Whose and What Hearts and Minds?

May 10, 2007

The capture of the “Fort Dix Six” has inspired liberals to dust off and republish their “hearts and minds” mantra, which might sound wonderful to some, but bears more sober consideration. Before we can even consider whether winning hearts and minds is a remotely realistic goal, we need to determine whose hearts and minds we’re talking about and what “winning hearts and minds” actually means.

Do liberals mean we should convince existing terrorists that diplomacy is a superior path to achieving their goals? That tolerance of other religions is the morally superior position? That women are entitled to dignity and equal rights? That the United Sates and Israel really aren’t that evil? That their extreme brand of Islam is misguided?

Surely we can all agree that if we’re talking about existing jihadists, these goals are quixotic. You are never going to tame a large percentage of “holy warriors” — and there are more of them worldwide than we would like to think. It’s not like they haven’t thought about it and considered the options. It’s not like these types haven’t been around for more than a thousand years.

Or, are liberals talking about winning the hearts and minds of potential terrorists? If so, do they plan on sending ambassadors from the National Education Association (NEA) to Middle East madrassas, where children are being indoctrinated to hate the West? The NEA would first have to purge itself of its own contempt for Western civilization.

Or, are they talking about sending Christian missionaries in droves to evangelize? You’ve got to be kidding. Christian missionaries are Christian fundamentalists, and those fundies, we’re told, are as bad as Muslim fundies.

Perhaps what liberals mean by winning hearts and minds is that we should do a better job of getting our own house in order and showing the rest of the world we are not “ugly Americans”: imperialists, militarists or torturers. We are a loving, tolerant, multicultural society that doesn’t start “preemptive wars of choice” against sovereign nations or interfere in “civil wars.”

But here, again, that could be an unreachable goal, since many liberals believe — and are broadcasting loudly and clearly throughout the world — that we have become imperialists, torturers and militarists, and that we are intermeddling in a civil war in Iraq.

Even if were to all adopt the predominately secular liberal vision (God forbid) and try to persuade jihadists of the superiority of moral relativism, multiculturalism, tolerance, diversity and licentiousness, we’d have an even tougher time converting jihadists and potential jihadists, who are utterly hostile to all of that. But assuming, for the sake of argument, that this impossible goal were possible, it would still take centuries. In the meantime, the IEDs and body bags would grow exponentially as a result of our reckless appeasement.

However muddled this concept of “winning hearts and minds” is, it does highlight the gravity of the ongoing debate about the nature of the enemy (and whether he is truly even the enemy), and whether we should meet this enemy (or non-enemy) with military violence on the one hand, or appeasement, diplomacy, or, if all else fails, measured law enforcement on the other.

This is not to suggest we Americans shouldn’t put our best foot forward. But to a great extent we are already doing precisely that, by helping Iraqis to establish self-rule and the wonderful humanitarian work we are performing in Iraq and elsewhere. Sadly, you’ll never hear about either of these from the mainstream media, who are obviously committed to suppressing news that will enhance America’s international image.

The reality is that we are at war against a vicious, relentless and implacable global enemy whose mission, partially like our Cold War enemy, is world domination and submission. By underestimating its resolve and its global reach, by pretending it is not the primary causal agent in the Iraq war and behind nearly every act of jihad throughout the globe, including inside the United States, we handicap ourselves even more than we already are in fighting a conscienceless enemy that fights asymmetrically and targets innocent civilians.

To get a real glimpse of the way liberals are viewing this global war all you have to do is listen to their analyses, envisioning the enemy, in its entirety, as Osama, the Taliban and a mere handful of others. All you have to do is observe their painful efforts to legislate away the Iraq theater portion of the global war on terror.

If and when the war shifts more prominently to our shores, will they suggest we withdraw from here, too? It’s time for us all to wake up.