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Islamic Iconography: One Faith, One State

The Inevitable Confrontation<br>with the West
Beryl P. Wajsman 22 November 2003


1.      Freedom and Fundamentalism: The Historical Divergence of East and West

2.      Western Fratricide and the Rise of Tolerance

3.      The Islamic Experience: Mohammed as Constantine

4.      Statist Faith and Koranic Governance

5.      The Turkish Experiment

6.      World War IV: The Face of the Enemy

7.      The Lure of Impotence: Why They Dare Attack

8.      The Double-Edged Sword of Damocles: Iran & Saudi Arabia

9.      Through the Eye of the Needle: The Way of Response

10.  The Moral Imperative of Total War


“Men must grasp the essential futility of putting the beliefs of the mind to the judgement of the sword.”-C.V.Wedgwood



1. Freedom and Fundamentalism: The Historical Divergence of East and West


We are engaged in a World War with terrorism. It is as real as our past struggles against all forms of totalitarianism. The best means of attack will be decided by the few, but since those decisions involve the destinies of many, it is incumbent upon us all to attempt to comprehend this rendezvous with a troubled destiny. The essence of the conflict exists because the West has mastered the reconciliation of faith and state while the Islamic Middle Rim from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean has abjectly failed to even try. This has led to a virulent hatred of western liberalism by the radical Islamic world that has come to be manifested in nothing less than bloodlust. The story of that mastery and that failure lies at the heart of the crucible of hate we face today.

Reconciling freedom and fundamentalism has always been one of the most difficult political tasks most nations have faced. The eternal confrontation between the champions of individual rights holding inherent supremacy over the dictates and doctrines of potentate or pope and those who sought to impose theocratic and technocratic straightjackets on all. The critical question is not why liberty and liberalism has failed in the Islamic world, but why has it succeeded in the West producing a civilization hallmarked by commitments to personal freedom and political democracy.

Freedom of conscience has made the difference. Freedom of thought and the tolerance for doubt and self-criticism has made the difference. The acceptance of the sharp challenge of competing ideas tested by standards of objective evidence. A civilization in the West where the intellectual tradition was buttressed by the widespread printed word from the 15th century onward. By contrast, in Istanbul for example, Muslims printed no book until the early 18th century, and thereafter only occasionally.

But the success of freedom in the West and the continuing fundamentalism in Islam was due as much to political necessity as to philosophical argument. Yes we are the heirs of Milton and Locke and Spinoza and Rousseau. But the decisive factor was that Western rulers realized that governing nations would be impossible without pluralistic tolerance. That after hundreds of years of religious wars it was understood, in the words of Herbert Butterfield, “…that toleration was the last policy that remained when it had proved impossible to go on fighting any longer.”

The fighting occurred because different religions struggled to control nations. Here lay the chief difference between Islam and the West. Islam was a land of one religion and few states, while the West was a land of many states that were acquiring many religions. In the 16th century, people in England thought of themselves chiefly as Englishmen before they thought of themselves as Protestants, and those in France saw themselves as Frenchmen before they saw themselves as Catholics. In most of Islam--in Arabia and northern Africa, certainly--people saw themselves as Muslims before they thought of themselves as members of any state. Indeed, states hardly existed in this world until European colonial powers created them by drawing somewhat arbitrary lines on a map, many, particularly  those in the oil-rich Gulf region, only in the 20th century. Islam therefore had the position of a “statist faith” for most of its existence.

 2. Western Fratricide and the Rise of Tolerance

The West had multiple divisions of faith following the Protestant Reformation in addition to the Church of Rome and the Orthodox traditions of Greece and the Eastern European Churches.

Lutherans, like Catholics, were governed by priesthood, but Calvinists were ruled by congregations, and so they proclaimed not only a sterner faith but a distinctive political philosophy. The followers of Luther and Calvin had little interest in religious liberty; they wanted to replace a church they detested with one that they admired. But in doing so, they helped bring about religious wars. Lutheran mobs attacked Calvinist groups in the streets of Berlin, and thousands of Calvinists were murdered in the streets of Paris. In 1555, the Peace of Augsburg settled the religious wars briefly with the phrase “cuius regio, eius religio”--meaning that people in each state or principality would have the religion of their ruler. If you didn't like your prince's religion, you had to move somewhere else.

But the problem grew worse as more dissident groups appeared. To the quarrels between Catholics, Calvinists and Lutherans were added challenges from Anabaptists, Quakers and Unitarians. These sects had their own passionate defenders, and they helped start many struggles. And so wars broke out again, all advancing religious claims overlaid with imperial, dynastic and material objectives.

In France, Catholics killed 20,000 Huguenots, 3,000 in Paris alone. When the Peace of Westphalia settled the wars of the 16th century in 1648, it reaffirmed the old doctrine of following the religion of your ruler, but added an odd new doctrine that required some liberty of conscience.

In England, people were both exhausted by war and worried about following a ruler's orders on matters of faith. Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the successful Presbyterian revolt against the king, was a stern believer in his own faith, but he recognized that his beliefs alone would not enable him to govern; he had to have allies of other faiths. He persuaded Parliament to allow liberty "to all who fear God," provided they did not disturb the peace, and he took steps to readmit Jews into the country and to moderate attacks on the Quakers.

When Cromwell's era ended and Charles II took the throne, he brought back with him his Anglican faith, and challenged this arrangement. After he died, James II came to the throne and tried to re-establish Roman Catholicism. When William of Orange invaded the country from Holland in 1688, James II fled, and in time William and his wife, Mary, became rulers. Mary, a Protestant, was the daughter of James II, a Catholic. A lot of English people must have wondered how they were supposed to cope with religious choice if a father and daughter in the royal family could not get the matter straight.

The following year, Parliament passed the Toleration Act, allowing dissident Protestant sects to practice their religion. Their members still could not hold government office, but at least they would not be hanged. The Toleration Act did not help Catholics and Unitarians, but as is so often the case in British law, their religious practices, while not protected by formal law, were allowed by administrative discretion.

Even so, the idea of a free conscience did not advance very much; after all, "toleration" meant that a preferred or established religion, out of its own kindness, allowed other religions to exist--but not to do much more. And support for the Toleration Act probably had a lot to do with economic motives. Tolerance was essential to commercial success: England would acquire traders, including many Jews, from nations that still practiced persecution.

The Toleration Act began a slow process of moderating the political impact of organized religion. Half a century before it was passed, Galileo, tried by the Roman Inquisition for believing that Earth moved around the Sun, was sentenced to house arrest. But less than a century after the law was adopted, Adam Smith wrote a much-praised book on morality that scarcely mentioned God; and less than a century after that, Charles Darwin published books that denied God a role in human evolution, a claim that profoundly disturbed his religious critics but neither prevented his books from being wildly popular nor deterred the Royal Society of London from bestowing on him its royal medal.

Toleration in the American colonies began slowly but accelerated rapidly when they had to form a nation out of diverse states. The migration of religious sects to America made the colonies a natural breeding ground for religious freedom, but only up to a point. Though Rhode Island under the leadership of Roger Williams had become a religiously free colony, six colonies required their voters to be Protestants, four asked citizens to believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, one required belief in the Trinity and two in heaven and hell, and five had an officially established church. Massachusetts was a theocracy that punished (and on a few occasions executed) Quakers. Maryland was created as a haven for Catholics, but their freedom began to evaporate as Protestants slowly gained the upper hand.

America in the 17th and 18th centuries had many religions and some tolerance for dissenting views, but not until the colonists tried to form a national union did they squarely face the problem of religious freedom. The 13 colonies, in order to become a nation, had to decide how to manage the extraordinary diversity of the country. The colonists did so largely by writing a constitution that was silent on the question of religion, except to ban any "religious test" as a requirement for holding federal office.

When the first Congress adopted the Bill of Rights, it included the odd and much-disputed ban on passing a law "respecting an establishment of religion." The meaning of that phrase is a matter of scholarly speculation. James Madison's original proposal was that the First Amendment ban "any national religion," and in their first drafts the House and Senate agreed. But when the two branches of Congress turned over their slightly different language to a conference committee, its members, for reasons that no one has satisfactorily explained chose to ban Congress from passing a law "respecting" a religion.

The wall between church and state, as Jefferson called it in a letter he wrote many years later, did guarantee that in time American politics would largely become a secular matter.

And that is the essence of the issue.

Politics made it necessary to establish free consciences in America, just as it had in England. This profound change in the relationship between governance and spirituality was greatly helped by John Locke's writings in England and James Madison's in America, but it would probably have occurred out of historical necessity if neither of these men had ever lived.

 3. The Islamic Experience: Mohammed as Constantine

There is no similar story to be told in the Middle Eastern parts of the Muslim world. It is a world divided basically between Sunni and Shiite. With the exception of Turkey (and, for a while, Lebanon), every country there has been ruled either by a radical Islamic sect (as with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the mullahs in Iran) or by an autocrat who uses military power to enforce his authority in a nation that could not separate religion and politics or by a traditional tribal chieftain, for whom the distinction between church and state was meaningless

In the Middle East, nations are either of recent origin or uncertain boundaries. Iraq, once the center of great ancient civilizations, was conquered by the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks, then occupied by the British during the First World War, became a League of Nations protectorate, was convulsed by internal wars with the Kurds, torn apart by military coups, and immersed in a long war with Iran. Syria, a land with often-changing borders, was occupied by an endless series of other powers--the Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Ottoman Turks and French. After Syria became a self-governing nation in 1944, it was, like Iraq, preoccupied with a series of military coups, repeated wars with Israel and then, in 1991, with Iraq. Meanwhile, Lebanon, once part of Syria, became an independent nation, though it later fell again under Syrian domination.

These countries today are about where Europe was a millennia ago, lacking much in the way of a clear national history or stable government. Moreover, the Muslim religion, as manifested in the Koran and the hadith, contain a vast collection of sacred laws, which Muslims call sharia, that regulates many details of the public as well as private lives of believers. These have found their way into national state legal codes. As Bernard Lewis has pointed out, the differences in legal traditions may have derived from, and were certainly reinforced by, the differences between Muhammad and the lawgivers of the Judeo-Christian world. In the seventh century, Muhammad was invited to rule Medina and then, after a failed effort to conquer Mecca, finally entered that city as its ruler. He was not only a prophet but also a soldier, judge and governor. As Lewis points out, Christianity was not recognized until Emperor Constantine adopted it, but Muhammad was his own Constantine.

The Jewish prophets and Jesus asked their followers to distinguish between what belonged to God and what belonged to Caesar. Islam made no such distinction; to it, Allah prescribed the rules for all of life, encompassing what we now call the religious and the secular spheres. If a Western nation fails, we look to its political and economic system for an explanation, but when a Muslim state fails, it is only because, as V.S. Naipaul put it, "men had failed the faith." Disaster in a Western nation leads to a search for a new political form; disaster in a Muslim one leads to a reinvigoration of the faith.

Christianity began as a persecuted sect, became a tolerated deviance, and then joined with political powers to become, for well over a thousand years, an official religion that persecuted its rivals. But when officially recognized religions stood in the way of maintaining successful nations, Christianity slipped back to what it had once been: an important faith without political power.

Judaism differs from Christianity in that it supplies its followers with a religious doctrine replete with secular rules. In the first five books of the Bible and in the Talmud, many of these rules are set forth as part of a desire, as stated in Exodus, to create "a holy nation" based on a "kingdom of priests."  And many of the earliest Jewish leaders, like Mohammed later, were political and military leaders. But as Daniel Pipes has noted, for two millennia Jews had no country to rule and hence no place in which to let religion govern the state. And by the time Israel was created, the secular rules of the Old Testament and the desire to create "a holy nation" had lost their appeal to most Jews; for them, politics had simply become a matter of survival. Jews may once have been attracted to theocracy, but they learned from experience that powerful states built on theocratic dogmas were dangerous ones.

 4. Statist Faith and Koranic Governance

The Koran is hard to interpret. One can find phrases that urge Muslims to "fight and slay the pagans" and also passages that say there should be "no compulsion in religion." The Arabic word jihad means "striving in the path of God," but it can also mean a holy war against infidels and apostates.

Until the rise of modern Islamic fundamentalism, there were efforts by many scholars to modernize the Koran by emphasizing its broadest themes more than its narrow rules. Fazlur Rahman, a leading Islamic scholar, sought in the late 1970s and early 1980s to establish a view of the Koran based on Mohammed's teaching that "differences among my community are a source of blessing." The basic requirement of the Koran, Rahman wrote, is the establishment of a social order on a moral foundation that would aim at the realization of egalitarian values.

But most traditional Islamic scholars insist that only the sharia can govern men, even though it is impossible to manage a modern economy and sustain scientific development on the basis of principles set down in the seventh century. Of course, Muslim nations do legislate, but in many of them it is done furtively, with jurists describing their decisions as "customs," "regulations" or "interpretations." And in other nations, the legislature is but an amplification of the orders of a military autocrat, whose power, though often defended in religious terms, comes more from the barrel of a gun than from the teachings of the prophet.

If we look at the world 85 years ago in the spring of 1917, when the United States entered World War I, there were about 10 or 12 democracies in the world. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland, a couple of countries in Northern Europe. It was a world of empires, of kingdoms, of colonies, and of various types of authoritarian regimes through the world. Today, Freedom House says that there are 120 out of 192 countries in the world that are democracies. The world is about evenly divided between what Freedom House calls free, such as the United States; and what it calls partly free, such as Russia.

But there are still 120 countries with some parliamentary contested elections and some beginnings, at least, of the rule of law. That is an amazing change in the lifetime of many individuals now living -- from a 10 or 12 to 120 democracies in the world. Nothing like that has ever happened in world history.

In the Muslim world of the Middle Rim, the 22 Arab states have no democracies.  Outside of Israel and Turkey, there are essentially two types of governments -- pathological predators and vulnerable autocrats.  Five of those states:  Iran,Syria, Sudan ,Libya and until recently Iraq, sponsor and assist terrorism in one way or another; all have been working on weapons of mass destruction of one type or another. 

 5. The Turkish Experiment

All this makes even more remarkable the extraordinary transformation of Turkey from the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire to the place where Muslims are governed by Western law. Mustafa Kemal, now known as Ataturk, came to power after the First World War as a result of his success in helping defeat the British at Gallipoli and attacking other invading forces. For years, he had been sympathetic to the pro-Western views of many friends; when he became leader of the country, he argued that it could not duplicate the success of the West simply by buying Western arms and machines. The nation had to become Western itself.

Over the course of a decade or so, Ataturk proclaimed a new constitution, created a national legislature, abolished the sultan and caliph, required Muslims to pray in Turkish and not Arabic, urged the study of science, created a secular public education system, abolished religious courts, imposed the Latin alphabet, ended the practice of allowing divorce simply at the husband's request, gave women the vote, adopted the Christian calendar, did away with the University of Istanbul's theology faculty, created commercial legal codes by copying German and Swiss models, stated that every person was free to choose his own religion, authorized the erection of statues with human likenesses, ended the ban on alcohol (Ataturk liked to drink), converted the mosque of Hagia Sophia into a secular museum, authorized the election of the first Turkish beauty queen, and banned the wearing of the fez.

One may imagine that this last decision was over a trivial matter, but you would be wrong. The fez, the red cap worn by many Turks, conveyed social standing and, because it lacked a brim, made it possible for its wearer to touch the ground with his forehead when saying prayers. Western hats, equipped with brims, made this impossible. When the ban on the fez was announced, riots erupted in many Turkish cities, and some 20 leaders were executed.

Ataturk created the machinery (though not the fact) of democracy and made it clear that he wanted a thoroughly secular state. After his death, real democratic politics began to be practiced, as a result of which some of the anti-Islam laws were modified. Even so, no other Middle Eastern Muslim nation has undergone as dramatic a change. In the rest of the region, autocrats still rule; they deal with religion by either buying it off or allowing it to dominate the spiritual order, provided it keeps its hands off real power. Or as in Iran, Afghanistan and the Sudan a fundamentalist Islamic regime comes to power.

We fool ourselves at our peril if we think that, absent a unique ruler such as Ataturk and a rare opportunity such as a world war, the Muslim Middle East will be able to accomplish this much.



6. World War IV: The Face of the Enemy

When Islam kept religion at the expense of freedom, it did so by making the individual subordinate to society, and the price it has paid has been autocratic governments, religious intolerance and little personal freedom. The Islamic world is playing cultural defense--which means it is also playing political and military offence. Its offensive weapon is terror. And the toleration of the terror theocracy in even less radical Muslin states is  a result of their encounter with, and resistance to, modernity. If Communist expansionism lead to the Cold War being called World War III, Islamic fundamentalism has now brought us, in James Woolsey’s term, into World War IV.

The Islamist Shia, the ruling circles, Clerics, and Mullahs of Iran, who constitute the ruling force there and sponsor and back Hezbollah, have been at war with the West for nearly a quarter of a century. They seized U.S. hostages in 1979 in Tehran. They blew up the embassy and marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. They’ve conducted a wide range of terrorist acts against the United States for something now close to a quarter of a century.

The Ba’athist regimes of Syria and until recently Iraq have been classically fascist. For Saddam, the Gulf War never stopped until this year. He said it never stopped. He behaved as if it never stopped. He tried to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait. He had various ties, not amounting to direction and control, but various associations with different terrorist groups over the years, including al-Qaeda.

The radical Sunnis are in some ways, the most virulent and long-term portion of those at war with the West. These include al-Qaeda, and in many ways will be the hardest to deal with because they are fueled by oil money from the Gulf, principally Saudi Arabia. They are wealthy in and of themselves. They are present in some 60 countries and they are fanatically, like the Wahhabis who are their first cousins, anti-Western, anti-modern, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish.

The Wahhabi movement, the religious movement in Saudi Arabia dating back to the 18th century and with roots even well before that, was joined in the ’50s and ’60s by immigration into Saudi Arabia by Islamic radicals of a more modern stripe but of essentially the same ideology, many of them coming from Egypt. And the very fundamentalist groups of this sort, more or less focused on what they call the near enemy. What they call the barbaric regime in Egypt, and to some extent, the Saudi royal family -- the attacks in 1979 on the great mosques in Mecca. They were focusing on what they called the “near enemy” until sometime in the mid 1990’s. Around 1994, they decided to turn and focus their concentration and effort on what they call the Crusaders and Jews. And this is the very imagery and metaphors they use. Throwbacks to 14th century iconography. The dream of ancient Islamic hegemony and world domination. It is even evident in bin Laden’s own messages. And they have been at war with the West since then in many brutal terrorists attacks including the Cole and the cast African embassy bombings and, of course, September 11th.

What is different after September 11th is not that these three groups came to be at war with us. They have been at war with us for some time. It is that we finally have noticed and have decided that we are at war with them.  They may hate each other and do kill each other from time to time. But, they hate us a great deal more and they are perfectly willing and perfectly capable to assist one another in any manner necessary.

 7. The Lure of Impotence: Why They Dare Attack

This war is like all our other wars against totalitarianism. We are hated because of what we do best. Live free. But even if hated, why take the chance of attack? It has been suggested that the West has, for much of the last quarter century -- not all, but much -- been essentially led by neo-Chamberlain equivocators, moral relativists and outright appeasers whom bin Laden himself has called paper tigers.

At the end of the Second World War Japanese leaders were asked by General MacArthur’s staff “Why did you do it. Why did you attack us at Pearl Harbor?” They all said pretty much the same thing. They said, “We looked at what you were doing in the ’20s and ’30s. You were disarming. You wouldn’t fortify Wake Island. You wouldn’t fortify Guam. Your army had to drill with wooden rifles. We had no idea that this rich spoiled, feckless country would do what you did after December 7 of 1941. You stunned us.”

Flash forward three quarters of a century. The West has given a lot of evidence to the Shias and Sunnis and Ba’athists and Hezbollahs that we were essentially, a rich, spoiled feckless civilization that would not fight.

In 1979, they took hostages in Iran and Americans tied yellow ribbons around trees and launched an ineffective effort, crashing helicopters in the desert to rescue them.

In 1983, they blew up the U.S. embassy and  marine barracks in Beirut. The U.S.left. Throughout much of the 1980’s, various terrorist acts were committed and other than the arrest of minor players and President Reagan’s one strike against Tripoli, not much was done.

In 1991, President Bush organized a magnificent coalition against the seizure of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. The war was fought superbly -- and then it was stopped it while the Iraqi Republican guard was still intact. And after having encouraged the Kurds and the Shiia to rebel against Saddam, the U.S. stood back, left the bridges intact, left their units intact, let them fly helicopters around carrying troops and missiles, and watched the Kurds and Shiia, who were winning in 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, be massacred. And the world looked and said, well, we know what the Americans value. They save their oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and after that, they didn’t care.

Then in 1993, Saddam tries to assassinate former President Bush in Kuwait with a bomb, and President Clinton fires a couple of dozen cruise missiles into an empty building in the middle of the night in Baghdad, thereby retaliating, as James Woolsey has commented, “… quite effectively against Iraqi cleaning women and night watchmen, but not especially effectively against Saddam Hussein.”

In 1993, U.S. helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and as in Beirut in ten years earlier, the U.S. left.

And throughout the rest of the ’90s, the U.S. continued the practice of the ’80s. Instead of sending military force, the U.S. usually sent prosecutors and litigators. And that was it until after September 11th.

The response after September 11th in Afghanistan, like the American response against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, was something that was quite surprising to the West’s enemies in the Middle East. They were surprised, but like the Japanese at the beginning of the ’40s, the radical Islamists, both Shia and Sunni and the fascist Baathists had some rationale and some evidence for believing this rich, spoiled, feckless civilization would not fight.

8. The Double-Edged Sword of Damocles: Iran & Saudi Arabia

In some ways, the most interesting situation right now exists in Iran. It can be in many ways the lincpin country.  At the same time that it is moving rapidly toward becoming a nuclear power and continues its unabated support for Hezsbollah, the ruling Mullahs may have a gathering storm on the horizon.

They have lost the students. They have lost the women. They have lost the brave newspaper editors and professors who are in prison, some under sentence of death and being tortured. They are one by one losing the grand Ayatollahs. Ayatollah Montazeri who was issuing fatwas against suicide killings has been under house arrest for five years. Early this past summer, Ayatollah Taheri, who was a very, very hard line supporter of the mullahs in the City of Esfahan, issued a blast against them saying that what they were doing, supporting tortures, supporting terrorism, was fundamentally at odds with the tenants of Islam. Iran has even started to import Syrian security contingents, who don’t speak Farsi, in order to be able to suppress domestic demonstrations.

But the mullahs have a great deal of power. They have oil money and the military force and the rest. But, there are beginning to be some shifts below the surface. The West must continue the propaganda war which President Bush broadened this summer, when after the demonstrations following Taheri’s declaration, he issued a statement saying that the United States was on the side of the students.

If Iran holds the potential future muscle of this terror enemy, then Saudi Arabia is the source of its propaganda machine. Sermons on any given Friday throughout Saudi Arabia, and these can be viewed very openly on websites, spew forth three main themes each week. The first is that all Jews are pigs and monkeys. The second is that all Christians and Jews are the enemy and it is the Muslim obligation to hate them and destroy them. And the third is that women in the United States routinely commit incest with their fathers and brothers and it is a common and accepted thing in the United States.

This is not extraordinary. This is the routine Wahhabi view. A Washington Post reporter interviewed a Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia. The Post reporter asked him, “Tell me. I’m a Christian. Do you hate me?”  And the Wahhabi Cleric said, “Well, of course, if you’re a Christian, I hate you. But, I’m not going to kill you.”  This is the moderate view. And we need to realize that just as angry German nationalism of the 1920’s and 1930’s was the soil in which Nazism grew, not all German nationalists became Nazis, but that was the soil in which it grew. So the angry form of Islamism and Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia today is the soil in which anti-Western and anti-American terrorism grows. We can never forget that not only bin Laden came from Saudi Arabia, but so did 18 of the 20 9-11 terrorists.

 9. Through the Eye of the Needle: The Way of Response

How the dismantling of the Saddam regime in Iraq will affect all this is still to be determined. Enough fanatics are still entering that country to keep an entire army on watch. The terror infrastructure continues the flow of blood from Istanbul to Bali. The West is still short of total engagement with this enemy. We are only in 1943.

Two priorities must be pursued simultaneously at this point. Western nations must continue to fight domestically against terrorist cells and organizations that support terrorism. There must be recognition that some of these are, at least superficially, religiously rooted in some aspect of Islam. We have to understand that the vast majority of Western Muslims are certainly not terrorists and are not sympathetic to them. But that there are institutions and individuals with a lot of money that are effectively part of the infrastructure that encourages and supports the hatred of the West that is manifested in terrorism.

Secondly, and just as importantly, we also have to remember who we are. We are creatures of Locke and Madison and Rousseau and we must tread carefully, step by step, intervention by intervention, remembering the qualities of the civilization we are fighting for and that we cannot let a part of each of us die even in an alliance of total engagement against terror. Nobody said this war was going to be easy.

What we have to do is manage this war in such a way as to move decisively and effectively against the enemy and those who support them, and at the same time, assure that we do not slip into extraordinarily ugly, authoritarian measures at hom. In some ways this will be one of the hardest aspects of the war, because it will require the West to take the fight to the enemy, not wait for him to bring to home to us.

 10. The Moral Imperative of Total War

This is going to be a long war, very long indeed. Measured in decades. It calls for total engagement politically, philosophically and financially. This war will end only with the changed political face of the Muslim Middle East. The cultural moral relativists who have been so responsible for the fate we now face and the challenges we must overcome must now be silenced. A new legitimacy as a precursor to sovereignty must be demanded and that legitimacy is democracy and transparency. That is the price the West must impose on these revanchiste and retrograde regimes for a place at the table of the civilized world.

Reasonable people can disagree about the prudential options for addressing the threat of international outlaws. Classic just war thinking identified three kinds of "just cause": defense against an aggression under way, recovery of something stolen, or punishment for evil. Modern just war thinking has tended to limit "just cause" to "defense against an aggression under way".

Thus the question of determining when aggression is "under way" is morally urgent. Does it make moral sense to say that the United States, Britain or the international community can respond with armed force only when a missile has been launched or is being readied for launch?

The answer must clearly be no. When a vicious regime, or terrorist movement, that has used chemical weapons domestically and in war, a regime or movement that has no concept of the rule of law and that flagrantly violates international obligations, there is a sufficiently compelling moral case that this is "aggression under way". The nature of the regime, the physical base of the movement, makes the moral analysis plain.

Clearly what is permissible is not always prudentially imperative. Within the classic just war tradition and at the level of moral principle, however, there are instances when it is not only right to "go first" but "going first" may be morally obligatory. Our current war with terror is just such a case.

This war is a continuation of our civilization’s struggle to move past the jungles of barbarism and establish a world order based on justice and freedom. Its motives represent our most noble strivings.

“Just War” thinking begins not with the "presumption against violence" suggested by some today, but with a basic moral judgment - that legitimate authorities have a moral obligation to defend the peace. That kind of peace can sometimes be advanced by the proportionate, discriminate and strategically wise use of force.

Then there is the question of "sovereign immunity" that states traditionally enjoy. This presumption of immunity assumes that the state in question agrees to minimal international norms of order. Regimes that support and sponsor terror cannot be granted that assumption. Their behavior demonstrates that they hold  the principles of international order in contempt.

The UN Charter itself recognizes a right to national self-defense, which implies that defense against aggression does not require authorization by the Security Council; it is an inalienable right of nations. If military force can help advance world order, it certainly helps at the prudential political level if the Security Council approves force. A correct reading of the just war tradition does not necessarily suggest that prior Security Council approval is a moral imperative, however.

Would this mean than the "law of the strongest" was replacing international law? No. It would mean that the United States, Britain and other western allies, having made clear that they intend their action to advance the world order to which the UN is dedicated, have decided that they have a moral obligation to take measures that the UN, as presently configured, finds it impossible to take - even though these measures advance the Charter's goals. Such measures can promote the cause of the peace of world order over the long haul.

The just war tradition is not primarily a set of hurdles that religious leaders, philosophers and theologians set for statesmen to jump over. Rather, it is about ends as well as means - it is a time-tested way of moral reasoning about how prudent statesmanship advances the peace of order that is composed of justice and freedom.

It is a difficult task. But one that has been faced before. In 1917, Europe was largely monarchies, empires, and autocracies. Today, outside Belarus and Ukraine, it is largely democratic, even including Russia. The changes that have taken place over the course of the last 85 years are a remarkable achievement. Freedom was won, and will be won again, in the same way World War I was won fighting for Wilson’s 14 points. The way World War II was won fighting for Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s Atlantic Charter and the way World War III was won fighting for the idea that this was not a war of us against them, not a war of countries, but a war of liberty against tyranny.

But we will also have to make clear to the leaders of terror that we have learned that moral clarity in a time of war demands moral seriousness and that we will never again abide, nor acquiesce in, the slow undoing of the freedoms we hold so dear.

This will take time. It will be difficult. But I think we need to say to both the terrorists and the dictators and also to the autocrats that we are now going, in James Woolsey’s words, “…to make you nervous. We want you to be nervous. We want you to realize now for the fourth time in 100 years, that the West is on the march and we are on the side of those whom you most fear, your own people.”

Beryl P. Wajsman





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