Hugh Hewitt, for whose opinions I have the utmost respect, has written a couple of dismaying posts on his blog. His basic premises seem to be that the cartoons were nothing more than a juvenile, pointless vulgar stunt, and that the needless offense given by the cartoons has made them a perfect tool for jihadists to use as propaganda and undermine support for U.S. goals in the War on Terror.
With regard to the first point, Mr. Hewitt writes:
The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers.
I'm sorry, but I fail to see the parallels, beyond the facile. Toles' and Stein's commentary was, in its own Lefty way, rather banal. It had some mild shock value, but beyond that, it accomplished nothing. The reaction from readers, while unfavorable, was entirely predictable, and all we had was yet another instance of Left-wing disrespect for the opinions and sacrifices of Americans in uniform, and mainstream revulsion in return. A publicity stunt, a chance to act within pattern, nothing more.
None of this applies to the actions of the Jyllands-Posten. True, the cartoons were offensive to Muslims. True, they did not demonstrate respect for the beliefs of others that common courtesy demands. But this was no mere publicity stunt. The motivation for running the cartoons was to expose the censorship and suppression of speech that Jyllands-Posten editors noted when they tried to publish a book, whose purpose was neither to annoy nor to offend anyone. Faced with the fact that people were afraid to draw some pictures, Jyllands-Posten editors did the right (and truly heroic) thing, and challenged the censorship head-on.
What was the result? Was it "the usual" -- some nasty letters to the editor and a few empty threats? Not even close: what we got was nothing less than a global conflict, where the West received a very clear demonstration of the contempt that Muslims hold for concepts such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship (which includes the freedom not to worship). Not only that, but we also learned that Muslims consider the entire world subject to their beliefs; that they will threaten people for merely being compatriots of the few that offend them; and that for all their use of the UN and other international institutions, they will conveniently forget even the basics of international protocol and burn foreign embassies. Finally, we learned that building up goodwill -- as European appeasement has attempted to do for nearly half a century -- is pointless, as decades of submissive diplomacy and billions of dollars of "subsidies" failed to buy even a sane perspective from the Muslim world.
In short, the Jyllands-Posten cartoonists have accomplished in a few months what everyone from the Israeli government to hundredes of counter-jihadist writers and opinionmakers to even the invaluable Charles Johnson of LGF could not do: demonstrate beyond any doubt that "radical" Islam was a danger to Western civilization, that its adherents have no respect for ostensibly "global" rules of behavior, and that it is not possible to buy them off. For that alone, the Western world owes them a debt of gratitude the magnitude of which I can hardly fathom. And this is an action Mr. Hewitt considers "unnecessary"?
Mr. Hewitt also approaches the question from a more tactical point of view:
There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops' jobs more difficult, and the jihadists' mission easier.
And in a later post:
So, did the cartoons and their aftermath make it easier or more diffcult for Musharraf of Pakistan to continue to guide his country away from the lure of the jihadists? Easier or more difficult for Turkey to remain a friend of the West's? Easier or more difficult for the pro-Western people of Iran to summon the courage to change their government? Easier or more difficult for Jordan's King Abdullah to continue his course, which has included support for the reconstruction of Iraq even in the face of Zarqawi's murderers? [...] That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway.
Again, it's time to step back and get a little perspective. We aren't fighting the War on Terror merely for the right to eat pork on our home turf or install less tyrannical governments in Mesopotamia. Our struggle is for the very survival of the Western civilization, which cannot stand without the liberal concepts of freedom of thought and expression. If we are willing to give those up just to gain some temporary allies in a tactical theater, we've already lost. To claim that the fight over what Danes may publish in Denmark "divert[s] attention" from more important battles is absurd: it is the battle. Why spend blood and treasure keeping Islamism out of Baghdad, if we let it run free in Copenhagen?
Nor am I particularly impressed with Mr. Hewitt's claim that this "stunt" has hurt our support from our Muslim allies. First, it is patronizing to those same allies, if we assume that just like their lunatic-radical mosquemates, they are unable to get over some cheesy drawings in order to fight the tyranny that threatens them far more than it does us. And second, if Hugh is right, then quite frankly, these are allies we don't need and do not want. Any such "allies" are just enemies we haven't discovered yet, and we'd be far better off putting them all on the business ends of our rifles. We can give up on them, and end this clash of Western Civilization and Islamic barbarism once and for all. Because if there's anything we've learned from Europe's recent troubles, it's that Islamists make for very fickle and dangerous "friends."
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