Almost 80 years ago, Julien Benda published his tirade against the intellectual corruption of his time, La Trahison des Clercs. The “scribes” in question are those who traffic in words and ideas. For generations before the 20th century, Benda wrote, members of the Western intellectual elite made sure that “humanity did evil, but honored good.” The “treason” occurred when they gave up promoting lasting values that transcend ethnic and other divisions of mankind and allowed political preferences to distort their understanding of the intellectual vocation as such.
Benda’s argument, while based on the flawed assumptions of the Enlightenment, found wide resonance at a time when fascism, Nazism, and Bolshevism dominated Europe’s political and intellectual scene. Today, the treason of the elite class takes the opposite form. It upholds the allegedly universal propositions of “democracy” and “multiculturalism” to the detriment of the particular value of our civilization and its fruits. In no field is this problem more visible than in the schizophrenic approach of the elite class to the “War on Terror.”
The fatuity of the antiterrorist strategy of President George W. Bush and his national-security team was unintentionally encapsulated in a speech he gave to the National Endowment for Democracy on October 6. He opened by stating that America stands guard on “tense borders” (by which he meant the borders of Iraq, not those on the Rio Grande). We are battling “a global campaign of fear… the mortal danger to all humanity” with a “global campaign of freedom”—and we will win. “The evil” of September 11 “is very different from the religion of Islam,” and its proponents “distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus.”
There were several noteworthy incongruities in Mr. Bush’s speech. “The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity and we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror,” he said, ignoring the fact that his administration’s policies have transformed Iraq into that “central front.” He had many harsh words to say about the “authoritarian regimes” in Syria and Iran, alleging that they “aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam,” but he spared Saudi Arabia—the proselytizer in chief of Islamic radicalism—of any such censure and effectively gave a green light to Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf to continue his art of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. He spoke of “American actions to protect Muslims” in Bosnia and Kosovo as if they were something to be proud of and as if they had not secured a resilient base for jihad in the heart of Europe.
All of those inconsistencies pale in comparison to Mr. Bush’s fundamental error: his implication that lethal violence against non-Muslims is a “distortion” of jihad. He cemented the error with the assertion that
|m]any Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all of humanity.
In reality, “the idea of jihad” is a highly developed doctrine and legal system of mandatory violence against nonbelievers. It made Islam the first political ideology to adopt terrorism as an acceptable tool of policy, not as a temporary and unwelcome expedient. While it is possible to dispute the details of Al Qaeda’s theological justifications for terror, it is not possible to dispute that its arguments are based on standard Islamic sources, precedents, and methods of deduction. Those sources and principles are independent of any dubious or capricious interpretations of the Koran or the Hadith.
The jubilant masses thronging the streets to celebrate September 11 may not have known much about theology and jurisprudence, but their imams and madrassa teachers did. Even if the latter disapproved of Bin Laden’s methods, they would be hard pressed to reject his fundamental claim that his guidance is rooted in orthodox Islamic scripture and tradition. The gap between the pillars of respected “mainstream” Islamic thought at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University and “the evil” of September 11 does not compare to the gap between Pope Benedict and Eric Rudolph, but merely to that between Vladimir Ilich Lenin and Pol Pot.
Even Mr. Bush’s Koranic citation was a distortion of the verse, which states that “if anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole people” (emphasis added). Immediately thereafter follows a list of horrid torments, including death by crucifixion, for those who create “mischief” That loophole embraces all those who resist the establishment of Muslim rule or who disobey sharia once it is established. Furthermore, Mr. Bush should be told that one single Koranic verse, the “Verse of the Sword” (9:5)—which gives the infidel the choice between conversion or death—abrogates all 124 preceding verses, which are the ones cited most regularly by Islam’s apologists to prove its tolerance and benevolence.
After more than four years, Mr. Bush has not grasped the most important lesson of September 11: that Islam as such, and not some allegedly aberrant variety of it, poses a threat to our culture and civilization. That this fact creates a conceptual problem for the liberal wing of the elite class is obvious; but among reasonable and patriotic Americans, who have elected and reelected Mr. Bush in the belief that he is one of them, the debate over the nature of Islam should have been long over. Their fathers did not debate, for years and years after Pearl Harbor, whether Shintoism was essentially peaceful whereas only Bushido was bad. Had they done so, the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere would remain firmly in place to this day.
While it is at least conceivable that Mr. Bush knows or suspects the real score on Islam but feels constrained to pretend otherwise, for reasons good or bad, the moral and intellectual paralysis of the liberal end of the Washington spectrum is terminal, the Democrats’ worldview rejects in principle the notion that religious faith can be a prime motivating factor in human affairs. Having reduced religion, literature, and art to “narratives” and “metaphors” that merely reflect prejudices based on the distribution of power, the left treats the jihadist mind-set as a pathology that should be salved by treating causes external to Islam itself.
The result is a plethora of proposed liberal “cures” that are as likely to succeed in making us safe from terrorism as snake oil is likely to cure leukemia. Abroad, we are told, we need to address political and economic grievances of the impoverished masses. At home, we need more tolerance, greater inclusiveness, less profiling, and a more determined outreach to the minorities who feel marginalized and threatened by law enforcement. The failure of such “cures” leads to more pathological self-examination and morbid self-doubt. If the spread of jihad is not caused by the ideology of jihad itself, the argument goes, then it must be our own fault. The issues of immigration, identity, loyalty, and culture are accordingly not treated as legitimate concerns. The result is a cloud-cuckooland in which much of what is said or written about terrorism is not about relevant information that helps us know the enemy but about domestic political agendas, ideology, and psychology.
The New America Foundation’s Conference on Terrorism, Security and America’s Purpose, which was held in Washington, D.C., on September 6-7, provided an excellent illustration of this mind-set. It featured over 70 prominent names, politicians, top bureaucrats, policy analysts, nationally known journalists and top-tier academics. It was scary.
There was billionaire “philanthropist” George Soros insisting that the War on Terror has “done more harm than good.” It has alienated Muslims and diverted our attention from other vital missions, such as fostering “democratic development in order to provide legitimate avenues for dealing with grievances that otherwise might be exploited by terrorist movements.”
Francis Fukuyama saw the root problem in Muslims’ “alienation from modernity.” The solution would be for young Muslims to learn how to choose a personal identity just like everybody else, rather than accept Osama’s prefabricated one.
Madeleine Albright declared that it is “important to listen to what others are telling you”—which was rich, coming from her—and to distinguish friends from foes. James Steinberg of the Brookings Institution urged America to ask herself how she can help to provide “better governance, better economic lives, better political contexts” to the Muslim heartland. Sen. Joseph Biden argued for debt relief and funding of education programs in Muslim countries. Former senator Warren Rudman argued that “America and our allies must address global poverty, disease, and underdevelopment in a far more aggressive and comprehensive manner.” Gen. Wesley Clark (who helped make Kosovo safe for the KLA) now wants a new global security framework based on the United Nations.
On the key issue of the identity of the enemy—the scriptural message and historical record of Islam—the conference had nothing to saw. On the role of the Muslim diaspora in the West, the conference’s Summary Report was brief and to the point: “The government must rebuild vital relationships with Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. and around the world, that have been so severely strained by actions and policies undertaken in the name of homeland security.” Furthermore, “changes in visa policy and passport reform . . . have made America less attractive to students and visitors” from the Muslim world, which is allegedly detrimental to U.S. interests. In addition, privacy and due process must be protected so as to avoid “disproportionate law enforcement efforts against Muslim Americans.”
This mind-set at one end of the elite spectrum, and Mr. Bush’s incongruities at the other, have contributed to the fact that we are losing the War on Terror. The detachment from America’s traditional culture, so pervasive in all segments of the elite class, has been integrated into the culture itself to the extent that Islamic terrorism is being chronically misdiagnosed and therefore is becoming effectively unstoppable. Its networks may have been damaged and disrupted, and Bin Laden’s cause is, in many places, in the hands of self-starters and gifted amateurs, but, on the whole, the world looks more favorable to his objectives than it did in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.
Those who claim that profiling is bad, that open borders are good, that “true Islam” is peaceful, and that jihad is anything other than a permanent declaration of war on all non-Muslims belong to the culture that has lost its bond with nature, history, and the supporting community. That supporting community, the real nation, is out there in the flyover states, working and paying taxes. When it is told of Islam’s “peace and tolerance,” or when its children are forced to recite Muslim prayers in state schools, it grumbles about the stupidity, or ineptitude of those in charge, but it does not suspect outright betrayal. In the meantime, the quiet onslaught continues unabated, across the unprotected southern border and through JFK and O’Hare. It does not bring any benefit to this country, just as it has brought none to Europe, and its cost is incalculable.
Those Americans who love their land and who put their families, their neighborhoods, and their people before all others need to stop the madness. They are normal. Those who tell them that their attachments should be global, that the Marines should patrol the banks of the Euphrates and not those of the Rio Grande, and that their lands and neighborhoods belong to whoever decides to settle in them are sick and evil. They are jihad‘s useful idiots, enablers, and fellow travelers.
The elite class has every intention of continuing to “fight” the War on Terror without naming the enemy, without revealing his beliefs, without unmasking his intentions, without offending his accomplices, without expelling his fifth columnists, and without ever daring to win. Their crime can and must be stopped. The Founding Fathers of the United States overthrew the colonial government for offenses far lighter than those of which the traitor class is guilty.
A new strategy is needed to give America an edge in this war. It can never be “won” in the sense of eliminating the phenomenon of terrorism altogether, but it can be successfully pursued to the point where the threat to the homeland comes as near to zero as possible. The victory will come, to put it simply, not by conquering Mecca for America but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America; not by eliminating the risk but by managing it wisely, resolutely, and permanently.