Notes on the War in Iraq: Examples of things that libertarians and liberals explain away

This is the eleventh in a series. The bulleted points below are culled from several sources. They are compiled to show how much information on an issue is available to those who are seeking it.

  • Some people think wars are no longer necessary. There has always been a utopian strain in both Western thought from the time of Plato’s “Republic” and the practice of state socialism. But the technological explosion of the last 20 years has made life so long and so good, that many now believe our mastery of nature must extend to human nature as well. A society that can call anywhere in the world on a cell phone, must just as easily end war, poverty, or unhappiness, as if these pathologies are strictly materially caused, not impoverishments of the soul, and thus can be materially treated.
  • Some Americans think we are to blame for the existence of terrorists. If we’d only behave better, people abroad wouldn’t hate us. As commentator Charles Krauthammer put it,

“Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. Nukes in North Korea? Poverty in Bolivia? Sectarian violence in Iraq? Breasts are beaten and fingers pointed as we try to somehow locate the root cause in America.”

  • Many of those who oppose the war in Iraq turn a blind eye to what historian Bruce Thornton refers to as the history of centuries of jihad and Islamic imperialism.

*  Osama bin Laden should be placed in the long, continuous tradition of Islamic imperialist ambitions sanctified by the faith’s universalistic pretensions. His declaration of jihad against a United States, spurred as well by his reading of America’s spiritual corruption as evidenced by its ignominious retreat from Somalia in 1993, is not, as Karsh notes, a “novelty”: “Declaring a holy war against the infidel has been a standard practice of countless imperial rulers and aspirants since the rise of Islam.

*  Nor does bin Laden’s perception of jihad as a predominantly military effort to facilitate the creation of the worldwide Islamic umma differ in any way from traditional Islamic thinking.” The difference is that “military effort” now necessarily consists of attacks by terrorists rather than armies.

*  In short, bin Laden has not “highjacked” or “distorted” Islam, as Islamic propagandists and Western apologists for jihad have it, but rather has acted consistently with its traditional beliefs.

  • According to supporters of the goal of Islamic global triumph, it “need not necessarily be pursued by the sword; it can be achieved through demographic growth and steady conversion of the local populations.”
  • Opponents of the War in Iraq explain away the favored use of violence as described succinctly by the number one al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who, before he was killed by an American bomb, said,

“Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute.” Those infidels include Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. Christians and Jews are permitted to pay tribute if they do not convert, the Muslim faith recognizing Jesus and Moses as prophets; those not believing in one God must convert or die.

  • Unfortunately the obvious has to be stated: disagreement implies that two sides see the world differently. They see the war in Iraq as a mistake. We don’t. The rest is up to which side can win the argument and which side, down the road, has history back up the wisdom of their viewpoint.
  • Those who oppose the war in Iraq explain away news articles like the one published on October 15, 2007, by the New York Times entitled, “An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers.” Here is how the article opens:

When Osama bin Laden issued his videotaped message to the American people last month, a young jihad enthusiast went online to help spread the word. The global jihad is as close as YouTube, which features videos like an ode to suicide attacks (top), a message “to black Americans” from a bin Laden lieutenant (center), and an Iraq insurgency promotional message (bottom).

“America needs to listen to Shaykh Usaamah very carefully and take his message with great seriousness,” he wrote on his blog. “America is known to be a people of arrogance.”

Unlike Mr. bin Laden, the blogger was not operating from a remote location. It turns out he is a 21-year-old American named Samir Khan who produces his blog from his parents’ home in North Carolina, where he serves as a kind of Western relay station for the multimedia productions of violent Islamic groups.

  • Those who oppose the war in Iraq explain away the words of Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia, who wrote that “Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to defeat the Wahhabi ideology.” He also wrote:

News organizations report that Osama bin Laden has obtained a religious edict from a misguided Saudi cleric, justifying the use of nuclear weapons against America and the infliction of mass casualties. It requires great emotional strength to confront the potential ramifications of this fact. Yet can anyone doubt that those who joyfully incinerate the occupants of office buildings, commuter trains, hotels and nightclubs would leap at the chance to magnify their damage a thousandfold?

…It is time for people of good will from every faith and nation to recognize that a terrible danger threatens humanity. We cannot afford to continue “business as usual” in the face of this existential threat. Rather, we must set aside our international and partisan bickering, and join to confront the danger that lies before us.

An extreme and perverse ideology in the minds of fanatics is what directly threatens us (specifically, Wahhabi/Salafi ideology–a minority fundamentalist religious cult fueled by petrodollars). Yet underlying, enabling and exacerbating this threat of religious extremism is a global crisis of misunderstanding…

To neutralize the virulent ideology that underlies fundamentalist terrorism and threatens the very foundations of modern civilization, we must identify its advocates, understand their goals and strategies, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and effectively counter their every move. What we are talking about is nothing less than a global struggle for the soul of Islam.

  • Those who oppose the war in Iraq don’t agree with Efraim Karsh, who is head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, He has a new book out entitled, “Islamic Imperialism: A History.” Mr. Karsh says that Muslim political ambitions are not a reaction to Western encroachments:

Among Islamic radicals, such gloating about the prowess and imminent triumph of their “nation” is as commonplace as recitals of the long and bitter catalog of grievances related to the loss of historical Muslim dominion. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly alluded to the collapse of Ottoman power at the end of World War I and, with it, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate. “What America is tasting now,” he declared in the immediate wake of 9/11, “is only a copy of what we have tasted. Our Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more than 80 years, of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated.” Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s top deputy, has pointed still farther into the past, lamenting “the tragedy of al-Andalus”–that is, the end of Islamic rule in Spain in 1492.

These historical claims are in turn frequently dismissed by Westerners as delusional, a species of mere self-aggrandizement or propaganda. But the Islamists are perfectly serious, and know what they are doing. Their rhetoric has a millennial warrant, both in doctrine and in fact, and taps into a deep undercurrent that has characterized the political culture of Islam from the beginning. Though tempered and qualified in different places and at different times, the Islamic longing for unfettered suzerainty has never disappeared, and has resurfaced in our own day with a vengeance. It goes by the name of empire.

  • Those who oppose the war in Iraq do not believe, as Dennis Prager writes, that the Islamic threat is greater than German and Soviet threats were:

Just as previous generations had to fight Nazism, communism and fascism, our generation has to confront militant Islam.

And whereas there were unique aspects to those evils, there are two unique aspects to the evil emanating from the Islamic world that render this latest threat to humanity particularly difficult to overcome.

One is the number of people who believe in it. This is a new phenomenon among organized evils. Far fewer people believed in Nazism or in communism than believe in Islam generally or in authoritarian Islam specifically.

There are one billion Muslims in the world. If just 10 percent believe in the Islam of Hamas, the Taliban, the Sudanese regime, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, bin Ladin, Islamic Jihad, the Finley Park Mosque in London or Hizbollah — and it is inconceivable that only one of 10 Muslims supports any of these groups’ ideologies — that means a true believing enemy of at least 100 million people.

Outside of Germany, how many people believed in Nazism? Outside of Japan, who believed in Japanese imperialism and militarism? And outside of universities, the arts world or Hollywood, how many people believed in Soviet-style totalitarianism?

A far larger number of people believe in Islamic authoritarianism than ever believed in Marxism. Virtually no one living in Marxist countries believed in Marxism or communism. Likewise, far fewer people believed in Nazism, an ideology confined largely to one country for less than one generation. This is one enormous difference between the radical Islamic threat to our civilization and the two previous ones.

  • The sad fact is that the terrorists who attacked us clearly see themselves as at war with us. While law enforcement has a role to play, military action is necessary to eliminate the existence of safe havens.