Bush should do what he is not doing

Last Chance For a Legacy


President Bush will return empty-handed from his first voyage to some dicey Arab countries — including Saudi Arabia, the world’s prime purveyor of Islamofascism. The Saudis will be able to buy more advanced weapons, and they will get a free pass to export Islamist terror as well as oil.

America should lead a sweeping transformation of the West’s hesitant prosecution of the war on Islamofascist terror. With teeming armies of boorish fanatics on call, an assembly line of suicide bombers, bearded commissars at their pulpits, and feudal lords reeking of oil money, Islamofascists are the 21st-century enemy that communism was in the last century. Mr. Bush has one year left to do some lasting good and leave a legacy. He needs to issue the following directives:

• All American instruments of policy — including the National Security Council, the State Department, the Pentagon, and frontline embassies — should enunciate a clear demarcation line between Islam, a religion among others, and those who promote an extremist version of the faith in thousands of madrassas and mosques across Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Islamist countries, from the Saudi feudal regime of Riyadh and its satellites all the way to Pakistan, should not to benefit from American military and political alliances.

• Reform cannot remain a distant slogan proffered for convenience in places such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Real reform must be measured and tied to policy and military aid. America should demand an overhaul of educational systems and theological institutions, demanding the elimination discrimination against women and people of other faiths, and doing away with the rote learning and harrowing anti-Americanism dispensed by the state-owned Arab press.

• The Pentagon’s top policy circles need to be reconfigured. Those who advocate abject submission to Islamic fundamentalism need to leave. In the latest dumbfounding episode, the office of the deputy secretary of defense, Gordon England, fired Major Stephen Coughlin, a lawyer and reserve military intelligence officer who has been the Pentagon’s vigilant specialist on Islamic law and jihadist ideologies. His failing was being “insensitive.” As the Washington Times reported, the major ran afoul of an increasing number of Muslim Arab advisers in the Pentagon’s circles, particularly Mr. England’s special assistant for international affairs, the Egyptian-born Hesham Islam. Amazingly, the secretary of defense appears to concur. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

• An urgent reform, indeed purge, is needed at Al Hurra, the American government-sponsored Arabic-language television network, and Radio Sawa, its radio counterpart. Out with Islamist sensitivity gurus. In with serious anti-Islamofascists who are not confused about who the enemy is. I have listened and watched these two instruments of American foreign diplomacy for years, in shock at the their shallowness and desire to be more Muslim than Muslims themselves. America’s war on terror is premised on the rejection of religious tyranny and the separation of mosque and state. These principles must be translated into Arabic programming in America’s official voices.

• Reform should also occur in international forums. There is no reason to allow Saudi, Libyan, or Sudanese teams of athletes into the Olympic games as long as those countries ignore women’s rights, persecute minorities, and perpetrate massacres and mayhem in the name of religion. Civilization has a set of minimum requirements. Those who do not meet the standards cannot remain in the club. Thus we should kick Saudi Arabia out, as the writer Mona Eltahawy recently argued in a compelling commentary in the International Herald Tribune about the infamous story of the Saudi girl from Qatif who was condemned to 200 lashes by a religious court after being raped. We applied similar standards to the apartheid regime of South Africa for years. No decency, no go. The idea of allowing Muammar Gadhafi’s Libya, a regime founded on murder, abduction, and terror, to head human-rights committees in U.N. circles is absurd.

“Change” has become the keyword in the American presidential race. America has the right to dream again about world leadership — not in Iraq, not in the mired mess of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and not in mediating endless struggles among barbarians, but in setting standards for modernity, freedom of expression, and beliefs.

Only when it becomes policy will the war on Islamofascism become Mr. Bush’s legacy, too.


January 14, 2008 | Comments »

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