December 27th, 2009 23:21 EST
What was that about Afghanistan being the wellspring of terrorism?
Wasn`t it just before Christmas that Denis McDonough, chief of staff of the National Security Council, was telling Kyra Phillips on CNN that Afghanistan is the wellspring of Islamic terrorism "?
You would have thought that the television news hosts this morning would have been inviting him to reflect on his statement now that a privileged and educated Nigerian, apparently trained in Yemen and loiving in luxury in London, has tried to blow up an airliner on the way from Amsterdam to Detroit.
They might have asked Mr. McDonough whether there are any number of places in the world from which Islamic terrorism might originate. And once they asked him that, they might have persevered, asking if the United States intends to wage war in every one of those wellsprings.
Or, lacking the nerve to do that, they might have simply asked whether we intend to send troops into Yemen, where we have already committed resources. Or how about Somalia? Pakistan maybe?
And then, once those details had been addressed, they might have raised the much larger issue of whether we can afford to do any of these things while continuing to yammer at home about health care reform and infrastructure and stimulus packages and education and all the other things we can no longer afford.
When all those issues have been discussed the media, had they the stomach for it, might ask whether a solution to the festering Palestinian question might have been a better, a wiser investment than going into Iraq and Afghanistan and bankrupting ourselves.
But there is a perfectly good answer to that question. It is that our support of Israel, even when Israel is intransigent and expansionist, is unwavering, whereas our support for anything else, even our own good, is up for grabs.
Israel and Palestine are about our security. They are about what we can and can`t afford for ourselves. They are about our future. They are about Islamic terrorism, which is rooted in Islamic despair that we will ever be anything to the Muslim world other than imperialist exploiters.
Why is it so hard for the media and the politicians to grapple with this not particularly subtle issue? I think the answer lies in 20th Century history. At first it may have been the influence of the Israeli lobby, in all its iterations, enhanced by America`s immense sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust.
But that proposition must be tempered by the certain historical knowledge that America, like most other countries, was reluctant to act to rescue Jews from the Nazis when they still could have been rescued. We were not innocent bystanders, nor was anyone else. We must bear responsibility for the Holocaust, along with other nations. And that in itself probably contributes to our adamant support of Israel even when a majority of Americans do not approve of its land grabbing.
Moreover, we are a changing country. Even in New York City our Jewish population contends with other growing minorities to be heard and to influence events. Other minorities with other concerns want to be heard and their concerns usually involve domestic, not Middle Eastern, issues. Once they get the idea that our foreign policy in the Middle East means their concerns are being lost in the mix they will begin to exert their influence to change that policy. They will start to demand a course correction.
Over time evangelical Christians became a major factor in our stance, not because of their great compassion for the Jews but because they see the Israeli-Arab conflict as a handy instrument of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming. This should be cold comfort to Israelis and no comfort to Arabs who believe they are already the victims of Christian extremism, however much the Israelis may find it useful in the short term.
Here again the subtleties manifest themselves. All three religions in this debacle are rooted in the same traditions. Common references to the Judeo-Christian tradition often obscure the fact that Islam, too, springs from that tradition. The historical difference is that the Jews have repeatedly suffered at Christian hands, while the Muslims have been formidable enemies quite capable of defending themselves.
Dig deeper into this conundrum and we find that Muslim persecution of Jews pales in comparison to Christian persecution, a fact Muslims have not forgotten even if Christians have.
So, when Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the pampered rich kid of a Nigerian banker and would-be bomber, carried PETN aboard that airliner with the intent of killing himself, the passengers and crew, his action was somehow rooted in the plight of the Palestinians, in Israel`s refusal to return land taken in war from Muslims, and in our surrender of foreign policy to extremists at home and in Israel.
It is a long and tortuous road, admittedly, but it is traceable, and unless we follow it back to its sources we are likely to go on fighting wars we cannot afford while our society collapses. The next time a politician opens his mouth about taxes, health care, or damned near anything else, pro or con, we should remember Umar Abdul Mutallab and the historical circumstances that fuel his stupid fanaticism, and when we remember him we might also think about our own fanatics and how much they are costing us.