This has been an incredible week in the ongoing culture clash between the western democracies and radical Islam. In a series of events right out of the Onion or Monty Python, radical Muslims around the world protested the Pope calling them violent with ... waves of violence. Once his remarks were proven right in such an obvious and public way the Pope reacted by ... apologizing for his remarks.**
I am tired of apologizing to radical Islam (for some silly, bland cartoons, for god sakes!) I am tired of bending over backwards into pretzels to give them the benefit of the doubt. I am extremely tired of being told these folks are just aggrieved and in reality they share my values, because it is very very clear that they don't share my values. I am tired of being told most Muslims are peaceful -- when these peaceful folks give their sanction and support to the violent ones and accept the most radical as their leaders.
Radical Islam is, with the downfall of soviet communism and the painfully gradual opening up of China, the most illiberal force in the modern world. By a long shot. It treats individual life with contempt, has no concept of rights, and in particular treats women far worse than apartheid South Africa ever treated blacks. The theocracy we fear from certain Republican 700 Club folks is like 3.2 beer compared to full 200 proof Islamic theocratic fascism.
I don't know why the left in this country has been hesitant to call out illiberal practices in the Middle East as vociferously as they have in other circumstances. A part of this hesitation is probably opposition to the Iraq war, and fear that denouncing radical Islam for its faults might somehow give the administration a stronger mandate for more military adventures. A less charitable explanation is that the hesitation is an extension of political correctness and cultural relativism run wild).
Well, I opposed the Iraq war: The Augean stables are just too dirty to clean up by sending the military from dictator to dictator. I will go further and say I actually think the terrorist threat is exaggerated (and yes I do remember 9/11) in order to keep giving the FBI more powers and help politicians get elected. Get tough on terrorism is sort of the new get tough on crime election speak.
But I don't think the threat to liberal values posed by Islamic fundamentalism is exaggerated. And the first step in fighting it is to not give it, as Ayn Rand would say, the sanction of the victim. People sometimes email me and say "who are we to talk -- America is not clean." I will agree we have our warts - and much of this blog is taken up with pointing some of them out. But what I always tell people, and still believe, is the following:
The US does harm when we fail to live up to our values. Radical Islam does harm when they successfully pursue what they value.
**Postscript: I don't pretend to understand all the 13th century quotations in the Pope's speech. I don't think it matters. If he had simply said "radical Islam preaches too much violence and it has to stop" he would have gotten the same reaction. By the way, every person in the world seems to say bad things about the US, many of these comments are untrue or apply only to a minority of our leaders and not to myself. I can't remember anyone ever apologizing to me. This story that Muslims will do more violence unless the Pope apologizes some more reminds me of Sir Robin in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Perhaps if we run away more..."
And here is my message to the right -- I acknowledge that radical Islamic leaders treat apologies, backing-down, etc. as weakness to be exploited rather than preludes to reasonable compromise. For this reason, I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was a necessity. However, this general fact does NOT automatically justify the Iraq war. If it did, it would also justify invading any Islamic country we want. I still don't understand the strategic sense of Iraq and now we are stuck there, because I agree that once in, backing off will only embolden the radicals in the area to further hi-jinx.