Monday, September 21, 2009

The Islamic Fanatics

Today I’ll add some of my own thoughts on the subject of the book review I just posted (Knowing the Enemy, Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror by Mary Habeck).

First the good news: the jihadis do not have the military might to conquer our country, nor are they likely acquire that ability in the foreseeable future. Even if they get nuclear weapons they cannot take and hold our territory, nor can they overthrow our government. They are a small part of Islam and just don’t have enough people or soldiers to win an open war with any western country. They may be difficult to root out from their hiding places in the mountains of Afghanistan, but they cannot hope to win a war of conquest, at least at present.

There is bad news in this however. The jihadis do have the ability to create terror and disrupt our society as they did on September 9, 2001. If we let our guard down they can do something like that again. Worse, if they obtain nuclear weapons they can do much worse damage to our cities and our economy. I do not know how much danger there is that they will get such weapons. Iran is a possible source but even if that country manages to make nuclear bombs it is not clear that the Iranians would be willing to provide them to the jihadis. Another possible source is the black market. There are persistent rumors of some nukes, or at least bomb components, available to anyone with enough money.

So what are the jihadis likely to do? Anything they think will help reach their goal of collapse of the West and creation of a caliphate, preferably a worldwide caliphate. We must remember that those people have a very narrow focus and that they believe that they should kill their enemies, even women and children. Many of them are willing, even anxious, to die for the cause. We cannot afford to believe that they think the same way we do. In their minds, anything which might advance their twisted version of Islam is righteous; any failure to advance, or even attempt to advance, it is wicked.

We should also remember that those fanatics have a distorted picture of how effective their actions will be. They believe they will win, even in spite of evidence. Setbacks only encourage them to try again. Unfortunately catching some, either before or after they commit terrorism, will not stop others from trying. They will continue their terrorism until they are wiped out, either by death or by somebody like other Muslims convincing them of the error of their ways. Negotiation will not work. Providing economic aid will not work. As long as they live and have the mind-set they do, they will continue fighting the battle they believe is theirs by divine mandate.

All that is bad, but there is likely an even more dangerous aspect of this. Some of the jihadis may Hojjitieh. That is a shadowy fringe group, so fanatic that even the Ayatollah Khomeini wanted them banned. There are indications that the Hojjitieh believe it their duty to create worldwide chaos in order to cause the return of the Twelfth Imam and the establishment of a worldwide caliphate. If reports are correct, their goal is not necessarily conquest but simply stirring up trouble, the more the better. There is some evidence that Ahmadinejad in Iran is a Hojjitieh but that is uncertain at best.

We can be sure that there is a lot we don’t know about the terrorists. However we can be certain that they hate us, along with any semblance of democracy. We also know that they view us as both wicked and weak-minded. They believe that if they hit us with more terror we will give up and accede to their demands. They’ve seen our lack of persistence in other battles and they believe that we will give up the battle against them as well. I’m afraid there may be some justification for that belief; in the years since 9-11 we’ve become rather complacent.

In this country we’ve become accustomed to quick solutions. TV gives us the unconscious idea that all problems can be solved in half an hour to an hour – with time out for commercials. We’ve forgotten that some problems require prolonged effort before they are solved. We get excited about new problems but tire of them after time. That will not solve the terrorist problem. For that we need persistence. Otherwise they will just outlast us, then hit us again. No, I don’t believe we will give up, but we will be exposed to more terrorist actions.

Solving the jihadi problem will require that we put aside some of our squeamishness and prosecute the battle by every constitutional means at our command. That means we selectively go after those most likely to be terrorists. Grandma in her wheelchair may in fact be a terrorist in disguise, but the young middle-eastern man is a much higher probability and should have a higher likelihood of being searched at the airport.

The more mainstream Muslims in the world have a special part to play in this battle. They must take the lead in showing just how far on the fringes the jihadis are. They must speak out, even in the face of danger. Failure to do so risks takeover of their religion by the fanatics. History provides two examples of how that might happen: the Crusades and the Inquisition, both products of what passed for Christianity when a few were allowed to dictate how Christians should act. In fact the jihadi actions look like an Islamic version of the Inquisition. They have the same intolerance for anyone who does not accept their own version of their religion. Wherever they have been in control, they have imposed restrictions and punishments similar to those of the Inquisition. However they combine that with a militaristic desire to force their religion on everybody, something beyond even what the Crusades attempted.

So far the Islamic fanatics remain a fringe group of the religion while the Inquisition became dominant in medieval Christianity. I beg of my Muslim friends: do not allow the same thing to happen in your religion. Please fight those fanatics, for your sake and the sake of the whole world.

In conclusion, the fight against Islamic fanatics will be long and hard. We must be prepared for that and to continue our best efforts until the battle is won.

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