[I had intended to produce a gentle, philosophical musing with which to open the new week — something about why the Yankees can’t hit this season or what madness could have induced the Rangers’ front office to spurn Mark Messier as the team’s next head coach — until I came upon this bit of news from the Middle East. Needless to say, it put all gentle thoughts completely out of bounds.
Many other commentators, of many varying viewpoints, have observed that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. Yes, some Muslims are personally disinclined toward violence…but that doesn’t mean they condemn the actions of their jihadist co-religionists. Indeed, the non-violent fraction performs many services for the violent one, not the least of which is to provide concealment from apprehension and retribution.
Inasmuch as the turmoil in the Middle East today makes it plain that there can be no peace between Islam and the Enlightenment West, I’ve chosen to present an essay I penned in 2002, for the old Palace of Reason. I’ve compared the opinions I expressed at that time to those I hold today, and I find that none of them have changed. Your convictions, of course, are your own affair. — FWP.]
1.How It Began: Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001
It’s been said that no one who was alive at the time, however young, will ever forget where he was and what he was doing on November 22, 1963: the day John F. Kennedy was killed. How much more so for Black Tuesday!
I’ll certainly never forget it. I was in my office at home, sitting at my desk, when I was alerted to the attack on One World Trade Center. My attention was immediate; there was a company at the top of that tower, Cantor Fitzgerald, that I was hoping to work for.
The commentators and reporters who filled the airwaves from 8:45 to 9:30 AM, the period between the attack on the first tower and the attack on the second, were extraordinarily reluctant to speak of terrorism. I could feel them straining to avoid the word and the subject. Of course, when the second tower was hit, it was no longer possible. It was no longer possible that this unprecedented homicidal outrage could be anything else.
It wasn’t long afterward that unbelievable images reached us from the Middle East. Palestinians on the West Bank of the Jordan River were celebrating the death and destruction in lower Manhattan. Armed thugs were firing AK-47s into the air. Merchants were passing out candy to passers-by. People filled the streets cheering and shouting abuse of America.
Someone interviewed a young Iranian on the streets of Tehran. He wore a look of satisfaction. “It should have been worse,” he said in crisp English.
I saw and spoke to many people that day. Gripped with shock from the events, many had nothing to offer but tears. Those who could articulate their feelings were nearly unanimous about them:
“Kill them all.”
It was a sentiment I shared with a degree of passion and a wholeness of heart that I’d once reserved for the people and things I loved.
2.Allocating The Blame And Responding.
There was, of course, immediate suspicion of the shadowy edifice Americans called the “Middle Eastern terror network.” The name al-Qaeda had yet to become widely known, even though the mastermind and financier of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was already notorious. In the days that followed Black Tuesday, as evidence mounted that the bin Laden organization was the moving force behind the atrocity, President Bush and others repeatedly counseled full tolerance toward Muslims within our borders, citizens and visitors alike. We saw major U.S. security organizations lean over backwards to avoid the appearance of “ethnic profiling,” even though every hard indicator pointed to a Middle Eastern conspiracy stocked entirely with young Muslim males, predominantly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
America was not the only country suffering from terrorist blows. Yasser Arafat’s Second Intifada was raging in Israel. Israeli citizens were being slaughtered in ambushes and by suicide bombers at an unprecedented rate. Yet President Bush urged restraint upon Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and for a long time treated him and Arafat as if they were moral and political equals fit to sit at the same table.
When American armed forces undertook to root al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, they did not act on the “kill them all” passions that burned in our body politic. They advanced under rules of engagement stricter than any ever issued in American history. From the standpoint of the priority given to the preservation of non-combatants’ lives and property, and the resulting near-perfect record of American arms at doing so, the Afghan War that destroyed al-Qaeda’s bases there and unseated the Taliban was the most careful war ever fought.
We had been struck a foul and cruel blow, not at our men at arms but at our civil society, yet our retaliatory force struck back with unbelievable restraint and precision, and achieved nearly all their objectives. If ever there was a time to be proud of America’s military and its animating ethics, that was it.
3.What We Have Today.
What did we buy with our precision strikes, our military restraint, and our tolerance toward the ethnic and spiritual kin of our mortal enemy?
Recent surveys of the peoples of Muslim states reveal that their antipathy toward the United States is at an all time high. Many of the respondents — more than half in nearly every Muslim country — believe that there was not and could not have been any Muslim participation in the Black Tuesday assault on America. A substantial minority outrightly blamed the atrocity on an Israeli conspiracy intended to yoke Washington to Tel Aviv’s designs for quelling Palestinian “resistance.” Osama bin Laden was spoken of in tones of admiration for his “heroic resistance to American oppression.” He proved to be one of the most widely admired figures in the Middle East.
As the Afghan War ended, the waves of Palestinian violence against Israel surged to all-time record heights, and reached new depths of depravity. Suicide bombers sought out groups of women and children. Assassins invaded Jewish homes and murdered their occupants in their beds, including children five years old. Ariel Sharon finally cast off the shackles of “international opinion,” including President Bush’s and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s opinion, and dispatched the Israeli Defense Force into Ramallah, Jenin, and other hotbeds of Palestinian terrorism. For a time, the attacks on Israeli citizens dwindled near to zero, and President Bush ceased to call for Israeli restraint.
When Passover drew near, the infamous “blood libel” against Jews — that Jewish Purim pastries must be made with the blood of a gentile captured and exsanguinated for the purpose — was trumpeted by the State-controlled news organs of several Muslim states. Most notable was the performance of the State-controlled media of Saudi Arabia, which not only propagated the “blood libel,” but also held several fundraising telethons whose proceeds were used to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
The old calumny Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion was resurrected and returned to circulation. It and Mein Kampf were the best-selling books in the Islamic world.
The populace of our Islamic “ally” Pakistan has apparently welcomed the rump of al-Qaeda into its embrace. The government of Pakistan, headed by former General Pervez Musharraf, claims to be unable to act effectively against al-Qaeda elements within Pakistan’s borders.
With regard to the Islamic religion, Americans were astounded to learn that Wahhabi Islam, the dominant strain among anti-American Muslims, is being actively advanced by thousands of Muslim academies in the United States. Nearly all of these schools are heavily subsidized by the government of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, the practice or espousal of any religion other than the Islamic creed is illegal, and subject to extraordinary penalties, but the Saudis have no problem with advancing their creed here.
“International opinion,” with the sole exception of the government of the United Kingdom, has remained solidly against American “unilateralism” and Israeli self-defense. The condemnations of our actions in defense of American lives and in retaliation for the lives already taken have come from many quarters of the Old World, and have been echoed by the more scrofulous of our own “glitterati,” as if America had no justification for her anger. Their sentiments go beyond all previous effusions of “moral equivalence”. They claim that America has a great deal to “answer for” to the peoples of the Third World, that until it stands and delivers what’s demanded, events like the Black Tuesday assault are to be expected, and are fully deserved.
Anti-Semitic acts — attacks on Jews and the institutions affiliated with them — by Muslim immigrants to the countries of Europe have raged as if a new Kristallnacht were upon us. In response, the governments of Europe have shown more solicitude toward their troublesome Muslim minorities than toward the targets of Muslim anti-Semitic rage. One government, that of Norway, is actually inching toward an embargo on products made in Israel.
Meanwhile, Americans endure a security lockdown unprecedented in this nation’s history, even while World War II was raging. Though few are paralyzed with the fear of being among the victims of the next terrorist attack, a backdrop of fear pervades every major city, afflicts all mass transportation, and hangs over every building, stadium, or bridge where Americans occasionally gather in significant numbers.
Yet the radical Wahhabist preachments of the Saudi-funded academies on American soil continue unabated. Though our government-run schools have gone to extraordinary lengths to accommodate Muslim students and their religious practices, Muslim activist organizations claim that American Muslims have been made into second-class citizens. At the extreme pole of their ludicrous demands, a Muslim woman in Florida is suing the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for the privilege of having her driver’s license taken with her face entirely concealed, on the grounds that to demand that she expose her face for her photo violates her religions beliefs and would constitute discrimination.
4.The End Of Otherness.
The net result of all this has been to extinguish American tolerance for Islam and its followers in a large segment of the populace, possibly a majority.
Astrophysicist and author David Brin has noted the prevalence of the imperative of “otherness” — the mandate that one must try to see any dispute from the other party’s viewpoint — among Americans generally, and particularly among Americans who identify themselves as liberals. When he first wrote of it, he said he’d found it to be so strong that it had sunk below the rational level in most of the people he knew, and operated essentially without conscious invocation.
“Otherness” could be taking a death blow from the ongoing struggles with Islam-fueled terrorism. If national attitudes reflect the opinions to which I’ve been exposed, few Americans are now willing to trust a Muslim even to the slightest extent. They have essentially no interest in “seeing things from the Muslims’ point of view.” Part of this is, of course, the fruit of our outrage at Black Tuesday, but still more arises from the persistent Islamic drumbeat, transmitted over every known medium of communication, to the effect that America is an oppressor nation that deserves whatever anyone does to her.
Though some of our domestic glitterati continue to pander to these opinions, and maintain that Islamic assaults on America and Israel are only to be expected “after all we’ve done to them,” a large fraction of these usually noisy celebrities has fallen silent. They’ve felt a very cold shoulder for their emissions, and it’s caused them to modify their behavior. They, too, sense the approaching end of public tolerance for their reflexive iconoclasm, their perpetual flaunting of their special status, and their assumption of superior wisdom and virtue.
Perhaps the most visible manifestations of the convulsive change in public attitudes are the crescendo in gun sales, the very short shrift now granted to celebrity criticism of American values and traditions, and the remarkable explosion in books of a pro-American slant. In that last category, one must take special note of the recent book Slander: Liberal Lies About The American Right, by constitutional lawyer and pundit Ann Coulter.
Miss Coulter is no one’s choir angel. Butter certainly would melt in her mouth. Her attack on the American Left’s many calumnies against the pro-free-market, pro-American-values camp loosely called “the Right” is angry, sarcastic, and merciless. It’s also meticulously researched, tied down with hundreds of footnotes and explicit references to time and place. It’s been received with an enthusiasm no political book in memory has ever commanded. Miss Coulter herself is now one of the most popular political guests on talk radio and television. She maintains her relentless, bomb-throwing style at all times. Her listeners love her for it.
There is no more outspoken opponent of liberal “otherness” than Ann Coulter. She has tapped the American Zeitgeist and become its voice. Those she targets are paralyzed like a deer in a truck’s headlights.
5.Identifying The Malady.
Once the veil of “otherness” dropped from our eyes, we were able to see clearly, and we did not like what we saw. The closer and more alien to us it was, the less we liked it.
There’s much truth in the old saw that to be anti-immigrant is to be anti-American, for America is a nation of immigrants. We celebrate our origins on other shores, and also our ancestors’ good sense in fleeing those places and coming here — and we never forget that they came here to become Americans, not just Irishmen, Italians, Chinamen, Swedes or Zambians in another land.
The xenophilia of earlier generations of Americans was founded on the assumption of assimilation, the sooner, the better. The demise of this assumption explains the burgeoning xenophobia of our time. The typical immigrant to this nation in this time is determined not to assimilate to American norms, but to retain his earlier national allegiance and cultural identity, sometimes even to the extent of refusing to learn the English language.
Among the least assimilable peoples to reach these shores are Muslims, whether from the Middle East or anywhere else. Though the overwhelming majority of them do learn English, their associations, family structures, religious, marital and other practices tend to isolate them in enclaves with impermeable borders. We’ve spoken of black ghettoes, of Little Italys and Chinatowns, and now and then of Jewish quarters in our cities, but none of these have demonstrated the Muslim communities’ near-absolute resistance to diffusion.
In the face of such separatism, continued American goodwill toward a people who display so much hostility toward American norms and culture is a remarkable thing, for which Americans are to be congratulated. But it might not continue much longer.
Why would anyone come to this country determined not to partake of its virtues and bounties? Once he’d arrived here, what would hold him back from doing so?
The answer is Islam.
Alone among the major religions of the world, Islam:
- opposes material progress and condemns most Earthly pleasures,
- erases all boundaries between religion and politics,
- denies that its adherents have any ethical obligation to non-adherents,
- prescribes death for blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy,
- preaches the use of force to impose itself on all the people of the world,
- promises eternal bliss to those who die fighting to extend its dominion.
One cannot be a “tolerant” Muslim. The concept is internally contradictory. The infidel is the enemy, to be converted by any means fair or foul. They who resist conversion are to be allowed to live only until Islam has acquired sufficient force to pose them the choice of conversion or execution.
To the extent that a Muslim internalizes the precepts of Islam, he ceases to be open to Western concepts of freedom, justice, and tolerance for human diversity and variety. He resolutely resists all such notions, for Islam condemns them all explicitly. If you embrace them, he finds fault in you, and the more devout he is, the more serious the fault.
The Islamic attitude toward other religions and other ways is essentially medieval. It hearkens to the times when “Cuius Regio, Eius Religio” was the rule. The ruler of a realm could impose his own ways and creed upon all his subjects, who had no recourse. Philosophically, Islam, which denies the legitimacy of a secular State, is in accord with the assumptions of that pre-Enlightenment code. The main difference between them is that Islam’s ambitions are larger.
Given that Islamic doctrine and the resultant insularity of Muslims preclude influence by more advanced ways and concepts, Muslims are exceptionally vulnerable to demagoguery by Islamic authority figures. Worse, the impenetrability of Islam’s wall against the non-Islamic world makes it possible for a demagogue to demonize the infidel, paint him in colors that would justify any atrocity including extermination, and thus raise the cry of jihad against him.
Americans are coming to understand this.
Yet, for a long period after Black Tuesday, we were repeatedly told, and repeated to one another, that the enemy was not Islam, but rather terrorists acting out their depravity under an Islamic rationale. We called these “Islamists,” and made a point of distinguishing them from “peaceful” Muslims for whom the use of force as a vehicle for religious proselytization was unthinkable.
The combination of the gradual comprehension of Islam’s actual precepts, accumulating revelations of stealthy Islamic maneuvers here and abroad, and the recognition of the horrors Islam imposes on its subjects, has propelled a major shift in American attitudes. The typical American no longer considers himself safe in the presence of a Muslim.
He is right not to feel safe.
None of the possible directions for future relations between Islam and the United States are particularly attractive.
Domestically, current trends suggest that, at the minimum, there will be a long period over which Americans will adjust to having an enemy minority among us: a people whose hostility to our norms cannot be denied, whether or not it manifests itself as aggression against us. Our longstanding traditions of tolerance will be greatly strained, and some number of undeserving persons will suffer thereby.
Some forms of tolerance are, of course, entirely wrong, even evil. Muslim barbarities such as clitoridectomy and the chattelization of women cannot be accepted. Legal ground has recently been broken in this regard, and more will surely follow. This is all to the good.
Because of the outrage Americans feel over Black Tuesday and the subsequent displays of antipathy toward America by Middle Eastern Muslims, it is overwhelmingly likely that Muslims in this country who voice such antipathy will receive very short shrift. Some may suffer violence; some may die. Troublemaking young Muslim men who go beyond mere words could face lynch mobs. Courts will come under pressure to make examples of Muslims convicted of offenses against the public peace.
Due to Israel’s unique position in America’s international dealings, and due to the affection many Americans feel for it, Muslims who voice hostility to Israel could face ostracism and worse. There have already been court battles over alleged employment discrimination against American Muslims, who claim they were fired because they expressed anti-Israel sentiments. There will be more.
If Muslims abroad continue their barbarities and their vocal condemnations of Western ways, American anger toward them will grow. The consequences would not be pleasant for the Islamic world, whose economies are totally dependent on Western consumption of their sole exportable resource: oil. There is no reason we have to buy oil from the Middle Eastern states. Not only are there other sources of oil available to us, including untapped domestic ones, but we have hardly scratched the surface of our nuclear power capabilities. A program of nuclear electrical power generation comparable to France’s or Japan’s would liberate America from any need to import oil.
Further action against Israel, whether direct or indirect, by Muslim states could bring American military force into the conflict, with the inevitable destruction of not one but several shaky Middle Eastern regimes. At the minimum, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia would all undergo compulsory “regime change,” a process seldom enjoyed by the displaced incumbents. The governments that replaced them would undoubtedly be closely supervised from Washington.
Even if the states of the Middle East were to moderate their rhetoric and withdraw their overt support for the terror campaign against Israel, it seems inevitable that America will move against the autocracy of Saddam Hussein, a longtime supporter of Islamic terrorist groups operating in Palestine, with military force. Covert American support — funding, weapons and training — for insurgents against the Islamic theocracy of Iran appears equally inevitable. Other Islam-dominated states around the world could be brought to heel on a slower schedule, and probably by economic rather than military means.
Should an overt war between America and some other nation not break out, we would still see extensive use of our special forces — Delta Force, the Army Rangers, Marine Force Recon, and the Navy SEALs — against nodes in the far-flung Islamic terror network. Some of these operations would be publicized, but probably not all, as it’s an act of war by international law to send an armed man into another country to do violence.
In recognition of the realities of “low-intensity” or “asymmetrical” warfare, we would be wise to expand our covert and small-unit capabilities. Mostly this would mean reprioritizing expenditures and personnel allocations, as we already have the world’s best technology for stealthy, small-unit and precision-strike warfare. With a few years’ expansion, training and refinement, aided by the already high prestige enjoyed by the SEALs and comparable units, American arms could possess the power to go anywhere and kill or capture any designated individual, without meaningful collateral damage.
This is a more important goal than is immediately apparent, for the terror weapon isn’t as asymmetrical as it seems. A “terrorist” who must himself live in continual fear of capture, a humiliating trial, and incarceration or execution is far less effective than one whose continuing freedom of movement can be assumed. That they don’t have to fear capture by us is mostly due to our reluctance to use our conventional military power to pursue them, with attendant collateral damage to the societies that shelter them. The reluctance is correct, not only on ethical but on geopolitical grounds. Terrorists gain enormous support from their kindred when the “enemy” commits an “atrocity” while pursuing them.
Our ties with Israel, and our support to her in the military and intelligence realms, will be strengthened and broadened. This is a double-edged sword. There have been many voices raised to criticize our existing support of Israel, which costs American taxpayers several billion dollars per year. The criticisms have merit; Americans should not have to pay for the maintenance of another people’s State. However, if the whole affair were put on a Marshall Plan basis, such that reaching a particular goal would bring the transfers to a halt, it could be made palatable even at a cost substantially elevated above the current one.
And as all of this proceeds, and Americans learn to accept that we have an implacable enemy that, for religious reasons, will never cease to wish us ill, a facade of tolerance for Islam will be maintained.
We’ve always known how important it is to “know your enemy.” But the first step in knowing him is recognizing that he is an enemy. Black Tuesday was a wake-up call. The subsequent words and deeds of Muslims worldwide should have overridden our inclination to return to sleep.
Our recognition of an enemy should be followed not only by a serious study of his capabilities, but by the most complete possible analysis of his reasons for opposing us. From his reasons we can infer his motives and objectives, which are priceless possessions in any conflict. If the foregoing analysis of Muslim opposition to the United States and Western values generally is correct, then we must cease to delude ourselves that there is any possibility of “converting” Islam from an enemy to a friend, or even a tolerable neighbor. That sort of conversion would require the prior abandonment of Islam, with its life-hating medieval strictures and its command to kill or convert the infidel by any means expedient.
Abraham Lincoln believed that the best way to defeat his enemies was to make them friends. And indeed it is…when it’s possible.