The Corner

That’s Rich

I learned from my wife that Frank Rich quotes me in his column today. Here’s the quote in context:

William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”

The larger point of his column is that we supposed Islamophobes don’t apply our prejudice to the war in Afghanistan where we will have to work with the very people we say are irredeemably extremist. If Islam is the problem, how can we work with Muslims in Afghanistan? It’s a perfectly fine point, buried in Rich’s trademark smugness.

But here’s the full paragraph from which he yanked that quote of mine:

I am more sympathetic toward this reluctance to state the truth of the matter than are some of my colleagues on the Right. There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world. And yet, to work from that assumption might make the assumption all the more self-fulfilling. If we act as if “Islam is the problem,” as some say, we will guarantee that Islam will become the problem. But outright denial, like we are seeing today, surely is not the beginning of wisdom either.

I further explained myself in this post in the Corner making the point that we need to work with moderate Muslims if we are going to defeat extremist ones. But even if you just read the column, it’s clear that I wasn’t supporting Rich’s thesis.

He then goes on to write of brother Steyn:

About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

No offense to Mark, but winning plaudits from the Patton of the Panjshir for intellectual consistency is like winning praise from a Jenna Jameson for chastity.