Monday, October 16, 2006

The Futility of Appeasement

In a lengthy, thought-provoking essay for the Weekly Standard, Reuel Marc Gerecht discusses the consequences of an American abandonment of Iraq. He ably debunks the notion that leaving Iraq will make us "safer", assuage the jihadists, or lessen anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. As Gerecht points out, there is almost nothing America can do to alleviate the deep seated rage of the Islamists. This hatred is a reflection of the Islamist worldview, and not simply a response to specific policies and actions. In short, the Islamists will hate us regardless of what we do, and trying to tailor our policies to appease their anger will only backfire.

Gerecht notes in particular the absurdity of censoring artistic and literary works offensive to Islamists. He points out that this would be foolish and counterproductive:

Yet should we back down from advocating equality between men and women in Islamic countries because such advocacy makes some Muslims more inclined to convert civilian jetliners into fuel bombs? Was Madeleine Albright wrong to talk about such things incessantly? How about Karen Hughes today? Should we chastise our artists and writers--and Muslim artists and writers who've come to the West for its freedom--if they transgress the proprieties of faithful Muslims, especially radical Muslims who require only a little more psychological TNT to send them over the edge into anti-American holy war?

Bill Clinton came very close to embracing artistic self-censorship, as did Jacques Chirac, over the Danish cartoon incident. Many jihad-rising critics and former counterterrorist officials in the Clinton administration argue that we need to avoid behavior that inflames anti-American Muslim passions. By this reasoning, we will always be playing defense to their offense and possibly violent umbrage.

Do the jihad-rising critics want to rewrite history, and stop President Clinton's WMD bombings and sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime, knowing now how bin Laden exploited Muslim solidarity by underscoring this Western aggression? Should we just have let Saddam go free (he was almost there in 2000)? The vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East certainly would have applauded. By this reasoning, who knows how many Muslim militants would have refrained from the leap into the all-consuming hatred of jihad? Maybe one of the 9/11 bombers wouldn't have flipped if we'd stopped bombing and sanctioning Iraq, and the Twin Towers would still be standing. Then again, perhaps such a cessation would have whetted the appetite of the same militants. To bin Laden and those who've embraced his cause, American defeats have been much more inspiring than American victories.

The truth is that much of what the United States needs to do to win the war on Islamic extremism will naturally infuriate those who view the United States and American culture as threatening to Islam, all the more because they also find it appealing. Your average Muslim fundamentalist, who has no intention of becoming a holy warrior, fears and hates, and admires and envies, America. Such men and women are probably near a majority of all Muslims in every Arab land. Almost everything the United States does in this world ought to annoy these people. Much of what the United States needs to do will outrage them.

(Emphasis added-DD)

In 1755, Benjamin Franklin wrote that:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This quotation is frequently cited by those concerned about the alleged threat to intellectual freedom posed by sections of the USA Patriot Act. However, it is far more appropriately applied to those who would voluntarily curtail free speech and expression in a futile effort to appease the Islamists.


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