Iannone: You have written an essay, “Is Democratic Theory for Export?” We are in the midst of an effort to do just that in the Mideast. Do you have any thoughts on the American mission in Iraq? What is your general take on the exportability of democracy? Do you think Islam is compatible with democratic values? (Here is where the followers of Strauss have evidently been especially influential—in the idea that our values are universal and therefore portable to the rest of mankind.)
Barzun: The Middle East situation also ought to be studied and judged on two levels. As a field of action to establish democracies, its resistance manifestly cannot be overcome. All effort to that end is wasted, because the United States cannot muster a force greater than the opposing forces, irresistible when joined, of history and religion — and would not if it could. But as a means of keeping at a distance the struggle with our enemy, Islam, our interference in that region may be justified. The huge immigration from the east into the west makes it plausible that if this enemy assaulted us at home, it would trigger not a united defense, but a quasi-civil war.