Using Islamophobia as a Pretext for Withdrawing From Afghanistan

In a guest post at Thinking Strategically, Dr. Steven Metz, author and professor at the U.S. Army War College, writes about the impact of growing Islamophobia on U.S. foreign policy.

Today American strategy has hit the wall, crumbling in the face of growing public hostility toward Islam. . . . Policymakers have not come to grips with the dissonance between domestic hostility toward Islam . . . and a global strategy based on winning support and building partnerships in the Islamic world. . . . A new strategy must reflect the inherent antagonism.

What would that strategy look like?

There are only two solutions. One would be to try and re-cage the tiger by constraining domestic mistrust and hostility toward Islam at least enough to sustain the [old strategy of cooopoeration]. This would require Republican leaders. . . . to abandon a theme which energizes and excites their political base, and give up on the notion of reviving the emotions of September 11 as elections approach. This is unlikely. Equally importantly. . . . Countries like Pakistan would have to recognize that they cannot be shrilly anti-American while expecting massive U.S. assistance. Again, this is unlikely since anti-Americanism in Pakistan and across the Islamic world has become legitimate and institutionalized. . . .

The alternative is to accept the notion that irresolvable differences exist between the United States and the Islamic world. . . . Americans could stop ignoring blatant hypocrisy such as criticism of opposition to the Cordoba House at the same time that Islamic nations prevent the building of Christian churches, or vehement anti-Americanism combined with a demand for more American assistance.

In other words, face that too many of us don’t like each other. That would require the United States [emphasis added]

. . . to craft a new global strategy based on at least a major if not a total disengagement from the Islamic world, shifting to a close rather than forward defense against terrorism. [Most] nations in the Islamic world would be officially anti-American. . . . Some of these would allow an al Qaeda presence, whether openly or clandestinely. . . . The United States could launch long range spoiling attacks against known al Qaeda bases or sanctuaries. While these might not be as effective as having allied governments controlling extremists for the United States, they might suffice. [Other than that] the United States would “fight them here” because it could not “fight them there.”

This is, however, speculative. Still, a few things are clear. American domestic hostility toward Islam will grow. . . . It has become an integral part of the political battle between the left and right. But it is also clear that the American public cannot be anti-Islamic and expect Islamic nations to serve [as] allies in the fight against extremism.

In other words, unwillingness on the part of Christian-Judaeo Americans to distinguish between Islamist extremists and Muslims in general (vice-versa, as well) and the obstacle it presents toward cooperation between the West and the Middle East becomes an unlikely “gift” in the service of withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan.