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The Search for Moderate Islam: Part II Concluded By: Lawrence Auster
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 28, 2005


If the universalist dream fails, the alternative could be slaughter

If, on our ecumenist road to peace, we refuse even to consider the possibility that Muslims as a whole might be our permanent enemies, if we decide that even to think such a thought is evil, then we are preventing ourselves from acknowledging something that may, in fact, be true. What then happens if it actually is true?

Mark Goldblatt writing at FrontPage Magazine provides a terrifying glimpse of where the demand for a universal peace can lead. Arguing that jihadism can only be defeated if the Muslim populations rise up and defeat them, he continues:

There are ... only two conceivable scenarios by which the requisite pan-Islamic upheaval will happen. The more humane scenario is the one being pursued by the Bush Administration—that is, establish a democratic Iraq in the heart of Islam and hope that it inspires moderate Muslims to reject the radical elements among them. ...

 

But what if democracy in Iraq fails outright? Or what if it survives but fails to inspire the overwhelming majority of Muslims to reject the radicals? In that case, Islamic terrorism continues unabated. What follows then is the "Hobbesian" scenario [political philosopher Lee] Harris sketches: Sooner or later, the United States will take one hit too many, or one hit too catastrophic, and the American people will set aside their natural aversion to mass bloodshed and demand a disproportionate response. They’ll elect a government that promises to end the threat, permanently, whatever the cost—and the cost will likely be millions of Muslim lives. [emphasis added.]

 

Like the German and Japanese civilians in 1945, Muslim civilians from North Africa through the Persian Gulf and down into Southeast Asia will at last feel their absolute defeat. They’ll accept that the fundamentalist struggle against the West has been lost. They’ll dig out from the ruins of their cities and recognize that they cannot allow the radicals to make martyrs of them all. Then, with our assistance, both military and financial, they’ll set out to purge themselves of the terrorist cancer.

 

Tragically, the Hobbesian scenario is the more probable of the two.

 

Goldblatt doesn't consider any options beside the total democratization of the Muslim world on one side and its mass destruction on the other. Scenarios such as the one I suggest below—of forcing and encouraging Western Muslims to move back to their home countries and isolating them there where they can't harm us—do not occur to him. He more easily envisions the slaughter of millions of Muslims in their native countries than the exclusion of Muslim immigrants from America. He would sooner contemplate genocide than be seen as intolerant.

 

The attitude is not at all rare today on the political right. At the pro-Bush website Lucianne.com, the Id of the Republican party, pundits have repeatedly threatened the nuclear annihilation of Muslim countries. The website's editors evidently see such remarks as normal and acceptable, since they are freely made and no one seems to be banned for making them (though the editors do routinely exclude people for such misbehaviors as criticizing President Bush). For the L-dotters, the moral and practical idea of stopping all Muslim immigration, closing all Wahhabi mosques, and deporting all jihadists and terror supporters is unthinkable and is never spoken of. But the idea of killing millions of human beings is thinkable, and has been expressed—with sanguinary enthusiasm—many times.

 

This is a logical if extreme result of the ecumenist vision. Universalists cannot imagine radically different civilizations residing and flourishing in distinct spheres. They can only imagine a single global system formed by a single set of democratic ideas. A culture permanently hostile to democracy or to America defeats, by its very existence, the universalist idea. The only way to defend the idea from such a recalcitrant culture would be to annihilate it.

 

By contrast, civilizationists accept the fact of civilizational differences and have no fear of alien civilizations—so long as they stay in their own territory. It follows that we don't need to destroy Islam, we just need to contain it within its own sphere so that it can't threaten us.

 

The results of rejecting moderate Islam

 

To summarize the argument thus far, the consequences of our seeking peace with Islam will be disarray and distraction on our side, surging confidence and aggression on the Muslim side, renewed major terrorist attacks by Islamists against us, and the punitive killing by us of hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Muslims—after which, according to Goldblatt, we will become responsible for rebuilding the Muslim world.

 

What are the likely consequences if we reject the quest for peace?

 

Here again is the Pipes quote that began this whole discussion:

 

[I]f one sees Islam as irredeemably evil, what comes next? This approach turns all Muslims—even moderates fleeing the horrors of militant Islam—into eternal enemies. And it leaves one with zero policy options. My approach has the benefit of offering a realistic policy to deal with a major global problem.

 

Pipes says that the first result of our failing to believe in moderate Islam is that we would see Muslims as our eternal enemies. Yet for the last 1,400 years Muslims have been—as Pipes himself indicates in some of his writings—our very long-term enemies. And it was during those same centuries, when Western civilization viewed Islam as its enemy, that it successfully drove back repeated Islamic invasions and saved itself from conquest and extinction. By contrast, it is only in the modern period, when the West stopped viewing Islam as its enemy (which occurred at the same time that the West stopped being publicly Christian), that it dropped its guard and began admitting the Islamic immigrant masses that now threaten the survival of Europe. So which way is better? To view Muslims as our enemies (which we did for a thousand years and it didn't harm us but saved us), or to view Muslims as our friends (which leads promptly to our own defeat, dhimmitude and ultimate extinction)? If a certain party is our enemy, isn't it better to know that he is our enemy, rather than to imagine that he is not? This is especially the case when the appropriate response to the enemy is simply to build solid walls between us and him, rather than to wage a world war in order to force him to become like ourselves.

 

The civilizationist approach

 

Pipes's second objection to the belief in permanent civilizational conflict is that it leaves us without policy options. In fact, the civilizationist perspective has given birth to a variety of proposals for coping with the Islamic menace, ranging from intellectual confrontation to military confrontation to radical changes in immigration policy.

 

Bat Ye'or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam and the soon-to-be published Eurabia, has said that our aim as Westerners should not be to save the soul of Islam but to save ourselves, our values, and our civilization. The approach she urges is primarily intellectual: we must stop closing our eyes to the reality of jihad, stop blaming ourselves for Muslim terrorism, and stop imposing crippling taboos on our own speech. Instead, we must openly discuss the Muslims' jihadist beliefs, both among ourselves and with the Muslims. This would force them to face the truth about themselves, which in turn might bring about a positive alteration in their outlook and demands. An unstated premise of Bat Ye'or's argument is that Muslims cannot change themselves. We must help them do it—or rather, we must put them in a position where they will have no choice but to moderate their own attitudes and behavior toward us. Bullies respect strength.

 

A corollary is that any such positive changes in Muslim attitudes could only be temporary. This is because the changes would not be the result of any organic development arising from within the Muslim community, but of pressure and rebuke coming from without. As soon as that external pressure and rebuke were withdrawn, as soon as the West reached out a hand of friendship and tolerance, the Muslims would return to their "default" mode, which is jihad. Therefore, as long as Islam exists, the only solution to the problem of Islam is to keep the Islamic world in a powerless condition, as it had been through all of modern times until 1979. Western criticism of and confrontation with Islam must be permanent.

 

On the military side, Mark Helprin of the Claremont Review has proposed a World War II-scale expansion of American military capabilities plus a permanent U.S. base located in an isolated though strategically central spot in the Mideast or Persian Gulf region, giving us the ability to destroy any Muslim regime that becomes dangerous to us. Helprin rejects any notion of occupying and reconstructing a Muslim country after we topple its government. The purpose of his strategy is not to reform or democratize the internal politics of terror-supporting Muslim societies, as President Bush and the neoconservatives seek to do, but to make militant Muslim leaders realize that they have no hope of harming us and that they face the loss of their regimes and their lives if they try. Once they get this message, they will change their behavior. In Helprin's military plan, as in Bat Ye'or's proposal for intellectual confrontation with Islam, the West does not seek to change the Muslims, but places them in circumstances, not of their choosing, where they will be pushed to change themselves. The demand is not that they become democrats and liberals, but only that they cease being dangerous to us.

 

Angelo Codevilla, also at the Claremont Review, goes further than his colleague Mark Helprin, advocating the outright destruction of several terror- and jihad- supporting Muslim regimes, either by killing the members ourselves (about 2,000 in each country) or, better, turning them over to their domestic enemies. This, he says, is the only way real regime change occurs in the Arab and Muslim world. Like Helprin, Codevilla advises that we have no interest in occupying these countries or building democracies there. The precise borders and political systems of Mideastern Arab societies are not our concern. We're not trying to create a positive, we're only trying to eliminate a negative—the international network of jihadist and Ba'athist terrorists and the regimes that make them possible.

 

Let us also note the remarkable fact that Helprin and Codevilla, who reject the need for universal democracy and accept civilizational differences, talk about killing only the top 2,000 regime members in several hostile countries, while Mark Goldblatt, who sees universal democracy as the only long-range solution, warns that if universal democracy fails we will have to kill millions of innocent Muslims.

 

Finally, there is the immigration side of the problem. I have proposed at FrontPage Magazine a set of policies—the end of mass Muslim immigration, the deportation of all jihad-supporting resident aliens and naturalized citizens, the closing of Wahhabi mosques, and the explicit abandonment of multiculturalism—aimed at achieving a net out-migration of Muslims from this country. If we reduce both the jihadism and the numbers of the U.S. Muslim immigrant community, those who remain will no longer pose a cultural or physical danger to us, simply because they will have become a relatively insignificant group. Or rather, they will have been made insignificant, by our decisive actions. As with Bat Ye'or's, Helprin's, and Codevilla's proposals, the aim of my plan is not to reform the Muslims, i.e., to "assimilate" them to our way of life, but to confront them and diminish their power. Those policies will have the effect of encouraging the reduced U.S. Muslim population to adapt themselves more to our society, or choose voluntarily to leave.

 

Whatever the specific proposal may be, the basic civilizationist idea is to speak the truth about Islam, to confront Islam, and to contain Islam. It is to initiate a net out-migration of Muslims from the West and to isolate the Muslim world in its historic lands. It is to restore the Realm of Islam to the powerless and quiescent condition in which it resided during the early modern period. We of the West, along with other non-Muslim peoples, cannot be safe co-existing in this world with Islam, unless Islam has no ability and opportunity to affect us.

 

Years ago the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb called for the "re-moralization" of society—the reviving of the moral fiber and discipline that had made earlier generations of Westerners, particularly the Victorians, such strong, disciplined, and self-confident people, whereas we have become unsure, guilt-ridden, and disbelieving in ourselves and our culture. If I may coin a phrase, I would suggest that alongside the re-moralization of our own society, what we need today is the re-demoralization of Islamic society.

 

Of course, Daniel Pipes says: militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.

 

But I say: Islam is the problem. The defeat and re-demoralization of Islam, combined with the steady return of Muslims from the West to their own countries, is the solution.

 

Many people will condemn me for saying that Islam is dangerous and must be suppressed. They will say that there are good and deeply rewarding things about Islam, at least from the Muslims' perspective.

 

But the key point, from our perspective, is that Islam can only be "good" when it has no power. As soon as Muslims achieve power relative to non-Muslims, or feel that they are gaining such power or that they can gain such power, then the jihad aspect of Islam automatically kicks in. When we make a cult out of "moderate" Muslims, we are, in the long run, helping Muslims gain power. Their moderateness will revert, sooner or later, to militancy, but they will still have the power—and the moral sanction—that we gave them. The only way to keep Islam's inherent tendency toward jihadism in abeyance is to keep Muslims in a situation where they have no influence over non-Muslims and no chance of achieving it.

 

To weaken Islam in the manner I'm suggesting is not to deny the Muslims' humanity. Powerlessness or defeat is not what most deeply bothers Muslims, but the loss of honor. As they have demonstrated over and over in their history, they view honorable defeat, even honorable death, as desiderata. Thus Muslims can be powerless, and still keep their honor. It should be the goal of our policy to return the Islamic world to that salutary condition.

 

Once that has happened, Western students and romantics of Islam could still pursue friendships and cultural interchanges with Muslims. Such inter-cultural contacts would no longer be dangerous because they would no longer be premised on the myth that Islam is benevolent to non-Muslims. If we want the possibility of decent human relations between individual Westerners and Muslims, we must defang the dar al-Islam and keep it that way. Lasting peace—or, rather, the absence of violence—can only be achieved through Western strength and dominance, not through trying to make friends with a non-existent moderate Islam. Under such circumstances a more decent type of Islam may arise. But, as I've said over and over, it will have arisen only because we confined the Muslims to narrower quarters on this globe. 

 

Summary and conclusion

 

Two starkly different paths lie before us.

 

If we pursue the course of ecumenism, we will embark on a decades-long attempt to turn Muslims into moderate Muslims. The endeavor would become the central political project and moral commitment of our society, an obsessive, irrational quest that—like the Oslo "peace" process—we could never permit ourselves to abandon, no matter how many times it had failed. In the process we would empower Islam and lose ourselves.

 

If we pursue the course of civilizational defense, we will unstring Islam as a global force by decreasing Muslims' presence in the West and containing them within their historic lands. Once the two civilizations are no longer in each other's faces, our freedom and safety will no longer depend on our begging, cajoling, and bribing them to give up their deepest convictions.

 

Which path is more promising? The path of civilizational realism, in which we recognize Islam as our eternal adversary and act accordingly, or the path of the civilizational peace process, in which we look on a billion Muslims as moderates who have somehow failed so far to realize that they are moderates, but who—we devoutly believe—will somehow discover that they are moderates if we keep trying hard enough to convince them of that fact?

 

Lawrence Auster is the author of Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers a traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right.



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