As more time has passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, we're starting to see a more subtle variety of dissent from the multi-pronged strategy outlined by President Bush in our long-term war against terrorism.
I'm not talking about those who altogether oppose the military option, but those who believe that we ought to augment our military, diplomatic, intelligence and financial effort with a war on words (and psychology). Their position is best articulated by U.S. News editor David Gergen in his column "Telling America's Story."
After paying lip service to the possibility of military action beyond Afghanistan, Gergen abruptly shifts his focus to "the psychological war." "How," he asks, "do we build new bridges of trust so that Muslim lands do not remain a breeding ground for new waves of terrorists?" After all, "in the past 20 years, America has done a lousy job of telling its story in Arab lands." "We should ... be much more imaginative in getting out some basic facts."
To what facts might Gergen be referring? Well, former Republican Gergen points us to the words his former boss, former President Clinton, delivered to his fawning audience at Harvard last week. According to Clinton, most Arabs don't seem to know about the enormous respect Americans have for the Muslim faith or that Muslims were among the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Oh? I happen to have read about one 26-year-old Muslim who didn't seem too concerned about who the victims or near-victims were. He wasn't outraged that his mother nearly died in the attacks. Shortly after Sept. 11, he left for Afghanistan to join up with the Taliban. It's not just the radicals, either. Plenty of other Muslims know there were Muslim victims, yet have uttered not a single word in condemnation of their "extremist" brethren.
Sorry, but too many Muslims seem unimpressed by words about our military actions to liberate their Muslim brothers in Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo. They are unmoved by President Bush's numerous verbal overtures to Muslims here and abroad. They cynically scoff at word of our humanitarian food drops in Afghanistan.
Conciliatory words will not remove the many reasons for their hatred. We prop up the rulers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere that stand in their way to gaining power in their own backyard. We align ourselves (most of the time) with Israel. We are free, strong and prosperous. And much to their consternation, we live in the 21st century.
The terrorists – and their clones-in-the-making in the hate-incubation schools in Pakistan – are unfazed by our overtures of goodwill, but they and their ilk understand our actions … big time. As Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes observed, Afghans are beginning to look at militant Islam as a losing proposition. As our military assault on the Taliban has grown more effective, anti-American demonstrations have decreased commensurately, both in Afghanistan and other Arab-speaking countries.
But Gergen has even worse ideas. Echoing Clinton again, he tells us that America should admit its failures. What? Where has he been? For far too long America has been intoxicated by its so-called failures. Following the Reagan-Bush era (and pre-Bush 43) it reverted to the Jimmy Carter model of self-flagellation. It continues to do so in the hallowed halls of academia and the elite media.
We are not going to win any converts in the Islamic world by beating ourselves up and blaming ourselves for their failures. Part of the problem is that they don't accept responsibility for their own miserable plight – much of which is caused by their oppressive, closed and thuggish societies.
National Review's David Pryce-Jones argues compellingly that Europeans were only able to conquer the Muslim world because local peoples began to doubt the strength and validity of their own culture and society. The re-ascendance of Islam may be partially due to Westerners losing confidence in their own culture and society.
Not that we want to re-institute Western colonialism in the Muslim world, but why not put our best foot forward and show the rest of the world the benefits of open, free and democratic societies?
Isn't it time we started rediscovering our unique American culture and promoting our ideas and extraordinary achievements across the board, from freedom to human rights to unprecedented prosperity and progress? They are witnessing firsthand the superiority of our military – how about giving them a taste of other items on the American menu?
Let's dispense with the apologies, hold our heads high and invite others by our example to partake of the fruits of the tree of liberty.