If you have never understood U.S. Middle East, policy here it is: The response to September 11.

What do I mean? Simple.

There are two ways to respond to September 11:

  1. There is a struggle with revolutionary Islamists, which is a huge battle that is parallel to the Cold War or the Allied-Axis conflict. America must organize a united front to fight this battle against the Islamists: Sunnis or Shia; Turkish, Iranian, or Arab; the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and al-Qa’ida; Hamas, Hizballah, and even the Taliban.
  2. Or, what seems easier: having many more allies and fewer enemies only to focus on al-Qa’ida. After all, who else attacked the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Kenya, etc.?

That’s it. Honest. And guess what? The Washington insiders, “experts” (anything but), officials, many intelligence people (including John Brennan, the head of the CIA), military officers, and sectors of the Republican party (especially Senator John McCain) believe this.

In Washington, it is not good for one’s career not to believe it.

But it is understandable, after all (albeit also inaccurate and stupid).

Look at this point:

Who do you believe is an enemy who wants to fight and hurt America and the West?

  1. The Syrian and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods, the Salafists, al-Qa’ida, Hamas, Hizballah, the Taliban, Iran, and Turkey.
  2. Just al-Qaida?

See what I mean?

And suppose we could get all these not al-Qa’ida Islamists as allies?

Suppose we could get all these non al-Qa’ida Islamists to repress al-Qa’ida and so stop terrorist attacks? Wouldn’t that be an easier job? One less involved, theoretically, in costing American lives and in costing money? One that would be popular with voters?

Certainly.

And finally, of course, that is what the administration and much of the mass media believe.

The problem is, though, that gets the Islamist ideology wrong. Al-Qa’ida and the other revolutionary Islamists have different tactics but not different goals. Learning that lesson will take years and be very painful. The wrong ideas are deeply embedded in large parts of the arrogant, ignorant, and financially interested establishment.