Skip to comments.Defense of Liberty: The Contours of Victory
Posted on 09/30/2001 9:31:07 AM PDT by annalex
Two characteristics of the militant Arab threat to our country need to be kept in mind: it is cosmopolitan inside the world of Islam, and it has deep roots everywhere in that world. In this paper we will examine those characteristic and draw conclusions that will allow us to define the proper strategic and political goals of the war.
Defense of Liberty: The Contours of Victory
The diverse character of what is collectively known as militant Islam is remarkable. It ranges from deep religious convictions of Muslim scholars such as the late Ayatollah Khomeini, and from atavistic social practices of the Taliban, to the ragtag guerilla armies of Chechnya and the PLO, the elite Iraqi regulars, and to the respectable doctor's offices in Cairo. Its apparent leader Osama bin Laden is a Yemeni who grew up in privilege and wealth in Saudi Arabia and moved with ease from there to Sudan and then to Afghanistan. Bin Laden assumes the role of a religious leader alongside his undisputable credentials as a terrorist mastermind, and indeed seems to be a devout man leading an ascetic lifestyle. Yassir Arafat, on the other hand, apparently enjoys his secular status of a de-facto head of state, conferred onto him by the Western appeasers. Saddam Hussein, of course is a head of state -- the most secularized one in the Arab world. Osama's illiterate foot soldiers are recruited from the least accessible barren plateaus of Afghanistan, while his suicidal strike force had followed a seemingly assimilated American immigrant middle class track through engineering colleges and flight schools.
At the same time, a parallel Arab universe exists both in the Middle East and in American immigration circles. They are laborers and peasants, shopkeepers and doctors, who maintain a rational economic life, obey the law of the land, pray to Mecca as required, and have no intention of bombing anything. To borrow the American demographic term from the Clinton era, they are soccer Muslims: middle class for their locale, driven by petty economic concerns, philistine (some even Philistine), non-ideological. While the recruits of the militant factions come entirely from this benign Muslim milieu, it would be a gross mistake to identify the entire world of Islam as militant. In fact, great tension exists between the militants and the merchants in the Muslim world, as exemplified by the multiple terrorist acts against the Egyptian tourist industry.
What are the roots of the Arab militancy?
It is tempting to accuse the Muslim religion of fostering violence against the infidels. The Koran does contain examples of Prophet Mohammed condoning violence against and deceit of infidels, that don't find a direct parallel in either the Torah or the New Testament. Nevertheless, an overwhelming number of the world's Muslims has a heightened religious awareness and do not seem to be particularly violent, and moreover, militant Islam is a new phenomenon in the modern history. In any religion, the job of the clergy is to put the messages of its scripture in proper historical context; at most, with respect to Islam, we can say that the Islamic clergy contains militant elements alongside peace-loving ones. Clearly, Islam alone cannot explain Muslim, let alone Arab, militancy. Similarly, the social factors, such as the lack of indigenous technological progress, low social mobility and political repression, although all relevant, do not provide a complete explanation, since a fertile ground for terrorism exists across many social orders in the Middle East, from medieval monarchies to semi-democratic secular governments. We have to conclude that the root of the Arab militancy is to be found at the intersection of social, cultural, and religious Arab experience. The convenient operative word here is: civilization.
Let us take a short theoretical digression. Many cultures, ideologies and traditions typically coexist in a society, either as distinct cultures carried by its individual members, or as foreign cultures that are understood by the given society, sufficiently for cultural interaction. A civilization is a conglomerate of interconnected and inter-accessible cultures, ideologies and traditions. Thus we speak of the Western Civilization, as a loosely connected system of human experiences: the cultures of Europe and the Americas, religious tolerance, secular humanism, rule of law, government by consensus, individualism and materialism. A German engineer may have little in common with a Mexican farmer, yet both cultures easily mix, for example, in California. Thus a civilization gives an individual his cultural universe; outside of that universe an individual is lost: his life has no meaning. An individual facing a foreign but civilizationally compatible culture adapts, learns the ways and the language, and lives on. An individual facing a foreign civilization feels as if he were facing invaders from the outer space. While most cherish their culture, few are prepared to die for it, but many would willingly die in what they see as an eschatological struggle between good and evil.
The diversity of cultures that produce Arab militancy, its complete intellectual impenetrability (imagine trying to reason with Osama bin Laden), its lack of concrete policy goals, the extreme, self-denying devotion of its followers all point to a hostile civilization alien to the West. Historically, we could trace the Arab militancy to the warrior culture of the Arab Caliphate. The conjecture, although not provable or falsifiable directly, can explain the militancy's virulence: we are dealing with an ancient, once great civilization in its death spasms, not almost completely supplanted by secularized and benign forms of Islam.
The worst enemy of an Islamic militant is then not the Western man, a Jew or an American; not his corrupt and dictatorial national ruler, -- it is his neighbor running a coffee shop, a car dealer, a tourist guide: a modest economic man, nominally his fellow Muslim, crossing over to the global economic network and ultimately -- to the ascending Western Civilization.
It is true that Arab militants and soccer Muslims share their local national cultures and concrete policy goals such as territorial disputes with Israel or overthrow of national government. To the extent that those goals do not take on the cosmic overtones of a civilizational struggle, -- for example, do not call for destruction of Israel or The Great Satan, -- those goals, whether we sympathize with them or not, should not be confused with the enemy as it presented itself to us on September 11. Without a doubt, Israel will be a natural benefactor of the defeat of Arab terrorism; however, the nature of the emerging war is different from any territorial dispute.
The emerging war has many historical predecessors. In its youth, the West battled the Arab Caliphate in its civilizational prime. Not that long ago a low-level ongoing conflict with an alien civilization (or civilizations) was known as colonialism. Recently, the West emerged bruised but victorious from two global battles, the World War II and the Cold War. The battle with Communism is particularly instructive in the present context, because Communism was another international in character civilization, based on a coherent and hostile to the West ethos and permeating diverse cultures. It is notable that it took a combination of military strength and efforts of our ideological allies inside the Iron Curtain to defeat world Communism. Both colonialist and the Cold War experiences will have to be revisited today in our search for the proper strategy.
Several conclusions follow from this. The enemy needs to be understood in civilizational, not merely cultural terms. Every Muslim nation has our friends and our enemies; our potentially solid allies are westernized Muslim immigrants, who are refugees from the same militant environment we are combating, as well as Muslim clerics who honestly denounce violence. That does not preclude converting the war on terrorism into a war on nations harboring terrorists, but it precludes a total war against any civilian population.
It is not possible to localize the war to any particular country or set of countries, since any Muslim country contains indigenous militant elements, and the enemy can move from country to country with ease. President Bush's formula: any nation that abets terrorism is our enemy as a nation, -- is the only logical one. Particular care needs to be taken therefore to prevent unnecessary mission creep and limit the goals of this war to elimination of terrorism across rogue nations, as opposed to merely a war on nations with which we (or Israel) may have had frictions in the past. Nor is it possible to conduct this war as a law enforcement operation aimed at the current perpetrators of violence, since new terrorists, even new terrorist networks, can emerge as soon as the old ones are apprehended. It is not possible to retaliate against a martyr, but it is possible to reduce the scope of operation of aspiring martyrs.
For the same reasons it will not be possible to limit our engagement to military means: "strike hard and get out". Any military campaign needs to be followed up by either an occupation regime, or establishment of a friendly government committed to a meaningful, from terrorism-fighting standpoint system of law enforcement. It is in our vital interest to leave the area not sooner than when a Muslim culture rooted in property rights and genuine political pluralism has a chance to withstand future recurrence of Arab militancy.
The policy advocated here has a discredited name: imperialism. At its best, imperialism means a careful management of foreign relations with multiple weaker countries, based on unabashed projection of military strength combined with its minimalist application, and on asymmetrical parent-child diplomacy. The Twentieth Century saw a hasty dismantlement of the old imperialist system and its replacement with an illusion of a one-nation-one-vote world parliament and a cabal of international corporate management organically incapable of cultural or historical insights. Now it is time for the West, in particular, for the United States, to assume leadership once more.
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The bumps are from Kipling. I trust that no one on this forum would consider this famous poem in the least bit racist; nor is the subject of this thread related in any way to race relations.
A TREASURY OF PRIMARY DOCUMENTS . The ultimate source of history links.
A Chronology of US Historical Documents.
The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School, more historic documents.
Laissez Faire Books.
Second Renaissance Books.
Ayn Rand and Objectivism.
Religion and the Founding Fathers
Religion vs. Morality, from the Ayn Rand Institute.
Simply leaving after decapitating a regime is probably not optimal, but then neither is setting up a DEPENDENT puppet government. The policy has its unintended consequences. Without internal support in these countries based upon a cultural respect for republican government methinks "The White Man's Burden" is more an avaricious play for raw material and cheap labor than it is benevolent.
I note that the most likely successor to Shah Masoud is a communist.
What a surprise!
I have no desire to see the US military guaranteeing Unocal access to gas, nor protection for copper mines simply because domestic RICOnut environmentalists have made that a necessity through Bubba's minerally strategic EOs. Energy can be used to replace materials as a substitute good, for example in compressing Nitrogen to cool power transmission lines that require far less copper. The possibilities are nearly endless. Build nuclear power plants instead of enforcing access to fossil fuels and playing into the hands of the UN thereby. Note that the Tobin tax is positioned to take advantage of dependence upon imported fossil fuels by taxing payment transfers. I would much rather deprive them of the funds.
That said, perhaps making this country independent and strong is the best long term strategy, as well as purging PC communist fascism from western universities by competition from superior alternatives. In that respect, perhaps we can do more for the world long term, by cutting federal support for state universities and supporting the current flourishing of home schooling. I think that the effect of that infusion of intelligent and independent thinking into the highest echelons of government and industry would be far more rapid than is commonly supposed; i.e., less than ten years.
You have seen my comments on civil defense; they stand. If you want me to repost them here I will do so.
Similar to homeland defense by the militia and civil defense by the free market, strengthening our ability to render aid to a collapsing world communism is far preferable to kissing its royal tusch to get at raw materials controlled by western banks.
We disagree Annalex, I do not think we have the population or resources to conduct our affairs and dominate the lives of 1.5 billion Islamists in Russo/China's back yard, nor do I think that it is in our interest to so attempt. Lack of respect for the national sovereignty of other nations will have unintended consequences at home that in my judgement are not worth the risk.
"For the same reasons it will not be possible to limit our engagement to military means: "strike hard and get out". Any military campaign needs to be followed up by either an occupation regime, or establishment of a friendly government committed to a meaningful, from terrorism-fighting standpoint system of law enforcement. It is in our vital interest to leave the area not sooner than when a Muslim culture rooted in property rights and genuine political pluralism has a chance to withstand future recurrence of Arab militancy.
The policy advocated here has a discredited name: imperialism.
We have, as you noted, a clash of fundamental values.
Individual fanatics are leading this movement, in and outside of governments and/or religious groups.
We cannot decare war on the muslim world, or even on selected political parts of it, imo, without bringing on another global war. - WWIII.
Therefore, we should decare war on the fanatics, the individuals responsible. -- We should identify these individuals as it becomes possible, make our case, and announce to the world that no quarter will be given in their personal elimination , collateral death & destructon be damned.
After several such successful actions, killing thousands of these fanatics, the rest will learn our way. -- To live & let live. -- Or learn to die opposing it.
Imperialism, as you have defined it, will never work again unless the enemy is totally defeated, as per WWII.
We cannot fight the whole islamic world for its unconditional surrender.
We don't need to. What we must do is to completely wipe out the Taliban and all of it's brutal tyranny. The Taliban is mostly hated by the Muslim world. To say waging war on it would be waging war on the nation of Islam, would be similar to saying that waging war on the Davidians would be waging war on Christianity.
Once the Taliban is eliminated, there will be no efficient ruling force to govern Afghanistan. This was our mistake the first time after the Russian invasion. We allowed anarchy to prevail there and the Taliban is what results in anarchy. Haven't you ever seen Escape from N.Y. or L.A.? We must occupy Afghanistan in order to assist in installing a TRUE democratic government. If we do not, we can expect a similar situation to take place in the future. We must learn from our mistakes.
Sorry, I don't get my history or philosophy from movies.
Did you even read the fine article above?
This is a war against the islamic fundementalist, not just taliban afghans. -- Sure, we can occupy, and TRY to convert them to 'democracy'. The lessons of history say we will fail.
-- The germans & japs of WWII had our basic capitalistic values.
Fundamentalist islam, [millions of people, far beyond afghanistan] does not.
We will never win their hearts & minds. Only THEY can change themselves.
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