Steinberg Gets It, Except When He Doesn’t

So Neil Steinberg, of the Chicago Sun-Times, is probably going to vote for John Kerry, but he sometimes indicates that he understands foreign policy:

So much emphasis has been put on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to overhaul U.S. intelligence that not much attention has been given its notions about winning the “struggle of ideas” between the West and Islamic radicalism.

We need to reach out to the Arab world, its argument goes, and make them understand what really good guys we are at heart.

This is a spin on the old “What did we do wrong?/Maybe if we were nicer to them” view that surfaced immediately after Sept. 11, and is complete nonsense. Islamic radicals hate America because: a) we aren’t Muslim; b) we support the country in their midst that isn’t Muslim, Israel; c) we are purveyors of a non-Muslim, flashy, sexualized culture where women aren’t dressed head to toe in black; and d) their governments encourage it.

They hate us because of who we are, and nothing short of an embrace of Wahhabism would make them happy (and even then it might be the wrong kind. Iran and Iraq, remember, lost a million soldiers fighting each other).

Digging wells and sending fruitcakes labeled “GIFT OF USA” is not going to do it. The United States gives more foreign aid to Egypt than any other country except Israel. And a recent poll found that 98 percent of Egyptians disapprove of the United States. The other 2 percent, presumably, haven’t heard of us.

No goodwill gesture, no slick Voice of America broadcast is going to change that. Rather than worry about radical Islam understanding our ideas, we need to master their central concept, which is this: Kill your enemies. Radical Islam understands killing and being killed. That’s why, at the end of the day, taking out Saddam Hussein was a good thing, even with no weapons of mass destruction found, even if the place is in turmoil for a decade. It was worth it as a cautionary tale to future enemies, and on the odd chance the United States makes it past the November election without suffering a big Madrid-style terrorist attack, it won’t be because we’ve charmed those who might feel inclined to do it. It’ll be because we’ve either eliminated them or because we’ve so scared their state sponsors that they’ve stopped supporting them.

Sometimes I wonder if two halves of Neil Steinberg war on each other, making him crazy, or if he’s got an attractive college intern who really writes his stuff and occasionally slips these bits into the columns when The Name is too hung over to notice.

Or it could be that he’s got a depth and breadth of convictions too simple to describe in a single snarky paragraph. But hey, snark is what the chicks dig, and one never chortles when one writes a well-reasoned argument, but snark? Oh, yeah, chortlechortlechortle.