Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our Enemies Are Not Monolithic

Dismissing President Obama's Nowruz message last week as a "video mash note to Iran," The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes notes Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei's "defiant and hostile" response, which is very bad:
[This] suggests that Khamenei, far from being put on the defensive, sees the U.S. in a position of weakness. And why shouldn't he after Obama's ingratiatory message.

Rachel Abrams, also of The Weekly Standard, notes that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal "expressed satisfaction" at the Nowruz message. Which is very bad:
As Meshaal sees it, it’s "only a matter of time" before U.S. officials are dealing directly with the terrorist organization he runs from his hiding-place in Damascus. And why not? If we can talk to the mullahs in Iran, surely we can talk to their "Palestinian" puppets.

You know, if -- if -- one were inclined toward intellectual honesty, one might have to admit that the "puppet" and the "puppeteer" responding to the exact same statement in two substantially different ways reveals something of a weakness in Islamofascist puppetry theory.

Related, Rob Farley has an excellent post on the hard, hard work done by the word "connections" in the conservative discourse on Islamic extremism and terrorism:
[N]oting that two groups are "connected" really doesn't lead to any specific policy recommendations. One response to discovering that the [Islamic Courts Union] has been working with al-Qaeda is to sponsor an invasion of Somalia; another response is to undertake a political effort to split al-Qaeda from the ICU. The ICU, after all, is a different organization than al-Qaeda, with different interests and priorities. Hezbollah and Hamas are not the same organization; they have different interests, and they each have goals distinct from those of their purported sponsor, Iran. Arguments to the effect that Hamas and Hezbollah will march lock-step to the dictates of Tehran, or that the ICU is a creature of al-Qaeda, are worse than useless; they ignore the fact that organizations share only some interests, and consequently will collaborate under only some circumstances.

Indeed, it's worth noting that the Bush administration's only genuine national security accomplishment -- successfully bringing violence in Iraq down from catastrophic to merely crisis levels -- occurred largely as a result of Gen. David Petraeus' decision (on his own, without fully informing his superiors in Washington, as Tom Ricks reports in The Gamble) to reject the neoconservative conceit of a united Islamofascist front and reach out to Al Qaeda's erstwhile allies in the Iraqi insurgency. It's a bit strange why conservatives seem unable to apply this lesson elsewhere.

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