The Real Culture War

Bret Stephens takes us through a parallel history in which 13 innocents were not butchered by the jihadist Major Nadal Hasan:

Suppose that on Nov. 4, 2009 — the day before he would open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30 — Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been arrested by military police and charged with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Where would his case stand today?

As others have remarked, Stephens expresses chagrin over the Army’s internal review of the Fort Hood incident, which appeared to dance around the real issue, namely how to identify and root out Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill their fellow servicemen. Stephens identifies part of the problem: “Melting-pot institutions like the U.S. military prefer not to dwell too much on the particulars of a soldier’s culture: Much of their purpose is to substitute personal belief with common standards of behavior. What a soldier might think about the afterlife is his own affair.”

But clearly there is fear of the political correctness and diversity lobbies. They, of course, raise a fuss and bring lawsuits whenever institutions try to focus on the people whom we should in fact be focusing on. And that is a problem that extends well beyond the Army. When the Army chief of staff declared that it would be a “greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty,” he was mouthing the same line as was dutifully repeated by the entire administration and much of the media. When the president declines to identify precisely who the “extremists” are and insists that we must prove our democratic bona fides to the “Muslim World” in order to assuage its grievances, it is safe to conclude that this is more than merely an Army problem. As Stephens puts it, “it is a failure, by people far more senior, to heed a more fundamental military command. It’s called Know Thine Enemy.”

The message to the Army as well as to Homeland Security and every other arm of the government is tragically the same: don’t be too candid about the “Islamic” part of the “extremist” threat. So long as this persists, it seems inevitable that more Major Hasans will go undetected. We need to change the balance of incentives and disincentives for reporting behavior that to rational people seems rooted in jihadist ideology. Such a shift can only come from the president and his national-security team. But right now they’re busy with other things. They have a new envoy to the Muslim World, you know. It seems as though the Obami are very much into ingratiating ourselves, explaining ourselves, and making sure no one could possibly take offense at what we say and do. So far that approach doesn’t seem to be working, although failure has yet to deter the Obami from their preconceived notions about the dangers we face.