Examining the current pessimism over whether U.S. efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan can ever succeed in winning over the hearts and minds of the peoples of those countries, Victor Davis Hanson writes:
"I don’t know whether such pessimism is true or not, but I am interested in the frequent analysis that it is somehow the fault of the United States or its allies, not the Islamists themselves.Hanson notes further, "It is difficult in history to find any civilization that asks as much of others as does the contemporary Middle East—and yet so little of itself." He then goes on to summarize in 10 propositions what he perceives as "the collective mentality of the current Arab Middle East—predicated almost entirely on the patriarchal sense of lost 'honor' and the rational calculation to murder appeasing liberals and appease murdering authoritarians. Read those 10 propositions here.
"Consider Kurdistan that is still thriving. Its population, devoutly Muslim, apparently understands the advantages of Western commerce and tolerance in a manner not true of the Iraqi Shiia and Sunni communities, or the Afghans. Yet the West has poured more aid money into the latter than the former. The difference seems to be that in Kurdistan when someone picks up a Westernized cell phone, drives an imported car, or turns on a computer, they seek to use such appurtenances to bring greater security and commerce to their own.
"In contrast, in tribal Afghanistan and the Sunni Triangle the Islamists are entirely parasitical on the West: they want our material products, but only to use them for destructive purposes. And if they employ televisions and videos to further the spread of Islam, they never pause for a second of self-critical analysis. It is not just that the world of the 7th century does produce what a Mullah Omar or Dr. Zawhri prefers to use, but that the Islamic Dark Ages ensure that such appurtenances could never be discovered or improved by fundamentalist cultures that adjudicate scientific research by Koranic purity, subjugate half the population, invest in scapegoating rather than in confident self-reliance, and predicate merit on blood ties and religious zeal."