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Jewish World Review
April 6, 2009
/ 12 Nisan 5769
The limits of dialog
All of us are brothers under the skin. All of we humans (except, of course, for conservatives and AIG executives) have good hearts and want basically the same things. Disputes between nations and cultures are chiefly the result of miscommunication and can be resolved by compromise, concession and "dialog."
That's a pleasant thing to believe, and many Americans mostly wealthy liberals who've led sheltered lives believe it. But to sustain the belief requires a stupendous ignorance of history, whose blood-soaked pages reveal that more disputes between nations and cultures have been driven by greed, envy and religious zealotry than by miscommunication.
"War start from Adam when Cain he killed Abel until now," said Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, once al-Qaida's No. 3, as he confessed proudly last month his role in planning the 9/11 attacks and 30 others. "It's never gonna stop killing of people. This is life."
Khalid Sheikh Muhammad is proud of killing Americans, including women and children, because he believes American freedoms (we let little girls go to school and don't cover their mothers with black sacks) are an offense to his religion. If he were free to do so, he would kill more. More than 60 of the lesser fish released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay already have rejoined the jihad against the "Great Satan."
It's uncomfortable to realize there are people in the world who want to kill you just because you are different from them, and will do so unless you kill them first. But there are many people in the world like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, and always have been.
Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and most of his colleagues are not only willing to die for their twisted cause, they are eager to do so, because they are convinced that the more covered they are with the blood of infidels, the greater the rewards Allah will have for them in paradise.
But others who wish us ill, or who want to take from us what we have, are less eager to see what the next world has to offer. They can be dissuaded from murder and theft if they perceive the cost to themselves for attacking us is too great. "Si vis pacem, para bellum" (if you want peace, prepare for war), said the Roman military historian Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus.
With other than religious zealots, negotiation is often possible. But "dialog" usually produces satisfactory results only when you hold a strong hand and make it clear to your adversary that you're willing to play it. "Diplomacy without force is like music without instruments," said Frederick the Great, Prussia's warrior king (1712-1786).
But the fantasy that there is no problem that can't be solved by "dialog" has sent the Obama administration in search of something harder to find than a unicorn, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or an Obama administration nominee who pays his or her taxes.
"President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban," The New York Tines reported March 7. A few days later, Vice President Joe Biden said that as many as 95 percent of the Taliban may fall into the "moderate" category.
There are important distinctions between al-Qaida and the Taliban, but there are no "moderate" Taliban, at least according to the Taliban: "They have to go and find the moderate Taliban, their leader and speak to them," Zabahullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters Tuesday. "This is a lunatic idea."
We ought not to deal with the devil, because the devil never keeps his word. And this particular devil doesn't want to deal.
Mr. Mujahid told Reuters that the only way for the war in Afghanistan to end is for all foreign troops to withdraw.
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