August 21, 2006 - August 14, 2006
There's much to respond to in Hugh Hewitt's latest blast
at Tom Tancredo. Most of what he argues isn't too hard to understand
and can be responded to forthrightly. The bitterly emotional tone is
more of a mystery, and so I'll save that for last.
Hugh is apparently outraged and offended that Tom Tancredo would dare to defend his remarks in print:
Hugh has a tendency to conflate governments with peoples, which will
become more evident as we go. This causes him to be baffled by
phenomena that are really quite easy to comprehend. Here he seems to be
trying to position himself as either a "serious politician" or "serious
Christian theologian." Perhaps he considers himself both. Still, he
misses what should be obvious. Those who agree with Tancredo's attempt
to expand the debate know very well that politicians are far too
cautious and politically correct to agree publicly with anything he
said. And no one expects a professional theologian to endorse a gritty
tactic of warfare. It's their job to say, "no, no, we must be
peaceful," even if they're speaking from behind the cover of a tank.
That's right. How small that percentage is and how erroneous that
belief is are still open for debate.
Speaking of astonishing egos, one wonders whether Hugh is actually more
astonished by the fact that something of a debate has been occurring --
at least here in his precious blogosphere -- despite his own blatant
demand that no such debate be permitted. His words: "I want to be very
clear on this. No responsible American can endorse the idea that the
U.S. is in a war with Islam. That is repugnant and wrong, and bloggers
and writers and would-be bloggers and writers have to chose [sic] sides
on this, especially if you are a center-right blogger. The idea that
all of Islam is the problem is a fringe
opinion. It cannot be welcomed into mainstream thought because it
is factually wrong. If
Tancredo's blunder does not offend you, then you do not understand the
Uh, sorry, Hugh. We have been debating it. So Tancredo is merely reporting here.
Oh? It might be incoherent if mainstream moderate muslims had been as
vocal about condemning al qaida as Hugh Hewitt has been about
condemning Tom Tancredo. But they haven't been. And while we're on the
subject of incoherence, Hugh's second paragraph in this passage
certainly verges on it, and the next sentence, with its "not... is...
not" construction serves to remind us which of the two is speaking more
directly and clearly about the matter at hand.
In fact, Tancredo's logic is coherent; it's just not lawyerly. He's saying, look, people of their faith have assaulted major symbols of American life and they are reluctant to condemn the perpetrators. Meanwhile, we seem to be more respectful of their religious sensitivities than we are of domestic Christianity. Doesn't this make us look like saps in a time of war? Mightn't it give them an attitude adjustment if we started talking the way they talk? Two and two still do add up to four. The problem is, Hugh is working like hell to make two and two add up to three. Just because he thinks it's more prudent and helpful to make nice with muslims, he tries to declare any other kind of arithmetic indefensible. But there are other kinds of arithmetic. That's why it's good to talk about these things openly, not default to the position that we should be quiet and leave it all up to the smart people who know better.
Practically everything a westerner says will be used by al jazeera in
its propaganda. (Note that InstaPunk
was more concerned by what Durbin's remarks said about him and his
liberal apologists than about the propaganda impact.) If the words
aren't inflammatory enough, they'll be twisted into something that is.
Tancredo is covered by the Blair/Howard defense. He didn't start the
war on terror. He hasn't killed any defenseless civilians. He is
exercising his freedom of speech, and he is -- we must keep returning
to this -- voicing the thoughts of many Americans who, right or wrong,
would benefit from hearing their ideas considered in the market of
public opinion. The fate of an unexpressed idea is that it grows ill
and malignant in the dark. Of all people, Hugh Hewitt should know this
and accept that speech in a free country can be untidy indeed. It is
the role of sunlight not censors to burn away the dross.
I also object to the imputation of "hatred" to Tancredo and his supporters. His remarks bespeak a mentality more Roman than crusader. The Romans didn't hate the constituencies -- religious or political -- that threatened the safety of Roman citizens. They were rather matter-of-fact in squashing the infant powers which undermined order before a rabble could become an army. They understood the potency of striking at symbols too. One can argue whether or not the U.S. should adopt a more Roman strategy to protect its citizenry, but to dismiss it a priori as hatred is a deceitful bit of cunning.
I doubt, too, whether Tancredo's most avid supporters think Bush, Blair, and Howard are soft on terrorism. They understand the politics that accompany the "religion of peace" rhetoric. What's different about them is that they're not afraid to ask whether or not this coldly calculated and executed policy is working. The questions we don't ask ourselves are the ones whose answers can prove most disastrous, because those answers come in the form of real consequences, not theoretical ones.
Not so fast, Mr. Hewitt. The answer to your question is not "obviously
the latter." If members of my faith were responsible for murdering
innocent civilians all over the world in the way that al qaida and its
affiliates have been doing, I would not be surprised if the peoples of
the victimized nations began grumbling about nuking the Vatican or
Robert Schuler's Crystal Cathedral. And even if I had been fighting
hard in my personal life to defeat the terrorists, I would still be
aware of the lack if my clergy had been dragging their heels and
hemming and hawing about condemning the crimes of "renegade"
parishioners. And if a significant percentage of my clergy had been
guilty of fomenting the terror acts, I would feel compelled to begin
fighting for access to a microphone so that I could rally others of my
faith in a joint act of condemnation.
If you don't believe me, look at the response of lay Catholics to the pedophilia scandal. When the church evaded its responsibility, Catholics came forward as ordinary citizens to demand accountability and justice. As devout Catholics, they knew that the reputation of their faith was in grave jeopardy and that they had a greater responsibility than non-Catholics to rectify the wrongs.
Even you concede that there hasn't been nearly enough of this kind of action. The fact of a resistance doesn't excuse all those who stand aside and go with the flow. Was there a French resistance in WWII? Yes. Was France still a collaborator nation in the Nazi assault on Europe? Yes. Is it painful to point this out? Perhaps. But however painful it is to lance a boil, it's sometimes necessary to relieve the pressure and allow healing to begin.
Uh, there are a lot of muslims? We knew that. Not all muslims are
Arabs? We knew that too. We also know that muslim nations, including
non-Arab ones, have shown a distressing tendency to kill innocent
civilians in campaigns the U.N. really hates to classify as
genocide -- notably in the Sudan and in Indonesia (East Timor ring a
bell?). Al qaida and its minions have also committed acts of terror
and, obviously, found cover in many other nations with muslim majority
and minority populations.
I'm also not terribly moved by the citation of muslims in the military. They are American citizens and they've made their choice. In WWII, plenty of German-Americans and Italian-Americans went to war against the Axis. I knew a German-American who went to war against the Kaiser in WWI. Except for his accent, he was as German as they come, and to the end of his life he made free with such locutions as "Huns" and "Krauts." He knew who the enemy was because they tried hard to kill him. And if it's the religious angle you're primarily concerned with, American Catholics may have resisted the notion of bombing the Montecassino Abbey during the Anzio invasion, but bomb it we did to save American lives. War is not chess. It is, as the generals remind us, "killing people and breaking things."
This is where Hugh conveniently plays both ends against the middle by
erasing the lines between nations and governments. Members of the
Bush administration's policy team have to be punctilious about referring to
governments as if they were fully representative of their people, but
the rest of us ordinary citizens don't have to be. If we want to, we
can feel and express the conviction that Musharaf of Pakistan is
helping us in the war on terror only because he has to, and we can recognize
that Pakistan as a whole is a hotbed of muslim extremism that contributes as much
(or more) to terror as its government does to the war against terror.
We can harbor similar feelings about Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc, because
there's a lot of truth to the rumor that even the most supposedly
friendly governments have subsidized Islamofascist propaganda to deflect
criticisms of their own despotism into anti-American, anti-western, and
anti-Christian feeling. If they are now being burned by their own bad
decisions, it doesn't mean the fire they started among their peoples
has been extinguished. Hugh acknowledges this when he concedes that
such "governments.. come under huge pressure from their fundamentalist
Muslim populations to stop assisting the 'crusaders.'"
Think about this. We're 'crusaders' because we want your crazies to stop killing our women and children? So, just who is it, Hugh, who's going to be moved and converted by your profound deference for their religion of peace?
By Golly, Tancredo has been summoned to appear before the Office of the
Holy Inquisition, and he has refused to obey. Damn. Is this where all
the heat is coming from? Think about it, Hugh. You've been more polite
to the America-hating muslims than you've been to a Congressman who
disagrees with your politics. Why should he subject himself to the
inherently unfair format of a radio talk show hosted by someone who
slanders him repeatedly? Why? Because you're somehow in charge of the
all-important blogosphere? I don't think so.
Now, for good measure, he wants to be clear that he's also slandering
all of us. Thank you, sir.
Here we go again. We're only permitted to disagree with Mr. Hewitt if
we can "find at least one quote from a serious conservative on the
American or world stage to back (us) up." Sorry, Hugh. We're not the
one who is pretending to be some kind of shadow government
spokesperson. We're just citizens who happen to disagree with you and
retain the luxury --
unlike all the "official" leaders such as, ahem, yourself -- of speaking
our minds about matters that really do affect us. I am sure that even
our soft-spoken conservative leaders would privately allow that we do
have that right. Otherwise, they wouldn't be conservatives any more.
They'd be autocrats.
A few final thoughts. I don't believe Mr. Tancredo has ever suggested that "putting Mecca on the table" was tantamount to waiting for Mecca to fill up with civilians before bombing it. In fact, I have a hunch his idea includes delivering a clear warning about how much time people have to evacuate the place. Bombing Mecca is in the category of "breaking things," not "killing people." Mr. Hewitt's repeated characterization of Tancredo's remarks as slaughtering innocent civilians is disingenuous if not dishonest.
Which leads to the question I posed at the start: why all the emotional bitterness? I hate to say it, but I think Mr. Hewitt may have contracted Blogger's Disease. He thinks he's in charge of something, something that Tancredo and his supporters have somehow violated by having and expressing an unacceptable opinion.
Well, Mr. Hewitt, you're in charge of your blog and your radio show. That's all. You're not in charge of us, and you're not entited to control what we say and think. It' still America, and we're pretty determined to keep it that way.
And just to be clear, I personally still stand by what I said yesterday.
UPDATE. More on Hewitt and Tancredo from Lump on a Blog, who seems to have survived his recent excommunication in good shape. Thanks for the link.
INCIDENTALLY. Here's an interesting link I received from RattlerGator. It may relate to this discussion only tangentially, but it's interesting in its own right. Thanks for the email, RG.
POSTSCRIPT: After reading Mr. Hewitt's outburst, I thought of this nasty old politically incorrect opus by that old imperialistic bastard Kipling. So I just had to share it with all of you. Without apologies.
OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
The piece is published in the Australian and might be aimed more at
them than the western world in general, but Steyn appears to be making
two points -- one, that the London bombings are having an effect on the
ostrich left and, two, that multiculturalism is a kind of labyrinthine
denial mechanism that makes it difficult to locate common sense on any
Steyn is always brilliant, but I think there's another point that needs to be made. Reading the paragraph I quoted above, I couldn't help musing on the Internet contretemps about Tancredo's comments and the odd fact that mainstream conservatives have been taking positions of the sort Steyn is mocking in his second and third sentences. Captain Ed and Hugh Hewitt aren't multicultural dupes, so why have they joined this very nonexclusive club?
I think I know why, and I mean no disrespect to Hugh and Ed in returning yet again to this peculiar controversy, because there's a lesson here for almost everyone.
I've seen the same phenomenon at work in corporate organizations. I call it the Unreality Trap. Imagine a bad situation that probably can't be fixed. Imagine you're in the Coca Cola marketing department on the eve of the launch of "New Coke." You suspect that you are involved in a business catastrophe -- a company conspiring to kill its own flagship product, perhaps the most successful single brand name product in the history of the food industry. What do you do? All the alternatives suck. If the campaign proceeds as planned, the company will lose millions and become the laughingstock of the world. If you could somehow halt the campaign, the company would still be a laughingstock and many careers would come to an end. There's no solution to the problem that isn't almost unbearably costly and difficult. What do you do?
In the corporate world, the response to these kinds of situations is to pretend that reality is different from what it obviously is to otherwise intelligent observers. You follow the most intelligent course you can think of given that the situation itself is out of control. For example, you decide to waste a little less money wherever you have some control of spending on promoting the turkey called "New Coke." It's sensible and defensible. After the catastrophe, you'll look comparatively smarter, and at least you didn't fling gasoline on the bonfire. You may even succeed in convincing yourself that this course of action is shrewder and better advised than running around corporate headquarters screaming about the need to stop the launch of "New Coke."
That's what's going on with Hugh and Captain Ed and all the other conservatives who got so stuffily self righteous about Tancredo's remarks. The truth is, there isn't an easy or automatically right solution to the problem of Islamofascism. It's true that every attempt to defeat them, kill them, or stop their murderous plans will create more terrorists. That's the real bitch of fighting an irrational enemy. Deep down, Hugh and Captain Ed know as well as we do that Islam itself is a major part of the problem, no matter how condescendingly they respond to those of us who are willing to say it out loud. Otherwise, why would they be so frightened that one politican's remarks are going to seriously increase the threat against all of us? They wouldn't. If some congressman suggested that the best way to deal with the corruption of the U.N. would be the nuking of Paris, everyone of sound mind would just laugh.
So what's up with Hugh and Captain Ed? They don't want to think about just how awful the problem is, and they can't see any way out of the situation we're in that doesn't involve bloodshed and sacrifice on a massive scale. And so they choose to remake reality in more comforting terms. Our enemy is only a few million malcontents. Therefore, we can navigate our way through the gauntlet by selecting some judicious set of military, diplomatic, and economic measures.
The only problem with that strategy is that it's wrong. The world economy can't afford the United States to take a gigantic blow that erases the confidence of ordinary people in going about their daily business. The Islamofascists know that, and it is their ovverriding purpose to deal just such a blow. When they succeed, their numbers will increase immeasurably beyond what they are now. The proof that crippling America is actually possible will be a more potent recruiting tool than anything any politician can say on his most insane day.
But there's another problem of denial that must be confronted by those who are willing to stand up to Hugh and Captain Ed. Defeating and controlling the considerable population of muslims who are cheering on the terrorists will not be achieved simply by killing a bunch of them or eliminating their holiest places. Yes, PC games are worse than accepting the facts as they most probably exist, but what then? What strategy can be successful for those who see with unblinkered eyes?
Because they won't all lay down their arms and put their hands up the day after Mecca starts glowing like the dial of an alarm clock. What do you propose to do to win the war on terror? It's an important question, much more pertinent in the scheme of things than how best to respond to the silly denials of the self-deluding. What will it take to win this thing?
Forget all the ordinary assumptions about what Congress will fund, what any U.S. president will have the guts to do. Those assumptions will be the biggest casualty of the first real assault on America. Start thinking now about how we will have to fight the nightmare war that begins the day after that attack. And by fighting, I mean fighting to win.
HINT: The right answer isn't going to be a paragraph or two in the Comments section. It's got to be far more than a few bellicose declarations of spleen and will.
Hugh and Ed need to end their fit of denial. And so do the rest of us. We really are in a war for civilization. And we really do have nearly a billion opponents. Think about it.
UPDATE: I see that the Pope has issued another infallible encyclical on the Tancredo matter. I'll have more to say about this later. He's starting to become positively obnoxious.
UPDATE: This is a continuation of the discussion started HERE with continuing analysis HERE.