Realpolitik is one thing, but this is ridiculous...

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has co-authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal that I think ought to be read by everyone. Basically, he says that the British finally get it, but the Americans don't.

On the eve of his departure from office, Mr. Blair gave a television interview taking on those he once courted -- British Islamists who have been quick to level charges of Islamophobia and oppression against Britain and the United States: "The reason we are finding it hard to win this battle [against terror] is that we're not actually fighting it properly. We're not actually standing up to these people and saying, 'It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified.' . . . Some of what is written on this is loopy-loo in its extremism."

(Emphasis added to what I think were brilliant remarks.)

Meanwhile, Bush is busy not only inviting hateful Saudi Wahhabists to important outreach events in the U.S., he's letting them act as gatekeepers to keep out genuine moderate Muslims:
....they excluded the truly moderate, who are not Saudi-founded or funded: the Islamic Supreme Council of America, the American Islamic Congress, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the Center for Eurasian Policy, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the Islam and Democracy Project, the Institute for Gulf Affairs, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and many others.

These organizations are frequently shut out of U.S. government events and appointments on the basis that they are considered insignificant or "controversial" by the petro-dollar-funded groups. The administration makes a terrible mistake by making such Wahhabi-influenced institutions as the Washington Islamic Center the gate keepers for all American Muslims.

The actual substance of Mr. Bush's mosque speech -- particularly good on religious freedom -- was overshadowed by the announcement of its single initiative: America is to send an envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC was created explicitly to promote hostility to Israel, and its meetings largely consist of ritualistic Israel-bashing. At one last year, Iran's president called for the "elimination of the Zionist regime." It has no mechanism for discussing the human rights of its member states, and thus has never spoken out against Sudan's genocide of Darfuri Muslims. It is advancing an effort to universalize Islamic blasphemy laws, which are applied as often against speech critical of the governments of OIC member states as against profanities. Last month the OIC council of foreign ministers termed Islamophobia "the worst form of terrorism." Currently no Western power holds either member or observer status at the OIC.

The Bush administration is now actively considering whether its public diplomacy should reach out to Muslim Brotherhood groups. While such groups may pay lip service to peace, they do not denounce terror by Hamas, a Brotherhood offshoot. It keeps as its motto: "Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." By choosing those whose definition of terror does not include the murder of Jews, honor killings and lethal fatwas against Muslim dissidents and reformers, the U.S. government makes them look strong -- particularly in the shame-and-honor culture of the Middle East -- and strengthens their hand against the real moderates and reformers.

Reading the whole thing made me very angry.

I can only hope that Bush still has some sort of secret plan to lull the Saudis into a false sense of security, the way he lured the suicidal Saudi Salafists into Iraq. (I can dream, can't I?)

These days, there are plenty of reports and opinion pieces about al Qaeda. Predictably, the left focuses on al Qaeda in Aghanistan and Pakistan (and the "war we should have fought"), while the right focuses on al Qaeda in Iraq (which is, after all, the war we're fighting right now). But few mention the Saudi role in al Qaeda, even though the Saudis and al Qaeda are inextricably intertwined.

Bret Stephens (also writing in the Wall Street Journal) understands that there's an ongoing, institutionalized problem of American cluelessness:

Take the case of career diplomat Francis Riccardione, currently the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. In interviews with the Egyptian media, Mr. Riccardione has said that American officials have "no right to comment" on the case of Ayman Nour, the former opposition leader imprisoned on trumped-up charges; that faith in Egypt's judiciary is "well-placed," and that president Hosni Mubarak -- now in his 26th year in office -- "is loved in the U.S." and "could win elections [in America] as a leader who is a giant on the world stage." Mr. Riccardione also admits he "enjoyed" a recent film by Egyptian artist Shaaban Abdel Rahim, best known for his hit song "I Hate Israel."
What nearly brought tears to my eyes was reasong about U.S. diplomats undermining the struggle by Indonesians against Wahhabism:
Mr. Taylor, a former telecom executive who moved to Jakarta in the 1990s and speaks fluent Indonesian, has engaged influential and genuinely reform-minded Muslims -- as opposed to the faux "moderates" on whom Mr. Bush lavished praise at the Islamic Center -- to articulate and defend a progressive and tolerant version of Islam.

In its brief life, LibForAll has helped turn back an attempted Islamist takeover of the country's second-largest Muslim social organization (with 30 million members), translated anti-Wahhabist books into Indonesian, sponsored a recent multidenominational conference to denounce Holocaust-denial, brought Mr. Dhani to Colorado to speak to U.S. military brass, and launched a well-researched "extremist exposé" in order, Mr. Taylor says, "to get Indonesian society to consciously acknowledge that there is an infiltration occurring of radical ideology, financed by Arab petrodollars, that is intent on destroying Indonesian Islam."

For his efforts, Mr. Taylor has been cold-shouldered by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta -- more proof that when it comes to public diplomacy the U.S. government functions with its usual genius and efficiency. But there's more at work here than a bumbling and insipid bureaucracy. As the scholar Carnes Lord notes in his useful book on public diplomacy, "Losing Hearts and Minds," America's public diplomatists "are today no longer as convinced as they once were that America's story is after all fundamentally a good one, or believe an alternative, negative story is at least equally plausible." Hence someone like Mr. Riccardione can say, when asked about discrimination in Egypt (where a Coptic population amounting to about 10% of the population has one member in the 444-seat parliament) that it "happens everywhere, even in the U.S."

That's pretty sickening.

You'd almost think the State Department was being run by Rosie O'Donnell. Or Helen Thomas. Although in fairness (as Glenn also notes) she wasn't elected.

It may be that Bush is no longer in control of the situation. Perhaps a basic history lesson is in order. I wish the president would read what Glenn linked earlier from Don Surber in response to the Byrd/Clinton axis (to which I'd add the Saudis, O'Donnell, and Thomas):

"The American people have waited long enough for progress in Iraq," Byrd and Clinton wrote. "They have waited long enough for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future."

Really? The war lasted three weeks. The occupation is in its fourth year.

So what? The North occupied the South for 12 years, and had it hung on a few more years, civil rights would have arrived for black Americans about 80 years sooner.

American troops are still in Germany. It took 10 years just to calm West Germany down and begin its "economic miracle," i.e. Americans bought what West Germany produced, no matter how awful it may have been.

American troops are still in South Korea. It took a good 20 years to establish a democracy there. My brother-in-law still recalls the deprivations he faced when he served in Korea.

That was in the 1970s.

American troops are still in Kosovo, helping prevent the very genocide that the editors of the New York Times suggest is OK in Iraq.

American troops are still in Afghanistan.

I won't go into how long we occupied Italy and Japan. My point is made.

(Brilliant remark in emphasis.)

Don Surber concludes by suggesting that Senator Byrd reread his Roman history -- especially "the parts about the fall of Rome."

I doubt that would help. Besides, Byrd is 89. Rome will outlast him.

Seriously, I don't think the fall of Rome is upon us yet, but I do think Bush would do better to listen to history than the Saudis. Or Helen Thomas.

posted by Eric on 07.12.07 at 10:12 PM



Last year, I, too, wrote an article on American naivete using a book on the OSS in WWII as my source. If you're interested, it's here

Hope you enjoy it.

Panday   ·  July 13, 2007 8:56 AM


In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. Since we had a defense treaty with South Korea we needed to get troops over there to bolster South Korean defenses.

Big problem, our shipping was totally inadequate. Not because we didn't have the ships --- had plenty of those left over from the war, but because we didn't have the men. Japan had the men, just not the ships.

So Tokyo approached Washington DC with a proposal. We'll man the ships that get your people over to Korea, you end the occupation. The armistice remains in place (technically, we were still at war), and we'll discuss basing rights etc. later on. After some dickering the Japanese got their country back, the Japanese navy helped man the cargo ships we needed to get troops and supplies to Korea, and the rest is history.

Note also that while the American occupation of Japan lasted there were very few acts of anti-American violence, and no organized resistence. When the Emperor said we are going to accept the unacceptable and endure the unendurable, that's what you did. Not because the Emperor of Japan has any real power, but because a good Japanese citizen simply does not disappoint his Emperor. That would be rude.

So throughout the Korean war shipments between Japan and Korea was basically the responsibility of the old Imperial Japanese Navy, and this at a time when we were still, pro forma, at war with each other.

Aint politics wonderful? :)

Alan Kellogg   ·  July 13, 2007 3:45 PM

In Germany as well, I doubt there many attacks against the occupying Americans. Comparing that period with today's occupation of Iraq is a bit blinkered.

Neal J. King   ·  July 17, 2007 3:01 PM

The kernel of the problem is, and was, oil. Without oil, none of these conflicts would have global impact.

Without oil, I think even the Arab-Israeli problem would have long ago run out of steam.

None of the despotic regimes, which the U.S. has supported in the past and is supporting now, would have been able to maintain themselves without the economic and political clout bestowed by oil.

Neal J. King   ·  July 19, 2007 4:03 AM

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