Sunday, February 05, 2006

"They'll Like Us When We Win"

So it continues to spiral violently out of control.

Tons of good reaction from the usual suspects. I am not often in complete agreement with Mark Steyn, but this week he nails it - "That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam." Sullivan summarizes the protestors in a word, brownshirts. Matthew Paris in the London Times also has an excellent column that concludes on a truly important and hilarious note:

Against reverence and awe the best argument is sometimes not logic, but mockery. Structures of oppression that may not be susceptible to rational debate may in the end yield to derision. When people see that a priest, rabbi, imam or uniformed official may be giggled at without lightning striking the impertinent, arguments may be won on a deeper level than logic.

We should never, therefore, relinquish, nor lightly value, our right not to argue in the face of other people’s gods — but to fart.
I have nothing particular to add beyond the general tenor of such remarks. The freedom of a truly open society involves the airing of potentially offensive view points. Deal with it. Violence against our fellow human beings, not the simple expression of opinion, is the true abhorrent.

I recall an old West Wing episode, Night Five, where Toby argues with his ex-wife [and current House Democrat] on a foreign policy speech calling out militant Islam. "They'll like us when we win." Here's the main thrust of the back-and-forth. I'm with Toby. The inherent advantages in the long run remain ours.


ANDY- This speech isn't supposed to be about ideology. It's supposed to be about reality.

TOBY - I think the President will decide what the speech is suppose to be about, but the reality is, the United States of America no longer sucks up to reactionaries, and our staunch allies will know what we mean.

ANDY - We don't have any staunch allies in the Arab world; just reluctant ones. We've a coalition held together with duct tape! A coalition without which we cannot fight!

TOBY - Nobody's blowing off the coalition, and that coalition will be plenty strong.

ANDY - Oh, when we win?

TOBY - That's right.

ANDY - What's Egypt going to think? Or Pakistan?

TOBY - That freedom and democracy are coming soon to a theatre near them, so get dressed.

ANDY - Toby... you guys are on a thing right now. And I'm behind you. You know I'm behind you; a lot of House Democrats are...

TOBY - Not enough.

ANDY - And plenty of Republicans. But this one moment in time, you have to get off your horse and just... simply put - be nice to the Arab world.

TOBY- Be nice?

ANDY - Yes.

TOBY - Well... How about when we, instead of blowing Iraq back to the seventh century for harbouring terrorists and trying to develop nuclear weapons, we just imposed economic sanctions and were reviled by the Arab world for not giving them a global charge card and a free trade treaty? How about when we pushed Israel to give up land for peace?

Andy sits down, and puts a hand to her forehead.

TOBY - How about when we sent American soldiers to protect Saudi Arabia, and the Arab world told us we were desecrating their holy land? We'll ignore the fact that we were invited. How about two weeks ago, in the State of the Union when the President praised the Islamic people as faithful and hardworking only to be denounced in the Arab press as knowing nothing about Islam? But none of that is the point.

ANDY - What's the point?

TOBY- I don't remember having to explain to Italians that our problem wasn't with them, but with Mussolini! Why does the U.S. have to take every Arab country out for an ice cream cone? They'll like us when we win!

[he stands and starts pacing]

Thousands of madrassahs teaching children nothing, nothing, nothing but the Koran and to hate America. Who do we see about that? [beat] Do I want to preach America? Judeo-Christianity? No. If their religion forbids them from playing the trumpet, so be it. But I want those kids to... look at a globe. Be exposed to social sciences, history. Some literature. [beat] I'll like us when we win.

ANDY[after a moment] - Okay. [She stands up and collects her things together.]

TOBY - Let me take another look at the softer language.

UPDATE: Re-reading this, it strikes me I should add that the cartoons themselves are indeed insulting, as well as unimaginative. It also goes without saying that all this is directed squarely not at Islam, but its fundamentalist extremists.

FURTHER UPDATE: Josh Marshall summed it up nicely a few days ago here.


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