One consequence of the Bush Administration policies in the Middle East is that a decades-long shadow war has been brought out into the open. This shadow war between increasingly mainstream elements of radical Islam and the West, became evident back in the 1970's with the taking of American hostages in Iran. It exists and is often justified by the very existence of Israel, a Western-style democracy, in the heart of the Middle East and the supposed "oppression" of the Palestinians by that state.
In the Times of London, Peter Jenkins writes about a letter recently sent by Islamic leaders to the Pope:
Coming at the end of Ramadan, the letter is impressive. The signatories embrace a global range of grand muftis, imams, sheikhs and scholars from all denominations of Islam, with a wide span of theological influence. The appeal to religious tolerance at a time of tension between Islam and the West is welcome. But what the letter means needs deconstruction.
Religious leaders like to claim headlines by subjecting politics to a downpour of platitude. The letter makes no mention of (monotheistic) Jews, let alone Hindus and Buddhists. It merely invites the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others to acknowledge what the archbishop calls “their common scriptural foundations . . . as a basis for justice and peace in the world”. Two religions that embrace “half of humanity” should stand together or, by implication, there will be war.
Such an implication is grandiose, dangerous and wrong. It implies that the Muslim world has a politico-military power that is in some sense equal and opposite to that of Christianity. This elevates the so-called jihadist tendency within Islam to a status that it does not have and should never think it has. It suggests Islam has sufficient power to confront and possibly undermine the West. It implies a balance of power parallel with a balance of theological interpretation.
Such an implication feeds a no less dangerous paranoia in the West. By stating that the “survival of the world” might turn on a struggle between Islam and Christianity, the letter reinforces the militarist fantasies of neoconservatives who see the world as just such a struggle. It is a paranoia which, since 9/11, has driven the “war on terror” and fomented the tension and antagonism to the West to which the scholars’ letter is so vacuous a response.
The chief threat to world security at present lies in the capacity of tiny groups of political Islamists to goad the West into a rolling military retaliation. Extremists on each side feed off the others’ frenzied scenarios so as to garner money and political support for their respective armies of the night. Each sees the other as a cosmic menace and abandons communal tolerance and peaceful diplomacy to counter it. The authors of this letter would be better employed vetting their own blood-curdling mullahs and madrasahs than in writing platitudes to the Pope.
It's interesting that Jenkins basically destroys his own argument about the "lack of a threat" to the West from Islam with these words. He claims to be a "cheerleader" for Western values, but like all cheerleaders, he thinks that all you need to do is jump around enthusiastically and recite optimistic mantras and the game will be won by your team.
The fact is that radicalized Islam has indeed evolved into a serious threat to the West; and that there are a number of reasons they believe they can win a clash of civilizations with the West --even if people like Jenkins poo-poo the very idea.
SC&A bring up an important reality that must be considered before we, like Jenkins and many of the Democrats in our own country, write off the the threat of a nuclear Iran:
The best way to deal with Iran can be determined once we understand the threat Iran poses. Understanding how the current Iranian regime views itself goes a long way in explaining their world view. Ahmadenijad’s World, by Mathias Kuntzel is a must read. Iran is not posturing.
Dealing with Iran is not just about Congressional approval and declarations of war. How we deal with Iran will shape the values of this nation for generations to come and how other nations, hungry for democracy will measure our commitment to freedom.
The ‘freedom fighters’ supported by Iran are very different than the ‘freedom fighters’ and opposition in Cuba, Venezuela, China, Syria and even in Iran itself. Those supported by the Iranian want to impose tyranny on nations and will use terror to achieve their goals. That is not the same as ‘freedom fighters or dissidents in Cuba, Syria and elsewhere that want to shed the yoke of tyranny and repression.
Let me quote from the link Siggy cites, which tells the story of the Basiji in Iran, the children of the minefields:
In pondering the behavior of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I cannot help but think of the 500,000 plastic keys that Iran imported from Taiwan during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. At the time, an Iranian law laid down that children as young as 12 could be used to clear mine fields, even against the objections of their parents. Before every mission, a small plastic key would be hung around each of the children’s necks. It was supposed to open for them the gates to paradise.
“In the past,” wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettela’at, “we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the mine fields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone.” Such scenes could henceforth be avoided, Ettela’at assured its readers. “Before entering the mine fields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves.”
The children who thus rolled to their deaths formed part of the mass “Basij” movement that was called into being by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The Basij Mostazafan – the “mobilization of the oppressed” – consisted of short-term volunteer militias. Most of the Basij members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically and by the thousands to their own destruction. “The young men cleared the mines with their own bodies,” a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War has recalled, “It was sometimes like a race. Even without the commander’s orders, everyone wanted to be first.”
The western media showed little interest for the Basiji – perhaps because journalists could not be present during the hostilities or perhaps because they did not believe the reports. Such disinterest has persisted to this day. The 5000 dead of Saddam Hussein’s poison gas attack on the Kurds of Halabja have remained in our memory. History has forgotten the children of the minefields.
Today, however, Ahmadinejad appears in public in his Basiji uniform. During the war, he served as one of the Basiji instructors who turned children into martyrs. The generation that fought in the Iran-Iraq War has come to power along with Ahmadinejad. He owed his election in Summer 2005 to the contemporary Basiji movement. In Fall, he announced a “Basiji Week.” According to a report in the newspaper Kayan, some 9 million Basiji heeded the call, “forming a human chain some 8,700 kilometers long…. In Tehran alone, some 1,250,000 people turned out.” In his speeches, Ahmadinejad praises the “Basiji culture” and the “Basiji power” with which “Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic stage.”
Interestingly, the Basiji were a product of a war between two Islamic countries and their continued existence and glorification--along with the celebration of the suicide bomber who murders as many innocents as possible-- are emblematic of a fundamental difference in values between Islamic cultures and those of the West. Nevertheless, Jenkins suggests that it is the West's "paranoid" response to radical Islam's continual aggression and barbarism; along with its justified assault on Western values that has caused an escalation to the problem.
On the contrary, I think it has been our lack of an appropriate paranoid response --undoubtedly facilitated by a runaway narcissistic culture, too self-absorbed to notice the threat--that has permitted the world to reach a point in history where a third-rate religion like Islam has ascended to the world stage. Islam's intellectual, cultural and moral achievements have been in steady decline for centuries; and the only reason it has not yet collapsed from its own inherent contradictions and its inability to sustain its adherents in the real world is due primarily to a fortunate geological happenstance.
For the last 100 years, Islam has abandoned any of the precepts that may have once made it a vibrant and positive force in the world. Today's Muslim leaders for the most part, have hitched their religious wagons to a variant of Marxist ideology, infused by a powerful religious fanatacism and funded by oil. You can hear the imams young and old sprouting the same tired old Marxist slogans for revolution, revamped to be consistent with modern interpretations of the Quran--just substitute the word "jihad" for talk about the "revolution of the proletariat".
Jenkins neglects to mention in his essay one teensy weensy detail that is not explained or mentioned in the 128-page document sent by Muslim leaders to the Pope: a religion that justifies and glorifies the abuse and death of children; a religion that enslaves, oppresses and humiliates women; and a religion that justifies slaughter and martyrdom as a way of life is not even in the same moral universe as any of the other major religions on this planet.
Until and unless that reality about today's Islam is addressed, these Muslim "leaders" are nothing but delusional about their faith.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had the effect of bringing to the foreground a long-standing conflict between various sects of Islam ; and pitting the two major powers in the region (Iran and Saudi Arabia) against each other for dominance. It has also unleashed the rabid hatred that has existed for centuries and has been simmering all along within the 'religion of peace'.
For too long the world has pretended that peace plans, treaties, cease-fires and talk--lots and lots of talk--would bring about a change for the good in the culture of hatred and death that is being nurtured in that part of the world. But none of these things have helped the situation. Instead, they have only enabled the hate; facilitated the deaths; and emboldened those who thrive on the resultant chaos.
The world's insistent denial and smiling pretense that it was dealing with reasonaable people who sought peace and stability and a future for their children should now be able to be seen for the delusion it was. The West's good intentions have only managed to pave the road and make it easier for the Islamic fanatics to travel down it.
It is unquestionably true that this new landscape is fraught with danger and challenges; and that it has the potential to bring about violence and suffering and death. But what do you think has been going on for the last 50 years or so? There has been continual human suffering and death as a result of the never-ending shadow war; and its toxic ideology--a combination of Marxism and religious fanaticism has already poisoned minds of the next generation of children there, whose growth and individuality are stunted by the culturally-sanctioned and religiously-promoted hatred.
Aafter 9/11 it became obvious that it was not confined to one small part of the world anymore; and that what happened in that small art of the world had enormous repercussions for the entire planet.
The last 7 years have brought about a radical change in the playing field and shaken up the agenda of important Islamic players who had decades of evidence to suggest that they would never be held to account for their behavior. Slowly, surely, and sometimes subtly, the balance and focus in this war has been shifted; as one after the other, the old players have been supplanted; and seeds of democracy and freedom have been planted.
What we are seeing is the chaos that occurs when a static system is disturbed. But the old equilibrium never stood a chance to bring peace, only constant war and calls for jihad. The old equilibrium permitted the jihadis to operate under the radar and grow strong. And more importantly, the old equilibrium did not offer much of a strategic advantage for the forces of freedom and democracy.
The world is slowly awakening to the threat--and it is real, no matter how much Mr. Jenkins would like to believe otherwise; or how comforting it is to believe otherwise. There is less and less tolerance for the lies and brutalities of the jihadists; perhaps a little less appeasement of their agenda; or a passive acceptance of their irrational behavior.
Lines have been drawn in the Middle Eastern sands; and on one side is a path that leads to a chance for real peace and prosperity in the region; to increased freedom and for participation in the civilized world and to a future for all children. On the other side all that is offered is perpetual war and a one way ticket to martyrdom and death. Undoubtedly, many will choose the latter path as that has been drummed into their heads since childhood as the only path; the holy path of jihad and submission to the will of Allah.
This war is real; and it is one in which the West must prevail. For the children.