The midterm elections in the US made it clear that many Americans are unhappy with the performance of their leadership. Of course, most of the unhappiness is due to the poor economic situation. But not all of it.
I think that many of us believe that we haven’t come to grips with the challenge posed on 9/11. We are involved in two hugely expensive wars, seriously stressing our volunteer military, wars which are certain — because of the way they’ve been financed by borrowing — to cause further economic problems in the future. And the fact is that these wars have been inconclusive at best. After nine years, Osama bin Laden is still at large, Baghdad is in the throes of a violent terrorist attack as I write, and we appear to be looking for a way to surrender safely in Afghanistan.
The US is in full retreat from the Middle East, apparently unable to challenge Iran which every day moves closer to establishing its domination of the region. We’ve allowed Hizballah to rearm and Syria and Iran to subvert Lebanon. We’ve stood by and watched as one of the most powerful states in Middle East, Turkey, moved from being a Western ally to joining the Iranian axis.
It’s always dangerous to make historical comparisons, but the best analogy I can think of is the period of ideological competition, diplomatic maneuvering and vicious proxy wars that characterized the “Cold War” between the West and the Soviet Union. There is one major difference, though:
Today, our leaders refuse to name the conflict. This, I think, is because there is a religious dimension to it, and Americans are very uncomfortable with the idea of a religious war. Although our struggle is with radical Islamist ideology, not Islam, there seems to be a fear of and taboo against mentioning Islam in connection with our ideological — and increasingly military — enemies.
In the domestic arena, we see this hysterical blindness — that’s the best way to characterize it — playing out in our inability to understand that some of the organizations that speak for Islam in America are heavily influenced by radical Islamism, as I wrote yesterday.
Given all of this, I see an opportunity for a completely new approach, and candidates or parties that adopt it will be very appealing in 2012. Here are some general principles for recognizing the conflict and responding effectively:
- We are in an ideological struggle for world domination not unlike the Cold War.
- This ideology is called ‘radical Islamism’, an expansionist political movement which seeks to subjugate societies throughout the world to Islamic law. This ideology is diametrically opposite to that of the Enlightenment, on which our Constitution is based.
- Radical Islamism and its sponsors are the enemy. The main sponsors are the Iranian regime and circles in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, etc. We must make clear to the Saudis and Pakistanis that if they can’t control their hostile elements then we will treat the regimes as hostile. Turkey, too, will have to choose sides and accept the consequences.
- Iran must not be allowed to deploy nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s should be confiscated.
- We must ally ourselves with those countries that are on our side in the struggle, like Israel and India. We should stand behind those allies. During the Cold War we didn’t support Soviet claims in Eastern Europe, so why should we support Arab claims on East Jerusalem today?
- We must understand that Islamists do want to attack our way of life both by terrorism and subversion at home. While we must avoid religious prejudice, we can’t turn a blind eye to the activities of radical Islamists because we are afraid of being accused of it. Not every Muslim is an enemy — God forbid — but there is a connection between Islam and Islamism.
None of this is as simple as it appears and it certainly won’t be easy. But we can at least start describing it correctly. While Americans are unfamiliar with the idea of a religious war, they certainly understand an ideological one, which is what this is.
Future historians will probably use the date of September 11, 2001 to mark the beginning of the conflict. In recognition of this, I suggest that it be called “The 9/11 War.” The least that we can ask of our politicians is that they, too, agree on the nature of the struggle — and that their policies be designed so that we will be victorious in it.