Why the Obama administration's handling of Afghanistan and the Taliban is not just delusional -- but dangerous.
Two recent news stories about Afghanistan reveal the delusional mentality of those conducting our foreign policy. The first is about some Marines who urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters. Such behavior, of course, is mild compared to the sort of brutal treatment of both the living and the dead typical of all wars ever fought. Nonetheless, this act is contrary to the rules of war and the professional code of the Corp, and as such should be punished. That’s all our official spokesmen need to say about the matter, for it concerns a violation of our military’s high standards that have helped make it the most professional, lethal, and ethical force in the world.
The foreign policy establishment, however, has fallen all over itself issuing solicitous apologies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her “total dismay,” a reaction stronger than her comments about the Egyptian military slaughtering Copts. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta phoned the utterly corrupt and duplicitous beneficiary of our power and money, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, to assure him that those responsible would be found and punished for such a “deplorable” act. Of course, this is a part of the world where brutal violence against civilians is routinely used as a tool of politics, and where torture and mutilation of the living, let alone the desecration of the dead, are standard operating procedure. Yet we cede the moral high ground to Karzai, who said the soldiers’ behavior was “inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms,” something I don’t recall him ever saying about the terrorists murdering our soldiers. Even more risible was the response of the Taliban, who condemned the “inhuman act of wild American soldiers,” one “in contradiction with all human and ethical norms.” This from a group that when it ruled Afghanistan, used a European-built soccer stadium to bury non-shari’a-compliant women up to their necks and then stone them to death, and to machine-gun and behead other miscreants.
I know the rationale for all these anxious protestations of our “dismay.” As one of the consistent purveyors of such pointless public relations efforts, The New York Times, put it, the video raised “fears in Washington that the images could incite anti-American sentiment at a particularly delicate moment” in the war. This is the same old delusion that has conditioned our behavior for a decade now: the notion that jihadist hatred of us is the consequence of our bad behavior and offenses against Muslims, and so we have constantly to apologize and remind them how much we respect and honor their wonderful religion. Even before 9/11, our foreign policy officials took every opportunity to tell Muslims how wonderful their faith is. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, called Islam “a faith that honors consultation, cherishes peace, and has as one of its fundamental principles the inherent equality of all who embrace it.” Except, of course, for women, homosexuals, and infidels. George Bush wasn’t much better, claiming in his first address after 9/11 that Islam’s “teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.” Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, called Islam the religion “of love and peace.” Hillary Clinton is on record praising Islam’s “deepest yearning of all––to live in peace.” No surprise, then, that these days official government policy proscribes any mention of “jihad” in public communications, and forbids any linkage of jihadist terror to Islamic doctrine. Of course, all this puffery is contradicted by Islamic theology, jurisprudence, history of conquest and occupation, and the continuing record of religiously sanctioned terrorist violence––18,283 attacks just since 9/11.
Complementing this flattery has been our hysterical reactions to bad behavior, both real and invented, perpetrated by our forces. The abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, most of which rarely rose above the level of a fraternity hazing, was labeled “horrific” by the Times, making us wonder what adjective the Times could use to describe what went on in Abu Ghraib when Saddam Hussein ran it. Then too, multiple investigations and public apologies followed from the government. Worse yet is the reaction to outright fabrications, such as the lie that prisoners in Guantanamo were abused and tortured, or the absurd allegation that a Koran was flushed down a toilet. Once again, apologies and investigations poured forth from the government in response to transparent propaganda. The reason for all this public breast-beating is the fallacious belief that Muslims really want to like us, but our insensitive misdeeds against their religion leave them psychologically vulnerable to terrorist “highjackers of Islam” who promise justified payback for infidel disrespect.
But if we pay attention to actions rather than heeding duplicitous words, the record shows that considerable numbers of Muslims hate us not for what we do, but for what we are: infidel denizens of a civilization that once trembled at the approach of Allah’s armies, but that now dominates the world and occupies the global preeminence rightfully belonging to what the Koran calls “the best of nations raised for the benefit of men.” Contra the State Deparment and the Times, “anti-American sentiment” is not something new created by our excesses in Muslim lands, but has long permeated the Middle East and doesn’t need some minor scandal to be stoked. On the contrary, we have rescued Muslims from brutal dictators, provided aid to Muslim victims of natural disasters, poured billions of dollars into Muslim countries, and none of those good deeds has improved our image among the faithful. Indeed, despite Obama’s continuous flattering “outreach” and protestations of respect for Islam, Muslims still don’t like him or the United States much.
The second story illustrates another delusion that has compromised our security and interests: the idea that enemies sworn to our destruction can be talked out of their violent intentions and actions by diplomatic negotiation. Though this tack has failed spectacularly to change Iran’s behavior, we now are pursuing the same failed policy with the Taliban. Worse yet, we have been down this road before with the Taliban: In 1995, after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher relayed a message to Afghanistan’s new rulers that the U.S. wished “to engage the new ‘interim government’ at an early stage.” In the years following, State Department suitors tried unsuccessfully to cajole the Taliban into kicking bin Laden out of the country and closing the al Qaeda training camps. But as Michael Rubin writes of this five-year stint of “engagement,” “The Taliban had, like many rogue regimes, acted in bad faith. They engaged not to compromise, but to buy time. They made many promises but did not keep a single one.”
Despite having been gulled once before by the Taliban, Hillary Clinton has asked Qatar to open a representative office there for these Islamist fanatics, and she has pledged to release Taliban detainees, including murderers of Americans, from Guantanamo, in order to lure the Taliban into entering talks. The purpose of these “talks,” of course, is to achieve some “peace agreement” with these fanatics in advance of the American withdrawal. But the historical record shows over and over the futility of negotiating with religious radicals whose worldview allows only for our destruction or submission. As PLO chief Yasser Arafat brilliantly demonstrated for decades, the jihadists can achieve some benefit, or buy more time for strengthening their position, by engaging in negotiations that provide pusillanimous Western governments with verbal and procedural camouflage for their failure of nerve or their pursuit of political self-interests. So too Iran, which has followed the North Korea playbook and used the diplomatic process to buy time for achieving nuclear capability. Anticipating the American withdrawal, the Taliban are obviously doing the same thing, at least in the estimation of someone who should know, former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah: “Releasing Taliban detainees from Guantanamo,” the Wall Street Journal reported, “and giving the insurgents international recognition in Qatar are concessions that may allow the insurgency to reinvigorate itself, he said in an interview. ‘I don't want anything happening under the name of making peace that strengthens the war machine of the Taliban,’ Mr. Abdullah said.”
It is a measure of the Taliban contempt for us that it makes no bones about entering these negotiations solely to get their prisoners released, not to come to some agreement with Karzai’s “stooge Kabul administration,” or to recognize the Afghan Constitution, which they deem insufficiently shari’a compliant, or to “surrender from Jihad,” as they said in a statement about the talks. And just so their meaning was clear, the Taliban killed coalition ally Hajji Fazluddin Agha, the governor of the Panjway district in Kandahar province. But even if the Taliban did cut a deal, there is nothing in their track record to show that they would hold to it. Again Arafat provides the best model of the tactical use of phony “agreements,” each one of which was followed by more Palestinian terrorist murders in pursuit of his long-term goal of destroying Israel.
But here we go again, participating in a diplomatic charade that will, like our apologies and protestations of respect, achieve nothing other than confirming the enemy in his oft-stated belief that we are weak and full of fear. And that’s another reason why they hate us––not because of our deeds, but because we demonstrate over and over that we lack the courage of our convictions, and so deserve to be attacked by the faithful until, as the Koran says, we “pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority” and are “in a state of subjection.”
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