Military Needs More Muslims
Robert Kaplan thinks that it would be a shame if the Fort Hood massacre led to recriminations against Muslims in the U.S. military, arguing we need more of them.
The massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 soldiers were shot and killed by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, paradoxically took my memory back to April 2004, when I was embedded with a Marine battalion during the first battle of Fallujah. The battalion just happened to have in the ranks a corporal of Syrian descent who did double duty as the commander’s translator for his meetings with the Iraqis. The young Muslim corporal was arguably the most valuable member of the battalion: simply by his presence he was able to cast the battalion in a different, more positive light among the locals.
The United States military needs more troops of Muslim origin within its ranks. We need a military that looks like the larger world for the global challenges ahead, such as helping to protect the “commons,” the air space and sea lanes. Think of the Navy’s slogan in its new television recruitment commercials: “A Global Force for Good.”
Inevitably, a minute percentage of these Muslim recruits may be influenced by jihadist propaganda, which certainly seems to have been the case with Maj. Hasan. So what do we do?
Better security surveillance and background checks, as well as better coordination within the defense bureaucracy to ferret out troublesome individuals, make sense. But the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, had it right when he said that he was fearful of a backlash against Muslims within the ranks. Behind the scenes the military needs to be extra vigilant; publicly the military needs to be even more welcoming to minorities.
There’s more to the piece but that’s the gist of it. And he’s right.
But let’s not get too carried away. Both Spencer Ackerman and Marc Lynch take the title of Kaplan’s post (“Responding to Fort Hood”) and twist the argument into Kaplan claiming “Fort Hood shows we need more Muslim soldiers.” Which, of course, it does not.
Hasan is an emphatic datapoint against Muslims in the military. The fact that the potential good that Muslim soldiers can do in our war against Islamic extremists far, far outweighs the danger of more Hasans hiding in our midst does not change the fact that Muslim soldiers are more likely to be sympathetic to the enemy than are their non-Muslim fellows.
Kaplan merely suggests that the proper approach to dealing with this threat is to quietly implement “Better security surveillance and background checks, as well as better coordination within the defense bureaucracy to ferret out troublesome individuals” rather than conducting a loud witch hunt.