I've avoided writing about whether Nidal Hassan's massacre reflects a broader problem with Muslims in the military. At the extremes, this debate is cartoonish: Muslims are either a fifth column, or it is not at all appropriate to even ask whether the balance between cultural sensitivity and counterintelligence needs to be changed. That argument is all the rage these days, and I confess that I have no independent or original thoughts on the matter, other than to bleat in exasperation when people blame the actions of an individual on a group of people (American Moslems) who don't exhibit said behavior 99.9% of the time.
My colleague, Jeffrey Goldberg, has been blunt from the beginning, and nuanced. It is one thing not to blame Moslems for the sins of Hassan; it is quite another to ignore the role that Jihadist theology seems to have played in the twisted mental theater of Hassan's mind. Goldberg posits as a problem that there aren't enough Muslims in the U.S. military. He also acknowledges that the potential for extremist beliefs, when held by members of the military, to cause harm (rather than simply hurt) is high. So his solution: recruit more Muslims AND screen them more tightly for extremist beliefs. Be sensitive and honest about it; certain ideologies are a problem and even when privately held, are not compatible with military service. This discussion does not at all suggest that the case ought to be closed -- that the easiest way to understand what happened is to blame it on Islam -- and that the genesis of this act of terror can be sufficiently proven. And let's be honest: this is discrimination. Goldberg would argue, however, that discrimination in this case is rational.
Do you agree? Disagree?
Marc Ambinder is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.