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Works and Days

Our Old Grand Fantasies About Radical Islam

January 21st, 2013 - 12:02 am

3. Israel Is the Source of Muslim Rage

Note two facts about the current mass killing in the Muslim world, in Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya, Mali, Syria, and Yemen. First, it has nothing to do with Israel. Second, the Muslim world is largely silent about the carnage that dwarfs the toll of an Israeli response to missiles from Gaza. The Muslim world cannot do anything about Muslim-on-Muslim violence, but apparently thinks others can do a great deal about Israeli-on-Muslim violence, which is sporadic at best.

Why, then, do Westerners so often scapegoat Israel? A number of very human considerations, apart from the most obvious of anti-Semitism, the Arab world’s oil wealth, and the vast demographic fact of 1 billion persons versus 7 million. We have influence with Westernized and liberal Israel, none with Mr. Morsi or the Libyan assassins or the Algerian hostage-killers. Symbolic pressure is a psychological mechanism to excuse factual impotence. The Arab world is so complex and so torn by tribalism, religious schisms, and embedded pathologies that the Western mind seeks a simple sword stroke to Israel to cut such a complex Gordian knot. For now the problem is supposed to be Mr. Netanyahu, who in appearance and speech seems like an easily demonized American neocon. Yet every writ against Israel is elsewhere in the world commonplace and mostly ignored: our drone killings trump their targeted assassinations; a divided Nicosia trumps Jerusalem; occupied islands off Japan or Tibet trump the West Bank; a million ethnically cleansed Jews from Arab capitals or 13 million Germans cleansed from Eastern Europe trump the Arab flight from Palestine. For a displaced German now to speak of a right of return to “Danzig” is creepy; for a Palestinian to demand residence in Haifa after a similar seven decades of absence is appropriate.

4. The U.S. Can Solve the Muslim World’s Problems.

I supported the war in Iraq as a way of getting rid of a long-term enemy of the U.S., Saddam Hussein, in accordance with the 23 writs of action approved by the U.S. Congress. We did that, ended the 12-year containment and no-fly-zones, and defeated a huge Islamist coalition that flocked to Iraq to wage jihad. That said, Iraq is more stable than Syria or Libya largely because a U.S. presence baby-sat democratic change. To the degree that Iraq will revert to the usual Arab paradigm is probably contingent on the fact that the U.S. refused to leave even a small garrison and simply pulled out lock, stock, and barrel.

Elsewhere, I don’t think the Western intervention in Libya led to much of an improvement over Gadhafi’s nightmarish dictatorship. Morsi may make the kleptocratic Mubarak look good in another year. Take your pick in Syria: the murderous security of the Assad secret police or the murderous chaos of Islamist gangs. I am sure that there are Google execs among all the dissidents, but I am also sure that none will come to power — and most will soon flee their respective countries. No one now is pressuring 8th century Saudi Arabia to become a 21st century “democratic” Egypt. Eastern Europe — warped by a half-century of Soviet-imposed communism, torn by past wars between Russia and Europe, with a baleful legacy of Ottoman occupation in the southeast, and distant from the Renaissance, Reformation, and New World exploration — was saved by its Western heritage and its incorporation into Europe, at least for now. As far as the Muslim world, I see no such heritage or possible likeminded interventions from the West. Perhaps some day globalization or Westernized oil-fed elites in the manner of a Dubai may make a difference — or perhaps not.

In this regard, the Obama administration’s therapeutic approach — jihad is a personal journey; Major Hasan committed workplace violence and endangered the Army’s diversity program; terrorism is a man-caused disaster; anti-terrorism is an overseas contingency operation; there is no war on Islamic terror; trying KSM in a civilian court; loud talk of shutting down Guantanamo; reading Miranda rights to terrorist suspects; loudly inventing underappreciated Islamic discoveries and inventions — is not just silly and embarrassing, but dangerous. The therapeutic approach sends the message to the young terrorist that we are in some way culpable for the violence that he intends to commit, that there may not be dangerous repercussions to his terrorist acts, or that we do not believe in the values of our culture as much as he does in his own.

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