Thursday, September 28, 2006
As a depressing follow up to my previous post, Matt Yglesias flags two more examples of the counterinsurgency Kryptonite that is all the rage these days for those Iraq war boosters who are either too immature, or too concerned with electoral backlash, to own up to the all-too-predictable reality that has resulted from their counsel. So instead, they make silly arguments that belie logic and only work in a world in which only binary choices, and black and white analysis, are available. First, Tony "How Far You've Fallen" Blair:
This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it. It's not the consequence of foreign policy. It's an attack on our way of life.
Next, because you knew it was coming, David Brooks shows off his talent for absorbing and regurgitating the talking points du jour:
...[M]ore and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can’t seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn’t somehow responsible for....
Ah yes. Which people exactly Brooks never does say. But they're out there. En masse. Oddly enough, Brooks does sort of stumble upon some form of insight - though it is encased in the usual shroud of ignorance. But still, it is instructive of how misguided his overall thesis is:
The blunt fact is that groups of Islamic extremists will continue to compete and grow until mainstream Islamic moderates can establish a more civilized set of criteria for prestige and greatness. Today’s extremists are not the product of short-term historical circumstances, but of consciousness and culture. They are not the fault of the United States, but have roots stretching back centuries. They will not suddenly ignore their foe — us — when their hatred of us is the core of their identity.
All together now: no we did not create extremism in the Muslim world, or elsewhere. But since that extremism exists, and it threatens us, it behooves us to try to craft a policy to help contain, mitigate and transform it. Instead, we adopt policies (the invasion of Iraq) that take a pre-existing problem and make it worse! The opposite of progress.
And if success and failure truly rests with the empowerment of moderate Muslims, which I believe it does ultimately, then we should be crafting policies and rhetoric that actually help those moderate Muslims! Instead, we adopt policies, and espouse rhetoric (clash of civilizations), that make the already precarious position of Muslim moderates and reformers weaker! The opposite of progress.
This should not be that difficult a concept. And it's not. I've explained it all in more detail (here, here, here and here). But Brooks and Blair know what they're doing. They're kicking up dust, and covering their tracks. The dangerous part is that in so doing, they may just be obscuring potential pitfalls that lie ahead (like those in Iran or Syria should our leaders decide that our actions have no impact on the levels and efficacy of extremist violence in the name of Islam). The veil of ignorance once brandished, is not as selective in its obfuscation as its wielders would prefer. Matt's admonition is all too credible:
And they'll shoot the messengers then too. Repeat cycle.
To be sure, there are some implacable opponents out there who we'll have to do our best to kill. But there are also lots of other people out there -- placable opponents, young kids with unformed views, fence-sitters, whatever -- and our actions do, indeed, play a role in whether or not they become implacable opponents. This matters. It probably matters more than anything else. And the domination of western politics by people who don't understand that is going, one day, to get an awful lot of Americans killed.