Jonah, I appreciate that, big guy, and admiration is very much a two-way street.
On the GZ mosque, Jonah and I are substantially in agreement. I don’t mean to weasel, so let me elaborate. I say “substantially” because my sense is that I think the Ground Zero mosque is a bigger deal than Jonah does. To be clear, I am not saying he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, just that I am somewhat more alarmed about it. But, as I interpret what Jonah has written, we both agree with the NRO editorial on the subject. And I could not agree more that we have not been conquered, we haven’t surrendered to Islam, and we are not the United States of Arabia.
Still, while I think Jeffrey Kuhner’s op-ed is overheated in spots, I am not as put off by it as Jonah seems to be. There are two things he says that go too far: (a) that America has been “conquered” (such that the GZ mosque would stand “as a testament to the Islamist conquest of America”), and (b) that America has “surrendered.” Two things are lacking in Kuhner’s perspective.
First, there is a big difference between a desecration and a conquest. The GZ mosque would be an atrocious monument to permit in that particular spot. But let’s get a grip: the U.S. was not “conquered” by the 9/11 attacks. However unsavory it would be, placing a giant Islamic center next to the site of the worst of the 9/11 strikes would be orders of magnitude less horrific than the slaughter of 2700 people and the accompanying devastation of lower Manhattan. We should not let it happen, but it would not be a “conquest” even if Islamists would announce it as one (just as they insist it was they who “conquered” the Soviet Union). The GZ mosque could be an important marker in their ultimate victory — for they win if they change us from who we are – but that remains to be seen.
Which gets me to Kuhner’s second hyperbole: surrender. What the GZ mosque episode powerfully demonstrates is the growing divide between the American people and the progressive ruling class. The latter, I believe, are gradually surrendering. Hard leftists (who have a lot of sway with the current ruling class) do not like the country anyway, so they aren’t so much surrendering as exploiting their opportunities. Much of the rest of the ruling class thinks appeasement of Islamists is the way to go — just as the ruling class’s instinct is to appease all our enemies. They don’t think of themselves as “surrendering”; they think they are moving us toward a better, smarter policy that will reduce the threat by making our enemies like us better. And even that is sort of “surrendering,” they figure it’s only surrendering in what they can’t help thinking of as George Bush’s war, which they were always ambivalent about anyway. They tell themselves — and us — that if there were a real threat to the United States, no one would be more fierce in our defense than they would, blah, blah, blah.
Most of the American people are in a much different place. They see Islamists advancing, they are beginning to grasp that Islamists (not just terrorists but the whole Islamist movement) mean to change us in very fundamental ways, and therefore they understand that every such advance is a defeat for freedom. Every advance emboldens a determined enemy to press ahead. Over time, we could be conquered in that our way of life would be drastically altered.
Americans also realize that when our country looks like it doesn’t have the stomach to face down bad people and noxious ideologies, we are significantly less safe. Though weary, the people of the country want to see resolve. They think they understand their principles a lot better than the ruling class does, and they are tired of lectures from the Obamas and Bloombergs who, in the name of abstractions that they presume to call “our values,” would have us sell out our principles and our security. The people haven’t surrendered, and they appreciate that when American credibility is on the line, it’s important to win.
Most of all, Americans are tired of the shroud of political correctness the ruling class has placed around Islam. We don’t object to anyone’s freedom of conscience, and we abide countless places for Muslims to gather and worship even though we know a very high percentage of the Islamic centers and mosques are heavily influenced by Islamists. But we’re tired of being told things that aren’t true: e.g., that Islam is peaceful, tolerant and non-threatening; that sharia — which is relentlessly authoritarian, discriminatory, and, in parts, savage — is something we need to accommodate; and that there is no connection between Islamic doctrine (which is supremacist and belligerent), Islamist terror, and the broader Islamist threat to our civilization. We’re tired of being told that people who can’t bring themselves to condemn Hamas are “moderates” deserving of being taken seriously and having their endless grievances against America addressed. And we’re tired of being told that we shouldn’t examine or object to an authoritarian ideology just because it travels under the label of “religion.”
This is why I think the Ground Zero controversy is so significant. It sorts out those who get it from those who don’t, and forces us to ask: Why are we letting those who don’t get it run the show?