The Proud Duck

Thoughts on policy, history, faith, baseball when I get around to it, waterfowl, and life in general by a junior attorney who'd much rather have Jonah Goldberg's job. Or possibly Darin Erstad's.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Predictably, even before the bodies of the latest victims of jihad have been recovered, the usual suspects make the usual noises: It's all our fault -- the bombers are motivated by justifiable anger over American or British foreign policy, and who are we to be outraged over the murder of civilians when civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the West Bank?

Leaving aside what ought to be the elementary distinction between intentionally killing civilians and doing so accidentally -- just as there is a distinction between a fatal car crash and a murder -- what assurances can the appeasers give us that their prescription (give terrorists what they want) would stop their attacks?

They (meaning that certain inverse-jingo Left constituency whose motto seems to be "the opponent of my country, right or wrong") point to the fact that terrorists aren't bombing Sweden -- a more or less free country -- and declare this evidence that it's not "freedom" that the terrorists hate, as is sometimes said, but particular policies of particular countries.

Unfortunately, there's no way of testing this hypothesis without actually putting it into practice, which carries risks of its own, more about which later. Let's say, though, that we take George Galloway's advice and pull out of Iraq. And Afghanistan, too, since the London bombers mentioned that campaign as well. To make sure the bases are covered, sell Israel down the river, too, cutting off all aid and cooperation.

Would that really work? Would jihadists really say, "Thanks, America; you've satisfied our grievances. Go back to your pleasant infidel lives; you'll hear nothing further from us"?

Maybe. It seems to have worked for Spain: After the Spanish cut and run from Iraq, nobody's blown up any more trains there.

Even if it's true that Spain's capitulation bought peace in its time, though, I wonder whether that approach would work for the United States. No offense to middle-sized European states, but they're a dime a dozen. Your local jihadist can cross Spain or Sweden off his target list without putting himself out of business; there's always Britain, or Denmark, or Italy, or Australia -- not to mention the Great Satan itself.

And why should we expect a jihadist to want to put himself out of business? Even more or less sober Western activist groups don't shut down when they get what they want; they find new raisons d'etre and keep operating -- and fundraising. Look at the ACLU, for example; by all rights, they should have declared victory over real threats to civil liberties thirty years ago and disbanded along with the March of Dimes (which, having beaten polio, should also have closed up shop). There is too much capital and meaning invested in these causes for them to go away. Instead, they focus on smaller and smaller details, while investing them with the same breathless significance.

It is reasonable to expect that jihadists are similarly constituted. As Christopher Hitchens eloquently wrote, the jihadists' list of grievances is rather longer than their Western apologists would have it. That list goes well beyond the usual Iraq-Afghanistan-Palestine trinity to, for example,

"[t]he grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way."

In other words, these are people who have plenty of grievances with which to justify their manifest love for murder. 9/11 happened before there ever were American campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And that brings us to the next point: I believe that even if every country in the world could buy off terrorists by refusing to stand against them, the United States would be the one exception. The jihadists need at least one enemy, and we're the enemy of last resort.

They need an enemy because they're not men enough to deal with one of the hardest things in the world to deal with: cognitive dissonance involving their most deeply-held assumptions and beliefs.

Islam, for those who take it seriously, is an all-encompassing worldview. As I understand it, based on my limited study, Islam posits a far greater degree of divine involvement in the world than many other religions, and certainly the modern deist-influenced Western outlook. Islam takes the idea "God is in control" virtually to the molecular level, with virtually everything that happens being not only preordained, but actively caused by acts of divine will.

It also teaches that righteousness, as set forth in the Koran, is rewarded. And there's the rub. Most any Muslim with eyes to see will notice that Islamic civilization, by and large, doesn't seem to have been particularly favored in comparison to the West since about the 1300s. (Or 1500s, if you count the Ottoman pinnacle.) The ummah is technologically backwards (importing the implements of modern civilization from their infidel inventors), militarily impotent, and widely impoverished, with the exceptions more or less limited to elites who grow rich and corrupt selling uncreated natural resources to the civilized world.

How can these things be? How can the infidels prosper and the righteous languish? Recall that, unlike its monotheistic Christian and Jewish cousins, Islam doesn't have the example of a Babylonian captivity or a crucified Savior to remind that "whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). It seems to me that there isn't an easy reconciliation between what Islam promises, and what has been the lot of Islamic civilization for the past five hundred years or so.

Except one: The Islamic world would be prospering, but for the opposition of an Enemy.

I have at times struggled with cognitive dissonance with respect to certain aspects of my own Mormon faith, which frankly isn't the easiest thing to swallow whole, as even its founder Joseph Smith acknowledged. (He said if his revelations hadn't happened to him, he probably wouldn't have believed them himself.) I have the advantage of an education rooted in the Enlightenment, and parents who raised me to think for myself and be true to the conclusions I reached. What of the Muslim extremist who has none of these advantages? Faced, on the one hand, with the prospect of being forced to question that perhaps there's something in the faith of his fathers that's retarding the civilizations saddled with it -- or on the other, blaming his civilization's dysfunction on a powerful enemy, which option will he choose?

For too many, that's an easy choice: It's all the Enemy's fault.

That's why appeasement won't work to pacify the jihadists any more than it has worked against other aggressors in the past. If not Iraq, then Afghanistan. If not Afghanistan, then Palestine. If not Palestine, well then America will be blamed for Muslim states not going completely theocratic to the jihadists' satisfaction. Or for refusing to give sharia courts jurisdiction over expatriate Muslims, as radical Muslim activists are seriously pressuring some European countries to do. Or for allowing Islam to be criticized in public. It will always be something.

Or maybe I am not generous enough to the throat-cutting jihadists. Maybe they are more reasonable than I give them credit for, and taking the Left's advice to pay the Dane-geld really would get rid of the Dane, so to speak.

I don't think so, but more to the point, the Left can't truly say so with any certainty. Recall that these are often the same people who advocate the "precautionary principle," requiring that no action be taken until it can be proven perfectly safe. Who insist that the world sacrifice literally trillions of dollars to fight the yet unknown effects of global warming. Yet they are willing to risk the usual result of appeasing an aggressor -- that the aggressor takes what is offered and, emboldened, asks for more and more -- without any more certainty than their blinkered ideology supplies.

I don't know how to win this war. I fear it will be long, and may never end entirely. While I don't believe that Islam, per se, necessarily results in murderous jihad, I suspect there may be something in its martial origins that will never cause a disproportionate number of Muslims to read it in the way today's jihadists do. Any religion, properly approached by a person of humane character and an enlightened mind, can become a beautiful force for good. I just think it takes a more enlightened mind to reach that point from Islam than with other faith traditions.

And since Islam isn't going away, the only way its violent manifestations will be kept to such a minimum that the war can be declared over will be for Muslims overwhelmingly not only to repudiate, but to crush the (arguably) heretical jihadists with the kind of ruthlessness that the jihadists' own hardness requires. As in, if an imam stands in the mosque to incite the murder of us infidel "apes and pigs," the congregation needs to rush the pulpit and tear him apart. There would be two possible motivations for the congregation to do that: either genuine disgust and rejection of the message, or fear that the message will result in a JDAM landing on the mosque roof next Friday. I hope the former will happen before the latter becomes necessary, but I have no confidence it will happen before the jihadists get lucky again -- possibly even luckier than 9/11.

All I know is that losing isn't an option. The jihadists' long list of grievances is inexhaustible.



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