Pop quiz--What does more to galvanize radical anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world: (a) Israeli settlements on the West Bank; or (b) a Lady Gaga music video?As a reminder, Al Qaeda was founded to eject the Russians from Afghanistan and non-Muslims from Saudi Arabia. To be sure, Islamic extremists are committed to the destruction of Israel. But that's consistent with broader goals--they're anti-democracy and anti-Western civ. as well. More broadly, anti-everything-not-Islam. The Taliban, remember, toppled ancient statues of a famously pacific religious figure. Sacrificing Israel won't alter that--breasts, boogie-woogie, Buddhists, bibles, etc. still "are all infidels." Lady Gaga's just as objectionable as guaranteed liberty; Muslim terrorists would eliminate both.
If your answer is (b) it means you probably have a grasp of the historical roots of modern jihadism. If, however, you answered (a), then congratulations: You are perfectly in synch with the new Beltway conventional wisdom, now jointly defined by Pat Buchanan and his strange bedfellows within the Obama administration.
What is that wisdom? In a March 26 column in Human Events, Mr. Buchanan put the case with his usual subtlety:
"Each new report of settlement expansion," he wrote, "each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Mr. Buchanan was playing off a story in the Israeli press that Vice President Joe Biden had warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "what you're doing here [in the West Bank] undermines the security of our troops." . . . If you're of the view that Israel is the root cause of everything that ails the Middle East--think of it as global warming in Hebrew form--then nothing so powerfully makes the case against the Jewish state as a flag-draped American coffin.
Now consider Lady Gaga--or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has, at one time or another, personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called "the American Temptress."
Qutb, for those unfamiliar with the name, is widely considered the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda; his 30-volume exegesis "In the Shade of the Quran" is canonical in jihadist circles. But Qutb, who spent time as a student in Colorado in the late 1940s, also decisively shaped jihadist views about the U.S.
In his 1951 essay "The America I Have Seen," Qutb gave his account of the U.S. "in the scale of human values." "I fear," he wrote, "that a balance may not exist between America's material greatness and the quality of her people." Qutb was particularly exercised by what he saw as the "primitiveness" of American values, not least in matters of sex.
"The American girl," he noted, "knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it." Nor did he approve of Jazz--"this music the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires"--or of American films, or clothes, or haircuts, or food. It was all, in his eyes, equally wretched. . .
Which brings me back to the settlements. There may well be good reasons for Israel to dismantle many of them, assuming that such an act is met with reciprocal and credible Palestinian commitments to suppress terrorism and religious incitement, and accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state. But to imagine that the settlements account for even a fraction of the rage that has inhabited the radical Muslim mind since the days of Qutb is fantasy: The settlements are merely the latest politically convenient cover behind which lies a universe of hatred. If the administration's aim is to appease our enemies, it will get more mileage out of banning Lady Gaga than by applying the screws on Israel. It should go without saying that it ought to do neither.
Even if there were a Palestinian state. And even after the Administration exorcises "Islamic extremism" and "jihad" from the thesaurus (though not from the real world, alas).
(via Dr. Sanity, who observes, "a society that tolerates someone like Lady Gaga (and even finds some or all aspects of her talent worthwhile) is far preferable to the "utopia" of acceptable misogyny envisioned by the radical Islamic extremists, whose goal is to impose their caliphate on all of us.", reader Marc)