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Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2004 / 26 Teves, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess | We are now making the Afghans and the Iraqis pay a terrible price for American political correctness, and the price is being exacted by our diplomats and misnamed "strategists." The fundamental error — enshrined, as the splendid Diane Ravitch recently explained in her stellar work on American history textbooks — is the belief that American political and civic culture is just one among many, no better and quite likely considerably worse, than most. Hence we have no right to tell anyone, here or elsewhere, how they should behave.

This leads inevitably to one of Jerry Bremer's favorite dicta, which is that the United States policy in Iraq must be "even-handed." We will not support one party, or group, or faction, against the others. We're not going to take sides. We will manage things in such a way that all Iraqis will have a fair shot at political participation, and then we will let the Iraqis decide what they want.

That doctrine is lethal to freedom in the Middle East, where none of the many active tyrants in the region has the slightest interest in even-handedness. The tyrants want to survive, and if at all possible, to win. They do not want free societies or polities in Iraq and Afghanistan, because they fear the spread of freedom to their own countries, which would spell their doom. So they are feverishly supporting their own tyrannical kind under the benevolent noses of American overseers. The Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, and others are pouring money, mullahs, imams, killers, and political enforcers into the recently liberated countries. They are spending millions of dollars to blanket Iraq with anti-American, fanatical broadcasts from an amazing number of radio and television stations (Iran alone is running more than ten of them), and they are supporting those Iraqis who will push for Islamic tyrannies in both countries.

Our misguided notion of even-handedness is in effect a surrender to the forces of tyranny. We do nothing to support the pro-democratic, basically secular groups and parties, we in fact have long withheld funding (despite laws and appropriations to the contrary) from the Iraqi National Congress — a pro-American, democratic, inclusive, and even multicultural umbrella group — and we have recently acquiesced in legislation in both Iraq and Afghanistan that gives Islamic law — sharia — privileged standing, specifically in civil marriage and inheritance procedures.

No wonder the Baghdad dentist who operates writes caustically "I'm so happy about this, now I can marry and divorce in any way I like. Yay! I'm at the moment gathering family members to go to the local cleric so I can divorce my fourth wife which I don't really like anymore, and get myself an 11 year-old virgin. All the other small details will be settled within the family and with the blessings of the Sayid."

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President Bush should tremble at the thought that all our efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East will, instead, replace one form of tyranny with another. He should have been outraged when our ambassador plenipotentiary in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, twice accepted the definition of Afghanistan as an Islamic republic. He should intervene to stop (Islamic) legal proceedings against two Afghan women now charged with "blasphemy" for questioning the desirability of giving sharia special status in the new national constitution. And he should insist that Americans not fight, and even die, for the creation of yet more theocratic states in the Middle East.

All this is the inevitable result of the doctrines of political correctness, which make it socially unacceptable to state the simple truth that the United States has developed a superior political culture, one of the crucial elements of which is the separation of church and state. When Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this act of genius in the early 1830s, he marveled that it made both politics and religion stronger and more responsive to the needs of their followers, and he urged Europeans to adopt it. Scholar after scholar, including some of the best of the Islamic world, have recognized that an excessive intrusion of certain Islamic precepts into civil society has contributed mightily to the lack of freedom, creativity and even scientific knowledge. The liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan gave hope that the region's long decline might be reversed. Yet our own leaders, on the ground and back in Washington, are permitting one of the main elements in the ruin of the region to reassume its dominant role.

Our diplomats are clearly not as prepared to fight politically for democracy as our soldiers fought militarily to remove the Taliban and Baathist tyrannies. Yet both are integral parts of the same war, and should be waged with equal conviction and equal intensity. The difference seems to be that our soldiers had no doubt of the legitimacy of the American cause, while the diplomats and strategists — in the Pentagon and the National Security Council as in Foggy Bottom — are afraid to assert it and fight those who challenge it.

We've made a terrible mess. As "riverbend" — another Iraqi blogger — puts it: "This is going to open new doors for repression in the most advanced country on women's rights in the Arab world! Men are also against this (although they certainly have the upper-hand in the situation) because it's going to mean more confusion and conflict all around." But our guys won't risk criticism for being politically incorrect, by fighting for our values, and insisting that our wisdom be used to create a better and freer Middle East.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen