Afghanistan is a cauldron of appalling and unremitting complexity. It has never justified the effort that would be required to subdue it, whether by Persia, the Mongols, Russia, or Great Britain, because it is a poor, land-locked country of no geopolitical value, and thus a perfect failed state to give shelter to terrorists. Iran, Russia, India, and Pakistan all have factional interests in the country, and before setting out on a course of nation-building in such infertile soil, the U.S. might have had a better idea of what it was undertaking. (In contrast, Iraq is, at least, an important Arab country with immense oil resources and some of the features of a functioning state.) The Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians, and Russians all have their own factions in Afghanistan, and it is hard to avoid the temptation to think that the U.S. and NATO are the innocents slouching toward Babylon. The inevitable Richard Holbrooke was in New York on July 6 to try, contrary to the wishes of the Russians, to remove certain Taliban names from the list of designated terrorists in U.N. Resolution 1267. The Iranians are encouraging some of the northern Taliban resistance to Kabul and the Allies; and the Pakistanis are exploiting Karzai’s fears of an early Western pullout to build up their Haqqani faction in the broader Taliban, and are selling themselves to Karzai as the future of his regime by their ability to broker a deal with the Taliban. The Russians and Indians, having themselves tasted the sting of Taliban terror, are implacably hostile to it, despite Russia’s tacit assistance to one of the northern factions (just to irritate the Americans). Thus America’s great ally, Pakistan, is building up part of America’s Afghan opposition among the Taliban, to strengthen its hand in maintaining a post-U.S. and -NATO Karzai in a coalition with the Taliban. And the enemy the U.S. has instituted a surge to fight, the Taliban, is supported by its chief ally, Pakistan, and opposed by its other chief ally in the region, India, as well as by Russia, whose assistance the U.S. seeks in opposing an Iranian nuclear capability, even as Iran and Russia both assist certain Taliban factions against the U.S.
If this were a Republican administration, the New York Times
and Washington Post
and the traditional television networks would lift the stone on this mess of snakes and spook public opinion. As it is, it is hard to believe that the administration really knows what it is doing; though, if it has a secret deal to give Afghanistan to Pakistan, India, and Russia to supervise and ensure the absence of an international terror-generating enterprise there, that would make sense. But this doesn’t square with what anyone in the administration is saying, except possibly General Petraeus, in whom my confidence, in this role, is based on Karzai’s description of him as “a politician.” In the U.S., meanwhile, the insipid and mindless appeasement of the Muslims continues. In his “official statement on the occasion of Ramadan,” Mr. Obama praised “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings . . . (its) great diversity and racial equality” and “American Muslims’ . . . extraordinary contributions to our country.” In fact, Islam has done nothing to advance justice or any version of progress or tolerance, and Obama, like Condoleezza Rice, is regularly denounced by the official outlets of leading Muslim countries in ethnic slurs that would embarrass Bull Connor and Lester Maddox. The ambitious Islamic genocidal initiative in the Sudan has earned that country’s president a historical apprenticeship to Hitler, as well as an International Court of Justice indictment as a mass murderer.
It is inexcusable that there is any serious thought of building a mosque near the World Trade Center site. It has nothing to do with freedom of religion, tolerance, and so forth. It is a matter of decent respect for sensibilities. The authors of the unspeakable atrocity on that site, and other terrorist acts against civilians, espoused the faith the proposed mosque celebrates. Of course most Muslims are inoffensive. So are most Germans and Japanese and Russians; but there is no move to build cultural or recreational centers by those countries at Auschwitz, Pearl Harbor, or the Katyn Forest. This is an argument that only a degenerating society can have, and when Maureen Dowd is trying to enlist George W. Bush to this cause, we know that this is not necessarily a sick society — as the Left loved to claim in Johnson’s, and Nixon’s, and Reagan’s days — but that the New York Times is a sicker pigeon than we thought. As for my friendly acquaintance Mayor Bloomberg, he should have saved himself $80 million, devoted 10 percent of that to electing his talented and delightful companion Diana Taylor to the Senate over the cipher who festers there now, and hastened to his philanthropies. If this mosque is built in this location, everyone in the world will see it as a sign that the U.S. has become, in the words of Richard Nixon’s prescient warning, “a pitiful, helpless giant.”
– Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom and Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. He can be reached at [email protected].