- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2005

Will the American identity — the save-the-world American, the quiet American, the ugly American, the generous American, the can-do American — disappear during the long war on Islamist terror? In the following three quotations of the week — random, but not unconnected — you can see it slipping away, the victim of a debilitating cultural amnesia. This may be pretty tough stuff for the middle of the summer, but that’s the way 2005 goes.

The first quotation is a headline: “Poll Shows Americans, For First Time, Divided on Use of A-Bombs in 1945.” According to this Associated Press poll, commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a “historical switch” has taken place. The strong majorities that always supported the use of “the bomb” to end World War II in the Pacific have, for the first time, dwindled to an almost even split, with 48 percent of Americans “strongly” or “somewhat” approving, and 47 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disapproving.

Whether this shift is inspired by plain ignorance, or a civilizational death wish, it hardly reflects a robust culture bent on military triumph, let alone survival. In their disapproval of the Truman decision that spared a million American casualties (the projected cost of an invasion of mainland Japan), 47 percent of Americans reveal a lack of will, even in historical terms, not only to prize American lives, but also to support the hard decisions to save them. If not defeatism exactly, such national torpor, stemming from an unrequited empathy with the enemy, tends to make any victory ambiguous. Remember Iraq, where, on liberation, the American flag draping Saddam’s toppled statue had to be whisked away in deference to similar, politically correct tendencies. And that was just the beginning.

We muddle through, but the terrible tendencies remain — as revealed in a stunning installment from Iraq of the blog In the Red Zone by journalist Steven Vincent. Mr. Vincent reports from Basra, where he says crooks and corruption are the problem, not terrorism. There, a Gary-Cooper-esque U.S. Air Force captain is in charge of awarding contracting jobs of up to one million dollars. Mr. Vincent’s Iraqi friend Layla has her doubts about the bidders: How do you know, she asks the captain, that you are not funneling money to extremists or religious parties that have put a woman’s name on their letterhead to win a bid? And here goes quotation two: “I certainly hope none of these contracts are going to the wrong people,” he replied, continuing: “But should we really get involved in choosing one political group over another? … I mean, I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t project American values onto other cultures — that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?”

Et tu, Captain America? It’s one thing to get this mindless mantra from a Montgomery County public school teacher with rings on his toes and multiculturalism on his agenda. Maybe projecting American values onto certain cultures is a stupid idea, but clearly that’s their loss. Meanwhile, there we are, doling out the dollars. Just listen to Layla: “These religious parties are wrong! Look at them, their corruption … the way they treat women! How can you say you cannot judge them? Why shouldn’t you apply your own cultural values?”

Why, indeed. Do “American values” still exist? Or have they been re-educated out of existence? Maybe their absence is what explains the insipid mania for Democracy, The Process, across the Middle East, regardless of whether terrorists run for office, or sharia is the law of the land. Such nonjudgmentalism is everywhere, even informing Security, The Process, at home.

Or, rather, especially informing Security, the Process at home. Consider quotation three from a New York Times editorial on commuter-safety measures, which, post-September 11, -March 11, -July 7, and July 21, are a brave new way of life. The topic is pretending to search for bombs, which is what we do in post-identity America. “The police officers must be careful not to give the impression that every rider who looks Arab or South Asian is automatically a subject of suspicion … Those who are selected simply because they are carrying packages should be chosen in a way that does not raise fears of racial profiling by, for example, searching every 5th or 12th person, with the exact sequence chosen at random.”

Anything to avoid “fears of racial profiling,” even death by murder-bomber. As the captain said, who’s to say? In the Exact-Sequence-Chosen-at-Random We Trust. If we deny their identity long enough, our own will cease to matter.

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