In his inimitable style, Mark Steyn has written: “The American way of war is to win the war in nothing flat, and then spend the next decade losing the peace.”
If winning wars was no more than a high-tech game against two-dimensional megalomaniacs, the United States would be the master of the universe into the indefinite future. If the bad guys were just interested in power and money, waging war against them would be a simple matter of superior gadgetry. If only the bad guys were like those of Hollywood fiction there would be no need to think in terms of a cultural and ideological war that today so inconveniences the multiculturalists.
Let us be blunt about it. During the last two decades, the West in general has been losing the war against Islamic Supremacism. Okay, some have used the term, “Islamic Fascism”. Personally, I don’t like the term because ‘Fascism’ has been taken out of its historical context and rendered almost meaningless.
So, who is the enemy?
Daniel Pipes identifies the enemy as “Islamism”, which he distinguishes from Islam. Geert Wilders, on the other hand, maintains Islam itself is the problem. As he has repeatedly argued, Islam is not simply a spiritual exercise but a political ideology. However, both Pipes and Wilders are largely in agreement on the percentages of “moderates” and “extremists”. The critical difference is that while Wilders agrees that most Muslims are moderate, he maintains that there is no distinction between Islam and so-called Islamism and thus the moderation of the majority simply reflects non-observance of the precepts of Islam.
My use of the term, “Islamic supremacism” sidesteps this debate, but encapsulates the central cultural ideological challenge to our freedom, which is Sharia, a system of law and governance that denies any separation between the sacred and the secular. We ignored this challenge, terming our response a war against terrorism, which logically makes no sense, since terrorism is merely a tactic.
The real challenge isn’t terrorism but a self-imposed cultural relativism, promoted under the soppy slogan, “multiculturalism”. Whatever the pretense, this approach amounts to a policy of unilateral cultural abdication. The old saying, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’, applies here. In effect, the message from a culturally relativist West to Muslims is loud and clear. If you come to our country, there is no obligation to assimilate for there is nothing to assimilate to. Moreover, the implied message to the majority of Muslims is that there is no point in attempting to resist “extremists”. If the West has lost confidence in its traditional values, where do the “moderates” seek shelter?
The real lesson of American intervention in both Afghanistan and Iraq is not the problem of overweening American arrogance. The criticism of so-called neo-conservative illusions is partially valid but misses a broader point, which is that occupation required more than organizing some pretense of democracy; it required a fundamental cultural transformation. But this would have required the United States to become a nineteenth century style imperial power. Mark Steyn recounts Sir Charles Napier’s role in India’s cultural transformation:
…faced with the practice of suttee — the Hindu tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Napier’s response was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
In the following century, India emerged as the world’s largest democracy. Now, fast forward to Afghanistan in 2013. Mark Steyn again:
Stoning is making something of a comeback in the world’s legal codes — in October the Sultan of Brunei announced plans to put it on his books. Nevertheless, Kabul has the unique distinction of proposing to introduce the practice on America’s watch. Afghanistan is an American protectorate; its kleptocrat president is an American client, kept alive these last twelve years only by American arms. The Afghan campaign is this nation’s longest war — and our longest un-won war: That’s to say, nowadays we can’t even lose in under a decade. I used to say that, 24 hours after the last Western soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. But it’s already as if we were never there: The last Christian church in the country was razed to the ground in 2010.
In other words, we and the Americans have lost. But looking back, that was inevitable – you cannot win a war if you refuse to face what the war is really about.
Christopher Carr is a frequent contributor to Quadrant and Quadrant Online