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The challenge for conservatives

The Islamic Revival and the Jihadist movement grew exponentially during the last several decades. It is arrogant and self-absorbed to attribute this ominous development to our actions or inaction. This indigenous cultural movement is driven by internal factors. The Islamic spirit lay dormant during the secular-socialist post-colonial period. During that time there were signs of a serious return to Islamic basics as a reaction to the failing attempts at modernization of Arab society. Arab dictators only hid the growing revival and in many ways fueled it; Islamic institutions are often the sole sanctuary for the opposition. As the Islamic Revival grew, these dictators adopted a more respectful tone towards the religion. And, as usual, all problems were blamed on the usual scapegoats: Jews and America. The majority of Muslims remained ignorant and angry; and they remained vulnerable to any group that could seize power – at first fascist, and now Islamist.
The revival of original Islam brings with it all the imperialist ambitions and supremacist posturing that has been part of the religion since founded by Mohammad. This is a totalitarian-like religion bent on world domination. In many respects, Islam is religious communism but in some ways it is worse than communism. Communists were atheists who didn’t want to lose this life on earth; containment was a logical solution. Islamists believe they will be rewarded when they die fighting the infidel; containment will fail. This is a battle we will have to fight but to do that effectively we have to start facing the nature of the enemy. We can’t dismiss this problem because we would like it to go away. Islamic imperialism is intrinsic to the religion - whether it remains hidden by a fascist regime or comes out in the open as it has in Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – we have to face the fact that we have an enemy.
A central part of Islamic supremacy is inflicting humiliation on the infidel. During Islam’s long history certain infidels were spared death, i.e. “religions of the book”, mainly Christian and Jews. However, continual humiliation was part of the ruling ritual towards the dhimmis. Today the Islamic attacks against the West have the very same characteristics. For example, the March 11, 2004 attacks in Madrid were planned before the Iraq War. Part of the humiliation process was to blame the Spanish for their own suffering. Even though the Spanish changed course and promised to remove troops from Iraq, two additional attacks were still attempted in the next month. Even as late as Oct 2004, with Spanish troops long out of Iraq, Islamic terrorists attempted an attack on the Spanish Court. Those who cite Islamic propaganda of “troops in Iraq” as a “reason” or motivation for the 3/11 attack are unwittingly becoming “useful idiots” – in essence, they are helping to complete the humiliation process. Until we understand the role of Islam and the need to humiliate the dhimmis, we will fail to understand these attacks.
The most important element missing from the war on Islamic terror is honesty. Honestly means facing the facts and making the appropriate moral judgments. Trying to pretend Islam has nothing to do with the enemy’s motivation is lying. Trying to appease the Arab Street by expressing admiration for this unreformed barbaric religious practice is lying. Trying to be politically correct by playing down their faults and exaggerating ours is lying. Reality cannot be faked – lying only blinds us to the threat and leaves us vulnerable. The cost, in terms of lives, wealth, and liberty, will be far greater if we continue to evade the simple and salient facts about the threat we face. It is of utmost importance that we speak out and condemn, in the appropriately strong language, how horrified we are at this dark-age superstition engulfing the Muslim world and threatening all of civilization. We can not be too strong in our condemnation nor should we be humble and hesitant to demand respect for our greatness. Honesty and justice requires it.
The problem for conservatives is twofold. Intellectual conservatives are ecumenical by inclination; this policy has helped to avoid religious strife while forging a common secular culture. However, the ecumenical disposition involves a positive prejudice – one that is predisposed to find all religions, or at least well-established religions, as fundamentally good. Combined with the multi-culturalism of the left, we are undercuting our fight for civilization; we blind ourselves to the full nature of the growing Islamic movement and the radical difference between our secular society and their theocratic one.
In contrast, sectarian religious conservatives are often able to face the ominous growth of Islamism. Perhaps it is because of a negative prejudice – one that sees Mohammad as a false prophet. In this case, they may be rationalizing their belief. However, the assessment is still correct: Islam is a threat. The multi-culturalist left will seize on sectarian rhetoric to argue that this is a war between the religions – an absurd throwback to the past. We must be ready for this lie. This is not a war between “our” religion vs. “their” religion. Both sectarians and multi-culturalists would like to put the conflict in such terms - the former out of conviction, the latter out of blame. Multi-culturalism holds that every culture is an equally valid alternative; there are no universal verities. This premise blinds one to the truth: Islam is inimical to life while Western civilization holds a crucial idea that sets men free to live and prosper.
If conservatives are to fight this war effectively, they must do what we all must do: face this enemy’s nature and our superiority. We need to know what we are fighting for as well as what we are fighting against. If conservatives miss categorize this war in terms of Christendom vs. Islam, or our God vs. their God, this will disintegrate into a barbaric religious war and our society will degenerate into internecine paralyzing strife. We all need to realize that we face with an enemy driven by a pure religion - undiluted with Hellenic rationalism and Aristotlean eudaimonism. This is not a religion that shows any capacity to restrict its focus to individual salvation as a personnel private matter – it is, from its inception, a political religious ideology. This is not a religion that has been reformed by the rebirth of the classical worldview; it rejected that path long ago.
But this is the path we took. From Aquinas through the Renaissance and up until the mid-19th century, classical Greek or Latin was a part of a well-educated person’s course of study with which he entered the rich world of classical literature, art and science. Conservatives have to do more than pay occasion lip service to this heritage if we are to fight the Islamic barbarians effectively. This is what makes us different from them. Upon this foundation, stands the Anglo-American tradition of individual rights – a tradition that rejoices in the pursuit of happiness and well being. This is not a country of suffering, denial, and renunciation. This is not a martyrdom nation bent on holy war for the glory of Allah – whatever name you may give Him. Our nation was founded by absolutists who were certain of the rights inherent in human nature and expressed themselves eloquently in conceptual terms – not mere sentiment. Moral clarity comes from conceptual clarity. Conservative sentiment won’t do the job this time.
Once again, like in the Cold War, this is primarily a moral battle, but not some fight against an “atheist” foe as conservatives miscast the communist threat, and certainly not a fight against a false Prophet as some sectarians on the religious right see it. We face a pure religion, a barbaric relic of mankind’s darkest days. These unreformed theocratic fanatics have no place in the modern world where the power of technology can multiply their repressive anti-life impulse into a catastrophic force. If our rational-secular civilization is to withstand today’s barbarians we need to first and foremost develop the mental posture and moral certitude that only comes from a deep understanding of the huge gulf between the essential greatness of our civilization and the savage nihilistic hatred at the core of their retched spiritual depravity. When conservatives and others can talk like that, the war has started. Until then we are just biding our time. It’s time that conservatives retool for the coming struggle as we all must.