Dear Admiral Mullen,
I think the whole Muslim world should salute you for your refreshingly honest statement about what must be done if America is to establish some credibility with it.
You have to be right when you say (actually wrote in JFQ) that “no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behaviour overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting”, and that “each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”
Even more to the point, you have to be right when you say, “We must be better listeners”, and that the Muslim community is “a subtle world we don’t fully understand and don’t always attempt to understand.”
And you hit the nail on the head when you add: “Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative.”
All of that is well said and I believe you mean it. (I also think you are fully aware that support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong is not in America’s best interests). But there is more that could and should be said.
The single most important step America could take to establish real credibility with the whole Muslim world would be to end the double-standard of American foreign policy as it relates to the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel.
As I explain in my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the key to understanding most of what has happened in the Middle East (and far beyond in fall-out terms) since the 1967 war and the creation of Greater Israel is in this fact. By allowing Israel to violate international law and settle the occupied territories, the major powers, led by America, effectively created two sets of rules for the behaviour of nations – one for all the nations of the world minus only the Zionist state of Israel and the other exclusively for it.
Therein lies the essence of the double-standard. Ending it would require much more than a presidential demand for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity – all of it illegal – on the occupied West Bank. Ending it would require nothing less than presidential insistence, backed by sanctions if necessary, on an Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land still occupied by conquest in the 1967 war, in return, of course, for a full and final peace with the Arab and wider Muslim world.
In my book and frequently on public platforms I say this. If an American President had a magic wand, and if he could wave it to get Israel back behind more or less its borders as they were on the eve of the 1967 war, he and America would have, with one wave of the wand, the respect, friendship and support of not less than 98% of all Arabs and, almost certainly, that of not less than 95% of all Muslims. To use your words, “supplanting the extremist narrative” would then be a mission possible.
I understand that you, sir, could not say such things in public. But you could say them behind closed doors.
With real respect,