Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The law of unintended consequences

Victor Davis Hanson has an interesting post on what he calls the "biteback" effect, which he defines as follows: "Every time one hears a strident censor bring up a purported American sin, expect that he'll be bitten right back by proving the opposite of what he intended — and looking foolish in the bargain." What I found particularly interesting was the very beginning of his article:

Sometimes even the English language is without the right word to describe a commonplace occurrence. We don't, for example, have a term quite like the German schadenfreude: "Taking malicious delight in someone else's misfortune." The Arab world has no real word to denote constitutional democracy, and so uses our Anglicized form of the Greek dêmokratia. Take the recent boomerang effect of those critics who critique the war, but in the process achieve the exact antithesis of what they intend. After the spring 2004 butchery of American contractors, we went into, and then withdrew from, Fallujah — apprehensive that global media scrutiny would portray us as storm troopers. In fact, the enemy considered us too equivocating and claimed the retreat as a great victory. So until we retook the city in November, we fretted that the Fallujah encirclement was an example of our blunt-headedness, while our enemy equated it with softness. Indeed, throughout this conflict the United States has been apprehensive that it was becoming too brutal in its effort even as the Islamic fascists were convinced that we were too weak to fight such a war.
I don't know whether I've made this comment before (I probably have) but I'll say it now. The Islamists are binary: You're either up or you're down. You're either strong or you're weak. The concept of equality does not exist in the traditional Arab culture. During WWI, the English used to say of the Germans "The Hun is either at your throat or at your feet." The same could even more easily be said about the Islamists, and this is something that, despite 26 years of experience, starting with Carter's groveling apology to the Ayatollah in 1979, we just don't seem to get: With Islamists, any show of restraint and humanity is perceived as a sign of weakness. I'm not saying that we should give up our humanity and sink into Hobbesian brutality as the only way in which to win this war. I am saying, however, that we have to fight this war to win, and we must stop worrying about whether our legitimate battle tactics will hurt the enemy's feelings. It's not about feelings -- it's about victory, something they understand and many of us don't.