For several years now I have been writing about the mythical Moderate Muslims, suggesting that we cannot win this war on radical Islam and that the primary struggle concerns Islam's relationship with the modern world. I further have suggested that if Islam does not come to a peaceful resolution of their battle against modernity and tolerance, they will essentially end up "walled off" from the civilized world, just as the body walls off chronic infections that cannot be cured. Israel is at the leading edge of such walling off (only partly literal; large sections of the separation wall have not been built and probably never will be build short of another Intifada) and the results shave been salutary for the Israelis and the Palestinians alike. (Gaza's self imposed economic distress contrasts vividly with the metaphoric economic boom currently taking place in the West Bank.)
Today Tom Friedman advances the meme that one possible result of a failure of the World of Islam to behave themselves will be separation from civilized human intercourse:
Dick Cheney says President Obama is “trying to pretend that we are not at war” with terrorists. There is only one thing I have to say about that: I sure hope so.
Frankly, if I had my wish, we would be on our way out of Afghanistan not in, we would be letting Pakistan figure out which Taliban they want to conspire with and which ones they want to fight, we would be letting Israelis and Palestinians figure out on their own how to make peace, we would be taking $100 billion out of the Pentagon budget to make us independent of imported oil — nothing would make us more secure — and we would be reducing the reward for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to exactly what he’s worth: 10 cents and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney.
Am I going isolationist? No, but visiting the greater China region always leaves me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants.
Could we just walk away? No, but we must change our emphasis. The “war on terrorists” has to begin by our challenging the people and leaders over there. If they’re not ready to take the lead, to speak out and fight the madness in their midst, for the future of their own societies, there is no way we can succeed. We’ll exhaust ourselves trying. We’d be better off just building a higher wall. [Emphases mien-SW]
As the terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman noted in an essay in The Washington Post: “In the wake of the global financial crisis, Al Qaeda has stepped up a strategy of economic warfare. ‘We will bury you,’ Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev promised Americans 50 years ago. Today, Al Qaeda threatens: ‘We will bankrupt you.’ ” And they will.
Our presence, our oil dependence, our endless foreign aid in the Middle East have become huge enablers of bad governance there and massive escapes from responsibility and accountability by people who want to blame all their troubles on us. Let’s get out of the way and let the moderate majorities there, if they really exist, face their own enemies on their own. It is the only way they will move. We can be the wind at their backs, but we can’t be their sails. There is some hope for Iraq and Iran today because their moderates are fighting for themselves.
I suspect most Americans would agree that we have expended enough lives and treasure trying to bring freedom to the Middle East. Iraq may some day be a functional democracy which respects the rights of non-Muslims, but the signs are not auspicious. We are disengaging from Iraq and no longer losing lives there; we are trying to replicate the surge in Afghanistan and there is probably a one or two year window before we become ready to give up there. Pakistan is widely thought to be unsalvageable with the emphasis going forward on managing the threat of disaster there (and in the long term this is more a problem for India than for us.) For all of the administration's verbal emphasis on Palestine and Israel, nothing is likely to emerge from all the hot air until the Palestinians become willing to accept that Israel will not voluntarily surrender or be forced by the United States to accept defeat. At some point, the Europeans will curtail Muslim immigration; at some point, after a further accumulation of insults and outrages, we will take radical Islam seriously and begin the process of minimizing the power of Wahhabi Imams and Saudi money to radicalize our most vulnerable people. (It will first be necessary to more directly confront PC-thought but eventually, as per Tom Friedman, reality does re-assert itself.)
Our technology enabled walls are growing stronger and the Islamic World may have much less time than they imagine to reconcile themselves to the modern world. The meme of separation is growing and once it appears, albeit reluctantly, in the New York Times, the time until it reaches critical mass is growing shorter.