After the recent terrorist outrages in Paris and Beirut, there are many voices calling for Something To Be Done.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. But before talking about Daesh (IS, ISIS, ISIL, etc.) and how to deal with it, there is another issue that we need to get clear about, and that is the identity of our enemy.
President George W. Bush got it spectacularly wrong on September 20, 2001, when he said,
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics; a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.
Bush was not alone, and there are still many, including the current president of the US, who are wedded to the idea that there is somewhere a religion of peace that is ‘hijacked’ by ‘extremists’.
President Bush didn’t know a lot about Islam, but he knew that he didn’t want to antagonize American ‘allies’ like Saudi Arabia (President Obama, who does know quite a lot, has other reasons which I am not discussing today).
What’s relevant is that the ‘hijack’ theory implies that the enemy is either ‘extremism’ – which is ridiculous, since it is an attitude and not an enemy – or some group or groups of extremists. So Bush declared war on “terror” and Obama chose al-Qaeda as the enemy. He has now added Daesh, but – in deference to the theory – will not use the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” In his remarks on the Paris attacks, he said that “we stand together with [the French people] in the fight against terrorism and extremism” and that “this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.” [my italics]
As usual, Obama did not use the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’, despite the fact that the terrorists at the Bataclan theater were reported to have shouted “allahu akbar.” And the implication that we share universal values with Muslims is very misleading.
Daesh has released a statement taking credit for the attacks. They quote Islamic sources, and write,
In a blessed attack for which Allah facilitated the causes for success, a faithful group of the soldiers of the Caliphate, may Allah dignify it and make it victorious, launched out, targeting the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe, Paris …
[They also targeted] the Bataclan Conference Center, where hundreds of apostates had gathered in a profligate prostitution party …
Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State, and that the smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the Crusader campaign, and dare to curse our Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and are proud of fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes, which did not help them at all in the streets of Paris and its rotten alleys. This attack is the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn.
There’s more, but the statement makes their reasons for the attack clear: in part it gets revenge for France’s participation in a coalition that has fought Daesh in Iraq and Syria, but it is also an expression of their outrage at what they consider the moral turpitude of France and the West, particularly their sexual freedom. And importantly, it alludes to the historical struggle between Islam and Christianity, which Daesh sees itself as having taken up after centuries of humiliation by the “Crusaders.”
In other words, they did it for Islam.
Bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America” also makes similar points, although he threw in everything but the kitchen sink (Palestine of course, and even criticism of the US for not signing the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases).
There is nothing ‘extremist’ in an Islamic sense about these concerns. Their moral principles (yes, it’s strange to write this about the people who rape their female captives and sell them) are mainstream Islam and supported by their texts, as is the imperative to promulgate Islam by Jihad. Violence and terrorism against unbelievers has Quranic sanction. What is extreme is the ferocity with which Daesh and other radical Islamists put these basic Islamic views into practice.
This is why it is difficult to get ‘moderate’ Muslims to disavow the radical groups completely. Even if they don’t approve of murder, they see the objectives of the extremists as laudable – Islamic morality and Islamic rule, an end to Crusader domination and the restoration of the correct world order with Muslims on top.
And this is why a military-only solution doesn’t exist. If you damage al-Qaeda, Daesh appears. If you kill members of Daesh there are always new ones waiting in the wings.
Don’t get me wrong – it is absolutely necessary to crush these organizations: they must be disarmed and the logistical systems that keep them alive (in the case of Daesh, their oil revenues) must be interdicted. Leaders, strategic planners and technicians have to be killed. But that isn’t enough to win the war that they are spearheading against the West.
I said spearheading because the West is not fighting either ‘terrorism’ or Daesh or any other group that uses terrorism as a tactic. The truth is that we are fighting Islam, and these are its soldiers today. And they are not its only soldiers. Although a deadly enemy of Daesh, the Iranian regime also seeks to carry the banner of Islam against the West.
This concept – that we must fight Islam itself – is very uncomfortable for an enlightened Westerner, who is used to thinking of religious war as an artifact of the past, a stupid and pointless endeavor. We feel so superior to the 17th century Europeans who wrecked an entire continent with the 30 Years War! Today we have adopted the view that religion isn’t worth fighting over, that only arguments over geopolitics and economics can supply a legitimate casus belli.
Well, unfortunately our Muslim enemy doesn’t see it that way. They don’t think that religious differences end with your choice of day of the week to worship, or what you call the building you do it in. And they don’t think that the appropriate reaction to these differences is ‘live and let live’. Not at all.
As a result, we need to take these differences seriously as well. And we have to understand that Islam has declared religious war on us, with the intent to make us all Muslims, to destroy our churches and synagogues, and to replace our secular constitutions with shari’a, our parliaments with religious councils. Or, if we refuse, to make us die.
We can’t explain to them that they should read Locke and Rousseau, or treat the words of the Qur’an as metaphor. War isn’t a game that one side can refuse to play. If they win, we lose, whether we knew we were playing or not.
Therefore, the way to win is not just to wipe out the shock troops of Daesh (although we need to do that too).
We need to take down Islam, ban it in the West, close its schools and mosques, humiliate its believers, even destroy its symbols, as they would like to do to us. We need to fight them physically and psychologically as well. We need to teach the lesson that as a matter of fact Muslims are not superior to non-Muslims, and that’s why they are losing this war.
If we don’t do this, there will be no end to the war — at least not until they get nuclear weapons, which they would not hesitate to use.
If it’s hard for you to accept this, then don’t think of Islam as a religion like Reform Judaism or Episcopalianism. Think of it as an ideology, like communism or Nazism, because it is that as well.
Right now, some of you are saying “we mustn’t descend to their level.” But this is one way they are using our own values against us, one way they are using asymmetric warfare.
Whether we like it or not, we are on their level, and engaged in a struggle to keep a world in which the values that we learned from Locke and Rousseau inform our social and political systems – not shari’a.
This war has been going on since at least the 1990s. The enemy isn’t hiding his plans or his objectives. Time to wake up and fight for the life of our civilization.
A clearer, more accurate prescription for what to do one will not ever see. It needs to be stated over and over until it is an avalanche of action… thought father to deed. I said the exact same words to my wife yesterday, who frets mightily about the destruction of her beloved Netherlands… that the religion of Islam must be banned, because it is an everything-system, a political system of governance that masquerades as just another religion. And it is to be opposed by enforcement of such a complete ban as make clear our resolve, not embraced, tolerated or allowed to share the public square.
Daniel Pipes wrote yesterday that he expected little to come from the slaughter in Paris two days ago. With every Islamic affront to Western civilization, the people move further to the right and the elites (‘grandees’ is the word Victor Davis Hanson uses) move further to the left. He [Pipes] expects the same group of politicians, academics and media personalities that it took 40 years to put in place will hold their own until a mega-disaster occurs, costing 100’s of thousands of lives, to force their compliance with the citizenry’s will, or until the public takes to the streets in their revolutionary culottes to throw all these delusional collaborators and nest-featherers out.
My wife keeps turning to me and asking why the politicians will not do what we want. Mark Rutte is still in charge of the ruling coalition in Holland despite a huge majority of the Dutch who do not want him or any more immigrants. I have no answer. Sweden (see Gatestone Institute reporting), the rape capitol of Europe, has huge majorities of people opposed to the government’s policies; the elites have heavily criminalized dissent; the populace is buying guns and swelling shooting clubs at a torrid rate.
In the time it took for us to live, raise our children with our values, go to work, buy a home, celebrate our holidays… we let the management of the state revert to other members of the community. They had been educated in the same schools as the rest of us, and came away with perhaps slightly more left-wing views, but were not that different. The drift of the elected to more and more severe left-wing views was gradual and the academy kept leading their charge and supplying their numbers. Government grew, housing and coddling its own. The vaunted UC system in my state, California, is so over-burdened with administrative structure–down to the last breath of activity that a student could conceive there is a matching bureaucracy to manage it–that it comprises more than half the expense of the entire massive system. Barack Obama is the typical graduate of the system writ large. Someone who rode in on America’s black leadership’s turn to grievance politics, the leveraging of victimhood for all it was worth, and always for more of the same going forward… Obama was not challenged in his thinking and found eddies of safety for his views in the eroded spots of institutional scholarship (Middle East Studies, law, history, literature, Black Studies) in universities that had already started catering to an unsafe brand of civics, of citizen participation. Martin Sherman at the Jerusalem Post always refers to ‘limousine theory’ to describe how the right wins elections in Israel, but the left, sitting in the back seat, picks the direction the state goes. A small cabal could not bring this off for long. The left has numbers where it counts.
It will take concerted action to turn this around. It will not happen overnight. Decades long.
My second point is that Israel has a special place in the resolution of the Islam problem because she has accepted the notion (had it forced upon it) that strength will force a Muslim minority to moderate and co-exist. That is a mistake. There will be large numbers of Muslims who will gravitate toward the protections of Israel’s civil society from the very same predations of their co-religionists that infidels experience. They would be good citizens of Israel and would even serve in its armed forces. But moderate Muslims will always be at risk for the more determined Islamists to feature them as traitors. In any regime where Islamists are in charge, like the PA or Hamas, the first to be put in place will be those who are not enthusiastic about Koranic preachings. Bridgette Gabriel spoke most eloquently not too long ago about what small numbers it takes among societies’ citizens to corrupt the whole from within and launch movements of enforced behavior (famous ex-pitcher, Curt Schilling, said the same thing via tweets recently and was fired).
Israel has to follow your advice too. Or I should say first. It’s really unfortunate that the will to do this will rest on something really awful befalling Israel or the other Western nations. Further pretense that the dimensions of Israel’s troubles with the ‘Palestinians’ is about borders and territory and the sufficiency of Israel making good-faith concessions… is beyond political dispute; a prescription for slow self-destruction would have the same ingredients. The ‘Palestinians’ need to be transferred out and Israel must grind away at this line about the acceptability of Islam in the public square. It is not welcome, and certainly not healthy for larger society.
Wonderful post, Mr. Rosenthal. It was bad form to say these things 20 years ago. It was frowned upon even after 9/11. It is possible to say it now, but there is no momentum yet. We will have to repeat this over and over till the politicians do as we wish, and we are all more engaged in our governance.
I am not sure I would say ‘Islam is the enemy’. There are a billion and one half Muslims in the world. Many of them live in places like India and Indonesia which are not really a part of the major terrorist activity.
I would however say that there is a radical Islamic terrorism which is the major threat to the stability and well-being of humanity. I would also say that this terror is widespread in the Islamic world and that it is sympathized with by many millions of Muslims. I would too say that this ideology is in contradiction to all human morality and decency, and that it has to be clearly identified and condemned. The failure to do this is a major failing of leadership on the part of the leaders of the Western and democratic world, with the exception of Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and perhaps a few others who I do not know enough about to name.
I would also point out that the ideology of the terrorists does come directly out of teachings of Islam but that Islam has other more humane teachings also. ( Frankly I do not know enough to weigh the relative importance of such teachings.)
You wrote: “We need to take down Islam, ban it in the West, close its schools and mosques, humiliate its believers, even destroy its symbols, as they would like to do to us. We need to fight them physically and psychologically as well. We need to teach the lesson that as a matter of fact Muslims are not superior to non-Muslims, and that’s why they are losing this war.”
You know quite well that this is NOT going to happen. Not by a long shot. Not under present conditions.
WHAT MAY HAPPEN, though, is that the far right will rise again in Europe (and maybe to a smaller extent in America), leading to race wars. I’ve seen this coming for years now.
2015 has presented us with the PERFECT STORM, combining a frightening tidal wave of Muslim migrants, along with two traumatic terror attacks in Paris. This storm may very well be the catalyst for the rapid rise of the extreme right and its takeover in several key EU countries.
The extreme right could reach political power through elections or, if prevented from doing so, through violence. And the forces of order won’t be able to react. Police are already quite overwhelmed with things as they are .
BRITISH police do not even bother to respond to ordinary crime anymore. Too busy trying to keep up with growing cases of Muslim violence and terror.
SWEDISH police, can’t cope, and have told the public that they are on their own, and to form their own self-defence groups. http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6865/sweden-anarchy
Neither the Muslim takeover of the West nor a Neo-Nazi rule will be good for the Jews. My advice would be for Israel to hold on to the land it has, and to continue to arm itself to the teeth, because its old allies in the West won’t even pretend to support Israel anymore. THE INMATES HAVE TAKEN OVER THE ASYLUM. Just look at the United Nations.
The 20th century gave us extraordinary events, some of them deemed “impossible” until shortly before they happened – such as the Holocaust and the dismantling of the Soviet Union. What the 21st century has waiting for us may even surpass it in brutality in comparison.
WE HAVE BEEN GRIEVING since 9/11 after every act of carnage by the religion of peace.
What is EXTREMELY CURIOUS is that although our leaders give stirring speeches swearing to get tough with terror – the normal government reaction continues to be not only APPEASEMENT, but outright SURRENDER to Islam.
Breitbart: According to Department of Homeland Security data compiled and released Monday by Republicans on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, from 2001 to 2013 the U.S. admitted more than 1.5 million lawful permanent residents from majority Muslims nations to the U.S.
MANY OTHER MUSLIMS (who would have never obtained legal admission into the US) have infiltrated through the unguarded southern border.
And yet MANY MORE have entered the US with student or visitor visas and overstayed illegally.
And now the US president wants to bring in hundreds of thousands of Muslims into the country.
As long as US and EU politicians, the media, and liberals continue to repeat the mantra that Muslim terror has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Islam, they will continue to import jihadists while pretending to fight them in the Middle East.
What do you say to a soldier who was traumatized or maimed fighting terrorists in the Middle East, when he finds himself back at home living next door to those who tried to kill him?