Frank Rich's excellent op-ed in today's New York Times highlights the contradictions in the conservative response to the Fort Hood shooting. If "There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world," as Jonah Goldberg argues, then how, exactly, are we going to work with the Muslim populations in Afghanistan and Iraq? Goldberg himself recognizes that treating Islam like the problem guarantees "that Islam will become the problem" yet this admission does little to soften the accusation in the earlier sentence.
Rich then points out the fallacy at the center of the conservative hawks' call for more troops in Afghanistan. "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?"
We must, as iterated and reiterated since 2003, win the hearts and minds of Iraqis and Afghanis. Yet the biggest supporters of the wars, the conservative hawks, do not trust or understand Arab Muslims. It is arrogance at its finest; they must learn to love us even while we gaze down on them with suspicion and disdain.
I wish I could say things were better in Israel but they are, probably because of close proximity, possibly worse. It is difficult to describe how some Israelis utter the word "Arab." The closest analogue is the way some racists say a word I refuse to say or type, but it rhymes with "bigger." That is not to say all Israelis are anti-Arab, far from it. But buried in much Israeli rhetoric is the implication that if only the Arabs were reasonable human beings, if they could put aside their petty grievances, the conflict would end.
Then again, many Arab and Persian Muslims are truly convinced that Jews control the world, Jews drink the blood of Muslim babies, and other such fanciful notions. There is always enough ignorance to go around. If only the same could be said of understanding.