The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hearts and Minds

Richard Clarke, a national security advisor under the Clinton Administration, suggests that when (not if) a terrorist bombing or other event succeeds, we should proceed cautiously and not “overreact.” I agree. But he then goes on the state:
In the raw aftermath of a successful attack, it will be very hard for an American president to shift the debate in a more productive and honest direction. Imagine if, after a fatal attack, President Obama responded by proposing greater outreach to Muslim communities domestically and around the world, in an effort to undercut radicalization. That is precisely what we and other nations should be doing, but it would undoubtedly be decried as a weak, starry-eyed reaction by our commander in chief, especially after an attack that revealed deficiencies in our counterterrorism system.

I would submit that our Islamist adversaries are ramping up their pin-prick attacks precisely because they believe that President Obama will follow Clarke’s counsel to the letter. If a bomb blast leads to nothing more that the arrest of expendible operatives and even further hand-wringing and attempts to understand “why they hate us,” there is little to be lost on the part of global terror organizations.

Faoud Ajami suggests a more realistic view:
This is a long twilight war, the struggle against radical Islamism. We can't wish it away. No strategy of winning "hearts and minds," no great outreach, will bring this struggle to an end. America can't conciliate these furies. These men of nowhere—Faisal Shahzad, Nidal Malik Hasan, the American-born renegade cleric Anwar Awlaki now holed up in Yemen and their likes—are a deadly breed of combatants in this new kind of war. Modernity both attracts and unsettles them. America is at once the object of their dreams and the scapegoat onto which they project their deepest malignancies.

Indeed, the continuing liberal meme that “winning hearts and minds” will somehow eradicate Islamists or more rationally, will cause their Moslem brethren to reject them, is incredibly naïve. It flies in the face of history (both recent and ancient) and assumes that we can reason people out of positions they never reasoned themselves into in the first place. It is, to put it bluntly, a dangerous strategy. Why? Because in the warped world view of Islamic fanatics, any attempt at winning hearts and minds will be viewed as weakness, and for fanatics, weakness is an invitation for further aggression.

President Obama has tried mightily to win Moslem hearts and minds and has been rewarded with exactly … nothing. His Middle Eastern strategy is a shambles, he verbally attacks and pressures our only ally in the region, and refuses to directly condemn acts of repression and aggression in countries as diverse as Syria and Iran.

President Obama is an ideologue, who like the Islamists he is trying to mollify, is unsettled by the world he is encountering. He cannot seem to process the shear depravity of a group he perceives to have legitimate grievances. He and his administration seem more concerned with ensuring their “rights” (both domestic and international) that acting forcefully through words and deeds to limit their reach.

The President is attempting a dangerous strategy—one that is more likely to lead to war that to peace.