn't going to cut it. It might actually cause more problems in that man's head.

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