Thursday, 15 January 2009

MARK STEYN: Loving thine enemy (Part Two)

In this excerpt from Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it, we learn how weakness from Muslim extremists' enemies is used to target the weak minded and feeble left amongst us.

Fighting a war against terror is hard. Israel is a victim of this at present. They cannot fight justifiably against attack on their land because it isn't seen as "right" to kill an insane enemy because, well, they really are just the same as you and me and deserve the same sort of respect.

They don't.

The more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily around the room

After September 11, the first reaction of just about every prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, so did the Prince of Wales, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the prime minister of Canada and many more. And, when the get-me-to-the-mosque-on-time fever died away, you couldn't help feeling that this would strike almost any previous society as, well, bizarre. Pearl Harbor's been attacked? Quick, order some sushi and get me into a matinee of Madam Butterfly!

Seeking to reassure the co-religionists of those who attack you that you do not regard them all as the enemy is a worthy aim but a curious first priority. And, given that more than a few of the imams in those mosque photo-ops turned out to be at best equivocal on the matter of Islamic terrorism and at worst somewhat enthusiastic supporters of it, it involved way too much self-deception on our part. But it set the tone for all that followed, to the point where with each bomb or plot -- from September 11 to London to Toronto -- the protestations of Islam's good faith grew ever more fulsome.

Consider the name given to the current conflict: "war on terror." Wait a minute. Aren't wars usually waged against named enemies? Yes, but, to the progressive mind, the very concept of "the enemy" is obsolescent: There are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven't yet accommodated. In part, it's societal forgetfulness. In an electronic age, a present-tense culture, we assume that social progress is like technological progress: It can't be reversed. Just as you can't disinvent the internal combustion engine, so you can't disinvent women's rights. Just as the horse and buggy yielded to the steam train and the Ford Model T and the passenger jet, so the advanced social-democratic society will march onward to state day care and 30-hour work weeks and gay marriage and ever greater ethnic diversity -- and nothing can turn it back, certainly not a lot of seventh-century weirdbeards. Many of us figure the Islamist plan to re-establish the caliphate is the equivalent of that moment in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie when Plankton roars, "I'm going to rule the world!" Towering over him, SpongeBob says, "Good luck with that."

But you never know: It might be that we're the plankton. "Our enemies are small worms," Adolf Hitler told his generals in August 1939. "I saw them at Munich." In Europe today, as in the thirties, the political class prostrates itself before an insatiable force that barely acknowledges the latest surrender before moving on to the next invented grievance.

Indeed, a formal enemy is all but superfluous to requirements. Bomb us, and we agonize over the "root causes." Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that "Islam is a religion of peace." Issue bloodcurdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can't wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush and Blair. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the "vast majority" of Muslims "jihad" is a harmless concept meaning "healthy-lifestyle low-fat granola bar." Thus the lopsided valse macabre of our times: the more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily round the room.

As French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel wrote, "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." During the Danish cartoon jihad, The New York Times gave a routinely pompous explanation of why it would not be showing us the representations of the Prophet: Sensitive news organizations, the editors explained, had the duty to "refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols." The very next day, the Times illustrated a story on the Danish controversy with a piece of New York "art" from a couple of seasons earlier showing the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung. Multiculturalism seems to operate on the same even-handedness as the old Cold War joke in which the American tells the Soviet guy that "in my country everyone is free to criticize the president," and the Soviet guy replies, "Same here. In my country everyone is free to criticize your president." Under the rules as understood by The New York Times, the West is free to mock and belittle its Judeo-Christian inheritance, and, likewise, the Muslim world is free to mock and belittle the West's Judeo-Christian inheritance. If one has to choose, on balance Islam's loathing of other cultures seems psychologically less damaging than the Western elites' loathing of their own.

Insurgencies, whether explicitly terrorist or more subtle, persist because of a lack of confidence on the part of their targets. The IRA, for example, calculated correctly that the British had the capability to smash them totally but not the will. So they knew that while they could never win militarily, they also could never be defeated. The Islamists have figured similarly. The only difference is that most terrorist wars are highly localized. We now have the first truly global terrorist insurgency because the Islamists view the whole world the way the IRA view the bogs of Fermanagh: They want it, and they've calculated that our entire civilization lacks the will to see them off.

From America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it, by Mark Steyn
Published by 
Regnery Publishing, Inc. Copyright (Copyright) 2006 by Mark Steyn.

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