A few years ago, Harvard psychiatric instructor Kenneth Levin wrote "The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege." In this illuminating book, Levin examines the Israeli experience of concessionary negotiations with a "peace partner" openly dedicated to Israel's destruction. He also examines the historical Jewish Diaspora experience in which Jewish populations typically identified with their tormentors and even echoed their antisemitism.
Such interactions are driven by a permanent condition of siege mentality, Levin explains, and clearly manifest two kinds of delusional thinking.
First, there is the fantasy about the intentions of the aggressor (Arab Muslim or European Christian); then, there is the fantasy about changing the aggressor's intentions. Such thinking, Levin says, is common to victims of chronic abuse, particularly children. They fool themselves into thinking that they, the victims, control the abuser by linking the abuse they suffer to their own behavior.
In other words, they believe they cause their own abuse. This mind game, Levin says, actually gives victims a sense of control over situations beyond their control (an abusive parent, for instance). This allows them to avoid feelings of helplessness and despair.
And so the besieged victim pretends: Daddy doesn't really want to hurt me; if I'm a better girl, he'll stop. Israel pretends: Muslims don't really want to destroy our state, and so we'll give them land for peace. Jews in pre-Nazi Europe pretended: The anti-Semites are really right; we deserve a pogrom. Intriguingly, Levin writes:
"But the book's themes have a still broader relevance. Even ostensibly powerful and secure populations, under conditions that entail ongoing threat and vulnerability, can manifest similar trends."
I got a new one for the doctor: a trend of delusion so enormous as to beg for immediate hospitalization and a transfer of power of attorney. Problem is, the patient here is the United States government (USG), which now says: If we just stop talking about jihad, Muslims will neither become jihadis nor sympathize with them.
Such is the message of a crazy new government guide called "Words that Work and Words that Don't" urging federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to eliminate all references to Islam when discussing, well, Islamic terrorism.
Not only does that mean no more talk of "Islam," it also means no more talk of "jihad." ("Extremism" is the new "jihad.") And forget about the "caliphate." (Try "global totalitarian state.") Even such politically correct terms as "Islamist" and "Islamofascist," which take the traditional teachings of Islam off the hook, are now verboten. And so, more curiously, is the term "Muslim moderate." Says the government: "The term `moderate' has become offensive to many Muslims, who believe that it refers to individuals whom the USG prefers to deal with, and who are only marginally religious."
So "moderates" don't want to look like patsies next to "jihadists," and the USG doesn't want to be insensitive to their needs. Sounds like a rest cure for Uncle Sam is long overdue.
Of course, the no-Islam (no-"moderate") lexicon itself — which reads like disinformation designed to confuse the American public — is just scratching the delusional surface. Animating the directive, written with considerable input from unidentified American Muslim "experts," is the delusional belief that what we say (or don't say) has transformative power over Muslim attitudes and behaviors regarding Islamic terrorism, the Islamic caliphate, the advance of Islamic law (Sharia) and the so-called war on (Islamic) terror — rebranded here, no kidding, as "A Global Struggle for Security and Progress." ("Liberty," Uncle Sam tells us, was "rejected" as "a buzzword for American hegemony.")
The basic idea is to shut the United States up. Or, more diplomatically: "The terminology … should avoid helping the terrorists by inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of their ideology." (Glamorous?) For example, "When we respond loudly (to Osama bin Laden and other jihadists), we raise their prestige in the Muslim world."
"We" raise their prestige? Come on. If a human being thinks turning passenger jets into WMDs is an abomination, nothing anyone says can raise the perpetrators' "prestige." Could our government rationally think otherwise?
Alas, reason escapes the Oslo Syndrome sufferer.
This may explain why Uncle Sam is now actually assuming responsibilisty for jihad itself: "Our terminology must be properly calibrated to diminish the recruitment efforts of extremists (read: jihadists) who argue the West is at war with Islam."
News flash for Uncle Sam: Islam, in myriad forms, is at war with the West. And even if we never say the words, we can still darn well lose.
Diana West is a columnist for The Washington Times. She is the author of "The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization," and has a blog at dianawest.net. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.