A reader e-mailed me to comment on a column by David Ignatius, who recently accompanied the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to a shura, or local council meeting, in Marja, Afghanistan.
Ignatius wrote: "Given the weakness of the central government in Kabul, U.S. commanders are working to align American power with the most basic political structures, the tribal shuras. `Culturally, this country works,' says Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the chief military spokesman (in Afghanistan). `People sitting down together can solve almost anything.'"
Slap a happy-face sticker on the man's briefing book to commemorate the dopiest spin ever on the primitivism, violence and misogyny of Afghan culture. My reader, naturally, had a different take from the admiral's: "So that's why we're there, bleeding and dying and spending, to facilitate Sharia law. Great, just great."
I can relate. Of course, there's nothing new here, given that the U.S.-drafted Afghan constitution (like Iraq's) has recognized Sharia law as supreme since ratification in 2004. What seems different now, or maybe just more noticeable, is an unseemly American pandering before such law -- Sharia law, tribal law, any law but our own -- increasingly manifested by official U.S. military policy.
I don't know how else to describe Mullen's decision to plop down, cross-legged, on a rug in a tent in Marja, where, dhimmi-like, he proceeded to take orders for public works projects from a line of Afghan "elders." As Reuters puts it, "From the litany of requests ... from asphalt for roads to fertilizer for fields -- one might think he was a visiting aid worker, not the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
`We want educational centres ... There is no good hospital ... We want all these roads to be paved,' a man with a long black beard told Mullen."
And what did the highest military officer in the USA, as Time magazine reported, tell the turbaned locals? "Inshallah, we will provide the services as soon as possible."
Inshallah -- Allah willing? This is what happens when cultural sensitivity replaces cultural identity, when the effort to win Islamic "hearts and minds" -- or, updated, "the sentiments and perceptions of local communities," as Col. Christopher Kolenda wrote in Joint Forces Quarterly -- ends with us losing our own. Under no other circumstances could U.S. policy continue to "bleed, die and spend" to shore up Sharia-based governments anywhere and at any level.