I have been trying to stay current on my reading regarding what's going on with this, and the very important Hugh Hewitt had an interesting interview which I just caught as a transcript at RadioBlogger.com. You can read it for yourself here. In retrospect, you have to hope that Hewitt's political commentary is better than his sports prognostication.
Unlike a lot of people, Hewitt is not much about defending the cartoonists or their editors. Here he's talking to Frank Gaffney, and they say this:
HH: Frank, let's turn to the Danish cartoons at this point. I have opined that while I denounce the terrorists who are threatening them, and the violence and the overreaction, and the terrible hostage-taking in the European Union, that it is nevertheless not in the interest of the United States who have military in Muslim countries to go about inflaming the sensibilities of Muslims who are otherwise on the fence or are our friends, by attacking the prophet. And I point to you and Dan Pipes, for example, as people who are always careful to delineate who our enemy is, and that it's not the overall Muslim people. Your reaction to these cartoons?Now, before I get to the parts I highlighted above, it is also interesting to read part 2 of the Gaffney interview in order to understand why Hewitt and Gaffney think what they think. Here's the meat and potatoes:
FG: Look, I believe very strongly in freedom of speech, and I think that's what this represents. As we've said before about others, in other contexts, words, or in this case, drawings can have consequences, and it is important to understand those consequences as one's exercising one's free speech. The problem that I think our European friends are beginning to wake up to is that they are, in this kind of action, playing into the hands of the Islamo-facists among them, who are trying very hard to dominate that non-Islamist Muslim population, and I think are using this sort of evidence of insensitivity, albeit within the bounds of free expression, as a means of trying to do just that, and thereby radicalize both the Muslim population in Europe, and that elsewhere around the world.
HH: That's what I expected a strategist to think. It was a gift to the Islamo-facists to do this. It's always a gift to provide propaganda to the other side. And even if it is freely expression protected. You know, I just think we're not serious about the war, Frank, when we don't take into account and view the war, every action, through the prism of that. I know you do, and I just wish others would, which brings us to Egypt.
FG: I have no idea whether they instigated this, but as I was saying before we broke off, that there's little doubt the Islamo-facists are exploiting the dickens out of it. Could it be that someone has penetrated a Western journal and used innocent editors and you know, the vehicle that they provide to advance a political purpose? I don't know, but we certainly are sure that throughout history, it's been done by people in the past. I think you were talking before I came on about the Soviet Union. They made it an art form.Think about this for a second: there is no doubt that the USSR was completely geared, politically, to disinforming as many people as possible. But the key matter of disinformation – as the quote Gaffney uses here points out – is to discredit truth and make falsehood and misdirection seem more credible.
HH: That's what I...
FG: In fact, they had an entire chief directorate, or a deparment of a chief directorate. They called it Department A of the 1st Chief Directorate that was dedicated to precisely the practice of disinformation, and the manipulation of foreign press. In fact, I've got a wonderful quote by a General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who I think ran the directorate, if I'm not mistaken. "We must constantly encourage Western journalists to write precisely the opposite of our real intentions. And anyone who writes or speaks about our real intentions, accurately or impartially in the Western sense of these words must quickly be dismissed and ridiculed as someone of the right, or a facist, someone who wants to bring back McCarthyism."**
**(This quote is found in a 1984 book by Brian Freemantle called KGB: Inside The World's Largest Intelligence Networks. -- RB)
There is no doubt that some Islamofascists have used these cartoons to make a statement which endorses their political view that the West must be destroyed – and that perhaps they have parleyed this into an issue which is swaying some (and for the sake of this discussion, we might even say "many") on-the-fence Muslims to think less of the West.
But the argument that Hewitt is making here – that making stark political commentary against Islamic terrorism is itself not useful in combating Islamic terrorism because it makes some Muslims angry – is somewhat absurd. The logic is that by combating ideology with ideology, one is creating resentment in the "center" of the debate which does not benefit "our side" of the debate.
My thinking is this: if Islamic terrorism is employing violent means when violent means are not warranted and that they are the aggressors when in fact they are actually the aggressors, and pointing that out makes those Muslims who are "on the fence" angry, the problem is not that we are driving away people who might be reasonably convinced that terrorism is a bad way to conduct international affairs. These people are not actually "undecided" but, like a lot of Christians, they are just "non-practicing". By that I mean to say that they don't object to the practices in question or the objectives up for grabs: they just had other plans today and they aren't going to change them.
Look: when Hewitt and Gaffney get to the part about Egypt, they make a pretty amazing confession – Egypt is our "friend" only to the extent that they are not overtly and actively our enemy. And Egypt is an example of the kind of Muslims they are afraid that the cartoons are driving over to the wrong side of the argument.
So the first question, really, is how did this damage the war effort if the people who are now coming "off the fence" for the other side are simply the second-stringers? I think it didn't damage the war effort except to demonstrate that the war is a lot broader and deeper than it looks on the surface. The real irony, btw, is that I think Gaffney and Hewitt would agree with me on that.
But after we get past that haggling, we have the problem that Hugh Hewitt calls Mohammed "the prophet". Yes, you were wondering what this all has to do with a so-called Christian apologetics blog and being the missionary to the curious, but here it is. Listen: when we start calling Mohammed "the prophet" in the same way we might, in casual conversation, call Jesus "Christ", we have lost the war of civilizations already.
Foundational to the conflict between Islamic society and Christian society is the fact that Christ and Mohammed make exclusive claims of each other: Mohammed says that Christ was just a prophet and his (Jesus') followers corrupted his message and have ruined his scriptures, and he never died and rose from the dead; Jesus says that He is the (only) way, the (only) truth, and the (only) life, and that anyone who comes to the Father must come by Him. If Christ is right, Mohammed is a false prophet – so the debate as to whether there is some negotiable middle ground in which the Christian must accept demands, for example, not to criticize Islam (especially, btw, radical Islam which the defenders of Islam say is a minority view and not representative of this "religion of peace") is based on the false premise that Islam has a true prophet and a valid and holy relationship with God based on divine revelation.
When someone like Hewitt gives up the ship and calls Mohammed "the prophet" as if that title is valid or truthful, it is far worse that sketching a picture of this person with a burning fuse sticking out of his turban.
Thus Gaffney's come back with the assertion that it is critical to use one's free speech responsibly points directly at Hewitt. Perhaps Hewitt ought to be the one to think about his own method of speaking. It happens to be true that Islam actively promotes violence to intimidate and repress dissenting views; it happens to be false that Mohammed is a prophet of God if Hewitt is actually an orthodox Christian and upholds the tenets of the Gospel. When Hugh makes the decision that some honest relationship with the truth is actually foundational to the reason why it is important to win this war, then he can come out and talk about the use of words and how we can leverage them to defeat this enemy.
Now that I've said all that, I'm going home to sandbag my living room and implement metal detectors in my bookstore. Nice to meet you.