Moderate Muslims aren’t an urban legend imagined by politically correct liberals. They already make up the absolute majority in some parts of the world. They are our friends as well as our allies.

Robert Pape thinks we should withdraw from the region completely and “secure our interests in oil,” as he put it, from a distance. If we take his advice we won’t end the threat from our enemies. We’ll give them military victories for free. And we’ll throw our liberal Muslim friends to the Islamist wolf. It’s the most disgraceful and despicable thing we could possibly do, not to mention one of the dumbest. Empowered liberal-democratic Muslims with guns will defeat the Islamists in the end. We can’t do it without them, and they can’t do it if they’re languishing in mass graves and dungeons. ~Michael J. Totten,

Hat tip to Michael Dougherty.

Michael sent me the link to this fellow’s article for entertainment purposes, and it was funny for a little bit. Then I started to wonder: can there really be ordinary people this far out there? Yes, of course, I know there can be–who else could have voted for Bush, if not people just like this? But the Krauthammers, Blankleys and Frums of the world at least have some incentive to push this delusional party line. How do average Americans become so passionately committed to such nonsense? Frankly, I am at a loss. The weird position of “Islam is basically fine, Muslims are our friends, but we must crush their nations under our boot (for freedom)” never ceases to baffle me. Give me a straightforwardly zealous Christian or a simply cynical British colonial officer, but spare me the idiocy of insisting on fighting Islamism everywhere and always to the death while imagining that intimate Western involvement in the Islamic world and the Islamic world themselves have nothing to do with the problem.

Simply as a matter of accuracy, Mr. Totten has his facts on the second Spanish bombing attempt wrong. He wrote: “Spanish police found a bomb on the high-speed railway connecting Madrid and Seville that was almost identical to those used to kill hundreds in Madrid’s train stations last year. This bomb was planted on the tracks after Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq.” As any simple Google search could have told him, the order for Spanish troops to withdraw from Iraq came on April 18, over two weeks after the second bomb was discovered. Since that withdrawal, how many Islamist bombings or attempted bombings have there been in Spain? None. Exactly.

Similar corrections or explanations are in order for the man’s claims about other attacks. The Hizbullah attacks in Argentina, as any informed person knows, specifically targeted the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center (as his own link will show!) at a time when Israel still occupied southern Lebanon. Since the withdrawal from Lebanon, so far as I know there have been no Hizbullah terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. If Mr. Totten is looking for explanations as to why Islamic terrorists would set off bombs in Argentina, this is it: occupation. Obviously not occupation by Argentina, just as al-Qaeda was not protesting Tanzanian and Kenyan occupation when they destroyed our embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi–it the policy of those being targeted that was protested, not the host country, which was obviously incidental.

The Thailand situation goes a long way to supporting, if not exactly vindicating, Prof. Pape’s view, since the Thai government under Thaksin has not only been repressive in southern Thailand but violently and brutally so, and from the perspective of an Islamist in Thailand the Thai government is occupying his territory. The specific examples Mr. Totten has given to ‘prove’ that occupation has literally nothing to do with Islamist terrorism either show him to be mistaken or at the very least do not support his contention.

Of course, Islamists will not “go away” if our soldiers leave the Near East and central Asia. They will continue to struggle for supremacy in the Islamic world, much as they have done for decades. Just as this was not our problem for all those decades, it does not have to be our problem now. All indications are that we can only strengthen their hand and empower them by remaining in these regions with large numbers of soldiers.

In the modern world, occupation will provoke violent resistance, often in the form of terrorism, and occupation of Islamic countries or territories they regard as being theirs will continue to provoke Islamists to terrorism. We can either acknowledge that as a reality or continue to blunder ahead muttering mantras about freedom and supposedly placing our hopes for our national security in the hands of “moderate” Muslims who no more want us in their countries than the “radicals.” The idea that our security is contingent on the Islamic world putting itself in order is an abdication of responsibility on the part of our government, and any policy conducted with this idea in mind will fail badly.