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Ron Radosh

At first liberal pundits had a series of explanations for why Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood. He was simply a lone deranged mental case; a Muslim furious that Army buddies discriminated against him because he was a Muslim and also made derogatory comments to his face; a doctor who had secondary traumatic stress disorder, which he suffered from due to all those returning veterans who actually had it. Or, perhaps, like the perpetual disgruntled former postal employee, he just went bonkers. Anything was possible, except to blame his actions on the radical Islamist ideology he evidently practiced.  As Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News, the Army wanted to blame it on a medical condition, in order “to avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs…and his actions.”

None of these explanations washed, and the more they were made, the sillier they sounded. The connections the public made — based on clear evidence — were far superior to those made by scores of apologists. Now, this past Sunday, one liberal pundit has taken to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to offer what is perhaps the most preposterous and disingenuous explanation offered. The analysis comes from Robert Wright, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and editor of The Progressive Realist, a foreign policy blog.

Wright’s argument, believe it or not, is that yes—Major Hasan was an Islamic jihadist and terrorist — but his acts of terror were our fault! Wright reverts to the once popular “blame it on America” syndrome exposed years ago by the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, during the waning days of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.   Wright’s argument goes this way: Conservatives support war in Iraq and Afghanistan; they and liberal hawks want to contain “the virus of Islamist radicalism.”

In so doing, Wright claims, the killing of innocent Muslim civilians — accidental as they may be — inflame the Muslim populace. They see battlefield video footage and are pushed “over the edge” towards the ideology of bin Laden and company, and want revenge. Major Hasan drew close to a radical imam he knew years earlier and communicated with him by e-mail; by this point, he had become “radicalized by two American wars.” Thus the Islamist terrorism he inflicted at Fort Hood was a result of our “war on terrorism.”

Next, Wright actually takes after claims he says conservatives will now make — but which they have not ever argued. He predicts conservatives will now say Hasan was a lone nut, in order to escape admitting that he acted because the US was waging unjust war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, he argues that a “hawkish war-on-terrorism strategy-a global anti-jihad” of Americans killing Muslims, is both dubious and counter-productive. His proof: it produces people like Major Hasan, who go over the edge and retaliate against those waging war on Muslims.

Islam, he argues, “isn’t an intrinsically belligerent religion,” and right-wing stereotypes that it is have led to many Muslims taking these conservatives at their word, and hence they see the U.S. as an enemy of their religion. Now, there are some conservatives and analysts of Islam who do indeed say that jihad is an intrinsic aspect of Islamic theology, and that its adherents are engaged in permanent war against the West. But the majority of Americans, conservatives included, have argued that Islam is a religion of peace that was hijacked by those who have misinterpreted it. They have gone out of their way to assure the American Islamic community that in no way are they going after those who are Muslims.

Robert Wright wants to ignore this — the various times, for example, that President George W. Bush had Muslims to the White House and assured them that the United States was not about to persecute their community for its religious beliefs. Instead, he wants to believe that it is the denigration of Islam by the right-wing that is responsible of leading some like Major Hasan to move towards acceptance of the radical beliefs and to adopt terrorism.  He cites one case as evidence. When a 24-year-old Muslim American shot a soldier at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas six months ago, he told the police he did so because of the US “killing of Muslims” in the two wars we are fighting.

So, Wright concludes, our wars have failed to reduce anti-American terrorism abroad, and have “inspired homegrown terrorism.”  Thus it is US foreign policy — in particular the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that has moved bin Laden “a bit closer to his goal” of tearing our country apart. The way to defeat him, in Wright’s view, is simply to reverse our foreign policy, pull out of both areas, and thus give them no excuse to be angry.

What Robert Wright ignores is that there is a radical Islamist movement, whose leaders’ views predated those of our recent wars, and who did not need any US action to motivate them. In fact, if the United States did what he proposes, it would hand the Islamists a major victory, energize them, and convince their imams that their tactics and preaching are working.  In short, it would only lead to an increased amount of jihadists, who would have sound evidence that incidents like a few shooting sprees have forced America to back down.

Robert Wright is so anxious to score points against both conservatives and liberal hawks that he advocates a policy of appeasement that would please no one more than the jihadists he purports to oppose.  Are his arguments really the best that the residents of one of liberalism’s major think tanks can come up with?

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