Hypocrisy from anti-Amer­i­can for­eign­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON

When Gen. William Te­cum­seh Sher­man pulled up to Savannah, Ga., af­ter his leg­endary March to the Sea in De­cem­ber 1864, he was sav­agely slan­dered in the South­ern press as a rene­gade leader of a “van­dal horde.”

But at that same time, lead­ing Con­fed­er­ate of­fi­cers pri­vately ap­pealed to him, hop­ing he would guar­an­tee the safety of the rel­a­tives they had left be­hind in Savannah. Why, Sher­man won­dered, would his sworn en­e­mies trust that such an en­emy might be kind to their loved ones — un­less they knew that their own slurs about him were mere rhetoric?

That same sort of pre­tense is ev­i­dent in the Mid­dle East, where the lead­ers of coun­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions hos­tile to or crit­i­cal of the United States of­ten trust us far more than they let on.

Nabih Berri, the Le­banese Amal mili­tia chief who is now al­lied with both the anti-Amer­i­can Hezbol­lah and Syria, has much of his fam­ily re­sid­ing in Dear­born, Mich.

Amr Salem, un­til re­cently a Cabi­net min­is­ter in Bashar As­sad’s anti-Amer­i­can gov­ern- ment in Syria, was a se­nior pro­gram man­ager at Mi­crosoft. His fam­ily still lives in the U.S.

Bi­lal Mushar­raf, son of Pak­istan strong­man Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf, has been a Bos­ton­based con­sul­tant and a Stan­ford busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent. Mean­while, his fa­ther’s gov­ern­ment is ei­ther un­will­ing or un­able to ar­rest on his soil the rem­nants of al Qaeda, among them, most likely, Osama bin Laden and Ay­man al-Zawahri.

Prince Bandar bin Sul­tan, for­mer Saudi am­bas­sador to the United States and high Cabi­net of­fi­cial in a monar­chy that funds much of the world’s rad­i­cal Is­lamist madras­sas, is sell­ing his 56,000-square-foot man­sion in tony As­pen. The ask­ing price is $135 mil­lion — the most ex­pen­sive home ever put up for sale in the United States.

What are we to make of th­ese in­con­gruities and oth­ers like them?

First is the ob­vi­ous hypocrisy. Al­ly­ing with rad­i­cal Shi’ites in Le­banon, anti-Amer­i­can Syr­i­ans or Is­lamists in Pak­istan and Saudi Ara­bia does not seem to dis­qual­ify Mid­dle East­ern politi­cos from ap­pre­ci­at­ing the free­dom, se­cu­rity and op­por­tu­nity of the United States.

For all the talk of Amer­ica’s faults, no Mid­dle Easterner wor­ries about venge­ful Amer­i­cans kid­nap­ping or car-bomb­ing his rel­a­tives. And few seem to con­sider that if the world­view of a present-day Le­banese mili­tia or Saudi Ara­bia ever sweeps the globe, there would be no Dear­born or As­pen for their kin to find sanc­tu­ary.

Sec­ond, the wide gap be­tween what many in the Mid­dle East say and do should be a re­minder that much anti-Amer­i­can­ism is poorly thought out or mostly for show. Many who de­cry Amer­ica to the press and cam­eras pri­vately pre­fer to send their loved ones here to take ad­van­tage of our suc­cess brought about by sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion, gen­der equal­ity, mer­i­to­cratic democ­racy and the pri­macy of law.

Third, the fam­i­lies of lead­ers of au­to­cratic na­tions of­ten hos­tile to the United States are kept safe and sound in this coun­try pre­cisely be­cause of our open­ness and re­spect for guests and for­eign­ers. Un­like most of the Mid­dle East, where it is nearly im­pos­si­ble for Chris­tians, sin­gle women or ho­mo­sex­u­als to live openly and freely, Amer­i­cans are a tol­er­ant peo­ple who are not cap­tive to tribal, re­li­gious or sec­tar­ian vengeance.

Amer­i­cans may also think th­ese per­sonal ties of Mid­dle East author­i­tar­i­ans to the United States will lead to ei­ther lib­er­al­iza­tion back home or at least more fa­vor­able im­pres­sions of us there. Sadly, that hasn’t hap­pened. In the case of Syria’s Amr Salem, his ten­ure at Bill Gates’ Mi­crosoft seems to have made him only a more per­fect min­is­ter of com­puter sur­veil­lance.

In­deed, some­times ex­po­sure to Amer­i­can cul­ture cre­ates feel­ings of am­bi­gu­ity — a sense of guilt among con­ser­va­tive ar­rivals at their new­found lib­eral ap­petites. In other cases, the per­cep­tion arises that some­one or some­thing must have pre­vented the Mid­dle East from en­joy­ing what Amer­i­cans take for granted.

The United States prob­a­bly will not — and prob­a­bly should not — deny en­try to the fam­i­lies of Le­banese mili­tia lead­ers, Pak­istani dic­ta­tors, Saudi sheiks or Syr­ian high of­fi­cials. But we should at least point out to them, as Gen. Sher­man once did to his grand­stand­ing de­trac­tors, that there is cer­tainly a rea­son why Prince Bandar and Messrs. Berri, Mushar­raf and Salem want their chil­dren over here — and ap­par­ently as far away as pos­si­ble from the coun­tries where they them­selves are in charge.

Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist and a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Hoover In­sti­tu­tion.

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