A War Worth Fighting?

Posted By July 23, 2006 No Comments

Much of this article may seem repetitive to some, but repetition is often necessary – particularly when trying to bring bad news to people.

Repetition is especially necessary in discussing our ongoing World War – the Jihadist War. And in war, there are only three possible outcomes for a society: You can lose, you can win, or (if very lucky) you can postpone the decision until circumstances change.

It took very little time for Western public attitudes to cool toward Israel’s robust self-defence against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon; and far too many people tend to view the fighting in Iraq as being separate from that in Afghanistan. The distinctly frightening nuclear sabre rattling from Iran, the arrest of 17 ‘home-grown’ accused Jihadis in Canada, and the hideous number of deaths on a crowded commuter train in India all seem to many people to be separate and unconnected issues. The triumph of a Jihadist Somali militia, the escalating deaths in Thailand, or the tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan are also mistakenly seen as unrelated issues. Moreover, nobody gives much thought to the recruiting drive by radical Islamists inside Western prisons, the abuse of women in Muslim countries, or the lobbying efforts of the Council on American-Islamic Relations inside North America.

These are all connected. They are not proceeding from one grand design and according to some great plan; but the direction of this war runs from a loose network of people with a similar ideology (that of radical Islam) and a broadly similar operating methodology. This is a point that people should be clear on; networks are not grand conspiracies, but the effect can be identical

Regardless, in 1943 would anyone have seen the Nazi-Soviet collision of mass tank formations in Kursk as being separate from the American submarine offensive against Japan? Or seen the squabbling of Chetnik and Communist partisans in Yugoslavia as being entirely unrelated; or the collapse of Italian morale in the face of the Anglo-Canadian-American invasion of Sicily?

World Wars are just that — World Wars. They are complex struggles as they involve multiple fronts on different continents and many diverse participants. Older and separate conflicts might be drawn into a world war, and add their tally to the over-all toll. After all, the Chinese often argue that the Second World War began with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, while the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia (and these were but few) let the locals kill each other in the latest chapter of their ancient animosities which continue to have a life of their own sixty years later.

Yet a World War has an over-arching structure that makes it larger than the regional conflicts it might engulf. After all, World War One began, basically, as a conflict between European powers about continental supremacy. The Second World War arose from an ideological challenge by several parties (German Nazis, Italian Fascists, Japanese Ethnic-Militarists, and with some egging on by the Soviet Communists) against the world order established by democratic Western societies.

It is a new world war that ties Lebanon to events in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, Southern Russia, inside the liberal democratic nations of the West, etcetera. A war this large needs a name, and some analysts call it the “Jihadist” War.

Where is the real epicentre of this world war? Who is the real enemy? This global conflict is not being waged within the structure of the nation-state apparatus created by the Western world. The Saudi Government tells the US that it is an ally, as does the Pakistani Government. Sometimes this is what they are, yet it is Saudi oil money that funds the Pakistani madrassas that generate the preachers and teachers who propagate the conflict on all its fronts. Money for the Jihadis also comes from other sources, as do their preachers and teachers.

We are given to understand that radical Wahhabi/Salafist Sunnis hate Shi’ites and certainly see the evidence of this in Baghdad; where – to keep the American intervention from ‘winning’ by letting a stable nation-state emerge out of Post-Saddam Iraq – Sunnis will cheerfully massacre Shi’ites to keep the new country unstable. Yet Shi’ite Iran appears to be hosting the Wahhabi leadership of al Qaeda, and letting arms run through its hands to support the Wahhabi-inspired Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran is also running arms to the Shi’ites of Hizbollah in Lebanon.

We are told by the supporters of the Jihad movement inside our countries that it is ‘racist’ to be suspicious of radical preachers who have been seeking out angry young men and telling those same young men that our ‘racism’ is responsible for their ills. Yet, Arab Fundamentalists must be the most racist and bigoted people on the planet – for they hate everyone and everything that they do not control. They kill Buddhists, Chinese Taoists, African Animists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Secularists… they also kill a lot of Muslims.

We are told by the same supporters, and by their allies among our morally stunted ‘progressives’ (damaged for life by education systems they subverted) that we must tolerate the intolerant. Yet these intolerant themselves seek to impose a new order upon the entire world.

And what do the Jihadists do, particularly in the West to inspire new recruits and indoctrinate them? They at least know this is a multi-front World War. The preachers and teachers who handle these tasks come armed with videos from the Philippines, Indonesia, the Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Chechnya, and from the streets of Madrid, London, and New York. They know it is one war — and they talk of one victory.

For us, it is indeed a most confusing World War, but we have our experiences of the last century which should be a reliable guide (that is, at least for those who read history).

In the 20th Century, we learned what totalitarian ideologies are like: They are murderous, particularly to their own people; they lie, deceive and manipulate until it is time for the mask to come off; they are contemptuous of every belief which is contrary to theirs; they seek domination by murder. Does this not describe the Nazis, the Soviets; the Imperial Japanese? Does it not describe the Jihadis?

In previous World Wars we learned that choices are made for us by the ideologues who started it. We have learned that World Wars have to be fought on multiple fronts simultaneously – that we simply cannot treat each arena as a separate issue. We have also learned that a merciless enemy might have to be handled ruthlessly… if you want to win.

In World Wars, the stakes are the idea of what the future should be, and some of the wherewithal and influence to implement that vision.

There are three ways this war could go.

1. Jihadist victory: Jihadists seek domination: If they had their way, the Middle East would be united under Sharia Law; communities of Muslim immigrants inside the West would become colonies; Israel would be destroyed and the West would be forever humbled, preparatory to the universal triumph of Islam. In their design, every ‘peace’ we would arrive at would be temporary. Mohammed himself was known to promptly violate truces and treaties when it suited him, so what worth could there be in signing an agreement with his most radical followers?

The net results: Chaos and violence until we are broken, and with radical Islamist ideologues taking control of whole countries. The death toll will be in the hundreds of millions – for we know that there is nothing so murderous as a radical ideology in government.

There is another blunt point to consider; an Islamic victory would mark the end of human technological progress, and would probably result in a pronounced regression. Every human society has its arts, literature, poetry and its crafts – and Islamic cultures have no shortage of skilled artisans and poets. Yet in the long history of human technological and intellectual development; contributions from Islam are significantly under-represented.

Yes, some Muslims will claim the inventions of the number ‘zero’ and algebra. However, zero is an Indian concept and ‘Arabic’ numerals (again from India) were being combined with astronomical data by Severus Sebokht, an abbot at the Ken-Nesre Monastery on the upper Euphrates, at the time of the Muslim Conquest. Algebra was pioneered by Diophantes, a Greek in Alexandria in the third Century AD. To be fair, the first couple of centuries of Islamic rule in the Middle East were fairly stable – the Arabs were fascinated by what they had conquered, and provided a secure enough political order for two or three centuries – so that what remained of Classical Greco/Roman science could be cross pollinated with new knowledge from India.

Indeed, much of this cross pollination was done by one man alone – Muhammad ibn Musa Al Khwarizmi, who lived in Central Asia from 780 to 850. He spent a lifetime updating astronomical charts from Classical Greece and pre-Islamic Persia with Indian mathematics. As a transmitting culture, Islam also let apricots and oranges, and coffee (for which we should forgive much!) spread across more of the world. Some of the architectural developments that are attributed to Islam in the early days actually originated in Pre-Islamic Persia.

Moreover, the above all occurred a thousand years ago, but what has the Islamic world contributed lately to human progress? Think on all the major developments of the last five or six centuries… did any originate from the Islamic World? The printing press, steam power, telegraphy, firearms, the discovery of microbes… anything? Where are their equivalents to Roger Bacon, Da Vinci, Copernicus, Decartes, Spinoza, Newton, Locke, Adam Smith, Franklin, the Brunels and the Rothschilds, Darwin, Pasteur, Edison, Freud, G.W. Carver, Henry Ford, or Einstein?

Of 776 Nobel Prizes awarded so far; none for physics, medicine or economics have been awarded to anyone from the Islamic World. There is one award for chemistry in 1999 to Ahmed Zewail – whose life and work took him to the United States decades ago; one award for literature to the prolific Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz who received the Nobel in 1988. There have been four Nobel prizes awarded for peace to Muslims: A well deserved one to Anwar Sadat in 1978 (assassinated in 1981); a richly deserved one in 2003 to the Iranian dissident Shiri Ebadi (and she runs a severe risk of being murdered); a so-so award in 2005 jointly made to the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed el Baradei for some unspectacular work in limiting nuclear proliferation; and a distinctly undeserved stinker of a Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat in 1994.

2. The Destruction of Fundamentalist Islam (or indeed, of mainstream Islam itself – few nations are all that discriminating when fighting for survival). The Jihadist movement depends heavily on the restraint of democratic societies. If they prove provocative enough, then that restraint can be set aside and the full destructive fury that the Western world can offer comes into play.

The net result could well be tens or hundreds of millions of deaths particularly if Iran does start slinging nuclear weapons about – Israel will not go alone into extinction as any visit to the 2,000 year old ruins of Masada will suggest. When outnumbered 30:1 by hostile neighbours, Israel’s idea of parity might be most deadly in a war of attrition with weapons of mass destruction.

The Jihad movement is also making the same sad miscalculation about the nature of democracies that a number of others have made – holding a lack of resolve and a dislike of violence in contempt. This is a mistake Hitler and Stalin made. Resolve can come very quickly and the intellectual fashions of one generation might not be those of the next. Our moral relativism is the ‘intellectual’ fashion of one generation. There is no guarantee it will survive with the next. Indeed, if we are provoked beyond measure, some of our retribution might well be directed internally towards those the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci describes as quislings who inhibit our ability to defend ourselves.

Westerners can be cruel and ruthless and have often been so before. Individual rights and freedoms have been waived or set aside before in times of great conflict without lasting harm being done. If this global conflict warps into one dedicated to the suppression of all Islam, one shouldn’t doubt the end result. However, there is a peril here. A war like this might tarnish our society’s collective soul – as happened to the Athens of Pericles or the late Roman Republic. The risks of winning a war for survival can be subtly dangerous, for war always brings change. Of course, both Athens and Rome left a great legacy for humanity, but success in war inevitably led to their own downfalls.

3. The World Muddles through somehow. Finally there is the third way that this Jihadist war might go – and this is the outcome that looks the likeliest for the moment, but great conflicts are always uncertain. Again, ideological threats are often short-lived.

One looks at the ordinary people of Iran and their hatred for their own government. They live in an Islamic Society and don’t like it. If the Mullahs weakened, they would be overthrown very quickly. Again and again, the ideological fervour of revolutionaries always weakens with time as a movement lapses into corruption. Al Qaeda instructs Jihadis to finance themselves through organized crime; Hizbollah deals in fraud, smuggling, hashish and stolen automobiles. The Palestine Authority is notorious for wallowing in corruption – so too are the religious militias of Iran. Revolutionary zeal doesn’t pay the bills and gets boring after a while, making the process of conversion from terrorism to organized crime almost automatic.

Set against the lunatic raving of apocalyptic Imams and barely educated Mullahs are a small handful of other Muslims – brave, articulate, moral and inspiring. There are those who would reform Islam and strip it of its objectionable elements, keeping what is best in it and discarding the rest to let the real potential of a billion people be achieved. Sometimes, people filled with moral authority can inspire others. Lech Walensa and John Paul II broke Communism without raising a fist; Ghandi and Mandella accomplished far more than any amount of terrorism ever could. Could these Islamic reformers do the same? One can but hope.

But, hoping for this outcome is not the same as working for its end. Police work and military deployments, security checks, and the unrestrained war of ideas (let’s have more Danish cartoons!); will all buttress our defences to prevent the Jihadists from being successful. These measures will hopefully prevent such severe attacks that our restraint snaps. Imagination and willpower have to cooperate to keep the problem leashed in until the Jihadi movement grows stale. The other asset we will need more of is resolution.

In reaching this end, we should be tacitly encouraging Israel in its campaign in Lebanon – it simply doesn’t do to let a Jihadist movement be a law unto itself in the bosom of what could be a stable nation state; when guerrillas have sanctuary areas the only logical response is to take them away. When terrorists offer themselves as targets, then shoot!

A ‘victorious’ Hizbollah will only encourage more of the same, a defeated one will not. In this optimal middle course, to avoid the deaths of tens or hundreds of millions of people, the terrorist groups must be shattered wherever they appear. To do anything else is to ask for either of the catastrophic courses.

And make no mistake… Israel’s war against Hizbollah and the attendant proxy war on Iran are nothing more than another front in the Jihadist war. Success there can lead to success in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and for the safety of people in the streets of dozens of different nations – including ours.