Sunday, October 31, 2004

How to Defeat Terror--A primer

"The Iraq War was a distraction from the War on terror." This is a standard anti-war assertion. But is it truth or tripe?

I don’t know if anti-war types are being willfully obtuse, or if their Bush hatred has blinded them to all but the most simple observations (Bin Laden no here? Grrr… Distraction!). The Lefts inability to understand the Iraq War is one of the reasons why they have been marginalized post-9/11.

To conceptualize the War on Terror as simply a matter of tracking down those that attack us is fundamentally flawed and a sure recipe for disaster. The real question that needs to be asked is how do you dismantle an ideology of terror? You can’t bomb it, you can’t arrest it, and you can’t get the UN to sign a resolution that will end it.

And, yet, if it isn’t dismantled, even as terrorists are struck down their ranks will be constantly replenished until either they or America are bled dry. A war of attrition in an era of asymmetric warfare and weapons capable of dealing out death disproportionate to their cost and size (i.e. explosives) is not something that America should seek out. When one suicide bomber can take out 8 highly trained and expensively equipped Marines we know that it is not a struggle we can hold up indefinitely.

Killing the terrorists in the short run is of vital importance, but for the long haul radical change must be wrought in the Middle East. Hence the war in Iraq.

Essentially, it is an anti-totalitarian war, a war for freedom. This is not platitudinous, as many cynical observors posit. In totalitarian governments, human freedom is restricted to an unacceptable degree, leading to widespread disaffection among the oppressed populace. To enforce these unpopular restrictions, an intrusive police state is required in order to keep a watchful eye on the restive populace. Arbitrary arrests and executions inevitably follow.

Naturally, many yearn for freedom and so desire change. But when free speech is restricted and a single party controls the government, there are no legitimate channels to affect this desired change. Therefore terrorism is utilized. It’s a natural progression from totalitarianism to terror; if you make the climate in which people live unbearable through restrictions on freedom and then if you take away legitimate means to change this climate, terrorism becomes one of the only recourses for change.

Now, many might say that the movement that has mobilized in response to the totalitarian governments of the Middle East is one of Islamofascism, a totalitarian ideology in itself. Therefore the people aren’t entirely against totalitarian mechanisms and so freedom is not the best antidote.

I wholeheartedly agree that Islamic fundamentalism is at heart totalitarian, but the truth is that its practitioners see it as the sublimest manifestation of human freedom. Advocates of Islamic rule believe that only in total shariah law, that is, laws based entirely on the Qur'an, the Hadith, as well as ijma, is human freedom to be found.

Although, in reality the implementation of these laws inevitably leads to a Talibanesque totalitarian theocracy and a resulting restriction of freedom as it is percieved Western philosophical tradition, shariah law is viewed by Islamists as total freedom because, under it, people are not beholden to manmade law, but, rather, only laws made by God. Therefore no one on Earth can tell anyone else what to do, and so everyone is entirely free, only bound by the natural laws of the universe, i.e. those of Allah which are seen as no more restrictive than the laws of gravity. It is impossible for natural laws of the universe to be oppressive, so shariah law is total freedom.

So even as Islamofascists advocate totalitarian shariah law, they still justify it on the grounds of human freedom. But, as shariah law is in fact totalitarian in itself, it in turn leads to dissafection among the masses when it is instituted, leading people to begin to yearn for the freedom of a secular government. These secular governments have, in the past, universally turned into totalitarian dictatorships. This perverse symbiotic relationship between secular totalitarianism and Islamofascist totalitarianism has been the norm throughout the Middle East, the obviously unrelated exception being Israel.

We are now changing this norm by putting forward a third option. Democracy, and, with it, true human freedom in the Western tradition, a freedom of individualism and largely negative rights, i.e. the right to be left alone. Democracy also has a built in defense against terror in that it allows for legitimate channels of access for change. Democracy, it is true, can still spawn terror, but not at the widespread level that the dissafection caused by totalitarianism does.

This grand strategic view of how to win the war on terror is, I think, the best option open to us. We may find later that there are special proclivities in the constitution of Islam itself that naturally tend toward toward terrorism, even in stable democracies, but I think that this can, and should, be confronted later, when secular democracies have sprouted in the Middle East.

This view of winning the war on terror is an entirely liberal view, and one that benefits all involved; the people of the middle east with democracy and freedom and the people of the United States with security. Some liberals, such as Paul Berman in his masterful Terror and Liberalism, have grasped the special role that totalitarianism is playing in relation to terror. But many have not.

Instead, they have contented themselves with a simplistic, shortsighted view on how to combat terrorism, using soundbite-oriented critiques of the war in Iraq such as “No WMD” and “No alQaeda Connections,” which the press, in its natural tendency to simplify issues down to their crudest essence, has eagerly taken.

President Bush has constantly invoked the pivotal role that freedom should play in our policies, but even he has not elucidated his grand strategy to the level that the common person can grasp and believe in. It should be common knowledge by now that totalitarianism is spawning terrorism.

In the first debate, when Kerry was on his “wrong war,” “mistaken war” spiel, Bush should have destroyed him by observing that Kerry had no grand vision of how to actually win the war on terror. The myopia of many liberals, their eyes clouded by the cataract of Bush loathing as well as an innate distrust of American military might, have rendered them largely MIA in assessing the war on Iraq in particular and the war on terror in general for what they truly are.

To them, America is the only oppressor, with the Third World proletariat suffering under its imperialism and lust for oil. Thus we have the widely held belief that America is responsible for what happened to her, that terrorism is a natural rebuke to the intrusiveness of the American sphere of influence.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Liberals of today are, in fact, profoundly illiberal. I should have expected better from them at such a momentous time in the world's history.

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