Friday, October 21, 2005

Can We Ignore Islam and Win?

Recently, on Jihad Watch, Hugh Fitzgerald reiterated his viewpoint that we shouldn’t waste resources and manpower in Iraq. Angelo Codevilla also questions whether our administration’s nation-building ambitious are misplaced. I don’t have answers to these concerns; but we should be thinking about the current state of affairs differently. Unlike critics on the left, the above gentlemen are not questioning our honor. But they are implicitly asking if we are too generous or perhaps foolish: could fight the enemy more effectively with less cost? Here is what I posted on Jihad Watch:

I don’t have a battle plan and I’m skeptical of nation-building especially in a country requiring a cultural transformation. And I certainly wouldn’t have picked this place and manner to confront the jihadists. But changing the battle plan requires understanding the war. That education, of which Jihad Watch is a lead player, is a tremendous task.

At present the debate on the war is overwhelmed by those with a different view of Islam and foreign affairs. Without the prerequisite understanding of Islam and its growing influence through out the Islamic world, how will anyone understand the optimal path of action?

There is skepticism by some conservatives of "cultural engineering" from general considerations. However, there is still a failure to appreciate the vast difference between Islam and the West as conservatives, 50 years ago, saw a vast difference between Communism and America. And the far left, in its multi-cultural quagmire, is hopeless.

As our leaders proceed as if Islam is benign, success will be limited at best and problems will get worse. It’s at this point that people will seek an alternative viewpoint. It’s important to lay the groundwork for that process. The left is trying to do that by blaming the West for all the problems and hoping when the worse happens to take the credit for an explanation. The alternative is to explain the cultural inadequacies in Islamic countries and the role that Islam plays in creating, sustaining, and furthering the problem. It’s this intellectual battle that needs to be brought center stage in the national debate.

Currently few are doing this. I saw a headline in a conservative magazine saying it was racist to question whether Islam is compatible with democracy. Yet, this should be the question. We should be asking if Iraqis are worthy of our efforts. Will they succeed? Do they have what it takes? Is it Islam that is holding them back or other factors in Arab culture? The onus should be on the Iraqi people. We’ve been more than generous and we should take that for granted.

Too many conservatives are wasting their time fighting anti-Americanism and ineffectively at that. They are defending the administration against the charge that "they lost the peace" as if Iraqis have nothing to do with it. This, of course, is just one example. Not once do conservatives ask: are these people worthy of our generosity? Do they have what it takes to join the fight for civilization? Is their culture and religion a poor foundation for hope? Are Muslims failing?

The focus of the current debate is all wrong (in the mainstream venues.) The growing jihadist movement will not awaken Americans if the proper ground work isn’t set. It will only demoralize us – as the left wants. It’s time to reverse the terms of the debate and that will require an intellectual assault of the driving force behind the enemy: Islam.


Blogger John Sobieski said...

I agree Jason. How can you build a victory on the false foundation that terrorists are distoring Islam? It's a problem and I am not sure Bush will ever understand. 4 years, and he is still crawling toward understanding Islam.

10/21/05, 5:41 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Hi Jason,
Good post.

I think maybe you weren't very precise in your choice of words here:

"We should be asking if Iraqis are worthy of our efforts."

The Iraqis are human beings, therefore, they are worth our efforts. If our efforts are being expended on a poor strategy, that's another issue.

I agree that we have to ask whether Islam as it stands is compatible with Democracy. The answer is no, without a serious tectonic plate shifting reformation.

The answer in my opinion is we have to beat the Jihadis the way we beat the Shinto-maniacs, and the Nazis, in WWII. We have to beat them, and beat them, and beat them some more, and then when they cry for mercy, we have to beat them even more. Then, we have to go in and completely remake their society. We have to demand they make changes in their religion. We did that to the Japanese, and it worked, so there is no reason we can't do that to the Islamofascists.

Here's an article I wrote, called How To Defeat Islamofascism, for the blog Internet Journal of Public Policy:

Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald and both brilliant, prophetic, and important figures in my opinion. However, that doesn't make them right all the time. There's another way to look at this war, different from Bush's naiive view, and different from Spencer's cynical view.

Check out my post.

10/21/05, 9:34 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason there may be an untold ally that we have forgotten about. Islam
like any other totalitarian ideology thrives on control of information. The internet , pop culture and drug abuse may be allies.

Apparently, even in Iran drug abuse in running rampant. We should encourage drug dealers inside Islamic countries. If our pop artists weren't leftist freaks we could enlist them also. Iran , Saudi Arabia and Syria are in serious danger of implosion.

10/21/05, 9:35 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I saw your comment at Jihad Watch. I believe that nation-building as it is currently being attempted will not work in the case of Iraq--or in the case of any other Muslim nation, for that matter. Westerners try to understand Islam in Western terms, and I don't see that Western reasoning applies.

I also read Pastorius's link. He makes some intriguing points there, but I wonder about the time factor. In the historical examples he cites, the United States had the upper hand. I guess my question is this: Do we have the upper hand now? To accomplish the kind of defeat which Pastorius proposes will require the killing of many whom U.S. policy is trying to enlist in the "retaking of Islam." Do we have the stomach for the required measures which Pastorius advocates?

Beak's thoughts are also intriguing. But, again, I worry about the time factor. Also, religious zealotry--as the Muslims view Islam, be Islam something else entirely from a religion--is extremely intractable. But Communism in a very large portion of the world fell largely due to the efforts of Ronald Reagan. Maybe not a ocmpletely satisfactory fall, but a fall, nevertheless.

Maybe I seem puzzled. Well, in a way I am. But I feel certain that we need a policy which addresses the issue you mentioned in your closing sentence: an intellectual assault of the driving force behind the enemy: Islam.

No matter how much we discuss the merits and flaws of any approach, the first step here is to identify the enemy. Has the United States done that? As Axis said, still crawling toward understanding Islam. And in my opionion, doing a damn poor job of obtaining the required understanding.

Good post, Jason. And the comments previous to mine are good as well.

PS: Jason, personal note to you...I got my copy of The Great Divide today. All the time I've spent studying Islam, and now I've picked up another book, in another attempt to gain more insights. I can't seem to help myself; as my former employer used to say, "like a dog with a bone, and won't stop worrying it." It makes me crazy that I see our leaders not searching for answers and solution as some of us here in the blogosphere do.

10/21/05, 11:31 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

You said The Iraqis are human beings, therefore, they are worth our efforts.
I understand what you mean by that comment. But I fear that our soldiers' lives are forfeit with the wrong strategy and that the same is true of Iraqi lives as well if GWB's great experiment fails. Reagan's great experiment didn't fail, but we'd regard very differently his efforts, and perhaps the man himself, had his policies failed.

As to Attaturk in the link which you provided, he is cited by some Muslims as a traitor to Islam.

You mentioned the Reconstruction after the Civil War in the comments at the link which you provided. I'm not sure that the "total defeat" of the South and the cessation of the Reconstruction was the cause of Jim Crow. In fact, the "total defeat of the South" and Reconstruction might have somehow contributed to Jim Crow--ideas which I'll have to investigate more thoroughly.

Man's interpretations of historical events and trends often change over the passage of time. Maybe that's one reason I like to study history!

As I alluded to in my above comment to Jason, we here are among those doing some heavy-duty thinking. I worry that too many others are just drifting along and missing the important matters of our time.

10/21/05, 11:42 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Wow, this is a fun discussion. AOW, AOI, Beakerkin; some of my favorite people in the blogosphere. If Dymphna, Wretchard, Baron, and DP111 joined, we'd be a full house.

Anyway, just to clarify, AOW, I said in my comment that, while I think the Iraqi people are worth the effort, the strategy we are employing might very well be a failure.

My strategy, as outlined in the IJPP post, is very different from the Bush strategy.

Basically, I don't think this war has really begun yet. I think we are, more than likely, going to get hit very hard, before we get serious. We are not fighting a serious war currently.

By the way (sorry to keep whoring my stuff), but I posted (on CUANAS) on a way to avoid major physical confrontation with the Jihadists. Here's a link:

10/22/05, 12:45 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Yes, this is an excellent discussion. And thanks for pointing out that I didn't quite summarize your other piece accurately. Sometime today I'll try to hop over to your site and look at the second link you provided.

I hope and pray that our government officials are having discussions such as the one here. Do you think such is the case? Or are Forte and Norquist undermining the discussions?

10/22/05, 9:48 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Yes, this is a good discussion of important points. Let me make a few (I'll use bold if you want to skip to the key points.)

Let me say that I respect the motivation and aim of what we are trying to do in Iraq. And we have achieved some milestones – perhaps even planted seeds that will, down the road, continue to grow something solid. It’s an option in this war but it is a very costly option. I can’t argue for the optimal course or battle plan but we are hindered in doing that if we don’t fully understand the enemy.

There are many good comments but let me address one where I take a different approach. I distinguish between human identity and character identity. Let me explain that with an everyday example. Suppose you know someone who is lazy, unskilled, and untrustworthy. They are still human beings, of course – and ultimately capable of being good honest hardworking people – but their character limits one’s desire to trust such a person with certain important tasks. Human identity implies the same potential for moral character and good habits. Furthermore, it implies certain fundamental rights. However, it doesn’t mean you ignore who the person is and put your family in danger. You have to judge their character.

We should be sympathetic to reform and redemption. Indeed, we should encourage it. However, changing the habits of character requires deeds – over a prolonged period. This is true even for habits that carry no moral stigma. If you have an overwhelming fear of public speaking, you can’t just change that. It’s part of who you are. You are limited in what you can do and you can change; but you’ll have to work hard to overcome that fear if you so decide it is worth the effort. You can always act out of character – if you couldn’t, how would you be able start down the road to changing your habits? But you can’t expect of yourself the level of behavior and achievement that requires a character transformation long before you cultivate a new disposition and habits of character.

This is true too for moral character. If you have a habit of lying to yourself and others, you will neither trust yourself nor will others trust you until you’ve cultivated an upright character by practicing and proving one’s commitment to being honest. This is true of the other virtues as well: courage, good judgment, self-reliance, diligence, respectfulness, proper generosity, discipline, integrity, avoidance of mindless indulgence, etc.

Thus, no person should be thought of as less human (even dictators.) However some people should be thought of as bad humans (especially dictators.) This is the difference between human identity and character identity. Some on the left don’t believe there is a difference – just different forces that make people act differently. Character is not an explanatory factor in their analysis – it is merely a surface detail hiding more fundamental forces (or roots causes.)

When it comes to a culture we can proceed in a similar way to a degree. A culture is the dominant way of viewing the world and living one’s life in a given society. It too is created over a long period and doesn’t change easily. Again, character traits of individual self-reliance, honestly facing facts, dealing with others by rational argumentation instead of force, respecting the rights of others to judge for themselves … are all practices either firmly accepted in a culture or easily relinquished with little fight.

Weimar Germany allowed Hitler to rise to power. Imperial Japan fully supported Tojo’s imperialist and vicious war policy. I’d suggest that neither the Germans nor the Japanese were less human but that their culture readily allowed that turn of events. The apocalyptic events of the war brought a crisis of faith and a deep shame that allowed the consideration of a new path, which with decades of dedication, created new cultural commitments, values, and traditions. (Pastorius makes the same point.)

I think the Iraqi people have shown good signs of wanting to change but I don’t think they have the dedication and commitment – core habits of character – nor the wisdom to become Western. I worry our desire for short term gains hurts long term change. We shy away from being critical of their culture. Karen Hughes is over there now telling them how much we respect their culture. That’s absurd. We should express our contempt. Even in the last few days there is an outcry over the cremation of dead bodies. We should make it clear that it isn’t our practice but not because we practice Islam or respect Islam.

We are being generous in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is up to others to respect that generosity and respect it coming from the people that we are. They don’t have to agree with everything we are, but they should accept that we don’t agree with their ideology. If we have specific shared goals – such as ferreting out jihadist terrorists - they should be common ground for joint action. However, let’s not lie about Islam. If they can’t take it, they’re not ready for more than anything else but simple joint actions. Showing respect for Islam makes it more powerful and in the long-term that’s the problem. If that’s what it takes for nation-building, it is premature.

Remember, Germany tried democracy for 15 years after WWI. It takes much more for solid change. If we don’t address the root cause, it won’t last.

Perhaps this should be a whole blog entry?

10/22/05, 10:54 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...


Syria is on the verge of collapse.
Iran is closer then one thinks to revolution. Why not train some of those 49% of non Persians seeking freedom to fight the mullahs.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have serious problems. We should warn those yahoos in Pakistan that India can and will clean their clock. All the Jihadist in the world could not save Pakistan from the wrath of India when it has had enough.

The Jihadist are going down. However this time we should cast out their allies in the far left.

Freedom of speech and aiding a genocidal enemy are two distinct things. Why did Bush fail to indict the leadership of Code Pink for sending money to the enemy in Falujah ?

10/22/05, 12:00 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I'm focusing on this paragraph of your comment:
I think the Iraqi people have shown good signs of wanting to change but I don’t think they have the dedication and commitment – core habits of character – nor the wisdom to become Western. I worry our desire for short term gains hurts long term change. We shy away from being critical of their culture. Karen Hughes is over there now telling them how much we respect their culture. That’s absurd.....
I agree!

The title of this blog article is "Can We Ignore Islam and Win?" IMO, NO!

Certainly Beak is correct in that the seeds for the failure of Islam are planted. But I submit that such seeds have been planted before, and still after some 1300 years, we are dealing with the enemy. And why is that? For one thing, we back off and think something good will happen under the banner of Islam. Hmmm...Judge from history for yourselves on that score. Second, Westerners discount the importance of taqiyya and hudna. And can Islam rid itself of those two concepts? Third, I don't discount what I can religous zealotry, though Islam is something else beyond a personal faith. Fourth, my-way-or-the-highway has, throughout all of recorded history, been a strong force with which to contend. Islam is, in and of itself, a my-way-or-the-highway ideology.

And, Jason, your points about character and culture are well taken. I liked the analogies you used as well.

Just so everyone here knows...I have a party to attend tonight. It's at the VFW and the ambulatory wounded from Walter Reed will be there. I won't be blogging much this evening. I support the troops! The goals we have in Iraq are noble ones, and I want these young men and women to see faces of those who feel the way I do. Lord knows that the media makes them feel low, and I've heard them speak of this on other occasions at previous open houses at the local VFW--makes me sick! And these men and women don't want to sit around yakking about underlying philosophy. They have too much healing to do, both physically and mentally. We eat like royalty (Thanks to the generosity of the VFW and local merchants) dance, play pool, drink a few beers, and have a good time. Many of these young men and women want to go back to Iraq because they see good things happening, and I certainly don't disabuse them of their convictions. After all, I haven't witnessed what they have.

10/22/05, 12:57 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Well said. Your distinction between human value and character value is important to keep in mind. And yes, you are correct that many on the Left seem incapable of making the distinction.

That being said, I don't see the difference between Germany and Japan on the one hand, and Iraq on the other. All three were poisonous cultures. In the first two cases we destroyed their armies, and then sytematically, and ruthlessly destroyed the evil elements of their culture.

This is what we have to do to win in Iraq. We are not doing it to nearly the extent that I believe we should.

We seem to believe that we can fight a different kind of war now; A merciful war. I don't think the nature of war changes as time goes by, only it's tools change. IMO, an essential component of achieving victory in a war is to demoralize and humiliate the enemy. Surgical strikes won't accomplish that.

Anyway, back to your point about character value. I think it's helpful to think in terms of Natan Sharansky's idea of a fear-based culture vs. a free culture. Islam, by it's very nature, is a fear-based culture. But, a fear-based culture is a culture ready to crumble when it is stressed. Human beings will bolt a fear-based culture as soon as they know that they can get away safely.

Good and freedom will win out over evil and fear, everytime. If you have read Milton's Paradise Lost you will remember the scene where God kicks Satan and his angels out of heaven. When they land and dust themselves off, they begin to strategize their war against God.

And, how does that go? Well, they fall to arguing. Their argument causes them to disintegrate. Today, over at CUANAS I note that the rise of Zarqawi may be an opportunity for America to create a fissure in the ranks of the terrorists. Zarqawi, at this point, appears to have a better functioning and more well-funded network than Osama Bin Laden. And yet, he is still subservient to Bin Laden, and he pays Bin Laden money out of his coffers to help Bin Laden keep going. How long can such a state of affairs go on? Can we figure out a way to cause this to become a problem? I think we ought to be smart enough.

Now, back to the question of how poisonous Islamic culture is. It is clear that people in the Arab and Islamic world have some horrific ideas about the way life is, and the way it should be. For instance, in Lebanon and Jordan 100% of the citizens say they dislike Jews. In Turkey, 37% of the citizens support honor killings. In Saudi Arabia, women must be covered and they aren't allowed to drive, oh yes, and they don't allow Jews in their country, AT ALL.

We can surmise that these are deeply ingrained prejudices. They are cultural, and they are religious. They are foundational to the worldview of Islam.

However, by the same token, anti-Semitism, Shintoism/Emperor-worship, militarism, Aryanism, imperialism, and racial-hatred of Chinese people, were foundational to the worldview of Germany and Japan.

And now, let's go even further back; slavery was foundational to the worldview of the South.

We won the Civil War the same way we won World War II. We beat them, until they begged for mercy, and then we burnt Atlanta to the ground. And then we mercilessly destroyed their ideology.

I would argue that World War II and the Civil War were the most effective wars in history, and achieved the greatest outcomes, precisely because of their sheer brutality. (Am I sounding like Patton here, AOW?)

The truth is, we don't have the will for such war-making at this point. We will need to be hurt worse, before we stand up and fight in the way we will need to to settle this. Until then, our solutions will be partial and temporary.

That being said, I still think what we are doing in Iraq is worthy, though it is incredibly expensive.

10/22/05, 3:51 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Pastorius, you make many excellent points and I can only agree with you. There are many dimensions to discuss and I'm glad you are blogging about the aspects that I only hint at.

Beak is adding to the discussion in just this way. I think we do many things right and the jihadists are showing signs of looking desperate.

I think we can all agree that our men and women are doing something honorable and valuable. We should remind them often (like AOW is doing.) While they fight on the battlefield doing the tough part, there is fighting here at home. Remember the battle will not be lost over there.

Fighting "smart" involves learning about the enemy. I think we here know; but we realize many of our fellow citizens don't. However, they'll wake up. I just hope it won't be the hard way. I think we're all trying our best to sound the alarm.

10/22/05, 6:18 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Last night, I had occasion to speak a bit with an Afghani who saved lives in U.S. Special Forces in Iraq; he is presently recovering from severe wounds and is under U.S. protection. I jumped right in to discuss some aspects of Islam. He explained to me that shari'a law has to change to accommodate Western ideals, but we didn't get to have a discussion in depth, but he did emphasize that civil law must trump shari'a law.

What most impresses this Afghani fellow is that life in the United States in nothing like what he was taught when growing up in Afghanistan. He said that he wishes that women in Muslim countries had the same freedoms as women in the United States. His very words on the topic: Women in the U.S. are so happy!

Because we were attending a party with a live band, the Afghani and I didn't get to talk enough. But what I think I was seeing was his compartmentalization of Islam. I also saw hope in his eyes. More than hope, though. A wistfulness to reconcile Islamic and Western values.

Also in his eyes I saw surprise at my knowledge of Islam. And wariness too. At one point and long after our conversation ended and I was on the other side of the room, I caught him looking at me when he thought I didn't notice his looking. He appeared somber and curious.

I hope to speak with him again, in two months at the next party for servicemen at Walter Reed. When he got ready to catch the van back to WR, he came up to me and said that he wanted to have a longer talk with me. Of course, I made and will make an effort not to be rude--and a supreme effort to listen. And, yes, I also brought up Christianity; he didn't know details about denominations.

Maybe everybody here will think I'm nuts, but the Afghani and I danced after we talked. He taught me an Afghan folk-dance. Humor now: I'm getting too old for that kind of dancing! I sprained my right hip.

PS: When I mentioned that I previously had Saudi students in my adult-ESL classes, he made a spitting noise--an expression of disgust, I think. I found that moment very interesting.

10/23/05, 10:26 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I continue to fail to understand why 9/11 didn't bring everyone to the sound-the-alarm stage.

Beak is right with his point about how the Left is busy promoting complacency and even funding (or ignoring certain groups' funding of) the other side.

Even if Iran is on the verge of revolution, a launched nuke weapon by the Islamist leadership could change the world order. Every Muslim I've spoken with in the last two years has brought up that point to me and has emphasized that the Western world is in a race to prevent Iran from launching.

10/23/05, 10:39 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

That's an interesting story, AOW. I have found some Muslims willing to acknowledge that Islam has problems but they believe it is salvageable.

Of course, in our criticism of Islam some will leave and other will try to tone it down. Naturally, we’ll keep pointing out those that want to fully practice Islam as Mohammad exemplified.

If a Muslim is embarrassed or feels shame that such a violent practice is plausibly part of Islam, that’s a good sign. That’s a sign of moral sensitivity.

10/23/05, 11:37 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

You know what I believe as to the realities of Islam. But I'm the kind of person who doesn't sit back and stop my investigation just because I've come to a conclusion. I'm never afraid to be proven wrong. I wish that I were wrong about Islam, but I haven't been convinced otherwise.

I'm so often called a bigot (as well as other names) by the Leftists that the epithet has become a joke about me within my own family. Truly, though, I'm not a bigot--even though I'm notorious for my bluntness, which gets me into trouble from time to time. If people can't take me the way I am, so be it.

10/23/05, 3:26 PM  

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