Thinking About the Resurgence of Muslim Aggression
(Originally from October 9, 2006)
by Col. Gerry Hickman
Islam began in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. From the outset, the religion was spread by military force. Aggression was justified as a holy war, or jihad, that the Muslims believed sanctified by God.
Although conversion to Islam was by force, some conquered peoples not only accepted Islam but also joined in its mission. Most notable perhaps were the Ottoman Turks.
The rise of Islam occurred at what was for its followers a propitious time. Byzantium, the last outpost of Roman rule, was in final collapse. When Constantinople fell to the Turks, few other states or rulers were strong enough to resist the Muslim tide.
Yet, a fragmented Europe fought valiantly. When Muslim aggression finally was halted at the gates of Vienna, and restricted to the Iberian Peninsula, its vigor was dissipated. For many centuries, Western Civilization would be safe.
Stopped in Europe, Islam moved on to conquer large parts of Asia. Today, centuries after the first Muslim horsemen brought war to the Middle East, Islam dominates countries from Africa’s west coast to the eastern tip of Indonesia.
Reportedly, some 1.5 billion people subscribe to the Islamic faith.
Obey the Sharia
In countries controlled by Islam, nonbelievers must bow to Islamic dominion. All must obey the Sharia, i.e., Islamic laws drawn from the Koran and interpreted by Islamic priests. The culture created under the Sharia disapproves of thought and progress not sanctioned by the priesthood.
Possibly it is this development more than any others that accounts for the widespread impoverishment of Muslim countries. Islamic intellectuals deny it, while blaming the problems of its peoples on Europe and America, i.e., the West.
During the past century Islamic intellectuals, principally clerics, began preaching a Muslim resurgence, calling for a reawakening of Muslim militancy and resumption of Islam’s ancient holy war.
Perhaps to make their goal more acceptable, the activists asked Islamic populations, ‘If Allah intends an earthly paradise for his followers, why is it that the world’s most prosperous peoples are those of the corrupt West?’
For the 0Islamic man, the question was answered in no uncertain terms. Western countries, particularly America, it was said kept the Muslim man and his family poor, and caused all his problems.
While the material progress of the West was frustrating to Muslim intellectuals, far more infuriating to them was the growing influence within Islamic society of Western values. Rightly, they foresaw that liberalizing philosophies would weaken Islam.
The original solution offered in rising Islamic thought was to sternly reinforce Shariah law within Muslim countries, while driving Westerners out of them. Such thinking led directly to the spread of radical Islamic teaching.
Today, aggressive Muslim resurgence continues to be fueled by radical Islamic thought, promulgated throughout much of the huge Muslim community. In practice, such thinking has already resulted in the Iranian Revolution, the Taliban, and among other violent groups, al Qaeda.
War Between Civilizations
Thus was born what Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington has called ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ The liberal Western Civilization and the Shariah of Islamic Civilization are perhaps so different as to make their clash inevitable.
In her book, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, Mary Harbeck of Johns Hopkins University, writes of current Islamic intellectuals:
‘…all assume that Muslims have a duty to spread the dominion of Islam, through military offensives, until it rules the world…’
Harbeck notes that Azzam, perhaps foremost among modern
Islamic activists, believes that ‘The jihadist is obliged to perform with all available capabilities until there remain only Muslims or people who submit to Islam’.
Presumably, ‘all available capabilities’ is supposed to justify the premeditated murder of women, children, and indeed anyone who does not subscribe to Islam.
It would seem then, that the nineteenth-century goals of reinforcing the Shariah within Islamic countries, while expelling Westerners from them, have morphed into a much larger objective.
In the event, the resurgence of Muslim aggression, asleep for centuries, is now fully awake and on the move. Hugely funded, already in control of Iran, and believing that they are doing what God wants them to do, those who invoke jihadism probably cannot be stopped by military force alone.
Yet a united West, relying at the least on its diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military strengths should be able to once again contain the jihadist movement. Every possible tool will be needed because religious revolutions have throughout history been hard to stop. At stake are Western Civilization and the continued evolution of mankind.
Scoffing at Warnings
While many scoff at such warnings, one need only refer to the Muslim activist question, ‘If Allah intends an earthly paradise for his followers, why is it that the world’s most prosperous peoples are those of the corrupt West?’
The question implies correctly that Muslims, once the world’s foremost astronomers, mathematicians, and scientists, are now among the world’s most intellectually starved and impoverished peoples. Conquest of the West and establishment of Shariah would surely halt progress not sanctioned by the jihadists.
Western peoples are only gradually awakening to the threat posed by the resurgence of Muslim aggression. The best-selling book in Denmark today, written by two of the nation’s leading progressive intellectuals, almost stridently issues a wake-up call. Yet, only vicariously have most people now benefiting from the philosophies of Western Civilization known war. Nor have most known poverty.
Having grown up in affluent societies based on liberalizing philosophies, it is perhaps hard for Westerners to grasp their growing peril.
Too often Americans, as well as Europeans, dispute with each other about parts of the developing struggle. Lost in the contention is the broader need of the West to find ways to stop the Islamic jihad before it has the capability of truly mass destruction.
Even now, Iranian jihadists are reportedly working feverishly to create a nuclear weapon. Compared to the explosion of a nuclear bomb, even the al Qaeda attack on New York would be found exceedingly minor.
Strategic and Tactical: Understanding the Difference
Thus it is that when Americans urge a speedy U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, they display purely tactical thinking. Either willingly or unwillingly, they fail to see the conflict in Iraq for what it actually is —only part of a much broader war.
‘A profound ability to think small’ is an old saying that describes those who can only see the tactical elements of any wider, strategic struggle.
A profound ability to court disaster might be a better way to put it.
Although difficult to achieve in an environment of political discord, more Americans and Europeans must learn to focus on the overall ‘War on Terror’. Failure to do so could trigger bad consequences —untoward events that are probably still preventable.
By keeping a larger view always in mind, Westerners might be less distracted by events in Iraq, or other single pieces of a much broader struggle. Learning to think in strategic terms could help the West unite against the serious peril that now threatens it.
Perhaps in time the big picture will materialize for most Americans. Within it, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, Iraq, President Bush, the Taliban, liberals, conservatives, and other individuals and entities are but pieces. Altering a tactical element of the big picture, such as withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, might somehow benefit the enemy but will not alter his goals.
While early removal of U.S. power from Iraq might encourage and even embolden the enemy, its strategy as attributed to Azzam will remain unchanged.
It is enemy strategy that the West must defeat. To achieve victory, a Western strategy with a clear goal must be developed.
Seemingly, the goal should be to protect Western Civilization –a goal so sweeping in scope that it might be difficult for some to countenance.
Identifying the Enemy
Opposing Western Civilization is at the least a violent, ruthless, and determined segment of the Muslim world. No meaningful reports about its actually size within Islam apparently exist. Claims that only a small percentage of Muslims are involved in what they call a holy war must therefore be discounted or at least seriously questioned.
Western strategy must take into account that the size and strength of the Muslim force might be larger than current speculation suggests. The strategy should also address the proper way to identify the enemy.
While our adversaries indeed commit terroristic acts, simplistic labeling of a readily identifiable enemy as ‘terrorists’ obscures the true nature of the enemy and makes understanding of the broader war extremely difficult.
As an early step in helping Westerners to think of the war in strategic terms, the governments should abandon the meaningless term ‘War on Terror’. Confusing at best and meaningless at worst, the term was apparently coined to appease the supposed large majority of Muslims opposed to the allegedly few radicals among them.
Whether or not Western governments are willing to admit it publicly, the fact remains that the Western world is engaged in a great religious conflict that could grow into a significantly larger worldwide struggle. Muslims constitute the enemy force that the West must somehow dismember.
Perhaps not all Muslims are involved in the struggle, as Western political and other thought leaders proclaim, but the enemy force is indisputably Muslim.
Rather than calling the struggle a ‘War on Terror’, Western governments might better call the conflict what it is: Defense Against Muslim Aggression. No doubt this would instigate protests from supposedly peaceful Muslims, but their remarks should be measured against the value of helping Americans and Europeans to focus on the threat.
Some Muslims have proclaimed a ‘holy war’, and correctly reject the idea that they are merely nihilistic terrorists. The sooner the West comes to accept this self-proclaimed, true nature of its adversaries, as well as the broader context of the struggle thrust upon it, the better its nations can equip themselves –politically, economically, socially, and militarily —to contain it.
Western Civilization is the ultimate target of Islamic jihadism. As a foremost beneficiary of Western culture, America is identified by Muslims, whether peace loving or not, as the epitome of all that their customs proscribe. The aggressors have openly declared war on America, with the avowed intention of destroying its culture and converting its people to their Islamic forms.
Meanwhile, because Muslim aggressors expect Europe to be easier than America to overcome, it is expected by Islamic intellectuals to be the first part of the West to capitulate. Inroads there are being made, and the anticipated appeasement is being achieved.
The Muslim Strategy
While I have not seen a Muslim strategy enunciated, it clearly involves several discernible aspects. The ultimate goal, the spread of Islam, appeals to all members of the faith –whether or not they are radicals. The idea of converting hopelessly corrupt societies to Islam is universally seen as worthwhile.
What the allegedly peaceful Muslims fail to recognize is that the jihadists intend not only to spread Islam, but also to purify it from within according to the Shariah.
States that embrace Islam but not Islamic jihadism might suffer severe penalties.
Recognizing that the list is incomplete, following are several identifiable elements of Muslim aggressor strategy:
1) Patience. Some Muslim religious leaders talk of a war to the death that might take more than a century.
(Whether or not the U.S. withdraws soon from Iraq must seem fairly inconsequential to an enemy strategist who thinks in terms of decades. The withdrawal might help, hinder, or have no effect on the aggressor, but would not in the event be viewed as an end to his holy war.)
2) Teach virulent radicalism in Muslim schools and mosques by arousing and nurturing abiding hatred of America, Europe, and indeed Western Civilization.
(Saudi Arabia reportedly has not lived up to its commitment to suppress such instruction. Other nations, such as Iran, never made such promises.)
3) Teach young Muslims that the murder of non-believers as well as the sacrifice of their lives guarantees their entry into paradise.
(Again, Muslim countries reportedly are not taking steps to curb such preaching.)
4) Assure relatives of those thus sacrificed that they will be compensated.
(Both Saudi Arabia —and formerly Iraq— reportedly pay or have paid families of suicide bombers as much as $25,000 in honor of their sacrificed children.)
5) Recruit, train, and heighten the indoctrination of young Muslims to murder, destroy, and intimidate.
(This element of Muslim aggressor strategy is apparently spreading. Young Muslims born in Britain, for instance, committed murder by bombing subways.)
6) Without apology, seek every opportunity to kill all who do not subscribe to the radical beliefs of the Muslim aggressors. While the main target will always be Western Civilization, Muslims who fail to support the radicals are also targeted.
(Through such intimidation, the Muslim aggressors earn at least passive acceptance of other Muslims.)
7) Develop both willing supporters and unwilling supporters among Muslim and other peoples, thereby creating an obscure and supportive sea in which the jihadist might swim until sufficiently strong to abandon secrecy.
(The quiet takeover of Lebanon by radical Muslims while the Lebanese either offered aid or passive non-resistance is an example.)
8) Encourage Muslim immigration into Western countries, many of whose native populations are shrinking due to declining birth rates, thereby forming separate and rapidly growing cultural enclaves and developing the ability to turn Western liberal philosophy to gains for Islam.
(The influx of Muslims into Europe and America is large, and ongoing. Some reports claim more than eight million Muslims now live in the United States. Western failure to appreciate the danger of this element of Muslim aggressor strategy could result in increasing numbers of killings by homegrown Muslim jihadists.
London subway bombings and the plot to destroy 10 U.S. airliners by English born and raised Muslims are examples. )
7) Rely on the Western news media to serve its propaganda aims.
(The news media reportage of fighting in Iraq has focused largely on casualties without accounts of Allied military achievements and heroism. Such day-by-day reports have gradually discouraged many Americans and Europeans and obscured the true nature of the enemy.)
8) Use the Western news media as a source of intelligence.
(Revelations of previously secret U.S. efforts to counter funding, communications, and other radical Muslim activities allow the jihadist aggressor to reduce losses and shift tactics.)
9) Use the West’s own liberality against it.
(Capitalize on liberal ideals –ideals that Muslim aggressors consider corrupting influences— to create confusion among Western peoples. Example: Inspire efforts to extend to Muslim aggressors captured by Western forces all conceivable Constitutional rights enjoyed by Americans and Europeans in their own countries.)
10) Intimidate Western leaders into appeasement.
(According to the Paris edition of the New York Herald-Tribune, the European Union announced that it will ‘investigate’ European banks that have helped the U.S. track the flow of funds to Muslim aggressors.)
11) Continuously push non-radical Muslims to become radical.
Understanding Enemy Organization
For centuries, discernible hierarchies have led Western peoples. Chains of command have existed whether in kingdoms, empires, or republics. Yet there is no such hierarchy within the Islamic jihadist movement.
Instead, both nation states and lesser groups, some of which are exceedingly small, independently plan and conduct Muslim aggression. Inspiration for the formation of aggressor cells, each operating on its own but often supported by established jihadist entities, is apparently spread by roving clerics. The United Kingdom recently expelled one such priest, but the task is made difficult by the Western belief in freedom of religion.
As shown by the London subway bombings, the operations of a homegrown aggressor cell might also be at least partially planned by other Muslim radicals, but the British cell was independent.
That the cell was part of modern Muslim aggression is indisputable, but the fact is that no chain-of-command issued orders to it.
Even the roving clerics who convince young Muslims become jihadists seemingly operate independently.
What Aggressor Strategy Seems to Envision
Through intimidation wrought by cold-blooded murder in both Muslim and Western countries, the Muslim strategist seems to envision ever increasing numbers of willing supporters among Muslims, growing numbers of Western converts to Islam, and increasing civil discord throughout the West.
By the time the West awakens to his overall strategy, the aggressor strategist must anticipate that Islamic countries will already by purified by the stern enforcement of Shariah. Assuming that the West at last responds meaningfully, a battle to the death between the clashing civilizations would then occur.
Islamic intellectuals, the true Muslim strategists, believe Western Civilization is so corrupt that it is incapable of defending itself against a determined Islam. They believe that Muslim forces will take control of Western countries. Those Westerners who refuse to convert to or else bow to Shariah law will be killed.
With the West conquered, the rest of the world would then be targeted.
Note that since it was not America who declared war on Muslim aggressors, we Americans cannot of ourselves now declare the conflict ended. The war will end only after Muslim jihadism has been thoroughly discredited in the community of 1.5 billion believers, and recalcitrant jihadists have been defeated.
An end to the conflict might take a long time. Radical Islamists have stated that the war might last 100 years or more.
Although the U.S. Government, news media, and Western
intellectuals tell us repeatedly that the majority of the Muslim religion’s huge membership is peace loving, careful examination of the larger picture reveals that within those populations at least some of the apparent jihadist strategy is working. There appear to be insignificant numbers of Muslims who actively oppose the radicals.
The heart of Muslim aggressor resurgence seems to lie in Saudi Arabia and Iran. While the Saudi government has forcibly restrained Muslim attacks, it reportedly continues to tolerate the schools that might be central to the entire jihadist movement.
Meanwhile, Iran openly ignores appeals to halt nuclear weapons production, and reportedly has supported aggressor operations in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq.
In the West, despite a beginning awareness of the broader problem, most of the focus remains on Iraq. Lightning rods of contention are the president of the United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Given the threat of broader Islamic jihad, it seems pointless to castigate either a sitting U.S. president or a British prime minister. While it is possible that different leaders might more effectively combat the jihadist movement, any administration will face a far broader conflict than that now occurring in Iraq.
Whether under the leadership of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, or others, the West should unite against a graver peril than any posed by Iraqis alone.
Until the West acknowledges the real nature of Islamic resurgence and the war that it pursues, Western leaders will probably appear uniformly weak, indecisive, or worse.
One discernible aspect of Western strategy is that of creating democracies in Islamic countries presently under totalitarian forms of government. Ultimate goal of Western strategists is to get help from governments based on the Western model of popular rule.
While this approach has appeal in parts of the West, and might eventually be helpful in suppressing the jihadist movement, in light of events it to be somewhat forlorn. Free elections were achieved in both Iraq and Palestine.
Violence in Iraq continues despite a massive turnout on its election day. And some ask, ‘What good did it do to democratize Palestine only to have Hamas elected overwhelmingly?’
Perhaps what America and its allies should recognize that above all the jihadist movement must be discredited and contained. To achieve that purpose America and European countries might be forced to work with totalitarian governments rather than seeking to overthrow them.
Defeating the modern Muslim aggressor is where the vital interest of America and its European allies lie. The West might have little choice in choosing partners to help protect the mutual vital interests of both.
Sense of Urgency
The West it would seem must soon develop a sense of urgency. It cannot long continue to dither. The enemy is identifiable, as is his goal. To reach it, the Muslim jihadist movement has shown itself capable of the most abhorrent acts. Now, it stands at the threshold of achieving incalculable destruction.
Iran we are told may soon have a nuclear bomb. Western leaders plead with the Iranians to stop development of the weapon, yet development seemingly continues apace.
Those who would withdraw our forces from Iraq now must overlook or else ignore Iranian nuclear developments. Should the West eventually be forced to use military power to stop Iran, would it not be tactically advantageous to have bases and lines of communication operating in the country next door?
Overlooked in most reporting is the danger of Pakistan falling into the control of Muslim aggressors. What Americans and Europeans should not forget is that Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, and a sizeable population of radical Moslems.
Should Muslim jihadists come to power in Pakistan, the nuclear problem there would immediately become even more serious than that posed by Iran.
Just as its ancient predecessors, the modern Islamic jihadist movement seeks to rebuild the Muslim world in its own image, destroy Western Civilization, and eventually convert the remaining people of the world. The movement has developed a clearly perceptible strategy designed to achieve its ultimate goal.
In the meantime, our European friends and we Americans appear to be weak and indecisive. Measured against the broader threat, attacks on the sitting U.S. president and British prime minister are at best simply expressions of frustration. Changing Western leaders might lead to greater effectiveness in combating the resurgence of jihadism, but will hardly change its goal.
Appeasement of Muslims by the West is foolish. Those who have historically sought to appease their enemy have found themselves only encouraging further aggression. Like the men trapped by crocodiles, the strategy of the appeaser is to be the last one eaten.
Having identified the enemy and examined his strategy while reviewing the Western response, one might shudder at thoughts of the future.
Yet, there is still time for the beneficiaries of Western Civilization to unite, bring all possible resources to bear, and once again contain ages-old Muslim expansionism.