I'm having a hard time reconciling what I know of Iraq with what I see on Fox News. Probably comes from being an overeducated sort, but when I think of Iraq what comes to mind is Babylon, the great Islamic scholars who preserved the treasure of Greek thought during the Dark Ages of Europe, and of course all the stars that begin with Al-something-or-other. Every time I look at the night sky I remember that the men who named most of these stars, and first charted their course across the heavens, lived in the Middle East. They gave the world good mathematics, good food (especially if you like eggplant) and a treasure trove of knowledge. The library at Alexandria was, of course, nearby in Alexandria and is rumored to have contained the sum total of what we knew as a species to that point. Hey, guys, I'm impressed as hell, OK?

Fast forward to the present day, and we have a steaming social disaster fueled by a near-overdose of modern religious fanaticism. The three great religions of the West all come from the sands of the Middle East, and I've experienced quite enough of our local variant of fire-bombing fundamentalism to know these guys are dangerous enough to maybe crash our civilization if we let them.. Suffice it to say that irrespective of the banner they wave, fanatics are just that -- fanatics -- and are best given a wide berth, preferably a continent or so. With enough money and technology a fanatic can make his dreams come true, which is not what the rest of us have in mind.

Now:

The current approach of trying to make ersatz Americans of our Iraqi friends is not working as well as we'd like, and is in fact not working at all that I can see. Any gardener knows not to expect Brussels Sprouts where Tomatoes and Peppers grow best but we, technologically advanced folks that we are, are trying to plant Americans in the desert. I'm not sure they'll grow there. What will? Is there a middle path that leads to a peaceful coexistence?

Better minds than mine have thought this over and come up empty, so I don't expect to do any better but I will offer this: does it make sense for a person to mold another to his view of what is right just because it's his? Most Americans would say no, and further say that's what we're trying to stop. Well, trying to stop it by doing the same thing, really. Maybe that's what we really hope for? More people like us?

I have great respect for our Military and assume the folks who make the hard decisions there have better information that an idly interested reader-of-the-news, but I wonder: an army can fight another army, but how do you wage war against a set of ideas? Can we use another set of ideas? If propaganda can steer minds, can it steer minds to think for themselves? The French are horrified by the Americanization of their culture; maybe we can make this work for us. Perhaps recall the army and send in Madison Avenue to pitch 'em the glories of Ancient Iraq. We won't make Americans out of them, but we might help them to become themselves again.

It's a thought.