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?
PC aside, of course not. A couple of little-noticed stories out of Iraq this week should drive the point home. One was a report about the de facto return to Iraq of the "jizya," the Islamic tax on non-Islamic (in this case, Christian) worship, last seen in the Fertile Crescent before the Ottoman Empire ended in 1918. The other was about the increasing enthusiasm with which the U.S.-backed Iraqi government is participating in the Arab League boycott of Israel.
According to a U.S. Commerce Department document reported on by the Jerusalem Post, the number of such cases quadrupled, from eight to 31, between 2005 and 2006. Furthermore, U.S. companies doing business in Iraq are actually coming under Iraqi pressure to comply with the boycott.
Such practices constitute religious bigotry -- and, from the Western side of the cultural divide, "illogical" or "irrational" are the most polite words for them. But if such examples are, in fact, logical and rational expressions of Arab-Islamic society, how can American troops organizing soccer leagues compete? Clearly, the American logic of a "hearts and minds" strategy relies on wishful thinking.
The same may be said of the survival strategy Bernard Lewis laid out in the 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture, which he recently delivered at the American Enterprise Institute. Having described the energized process by which sharia-following immigrants are Islamizing Europe, Lewis arrived at his conclusion.
Did he suggest that Islamic immigration be stopped? That sharia practices be outlawed? No. He merely offered a "hearts and minds" strategy to win Islamic converts to Westernism via, simply, "the appeal of freedom." The idea of Western freedom, he explained, "is perhaps in the long run our best hope, perhaps even our only hope, of surviving this developing struggle." So, like American troops, all Europeans have to do to prevail is be themselves. Maybe they, too, should meet, eat, even live with sharia-following families.
Freedom, soccer leagues -- who could ask for anything more? The logic of it all is self-evident.
And that's precisely why it makes no sense.