Eric Dezenhall's thought-leadership in this week's ThinkPiece is so
lucid and so strong that it pulls us in and tempts us to adhere to his
view. Perhaps, however, he is in danger of hurting innocents with his
so-called "straight shooting."
Of course, straight-talking and demonization of the enemy are reassuring
for many members of the public. It is also easier to slap labels such as
"zealots," "despots" and "backward" on different countries than it is to
start to explain fully the complexity of those peoples. That does not
make it right.
Very few people would disagree that the Taliban, and even more
relevantly the terrorists that they are harboring, must be punished. But
let's also remember that we have not been attacked by a nation or a
religion here, consequently we should be very careful about who and what
we are demonizing.
In war you need clarity of purpose. And we have clarity of purpose - to
respond appropriately to the grotesque acts of September 11.
But TV programs focusing on the cultures in which these terrorists
exist, aimed at turning the American people against them, are
unnecessary and a dangerous step down the road to cultural
Beyond this war with the Taliban and bin Laden, cross-cultural
understanding is necessary to improve the chances of peace around the
world. We won't get that by firing out statements that may be
interpreted as anti-Islamic rather than anti-terrorism. We'll get that
understanding by educating people about different ways of life, not by
narrowing our focus.
In that regard the American government is absolutely right to choose its
words cautiously and to wage diplomacy not just war. Being "tranquil" in
our language is not "dangerous," as Dezenhall suggests, it is vital to
the effort to isolate the enemy. Stomping on eggshells will only make a