Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Where is the whirlwind?

This week is the seventh anniversary of Daniel Pearl's murder. (via Instapundit)

Do you remember when it happened? I should say, "when he was slowly beheaded on video," just in case the name rings a bell but the details escape you? I do. I felt suddenly numb; I said to my husband, "They've sown the wind now." As Mr. Pearl's father says in the Wall Street Journal editorial I'm linking,

Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny's murder would be a turning point in the history of man's inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

And yet even in the immediate aftermath, the signs were all there that there would be no lasting outrage, no repudiation of the fundamental error of placing Pearl's killers and, oh, let's just say Israel, or possibly Bush's America, on the same moral footing. The moral-equivalency trap. No sense that being poor and downtrodden was not an excuse for being terrorists. No acknowledgement that being Palestinian, for instance, doesn't afford tacit permission for a person to strap on a vest full of C4 and walk into a bus station. No whirlwind.

Instead, we got a little horror - how not? - followed by a lot of explanation and excuse: what other choice did Pearl's killers have, after all? They needed their message to be heard, and no one was listening, so in a sense Pearl is a martyr not for civilized humanity but to the inexplicable vagaries and far-too-explicable injustices of the global information marketplace. He died so that they could be heard. Terribly sad, but in this unbalanced world...

No. He died because we silly Westerners believe that really, down deep, everybody's basically nice; some people are "driven" to "acts" of evil, but to call the people evil is un-nuanced, simplistic, plebeian. My parents took this tack when I was a kid; even right before the spanking, the line was, "I love you but I dislike your behavior right now."

That hair-splitting was absolutely true when my parents used it. And parenting is perhaps a good place for it. In geopolitics - do we really have to mind the tender sensibilities of those bent on our destruction, either retail (like Pearl, one at a time) or wholesale (via violent jihad, as its proponents understand it)? Is it not appropriate, and a whole lot less patronizing, to assume that our enemies are grownups, capable of hearing and understanding our outrage, and then to evaluate their response at face value - that is, as if they are capable of saying what they mean and doing what they say? Is diplomacy always a game of metaphor and hyperbole?

We all know it isn't. But they, whoever they are in whatever era, know that we prefer to think that "We will bury you!" doesn't mean, "We want and intend to destroy you!" but rather, "We have chosen a different path and think yours is lame!" And they, whoever they are, have learned that they can use this sweet propensity of ours against us, by using the metaphor and the hyperbole to soften us up so that we won't react, or won't react in time, when they actually do what they say they're going to.

In other words, global diplomacy is a lot more complicated than the Left seems to think, because sometimes - not every time, but sometimes - there really is an enemy, there really is no common cause to which to appeal - or at least not without a cost too high to pay, there really is the will to do evil. And no amount of negotiation, no matter how "high-level," can change these facts. Daniel Pearl didn't "pay with his life" to bring this lesson home; his life was not what he was offering, so we could say he "paid" only in the sense that the victim of a robbery "pays" the robber. Daniel Pearl died, innocent and out of his time, and from his death we should have learned about enemies and evil. Did we?

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