Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Enemy Within

These are the times that try men's ability to keep from breaking out in hysterical laughter. It seems that the “firstest” thing on the mind of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of all U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan (but, more importantly, a contender for the title of “Superman”), is – guess what – the doings of a small Evangelical church in Florida. Yes, the mighty four-star general is quaking in his combat boots about said church's plans to burn a large pile of Qurans on the anniversary of 9-11... because it “could cause significant problems” for our troops – not only those in Afghanistan, but those anywhere in the Islamic world. Saith the general, “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan.”

Now... sit back, relax, and ponder this for a moment. A church in Florida is about to endanger our overall effort in Afghanistan? Can it be that any organization, not to mention a church, has that much power... that much leverage over world events? When's the last time the doings of any church, anywhere, got the attention of a four-star general? But let's let him speak. The intended Bonfire of the Qurans “is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems – not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.” (I assume that by “engaged” he's referring to things like bombing wedding parties.)

Now think about this; deconstruct it, if you will. The Taliban “uses” “actions” like this to – what? Work up even more outrage and hostility toward the U.S. and our wars on Islamic soil? So... the mere fact of our being there is not enough, nor is the fact of our destroying great swaths of the countries in question and killing countless of their inhabitants... nor the fact that we are considered infidels, and to be trespassing on holy ground. No, that's not enough for the Taliban... but that church in Florida! Ah, that will really tip the balance. That will turn the Taliban from the laid-back, devil-may-care kinds of guys they are into real, honest-to-goodness, hard-core militants! And it might even convince some of the local populace in those places to side with the radicals. And! It might sharpen their aim when they attack our troops. And it might make their suicide bombings more... suicidal. Or something.

See how ridiculous this is? And of course, the question that is thoroughly begged by the general is, why on earth are we over in those crapholes in the first place? That is what is putting our troops in danger – the fact that they're there at all. Whatever happens in a church in Florida is not going to add one jot or tittle to the hopelessness and absurdity that our troops are already facing on a daily basis... or to the hostility, or militancy, of the people we have made our enemies.

But you see, that's the standard procedure in these cases. Our “leaders” put our troops in harm's way, then when anyone objects or starts rocking the boat (however small) they are accused of “not supporting the troops”, and contributing to the danger they are facing. Why, when you get right down to it, they might as well be on the other side! Yes, that church in Florida might, in fact, be a Taliban front organization, engaged in provocateur activity. Hey, it could happen, right?

Another notable nuance to all this is that “it was a rare example of a military commander taking a position on a domestic political matter.” Very true... and it proves that it was absolutely not Petraeus' idea. These guys get orders from the White House, or the State Department, that “you vill comment on ze following matter in ze following way” -- and heaven help them if they refuse. (Remember what happend to McChrystal?) So the military gets called on to do the politicians' dirty work – not on a daily basis, but whenever and wherever it really counts.

And another thing. Who is that has been drumming up hostility toward Islam ever since 9-11? Who comes up with meaningless terms like “Islamofascism”? Why, it's the United States government, of course! The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were styled as “crusades” by George Bush – until he was corrected by his handlers. But it didn't matter, because that's the way the people over there saw it, and continue to see it to this day. What the “enemy” really thinks is much more important than what we think they ought to think... but we never seem to learn that. We were going over there to separate the wheat from the chaff... the good guys from the bad guys... and we find out, over and over again, that those distinctions are mainly in our imagination, and don't correspond to reality. Plus – as is well known throughout history (you know – that thing our leaders never study) – there is a strange tendency for people to unite against a common enemy when the situation calls for it... and, like it or not, we are the common enemy. The citizens of those countries know that, sooner or later, we'll have to leave... and they will be left to their own devices, and with each other... at which point the sectarian struggles can be resumed in earnest. But until then, it's all about getting us out of their faces. And what some church in Florida has to do with it is... well, it doesn't, and only a lunatic would think it did. And this is not to say that the "Arab street" won't erupt in outrage... but they erupt in outrage every other day, and hardly need this as an excuse. The most it can do is reinforce their idea that we are fighting a religious war... but they already believe that (and so do many of us).

And – by the way -- “this just in” -- Attorney General Eric Holder has now joined the fray -- and that, in my opinion, puts the final “Obama administration idiot seal of approval” on the matter. Saith the attorney general: “No one should have to live and pray in fear.” (Tell it to the Branch Davidians!) Holder has this almost magical ability to be on the wrong side of every issue, and to say precisely the wrong thing at precisely the right time (er, that is... oh, you know what I mean). And the beauty of all of this is that if Petraeus winds up in trouble in Afghanistan next week, he can blame it all on a small church in Florida! These people are, truly, masters of the art of distraction. (And what a power trip those Florida churchgoers must be on at this point!)

And throughout it all, there is this exercise in denial by the government. Not only does the Islamic world believe that we have declared war on Islam, but many people and organizations on the domestic front also believe that we have... or that we ought to... or that we should be honest about it and admit it. And this includes population segments like the Evangelicals, who have been consistently the most supportive of the wars of any group in the country. (And a significant subset of the Evangelicals -- lest we forget -- is the vast army of American mercenaries fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also believe they are on a crusade – no matter how much this is denied by the leadership.) So... the most supportive people have gone ahead and decided to burn a few Qurans. And this is a bad thing? I mean, either we're fighting wars over there are we aren't... and if we are, then what possible difference is an event like this going to make? You would think the administration would be glad to have this kind of support.

Problem is, the support is from all the wrong people – the “Bible and gun clingers”. They may agree with the administration on the need for perpetual war, but there is nothing else of significance they agree on. At least under Bush there was a bit of cohesion and consistency to the administration's “conservative” position – but with Obama fighting wars he never made, well... the anachronisms are enough to confuse anyone, not to mention a gaggle of Bible-belt types in Florida. A president they despise is fighting wars they like... and in his book, his most fervent supporters (in the war department) are the people he despises the most.

And that's not the only problem between these strange bedfellows. The Quran burning will “inflame the Muslim world” -- as if it weren't inflamed enough already! Can there possibly be any more hostility over there than there already is? Petraeus seems to think so, but, frankly, I'm skeptical. I think, as I said before, the administration is setting up a scapegoat – not unlike what happened toward the end of the conflict in Vietnam, when “if it weren't for all those damn hippie protesters” we could have won. Sure, right. The country could not have been any more demoralized at that point than it already was – hippies or no hippies. And our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan could hardly be worse, or more intractable... but no one in the administration wants to admit this, so they are all piling on some insignificant church in Florida.

And will this, by the way, have any impact on the loyalty of the Evangelicals to the twin wars? I doubt it. After all, Bush & Co. never wavered, and I'm sure they see Obama & Co. having custody of the wars as a temporary irritant. Put the Republicans back in and we'll teach those ragheads a damn good lesson!

I guess the problem, as someone memorably pointed out a while back, is that we are "a country of (East) Indians governed by Swedes". The "plain people" of the U.S. tend to think of things in terms of principle... of absolutes, whereas our rulers are all profoundly relativistic in their thinking and in their actions. The plain people think, well, if we're at war with Islam then let's be at war with Islam, dammit! No shilly-shallying around. But the administration persists in making fine distinctions that not only do our citizens not understand, but they go totally over the head of everyone else on earth as well -- especially Muslims. What if a foreign power came over here and started sorting out all American citizens into "good guy" and "bad guy" categories? How many people would agree with the categorization or with the criteria? Isn't it much more likely that we would all unite to throw out the invaders... then go back to happily cutting each other's throats? This is the way it is in the Islamic world. Leave them to their own sectarian strife, civil wars, and squabbles, and they're happy... but send troops in and start dropping bombs in order to impose "peace", and you'll get anything but.

And then we have our military, which tends to think of things in terms of black and white, because they're trained that way. On the battlefield, there are people you fight with, and people you fight against... and that pretty much covers it. And how humiliating it must be when an officer attains to four-star rank with a major command and all of a sudden has to become a "diplomat" and a relativist, and leave all of this training and military mind set behind. This is the situation Petraeus finds himself in, and he is now busy making enemies of a significant piece of the American citizenry... those people he has, in effect, declared to be the enemy within.

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