The capture of the "Fort Dix Six" has inspired liberals to dust off and republish their "hearts and minds" mantra, which might sound wonderful to some, but bears more sober consideration. Before we can even consider whether winning hearts and minds is a remotely realistic goal, we need to determine whose hearts and minds we're talking about and what "winning hearts and minds" actually means.
Do liberals mean we should convince existing terrorists that diplomacy is a superior path to achieving their goals? That tolerance of other religions is the morally superior position? That women are entitled to dignity and equal rights? That the United Sates and Israel really aren't that evil? That their extreme brand of Islam is misguided?
Surely we can all agree that if we're talking about existing jihadists, these goals are quixotic. You are never going to tame a large percentage of "holy warriors" -- and there are more of them worldwide than we would like to think. It's not like they haven't thought about it and considered the options. It's not like these types haven't been around for more than a thousand years.
Or, are liberals talking about winning the hearts and minds of potential terrorists? If so, do they plan on sending ambassadors from the National Education Association (NEA) to Middle East madrassas, where children are being indoctrinated to hate the West? The NEA would first have to purge itself of its own contempt for Western civilization.
Or, are they talking about sending Christian missionaries in droves to evangelize? You've got to be kidding. Christian missionaries are Christian fundamentalists, and those fundies, we're told, are as bad as Muslim fundies.
Perhaps what liberals mean by winning hearts and minds is that we should do a better job of getting our own house in order and showing the rest of the world we are not "ugly Americans": imperialists, militarists or torturers. We are a loving, tolerant, multicultural society that doesn't start "preemptive wars of choice" against sovereign nations or interfere in "civil wars."