Monday, September 13, 2004

Conservative Criticism of the War on Terror

A piece at The American Thinker by Rachel Neuwirth asserts that "The U.S. is not really fighting terrorism." Actually, it's not as stark as the title suggests. Here's the lead sentence: "Claims that America is engaged in a total war against terrorism are greatly exaggerated."

I'm not sure who's claiming a total war. We are undoubtedly doing a lot on a lot of fronts, not all of them visible even to the media (thank goodness). The question is whether we should be doing more if we could, absent political and resource constraints.

From that perspective, Neuwirth's essay is a good checklist of the things we should do (or abet) when it's politically and economically feasible to do them; for example: take out Arafat and dismantle the PLO, come down hard on the Saudis and Egypt, and seek a U.N. declaration against Islamic terrorism. The value of seeking a U.N. declaration on anything escapes me, but it's related to Neuwirth's recitation of two key failures that we could remedy easily, at relatively little cost:
...First, we have not properly defined what we stand for. The Islamic enemy cites examples of Western decadence as justification for their ‘holy war.’ Simply saying that we stand for “freedom” and “free enterprise” has limited value because for many religious Muslims those terms may seem foreign. It suggests that we are simply imposing our system upon them by force....

Surely the U.S. information agencies can do a better job of communicating the alternative that America's principles of freedom, openness, the rule of law, respect for human rights, equality, and tolerance present to the peoples of the Islamic world, and their manifest superiority to the hate, intolerance, lawlessness and cruelty of the Islamist fanatics.

And second, we have failed to cultivate the truly moderate and responsible Islamic clerics and intellectuals. Those Muslims understand very well the sickness that prevails in so many Islamic societies and how the extremists have twisted the Quran to breed terrorists. It is their voices that need to be heard, boldly challenging the extremists on a religious basis, point for point, to demonstrate to the Islamic masses just how they have been hoodwinked and led down the path to destruction. They must show the way out of this dead end and back towards an enlightened form of Islam. Such actually existed for a time centuries ago, before this current extremism, when there was true creativity and a lively interchange of ideas across different cultures. Once Muslims hear from devout and learned men and women of their own faith that human rights, the rule of law, and respect for other religions and cultures are not incompatible with their Islamic heritage, most will eventually reject the teaching of the extremist hatemongers among them. Why not use our information forums and financial resources to help the courageous and lonely Muslim moderates to get their enlightened message to their own people?
Why not, indeed? Neuwirth keeps going:
However, our own leaders act as if they are unaware of this battle of ideas, and instead allow the extremists to have access to the highest levels of our government. Grover Norquist is a conservative activist who used to be involved in economic issues, but recently has been using his influence to help Muslims with radical and even pro-terrorist ties to gain access to high Administration officials. This in turn has allowed the Council on American Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R.) to help place Islamists among those selecting clerics for Muslim inmates in our prisons, selecting clerics for Muslim soldiers in our military and to demand all manner of rights and concessions for Muslims in America while playing the role of victims of discrimination.
I've read about this elsewhere. It makes no sense to me. Perhaps a second-term Bush can get himself out of such entanglements. Similarly, perhaps a second-term Bush can more overtly ally with Israel. As Neuwirth says:
...We have betrayed and weakened our loyal ally, Israel, while pandering to Israel’s Arab enemies. And what benefit has it bought us? Except for Israel, how many countries in the world can we count as true and staunch allies? When Tony Blair leaves power, Britain may become like Germany. The same is true for allies such as Italy and Australia, where the current political leadership faces strong public opposition to support of the war in Iraq. We betrayed our principles to pander to the nations and yet we are still hatred and distrusted in much of the world. Playing a double game on terrorism has not bought us friends. Perhaps it is time for us to try some moral consistency....
Neuwirth deserves the last word:
America should at least declare moral clarity even if we cannot actually undertake the impossible task of being the world’s policeman. We, as a superpower, are even more free than other nations to at least speak the truth without having to fear reprisals from powers stronger than ourselves. Unfortunately we have consistently failed to even speak the moral truth, and so we are seriously compromised in our self-declared war on terror.