Got Your Back

Joe Klein's taking some hits in the blogosphere, and J-Pod's loving it:

I don't know what the rules should be, but since today my sometime friend Joe Klein chose to describe the eminent Bernard Lewis, who has forgotten more about Islam than Joe Klein has ever known about any subject, as a "quasi-racist" because of Lewis's unbelievably well-informed ideas about the interplay of Islam and nationhood — which include the "quasi-racist" notion that Muslims can govern themselves democratically — I say: Let the netroots chew him up.

But here's the thing: Lewis' views of Muslims are "quasi-racist" or whatever the appropriate term is for holding the sort of views about the members of a religious group that one would term "racist" were they held about a racial group. This is actually not inconsistent with the fact that Lewis is considerably more knowledgeable about the history of the Islamic world than I am, and my guess is that he knows more about this than Klein does as well. Colonial regimes in Africa were full of administrators who both new a bunch of stuff about Africa and also happened to be white supremacists -- both attributes were important job qualifications.

Meanwhile, Bush (and Podhoretz) aren't relying on Lewis to help them bone up before a Jeopardy appearance -- they're seeking expert support for their pre-existing commitment to the proposition that there's nothing wrong with U.S. policy toward the Muslim world that a little additional brutality couldn't fix.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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