Ideas and U.S. diplomacy

Mr. Weigel explains to his readers (CR/June 26) that “improving U.S. diplomacy in the world of competing ideas of a just society must be the priority of the next Administration.”

He is disdainful of the work of the National Counterterrorism Center urging counterterrorism agencies to avoid using language that does not properly describe terrorists. Such words as jihad and mujahedeen do not have negative connotations in Muslim societies. Mujahedeen describes a holy warrior, for example, and can be a good person if engaged in a just war. It is surprising that thoughtful persons wouldn’t see such an admonition as a good thing, bur apparently Mr. Weigel doesn’t or he thinks that it is much ado about nothing. He describes such activity as “pandering in the face of wickedness.”

While invoking the pope’s plea for civility in the search for truth, Mr. Weigel, nevertheless makes his central point through an unnamed Muslim interlocutor who states: “The point should not be to try to get Muslims to like the U.S. by using some kind of ameliorative vocabulary, but to convey to the Muslim masses that the U.S. knows who the enemy is, will punish them and will support moderate Muslims who also hate the enemy.” How often have we heard those sentiments from our president and members of Congress in this century.

I would change Mr. Weigel’s admonition about diplomacy; shortening it to read: “improving U.S. diplomacy must be the priority of the next administration” since our diplomacy in the Middle East has been reduced to our way or the highway. Given the widespread negative attitudes toward the U.S. in the region*, including the sense that we are seeking to divide the Muslim community, we have a huge task ahead of us to restore our credibility. Our credibility, hence our ability to make progress toward peace and stability is diminished by those with the mind set of Mr. Weigel and his “Muslim interlocutor.”

Violence begets violence. Diplomacy means talking, listening, and acting in good faith by both sides of conflicts. It means acceptance that progress will be uneven and come in small steps.

*WorldPublicOpinion.org

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.