[Note: Given current world conditions it seemed a good idea to repost this meditation from nearly five years ago. Some details have changed. For the worse, of course.]
1. The Most Dangerous Game
LURKING BENEATH OUR INTERNAL ARGUMENT concerning the relentless demographic expansion of Islam into the West without assimilation, is the persistent background question, "Oh, my, whatever shall WE do with THEM?"
WE are, you see, like muddlers and fiddlers since Nero, worried about THEM. Our doltish conservative muddlers and fiddlers worry about what "THEY will do to US" if we aren't very, very careful and selective about which of THEM we capture or kill while WE seek to give THEM the "gifts" of freedom and democracy. Our brave new fiddlers on the Left fiddle about worrying if THEY have enough to eat, enough to wear, enough respect, enough, in short, of the love THEY deserve for not killing US today.
Both bumbling groups may differ in the focus of their fretting, but fret they do. For the problem, as they have defined it, has to do with what is commonly stated as 'a statistically small group of Muslims around the world' who need to be dealt with in some manner so that greater Islam can get on with the historic task of being "a religion of peace and understanding." The majority of both camps of muddlers and fiddlers agree on this one thing: It isn't Islam that's the problem, just a few heretics that have gotten out of hand in their zeal to obey the will of God, and, hey, who hasn't done that from time to time?
One solution, commonly referenced as "the Left/Liberal" position is essentially "leave them alone and they'll come home. They know its for their own good." The other solution, "the Right/Conservative" position, is to force assimilation, modernization, reformation and democratic mechanisms upon Islam "for its own good."
The two positions agree that "something must be done." They differ only in their specifications for "a New!, Improved! Islam" that can play well with other religions and nations in the post-modern world where "business as usual" is worshipped more than any other state of affairs. Both positions, whether they focus on "giving" the benefits of the modern world to the West's Islamic populations spread out in its cities and nations, or "bringing" the same benefits to the center of Islamic mass in the Middle East, share the belief that Islam can be "fixed."
Once you understand that the question posed by both enclaves of political "thinkers" boils down to "How can WE best fix THEM?" the subtext of the whole Big Argument starts to echo Richard II:
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills....
In short, both sides think that in some way "Islam is broken." Is it?
Finding myself in neither political camp, it strikes me that Islam -- especially if you look at the fertility rates of Muslims, mosque construction and attendance, and the retention and conversion of the faithful around the globe -- is doing just fine. It strikes me that a religion that doesn't view itself as broken is unlikely to take kindly to the notion that it needs fixing. Still, that's the proposition advanced by both camps in our broken and shattered society. But it is a proposition that is advanced only sotto voce, in whispers, because to ask, right out loud, if Islam wants to be "fixed" or indeed can be "fixed," is to know the answer in the act of asking.
The answer is a resounding "No." And that brings the persistent background question, "Oh, my, whatever shall WE do with THEM?" into sharp relief in the foreground of Western minds. If history is any guide that is the single most dangerous question one group of humans can ask about another. It is a question no sane member of the West nor sane member of Islam would ever want thrust into the foreground, for it begins the process of transforming a group with whom a society lives in peace into the "Others" with whom a society cannot live in peace.
2. The Answer to the Other
ONCE A SOCIETY BECOMES CONVINCED that it is harboring something within it that is intractably "Other," and that the "Other" clearly and without quarter means to destroy it, that society looks for an answer that preserves it at the expense of the "Other."
The classic answer is, in historic terms and sooner rather than later, genocide.
History is littered with mounds of corpses piled up in the name of preserving or advancing the status quo of the dominant powers in a nation or civilization by the eradication of a group within the main body that, rightly or wrongly, threatens the majority in word, deed or demographic. The targeted group is almost always a group that cannot or will not assimilate into the larger society. To do would make it other than it is; would make it become that which it is incapable of becoming without ceasing to be.
One of the most difficult groups to assimilate into a society is one that draws its core identity from an inflexible religion. This is not to say that Islam in incapable of reformation, only that it has a solid track record of killing its Luthers as soon as it sees them. Still, past performance is no guarantee of future results so there is still, for now, a glimmer of hope. Especially in America where one of our core myths is that, like the Borg, we can assimilate anybody. Right? Right.
Much is made of the ability of the United States to assimilate all manner of national, racial, religious cultures and characteristics into itself and grow stronger. The eagle on the obverse of the Great Seal of the United States holds the banner "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of Many, One) unfurled in its beak. But the process of this assimilation in the past has never been an easy one as the Irish, the Italians, and the African Americans, among many others, have learned. Still, over time measured in generations, the process has always succeeded. It has succeeded to such an extent that the American left now makes a fetish of dis-assimilation, code-named "diversity." Indeed, the reveling in diversity is not so much a fetish as it is a hobby. Americans indulge it, albeit with continued carping, because we can afford it. We have that much money and that much spare time. For now.
And perhaps only for a little bit longer as the present debate and rising anger over unrestricted the illegal immigration without assimilation of Mexican people illustrates. Whether or not immigration is illegal the American model depends on assimilation to function. When an ethnic or cultural minority swells in numbers and shows no interest in assimilation, trouble begins and grows. We not only want our immigrants to work in America, we want them to become Americans first and immigrants second.
3. The Classic European Response: "YOU will never be US."
NOT SO IN EUROPE where xenophobia is a tradition and recurrent racism a hobby; where the expectation of immigrants was, from the start, that they would come in, do a bunch of scut work, and leave the rest of Europe to the Europeans. After all, the deeper thought goes, you can't really expect a Muslim from Morocco to every be a "a real Frenchman," "a real Italian," "a real German," or a "real Englishman."
The inner fixations on race and origin are much more firmly held in Europe than in the US. Regardless of the talk about assimilation heard widely in Brussells and the traditional capitols of Europe, the fact remains that for many decades everyone that was staunchly European was quite content to let "their" Muslims live apart. Now, with the advent of the rising birthrate and violence emerging from the various Muslim ghettos in all the major and most of the minor cities, Europe is starting to re-examine their "Muslim problem" in search of a solution.
And Europe, right up to the war now on simmer in the Balkans, has a distressing habit of coming up with solutions that are all too final. Groups within Europe that do not fit into Europe, that dwell in ghettos and keep to their own language separate from the larger society, are often expelled or excised. In a way, although Germany took the point, the Holocaust was Europe's way of getting it's Jews to leave. Where to? At the time it didn't matter, just so long as they were -- in one way or another -- gone. Gone to Israel. Gone down under the ground. Gone up in smoke. It didn't matter as long as the Jews got gone, did it? France and Poland were happy to play. Russia? It was right there all along and continued the work after the fall of Berlin right up until... well, it really isn't over, is it?
4. "Past Policy is No Guarantee of Future Policies"
TO DATE, the policies of the various European governments is to avoid Holocaust 2.0. After all genocide is not only unhealthy for children and other living things, but bad for business and a quasi-socialist economy that already has enough problems, thank you very much.
Socialist-powered policies which have penned up Europe's exploding Muslim population are being redoubled in funding, intensity and "sincerity", especially in light of the London bombing and French riots. Sensitivity towards the needs and issues of the Muslim youth of Europe becomes even more sensitive. Efforts to educate the non-Muslim populations of Europe towards an even more benign view of Islamic needs ( 'A religion of peace stained by the actions of a fanatic few.') are expanded. European leaders speak incessantly of tolerance and the time it takes for Islam to find its way and become, at last, truly European. And the various Imams and leaders of the INE (Islamic Nations of Europe) stage photo-ops shaking the hands of these understanding leaders the besieged EU. The Imams know the premise of Europe's policies to be false, but they would be poor leaders if they did not use it to buy all the time that it can.
The policies of the United States parallel these European attitudes. They counsel tolerance, patience and understanding at home while taking the same sheaf of ideals and adding the forced imposition of democracy abroad as the recipe for assuring Islam's ultimate assimilation into the West. Indeed, the schism here, as noted at the beginning of this essay, is over how much force can be used to impose our way on a religion and a culture in a part of the world that is not known for its love of democracy and individual freedom. Where Islam has always found its version of freedom in submission to its theocracy and the melding of the individual into the mass, the big bet the Bush administration is making is that man is everywhere the same and everywhere yearns for "Freedom, American Style."
5. What If?
ALL WELL AND GOOD if the current leaders and policy makers in Europe and America are right; if Islam can be, with enough time and money, assimilated into the Western way.
But what if they are wrong ?
What if, as has been repeatedly stated by Islamic spokesmen in their media and their capitols and their mosques, Islam has neither the interest in nor the capacity for assimilation?
What if Islam continues, as it has for many centuries, to be implacably hostile to the West?
What if, in a series of increasingly violent incidents coming quickly over a relatively short number of years, what we so tenderly term "Islamic radicals" continue to attack the cities and nations in which large numbers of Muslims live in relative isolation from the body politic, and it is known that those attacking come from and fade back into these unassimilated populations?
A year or so back, much was made of the concept of "the tipping point," a state in which the accrual of relatively small changes over time suddenly reaches a kind of critical mass and induces a rapid phase change in a previously stable system. This concept holds that while large events can and do change things, a lot of small events change things as well.
After the London transport bombings of 2005, several commentators were quick to point out that they did not, in terms of human life, rise to the level of the Madrid bombings to say nothing of 9/11. The implicit notion underneath this sort of commentary is that, "Well, it's not so bad." In the same vein, some commentators, regarding the French riots, assured listeners as the car burnings faded away, "Well, it could have been worse." Both palliatives ignore the nature of terror accrual and compassion fatigue within the human memory.
At this point, most aware humans -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike -- assume that whenever and wherever on the globe a terrorist incident takes place it is almost certainly going to have a Muslim signature on it. Even when it does not, the Muslims have been so effective in aligning terrorism with Islam that people assume terror's perpetrators are Muslim even if it is shown later that they were innocent of this or that particular incident.
6. How Fragile is the West Really?
PUNDITS LIKE TO SAY that Western civilization is fragile and that it is perched, like some gigantic teetering pyramid, on a single weak pivot formed of supply chains, consumer economies, global telecommunications, computer networks, and an international system of finance. To an extent, that's true. The continuing prosperity we enjoy depends on these things if our present, pleasant happy world is to go forward day after day, world without end, always.
As long as all these modern innovations and a myriad others are up and running undisturbed, the West can continue to support Happy Meals, $500,000 chicken shacks in California, an organic chicken in every Williams-Sonoma pot, and a new hybrid Prius in every garage. Seen from this perspective, our prosperity is indeed delicate.
We've got a DOW over 12,000 and rising. We've got a second dot.com bubble that, of course, isn't a "real bubble." And it is all utterly ephemeral.
The economic hit that would follow a second 9/11 on American soil would quickly put paid to all that. The Happy World would be put on hold for a number of years and we'd have the "Hard Times" our parents and grandparents have told us about. But we would survive and, in only a little bit, thrive again in "the Day After Tomorrow."
For, as much as we should do everything possible to avoid a second 9/11, the blunt fact is that the United States, Europe and the entire edifice of Western Civilization, can ride out a second 9/11. It can ride out 100 9/11s and still, in an inch of time, return and thrive.
This society can even ride out the killing by weapons of mass destruction of any kind of a number of cities. America, Europe, and Western Civilization can survive anything the radical Islamists can throw at us.
The society that will have much more difficulty surviving with its cherished "values" intact will be what happens to the global society of Islam should it continue to attack the West with increasing ferocity.
7. The Real Reason to Fear a Second 9/11
IT IS CLEAR that what will happen to Islam across the world should terrorist attacks continue and increase will be the arrival at the tipping point where the West decides, in a way that no internal political opposition can curtail, to expel Islam and Muslims from the infected nations and the world itself by any means necessary.
A common catch phrase of Marxism is that "The capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him." I dread the coming catch phrase, "The Muslim will supply the West with the excuse to eradicate Islam," but that is clearly lurking in one of our possible futures; a future that although unthinkable is not inconceivable.
The first 9/11 brought out the Marines, the Army, the heavy armor, the B-52s and the Stealth fighters with their "smart bombs." With these tools and systems we are trying to wage a new, highly precise war in which the greatest care has been taken to minimize the killing of innocent civilians. Not always successful, but compared to the Blitz, the firebombing of Hamburg, and the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this caring and careful post-modern way of warfare that is about as kind as we can make it.
The most terrible aspect of the trend of war in the 20th century was to kill as much of the civilian population of the enemy as possible. The methods were skillfully refined over decades until World War II accounted for around 50 million dead. The current approach to war in Afghanistan and Iraq is one which can reasonably be called a "patty-cake war;" one that has been successful, if in nothing else, in minimizing civilian suffering.
I would submit that this approach to war against Islam is clearly one driven by the current policies of the West that aims to, essentially, talk Islam out of its current obsessions and madness. It is the very small stick wielded alongside our softly spoken words of "democracy," "freedom," and "prosperity." In a way, the West's manner of war with Islam at present is essentially a kind of tough love: "Please learn to control your acting out. Please learn play well with others, or we're going to have to give you a time out."
Put somewhat baldly, the argument within the West on what to do with Islam is now between those who believe it should not be spanked at all but have its self-esteem boosted, and those who think that a small spanking now followed by the hot fudge sundae of freedom will result in acceptable behavior.
Either could be right, but if both are wrong the next level of discipline is typically expulsion. And by "expulsion" I do not mean that Islam will simply be sent to its room.
A second series of attacks on America at the level of 9/11 or greater will not bring out more B-52s. They are already out. A second series will bring out the one arm of America's war machine that has rarely been asked about, written about, or even mentioned in passing since September, 2001; the ballistic missile submarines.
8. The Re-Activation of MAD
WE DON'T LIKE to ask or think about the current possible missions and targets of our ballistic missile submarines. Where are they? Few know. What can they do? Almost nobody remembers.
There has not been a publicly acknowledged live demonstration of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere where it can be seen and reported since the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Our common memory of them usually revolves around some grainy black and white film from the Nevada test sight, disturbing vintage photographs from Ground Zero and its aftermath at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or some fading Technicolor footage from Bikini Atoll. Every year fewer and fewer people are alive who have actually seen the horrendous scale of destruction these weapons create. A common description is "The sun brought, for a few moments, to the surface of the Earth," but that doesn't quite cover it.
What does cover it is that the use of these weapons by the United States or its allies is the current Western way of remote genocide. To use them, even under the most extreme provocation, is the greatest sin against humanity that can be conceived. But the cold fact is that should America or the West feel its way of life and the lives of its citizens are sufficiently threatened by Islam these weapons will, in the end, be used against the Muslim centers of mass; cities in the middle-east or elsewhere where Muslims are the majority of the population. This is not some "Strangelovian" fantasy, but a very real option on the table of realpolitik. If you think our ballistic missile submarines don't carry the targeting information for these cities, think again.
It is well to remember that nuclear weapons were first built up under the Cold War policy of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). Now that the Soviet Union is gone and China has not yet risen to the status of a bellicose enemy (it may well not go this way), the element of "mutuality" has faded from this acronym, but the capacity for assured destruction persists. And this does not even begin to factor in the 125+ nuclear weapons thought to be held by Israel.
9. The "Unthinkable" Can and Is Being Thought
ANYTHING YOU THINK CAN'T HAPPEN can happen. Especially those things you think cannot possibly happen. If we learn anything from history, we learn that there is no level of killing that is unthinkable.
Under the right circumstances, human beings are capable of anything. We hold within ourselves an eternal capacity for evil that has no bottom. Should Europe feel the threat of Islam within its borders too keenly it is not difficult to envision it returning to the up close and personal techniques of genocide it perfected in the last century. Europe is very, very good at police states, purges, death camps, massacres and Gulags. Although it may look to be weak and appeasing, Europe's "Final Solution Tool Kit" is never stored very far away; usually in the basement.
Should the United States come to feel threatened in a similar way, its preferred technique (also perfected in the last century) is remote genocide. To employ it would plunge this nation into a decades-long tunnel of political and spiritual agony, and change our destiny and character forever. But I have no doubt that, if we feel for any reason threatened enough, we will indeed come to the day when the unthinkable becomes a series of orders yielding a set of trajectories that end millions of lives in less than an instant, with North Korea a brief footnote.
This is why I still deeply believe that the current effort in Iraq and the Middle East to counter and expunge Islamic terrorism and turn Islam from the road it is on towards one of reformation and assimilation is the best path that can be taken at this time. Indeed, for all the ineptitude of the current administration, for all the expense in treasure and lives, this shoot-the-moon, Hail Mary of a foreign policy in Iraq is not just a policy to make America safer at home. It is the only thing that stands between Islam and its own destruction.
Sometime shortly after 9/11 in an online forum I frequented then, an exasperated idealist proclaimed that "After all, you can't kill a billion Muslims." Like so many others he spoke from somewhere outside History. History, especially the world's most recent history, shows us all how wrong that statement is. The hard truth is rather that, "Yes, if you really want to, you can."
And that is the most terrible and terrorizing thought of the 21st century.
"We tried COA 1 for decades, backing strongmen to keep their populations in line, and send in the FBI to go through the rubble to build a case. That didn't work out so well. I see the current administration reverting to this.
"I, and most of your readers, value Western Civ too much to accept COA 2. However, I am not confident of my fellow Westerners' fortitude.
"GWB attempted COA 3 following 9-11: change the geostrategic landscape. However, given the incompatibility of true Islam and Western Civ, I am not optimistic. Whenever someone dismisses the efforts to reform the Middle East, I ask them for an alternative. They never have a good answer.
"COA 4 is unpalatable, and I doubt most Americans - citizens & ruling elite - have the stomach for it. We no longer have ruthless bastards, such as Charles Martel, Jan Sobiesky, FDR, or Churchill who will do whatever is necessary to save Western Civilization...." -- Butch B.