"Now, look. I am not exactly an apologist for J Street. But put the merits of J Street aside. Rubin's charge is that the group is a front for "pro-Muslims." Why? Because it favors religious freedom for American Muslims. Rubin does not charge the group with advancing some objectionable principle -- Jihad, America-hatred, or whatnot. She accuses J Street of favoring an objectionable group, Muslims. In her mind, you are either for us or you are for them. The notion that certain principles -- say, religious freedom -- might be good for both us and for them is beyond the scope of her consideration. Indeed, the notion that Americans of all backgrounds deserve equal consideration is utterly foreign to her. In this sense, the current Commentary writers are fitting heirs to the legacy of Podhoretz's descent," - Jon Chait.
It has always seemed to me that this war against al Qaeda is a war for religious freedom, and ultimately for the separation of church and state. It is al Qaeda's psychotic conflation of politics and religion that we fight, not their religion itself. But these are very abstract things for anyone to fight for, to identify with emotionally and viscerally. And so, even when we start with good intentions and clear minds - we are fighting not Islam but Islamism, not religion but theocracy - we can soon simply drift and degenerate into more primitive associations.
What we've been watching from Palin to Gingrich is an exploitation of this human degeneracy, or in the ADL's case, sheer liberal cowardice in the face of tribalism. Even now, Gingrich and Palin fail to understand that rhetorical polarization may be good politics but it is terrible statesmanship in a war of ideas as well as physical combat. It's a long war that will only be won in the minds of most Muslims, which is why how we act remains of importance. Yes, the human psyche will make easy and common and hard-to-resist associations between a religion and an act of war by the most deranged and nihilist members of that religion.
But resisting it is what makes us decent. And to be, at a minimum, decent is, to my mind, the core aspiration of Anglo-American political morality.
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