As Afghanistan slides back into the Middle Ages, it's worth examining not just the strategic failures and poor leadership that produced this result, but the fundamentally unserious approach of the West to an ongoing conflict with a set of foes whose hostility is not so much rooted in economics or national rivalries as it is in religion.
The Taliban and their spiritual confederates elsewhere, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, ISIS and Al-Qaeda--not to mention state actors like Iran--pose a real threat to the liberal approach to 21st-century life. So it ought not to have been too much to ask that our government and those tasked with informing and educating Americans about these issues be honest about the fact that all of them are, in one way or another, waging a religious war on the West and all it stands for.
And given that these forces are also waging war on the rights of women and minority groups such as Christians --rights that liberal democracies are sworn to protect at home and to encourage abroad--one would think that honesty about recognizing that Islamism is incompatible with modernity and equality would also be a must.
Yet almost from the moment that the planes hit the World Trade Center nearly 20 years ago, U.S. leaders have been loath to acknowledge these facts.
The reason for that was obvious. The United States had no interest in fighting a religious war against all Muslims, a population that numbers nearly 2 billion. And, of course, not all Muslims, including those living in the West, supported the Islamists. What America wanted was to create an alliance of moderate Muslims and Western allies to crush the fundamentalists who posed a threat to everyone.
The desire to avoid what some called a "clash of civilizations" was understandable. But it was also almost immediately apparent in the early days of what the Bush administration ineptly termed a "war on terror" that a sensible fear of exacerbating an already wide-ranging struggle was breeding a tendency to obfuscate the cause of the conflict.
Though it remains an article of faith repeated endlessly in the mainstream media that 9/11 led to an anti-Muslim backlash, the fact remains that this is a myth. Nothing has ever provided better proof that Americans are, on the whole, fair-minded people than the fact there was no wave of violence or hate crimes against American Muslims.
Throughout the last two decades, as FBI hate-crime statistics have consistently shown, attacks on Muslims remained rare and represent a fraction of the total of anti-Semitic incidents that were recorded during this same period. Hate crimes against Jews continue to be the most prevalent form of religious prejudice with rates going up in recent years.
That fact notwithstanding, since 2001, Americans have been preoccupied with the idea that Islamophobia is our greatest worry with respect to conflicts in the Middle East. But while any instance of prejudice against Muslims is deplorable, that has produced a mindset that has seemed to argue that anyone who speaks the truth about radical Islam and those who enable it are Islamophobes.
Indeed, in one of the worst such instances, the Anti-Defamation League--the organization tasked with defending Jews against anti-Semitism--actually opposed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's nomination for the post. They claimed that he was an Islamophobe because he called upon American Muslims to condemn acts of terror committed by Islamists. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center also regularly smear those who are honest about the Islamist threat as bigots.
The left is preoccupied with criticisms of American conservatives with whom they have disagreements on many domestic political issues and whom they have falsely accused of waging a "war on women." And yet, liberal groups are curiously unenthusiastic about calling out those who are waging an actual war on women such as the government of Iran and other Islamists.
Just as some who deplore terrorism seem to exclude Palestinian terror against Israel from their concerns.
The result is that discourse about the subject has become hopelessly distorted, and the misogyny and anti-Semitism that is normative in most of the Muslim and Arab worlds is downplayed or ignored. That makes a mockery of any attempt to stir up advocacy for human rights in countries dominated by Islamists simply because to speak up exposes those who do so to false charges of prejudice.
The willingness of too many to give a pass to members of the left-wing congressional "Squad" because two of them are Muslims--Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)--for their anti-Semitism and relative silence about the fate of their co-religionists under the thumb of groups like the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and their Iranian allies do more to undermine human-rights advocacy than anything said by their critics.
The fall of Afghanistan and the abandonment of its people to the tender mercies of Islamists are a reminder that the struggle against those who are a real threat to the rights of women and minorities must involve a frank discussion about what it is that we oppose and why.
As long as we fail to note that the oppression that these groups promote is rooted in a popular version of their faith, we will fail to help those under their power and to prevent the further spread of this illiberal movement.
Originally published at JNS.org - reposted with permission.