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That Imaginary War Room by Hugh Fitzgerald

We have all had fantasies — have we not? — of being President or Chief of Staff, and being present, somewhere in the Pentagon, in a War Room that, we like to think, directs that campaign of self-defense against the hydra-headed Jihad.

And we like to imagine, too, what might go on in that room, what kinds of things we hope are being discussed and planned.

Consider, among the many imagined scenarios, these three:

1) A War Room devoted to the counter-Jihad in the Muslim World itself. In this War Room, the computers bristle with information about the active fighting going on in the Middle East and North Africa (Libya) and Central Asia (Afghanistan), and with news of what war materiel has been requested, and is being sent, and what troops have been sent, too, to Egypt, to Iraq, to Jordan, to Yemen, to a dozen other possible places. And there are solemn debates about how to keep the countries of the Middle East from being “failed states” and succeeding, thanks to our help, with the assumption being that this is the only conceivably correct goal.

2) A War Room devoted to the domestic front — for by now there would be recognition that there is a war inside our countries, too. That would take the form of non-military aid being given to “moderate” Muslims in the United States and Western Europe, who, if only they are given enough access to, and support from, Western leaders and the media, and funds, too (as the French government supplies so generously to what it thinks are “tame because government-subsidised mosques” in France), these “moderates” will be able to sway the local Muslims, now within the West by the millions, to embrace, unswervingly, democratic ideals, and what those ideals imply, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And little is said about what is in the Qur’an and Hadith; for the planners, such a discussion would only complicate matters, would make what they are doing seem even less plausible, would show up the egg on too many faces. So what is in the Qur’an, as glossed by the Sunnah (Hadith and Sira), doesn’t come up. It’s “real people” who are being kept in mind in this particular War Room.

3) Finally, in the third of our imagined War Rooms, everyone is already well-versed in Islam, and disinclined to deny what is contained in the texts; disinclined, too, to find reasons to explain or interpret away those texts. The strategies of denial that were in fashion for so very long, despite all the evidence, have finally been put to rest. And it is the members of this hard-headed group, chastened by more than a decade of experience dealing with Islam and Muslim peoples, in this War Room, on whose computer screens would be displayed the strategies for demoralizing and dividing the Camp of Islam. Not much about soldiers and weapons here, for military intervention in Muslim lands is not regarded as much use. It has only allowed Muslims to blame the interfering Infidels, and not one another, nor themselves. But in this War Room, measures are discussed to limit, in the West, the survival — or still worse, spread — of intellectual bromides about Islam that do not correspond to what the best-prepared students of the subject, which includes the “defectors” from Islam such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq, tell us that Islam inculcates. The internecine conflicts within the Muslim world would not be deplored, but regarded with grim satisfaction, knowing that such conflicts have no natural end.

Indeed, who thinks the conflict in Syria will come to an end, or that Syria itself can possibly be reconstituted? How exactly would the bitterest of enemies now make peace and live together? It isn’t possible. Instead, in this War Room the discussion would be about how refusing to intervene leads to a better outcome for the West, if not for Muslims.

And in this War Room, a great deal of the planning would be about how best to support and protect  non-Muslim figures, especially those members of the media who, having prepared themselves at length by appropriate reading of Qur’an and Hadith, and a lot else besides, are of great national worth, for everyone who writes in a no-nonsense fashion about Islam has overcome an atmosphere of such nonsense and lies as to deserve a Pulitzer just for that mental persistence. Instead of mockery, they deserve  thanks, support, and dissemination of their message.

The theme of the third imagined War Room is Division and Demoralization — of Muslims. This involves exploiting, often by not moving to mend, the fissures within the Muslim Camp, the main one being that between Sunni and Shi’a, but there are also the ethnic hostilities between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, most obviously between Arab and Kurd in Iraq, but hardly limited to that case. The non-Arabs can be encouraged to note, and resent, the conviction of the Arabs that they are superior in the Muslim hierarchy, that it is right that non-Arabs must forget their own histories and civilization, for as Muslims they must  read the Qur’an in Arabic, turn Arabia-wards five times a day in prayer, emulate the mores of 7th century Arabs, and ideally take Arab names. That resentment surely can be encouraged; the rich pre-Islamic pasts of many Muslim peoples could be written and spoken about, and the consciousness raised about how Islam has razed history the way the Islamic State has razed historical monuments.

Of the three, which do you favor? Do you think constant military intervention, and especially the wars in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, and the overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya, have been a wise use of Western resources? Is Islam weaker as a result? Has the West been made more secure? And is the Muslim presence in the West smaller or larger, and growing? Has the experience of the past 15 years made a sufficient number of people in the West more aware of what they face, or simply anxious and confused, and feeling things are out of their hands, “there is nothing we can do,” for example, when our governments increase the number of Muslim immigrants?

Have the “moderate Muslims” in Europe, other than an occasional showy denunciation of this or that Islamic State outrage as “un-Islamic,” done a single thing to further the right education of non-Muslims, and to come to grips with the need to discuss, in order if possible to modify (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali holds out, just, as a possibility), through interpretation, what is contained in the Qur’an and, especially, the Hadith? They have not, and they cannot. So it is up to the people in that imaginary third War Room to help create demoralization, as well as to do nothing to prevent division within the Camp of Islam.

How many Muslims are capable of interpreting the Qur’an in such a way, and ignoring so much of the Hadith, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests will be necessary if there is to be co-existence, or any sort of harmony? Many? Few? And how might one encourage their numbers to grow, or even to encourage people to do that seemingly impossible thing, leave Islam altogether? One way, as those in that third War Room know, is to make public as much news about the relative performance of Muslim peoples and states as possible. Long ago, the scholar Armand Abel wrote an article that deserves widespread study:  “Underdevelopment, stagnation, and decadence. The study of a psychotype: the case of Islam.” Why is it that Muslim states have not created modern economies? The handful of Croesus-rich oil sheikdoms are not exceptions; they are rentier-economies, dependent on the result of an accident of geology. What Muslim state has succeeded, or put differently, is it not true that those Muslim states that have either had a significant non-Muslim population (as Lebanon and Malaysia) or a long secular history (Kemalist Turkey), have created those economies not dependent on the three mainstays of most Muslim states: oil, Western tourism, Western foreign aid?

This third War Room would conduct a campaign to unsettle and demoralize the enemy, a war of propaganda. It involves holding up, for constant inspection and discussion, all the ways that Islam itself can be considered a retrograde (Churchill’s word) force. Does Islam encourage democracy, or in Islam is the despot to be obeyed as long as he is Muslim? Does Islam encourage economic innovation, or does Islam denounce bida (innovation, new ways of doing things)? Does Islam encourage equality of the sexes and equal treatment of minorities under law? What is the evidence that we see before us, presented in the news every day? Does Islam encourage people to think for themselves, or does it discourage free and skeptical inquiry? Have you heard of anyone being lashed recently, or attacked by a mob, or killed, because that someone dared to question something about Islam? Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, the freethinkers hacked to death in Bangladesh, the endless attacks on those who dare to think for themselves in Pakistan, the endless prison sentences meted out in Iran — what should we make of this, if not that Islam does indeed punish free inquiry? Can’t you feel sympathy for the people living in these places, who think for themselves but can never express it?

The third War Room would offer subventions to publishers, so that works by ex-Muslims, as valuable as that of defectors from the KGB, would appear, in millions of copies, small in format so that they could be easily smuggled in, and of course — most important — there would be websites, well-publicized websites, where such works could be read in full.

Islam itself is the source of the many failures, political, economic, social, moral, and intellectual, of Muslims themselves. How many times have I said this? It is the spelling out of that proposition that requires efforts, at length,  ad nauseam, till it all seems so obvious that no one in his right mind could disagree. That is the task of this ideal War Room. Political failure: the despot is permitted in Islam; the citizen, rather than the subject, protected by civil rights that we take for granted in the West, does not exist. That is not complicated to say, but apparently complicated enough so that many refuse to understand.  Economic failure: inshallah-fatalism, the belief that everything is in the hands of Allah, who can undo our efforts at whim, and to whom we also owe our riches (and the oil of the Gulf might be seen to confirm it), suggests to Muslims that neither hard work, nor entrepreneurial flair, are either sufficient or necessary. And the readiness of the West to supply aid to so many Muslim states has allowed them to think of this, too, as a kind of jizyah, a tribute exacted on the non-Muslims to which they willingly submit, manna that will not stop.

Those in the third War Room should not be swayed by talk of “failed states.” They should stop all American aid to Muslim states, in order to allow the economic failures of Islam to become more apparent to Muslims themselves. Social failures: the War Room will promote discussion of how women are mistreated in Islam, how minorities are treated, and why these reflect the teachings of Islam, clearly misogynistic and clearly uninterested in the position of non-Muslim minorities. Moral failures: vide the Islamic State. Or see how both sides treat the other side in Syria or Libya or Yemen or Iraq. This is what that War Room should be publicizing, talking about, forcing Muslims to talk about.

The Islamic basis for Muslim failure is now much more widely understood among non-Muslims; websites such as this one have had a considerable role in forcing this understanding. But the trick is to force Muslims to understand the sources of their own unhappinesses of so many different kinds. Look at Al-Sisi. Do you not sense in him someone who knows that Islam has to be modified, or re-interpreted, or if nothing else will work, ruthlessly constrained, as he is doing with the True Believers the Muslim Brotherhood? For Al-Sisi is afraid of the effect of too much Islam, taken straight up, on the minds of True Believers. And that is because he has spent decades thinking about Islam, and having studied in the United States, surely noted from afar the very failures that we’ve been discussing.

Would that in the Pentagon and the White House there were more who have come to the conclusion that Islam itself, with its amazing power over the minds of men, is the problem. Then imagine a thousand articles commissioned by that War Room from authorities in different fields: economists would write about the lack of major innovation in Islamic world, political scientists would write about  the persistence of despotism in the Islamic world, sociologists would study the comparative treatment of women, and the position of minorities; psychologists would write about the moral insensitivity of Muslims to the suffering of their enemies (see those Yazidi women). This would create an atmosphere — call it demoralization —  that could force Muslims to admit that something was wrong, and then to begin to analyze the problem correctly, and not find themselves suppressed. The ability to think would come, albeit slowly. All of this has been said before, and all must be said again and again.

But isn’t this the essential strategy worth trying, not only in that Ideal War Room of our imagination, but in the real one?

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