The Corner


I loved your piece today. It’s a good corrective to some of the conservative excesses on the Newsweek story. But…I think you are being unrealistic in your expectations. You ask if this is what we get after pouring so many resources into Afghanistan and Pakistan–irrational murderous riots over what, at the end of the day, should be a minor infraction? The answer is “of course.” We are dealing with countries where a lot of the population is unsophisticated, tribal, and deeply, deeply religious. That is not going to change anytime soon. Basically, we have to live with it and work with it, hoping to promote change over the long term. My attitude is that certain provocations are necessary. The Iraq war, for instance. It stirred the hornet’s nest in the short term, but over the long term it should (could) help nudge the region further toward modernity. But unnecessary provocations should be avoided, even if it means accommodating irrational sensitivities and going out of our way to say obsequious things (as President Bush often does). So flushing a Koran down a toilet would be stupid and wrong. And falsely reporting that that is what we are doing is stupid and wrong. If your standard for success in the war on terror is seeing anytime soon a Muslim world where this sort of thing doesn’t happen, you might as well throw up your hands and give up now. We are involved in a project that is going to take decades…


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