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Thursday, June 27, 2002
I have a blogchild!
UPDATE: Oh oh! The shellshocking truth about Dawn Olsen's and my adulterous lovechild has been revealed!
posted by Eric at 6:50 AM
Sunday, June 23, 2002
Mirror, Mirror -- why Americans Don't Understand the Threat of Jihadism:
(Third in a series.)
In What al-Qaeda Wants and the first essay in this series, The Mirage of Moderate Islam, I have described Islam as a warlike and bloody religion subject to periodic fits of violent fundamentalist revival. I have analyzed the roots of Islamic terror in the Koranic duty of jihad, and elucidated Osama bin Laden's goal as nothing less than the destruction of the West and the establishment of a global Islamic theocracy.
I have further explained why it is difficult for anyone living within the Islamic worldview to reject or argue against these goals. Jihadism -- the belief that Muslims have not merely the right but the duty to smite the infidel and propagate the Faith by force -- proceeds direct from the Koran and is accepted as a core religious duty by almost all Muslims.
These are simple truths, readily discernable from reading the words of the Koran, the study of even an outline of Islamic history, and the propaganda of Osama bin Laden himself. Yet they are truths that almost no one in the West is speaking in public, in plain language. In this essay, I will examine the reasons Americans are not yet ideologically prepared to fight the war against terror as it must be fought if we are to win.
First, the U.S. government is telling a Big Lie for diplomatic reasons. It is trying to sell the idea that Islam is a `religion of peace', with al-Qaeda representing only a small fringe of extremists. Part of this is in order not to be seen attacking the religion of our Arab allies in the Middle East.
But domestic politics is an even more important motive for this Big Lie. U.S. policymakers in the know may well fear that if they described the relationship between terrorism and Islamic doctrine accurately, the current broad consensus on war policy might collapse under a hailstorm of accusations of bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance by the bien pensants who run the national media and academe. In a political climate where directing extra scrutiny at young male Middle Eastern air travellers is attacked as unacceptable `racial profiling', this fear would be well-grounded.
Second, the academy has failed us. Americans are almost universally ignorant of Islamic doctrine and history. Most of the few who have some knowledge of the area cannot connect that knowledge to current events. The Islamic-studies and Middle Eastern history establishment completely, utterly failed to anticipate al-Qaeda's revival of jihadism, ignored or rationalized the decade of anti-American terrorist acts that led up to 9/11, and is presently incapable of supplying any significant analytical help to defeating the terrorists.
The exact anatomy of this failure is well described in Martin Kramer's Ivory Towers On Sand. One background problem was a Marxist-influenced tendency to see political change as all-important and dismiss religious fervor as a spent force. Another was a reluctance to confront or discuss the continuing phenomenon of terrorism at all except through the lens of `post-colonial theory' that excused it as a legitimate tactic of the Palestinian or anti-imperialist struggle. Yet a third was the postmodern belief that objective truth is impossible. In effect, the Marxist/multiculturalist/postmodernist preoccupations of the Islamic-studies establishment rendered it incapable of seeing, thinking, or passing judgment. Confronted by the smoking hole where the World Trade Center used to be and Osama bin-Laden's gloating videos, the academics had no way of connecting their theoretical abstractions to the brutal facts and nothing to say. Nine months later, they still doesn't.
Americans outside of universities have few grounds for smugness, however. While most of the rest of us have not had our critical faculties rotted out by Marxism, multiculturalism and postmodernism in their explicit forms, a lower-grade version of the same infections has done much to damage our capacity to understand the threat of jihadism.
Americans have always had the odd parochial habit of assuming that, down deep underneath, everyone is basically like us -- sharing our historically peculiar mix of pragmatism and idealism; valuing honesty and fair dealing; tolerant, materialistic, freedom-loving, open-minded, tending to value comfort and success over ideology. We reflexively believe that everyone can be reasoned with essentially in our own terms. Most Americans don't understand fanaticism and violent evil. We have a tendency to be `fair' by assuming that in any dispute there must be some right and some wrong on both sides. It's telling that we use `extreme' as a political pejorative.
Since at least the end of World War II, this parochialism has become so acute that it has almost blinded us to serious threats. While more of the left-liberals who shilled for the Soviets and Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot during the Cold War were closet Communists than is yet publicly admitted, a good many were honest dupes who simply couldn't believe that Communists were actually motivated by the sinister craziness of hard Marxism, and therefore assumed that America must somehow be at fault. Conservatives apologizing for unsavory pro-American strongmen mostly weren't closet fascists, either; a good many of them had obvious trouble seeing caudillos as more than cigar-chomping CEOs running a particularly tough business, and never mind the gold braid and funny hats.
The see-no-evil tendency in American folk psychology created fertile ground for the rather less benign dogmas of multiculturalism ("all cultures present ways of living that are equally morally valid") and postmodernism ("there is no objective truth"). Originally constructed by Marxists (and one ex-Fascist) as part of a program to ideologically disarm the West against the radical evil of Communism, these dogmas have both outlived their original ends and seeped into American pop culture. Their effect is that many of us can no longer bring ourselves to think of any political movement, religion, or culture as radically evil unless it is safely part of history (and, for political correctness, was run by dead white European males when it was alive and kicking).
This was a relatively harmless form of self-delusion between 1992 and 2001, the decade of self-indulgence bracketed by the fall of the Soviet Empire and 9/11. No longer. We are at war. Western civilization is under attack by a foe that revels in the wholesale slaughter of civilians, one that proudly announces its intention to bring a second Holocaust of fire and blood down upon us all.
If our civilization is to survive, we will need to recover the moral judgment needed to recognize radical evil, the language in which to condemn it, and the determination to act.
In a perverse way, al-Qaeda has made this easy. They have murdered thousands in a single attack on one of our heart cities, they have attempted to unleash biological weapons on us, and have actively planned to detonate nuclear/radiological weapons in our population centers. Those who cannot recognize even this as radical evil -- those who persist in arguing that the 9/11 attack was somehow justified by something United Fruit did in Guatemala or the Israelis did in Lebanon -- are rapidly dealing themselves out of the game of deciding how we shall respond.
Having recognized al-Qaeda's behavior as radically evil, we must next recognize that its motivating ideology is evil, too. And the first step there is recognizing that Islam's apologists are systematically lying to us about what they believe and intend. Outside of a few fringe groups like the Dauri Bohras and a tiny minority of intellectual reformers who generally dare not speak their ideas in their own home countries, there is simply no constituency in Islam prepared to recognize Western concepts of peace, tolerance, and pluralism.
We will not be prepared to win the war against Islamic terror until we understand the following things:
The hardest challenge for Americans is to grasp is the fact that the evil of the 9/11 hijackings, the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the threat of al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction set off in American cities is not simply the evil of al-Qaeda. It is in fact the Koranically-correct expression of the tendency of Islam (Sunni fundamentalism) which is has been pre-eminent through most of Islamic history and now encompasses over 90% of the worlds Muslims.
We need to face the fact that we are confronting not just a barbaric and evil group of men, but a barbaric and evil religion. To protect ourselves, we must either force the complete reform of Islam (purging it of jihadism and its tendency towards periodic fundamentalist outbreaks) or destroy its hold over its followers.
This is a problem for Americans; first, because we have been taught that we that we must not be intolerant of other peoples' religions; and second, because fully grasping the nature of the danger Islamic poses to Western civilization requires thinking uncomfortable thoughts about the dominant Christian religion of our own culture.
The reader is at this point invited to learn more about the developing alliance between Islamic and Christian fundamentalisms. Then, to learn all about Kissing Hank's Ass. Before 9/11, "Kissing Hank's Ass" was an edgy joke. Today it demonstrates why ending the threat of religiously-motivated terror will require us to confront and destroy the fundamentalist/jihadist impulse not merely in Islam, but also in Christianity and all other eschatological monotheisms where it finds a natural home.
Christianity, like Islam (and unlike almost all of the other religions of the world) has violent intolerance of other religions and the impulse to conversion by the sword wired into its doctrinal DNA. Most Americans have trouble believing the Koran means what it says about the duty of jihad because for most Christians, the parallel Christian duty to smite the infidel is a historical dead letter. But counterparts of al-Qaeda such as the Christian Identity Movement exist in the West, imbued with all of al-Qaeda's rage. Christian fundamentalists express the same hatred of modernity and determination to jam the world back into a medieval mold that motivates Osama bin Laden.
To win the war on terror, we must understand jihadism and clearly distinguish it from ethical self-defense. We must be prepared not merely to counter fanaticism not merely by killing the fanatical in self-defense, but also by discrediting the doctrines and habits of thought that make fanatics in the first place -- whether they occur in the other guy's religion or our own. Islam has declared itself the immediate adversary of modernity -- but more than one world religion will have to go under the knife before our children can sleep in peace.
UPDATE: a reader sent me a pointer to an al-Qaeda statement, Why We Fight America that directly shows al-Qaeda to be motivated by a drive for Islamic hegemony, rather than grievances about American behavior.
(To be continued...)
posted by Eric at 3:48 PM