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Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech’

One problem with our “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan is the centrality of Islam in the land where we are waging a nation building effort.  We are trying to export American style institutions and values, but these often run headlong into the Islamic obsession with respect.  Western freedoms and Islamic law are incompatible, not least in their view of blasphemy in contrast to our ideals of free speech.  We are selling Americanism, but to do so we must downplay certain core values, whether it’s free speech or the rights of women or the role for man-made legislation, which is to say the western concept of politics, and the related ideals of discussion, debate, and dissent. 

Not only must we downplay them abroad, but now we’re told to abrogate them at home, lest we hurt the war effort, which unlike other war efforts does not require focused hatred of the enemy, but is instead a multifaceted public relations effort that requires us to put forward our tolerant, respectful-of-Islam face.

Muslims Flipping Out, As Is Their Custom Which We Should Respect as Good Multiculturalists

There is a simple lesson here.  When Muslims go absolutely crazy, riot for days, and murder innocent aid workers after an obscure Florida pastor’s burning of the Koran, we must see that this is both natural for these people and totally alien to our way of life and values.  We should observe that we cannot build an American-style nation in this region without engendering a fatal conflict of values. 

Some people mistakenly view these riots as merely stupid, a symptom of treatable Third World ignorance.  They are not; they are the acts of committed, rational zealots.  What these Afghan Muslims understand–and what Americans do not–is that there is an irreconcilable conflict between Muslim values and the various western and liberal values that we are exporting to their region. To win this nation-building campaign, we must either become subservient to Islam, or we must destroy Islam.  To destroy Islam, we must do the unthinkable (and the unnecessary). But we do not need to win this particular campaign to emerge relatively safe from Islamic terrorism.  We are better served to protect ourselves and our honor by separating from the Islamic world as much as possible by adopting a strategy of defense, separation, and containment.

Since generals like to win wars, they take things to their logical conclusion, and in this case we have General Petraeus opting to kowtow in the most disgusting manner to the mob in Afghanistan. He said this week:

In view of the events of recent days, we feel it is important on behalf of ISAF [i.e., the International Security Assistance Force] and NATO members in Afghanistan to reiterate our condemnation of any disrespect to the Holy Qur’an and the Muslim faith. We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Qur’an.

We also offer condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Qur’an.

We further hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Qur’an, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.

Can you imagine any scenario where an American general referred to the Holy Bible in such reverential tones?  Or excused mob violence against Jews or people with tattoos or alcohol drinkers some other activity similarly consonant with America’s traditionally broad liberties?

Not only can this war not be realistically won, but it is corrupting the American nation and the American military.  This week we have a four star general and a U.S. Senator–Sen. Lindsey Graham–questioning whether we perhaps should institute blasphemy laws aimed at quenching the insatiable Islamic demands of respect for Islam . . . a religion that only knows respect as preeminence over every alternative. 

Our army is becoming like those Roman Legions on the frontier that shed their armor and their standards and fought, dressed like, intermarried with, and eventually became identical to the barbarians they were fighting.

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Lying Eyes makes a good point on how conservatives do (and to some extent must) pull their punches:

[T]his is the quandry the right finds itself in – it cannot communicate its message to voters since the message itself is verboten. And so it must rely on proxy arguments that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. For example, proclaiming loudly and forcefully to be against illegal-immigration, but all for legal immigration. But when the left counters with “Then why not just declare them legal – problem solved” – the conservative is left sputtering about rule-of-law. His real argument – that the Hispanic population is simply too large and we can’t afford as a nation to allow it to continue to grow rapidly – must be muted, as making this argument will lead to his banishment from public discourse. Why? Because any venue that hosts this argument will be immediately subject not just to a withering public flogging, but to boycott by sponsors and anyone associated with the host.

What is the solution?  Well, perhaps part of is pushing the conversation, bit by bit.  Another part of the solution is to recognize that the right is indeed right.  And, not only that, but its views are popular. Look at the wild success of Fox News in the formerly moribund world of the Three Big Networks and CNN.  Look at the ability of right-wing bloggers to maintain a growing audience.  Notice the huge popularity of Church, talk radio, and the like.  Finally, look at survey data.  Yes, some is dispiriting, but, contrary to the globalization crusaders at the Wall Street Journal, it’s probably more accurate to say the country is economically liberal (or moderate) and socially conservative, than the fashionable, semi-libertarian opposite viewpoint.  Indeed, real conservatives are seeing more and more that the big companies and banks are the biggest welfare queens around, while they struggle to make mortgage payments and send their kids to overpriced universities.

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Something did not sit right with me when General Petraeus weighed in on the controversy just down the road (in Gainesville) regarding the well publicized Koran burning.  For what it’s worth, I do not like such gestures; I find them atavistic, and I recognize that religion is indeed a sacred thing to those who believe.  For every Muslim who is out there seething and hurling bricks, many more are simply respectful of the religion of their forefathers, scared of western influence in their lands, and are getting from this event the wrong impression of Americans, who have no natural disrespect of other people’s religious practices.

There is no reason for either our government or ordinary Americans to sow conflict with Islam, and the best solution, as I’ve said before, is deliberate separation both at home and in foreign policy with a long run and realistic goal of containment.  This too would be offensive to some, but it’s better than the perpetual conflict we have now as we intermingle both at home and abroad in the name of liberal ideas of universalism.

All the same, it is a storied and treasured right of Americans to express themselves, ridiculously if they choose, and it is quite predictable, quaint even, that an old school fire and brimstone preacher would act in this way. It’s a very American eccentricity at work here.  And it has served an important purpose in showing that Islam, far from being a religion of peace, is filled with people that may, at a moment’s notice, become violent.  Further, it has shown the hypocricy and cowardice of the American politically correct establishment.

General Petraeus has suggested that this Koran burning hurts the war effort.  Isn’t that interesting?  What other things that Americans take for granted hurt the war effort?  Wouldn’t the recent push for same sex marriage or five minutes of MTV or women wearing bikinis at the beach also offend Muslim sensibilities?  Didn’t our protection of the Saudis from Saddam offend Muslim sensibilities, simply by allowing Americans to set foot in an Islamic land?  Doesn’t our presence now in Iraq and Afghanistan deeply offend Muslims, not to mention the numerous civilians killed accidentally (but inevitably) by airstrikes and drones and scared shitless 19 year old American soldiers.  Indeed, much of our country and its practices, some good and some not so good, are deeply offensive to any traditionally religious person.   Nonetheless, none of these things have typically been up for debate as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign halfway around the world.  Recall the Danish cartoons, which were eminently defensible, also caused similar mass Muslim rioting.  While uneasy with Koran burning, I see that there is something valuable in Terry Jones’ provocation simply for revealing so many people’s true colors, and this was, in fact, one of his stated reasons for this event.

As for the General, there is something altogether gratuitous about Petraeus’ words.  He undboutedly knew they’d be looked on kindly by Obama, in a way that a condemnation of equally problematic pacifist protests would not.  Where was General Petraeus when the Abu Ghraib photos were plastered all over Time Magazine and anti-war protests?  And what of the demoralizing “Bush Lied, People Died” canard?  Petraeus is hardly taking a courageous or conistent stand here; he is simply saying what he thinks the boss wants to hear.  And it is a problem when the military pursues its own (or the President’s) anti-democratic agenda in a free society; the military is supposed to be the instrument of the elected, political branches of government, and those branches (and the people to whom they are accountable) have varied opinions and views on what Islam means, how it should be addressed, and how that view should be expressed by private citizens. And, lest I remind the general, he took an oath to the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment.

A just war preserves a people and a way of life.  I have not forgotten that Petraeus, ever the politician, let the cat out of the bag sometime ago when asked by Senator John Warner (R-VA) if the war made the US safe, responding “I don’t know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind.”  Indeed.  The current war now has a logic all its own, nearly completely separate from domestic security, which can be easily vouchsafed by capping Islamic immigration and pressuring those here to Americanize or go home.  The idea that to win a war American citizens must be cajoled by uniformed military men to show respect to an alien religion shows the ultimate impossibility of the current nation-building strategy, which aims impossibly and unprecedentedly to reconcile western institutions with an ancient, anti-western religion.   This war, animated by ideological principals of universalist liberalism and multiculturalism, threatens as it drags on to degrade the society it ostensibly is being waged to protect.

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