Winning Hearts and Minds
The depth of American generosity and compassion for the lost and the devastated in the wake of the recent tsunami tragedy has not blunted the criticism that America is “stingy” – despite the fact that private American companies by themselves (separate apart from individual charitable donations, foundations and the U.S government) have given more collective foreign aid each year than any single country in Europe.
Put another way, America’s crime is not that it has given too little to those in need, but that it has given too little to those who hunger to administer American largess. According to the U.S. AID web site:
“As of January 4, more than 13,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in providing relief support in the affected region. More than 1,400 of these are currently on the ground. With 20 ships and 75 aircraft, the U.S. military has provided a total of 610,000 pounds of relief supplies to the governments of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other affected nations as of January 5. In addition, U.S. military assets continue to provide vital medical transport. In addition to transporting the injured to local hospitals in Sri Lanka, four HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters based in Colombo are conducting aerial assessments and delivering relief supplies into affected areas……On January 5, the DOD reported that 28 cargo planes are flying transport missions in the affected areas. The U.S. military plans to dispatch additional aircraft to the area, four mortuary affairs teams to help recover human remains and identify victims, three civil affairs teams to help coordinate relief efforts, and engineering support teams to assist in assessing damaged infrastructure and in planning reconstruction. Two 10-person teams of military and civilian forensics specialists are in the region, ready to assist with victim recovery and identification…….”
Thanks, But Leave
Last year alone, the United States gave more direct aid to Egypt and Jordan than the entire Muslim world combined has given for tsunami relief. So the question arises, will American generosity win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world? Given that the Indonesian government has forced the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to leave Indonesian territorial waters, required Marines assisting survivors to scale back their operations, and demanded that all American forces and relief workers in Indonesia leave by the end of March, the question requires some serious thought.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the words of South African Mufti Ebrahim Desai, the imam of an â€œAsk the Imamâ€ feature at a Muslim question and answer site. In reply to that exact question, he voiced an opinion rooted deep in Islamic tradition: â€œIn simple, he said, â€œthe Kuffaar [unbelievers] can never be trusted for any possible good they do. They have their own interest at heart……to subvert Islam.â€
In his book, Islam Unveiled, Robert Spencer discusses this recurring phenomenon of Islamic history – that when a disaster of any kind strikes Muslims (as it did in South Asia, Bosnia and during the Iraq-Iran War), it is all too frequently attributed to the failure of the people to be “sufficiently Islamic.” In one particular chapter he recounts how, after Mt. Tambora erupted in 1815, killing 100,000 people, a Christian Science Monitor report noted that â€œimams on the northwest coast of Java preached that the eruption was a sign of Allahâ€™s displeasure at infidel rule, and urged a violent jihad, according to Sartono Kartodirdjo, an Indonesian historian.â€
Likewise, after the eruption of Mt. Krakatoa in 1883, according to historian Simon Winchester, â€œthe Dutch made this superhuman effort to bring relief to the area because they were aware of the significance of the event and that the Muslim clerics were quickly making political capital from the event.â€ But the humanitarian effort changed no hearts, and Muslims mounted a violent assassination campaign against Dutch officials regardless.
If all this sounds patently absurd to a Westerner, how about an article that appeared on January 1, 2005 in the Egyptian government weekly Akhbar Al-Yawm that criticized the double standard of the ADA – the Arab Doctors’ Association – who â€œaid jihad warriors in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, but refrain from helping victims of the recent tsunami in Asia because the tsunami is punishment from Allah (emphasis added).”
The truth is that statements such as these that characterize Muslim tragedies as Allahâ€™s retribution for Muslim faithlessness mean a great deal in the Muslim world. Such statements serve a dual purpose. The first is an excuse for other Muslim governments to justify doing nothing in the face of Muslim adversity (lest it interfere with â€œthe will of Allahâ€) and the second, it carries a far more dangerous connotation – namely – that devotion to Islam requires the expulsion of the infidels, even if (perhaps especially if) those infidels have come to save Muslim lives. In effect, what we see as humanitarian aid, devout Muslims see as an attempt to subvert divine intervention.
And we thought that Alice in Wonderland was only a story!
It would explain why no Arab governments participated in the recent conference in Jakarta where major donors and aid organizations conferred over Indonesian reconstruction efforts.
It would explain why no international Muslim gratitude was ever forthcoming when infidels saved Bosnian Muslims and liberated Iraqi Muslims.
It would explain how Muslim leaders and their organizations (the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference) can justify the slaughter of Israelis and condemn the American liberation of Iraq, yet remain silent when Syrian President Hafez al Assad massacred 20,000 Muslims in Hama in 1982, when a million Muslims were slaughtering each other in the Iraq-Iran War (during the 1980s) or when Saddam Hussein was filling his country with the mass graves of his people.
In short, it would explain how Arab Muslims justify giving a pittance of their petro-wealth to aid the ravaged homelands of their own Islamic brethren, while showing a lack of gratitude or total indifference when we infidels come to their rescue.
Our problem is that we simply don’t understand any of this because it is absolutely alien to our own cultural value system. But then again, we never understood Beirut (1983), Somalia (1993), the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (1996), the Embassy bombings in East Africa (1998), the bombing of the USS Cole (2000) or a culture that justifies the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11in the name of Allah. Perhaps itâ€™s time that we did.
You’re On Your Own
If indeed the religious rationale behind the action of the Indonesians is to get the infidels out of the country while expecting little or nothing from their Muslim brethren, then we can forget the idea that American humanitarian relief will somehow “improve” our image in the Islamic world. Itâ€™s not going to happen. When it comes to humanitarian aid, we must do what we do because we believe it to be right, not because we believe it will improve our image in the Muslim world. It wonâ€™t, at least not until an Islamic Reformation occurs.
But there are other sound reasons for America continuing to do what it does. If America ever retreated from the international scene â€“ culturally, economically, politically, financially and militarily – the world would be a far nastier place than it is today. If America had left the world to its own devices at the end of the Cold War, chances are that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and quite possibly Egypt would be nuclear powers sharing their nuclear weaponry with every pathological terrorist organization in the world. Israel would be threatened with nuclear annihilation on four sides. Afghanistan would still be a 7th century cultural backwater teaching the fine art of religious barbarism to a new generation of bin Ladins and Zarqawis. The Butcher of Baghdad (together with his historical contemporaries Mullah Omar and Milosovic) would be rotating his representative through the chairmanship of the UN’s Human Rights Commission after having completed the decimation of Iraqâ€™s Shiâ€™ite and Kurdish populations. Bosnia and Kosovo would be competing with Pol Pot’s Cambodia for the honor of being the world’s largest national graveyard. Kuwait would be Iraqâ€™s 19th province. The Chinese would be on the march. Taiwan would be a memory. The North Koreans would have long since forced their will upon South Korea and established nuclear missile silos near Pusan and Seoul aimed at Japan, and statues of Saddam Hussein would be overlooking the Persian Gulf coast as a tribute to his hegemony over the world’s oil reservesâ€¦..and all this doesnâ€™t even begin to include the countless millions who would be starving to death, persecuted for their beliefs, and slaughtered while the rest of the world looked on and expressed their sympathies.
So, if there is anything to fear in future, it is that one day, this disillusioned Eagle, egged on by an isolationist Left (who believe that nothing that America does in the world is good) and an isolationist Right (who believe that the world can do no good for America) will have had its fill of hostility, ingratitude and hypocrisy, and will fly away home leaving Europe and the shabby tyrannies of the Middle East to the Islamic barbarians who could care less about anyone who doesnâ€™t see the world as they do, and who will blame any and all misfortune on everyone else, including Allah.
For humanity, and for those of us who had hoped to make the world a better place, that would be the greatest tragedy of all.