We Americans are justifiably proud of the brave young men and women in uniform who stand ready, on short notice, to risk their lives for our country. On every national holiday, we remind ourselves of their sacrifice – the sacrifices of past generations of uniformed warriors.
Once in a while, we’d do well to observe a national hour of remembrance for another group of brave Americans who – unarmed and without the security of a unit – go among strangers to represent America’s interests. While the lives of diplomats are not ordinarily as hard as those of military personnel, they can be dangerous.
We were reminded of that on September 11, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats were murdered by a mob in Benghazi, Libya. Predictably, the mob was motivated by religious fury over a vicious, poorly made American film depicting Islam’s prophet in a distinctly unflattering light.
It’s hardly surprising to read of a mob of angry Islamists wreaking havoc for no intelligible reason. Indeed, it’s increasingly damned near impossible to continue mouthing the usual platitudes about Islam being religion of peace, misrepresented by a handful of fanatics.
But then, when you consider that the movie which triggered all this – put together by a small group of Christian activists as nutty as any cell of Islamist plotters – you try to maintain perspective.
The thought that keeps coming back to me is this:
Nearly every contact our country has with the Islamic world, or at least, the Arabic parts of it, seems to end in terror, blood and stupidity. The fault may be mostly that of fanatical Islam, but the point is that there seems to be no way to get along with people who equate religious devotion with violence.
Most of us have lost patience with trying. The question is, are we prepared to do anything about it?
Now, to be sure, many one of the great Arab-Muslim grievances against America seem, at this point, insoluble.
For example, for all the faults of our educational system – and all the efforts of our own religious fanatics – most Americans make an effort to balance a reasonable (and peaceable) religious faith with a genuine respect for learning and science.
It’s not always easy to do, but following the lead of our Founders, we try.
Apparently, in the Middle East, it’s considered a sign of insanity to question the most bizarre claims of faith (so long as it’s the right faith), or to embrace any science not useful in improvising explosive devices.
Two such points of view can hardly co-exist in a world grown small.
We can continue hoping that the Arab-Islamic part of the world enjoys a revival of the rationalism which made their medieval ancestors the most advanced civilization of their time.
We can try to reason with, or shout down, our own fanatics and suppress our growing itch to just do something about it.
But the best policy would be to end the policies which require us to remain in constant contact with the Middle East and its madness.
And that means ending our national dependence on oil.
Not, please note, “foreign oil.” There’s no such thing.
Big Oil “lubricates” politicians, large media corporations and our universities with big chunks of money in order to promote the idea that more drilling and pumping on our side of the world would make us less dependent on “foreign oil.”
In real-world economics, it doesn’t work that way. Oil is a fungible commodity, which means that – once it’s out of the ground – it goes wherever it can command the highest price.
You can as easily do without “foreign oil” as you can breathe only air that “comes from” America.
If we want to stop using “foreign oil,” we must largely eliminate oil from our economy – regardless of where’s it originates.
And that’s a tough sell.
But we could – right now – make a real start. After all, there was a time, just over a century ago, when Americans used petroleum mainly used as a lubricant. We got our energy from other sources.
Moreover, within a generation – unless we blow ourselves up or destroy the planetary eco-system which sustains us – we will necessarily be using new, advanced and renewable resources.
The only reason we aren’t doing this already is that we are still willing to believe the shills Big Oil pays to baffle us with misinformation and misrepresentations about where our oil comes from, and where it goes.
Meanwhile, we continue to sacrifice the lives of brave people – and our own national interest – to sustain an archaic technology which requires that we remain in close contact with the regions which contains much of the world’s oil.
Which just happens, as well, to be contain the world’s richest reserves of hatred, fanaticism, ignorance, violence and terror.