How to Win the War on Terrorism

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My post about War and American Guilt a couple weeks ago was intentionally incomplete as it would be overly lengthy if I included my fuller thoughts on the conflicts we find ourselves in.  That post resulted from a general observance over what we've done and our attitudes about it during the past 3.1 Administrations regarding military actions in the Persian Gulf region.

I did not mean to suggest that the only moral military action our country might take is when we are ourselves first attacked, only that this requirement makes it unquestionably so.  Reasons shy of this necessitate arguments and persuasion, but may also be valid and moral.  The difficulty with Afghanistan and Iraq (and particularly the latter), is that our so-called "War on Terrorism" is not conveniently defined by geographical lines or particular despots. 

So how do we define "winning?"  What is our measure of success?  Victory is likely characterized by one's political leanings:

1) the defeat of terrorism, or

2) our quick withdrawal to preserve our image as "the nice superpower" in the Court of World Opinion.

Certainly, there are degrees in between, but the poles are defined by those that demand our government hold terrorists accountable on a systemic basis for 9/11 and those who believe that such is impractical and our best response, short of Florida recounting their votes to another result, is to do no more, whatever the results.

Yesterday, I read about the arrests of environmentalists in West Virginia who are demonstrating in various forms against the stripping of mountaintops for coal mining.  I'm sure we all prefer nature in its untouched glory, but that isn't the point.  One of the participants was 94 year old former Rep. Ken Hechler, who commented:

“The governors of West Virginia always call me an environmental extremist. You’ve got to be an extremist in order to achieve things. You’ve got to be ready to make enemies in order to accomplish something. And it’s absolutely necessary that the people here today continue to demonstrate this highly destructive practice.”

The last sentence is only to keep his context apparent, but his comments regarding being an extremist are interesting, particularly noting the source, the citizenship of the one speaking, and its timing given sensitivities to that type of language in current events.  That said, his words may yet sit well if we agree about his passion to correct or prevent a wrong, but they would be something else if we opposed, namely, threatening.  And if we have no opinion at all, we're poorer for it.

When it comes to the Taliban, I have to admit I admire one thing about them.  Like the environmentalists, they act on what they believe.  Given all the secular Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the world would truly be a different place if people who claimed to be faithful actually acted upon their sacred teachings.  I don't even want to speculate as to what that might look like, particularly if all did so at once. 

My first learning of the Taliban was upon hearing of the destruction of cultural antiquity when they blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001.  Certainly I didn't approve of this, but I respected their reasoning.  The Old Testament is replete of stories of the nation of Israel either obeying orbamiyan buddha failing to comply with their directives to be rid of altars in the high places.  The Taliban did something about it, albeit to an enormous cultural loss.

And here we get into an "all religions are just the same" treatment by those who disfavor them.  Without leaping into that particular hornet's nest, of many differences, there is one distinction which is applicable here.

The atrocities of the Christian church, of which there were many, were committed by people who either misunderstood, misread, or ignored the teachings of Christ.  If one reads the New Testament, there's nothing there about persecuting anyone.  In fact, the harshest words are reserved for the Pharisees and Scribes.

The Muslim extremists, however, have no similar excuse.  Certainly there are many sects who regard Islam as a peaceful religion, but the textural authority for extremists to act as they do exists within the Quran and their other holy writings.  There are ample examples, but two are:

Hadith 1:13 - "I have been ordered by Allah to fight with people till they bear testimony to the fact that there is no God but Allah."

Hadith 19:4294 - "Fight against those who disbelieve Allah. Make a holy war."

It's been disappointing that the Islamic powers that be are silent, if judged by our media coverage, on the issue of those who interpret Jihad as something other than an inner struggle.  More specifically, those who live in lands occupied by fundamentalists say very little about terrorist atrocities.  Why?

Fear of retribution is one answer.  Another might be an implied sympathy for the goals of Islam and preference given to those of the same general faith rather than the harm caused to others.  And, certainly, there are many cultural Muslims who go through the motions, the equivalent of, in West Virginia terms, having no opinion on strip mining.

An article last week discussed the Sufis, who are regarded as heirs of an ancient mystical tradition within the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, who rose to arms in Sudan against the Wahhabi (yes, extremist) sect of Islam.  A time of peaceful coexistence with their fundamentalist brethren finally withered as the extremists began to destroy Sufi shrines and kill their religious clerics.

When something is true, it means that anything that contradicts it must necessarily be wrong.  Given scriptural authority to correct those wrongs or punish those that are "wrong," extremists find their justification.  It doesn't require an Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay to ferment their motivation; action is mandated by the core belief.

My thinking is that, ultimately, the Sufis and other Muslims similarly motivated are our only hope for "winning."  America's definition of "success" was built around the image of Osama Bin Laden, and, should he finally be killed or just die, the vast majority of Americans would agree that we've adequately rattled our sabres and welcome the troops home.  But there will never otherwise be a formal conclusion, neither by decided military outcomes nor acquiescence to "make love, not war" foreign relations.

The only way terrorism will be defeated will be if Muslims tire of the knife held at their own throats and act to preserve themselves.  This is ever important, as Islam is inevitably a State-building religion (Sharia law), and, if European shifts in ethnicity continue, this "religion of peace" may eventually win by birthrate alone. 

1 comment :

  1. Extremists are a sad lot indeed. They are individuals who now subscribe solely to the ends justify the means. The world has always been a better place when there are fewer extremists.