Thursday, November 27, 2003

Our Battle Ahead 

This essay was inspired by Thomas Friedman's column in the NYT today (via Andrew Sullivan). Friedman questions the resolve of our Western leaders to fight this war and illustrates our failure, so far, to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

The War on Islamism is the third straight major ideological war in the past seventy years, after World War Two and the Cold War. Every war saw the forces for freedom and democracy on one side, and the latest threat to its existence on the other side. The first war was against Fascism, the perversion of love for one's country. The second war was against Communism, the perversion of love for one's neighbours. This war is against Islamism, the perversion of love for one's God.

Because every single one of these perversed ideologies attempt to appeal to basic human instincts, they cannot be merely beaten on the battlefield and contained, for the enemy will not cease in its objective. The total collapse of the enemies of freedom, in both matter and mind, is the only way to safeguard freedom and democracy.

Yet few are willing to commit to the totality of the war ahead of us. Why? Look back upon our last two wars, and one finds clues. In the Second World War, the cost was clear, spilled as the blood of many young men. The threat was also obvious, as the Rising Sun and the swastika spread around the world. The result, therefore, was a commitment to the total defeat of Fascism, and indeed such a defeat did take place.

The Cold War, meanwhile, was just as threatening, but not as costly. Nuclear Armageddon and the Red tide left no doubt as to the severity of the threat to our way of life. But this was a war whose price was much smaller: many less families saw their children shipped off to fight Communism in Korea and Vietnam than to fight on the tiny atolls of the Japanese Empire or the borders of the Third Reich. And for many who did not fire a shot, their way of life only grew better, through the expansion of the economies of free nations and advances in technology.

It is without surprise, therefore, that the Cold War saw many more people sympathetic to the cause of the enemy. In WWII, the handful of anti-Semites sympathetic to the Nazis were quickly ostracized and their threat neutralized. In the Cold War, an entire generation grew to fight against the very institutions that protected them, some even helping out the enemy directly, whether it be slipping the Soviets our nuclear secrets or standing side by side with North Vietnamese soldiers in Hanoi.

Nonetheless, the majority of America's population remained knowing in some degree to the importance of the conflict. This allowed visionary leaders, namely Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, to lead the free world to the final vanquishing of Communism.

So, in light of the past, where do we stand at the present? The threat of Islamism is much more vague and indeterminate than the threats of Fascism or Communism: centred upon a foreign faith, we find it hard to recognize it as a threat to ourselves. A long history of dogmatic religious tolerance has also astigmatized our vision, making it difficult for us to discern the difference between Muslims practicing their religion in peace and harmony, versus Islamists bent upon establishing the supremacy of their doctrine.

In terms of cost, we are even less burdened: although the pain of Septemeber 11 remains searing to most of America, it is but a distant memory in much of Europe, and the battles of this war, from Afghanistan to Iraq, has been miniscule in historical terms. The size of the armed forces of the free world is a fraction of what it was, and our way of life have been only marginally affected. Only in Israel has the cost of Islamist terrorism been felt to a significant level, but Israel is a small nation, and millennia of anti-Semitism have yet to be totally exorcised from Western thought.

With these considerations in mind, it is not surprising that the War on Islamism has proven to be the most difficult of the ideological wars to galvanize the population towards victory. The low cost of this war is to our credit: our parents would never want to burden us with the taxing costs of their war. In this objective they succeeded, but as a result we are nowhere near as committed as they were to fight the enemies of freedom. We must, therefore, have committed, faithful leaders, unwavering in their principles and beliefs, in order to lead us to defeat our enemies.

George W. Bush is an excellent candidate to be such a leader. His convictions are adamant and he was genuinely transformed by September 11 to be someone that will never willingly allow the Islamists to win. However, he is nonetheless a political man, and what we are seeing in Iraq will test those convictions. The battle in Iraq is the focal point of the War on Islamism. Unfortunately, for us, it seems like Iraq is merely a small war against a handful of suicide bombers and rocket launchers. For the enemy, however, they are fight a struggle for their most important faith. It is important, therefore, to consider what exactly is the battlefield that we find ourselves.

The War against Islamism, is, in every sense, the expansion of an Islamic civil war. Since the Battle of Lepanto, the Islamic world has been on a slide from greatness. As a result, Muslims have questioned endlessly why this has happened. However, the nature of Islamic faith makes it difficult, for centuries, for Muslims to be introspect and question their own way of life. The only solution, therefore, is to blame others for their woes: Wahhabi doctrine is the latest manifest of this worldview, demanding the expulsion of all "infidel" influence in search of a "pure" Islam.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving apace, and Muslims are forced to question why they have failed in their attempts to emulate others, from Fascism in the form of the Baath, to nationalism in the form of pan-Arabism, to socialism in the form of Nasserism. Many are at a loss, while others have taken courageous steps towards realizing the importance of freedom to developing their well-being.

The result: a fanatical movement to eradicate all foreign influences from the Muslim world, an intellectually bankrupt intelligentsia struggling to find the cause of Islamic decline, and a rising attempt to bring the best of the West into Islam, all vie for the minds and hearts of over a billion Muslims, many of which are confused and unsure of where their future lies.

Because this war is a war for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, we cannot be compromised by associating with corrupt regimes, or be intimidated into not speaking out forcefully enough about our objective, to eliminate Islamism as a threat and allow the Muslim world to join the rest of the free nations in prosperity. Unfortunately, we are guilty on both accounts. As long as we associate and deal with such regimes as Baathist syria, fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, or the corrupt Palestinian Authority, we give them strength to indoctrinate their own people and reduce our credibility. Meanwhile, Western leaders continue to spew platitudes about the peaceful nature of Islam. It is not enough to commend peaceful, law-abiding Muslims, while failing to punish those who kill and brutalize in the name of Allah.

Why are we so weak and timid on trying to voice our position and convince the Muslim world? Because amongst us is a fifth column that fail to recognize the value of freedom and democracy, and the need to fight to preserve it. Recall when I pointed out that an entire generation grew up in an atmosphere of opposing the efforts of the free world to contain and eliminate Communism. Consider that this generation came as the second generation of the Cold War.

Now look at the present. The first generation of the War against Islamism finds itself split: while a strong portion in America understand the importance of fighting Islamism, another portion, heavily based in Europe, Canada, and large portions of America, is subverting the fight as we speak. Hundreds of thousands around the world marched against Operation Iraqi Freedom, both before and after Iraq's liberation, while failing to condemn Saddam's war against its very own people. Before that, they opposed the battle in Afghanistan, the most brutal theological regime seen in modern times. They blind themselves to the plight of the oppressed to score cheap points against their own protector.

With such a dangerous fifth column against us, the War against Islamism will prove itself harder to win than either World War Two or the Cold War. We on the side of freedom must be adamant in our conviction, and must give full support to the leaders who recognize the importance of this struggle, such as George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and John Howard. Only such support will ensure that they can bring about our victory. We must also realize the very possibility of a civil war within ourselves: not a war of bullets and guns, but a war for the minds of those who live in freedom but refuse to defend it. Finally, we must also accept nothing but the total defeat of our enemies; anything less will leave sparks alive for their fires to light again.

The War on Islamism is a daunting challenge to our future as men living in liberty. It can be won, but only if we recognize it for its true character and fight it with a determination that surpasses our forefathers in their struggles for freedom.
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