Page 4 of 5
In my study, I keep a small postcard copy of a British World War II poster, in which Winston Churchill points a stubby finger at you over the emblazoned slogan “Deserve Victory!” What must we do, in remedying our own incapacities, to deserve victory in the war against global jihadism?
Lesson 11. Cultural self-confidence is indispensable to victory in the long-term struggle against jihadism.
The second part of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Lecture was a reminder to the West that, if irrational faith poses one grave threat to the human future, so does a loss of faith in reason. If the West loses its faith in the human capacity to know the truth of anything with certainty, it will have disarmed itself intellectually, culturally, and morally, unable to give an account of its commitments to civility, tolerance, the free society, and democratic self-government. Saying “No” to radical skepticism and moral insouciance is very much part of homeland security.
Lesson 12. Islamist salami tactics must be resisted, for small concessions in the name of a false idea of tolerance inevitably lead to further concessions and to further erosions of liberty.
This process is well-advanced in Europe, where enclaves of shari’a law exist in Great Britain, France, the low countries and elsewhere – enclaves where the writ of local law does not run, even in the matter of “honor” killings. The path to legal surrender was paved by cultural surrender, as when (to take the most ludicrous example) “Piglet” mugs disappeared from some British retailers after Islamists complained that the Winnie the Pooh character offended Muslim sensibilities. The Danish cartoons controversy of 2006 was the most ominous expression of the problem to date, for here kowtowing to Islamist agitations led directly to the infringement of classic civil liberties.
The European experience of accommodation to Islamist and jihadist threats and demands has shown where the first concessions lead. Becoming a dhimmi, a second-class citizen, is not always a matter of accommodating to an imposed Islamic law. As the European experience demonstrates, self-dhimmitude is a danger when the nature of tolerance is misunderstood. Not only must the West defend its core values at home; it should intensify its efforts to promote religious freedom around the world.
Lesson 13. We cannot, and will not, deserve victory (much less achieve it) if we continue to finance those who attack us.
Therefore, an urgent program to de-fund jihadism by developing alternatives to petroleum-based energy as a transportation fuel is a crucial component of the current struggle.
Global jihadism would not be threat it is had the West not transferred some $2 trillion in wealth to the Arab Islamic world since the Second World War – which, inter alia, has allowed Saudi Arabia to spend an estimated $70-100 billion spreading Wahhabi doctrine all over the globe. The national security threat of oil dependency is obvious. It is also self-demeaning.
This is not the occasion to get into the details of various alternative energy strategies, but there ought to be broad agreement on former CIA Director R. James Woolsey’s argument that “energy independence for the U.S. is...preponderantly a problem related to oil and its dominant role in fueling vehicles for transportation.” In March 2006 testimony before the Senate Energy Committee, Woolsey proposed “two directions for government policy in order to reduce our vulnerability rapidly,” in both cases using existing technologies, or technologies that can be brought into the market quickly and can work within our existing transportation superstructure.
Government policy should, in Woolsey’s view, “(1) encourage a shift to substantially more fuel efficient vehicles...including promoting both battery development and a market for existing battery types for plug-in hybrid vehicles; and (2) encourage biofuels and other alternative and renewable fuels that can be produced from inexpensive and widely-available feedstocks – wherever possible from waste products.”
A nation that created the Manhattan Project, Project Apollo, and the global revolution in information technology surely can, by analogous acts of will and leadership by both the public and private sectors, de-fund global jihadism by drastically cutting the transfer of funds related to petroleum imports for transportation fuel. It beggars belief that peoples who did not discover a resource, much less the means to exploit it and make it the source of vast wealth, have profited by its development in ways that now threaten the very possibility of world order. This is dhimmitude, if of a global economic sort, and it must stop, as a matter of self-defense as well as of self-respect.
Lesson 14. Victory in the war against global jihadism requires a new domestic political coalition that is proof against the confusions caused by the Unhinged Left and the Unhinged Right.
If we are indeed “present at the creation,”once again, we would do well to adopt a lesson from Truman, Acheson, Marshall, and Vandenberg and create, if possible, a domestic political coalition that understands global jihadism and is broadly agreed on the measures necessary to defeat it. There is a serious question, though, as to whether the kind of coalition that was assembled in the late 1940s can be replicated today, given the dependence of the Democratic Party on the Unhinged Left for funding and the willingness of Republicans upset about deficits, “No Child Left Behind,” budget-busting prescription drug benefits for seniors, and the administration’s proposals for immigration reform to throw George W. Bush over the side –irrespective of what would happen, in real-world consequences and public perception, to his administration’s accurate identification of the principal threat to both U.S. national security and a minimum of world order. But were such a coalition to be formed, it should take as one of its tasks a rationalization of our homeland security policy.
We have not yet reached the point of Great Britain, where one of the country’s most wanted terrorists slipped through Heathrow in 2006 by wearing a burka, as Scottish grandmothers bent over to remove their shoes at x-ray machines. But we could get there, unless we decide that effective counter-terrorism is more important than political correctness in devising airport screening measures. Risk-profiling and the development of trusted-traveler identification cards would be two important elements in rationalizing homeland security.
The rationalization of homeland security will also require effective measures to rein in those parts of the federal judiciary that put irrational obstacles in the way of detecting terrorism plots. On a 2005 ruling by a federal district court, the U.S. government can alert Scotland Yard and MI-5 if the National Security Agency intercepts a phone call from Peshawar to London in which jihadists plot to unleash a dirty radiological bomb in Trafalgar Square; but any such NSA intercept of a call between Kandahar and Chicago in which terrorists plot to set off a similar bomb at 16th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue is unconstitutional and records of it must be erased. This is, quite literally, insane. And it, too must stop.
Lesson 15. There is no escape from U.S. leadership.
The challenge of global jihadism cannot neither be avoided nor appeased. The war that has been declared against us – and by “us” I mean the West, not simply the United States – can only be engaged, and with a variety of instruments, many of them not-military. Whatever the post-9/11 incapacities identified above – and they are serious, and they must be addressed – the fact remains that there is no alternative to U.S. leadership in the war against global jihadism. As Michael Gerson has put it, “There must be someone in the world capable of drawing a line – someone who says, ‘This much and no further.’ At some point, those who decide on aggression must pay a price, or aggression will be universal.” That someone can only be the United States. The President must insure that, whatever else happens, he leaves the American people, at the end of his term, with a clear understanding of the nature of the threat, and the magnitude of the stakes on the global table. His successor, whoever he or she may be, will quickly learn that there is no escape from the burden of American leadership. That president, whoever he or she may be, ought also to see that burden as an opportunity for national renewal.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and author of Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action (2007). He also serves as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for the District of Columbia. He gave this BookTalk at the Union League of Philadelphia on February 4, 2008. It was published online by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). FPRI is a U.S. non-profit organization devoted to bringing the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests, adding perspective to events by fitting them into the larger historical and cultural context of international politics.
This article is available on the web in print, video, and audio formats at: http://www.fpri.org/multimedia/20080204.weigel.faithreasonjihadism.html
Copyright 2008 by the Foreign Policy Research Institute: www.fpri.org. Used by permission.