Bacevich—separationist, or just confused?
As I was preparing yesterday my post on Andrew Bacevich’s proposal for a “realist” policy of “containment” of “radical Islam,” in the back of my mind was a memory that he had written something else on the subject of Islam not too long ago that contradicted what he was now saying, though I couldn’t remember what it was. Unfortunately I let it slip and didn’t look it up. Now, thankfully, reader James P. has reminded me what it was, and it’s a stunner. This past June 27 in the Christian Science Monitor, in an article entitled “What We Owe Iraq,” Bacevich wrote:
In contrast, we owe the Iraqis whose lives we have blighted quite a lot…. As we depart, they can come along. To Iraqis seeking to escape the brutality and chaos that we have helped create, the “golden door” into the New World should open. Call it Operation Iraqi Freedom II.Millions of Shi’ite and Sunni Iraqi refugees into the U.S.! Millions of them! And all in one fell swoop! Bacevich duly added that we would have to “identify and deny entry to radicals or other potential mischiefmakers.” Oh, sure, Mr. Bacevich, we’re supposed to let in millions of Iraqis, in a very short period of time (“As we depart, they can come along”), and we must simultaneously figure out which ones of these millions of Muslims are not dangerous to us and will never be dangerous, and keep out all the others.
If Bacevich had been following the Islam issue more closely, he would have known that 18 days before his Monitor piece, on June 9, America’s top Islam critic, Robert Spencer, who for years had been advocating the screening of possible Muslim immigrants for radicalism, did a volte-face on the issue. Spencer wrote:
Officials should proclaim a moratorium on all visa applications from Muslim countries, since there is no reliable way for American authorities to distinguish jihadists and potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims. [Emphasis added.]If, as Spencer concludes, we can’t do effective screening of even a normal sized immigrant inflow of Muslims, we certainly can’t effectively screen millions of Muslim refugees who would be following the U.S. troops back from Iraq.
And even if by some miracle we did manage to prevent all the Iraqi terrorists, pro-terrorists, jihadists, and violent ethnic sectarians from coming in, and only let in non-observant Muslims and so-called peaceful, sharia-believing Muslims, the arrival of millions of Muslims would mean at least a doubling of the current U.S. Muslim population. Hasn’t Bacevich noticed the impact that U.S. Muslims are already having on our foreign policy, on our ability to talk frankly about Islam, on our ability to talk frankly about Muslim immigration, on our ability to take defensive measures against Muslim terrorism? How, then, does he think his “contain Islam” idea will be received by a U.S. Muslim population that has just been doubled in size and influence?
A further problem that Bacevich’s earlier article raises for his current article is that he sees America as a guilty country for what it has done to Iraq; that’s why he says we owe millions of them a free ticket to permanent legal residence here. But given his deep conviction of American guilt, how can he expect Americans to have the self-confidence and will-power to engage in the vast and mighty project of “containing” Islam that he now proposes? While Bacevich is not a left-liberal, in this instance his contradictory position reminds us of a basic fact about left-liberalism: once you conceive of your country as guilty, it becomes difficult to take your country’s side on any issue, let alone to take its side vigorously and whole-heartedly in a policy aimed against a fifth of humanity. As C.S. Lewis once said, relativists geld a man, then bid him be fruitful. Andrew Bacevich tells America it’s guilty toward Muslims, then bids it to build fences against them.
What then are we to make of Bacevich’s idea of containing and insulating ourselves from Islamic radicalism? I don’t know. I do know that Bacevich is not thinking coherently and consistently on this issue and that he needs to start doing so.