McChrystal's strategy hinges upon the idea that we can community organize the Afghans into regarding the Taliban as heretics and rejecting them on that basis. McChrystal thinks that he can employ takfiri logic to discredit takfiris, which is destined to fail because it relies upon a contrived interpretation of Islamic doctrine. McChrystal believes that presenting the Taliban as a heretical group which kills other, more moderate Muslims will lead the Afghans to choose his kafir interpretation of Islam over their fundamentalist one. He fails to take into account not only Islamic dogma and its history of exclusively regressive reforms, but Afghan culture and sociology. Afghans don't "choose." Afghans are tribal Muslims who think and act as groups, who follow traditional Islamic dogma and the traditions of their elders, and who believe that their fates are predestined by Allah, so any and all individual initiative taken on behalf of anyone but Allah is a non-starter. They do not see things from their own individual points of view, let alone those of blue-eyed kafirs from the Great Satan. We may be able to win their hearts, but forget about their minds.
We would have better success getting Afghans to reject the Taliban on democratic grounds as shoddy political leaders under whom the trains run habitually late. We won hearts in Iraq when Iraqis rejected Al-Qaeda's interpretation of Sharia, which forbade women from buying cucumbers, forced livestock into diapers in the name of "modesty," and outlawed ice cream. Muslims rejected al-Qaeda as municipal leaders, not as Muslims. We also won hearts in Iraq by annihilating al-Qaeda with the Surge. Muslims like a winning horse. They don't root for the underdog, nor do they understand those who do. They run with the strongest tribe, which we have to be anyway if we are to win in Afghanistan. We have to either annihilate the Taliban or forget about getting Afghans on our side and just let them sort out their problems.
I don't think Afghanistan is worth saving, nor do I think any nation-building efforts will be worthwhile in the end. The problem is Afghans, and their problem has always been Islam. We can't change that. Iran is worth saving. India is worth protecting. That's where our troops should be.
Back to Hasan. The Army took notice of the fact that his loyalties lay with our enemies, who happen to be killing Muslims, rather than with us or our allies in Afghanistan and Iraq on whose behalf we are fighting. He took no issue with killing Muslims, only political Muslims like the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He clearly held a takfiri worldview in which Muslims who do not engage in jihad to spread Sharia are not true Muslims. Because of this, the Army sent him to special classes in order to relieve him of his "delusions" regarding Islam.
Army psychiatrists at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who supervised Maj. Nidal M. Hasan’s work as a psychiatric fellow tried to turn his growing preoccupation with religion and war into something productive by ordering him to attend a university lecture series on Islam, the Middle East and terrorism, according to a Walter Reed staff member familiar with Hasan’s medical trainingBut Hasan was not delusional in the least; his colleagues were. Their interpretation of Islam is fantastical, and they not only held, but acted upon their delusions about it because the ugly truth of which he tried desperately to inform them was too scary to confront.
The idea that Hasan attend the lectures, which he did late last year or early this year, came up during discussions among the psychiatric staffs of the hospital and the Army’s medical university about what was perceived as Hasan’s lack of productivity and his constant interest in Muslims whose religious beliefs conflicted with their military duties.
He made a very good case for why Muslims cannot fight other political Muslims.
He also makes a good case for why Muslims must fight everyone who is not a political Muslim.
After all, Hasan views the War on Terror as a "war against Islam," yet we are fighting two wars, just like every war we have fought since Hasan joined the Army almost 20 years ago, for and with Muslims. We are fighting against political Islam -- the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who seek to conquer territory for Allah and enforce Sharia law.
It didn't work with Hasan and it won't work in Afghanistan. It's so obvious that Islam is the problem and that Islam cannot form the basis for any victory in the War on Terror, either here or abroad, that Frank Rich must begrudgingly concede that Mark Steyn is right.
As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?So we've got a problem on the right when the majority believe that we can reform, if not Islam, then Muslims by employing Islamic doctrine. The left will never identify evil as what it is, but they can be convinced to cut and run, no problem. Besides, they got what they wanted, which was to "bring the war home." Don't expect them to fight it. That's always been our job, no matter how many mops the left may invoke. We need to identify political Islam as the problem and fight it at home. Any argument in favor of McChrystal's strategy is based on either the delusion that the Taliban is not practicing "true Islam" or that we can get Muslims to choose us over the Taliban on moral grounds. The Taliban, like Hasan, practices "true Islam," which has not a single moral teaching or practice to its credit.
About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.”
The sooner we realize this the sooner our soldiers can stop dying over a delusion.
I DISAGREE ENTIRELY WITH JDAMN'S POST - AND FRANK RICH.WE CAN WIN ON ALL FRONTS, BUT ONLY IF WE FIGHT ON ALL FRONTS.
WE DON'T HAVE TO CHANGE ISLAM.
WE AREN'T TRYING TO.
WE CAN CHANGE MUSLIMS.
ALL MUSLIMS DO NOT FOLLOW THE LETTER OF THE QURAN AND THE HADITHS OR THE SURA.
THEY NEVER HAVE TO.
AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS LEAVE ISLAM EVERY DAY.
THE BEST WAY TO OPEN THEIR EYES IS TO GET THEM TO LIVE IN OPEN SOCIETIES NOT RULED BY SHARIA.
WE HAVE DONE THAT IN IRAQ.
IT CAN BE DONE ELSEWHERE.
I WAS A LEFTIST; NOW I AM A RIGHT-WINGER.
PEOPLE CAN CHANGE - IF YOU OPEN THEIR EYES.
OPENING THE EYES IS MUSLIMS WILL TAKE EVERYHTING WE'VE GOT: KINETICS, DIPLOMACY, CONVERSIONS, COUNTER-TERROR, COUNTER-PROPAGANDA - EVERYTHING.
WE MUSTN'T THROW THE TOWEL IN ON 1 BILLION OF OUR FELLOW HUMANS, NOR THINK WE CAN HIDE BEHIND AN ISOLATIONIST WALL.
JDAMN - WHO IS GREAT - AND ROBERT SPENCER AND OTHERS ARE WRONG ON THIS.
WE CAN WIN ON ALL FRONTS.
BUT ONLY IF WE FIGHT ON ALL FRONTS.
jdamn adds: I don't think we disagree at all. We share the same objective, but McChrystal's means are doomed to fail just as the Army's failed with Hasan. We can beat the Taliban and we can do it in concert with the Afghan people. We did it before.
But McChrystal's strategy of engaging the "moderate Taliban" and trying to persuade the Afghan people that they are not true Muslims because blue-eyed kafirs from the Great Satan know Islam better than Afghans is doomed to fail. Rich is correct in his assessment that many right-wingers think he's planning another Surge. He's not. We can win through strength and we can win by convincing the Afghans that they will have a brighter future if they run with us because self-governance beats the hell out of Taliban-style Sharia. It worked in Iraq and it can work in Afghanistan. McChrystal's strategy is better suited to British kids in elementary school than it is Afghans. Leaving Islam out of it and making our case militarily (with dead jihadis) and democratically is our only bet (because on a human level nobody wants to live under strict Sharia, which is why every land that does, does so tenuously and with an enormous, incredibly intrusive police state like Iran). There is no precedent for anything else but colonialism working with Muslims, and that fails in the long run, too. Look at Pakistan. Brute force and the sheer superiority of democracy are our only hope for success with Afghans and any Muslims.
Of course not all Muslims want to live under Sharia. Even places which are drowning in Islam, like Pakistan, are willing to fight against the installation of Sharia, at least after they've tried it for a while. They choose democracy because they're humans and in spite of their Islamic beliefs, not because of them. That's where McChrystal is wrong and that's where the Army was wrong about Hasan.
Iraqis ended up not caring about the war of ideas in the end. We've won that. As long as we're America we will be victorious in that regard. We didn't have to community organize the Northern Alliance into siding with us. They did it because we were the strong horse in the race. We can fight and win a war with Muslims for democracy, but we can only do that by leaving Islam out of the equation, which, when their freedom is on the line, most Muslims are more than willing to do.
GREAT POST. GREAT COUNTER-POINTS.
I WILL RETHINK MY POSITIONS - AND YOURS.
YOU GET THE LAST WORD!