Saturday, April 07, 2007

Conservative Admires Ahmadinejad's Gentlemanly Side

Here is WaPo's latest version of the "Britain Was Humiliated" meme. This one, interestingly enough, is based on a variation of the Dinish D'Souza theme, "The Islamists Are Murderous Thugs Who Hate Our Freedom And I Agree With Them Completely."

In this case, the argument comes from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who (just to show you what a deep and serious thinker she is) recently devoted an entire column to the proposition that a video showing John Edwards combing his hair before a speech demonstrates his unfitness to be president. (Click on the link if you don't believe me--I wouldn't have believed it either.)

Anyway, in her current column, Parker asserts that the wisdom of the Islamic fundamentalists, and the corruption of the West, is demonstrated by the presence among the 15 British sailors of (gasp!) a woman. What's worse, she is a mother. Here is the nub of Parker's argument:

On any given day, one isn't likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a dangerous, lying, Holocaust-denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug--not to put too fine a point on it.

But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles.

Ahmadinejad characterized as a gift to Britain the release of 15 British sailors and marines, including one woman, seized at sea last month. In reality, the hostages were the West's gift to Ahmadinejad.

When a pretender to sanity such as Ahmadinejad gets to lecture the West about how it treats its women, we've effectively handed him a free pass to the end zone and made the world his cheerleaders.

Not only does the Iranian president get to look magnanimous in releasing the hostages, but he gets to look wise. And we in the West get to look humiliated, foolish and weak.

Just because we may not "feel" humiliated doesn't mean we're not. In the eyes of Iran and other Muslim nations, we're wimps. While the West puts mothers in boats with rough men, Muslim men "rescue" women and drape them in floral hijabs.

Well, I guess that, if you agree with Ahmadinejad's philosophy about how women ought to be treated, you might well believe that this episode makes him look "wise." (I'm very curious as to how far Parker herself actually goes with this. If she thinks the Islamist rules for women are "wise," does she cover herself from head to toe before venturing out of her home? Does she travel only in the company of a male relative? I assume that she would never think of driving a car. Or does she, perhaps, only accept religious rules that forbid women from doing things that she herself would never want to do, like serving in the military?)

The rest of us, who think women should be allowed to serve if they want (and who assume that women who can survive basic training are probably able to survive the frightening ordeal of being "in boats with rough men"), think that Ahmadinejad looks like a benighted patriarch--yet another good reason why I prefer living in America to living in Iran.

It's interesting, too, how selective conservatives are in their concern for world opinion. They love to mock Democrats, liberals, Europeans, and other bleeding-hearts for worrying about what Muslims or people in the developing world think about us. (If we feel like printing cartoons that mock Muhammad, hell, we'll do it! And if those ragheads resent it, we'll bomb 'em! Yeah, that's the ticket!) But when it comes to standing up for certain Western values that the conservatives don't actually believe in--like equality--suddenly Parker is very worried about how we'll look "In the eyes of Iran and other Muslim nations."

But just when I was beginning to think that Parker's column was nothing but a silly screed in defense of mindless prejudices, I found that she actually has serious arguments to offer as to why women shouldn't serve in the military. Like this one:
Rape, though not a likely risk in this case, is a consistent argument against putting women in or near combat. While advocates for women in combat argue that men are also raped, there is an important difference. Women are raped by men, which, given the inherent power differential between the sexes, raises women's rape to another level of terror.

What kind of man, one shudders to wonder, is willing to allow his country's women to be raped and tortured by men of enemy nations? None that I know, but our military is gradually weaning men of their intuitive inclination to protect women--which, by extrapolation, means ignoring the screams of women being assaulted.
Hmm, this is an interesting argument. It is a fact that rape occurs in combat. (Some other unpleasant events are also rumored to occur in combat, such as shooting, stabbing, bombing, gouging, beheading, and eviscerating.) Therefore, according to Parker, letting women be soldiers is tantamount to wanting them to be raped--after all, she claims, we are "willing to allow [them] to be raped and tortured by men of enemy nations." I guess, by the same token, we are "willing to allow" our male soldiers to be shot, stabbed, bombed, gouged, beheaded, and eviscerated--since all those things do in fact happen in war. One might well "shudder to wonder."

Look. War is horrific, probably the single worst invention ever conjured up by human sinfulness and depravity. It wipes out families, destroys societies, despoils environments, squanders the people's hard-earned wealth, and causes untold death and misery for countless innocent civilians of all ages. In fact, one can scarcely begin to catalog all the evils that are encompassed in warfare, especially modern mechanized warfare, which multiplies the destructive power of our armies by thousands of times.

But to read the likes of Katheleen Parker, one would think that the worst thing about modern warfare is the way it is weakening traditional gender roles.

Yes, women get raped in war. This has happened throughout history, with the victims overwhelmingly being helpless civilians. Once you allow women in the military, the difference is that now some of the women will have guns. I know this is not very dainty and ladylike, but I don't see how it increases the opportunity for rape.

I'm sorry if this offends your conservative sensibilities, Ms. Parker. But I guess you can always move to Iran.

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