The Real Global Virus

The plague of Islamism keeps on spreading.
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
Nov. 4, 2005

Either the jihadists really are crazy or they apparently think that they have a shot at destabilizing, or at least winning concessions from, the United States, Europe, India, and Russia all at once.

Apart from the continual attacks on civilians by terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the West Bank, there have now been recent horrific assaults in New Dehli (blowing up civilians in a busy shopping season on the eve of a Hindu festival), Russia (attacking police and security facilities), London (suicide murdering of civilians on the subway), and Indonesia (more bombing, and the beheading of Christian schoolgirls). The loci of recent atrocities could be widely expanded (e.g., Malaysia, North Africa, Turkey, Spain) — and, of course, do not forget the several terrorist plots that have been broken up in Europe and the United States.

The commonalities? There are at least three.

First, despite the various professed grievances (e.g., India should get out of Kashmir; Russia should get out of Chechnya; England should get out of Iraq; Christians should get out of Indonesia; or Westerners should get out of Bali), the perpetrators were all self-proclaimed Islamic radicals. Westerners who embrace moral equivalence still like to talk of abortion bombings and Timothy McVeigh, but those are isolated and distant memories. No, the old generalization since 9/11 remains valid: The majority of Muslims are not global terrorists, but almost all such terrorists, and the majority of their sympathizers, are Muslims.

Second, the jihadists characteristically feel that dialogue or negotiations are beneath them. So like true fascists, they don’t talk; they kill. Their opponents — whether Christians, Hindus, Jews, or Westerners in general — are, as infidels, de facto guilty for what they are rather than what they supposedly do. Talking to a Dr. Zawahiri is like talking to Hitler: You can’t — and it’s suicidal to try.

Third, there is an emboldened sense that the jihadists can get away with their crimes based on three perceptions:

(1) Squabbling and politically correct Westerners are decadent and outnumber the U.S. Marines, and ascendant Islamicism resonates among millions of Muslims who feel sorely how far they have fallen behind in the new globalized world community — and how terrorism and blackmail, especially if energized by nuclear weapons or biological assets, might leapfrog them into a new caliphate.

(2) Sympathetic Muslim-dominated governments like Malaysia or Indonesia will not really make a comprehensive effort to eradicate radical Islamicist breeding grounds of terror, but will perhaps instead serve as ministries of propaganda for shock troops in the field.

(3) Autocratic states such as Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran share outright similar political objectives and will offer either stealthy sanctuary or financial support to terrorists, confident that either denial, oil, or nuclear bombs give them security .

Meanwhile, Westerners far too rarely publicly denounce radical Islam for its sick, anti-Semitic, anti-female, anti-American, and anti-modernist rhetoric. Just imagine the liberal response if across the globe Christians had beheaded schoolgirls, taken over schoolhouses to kill students, and shot school teachers as we have witnessed radical Muslims doing these past few months.

Instead, Western parlor elites are still arguing over whether there were al Qaedists in Iraq before the removal of Saddam Hussein, whether the suspicion of WMDs was the real reason for war against the Baathists, whether Muslim minorities should be pressured to assimilate into European democratic culture, and whether constitutional governments risk becoming intolerant in their new efforts to infiltrate and disrupt radical Muslim groups in Europe and the United States. Some of this acrimony is understandable, but such in-fighting is still secondary to defeating enemies who have pledged to destroy Western liberal society. At some point this Western cannibalism becomes not so much counterproductive as serving the purposes of those who wish America to call off its struggle against radical Islam.

Most Americans think that our present conflict is not comparable with World War II, in either its nature or magnitude. Perhaps — but they should at least recall the eerie resemblance of our dilemma to the spread of global fascism in the late 1930s.

At first few saw any real connection between the ruthless annexation of Manchuria by Japanese militarists, or Mussolini’s brutal invasion of Ethiopia, or the systematic aggrandizement of Eastern-European territory by Hitler. China was a long way from Abyssinia, itself far from Poland. How could a white-supremacist Nazi have anything in common with a racially-chauvinist Japanese or an Italian fascist proclaiming himself the new imperial Roman?



8 thoughts on “The Real Global Virus”

  1. Churches Set Ablaze in France

    CNN Link

    A church was set ablaze in the southern fishing town of Sete and another in nearby Lens, Pas de Calais; two schools in the southeastern town of Saint-Etienne and a police station in the central France town of Clermont-Ferrand were torched, as was a social center in the Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.

  2. Hansen’s comments are supported by one of the leading experts on the Near East, Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton. In his 2002 book, “What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response” Lewis looks at the decline of Arab intellectualism from the Middle Ages when Arab scholars far outpaced Europeans in their knowlege of science and medicine, to today, when Arab nations are a “poor, weak, and ignorant” backwater dominated by “shabby tyrannies … modern only in their apparatus of repression and terror.” .

    Lewis observes, “Today’s Arab governments have blamed their plight on any number of external culprits, from Western imperialism to the Jews. Lewis believes they must instead commit to putting their own houses in order: “If the peoples of Middle East continue on their present path, the suicide bomber may become a metaphor for the whole region, and there will be no escape from a downward spiral of hate and spite, rage and self-pity, [and] poverty and oppression.”

  3. Ofcourse, there are a couple of interesting things about Victor Davis Hanson. For starters, he is a big supporter of the U.S. invading Middle Eastern countries and ‘converting’ them to democracies. His article here makes it appear as if the fundamental problem with the Middle East is Islam, not political oppression. This would seem to be borne out by the fact that Muslims are involved in fights within liberal, Western societies which are democracies and quite tolerant.

    Yet, we are supposed to continue fighting in Iraq and actually spread the war wider for the purposes of otherthrowing pro-Western regimes and replacing them with democracies in places like Egypt. Democracies that will almost invariably be government by Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. If the enemy is Islam itself (something I don’t really question), then why is democracy the cure?

    I would make the case that if Islam is the issue, then strengthening pro-Western autocracies would be a great way to keep the Muslim radicals in check. That is not the current policy of the Bush Administration, which has pledged to let every single Muslim in the Middle East vote for the Mullah of his choice.

    Second, I don’t think there is much coordination between Jihadi groups. This is a movement, not an organized conspiracy. Hanson seems to treat this like there is some kind of all-important organization that is calling the shots. That’s just not happening. If it were, then it would be easier to combat. You could strike a target and disrupt the entire operation. That is why the often repeated comment from the Administration about ‘killing or capturing 80% of Al Queda’s leadership’ is so laughable. So what? You get one Sheik, there are more lined up behind him to take his place. This is a global movement, with loose organization and loose cooperation among different groups who have different immediate concerns. That makes it difficult to apply a single strategy of opposition to it.

    Third, there are plenty of people blowing up Americans in Iraq that would never make the trip to NYC to do it. The same is true of Chechnyans who are fighting Russians in country, but don’t make the crossing to do it in Moscow. I would prefer to separate the true Jihadis, ideological crusaders bent on conquest, from run-of-the-mill types who are Muslim, not that serious about it, but who are interested in fighting for their homes. Those people do exist, but our current policy lumps them all together.

  4. Glen: We haven’t really explored the economic roots of Islamic radicalism.

    Playing devil’s advocate one could ask whether the pro-western autocracies exacerbate Islamic radicalism through economic policies that perpetuate poverty and create huge numbers of idle, angry,unemployed men ripe for recruitment into terrorist organizations. I think one constant throughout history, whether its Weimar Germany, Northern Ireland in the seventies, or present-day Gaza or Egypt, is wherever you have large numbers of idle, angry, unemployed men you have politcal instability.

    Perhaps the answer is a more economically liberal, but politically autocratic, model such as you see in places like Singapore or Malaysia. The US should more aggressively offer economic development assistance and trade preferences in return for cooperation on matters of security, intellegence and foreign policy.

  5. Now you’re on to something, Dean. Throughout history, sucessful political liberalization has always followed economic growth. The British did not become democratic overnight. The expanding middle class of tradesmen took advantage of improving trade and commercial climates to build prosperity. As their prosperity increased, they eventually looked for greater and greater political involvement as well.

    I think the best thing Middle Easterners could do would be to focus on their economies, and forget politics for now. Doing otherwise puts the cart in front of the horse.

  6. VDH wrote, “Yet the antidote for radical Islam, aside from the promotion of democratization and open economies, is simple. It must be militarily defeated when it emerges to wage organized violence, as in the cases of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Zarqawiâ??s terrorists in Iraq, and the various killer cliques in Palestine.”

    Should we be promoting democracy and an open economy in France? The above quote is what drives me to hit the bottle when dealing with neo-cons like VDH. The man even wrote a book about controlling Mexican immigration into the United States, but he is completely incapable of dealing with immigration in a Muslim context. That topic is verboten in his mind.

    Instead, all roads lead directly to military engagement to bring about democracy. Yet, a ballot box is an open invitation for Islamic radicals to seize power. The underlying subtext of this thinking is that the average Muslim is not a jihadist, nor supports nor is sympathetic to jihadists. If only they could vote, they would vote for governments that would not support jihadists in anyway shape or form.

    But, Hanson gives a long laundry list of countries such as India and France that are democracies already that are suffering from jihadist activity. Clearly a large number of Muslims eschew the ballot box in places where it is on offer. And when they do vote, many of them vote radical even in Western countries.

    And if voting were free and open in places like Egypt, is it not possible that the elected governments would be radically anti-American and inclined to support jihad? Even Turkey, the great neo-con success story for Muslim democracy, currently sports an Islamist government that even NRO has reported (must have been hard for them) to be blowing up restaurants for engaging in un-Islamic activities. Much to the delight of its supporters, by the way.

    No, I just don’t get it. We should ignore immigration and border security, overthrow friendly governments, and take the chance on getting Muslim Chavez’s elected all over the Middle East? If this is conservatism, then I really find myself in search of a new label for myself.

  7. Comments from Nidra Poller, french writer

    Source: Tech Central Station
    A reporter interviews a man standing in front of a mosque in full Islamist regalia and politely relays his complaints. Do readers know that these offended Islamists are calling for the de-Zionization of France? And the defeat of the United States of America? No offense meant there! Do readers understand that the banlieues are being shaped into a foreign and hostile nation?

    I just saw a report of some fires in French synogogues. I’ll see if I can track it down. I would say that setting fires to Churches and Synagoges suggests a religious/ideological motive.

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