This week's syndicated column
It’s 9/11 the 13th, and these United States have never been closer to losing the last vestiges of their foundational identity.
Long ago, our first president, George Washington, prophetically warned against “attachments and entanglements in foreign affairs.” In the last century, such sentiments, tragically (as I increasingly believe), fell into disrepute. In our time, Washington’s 21st-century successors, George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama, have no such compunction. On the contrary, their response to the Islamic assault of 9/11 and the aftermath of continuing jihad have been to link the fortunes of this great nation with those of warring tribes and factions in the Islamic world. That’s about as attached and entangled in foreign affairs as it is possible to get.
For the past 13 years, it has been the flawed crux of U.S. foreign policy to micromanage “moderates” in the Islamic world by waging “counterinsurgencies” as a means of defusing the “extremism” of Islam. This failed effort has had the disastrous effect of calibrating America’s fate – as well as exhausting our military and emptying our treasury – according to the rise and fall of Islamic strongmen and blocs.
It gets worse. Now, President Obama plans to fight against ISIS in Iraq and to support ISIS-allied forces in Syria. This makes no American sense. Repel ISIS (or al-Qaida, or Hezbollah, etc.) at our borders, but don’t pretend there is an American “side” in Iraq or Syria. The United States’ fate is not Iraq’s fate, not Syria’s fate, not Afghanistan’s fate. Entangled, however, we have grown used to thinking in such terms. Maliki is causing gridlock in Iraq? An American problem. Abdullah is threatening to bug out of elections in Afghanistan? An American problem.
Why? Who cares? Cut the apron strings and the funding streams and learn from our leaders’ mistakes. Acknowledge publicly that “moderates” in the Islamic world are as common and/or as reliable as unicorns, and “extremism” is the basis of Islam, and formulate new policy.
Remember “Islam is peace”? That was George W. Bush reaching out to the Islamic world right after 9/11 rather than sitting back and building a good, high and high-tech border fence to the north and south. It was also Bush, as some people (Fox News, for example) seem to forget, who presided over the redaction of the 9/11 Commission Report, and the stripping away of the language of Islam from government communications, making it impossible for officials to have a sensible discussion about Saudi Arabia or Islam ever since.
Barack Obama has gone further still, for example, nullifying our borders and entering the so-called Istanbul Process with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to penalize criticism of Islam. Which does make me wonder: How can the administration that brought you Fort Hood as “workplace violence” now distinguish between an ISIS terrorist and a “vetted moderate”?
Such hyper-foreign policy, not to mention such hyper-censored policymaking, would surely have stumped the Father of Our County and probably his next 30 or so successors. How, they might have asked, could it have been in the American interest to write Shariah-based constitutions for failed Islamic states across the globe? What, they might have wondered, was there to celebrate in Yourtown, USA, when Iraqis voted for Chalabi, no, Allawi, no, Maliki, no, what’s-his-name? How was our dangerously porous border with Mexico, with Canada, made any more secure if U.S.-protected Sunni sheiks were paid by U.S.-protected Shiite bureaucrats in Baghdad in the name of Iraqi security? How was American liberty safeguarded when U.S. soldiers risked life and limb (and intestinal health) to eat goat, drink tea and give stuff to far-flung Afghan tribal elders?
While any American interest (or business) escapes me, such matters – and so many more – became the obsession of federal officials who really seemed to believe that U.S. security depended on “nation-building” on the other side of the globe. They waged their doomed “counterinsurgencies” by bidding for the favor of alien Islamic peoples with the blood of American soldiers and staggering sums of American money. Remember “courageous restraint” (self-restrictive rules of engagement)? Remember the beaucoup bucks distributed willy-nilly from the CERF (Commanders’ Emergency Relief Fund)? You give (sell) us your “hearts and minds,” your “trust,” the U.S. government told Iraqis and Afghans, and we’ll give you armies, generators, roads, hospitals, dams. We’ll teach our soldiers to handle the “holy Quran” as if it were “a fragile piece of delicate art” (Gitmo directive), and our Marines not to relieve themselves in the direction of Mecca (true story). We’ll soft-pedal the pederasts, “dancing boys,” child rapists and even killers of our own men among you. And don’t worry about bringing in that record Helmand opium harvest.
It’s time to recognize what went wrong so we never commit such irresponsible folly again.
After all, 13 years later, what do we have to show for everything? Was there method to this madness?
Not if protecting individual liberty in the United States was the goal, as any airline flight quickly demonstrates. The not-so-new world interventionist order seems always to have been the priority. Currently in some shambles, it remains politically viable. There is a big winner, though, and that is Islam, whose rule, whose law, whose culture, whose pathologies and whose prejudices have only advanced in the world – since 9/11.