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Works and Days

Our Old Grand Fantasies About Radical Islam

January 21st, 2013 - 12:02 am

5. We Are Largely Safe from Islamic Upheavals

While we are largely impotent in terms of modernizing the Arab and larger Islamic world, and while many of its conflicts do not involve any major U.S. interests, I’m afraid we cannot simply wash our hands of radical Islam. September 11 taught us that premodern killers can still reach postmodern Westerners. Oil revenues will give Iran not just the bomb, but in ten years the ability to rocket it to Europe and perhaps the U.S. If there is to be a Persian nuke, there may well be soon an Egyptian or Saudi one as well. Pakistan at any moment could lose its warheads to al-Qaedists. Rising Muslim populations in Europe — the embryo of the Holocaust —  are already changing its geo-politics. Over forty terrorist plots have been uncovered in the U.S. since 9/11. A characteristic of radical Islam is nihilism, the morbid desire to destroy all that it cannot create.

In short, we must continue our anti-terrorism vigilance, maintain our military strength, speak honestly to the public, and seek alliances with sympathetic nations who share our views about radical Islam.

What Then?

More importantly, it is time to reassess our posture in the Muslim world. Giving billions of dollars in aid to Mr. Morsi’s Egypt is unsustainable, logically and morally. We should quietly chart a five-year plan to reach zero aid, a cut-off that could be reassessed should Morsi prove a reformer (fat chance). Ditto diminishing aid to Pakistan, and the Palestinians. The key is not loud lecturing, but just a quiet yet steady twist of the spigot in the off direction. If anti-Americanism earns U.S. money (Pakistan and Palestine just polled the most anti-American of all nations), then perhaps no U.S. money might earn a little pro-Americanism.

Our immigration policy in general is wrecked. But we should radically reassess granting visas to those from non-democratic countries in the Middle East. This hiatus need not be permanent, but again can send a quiet message that there are wages to anti-Americanism.

Oil and natural gas self-sufficiency are now possible in a way undreamed of just four years ago. In other words, there are now real answers to our age-old worries: a stop to predicating our national security on the Persian Gulf; an end to the Arab League holding our foreign policy hostage; a stop to berating Israel and courting Hamas; a curtailing of our disastrous imbalance of payments caused by importing over-priced oil — as well as the possibility of exchanging coal for clean-burning natural gas, creating millions of new jobs at home, and earning revenues to help pay down the deficit. Not developing new wells on public lands and cancelling the Keystone pipeline are not just mistaken, but mistaken to the degree of lunacy.

To the degree that the administration quietly kept in place most of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols that it had in campaign-mode so opportunistically derided, and to the degree that its own loud new initiatives either were shelved or faced a storm of opposition in Congress, we have been kept safe for another four years. But if we believe any of the above five truisms, we won’t be for long.

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