Of the many stupid things this country’s leadership has done since 9/11, perhaps none was so stupid as violating a basic principle of conflict that dates back to Sun Tzu:

Unite your friends and divide your enemies.

Instead, they have needlessly fractured our alliances and spent a great deal of time lumping every scary brown person into one undifferentiated mass of "Islamonaziextremofascism" (or whatever comic book term is in vogue in the fever swamps these days).

Consequently, we have lost power and Al Queda has gained it. Nothing was better for Bin Laden than being cast as the leader of some nefarious globe-spanning terrorist movement. It made him a hero and assisted Al Queda recruitment. In reality, the Middle East is riddled with factions, sects, and tribes, with different capabilities, motivations, goals, and histories. Had we been smarter, we would have played on those differences to split off those who pose a real danger from those we merely find distasteful from those who are potential allies.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.


Now. Why do I bring this up? Most progressives wouldn’t argue with anything above. But when it comes to domestic politics, they kinda forget it, and none more than environmentalists. Lumping every institution, politician, and industry that fails to endorse your preferred policy together under a single banner — The Man Corporate Oligarchy — and lumping every citizen who’s not as enthusiastic about your cause as you under a single banner — the Hyper-consuming, Happy Motoring Sheeple — is a recipe for marginalization.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.