The secular West is strategically bankrupt. That much has become clear, at least during the Bush Administration, and possibly for much longer. Robert Greene discusses this reality, in his great strategy blog, Power, Seduction, and War. Speaking about the Israel-Hezbollah skirmish, he states:
Hezbollah is a new kind of beast. Part terrorist, part guerrilla, part legitimate political entity. It is an adaptation in response to the stalemate of the Middle East, an evolution towards a new kind of power. Terrorists and guerrilla fighters are masters at posing dilemmas to their enemies. They launch a bold attack and if you respond with boldness the terrorists get the dramatic response and the chaos they want…Posing dilemmas is the ultimate in strategy.
Western commentators tend to get caught up in the emotions of such conflicts, the dramatic images and civilian casualties, while ignoring the seismic shifts occurring in political realities. The current cease-fire represents a stalemate in Lebanon, with absolutely no progress having been made towards either a permanent diplomatic or military solution. Further violence is guaranteed.
President Bush today declared Israel the victor in the crisis. Not even Israelis see it that way. A poll on Ha’aretz.com shows that two-thirds of Israelis believe they have lost. And even if they didn’t, world public opinion has shifted. Hezbollah remains a viable force, and has succeeded in demonstrating it could inflict sizable losses on both the IDF and Israel’s civilian population. The scorched-earth campaign waged by Israel showed its lack of capability to fight effectively on the terms of modern asymmetrical warfare.
But there is a deeper issue. Both Syria and Iran have also confirmed that they can operate as supporting players without substantial diplomatic or military fallout. Suddenly, Israel is no longer facing a ragtag band of "militants." They are facing an army, armed with the latest Russian, Chinese, and Iranian technology. Suddenly their state-of-the-art ships and tanks are met by equally state-of-the-art missiles. And it’s not just the weapons. There is an orchestration evident. Nasrallah is no "Baghdad Bob." It’s hard for me not to feel even a reluctant admiration for how well everyone played their roles. This includes M.C. Ahmedinejad. Who knew how serious he was three months ago when he said "Israel should be wiped off the map?" These threats can no longer be considered idle. They represents a new chapter in the world Jihad, a maturation of tactics, to say the very least. Whatever their ultimate goals, the forces of Jihad are working together, and flexing their newfound political and strategic muscles in the current crisis. Quoting Robert Greene again:
A terrorist is desperate by nature, small in number, and is attempting to create as much chaos and disorder as possible. They face situations that are extremely static: a great power, or some kind of hegemony. Their terrorist acts are designed to break up the stalemate, to cause a chain-reaction effect that they can exploit. They are rarely aware of what exact direction this chaos might take, but that does not mean they are not being strategic. Au contraire, terrorism is extremely strategic, and in this new phase, quite effective.
We are seeing terrorists accomplishing their goals on a daily basis. They plan, we react. Last week’s scare about liquid airplane bombs is another case in point. After 9/11, they took away box cutters, but also finger nail clippers. After Richard Reid, they made us take off our shoes. Now they have prevented us from carrying water, baby formula, or hair gel. Several recent articles have discussed the fact that explosives can be hidden in clothing, and undetectable sheets of plastic explosives less than 1/4" thick could bring down an airplane. As I said recently in a letter on salon.com, soon they will have us flying naked and sedated. Even that would not stop a determined suicide bomber, who could swallow plastic explosives wrapped in condoms like a drug mule.
My point here is not to complain about airport security, but to demonstrate how we who live in the most powerful country in the world cannot stop lowly groups of malcontents from changing how we live.
And this does not end with air travel. Despite the bluster of Bush, Inc., we are losing mightily on the strategic front. We have entered a new era where jihadist groups have captured our attention. Every time Al Qaeda or any of its splinter organizations release a tape or statement, the fawning Western press treats it like the pope has spoken. Before our towers were attacked, scruffy Arabs in caves with video cameras were ignored. Now, we hang on their words and analyze their meaning, and authenticate their tapes, and generally work ourselves up into a tizzy every time a camel-riding courier shows up at Al-Jazeera with a dusty videotape.
Each new Islamic outburst of terror or planned terror is now backed up with posturing from "legitimate" Muslim leaders, who attempt to pin the blame for the atrocities on Western foreign policy. The latest outrage is in the form of a letter submitted as a paid advertisement in the UK. Full text. Some excerpts with my commentary:
The British Muslim community has always been a law-abiding community and all its endeavours to create a more just society have been entirely peaceful. We fear that recent events are being exploited by some sections in society to demonise legitimate Islamic values and beliefs…
"Legitimate Islamic values" is the ultimate oxymoron. Until the Islamic religion drops its demands for religious government, there is no legitimacy to "Islamic values." Islamism demands theocracy, and is 100% incompatible with modern secular government. If Islamists insist on practicing their faith, they must do so in a pluralistic manner, blending with and participating fully in modern society. Otherwise, they’re simply lying about their intentions.
To equate "extremism" with the aspirations of Muslims for Sharia laws in the Muslim world or the desire to see unification towards a Caliphate in the Muslim lands, as seemed to be misrepresented by the prime minister, is inaccurate and disingenuous. It indicates ignorance of what the Sharia is and what a Caliphate is and will alienate and victimise the Muslim community unnecessarily.
Wrong. We know damn well what sharia means, and what the caliphate is. In order for those two dread regimes to take root, it would mean wholesale repression of nations under religious dictatorship. In the same statement, these Muslim extremists accused the United Kingdom, of being on a "slippery slope" toward censorship and totalitarianism.
Check the Koran lately? Check in with the Iranian religious police lately? The phrase popularized on an episode of South Park, has to be our slogan: "we will not tolerate intolerance." At this point in our world situation, we live in a reality that is beyond the irony of this phrase. We cannot allow Islamic extremists to hide behind democratic institutions to achieve their stated goal of worldwide implementation of Islamic law.
If in our desire for peace, we forget about what it takes to maintain our freedoms, then we will have neither peace nor freedom. Europe is under assault as never before. And the Islamic strategists are learning to use the hard-won tolerance of European society against itself. Spain’s withdrawal from Iraq after the Madrid train bombings was the first step down what promises to be a very long road of blackmail and capitulation–if we don’t wise up. Now British Muslims are trying to engage the same type of debate in the UK.
Jihadist strategists know their enemy. They know our weakness is our compassion and tolerance. As I said in the salon.com letter:
Religious messages promoting violence in any form should be considered capital offenses. If an Imam or preacher of any stripe tells people that "god wants them to do X" and X is a violent act, that person should be immediately arrested. Yes, I’m advocating taking away some free speech. But such speech should be seen for what it is: conspiracy to commit terrorism. We need this strong regulation of religion, since it obviously can’t police itself. Until America and other secular democracies understand this, we will keep having terrorism, and we will deserve whatever we get.
I would add that the same prohibitions should apply to Christians, Jews, Mormons, Scientologists, Nazis or any group whatsoever. Preaching violence is preaching violence. It’s a damn shame, but I’d rather give up a small amount of freedom of speech/religion/assembly than give in to Jihadist blackmail for even a minute.