A Look At The Intractable Facts
The real situation is bad enough. We are making and training a whole new generation of enemies over in Iraq to replace Al Queda and Osama Bin Laden. And, no matter how our involvement there finally shakes out, whether the place becomes a showpiece of democracy, a whirlpool of civil and ethnic war, or an endless dripping of American blood for years, maybe decades to come, that new generation, angry at us beyond measure, well trained in the use of explosives, and convinced that Islam sanctions their violence, will be there to haunt us, perhaps for the rest of my life.
But this is still an infinitesimal fraction of the Muslim world. Even among the Palestinians, who have lived with grievance, draconian rule, and casual revenge for almost 40 years now, the active terrorists are still a minority.
But the Conservative fantasy world deepens. The members of it even do things like invite weighty Professors of Classical Islam from Israel onto their blogs to republish dense and footnoted articles about the persistence of Jihad as an Islamic religious theme. The professors then come to conclusions such as these:
One of the great cultural tendencies of the Islamic world is to view the world through the prism of the paradigms of classical Islam, much in the same way that someone raised in a strict Protestant tradition views people or events through Biblical archetypes, and speaks of contemporary figures as being second Jezebels, Herods, Judases and so forth. Thus, for the devout Muslim viewing the world through the prism of the classical tradition, America becomes the second 'Ad of the Qur'an, an arrogant and godless people doomed to destruction; the Western forces in 'Iraq become the Crusaders; and so forth. Any state peopled largely by Christians, therefore, however secular the state and however nominal the Christians, corresponds to the "Rome" of the classical Sunni tradition in the eyes of the volunteer Jihadist drawing his inspiration from the early Sunni sources.
This professor's academic pedigree is impeccable, his knowledge of Classical Islam quite deep and broad, his tone is weighty, and his diligence self-evident. But when he claims to know what are the exclusive views of "the devout Muslim" of our time, he is simply talking through his hat.
Nobody knows this. And nobody can know this. There are simply too many devout Muslims to ask them all.
And the professor draws these blanket conclusions from conditions in the Muslim world ca. 722 CE, barely one hundred years after Muhammed's revelation!
The Muslim world, even when it lives with us in the same country, is foreign and inscrutable, many of the women wear unusual clothes, at which we stare, their holy book is penned in an exotic language which we cannot read, and the social constraints of belonging to the religion make many of its members shy about sharing their vision of the inner life. This is what makes blanket statements like the above look plausible.
But all we have to do is transfer the logic to our Christian history to see how absurd it is. Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses in 1517. Despite the schism of Henry VIII of England, which was earlier, Luther's act is essentially the start of modern Protestantism. One hundred years later came the start of the Thirty Years War, which cemented the alignment of political states to dominant conflicting religious beliefs in Europe.
We do not hear most of the devout Protestants among us rending the air with cries of, "No Popery!" Theological differences remain, and even some overt hostility to Rome among the more farouche of our Evangelicals, but conditions here are hardly those of 1618.
Nor do conditions or attitudes of Christians toward the world 100 years after the nominal birth of Christ bear a great deal of resemblance to their attitudes toward our contemporary world. Emperor Domitian had ordered Christian persecutions seven years earlier, Rome had recently banned human sacrifice throughout the Empire, the earliest gospel manuscript [John] was still seventeen years away, and Christmas would not be declared a religious holiday until thirty-five years later.
There are a few Christians who claim that there is a persecution in the United States which is equivalent to the persecution of Rome, but no one with any sense, Christian or not, takes them seriously. Persecution is not the same thing as verbal disagreement or social discomfort, which is the maximum any Christian has to face in the Land of Free and Home of the Brave.
And even if we look at the matter from the vantage point of where Christianity stood in 722, the foolishness of the professor's statement becomes manifest. The authority of the Pope was acknowledged and was sheltered under the wing of the Byzantine Emperor, there were recent evangelical ministries to the wild pagan lands of Holland, Denmark, Frisia, and Saxony. Moravia, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Hungary, and Serbia were still ruled by pagan kings and would not be converted until far in the future, and the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church was 300 years ahead.
So how does the professor view our own day? Thus:
There is no question that Islamic triumphalism is the greatest danger to civilization in the world today, and I can well understand your worries and fear, which are, alas! all too prescient. Unfortunately, it would take a radical change in European outlook and mentality to keep Europe from falling within the next 50 years or so...Until the West begins to pay attention to what Muslims are saying in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, rather than what their apologists spout forth for foreign consumption, we will continue to be in the situation of England under Chamberlain. Let us hope that our political leadership wakes up before it is too late...
Good Grief! Undoubtedly there is stuff being written in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu which I would not like, but I'm not too enthused about James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and David Limbaugh either. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
Moreover the flaccid and tired analogy to Chamberlian and Munich is becoming annoying and disgusting in its repetitiveness. No one is "appeasing" terrorism and there is no particular individual to appease. There is no Furher with a nation state and armies at his command.
The situation as we have it is totally unprecedented. The numbers of terrorists [or Islamofascist Jihadis, if you prefer it] is inevitably quite small, widely diversified, and non-hierarchical--large conspiracies simply cannot be undertaken under the nose of modern security and police forces, and they were darn difficult even under the old ones, as the European Resistance proved in World War II.
In terms of numbers and incidents, our situation is no different than in the past, such as the anarchist bombings of early 20th century Europe. What is different is that the growing interconnection of the world, which gives a small group of conspirators far greater reach, and the capacity to do far more damage.
So, professor, if the devout are all Jihadis, you want world leaders to wake up and do what? Forbid Muslims to worship? Ban the construction of Mosques? Force convert them to Christianity? Force convert them to secularism?
I really do wonder where my good friends put the part of themselves that balances their checkbooks, gets the oil changed in their auto, or buys a new winter coat when they discuss this issue. All it takes to form a realistic attitude is a little dose of that kind of common sense confronting the actual facts of this world rather than the world in 722 CE--a little common sense and a willingness not to toy with self-induced Islamophobia. So let's look at some facts.
The nearest thing we can get a glimpse of a collective sense of devout Islam, would roughly correspond to this:
The overwhelming majority of Muslim students unequivocally condemn the [July 7th] London attacks, with only 4% failing to do so. On suspecting someone is going to carry out a terrorist attack, almost three-quarters of our respondents said they would immediately go to the police, and of the remainder, 48% said they would do so after trying to first talk the person out of it. 9% of those who would not inform the police, felt they could not go to the police because they couldn't trust them or they feared them.This is from the recent British publication, The Muslim Student Survey, Voice of Muslim Students. But I doubt my good Conservative friends are listening. They are mostly drunk with their own rhetoric about Muslims in Europe and the United States being The Enemy Within.
Now my Islamophobic friends would not be that important but for one thing. If we are going to manage our terrorism problem, we will need the cooperation of the 96% that don't approve of these things.
Calling them The Enemy Within does not help. Islamophobia does not help. These statistics are malleable facts. Depending on how the British government treats the 96% who do condemn the attacks that percentage could fall dramatically. If mere Islamophobia drives that treatment, the percentage will fall dramatically. As will the trust in and cooperation with authorities who are trying to prevent terrorist attack. No amount of "waking up" will repair that trust and regain that cooperation if they are lost.
From the malleable facts we can now turn to the intractable facts:
This is the Muslim world. Everywhere that is colored green, Islam either predominates or is a significant plurality. Iraq is a small postage stamp in that large Muslim world. The territory patrolled by American troops there is far smaller. And the "Green Zone" of relative safety from insurgent attack is even smaller yet.
But this is how my conservative friends feel about it:
This is why we're trying to drain the swamp of terrorism at the source - because there is just too much risk to ourselves here at home if we don't. We must, and I believe we will, clean up our own society - rediscover moral truth and start instructing our young in it, but that will not happen over night and meanwhile we've got millions of pieces of tinder here at home which can go right up in flames if we don't take away the matches...in this case, Islamo-fascists who prey upon hopeless youths from affluent backgrounds who want a mission in life.
I kid you not. Not only do some of them appear to believe in some nebulous "central headquarters" of terrorism in the little postage stamp of Iraq on the map above, they actually entertain the real possibility that "millions" of our youth are likely to convert to Islam and then become Jihadis!
This level of Islamophobic paranoia simply takes my breath away.
So what are we going to "wake up" and do about that big green chunk of the world, professor? Occupy all of it with an army? Occupy only the relevant parts [i.e. the oil fields] and stay under siege. Terminate airline service to all countries with a significant patch of green on them? Refuse to trade with them? What?
We not only need the cooperation of the 96% of Muslims who condemn terrorism at home, we need the cooperation, directly or indirectly, of a like percentage of the Islamics throughout that entire green zone. Are we likely to get it by making up fairy stories that all followers of the Prophet are inherently dangerous Jihadis? I don't think so.
Now let's consider some more intractable facts, closer to home.
There are 44 million Muslims in Europe as a whole, 1 million in Spain, 1.5 million in the UK, just less than 1 million in Italy, just less than 1 million in the Netherlands, 350 thousand in Belgium, 3 million in Germany, and 4.5 million in France . There are also 656 thousand in Canada, 300 thousand in Australia, and 4.1 million in the United States.
So, somewhere around 50 million Muslims and all The Enemy Within? all Jihadis? So now what do we do? There is only one logical answer to that question and it has never been tried on a scale of 50 million people. The general drift of this solution is not without precedent in European history. Stalin's re-arrangement of Eastern European populations after World War II comes immediately to mind. As do several far uglier ones. I don't need to name them. But the precedents are not comfortable ones and certainly following them to any length would be a tremendous inconvenience.
But this is the logical extention of the Conservative Islamofascist nightmare.
They are the ones who need to wake up.