Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Questions: Making Sense of the World

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

One of the advantages of living in relative isolation on a farm is the opportunity to ponder idle questions when there are few experts around to give the proper answers. I list in no particular order a sampling of them that arose last night while I was walking alone through the orchard — on the chance that a few other puzzled Americans have also at times been just as exasperated and confused.

Why does Mr. Mubarak lecture us to become intimately engaged in the Middle East Peace process, when Mr. Clinton, who was very recently intimately engaged, got the intifada for his efforts?

And why does Mr. Mubarak seek to advise us about our proper diplomatic role, rather than explain to us why an Egyptian masterminded the deaths of 3,000 of our citizens and others of his countrymen are top lieutenants of Mr. Bin Laden and are now killing Americans in Afghanistan?

And why, instead of warning about rising anti-Americanism in his country — itself the dividend of the virulent propaganda of his own state-run presses — does he not ponder another recent poll, one showing that 76 percent of Americans themselves have an unfavorable view of the Arab world?

Because, unlike Egypt, we are a democracy, at some point will some brave American congressman ask the dreaded question, “Why continue to give billions to Egypt where three quarters of the people do not like us — and when three quarters of the American people would prefer not to?”

Why do Middle Easterners become excited and haughty as they gloat to you that Americans are unpopular in their countries, but suddenly grow shocked, silent, and hurt when you politely and calmly explain why the feeling is becoming — and perhaps should be — mutual?

Why do so many from the Middle East come here to find freedom, security, and safety — and then criticize the country that they would never leave as they praise the country that they would never return to?

Is there a word for profiling or irrationally hating Americans? Americanophobia? Misamericany?

Why did we incur only anger from Eastern Europeans and Orthodox Christians for saving the Muslims of the former Yugoslavia from Milosevic, but no praise at all from the Islamic world itself?

If the West Bank is the linchpin of the current Middle East crisis, what were wars #1, #2, and #3 there about, when it was entirely in Arab hands?

Is there a difference between Palestinians preferring to kill Israeli civilians rather than soldiers, and Israelis preferring to kill Palestinian fighters rather than civilians?

Why are the EU and international agencies vocal about well-fed and humanely treated prisoners in Cuba, and yet said nothing when depraved comrades of these detainees recently executed an American soldier upon capture in Afghanistan, and murdered Danny Pearl?

Would the world be angry if a Jewish terrorist forced a captured Muslim to admit to his race and faith as he executed and beheaded him on film?

Is it really true, as we were warned for most of January, that prayer-mats, lamb stew, Korans, and humane treatment in Cuba ensured that al Qaeda in turn would not execute captured Americans?

Why do not Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, who overtly and stealthily war along side the Palestinians, simply all join with the former to gang up and declare war openly on Israel and then settle the issue on the battlefield?

If we remove the fascist regime in Iraq and help institute consensual government there, why would we need troops any longer next door in Saudi Arabia? What and from whom would we then be there to protect?

If we could not have normal relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, who both allowed neither freedom nor democracy, why and how can we maintain normal relations with the Islamic world?

If America forced Israel to give back every inch of the West Bank, if America withdrew all its troops from all Arab countries, if America increased its aid to Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan, if America sought to placate Saddam Hussein, remove all U.N. sanctions, and normalize relations with the Iraqi dictatorship, and if America sought to restore full relations with Iran without conditions, would the Muslim world really like the United States?

Has any American in any live broadcast on television ever asked a Saudi prince, the king of Jordan, the President of Egypt, or the royalty of Kuwait, whether they plan on allowing a free press or democratic government? If not, why not?

If 19 Americans incinerated 3,000 Muslims in Mecca or Medina, and blew up 20 acres in either of those cities with a two-kiloton explosion, would the Saudis or the Egyptians a few weeks later politely listen to admonitions from the American government about their incorrect Islamic policies in the Middle East?

If the Eiffel Tower had been wrecked by an al Qaeda hijacked airliner, would the French have gone into Afghanistan after the terrorists? And if so, how and why? And would they have asked our help? And would we have given it?

Why in the last decade have we seen a succession of Israeli prime ministers and opposition figures but only Mr. Arafat alone?

What would the world think if Mr. Sharon displayed a revolver and then attempted to strike one of his ministers at a Cabinet meeting?

Why do Palestinians shoot machine-guns up into the air at funerals and Israelis do not?

Why do supporters of Israel in America rarely castigate their country for giving money to Egypt, Jordan, and Mr. Arafat, while supporters of the Palestinian authority here always damn the United States for giving commensurate aid to Israel?

Why do Middle Easterners become far more enraged at Israelis for shooting hundreds of Muslims than at Iranians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Syrians, Indians, Algerians, Russians, Somalis, and Serbians for liquidating tens of thousands?

If nearly two-thirds of the Arabic world believe that Arabs were not involved in September 11, why should any American believe anything that two out of three people from that region say?

Will Palestinians cheer when Saddam Hussein launches chemical-laden missiles against Israel when we invade his country?

Why after half a century has the Saudi government suddenly now decided to enter the negotiations about Palestine?

If Iran launched missiles of mass destruction against Israel, would the EU do anything?

If North Korea attacked South Korea, would the EU do anything?

If someone blew up another 3,000 Americans, would the EU do anything?

Has anyone made an inventory of the all the goods, services, and equipment that France has sold to Iraq since 1991?

If Johnny Walker Lindh is not charged with betraying his country, what precisely does an American have to do to commit treason?

Has anyone heard a Muslim in the United States condemn September 11 without employing the word “but?”

Why do spokesmen for groups that have the words “ethical”, “humane”, “amnesty”, “fair” and other such words of kindness appear so unkind in public interviews?

Why are most of the talking heads on television who are ex-military men direct, honest, polite, and rarely self-absorbed, while the academic pundits usually stutter, lose their cool, and say inane things “one could imagine…” and “as it were”?

How can training someone for four years to lead men into battle make one a more effective speaker and thinker than someone prepped for five years in graduate school to teach in the university and write?

Why do six billion people in the world conclude that the US military is the most deadly and effective armed force in the history of civilization when the American media who covers it does not?

How much annual income and time off does one have to garner to oppose automatically almost everything the United States has done since September 11?

I know that there are properly nuanced answers to these questions that touch on issues of pragmatism, national security, statecraft, requisite education, and other such abstract considerations. But millions of us Americans, I think, wonder about them nevertheless — and just maybe we are not so crazy after all.

©2002 Victor Davis Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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