Michelle Malkin responds to Dean Esmay

How not to argue about Islam

This post by Dean Esmay, “calling out Michelle Malkin,” is what is known in the business as traffic bait.

So go ahead and click it and give Esmay more of the traffic he wants. I highly recommend you read his post as the classic blogospheric example of how not to argue about Islam.

Or anything else, for that matter.

For the record, I’m not sure that I recall Malkin saying things exactly the way Dean says she does, and as I pointed out yesterday, the “Islam is incompatible with democracy” is certainly not the property of the Conservative Right.

If you read Dean’s post, you will find that some of his comments get a bit unhinged. As do some of the comments from others. Dean’s obviously quite upset about this subject, and he’s on the rampage. Very well.

I happen to agree with his basic position that those claiming “Islam is incompatible with democracy” are a big part of the problem. I also happen to agree that insulting those Muslims who are our allies (and even our own citizens) will not get them to step up to the plate and denounce those of their faith that are trying to destroy civilization as we know it.

I had a conversation last week where this very subject came up, and I’ve done some more thinking about it since then. I’m wondering if a sort of “war fatigue” has set in and is responsible for the increasing number of calls to “wipe out Islam” and whatnot that I’ve been seeing on message boards and in comments sections lately. Are some folks just so tired of the Long Global War (World War IV) that they’ve decided that the answer is to just press the button and nuke ’em all?

I’m tired of the war. I’m tired of our soldiers dying. I’m tired of all the civilians suffering and dying. I’m tired of the expense. I’m tired of it all. But, damn it, I think the fight is one worth fighting. And I still want to win. Nuking ’em all isn’t winning anything.

One thing that I think might set me a bit apart is that I never once believed that we’d be seeing large troop withdrawals this year. This spring things looked real good, but not only haven’t the troops been coming home in droves, they’ve had their tours extended or started early.

Is it frustration with the pace of things that’s making some folks throw up their hands and declare that this will never work?

If so, they had better take a deep breath. We won’t know if this is really working for at least twenty more years. When the Iraqis who are very young children now are those making decisions in Iraq, when large numbers of those who lived their entire lives in the Old Iraq have passed on, only then will we really begin to get a good idea.

They aren’t calling it the Long War for nothing folks. And I’m not willing to give up on all those people just because a certain percentage of them are murderous monsters who want to build a world in their own murderous image. We might be able to win without Muslim democracies, but we cannot win without Muslims.

For what it’s worth, what in the Bible or in fundamental Christianity is particularly “compatible with democracy”? If the pope (or your local pastor) began calling for you to kill in the name of Jesus and rule the world with the iron fist of God, would that make Christianity incompatible with democracy?

No doubt, there are serious problems with wide swaths of Islam in the world today. No doubt, a certain segment of the Islamic world will fight to the death (gladly, even) and we will be forced to kill, kill, and kill. No doubt, it would certainly be nice to see a clearer split between the two. But don’t confuse “the Muslims” with our enemies who are Muslims. It’s a critical distinction, and one that a lot of folks don’t seem to make all the time.

Also, Donald Sensing has a good post up on this discussion.


  1. Nice post, Murdoc. I would concur with you that there seems to be a fatigue factor that people are experiencing. This will be a long fight and there should be no doubt about that for anyone. You are absolutely right that the only way we will know if we are winning the fight is when the children have grown up and are running the country. John Mayer has a new song out that is huge (Waiting for the World to Change) and he makes the same comment in the song. The problem is that there are many people who expect quick results. We have become a results driven society and when things take more than a few months or even years, people lose interest and are quick to suggest drastic measures. If we do not see immediate results, obviously something is not being done correctly is the common mentality. We need to stay the course and ride this out. If we were to ‘nuke ’em’, it could be considered a win by some, but a pathetic win at that. It would be a sucker punch. The loss would be the deaths of the innocent civilians who we are trying to free and the fallout from people everywhere saying that the US are horrible people. Only time and patience will tell who will win the battle. Everyone needs to continue to support the effort and shown restraint against drastic measures that we would regret in the long run.

  2. You know, I’m trying real hard here not to get angry, mainly because I know you did not mean any offense by what you said, Murdoc, but when I think about my son’s friend whose dad was killed in Afghanistan, I have a real hard time listening to this lecture on ‘war fatigue’. The kids dad was killed and his mom went around the bend and is in jail now. His grandparents are doing the best they can, but they aren’t a substitute for parents in the home. Does it sound as if I have ‘war fatigue’? Is that ‘war fatigue’? War Fatigue! I’m pissed as hell. You don’t sacrifice the lives of young Americans without a plan to win. We don’t have a plan to win. You don’t have to know a lot about history to know how we won wars in the past. If someone has a better idea than to go back to what has worked to win, they’d better get on the phone to Rumsfield real quick.

  3. Dfens: I’m not lecturing anyone about ‘war fatigue’. In fact, I don’t even know if such a thing is a factor. As I wrote, I only wonder if it might be. Regarding the tragic story of your friend’s son and his family, I don’t think that Islam as a whole should be condemned for it. At the same time, I agree that being pissed as hell is appropriate and that those who made this happen need to be dealt with. I presume that those folks are Muslims, and I have no issue with calling a spade a spade. Muslim extremism is (presumably) a major factor and it cannot be discounted. I think targeting Muslim extremists besides those directly involved is the right thing to do, given the announce intentions of Muslim extremists. I don’t even have too much issue with racial profiling of airline passengers and such. It’s merely common sense to use what you know to narrow the search for your enemy. Still, I don’t think I’m out of line to suggest that many people are just worn out of supporting the war or even of hearing about it. A large part of the problem, I think, is that so much of our daily life goes on just as it ever has, and because of this the war seems to be a very distant and abstract thing. Only when you or someone you know is directly affected does it ‘hit home’, so to speak. By minimizing the threat that we face and by apologizing for the murderous monsters that we fight, many who don’t know any better might be lulled into thinking that we aren’t in a struggle to keep the world free. We are, and, if more people realized the stakes, we probably wouldn’t have so much trouble keeping our eyes on the ball. Hiding images of 9/11 while front-paging images of Abu Gharib is guaranteed to make people have a very skewed view of what’s going on. Some with the skewed view will suggest we just give it up. Others, unwilling to give up, will suggest we nuke ’em all and be done with it. I don’t think either course is the right one.

  4. You’re right about the country going on as though nothing’s happening. A couple of days ago I called a meeting in the aircraft simulator so we learn about an issue pilots going into Iraq and Afghanistan were having with trying to land at airfields at night without guidance beacons and with few lights. I could only get 1 person interested. The rest were waiting for the right charge number. The ironic thing is, we could all go to jail without the right charge number. Apparently that is what is really important, not supporting our troops in the field. Every damn day I see stuff like that.

  5. Dfens: Your sons friends father didn’t die in vain, he died fighting for one of the most noble causes there is, bringing freedom to others. The problem as I see it is that we are fighting a different war than the other side. We are fighting a military war. They aren’t, they are fighting a religious war. Two simultaneous, but different. wars. That’s why there isn’t any crystal clear path to winning this, except to continue this fight until we either kill, or outlive, the majority of the terrorists. We’re 50 years or more from the end of this, hell, we might be 50 years from the MIDDLE of this for all we know. Speaking only for me, my anger about ‘fatigue’ is usually about the Left in our own country. Those people still have enough political power to keep the hands of our soldiers tied. I’m DAMN TIRED of hearing about them, and the damage they are causing our troops and our country

  6. With respect, you might be a little confused about why we fight.

    ‘The loss would be the deaths of the innocent civilians who we are trying to free…’ ‘Dfens: Your sons friends father didn’t die in vain, he died fighting for one of the most noble causes there is, bringing freedom to others.’

    Do you think that’s why we’re asking people to go catch bullets on our behalf? The war, and all of its’ campaigns, is being conducted with the aim of making Muslims stop attacking us. Bringing democracy to others would be a desirable subsidiary effect, and I would concede that it might be a useful tool for achieving our war aim, if it can be done, but we’d better not be risking people’s lives for that–‘friend of liberty, but guardian only of our own,’ and all that.

  7. The war, and all of its’ campaigns, is being conducted with the aim of making Muslims stop attacking us. No. Let’s be really clear about what is happening here. The Mid-east and sub-Saharan Africa are both backward cultures. Africa has nothing of sufficient value to justify a large western presence. So, after the century of western impingment via imperialist colonization, we are letting sub-Saharan Africa regress to its pre-colonial indiginous culture as most clearly seen in Zimbabwe. The Mid-east has oil. We don’t have to take the oil by force. We just have to buy it. As a result there will now be a large western presence in the Mid-east and lots of IOUs from the west that will draw western culture into the Mid-east. This presence is and will destroying its backward culture. We can’t stop that and neither can they as long as we buy and sell oil. This situation is not unique. Western culture is impinging on the primitive Amish culture in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to gain land for suburbs. There, the Amish sell because land in Iowa is equally acceptable if somewhat inferior and there is a profit to be made. But it is somewhat unrealistic to expect the entire Arabian populace to abandon its land and move elsewhere, especially as any other land would be markedly inferior and people in that corner of the world have irrational non-economic attachments to land as the Israelis demonstrate daily. So given that the western culture is subverting the Mid-eastern culture and the Mid-easterners have no where to go, they are defending their culture using the time honored fashion of violent resistance. Were we to leave and stop changing their culture, they would probably revert, perhaps not without regret, to their pre-western ways just as the sub-Saharan Africans are. And let’s not kid ourselves, bringing democracy to others is only a more apparently benign and domestically palatable means of achieving the same goal of destroying their culture. I am not saying this is a bad thing to do or that the west is bad. Only that we ought not mislead ourselves about what is happening and why. We have gone through the same process each time Westization has impinged on a primitive culture; think France, Germany, Russia and Japan. In fact, the English Civil War can be seen as the initial conflict resulting from the adoption of western culture and its replacement of a primitive culture. And not all extensions of Westernization have been successful. It is not clear that Russia will adapt as sub-Saharan Africa clearly has not. How Mid-eastern cultures will fare is also undetermined, though they have shown little ability to adapt, particularly in light of the immense economic resources available to do so. So, it’s going to be their culture or ours, at least as long as we need the oil. But what happens if those most irrationally opposed to westernization obtain nuclear weapons and are willing to use them to prevent the further imposition of western culture? This is clearly happening. And nothing is being done to prevent it. And the results will be cataclysmic. That is why many are coming to the conclusion that we will end up having to destroy Islam with violence before we can finish destroying it with dollars, decadence and democracy.

  8. Dear Mrs. Davis, a vey logic demonstration, but I do not agree with some parts in it. I am living in an East-European country, a former comunist one, and I can see the results of your ‘policy of Westernization’, but I can ensure you that NOBODY in my country would EVER take into consideration the non-sense of hijacking an airplane and flying it in a building anywhere in the world, either he likes the Western culture or not. In the contrary, my country sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is very much pro-US. We can endlessly argue if adapting to the Western civilization and culture is a good or a bad thing, or if we like that or not, but in any case, nobody imposed us anything. In the worst scenario the guy that feels guilty because he left aside his culture, or religion, should be upset on himself, and perhaps commits suicide. So, it should be something else wrong with these fundamentalists, terrorists, and talibans, something that should probably be understood first. IMHO, US made two big mistakes that bears the fruits now in Iraq: did not understand their specific thinking, and did not have a valid plan for the after-invasion. After a fast, lightening military success, we are now in the middle of the road, asking ‘Now what?’. It would be simply and easy to nuke all of them, but should think at ‘the day after’ too…

  9. Dear Delphi, Welcome to the West and thank you for your country’s support in Iraq and Afghanistan. The perfect war has not yet been fought. That’s what makes history fun and fascinating. We can look back at the decision to divide Europe with Stalin, if we want to see mistakes in war that bore fruit for generations, as you know much better than I. But we have to do the best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves and I for one am not unhappy with what we did in the Middle East given the resource limitations and alternatives available. We now have to do the best we can to deal with the consequences. I am not recommending that we nuke anyone. I actually suspect that American arms have evolved to the point where any military objective can more easily be achieved through the use of conventional arms rather than nuclear arms. I was just trying to explain why there actually is a consensus in the West, even if unstated and unintended, that Middle Eastern culture must be destroyed and why some are coming to the conclusion that we should use the ‘nuke ’em all’ weapon instead of the ‘bribe and seduce them’ weapon. But in the final analysis, you don’t take a knife to a gunfight. I far prefer to be the victor ruing the means than the vanquished facing the end. We look forward to continuing to work with you to bring the fruits of freedom to more people around the world.

  10. I don’t agree that ‘Middle Eastern culture must be destroyed’. I think there is much Middle Eastern culture which is just fine. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of your family, but it has to be adapted into a healthy rather than pathological trait. Plenty of cultures have adapted to modernity without losing their identity or their unique characteristics. The part of the culture which makes people strap on explosives and detonate themselves in a mosque or nightclub has to go, obviously. As long as the rest of them can learn to live and let live, they can keep the rest of their culture. I’m sure they can. The brainwashing has to stop, as does the endless blame of others for one’s own problems. Talking about destroying their culture in its entirety is just going to upset ordinary people who we don’t have a beef with. Occasionally I get fed up and have the ‘let’s just nuke them all’ emotional response but the rational part of my brain tells me I’m just angry and that I need more patience. And I’ll end with saying that I pretty much agree with what Murdoc has said on this issue. One wins by making careful calculations and making the moves which most benefit one’s cause. That means we are nice to all those people who will naturally come around to seeing things our way and nasty to those who can’t, or won’t. We gain nothing by antagonising ordinary people who just want to live their lives in peace. Those are the kind of people who are ultimately on our side, whether they realize it or not.

  11. I was reading the other day about the experiences of a woman who witnessed the fire bombing of Tokyo. It was horrible in a way that is beyond what words can convey, but the thing is if we are not willing to kill people in that manner today then we ought not go to war. We are doing nothing but sacrificing our best and brightest and not achieving our objectives, the primary of which is protecting our own way of life. We keep fighting yesterday’s wars, and yet not learning anything from them. We are literally doing the same exact thing we did in Vietnam. We are kissing their asses when we should be kicking them. The only time we ever made any real progress in Vietnam was when we bombed Hanoi, but even that was not enough. This notion you go to war with a country’s military and not their people is asinine. It has never worked. It will never work. We are not at war with a religion, we are at war with 2 countries. We should stay focused, formally declare war on those countries, do what it takes to win those wars, and the rest will take care of itself. We need less hand wringing and philosophizing and more ordinance on targets. Frankly I don’t care if that sounds ignorant or uneducated, it is the right answer. We all know it is the right answer. We simply are not willing to do it.

  12. Declare war on the two countries we’re fighting in? And here I was thinking that the Iraqi government and its military were our allies. Actually, now that you mention it, I guess I thought the same thing about the Afghans…

  13. A couple of things- Esmay charges that Malkin does not differentiate between Muslims and radical Muslims, arguing that this can offend Mulsim Americans and Muslim allies. He then goes on to use exactly the same language himself in exactly the same post! http://crypticsubterranean.blogspot.com/2006/09/esmay-again.html Furthermore, the ‘Islam is incompatible with democracy’ argument. Well, frankly, I tend to agree with that- Islam is not merely a religion but a complete ideology that governs daily life. A basic tenet of democracy is equality and yet Islam teaches no such thing- women are less than men and infidels are less that Muslims. Dhimmis are expected not only to pay a tax to their Muslim rulers, but also to never have authority over Muslims or to insult Allah or Mohammed. Is that equality? Can a society based on Islamic principles ever be truly democratic? Is Sharia law, enshrined in the constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq, provide for equality? For equal freedom under the law? I’ll quote Daniel Pipes here- ‘the Sharia harks back to a decidedly antidemocratic sensibility in everything from its emphasis on God’s will (not popular sovereignty) to its privileging of Muslims over non-Muslims. For Muslims to develop functioning democracies requires that they put aside the Sharia or transmute it into something quite different from what it is understood to be today.’ Can a majority Muslim country work as a democracy? Well, Turkey seems to be a good example of that- but Turkey has gone to great lengths to completely separate church and state so to speak. The argument must be made clear here- it’s ISLAM is incompatible with democracy, not MUSLIMS are incompatible with democracy.

  14. Is there really a distinction between Islam and Muslims though? If it takes separation of church and state to make it work.. so be it. I think that’s a healthy situation anyway. We base our laws Judeo-Christianity anyway, but we recognize that we should still attempt to keep them seperate (with varying degrees of success). Ultimately I don’t think it matters as long as the government stresses tolerance and peaceful resolution. Values will tend to converge towards individual freedoms under those circumstances, regardless of the starting point. And if they don’t we should keep pressuring them to change their ways. Even if we have to do that, it’s better that it’s peaceful pressure.

  15. Is there really a distinction between Islam and Muslims though?’ I think it is. Muslims are people and in any group of people, be they liberals, Chinese, French, Russian, you’ll find a huge variation of points of view. I believe that Islam is incompatible with democracy based on its teachings. It is a complete set of rules that values the laws of Allah above all else. Hence the protestations at Muslims voting in Iraq being apostates- they were putting the laws of man above the laws of their god. Muslims themselves aren’t incompatible with democracy. Look at Turkey or the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan or the elections that put Hamas in power. We might disagree with their choices but it was their free, democratic choice to elect who they did. Muslims can have democracies. The factor which is crucial to this debate is to what extent Islam becomes involved in the political process. The problem is that the laws of Islam are anathema to everything that a democracy stands for- they place the immutable laws of their god over the laws of man and they enshrine intolerance for women and non-Muslims. Amir Taheri has an interesting take on the problem here- http://www.benadorassociates.com/article/4462

  16. Yeah, we have allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are clearly not the part of the 61% who are ok with it being open season on Americans there, don’t you think? We had allies in Germany and Japan too, did that keep us from bombing the hell out of those places? NO.

  17. If the pope (or your local pastor) began calling for you to kill in the name of Jesus and rule the world with the iron fist of God, would that make Christianity incompatible with democracy?’ It might do if there were passages in the Bible calling for open and unending war with non-Christians- as there are in the Koran. That’s the big difference here- the Koran explicitly calls for these actions and none of the major schools of Islamic thought reject them. BTW, I had a look and found these statistics from a British TV survey- http://crypticsubterranean.blogspot.com/2006/08/british-muslims.html ‘the British Muslim population is approximately 1.6 million. That means that 160,000 British Muslims support or are involved with terrorism. Only 400,000 say that Britain is their country, and an equal number believed that the 7/7 bombings were justified. Over a million of them believe that British people should be punished for ‘insulting’ Islam. 144,000 are ‘hard-core Islamists’. And only 48,000 out of 1.6million are consistently in favour of free speech.’ Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy in my eyes- and a only a tiny minority of British Muslims support it. The majority of them believe that we shouldn’t have the freedom of speech to ‘insult’ Islam without facing punishment.

  18. Jay.Mac: ‘It might do if there were passages in the Bible calling for open and unending war with non-Christians- as there are in the Koran.’ I only want to remind you that the Christians created the Inquisition institutiton without having these kind of passages in the Bible. You are right in what you stated, though. Dfens: right, if you go to war, then fight the war. Do the outmost you can to win the war, and if you are not 100% commited to that, then don’t start the war. I have seen on CNN a moron terrorist running accross the street to throw a grenade to a US convoy. Surprisingly, nobody shot him, although in front of the attacked truck was a Humvee, armed with a 0.5 machinegun, pointed already to the moron’s position. Could have been the ROE, as it was in Vietnam to blame?

  19. Maybe we simply lack the collective will to live. I have a friend who was in Vietnam. He tells a story about how a NV soldier came out in the middle of a fire fight holding a pistol to his own head. He was threatening to kill himself. The US soldiers were trying to save him from himself. They were trying to get the gun away from the guy and several had been shot doing so. Not by the suicide guy, but by his buddies, of course. So my friend sees all this stupidity going on and raises his guy and shoots Mr. suicide through the heart. After all, why the hell should we lose even one guy for that psycho? Next thing he knows all these US soldiers are coming up to him and giving him hell about killing the guy. ‘We could have saved him,’ they said. How f’d up is that?