When Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman pulled up to Savannah, Ga., after his legendary March to the Sea in December 1864, he was savagely slandered in the Southern press as a renegade leader of a "vandal horde."
But at that same time, leading Confederate officers privately appealed to him, hoping he would guarantee the safety of the relatives they had left behind in Savannah. Why, Sherman wondered, would his sworn enemies trust that such an enemy might be kind to their loved ones — unless they knew that their own slurs about him were mere rhetoric?
That same sort of pretense is evident in the Middle East, where the leaders of countries and organizations hostile to or critical of the United States often trust us far more than they let on.
Nabih Berri, the Lebanese Amal militia chief who is now allied with both the anti-American Hezbollah and Syria, has much of his family residing in Dearborn, Mich.
Amr Salem, until recently a cabinet minister in Bashar Assad's anti-American government in Syria, was a senior program manager at Microsoft. His family still lives in the U.S.
Bilal Musharraf, son of Pakistan strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been a Boston-based consultant and a Stanford business and education student. Meanwhile, his father's government is either unwilling or unable to arrest on his soil the remnants of al-Qaida, among them, most likely, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and high cabinet official in a monarchy that funds much of the world's radical Islamist madrassas, is selling his 56,000-square-foot mansion in tony Aspen. The asking price is $135 million — the most expensive home ever put up for sale in the United States.
What are we to make of these incongruities and others like them?
First is the obvious hypocrisy. Allying with radical Shiites in Lebanon, anti-American Syrians or Islamists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia does not seem to disqualify Middle Eastern politicos from appreciating the freedom, security and opportunity of the United States.
For all the talk of America's faults, no Middle Easterner worries about vengeful Americans kidnapping or car-bombing his relatives. And few seem to consider that if the worldview of a present-day Lebanese militia or Saudi Arabia ever sweeps the globe, there would be no Dearborn or Aspen for their kin to find sanctuary.