Here's a conundrum: The craziest thing about America's role in the world is its reliance on logic. As in: "See how reasonable we are? That'll fix you."
Such certitude animates the more naive notions masquerading as grand strategy, from a belief in winning Iraqi "hearts and minds," as expressed by Gen. David Petraeus four years after Saddam Hussein was toppled, to a faith in "the appeal of freedom" for Muslims in Europe, as expressed by historian Bernard Lewis now that the continent's Islamization is well advanced.
Belief and faith may seem like strange words to choose in talking about logic and reason. But they go a long way to explain an increasingly irrational attachment to the world as it should be -- logical and reasonable -- that ignores the world as it is. On second thought, better to say that the craziest thing about America's world role has less to do with its logic than with stubbornly insisting such logic works the same way everywhere.
The "surge" strategy in Iraq exemplifies such thinking. It goes like this: More U.S. troops, mainly in Baghdad, will create stability and security. Such nonviolent conditions will allow Iraq to function as a bona fide state. And such bona fide statehood will allow Iraqis to come to their senses.
Actually, such a strategy seems designed to allow Iraqis to come to our senses -- to come around to a way of doing things that makes American sense. But is that really logical?
Writing in Commentary magazine, Arthur Herman expounds on the general's strategy to engender Iraqi support for the U.S. mission, which, according to our lights, is the perfectly reasonable position. As the general's counterinsurgency manual states, "Some of the best weapons do not shoot."
Herman explains: "They come instead in the form of meetings held with local leaders, wells drilled, streets repaired, soccer leagues organized. In the current surge, one of his stated goals is to get American soldiers out of Baghdad's Green Zone to meet, eat with, and even live with Iraqi families." Given the dangers American soldiers have had meeting, eating and especially living with Iraqi forces, I have to ask, "Is he kidding?" But no. This is the strategic logic of American benevolence. As in: "We're so strategically nice it's only logical that everyone like us." Is it really? Are the same criteria for reasonableness common to every culture?
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