From 9/12/2001, I have been confident that U.S. leaders and the American people habitually underestimate the threat of militant Islam. One of the reasons I encouraged caution, and limited engagement (to say the least), was to avoid the dire consequences of American policy furthering, inadvertently, the dangerous craziness of the Islamic worldview, which I thought then and think now more dangerous than Communism.
Why more dangerous?
Because the agenda of Islam, in the Koran, is clearly imperialistic, deceitful, retrograde, murderous, and despotic. And because, unlike the commies, Islamic extremists believe in an afterlife, they can be convinced to do even more despicable acts than the commies did (and communists were the world’s greatest mass murderers). Muslims are taught that death in the cause of jihad will be rewarded in the next life; communists in the secular tradition were limited by some perceptions of worldly self-interest.
Further, today’s Muslim pride is of an ancient variety, and tied to a distinct idea of self-rule (which was and remains frankly imperialistic). So, any conquest of a Muslim area by the West would not likely have the salutary effects that, say, the humiliating conquests of World War II had on its defeated populations: Germany and Japan became civilized after defeat. We can expect no such thing from the Islamic world. I see little hope that any defeat in battle or hegemonic rule could dispirit Muslims in the East (particularly the Arabs) — and certainly not to peace. No, every win in battle will call up more jihadists, and help lose the war.
The war with Islam (and it has now become a war with Islam, because of idiotic war policies of Bush’s neocon buddies as well as the Obama administration) can be won in only two ways:
- stealthily, with caution, restraint, strategic disengagement, and a whole lot of trade; or
- by near genocide.
It is my fear that the U.S. policy towards the jihadists has made — or is making — genocide inevitable.
This is bad not only because genocide is a horrifying, criminal enterprise that sears human souls even to the corruption of civilization. It is bad because it might not work . . . while, in the attempt, destroy what little civilization we have.
Civilization may be more fragile than some think. Turning the Arab world, along with the pan-Islamic civilization, into a “sea of glass,” as folks at the Free Republica dream about, would have global environmental as well as political consequences that few dare contemplate.
And yet we may be driven to such horrendous extremities, simply to deal with the madness that is Islam.
The only key to the defeat of jihadism is letting reality creep into the common culture of the Muslim world, and “corrupt” — the polite word is “educate” — Muslims. Just as Christians were educated by the religious warfare and witch crazes of the period following the discovery of America. The Enlightenment occurred in no small part because of the rise of secular intellectualism and religious nonconformism, where Europeans, over the course of three centuries, realized at last that religious warfare was not a tolerable condition of mankind. The absolute craziness of the Reformation/Countereformation period was squelched by a popular ideological change of heart that was widespread. Christendom — the popular result of mixing Christian teaching with practical politics, micro and macro — was tamed. And it in turn began to tame the secular order. But it could only have this salutary effect after it was boxed in by a widely understood rule of law.
Thank you, Hugo Grotius.
Islam, as victim of Islamic misogyny (and terrorism) Ayaan Hirsi Ali has cannily insisted, has never gone through such an experience, and remains an uncivilized culture. Indeed, it is still tied to the honor cultures of the ancient world and even of pre-civilized life.
It is very hard to “force” wisdom on people. The “basic deal” of civilized morality requires the giving up the hegemonic instinct. The Koran does not teach this; or, it teaches it in one passage and utterly repudiates it elsewhere.
So Western leaders have to be more sophisticated than those who “won the Cold War.” Fighting the last war is the folly of old men. Neocon foreign policy, and its simpleton shills at Fox News (like Bill O’Reilly), is superficial and utterly foolish.
It is not easy to slay the Hydra, which replaces every severed head with two more. Just so, in dealing with Islam. It is pointless to go to battle in such a way that ensures more enemies in the future.
At this point the reader may question my assertions, as well should be. Why am I right, and so many others wrong? Well, I have observed, for years. And read much, from many sources. I am not the only person to have been left with the impression I have of the Muslim world. In 1887, novelist Francis Marion Crawford mused along similar lines, as he described the worshipers in the Hagia Sofia:
It was not possible . . . that such men could ever be really conquered. They might be driven from the capital of the East by overwhelming force, but they would soon rally in greater numbers on the Asian shore. They might be crushed for a moment, but they could never be kept under, nor really dominated. Their religion might be oppressed and condemned by the oppressor, but it was of the sort to gain new strength at every fresh persecution. To slay such men was to sow dragon’s teeth and to reap a harvest of still more furious fanatics, who, in their turn being destroyed, would multiply as the heads of the Hydra beneath the blows of Heracles. The even rise and fall of those long lines of stalwart Mussulmans seemed like the irrepressible tide of an ocean, which if restrained, would soon break every barrier raised to obstruct it. — F. Marion Crawford, Paul Patoff
Unfortunately, the only group of successful politicians with a long tradition of opposing simple-minded interventionist nonsense, and promoting the idea of complexity in foreign affairs — recognizing elements of self-fulfilling prophecy, blowback, and other unintended consequences of reckless intervention — is the left-leaning Democrats. And their ability to think clearly is hampered by their witless commitments to politically correct egalitarianism and their association with First World Marxist academicians.
Libertarians only possess a mere scant influence in politics, and that only through the Tea Party contingent, and this group is corrupted by all the idiocies that conservatives are prey to. And even the intellectual libertarian movement — a far more impressive clade than the popularly political — has little real history of sound theory on foreign policy and war. Most libertarians merely repeat simplistic wisdom (which is, at least, in a limited purview, wisdom). There is no libertarian intellectual tradition in the foreign policy realm to match the sophistication of the scholarship and theory in economics.
Of course, there is a lot of sane caution in the popular libertarian intellectual movement, from folks like Sheldon Richman, Justin Raimondo and Nick Gillespie. But, for all these gentlemen’s savvy council, their influence is muted. And I am not convinced that any of them really understand the enormity that is at the heart of Islam. Gillespie, for example, is cautious enough to doubt the severity of the threat of ISIS. But this particular threat is not what makes Islam dangerous. It is the corrupting influence of the viral memes of supremacy and murderous hegemony quite plainly written in the Koran. These pernicious ideas make all of the Islamic world a major threat.
It has been 13 years since “9/11.” I am, more than ever, worried about the future of civilization. It’s not just that I fear our enemies. I fear its defenders even more.