11 September 2004

GWOT, Islam, Big Brother and You

On this third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I must write a stream of consciousness. My day job has been demanding, which is why I have updated these pages infrequently this past year. I can't say that I get more than a 3000 mile away perspective out here on the Left Coast of California. On the other hand, maybe distance helps.

My reading this summer has been directed at trying to make sense of this new world we are in. I've read books like Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Re-Making of the World Order, Barnett's The Pentagon's New Map, and Jessica Stern's Terror in the Name of God. Now I'm in the middle of Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

What I find is that we are seeing a privatization of war, from something done by "Great Powers" (WW I and WW II) to something done by "Rogue States" (Iraq in Gulf War I) to something done by individuals with private armies (Usama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks). But Great Powers like the United States are not static entities. They respond to stimuli, and they adapt. By privatizing war, the Bin Ladens of the world think they have found a way to fight Great Powers, without presenting targets at which the Great Powers can strike back. In response to this, I think it is fair to expect the Great Powers to discover or invent new ways to fight, tailored to the new kind of war. Quite frankly, I hope that the first few snowflakes of discovery and invention have already begun to move down the mountain, triggering an avalanche that eventually lands on these private warriors.

On the other hand, since international legal structures recognize war as something only nation-states do to each other, I should call these private warriors, "illegal combatants." Illegal combatants are in a kind of limbo with respect to international law, which, as far as I'm concerned, is something they should have thought about before they got into this business.

Another thing they should have thought about is that war is lost by whoever quits fighting first. The illegal combatants have nobody who can surrender for them. Nobody who can signal the Great Powers that they have had enough. Nobody who can, on behalf of them all, ask the Great Powers to stop. At first glance, this might seem like a problem for the Great Powers. But as the Great Powers learn to fight the new kind of war, the Great Powers will make this a problem for the illegal combatants.

But I can't go on calling them illegal combatants. There is more to them than that, and it needs to be acknowledged. In the current conflict, known around the Pentagon as the Global War On Terror (or GWOT for short), the illegal combatants identify themselves a Muslims. But that isn't specific enough either. On one project I was involved with this past year, my boss's boss was a Muslim. He is a great guy, and I'd work for him again, given the chance.

No, they are not just Muslims. They have been called Islamo-Fascists by Francis Fukuyama, which is a pretty good term, because they are more Fascist than Islamic. This term concentrates on their zeal to force everyone to look and act like they do. There was a time in Afghanistan when you could get killed by the Taliban for trimming your beard too short. But that term captures what they do when they gain power over people. It doesn't address their attachment to war. I prefer a more perjorative term: jihaddicts. It is an amalgam of jihad (Islamic sacred effort or holy war) and addict, as in addiction, being hooked on alcohol, heroin or any other drug.

Yes, they won a successful jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980's. But did they quit when the war was over? No, they fought against their erstwhile Afghan allies until they took over most of the country. In the 1990's Afghanistan did not "harbor terrorists." Afghanistan was taken over by a government that was bankrolled by the present Jihaddict-in-Chief, Usama Bin Laden. Then, did they quit when they had won Afghanistan? No, they picked a fight with the United States on 9/11. (They had tried to pick this fight many times before, but they just couldn't seem to get our attention.)

Now, the jihaddicts use several charges against the West in general and the United States in particular to justify their actions to themselves, and to recruit more jihaddicts. There is some justice to some of these charges. But, suppose we fix all these complaints. The jihaddicts are in business to stay in business. They will "remember" or invent new charges and complaints. They won't even choose a new enemy. To complement their grandiose image of themselves, they need a grandiose enemy. That's the US, permanently in their gunsights, and the weaker we appear, the more fire we will receive.

It's also Russia, whom they are still targeting, even though Russia withdrew from Afghanistan. Just as things were about to get better in Chechnya and Ingushetia, the jihaddicts struck a school full of kids. We forget that when the jihaddicts struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we all felt that they had "crossed a line." Well, now they have crossed another line. It's what they do. Ever more, ever worse, trying to get that elusive high. (Ah the "Pleasure of Hating," the title of an essay by William Hazlitt. And yes, lines have been crossed against Muslims, but committing atrocities as revenge for atrocities is losing sight of the moral law as a whole, and Muslims want to think Islam is superior to other religions.)

Another thing the jihaddicts engage in is the rhetoric of humiliation. They claim that Muslims have been "humiliated" by non-Muslims at various times in the past. This is perhaps a poisonous residue of honor/shame-based cultures in which Islam has taken root, but it is not Islamic, as far as I, an outsider with a 3000 mile away viewpoint, can tell. Consider that Islam teaches that a Muslim is closest to God at the moment he or she bows his or her forehead to the ground in prayer. Muslims do this in imitation of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who taught them to do this by example and exhortation. Now the forehead of any praying Muslim cannot ever go below the forehead of the Prophet, because the ground that God created stops the forehead. In other words, when closest to God, the ordinary Muslim is on a level with the Prophet himself. Which means to me, that it is (or should be) theologically impossible for anyone to humiliate a Muslim, unless that Muslim chooses to be humiliated. In particular, maltreatment of Muslims, such as occurred at Abu Ghraib prison, does not humiliate the victims of that maltreatment — rather it humiliates the perpetrators, who should have had the mental and moral sense to treat Muslims decently. But I doubt that this theology of Muslim pride will catch on with the jihaddicts. They need their theology of humiliation to generate the rage that generates the new recruits who shed the blood of children.

What else they do is meticulously justify to themselves doing things that the Qur'an explicitly and implicitly forbids. Since they do this in the Name of God, and ask God's blessing, they imply that God approves what God has already declared to be manifest evil. Now attributing to God that which is evil is attributing to God that which the Qur'an attributes to Iblis (and equivalently, the Bible attributes to Satan). In other words, in order to enable themselves to pursue their addiction, the jihaddicts commit blasphemy.

Let's savor the irony of this. The Wahhabis are the puritanical ultra-reformist sect of Islam that destroys mosques that are too ornate and that even demolished the houses of the family of the Prophet Muhammad. They did this because they did not want people to worship or revere or associate anything with God, but God alone. Associating anything else with God, they call shirk, one of the worst sins. Yet the jihaddicts are overwhelmingly Wahhabi or Wahhabi-influenced. Surely, associating evil with God, is worse that associating something good with God. Surely, blasphemy is worse that shirk, even to a Wahhabi. But the jihaddicts continue on, oblivious to the Wrath that awaits them, and the Wahhabis, with their explicit encouragement of anti-Western hatred, keeps preparing new recruits for them. In some parts of the world, the Wahhabis even give the jihaddicts shelter and supplies, a sort of co-dependent relationship.

So the jihaddicts are blasphemers. They are also idolaters, because addiction forces the addict to make his or her drug of choice the most important thing in his or her life. If forced to choose, many addicts will choose to sacrifice any and all relationships in their lives to go on using the drugs to which they are addicted. Similarly, the jihaddicts choose jihad in preference to God. Again, the evidence is the way they minutely rationalize the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the entire deposit of Islamic faith and law to support their actions, which directly and obviously violate those things. Again, such idolatry is worse than shirk. The Wahhabis ignore this and continue their message of hate against the West.

But while the rhetoric of the Wahhabis is anti-Western, that really captures only the surface. What really seems to me to be happening is Globalization. The West in general, and the United States in particular are the economic engines behind much of Globalization for now. But more engines are being added all the time. Think of India, China, Japan, Singapore, etc.

The hallmark of Globalization is connectedness, and its symbol is the Internet. I can type these characters tonight, and anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can read them tomorrow. Connectedness is necessary to participate in the global economy, to get what Friedman calls the Electronic Herd of investors to invest in your country. Without being connected, the Electronic Herd can't see into your country to find what to invest in, and they can't trust your country with their money if they can't see inside. And if you don't get them to invest in you, then you're poor, relatively speaking. But the price of connectedness is the free flow of information and ideas. People see how other people live. They are free to reject what they don't like and adopt what they do like.

This is what the jihaddicts really hate about Globalization. Let me express it as an oversimplified bottom line:

If Globalization comes to your country, your women may still choose to cover their heads, but you won't be able to keep them under house arrest for their entire lives.

Ultimately, that's what I think its about. We have to beat the jihaddicts, and the way to do it is the liberation of women, by way of continued Globalization. In other words, GWOT, the Global War on Terror can be lost without sufficient use of force, but it can only be won by increasing freedom and ability of everyone on earth.

So are we winning or losing? If you get your news from the Western media, you cannot tell. Western media report conflict, action, and especially body count. Body count, however, is the measure of success of the jihaddicts. The more non-Muslims they kill, the more they think our resolve will weaken. As indeed it does, because all we see in the news is more bodies, with no end in sight. On the other hand, the measure of success of the good guys is what percentage of the health care, social services, and education they are providing. You see, if the good guys don't provide these things, the bad guys will, gaining credibility and support. This isn't common sense on my part. I read it in Tom Clancy's Shadow Warriors, which is a history of US Special Operations Forces. The soft stuff — health care, social services, education — is how an insurgency takes root and flourishes. The local recipients of these benefits cannot help but sympathize with the insurgents and give them "social cover." But the media do not report these measures of our success, because they think it is soft news, and therefore not important and especially not marketable. The result: we see only the enemy's numbers on the scoreboard, and none of our own. Even when we are winning it looks like we are losing. The press need to educate themselves that their reportage is one-sided against the society that guarantees their freedom, and is therefore not merely neglectful, but pernicious.

But there is another way to lose the GWOT. And that is by failing to build the legal and social norms to protect ourselves from some of the tools of GWOT. Let's rewind to the earlier part of this piece. I said that an avalanche of discovery and invention may some day (maybe even "before this decade is out" to quote John F. Kennedy) land on the jihaddicts. Is is unreasonable to suppose that some of that avalanche may consist of new ways to gather information on people? Does anyone remember John Poindexter and Total Information Awareness (TIA)? Now it would be just plain stupid and irresponsible to refuse to develop and use the means to find the jihaddicts, if we can do so. But is would be equally stupid and irresponsible to think that our present body of law can deal with ever inproving ways to gather and analyze information, whether by governments or corporations. I have already proposed that we recognize information that identifies a person as that person's property, and that we enlist our tradition of property law to aid in protecting people's privacy. I ring that bell again now.

And now let us pray. God, our Heavenly Father, those of us who live in liberty and abundance thank You, and ask You to help us extend liberty and abundance to everyone. We ask you to comfort those who have lost loved ones in the struggle against the jihaddicts. And we ask You to manifest your Judgement on the jihaddicts swiftly and soon, for the good of Islam and all religions. Amen.

God Bless you all.