I think the ethical wrongness of Newt Gingrich plan for the United States to deliberately imitate Saudi Arabia’s lack of religious freedom and begin explicit discrimination against American Muslims is plenty of reason to condemn it. But it is worth highlighting the catastrophic national security implications of these ideas.
Consider al-Qaeda—a relatively tiny and not especially terrifying group of people. And yet, they are able to wreak considerable havok, kill people, and disrupt free societies. This is bad. In the future, we would like to reduce the threat they pose by isolating these people and neutralizing them. They, in contrast, would like to mobilize the world’s vast Muslim population in a grand ideological battle with liberal societies. Under the circumstances, it is absolutely crucial that we bend over backwards—as even George W Bush tended to recognize—to avoid framing 9/11 as part and parcel of some broad American conflict with Muslim peoples or the Islamic religion. Our framing is that America is a diverse, pluralistic, free, and open society that we are determined to revenge. Our theory is that liberalism is an political system that can accommodate a wide array of people and faiths. To abandon that theory is as repugnant as it is foolish.
Indeed, as Jamelle Bouie observes this has been part of our strategic concept since as far back as the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
In most respects, of course, the United States has become a much more tolerant and open-minded place since the late-18th century. But Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and others are carving out an exception.