Author’s note: This article was adapted from a lecture I presented at the Ayn Rand Institute’s OCON conference “The Jihad Against the West,” in Boston, MA, on October 21, 2006.
The Greek historian Thucydides, writing about the calamitous war that had destroyed his own world, made an important observation about the causes of historical events: Even though circumstances may change, human nature remains the same; and certain human elements—especially moral and psychological factors—are at the root of all wars. We can disagree with Thucydides about the identity of those factors, and reject his pessimistic view of human nature, but we will benefit from accepting his challenge to rise above particular circumstances and focus on the principles of human action that are common to all time. Differences in technology, politics, or economics will always remain secondary to the ideas that motivate aggressors to launch bloody attacks and that empower—or restrain—defenders opposing those attacks.
In that spirit, let us begin by considering an event of cataclysmic proportions, a deadly attack against Americans, and then examine two possible responses to it. This approach will show us that the crisis we face today—a series of highly motivated attacks against the heart of civilization—is not unique, can be understood, and can be ended—if we choose to understand and end it.
The attack under consideration kills thousands of Americans. Foreign governments, well known to us, have sponsored such attacks for years in their pursuit of a continental-scale totalitarian empire. The fire motivating the slaughter is a militaristic, religious-political ideology that values war as a demonstration of loyalty to a deity, demands obedience to its spokesmen, and imposes its edicts over millions of people. Thousands of individuals, indoctrinated as youths, are eager to engage in suicide attacks, and many more are willing to die through acquiescence and submission, should the state so demand. The enemy soldier is highly motivated, thoroughly brainwashed, and willing to die for his god and his cause. The enemy’s children and soldiers memorize words such as these:
The battlefield is where our army displays its true character, conquering whenever it attacks, winning whenever it engages in combat, in order to spread our deity’s reign far and wide, so that the enemy may look up in awe to his august virtues.1They accept, as moral imperatives, ideas such as these:
[F]ight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war; but if they repent, and practice our way, then accept them. . . . You shall fight back against those who do not believe in God, nor in the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what God and His messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion of truth.2Millions of people embrace such injunctions as unquestioned commandments. Their suicidal attacks continue for years.
How should Americans respond to this attack? Under the pressures of a deadly emergency, American leaders must make important decisions, and the American people must decide whether they will support those decisions. Let us consider and evaluate two options, and ask which we should use.
To set course for one possible response, the President addresses the American people, and identifies the enemy nations involved. He asks for, and receives, a formal declaration of war from Congress. He pledges to achieve victory as quickly as possible, a goal which he defines as the unconditional surrender of the enemy regimes, and a fundamental repudiation of war by those involved.
Americans mount a vigorous offense against the center of the enemy’s power. Waves of bombers obliterate dozens of enemy cities. His food is choked off, his military is decimated, his industry is bombarded, his ships are sunk, his harbors are mined—his people are psychologically shattered. In a single night, a hundred thousand civilians die in a firestorm in his capital. Americans drop leaflets telling the enemy population which cities could be next. Civilians are immersed in propaganda from their government, telling them that they are winning the war—yet they cower defenselessly while American bombers level their homes.
One of our generals announces his personal goal: to “kill the bastards.” We name our final drive against the enemy, “Operation Downfall.” A force of overpowering magnitude amasses on the enemy’s borders, as thousands of American bombers pulverize his cities. The President and two foreign allies issue an ultimatum that includes these words:
The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the enemy armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the enemy homeland. . . .When the enemy balks at the ultimatum, atomic bombs are dropped on his cities. He surrenders, thus acknowledging the reality of his defeat and making a political decision to cease fighting. He orders his reluctant soldiers to lay down their arms. The American military occupies the defeated nation. We censor the media, impose reforms on schools, dismantle economic cartels, efface militaristic language from discourse at all levels, and write a political constitution which they are forced to accept. We tell them, pointedly and publicly, that they are defeated, and that we have no obligations to them. When they face starvation, we remind them that their miseries are their own fault. We charge them for many of the costs of the occupation. Not one dime of aid arrives until they demonstrate their complete surrender, in word and in action, including their repudiation of the militaristic ideology that motivated their attacks.
The time has come for the enemy nation to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought them to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason. . . .
Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay. . . .
There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world. . . .
Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established. . . .
We call upon the enemy to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative is prompt and utter destruction.3
This principled, all-out merciless offense is one possible response to the sneak attack. Now let us consider a second, very different, response.
The President addresses the nation, identifies the enemy as the particular people involved in the attacks, and defines them by the tactics they used. He makes no declaration of war, but pledges to lead us to victory in the war he intends to wage, which, he says, will be long. He defines victory as democracy for the nations behind the attacks. A week later, he reminds us that those who practice the religion of the attackers “must feel comfortable” in America.4 Two months later, he invites leaders of the religion to the White House, for a prayer meeting.5
Our leaders realize that the particular attackers have bases in a poor, isolated country, so we invade that country, and drive its government into the surrounding mountains. We name our campaign “Operation Infinite Justice,” but when adherents of the attackers’ religion complain, we change it to “Operation Enduring Freedom.” We drop bombs, but they are precision-guided to avoid hitting civilians and religious buildings. Many of our bombers drop food. The enemy flees to a neighboring country, ruled by a nuclear-armed dictator whom we call an “ally” and whose borders we do not cross. Within this “ally’s” borders, schools train more attackers, who flood across the borders, cause more carnage, and kill more Americans.
In search of democracy, and following our desire to free foreign peoples from oppression, we attack and depose another dictator in the area. This secular thug, whom we had once armed, had fought a long war against a neighboring country founded upon the same hostile ideology as those who attacked us. The people we liberate from him establish a government based on that same hostile ideology—which we allow, since our goal was to enable them to vote—and they strengthen ties with other nations founded on this ideology. One of our generals states his own view of our goal: to foster the enemy’s “ability to compromise on their political goals, accommodate their sectarian differences and demonstrate to ordinary people that a democratic central government can serve their needs.”6 We name our campaign “Operation Freedom for Them.”
We act with great restraint, establishing rules of engagement that limit the use of force by our military. We apologize when we hurt civilians, prosecute our soldiers if they humiliate prisoners, assign correspondents to military units to monitor their actions, and send lawyers with our troops to ensure that they “follow the rules.” When captured Americans are beheaded on television, we do not close down the broadcasts or attack the governments financing them—we search for the particular killers. When the enemy acquires nuclear power plants, we refer to the country providing him with those plants as a “friend” and an “ally.” When the enemy uses banks to finance his war against us, we call on our lawyers to “freeze his assets,” but never call on our generals to destroy his capital. We remind the people in his nation incessantly that our war is not with them, but rather with “extremists” who have “hijacked a great religion.”
Now, which of these two responses—the all-out, merciless, military offense, or the restrained, diplomatic, semi-military approach, should we choose? Let us evaluate them, according to several ideas widely accepted today.
First, we are told today that only so-called “proportional” force is morally proper. We need to wage a “just war,” one founded on altruistic moral principles, using strictly limited force, for strictly limited ends, aimed at the good of others. The well-being of others—including the enemy’s people—must be our concern, and this requires severe self-restraint on our part. That the enemy does not act this way when he kills our people is of no concern. According to these moral views, we must hold the well-being of others as an absolute, regardless of the consequences; we must be willing to place our soldiers in mortal danger in order to protect enemy civilians—even though they often aid and abet enemy fighters. A military offense for our own self-protection would transgress the bounds of a “just war,” says the accepted wisdom.
This moral obligation to use our force only in limited degrees and always for the good of others raises two questions: What, in this view, is the right amount of limited force? And what constitutes the good of others? These two questions are answered by means of the methodology of pragmatism (i.e., doing what “works” for the moment) and the morality of altruism (i.e., the morality of “otherism”). We will use these two widely accepted philosophical positions to direct our response to those attacking us.
Following these principles, we will have to determine our policies and strategies on a case-by-case basis. Our actions must be pragmatic and adaptable, contingent on local circumstances and the consensus of others. The right amount of force is that which does not upset the enemy too much; if we use too much of our power, we will cause hard feelings and a desire for vengeance in the enemy, which will breed a new generation of enemy soldiers. We should, in this view, respond with compassion and understanding, engaging in “dialogue” with him, building power plants and digging toilets in his land rather than attacking him. This, we are told, will “win hearts and minds.” Based on these practical and moral considerations, the first option, the all-out offense, must be rejected; the restrained response is best.
Second, we are told that we must not declare war against a nation, only against its leadership or particular miscreants. Most people, we hear, do not want war; there is a “universal hunger for liberty,” and people will regale us with flowers if we “liberate” them from oppression. We are told that “freedom” is “God’s gift to all people,” and that our “calling” is to create the conditions by which others can embrace this gift. Their freedom—meaning, we are told, democracy—is the root of our security; and protecting their “right” to vote—not defeating them—must be our goal. We must grant them the freedom to establish any government they wish—even one akin to the regimes of our attackers—if it expresses their democratic desires. Again, the offensive response must be shunned; the restrained approach is our only choice.
Third, we are told that an overwhelming offense fails to respect the culture of a foreign nation. All cultures are equal, multiculturalism teaches us, and each must be equally respected. For us to claim a sense of superiority over other cultures would reveal a “Eurocentric bias” that fails to acknowledge “multi-variant” forms of logic, and the relativism of all values. According to altruism, this means that other cultures are due more respect than our own, since we must subordinate our own people and resources to their needs, even if those cultures actively oppose our own selfish interests. According to pragmatism, respecting their “right” to “self-determination” rather than defeating them will make them feel better and thus momentarily quell the violence. Our soldiers must be trained to respect the cultural differences between themselves and the enemy. When enemy soldiers are captured, for instance, they must be given books sympathetic to their own positions, and be allowed to practice their cultural-religious rituals.
(The same strategy, we hear, must be used inside America, against people of the same ideology as the enemy. An American police officer recently told me that he undergoes “sensitivity training” to “understand” and “respect” the cultural basis of rampant domestic violence in a neighborhood he patrols. He is cautioned to avoid “cultural imperialism” and “racism,” the sin of thinking that American culture is superior because it forbids the beating of wives. A man in Colorado, sentenced to jail for enslaving an Indonesian woman, said: “Your Honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic [religious] behaviors.” The man said he treated the woman the way any family of his cultural convictions would treat a daughter: by locking her in the basement.7)
According to multiculturalism, a serious military offense would be anathema. We must allow peoples of other cultures to express their “cultural identities”—whether that involves eating falafels, chanting “Death to America,” or detonating their children in Israeli restaurants.
If one observes that all of this makes it impossible to develop a principled approach to an ever-deepening crisis, the philosophy of pragmatism has an explanation. The pragmatic world-view tells us that reality is messy and contradictory; to deal with a reality that is constantly shifting, we need flexibility, not firm principles. To be principled is to be an inflexible “ideologue.” To be practical is to shift with the “flux” that surrounds us, reacting on the range-of-the-moment, negotiating at every turn, compromising with anyone and everyone. We need to respond to each situation as a unique, particular event, without connection to other events. There are no lessons to be drawn from history; even the world of five years ago differs fundamentally from the world we face now. Politics is all trial and error.
Perhaps we should try “shuttle diplomacy”: appeasing one dictator here, buying off one over there, making deals with others, calling on allies to “put pressure on” another. The only absolute is that we must not engage in focused, principled military action toward a firm, self-interested, pro-American victory. The second, flexible, response is, again, the right choice—according to pragmatism.
Altruism leads to the same conclusion. To fight for our own benefit—to elevate our lives over those of our enemies—is almost universally condemned today as selfish and thus “immoral.” A moral war, according to altruism, is a war fought self-sacrificially, for the good of others, especially for the weak. It is only by a continuous policy of aiding others that we can rise to moral goodness. Even restrained, limited military action is wrong, if taken for our own benefit. In this view, a strong power is good only when it recognizes the moral claims of those in need—even enemies and their supporters. The route to peace is not through victory, since altruism (“otherism”) cannot abide the defeat of others. The “path to tomorrow” is through the sacrifice of our own wealth, values, and lives to the needs of others—even those who threaten us. Again, their freedom must be our goal—their prosperity must be our mission—if we wish to be “good.”
Pragmatism and altruism dictate American foreign policy today—as they have done for over fifty years. To be practical is to be pragmatic, and to be moral is to be altruistic—these are the accepted axioms of the modern day. An all-out offensive response, in this view, would be an utter disaster—pragmatically because it holds to principles in defiance of constantly shifting reality, and morally because it seeks the enemy’s defeat rather than his benefit. On the premises of pragmatism and altruism, the measured, proportional, restrained approach is our only option.
Students of history, of course, will recognize that the attack I posed—and the two responses—were not hypothetical. Such an attack has been launched against America twice in the past two generations, and both options have been tried. On the premises of pragmatism and altruism, the first response should have led to escalating hostilities and a new generation of war against America, and the second should have ended the attacks. The results, however, have been precisely the opposite. Let us proceed to see why.
On December 7, 1941, we were attacked by Japan, a country then governed by a militaristic, religious ideology, in pursuit of a divine empire, with indoctrinated soldiers who soon used suicide tactics. We chose the ruthless, offensive response. Three years and eight months later, the Japanese surrendered, their country in ruins, their people starving. Five years after the attacks, Japan had a constitution that included the following (from its famous Article 9): “[T]he Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation. . . . The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
Sixty years after the U.S. ended two generations of aggressive Japanese warfare, Japan remains free, productive, and friendly to America. The Japanese have not abandoned their traditions—nor has anyone asked them to do so—but they no longer use them to kill and enslave others. Rather than seek our destruction, Japan has become a staunch political ally, a robust free-market competitor, and an invaluable economic producer. Rather than build bombs and fighter planes with which to attack us, the Japanese build cars and computers that contribute immensely to our own high standard of living.
In perfect contrast, the second option—the pragmatic, altruistic, limited-military response—has been the basic approach of the Bush Administration to the attacks of September 11, 2001. What are the results?
Afghanistan continues to be strafed by holy warriors trained in Pakistan—a nuclear-armed dictatorship that we have placed off-limits to our own forces. Iraq’s insurgency continues, with Shiite militias, no longer restrained either by Saddam Hussein or by us, growing to fill the political vacuum. Iran is emboldened, its fundamentalist leadership ever more vocal, its program of nuclear development open and expanding. Saudi Arabia—our alleged ally—funds religious schools that teach hatred of the West and train an endless stream of jihadists. We pay two-billion dollars a year in tribute to Egypt, so that they will refrain from attacking Israel. Sudan engages in genocide under theocratic rule, while Somalia, Nigeria, and other countries are following suit, their tribal clerics doling out Islamic law under trees. Syria—a second-generation thugocracy on the verge of collapse a few years ago—has been resurrected and emboldened. Hezbollah has taken over Southern Lebanon. The Gaza is a new terror enclave under the democratically elected terror-cult Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood is winning elections in Egypt. Other anti-Western militant groups are winning elections and subverting Western values from Spain to Indonesia. Across the world—including Canada, England, and the U.S.—Muslim cells plot more attacks and plan political takeovers, all the while hiding behind constitutional protections that they have sworn to destroy. Anyone daring to renounce or criticize Islam may have to live forever underground, in fear of murder sanctioned by religious decree.
Five years to the month after 9/11, and in stark contrast to the situation in Japan five years after Pearl Harbor, an Islamic cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a teacher at an Islamic school in Java, and a killer in the Bali bombing of 2002 who was released from prison in June 2006, now openly promotes a new constitution for Indonesia:
We demand an Islamic state, and not some form of Islamisation of society. We want the state to be Islamic, with Islamic leaders who have the courage and will to implement the Islamic law in total. . . .This is Islamic Totalitarianism—State Islam—rule by Islamic Law—and it is on the rise. While this cleric plots an Islamic State, people from countries where children are taught that Jews are born of pigs and monkeys, and that Israel is “occupied territory” and fair game for attack, rail against so-called anti-Muslim “prejudice.” Inside America, leaders of hostile countries give speeches to build “bridges of understanding” while building nuclear bombs overseas.9 Adherents of Islam claim to be victims of persecution, assertions they make on national television, from pulpits, and in tenured university positions.
We want an Islamic state where Islamic law is not just in the books but enforced, and enforced with determination. There is no space and no room for democratic consultation. The Islamic law is set and fixed, so why discuss it? Just implement it!
Right now we are drafting our own constitutional amendments for Indonesia, the framework for an Indonesian Islamic state where Islamic laws are enforced. Indonesians must understand that there is no Islamic state without the enforcement of Islamic laws.8
Meanwhile, a state of siege is being more deeply entrenched inside America every day. We are losing the war by institutionalizing the loss of our freedoms, searching the sneakers of senior citizens in wheelchairs in order to avoid confronting bellicose dictatorships overseas. In the minds of many people, the Bush administration’s allegedly “offensive” strategy has discredited the very idea of genuinely offensive war for American self-interest, which it pledged to fight, and then betrayed to its core. Our soldiers come home maimed or dead, and military offense, rather than timidity, takes the blame. To compensate for our weakness overseas, we are building electric fences and security barriers to keep the world out, accepting the medieval ideal of walled towns under constant threat of attack, rather than destroying the source of such threats.
In short, the second, pragmatic, altruistic approach has failed. In the five years since 9/11, the motivations behind the Islamic attacks have not been suppressed—and this is the real failure of these policies. The number of particular attacks is not the measure of success or failure. The Islamic Totalitarians remain physically intact, spiritually committed, and politically empowered. The Islamic Totalitarian movement remains—distributed, without the strong central command Al Qaeda once had, but still energized—and it appears like hidden gushers, the jihad bursting forth in seemingly random places by internal pressure from an underground stream. Our acceptance of pragmatism, the policy of short-range trial and error that rejects principles on principle—and altruism, the morality of self-sacrifice—left no other result possible.
The reason for this failure is that every one of the ideas we used to evaluate our options is wrong. In every case, the opposite of today’s “conventional wisdom” is true.
- A strong offense does not create new enemies; it defeats existing foes. Were this not so, we would be fighting German and Japanese suicide bombers today, while North Korea—undefeated by America—would be peaceful, prosperous, and free.
- Poverty is not the “root cause” of wars. If it were, poor Mexicans would be attacking America, not begging for jobs at Wal-Mart.
- Democracy is not a route to freedom—not for the Greeks who voted to kill Socrates, nor for the Romans who acclaimed Caesar, nor for the Germans who elected Hitler.
- A culture of slavery and suicide is not equal to a culture of freedom and prosperity—not for those who value life.
- The world is not a flux of contradictions, in which principles do not work. If it were, gravity would not hold, vaccinations would not work, and one would not have a right to one’s life.
- Being moral does not mean sacrificing for others. It means accepting the American principle of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—and living for one’s own sake.
Rights-respecting people, those who do not initiate force against others, have a right to defend themselves for their own sakes—because they have a right to live. To do this, they must approach their enemies in a principled, self-interested way. Ayn Rand, in her essay on the nature of government, observed a vital relationship between man’s right to life and his right to self-defense:
The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.These words ring especially true in the war against Islamic Totalitarianism. The consequence of our failure to respond forthrightly to these attacks has been precisely to encourage and reward this movement. We have granted it a safe haven, allowed it to claim victory through continued existence, appealed to its apologists who spread anti-American venom, and emboldened those who wish to take up the fight against us. The solution is to renounce altruistic appeasement and pragmatic compromise, to recognize our own value, and to defend our lives by right. We must defeat these enemies, and we can.
If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.10
Only after we understand that we should defeat these enemies, can we ask how. This point is vital, for the question of moral rightness is logically and psychologically prior to any question of strategy or tactics. If we do not understand that we should defeat them—if we think that we are as bad as they are, or that they have legitimate grievances that justify their attacks, or that we have created a situation that morally demands that we compensate them—then our lack of moral self-confidence will undercut our motivation to fight. But the facts do not warrant such a conclusion. We are morally right and the Islamic Totalitarians are evil—not merely in their methods, but, more fundamentally, in their values and goals. We have a moral responsibility to defeat them—if we want to live. We can and must approach this war with the moral self-confidence of those fighting for civilization itself—for the basic conditions on which human life depends—because that is precisely what is at stake.
Given that we should win, how then must our government confront Islamic Totalitarianism? Let us call again upon the defeat of Japan in 1945 as a valid, and vital, historical precedent.
These two conflicts have many political and military differences, and it would be an error to draw tactical lessons from 1945 and apply them directly to the present conflict. To name one such difference, Americans in 1941 did not have the military capacity to attack Japan directly and overwhelmingly (as they would a few years later); we were not able to bomb Japan, nor defeat its navy quickly. We were forced to use the kind of slow infantry tactics and “island hopping” that would not be necessary today. American ingenuity has created an explosion of technology, and the possibility of heretofore undreamed of tactics, which make it unnecessary for any American to be killed in the fight. That we have the overwhelming capacity to defeat the Islamic Totalitarians militarily is beyond doubt. Yet far from elevating technology to the key issue in winning a war, this illustrates the unequivocal importance of the moral self-confidence—the state of mind that proceeds from an awareness of one’s own moral goodness and efficacy—that is needed to use this weaponry. This is what enabled us to overcome serious material deficiencies and to drive victoriously over the Japanese in 1945. The question today is not whether we have the capacity to win; it is whether we have the self-confidence, and the will, to do so.
The basic similarities between the two conflicts begin with the ideas that motivated the attacks. The Japanese were motivated by a politicized religious ideology—Shintoism—that posited an all-powerful deity, indoctrinated their children, infected every aspect of their culture, and drove them to suicidal military actions that killed millions. An educational rescript of 1890—an Imperial decree, and one of the most influential documents in Japanese history—built this “mytho-religious ideology” into the classroom, making worship of the Emperor and duty to the State into the primary goals of education.11 Japanese people memorized its tenets, and were inculcated with what one Japanese scholar called “socialization for death.”12 A Japanese civilian remarked how, when she heard that the Emperor was going to address his people—an unprecedented event—the words she had memorized as a child rose in her mind: “Should any emergency arise, offer yourself courageously to the State.” Such ideas, deeply internalized and mandated by law, motivated suicide bombers—kamikaze—to throw themselves fanatically against superior U.S. forces, and gave them hope for a final battle over weak-willed Americans. This kamikaze fire was extinguished by the crushing American offensive of 1945.
The Islamic Totalitarian movement has a similar fire burning at its core—an authoritarian, state-centered religion, replete with state-funded educational indoctrination, a massive suicide cult on behalf of the deity and state, and hope for a final battle over the Americans. The key to extinguishing this fire, I submit—the sine qua non required to end the spiral of indoctrination, jihad, and suicidal attacks on the West—is to do what was done against Japan: to break the political power of the state religion. State Islam—Totalitarian Islam—rule by Islamic Law—must be obliterated.
A vital point about politics and government must be remembered here. Government holds a legal monopoly on the use of force in a geographic area. Governments do not make suggestions—they pass and enforce laws. They must do this, in order to protect our freedom to think and speak—but within proper limits, defined by the principle of individual rights and codified in a constitution that is the nation’s fundamental law. The purpose of a proper government is to protect the rights of its citizens—each citizen’s freedom to think and act on his own judgment—by using retaliatory force as necessary against criminals and foreign invaders.
A government that turns its force against its own citizens, especially to impose an ideological doctrine on them, subordinates the rights of individuals to the demands of the State. This is statism—the elevation of the State over the individual, and the inversion of the very purpose of government. Statism is the greatest killer in history—dwarfing all attacks by criminals—precisely because it is motivated by some form of mystical political ideology. Because statists claim an authority that is above the rights of man—whether the Fuehrer’s master race, the communists’ dialectic, or the theocrat’s God—they do not recognize the principle of individual rights or the self-ownership of men on earth; rather, they claim the right to rule men, and to kill with impunity anyone who disobeys the ideology or regime.
What the aforementioned Indonesians—and all of us—must understand is that there is no recognition of individual rights, no legitimate constitution, and thus no freedom, under religious law in any form. The all-encompassing, totalitarian nature of Islamic Law—its claims to divine origin, its commitment to uphold “Allah’s” will, and its ultimate goal of making everyone on earth submit to it—leaves no room for individual rights or freedom. This code is barbaric and tribal, frozen in time for over a thousand years, not open to rational scrutiny but only to unquestioned obedience (as the Indonesian cleric emphasized). To impose this primitive code by force is to inject religion into every aspect of human thought and action—which is the ultimate goal of Islamic Totalitarianism.
To begin to enshrine the inviolability of individual rights as the central principle of government, clerics of all kinds must be stripped of political power. There can be no freedom of thought and speech if those with claims to mystically derived ideas can enforce them coercively. Only by breaking the link between state power and religious belief can the state become a protector of each person’s right to worship or not worship as he wishes; only complete separation of religion and government can enable the government to serve its proper function: to protect each person’s right to think, speak, and act as he chooses.
Given this understanding of the issue, how should we begin to confront Totalitarian Islam? Again, there is precedent in history. The basic principles of a rational policy towards Islamic Totalitarianism—with clear strategic implications—were revealed in a striking telegram sent by the U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes to General Douglas MacArthur, the American commander in Japan, in October, 1945. The telegram established the basic U.S. policy goals towards Shintoism, and laid out, for MacArthur and his subordinates, the basic principles by which those goals were to be achieved:
Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People would not be taxed to support National Shinto and there will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion—National Shinto, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto . . . The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. And the Japanese Government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments.The telegram is clear about the need for separation between religion and state—between an individual’s right to follow Shinto and the government’s power to enforce it. This requirement applies to Islam today (and to Christianity and Judaism) as strongly as it did to Shinto. In regard to Japan, the job involved breaking the link between Shinto and state; in regard to Islamic Totalitarianism the task involves breaking the link between Islam and state. This is the central political issue we face: the complete lack of any conceptual or institutional separation between church and state in Islam, both historically and in the totalitarian movement today.
As for what we should do about this, the 1945 telegram is direct. Here is its opening, rewritten to substitute Islam for Shinto:
Islam, as it is a religion of individuals, is not to be interfered with. Islam, however, insofar as it is directed by governments, and as a measure enforced from above by any government, is to be done away with.There is no question here about religious freedom. Individual religious belief is to be left alone—as is all freedom to think and to speak by one’s own judgment—but state religion must be eliminated. It is vital that this principle be understood, stated clearly, and enforced—for this is a precondition of the thorough and permanent defeat of America’s current enemy.
Totalitarian Islam, an ideology that merges state power with religious belief, must go.
But proponents of Islamic Totalitarianism have political power, to some extent, in dozens of nations. Should we attack them all, immediately? No. We need to aim for the political, economic, and ideological center of this movement—the core that embodies its naked essence and that fuels it worldwide. This does not mean finding the particular people who organized the 9/11 attacks. The question is: In which state is Islam most solidly linked with political power, dedicated to the violent spread of Islamic rule, and infused with hatred of America? What state is founded on these ideas, and their practice, as a matter of principle? There is a clear answer, which is known, admittedly or not, by almost everyone today. The political centerpiece of Islamic Totalitarianism today—the state in which Islam is most militantly welded to political power and contempt for America and the West—the world leader in the violent spread of Islam—is Iran.
The Iranian Islamic State was born in an act of war against America—the seizure of the American embassy in 1979—and has chanted “Death to America” ever since. Even Muslims at odds with Iran for sectarian reasons, such as many followers of Osama Bin Laden, draw inspiration from it as they engage in their own jihads against the West. Bin Laden’s most important effect in this regard has been to energize and empower radical Muslims to rise above the petty squabbles between Persian and Arab, and between Sunni and Shiite, to join Iran against the “Great Satan”: America. Hezbollah, Hamas, and company are dependent on Iran for ideological, political, and economic strength. It is Iran that addresses the U.N. as a world leader; it is Iran that is openly committed to acquiring the weapons needed to take control of the Middle East; it is Iran that poses as the defender of Muslims against the West (for instance, through loyal clerics in Iraq); and it is Iran that has gained power since the U.S. removed its strongest regional opponent in Iraq.
The conclusion is inescapable. The road to the defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism begins in Tehran. America, acting alone and with overwhelming force, must destroy the Iranian Islamic State now. It must do so openly, and indeed spectacularly, for the entire world to see, for this is the only way to demonstrate the spectacular failure and incompetence of the Islamic fundamentalist movement as a whole.
This demonstration must embody the virtue of integrity—the unity of principles and practice. Intellectually, we must state our intentions and reasons openly, without hiding behind timid diplomatic-speak. Physically, we must act decisively, and with all the force we deem necessary, to eliminate the Iranian regime as quickly as possible, and with the least risk to American soldiers. Only when the world sees this demonstration of American resolve will America begin to see peace and security.
It is vital that Americans take this action for the right moral reasons, openly stated. We must not seek legitimacy for the removal of the Iranian Islamic State beyond the principle of our right to defend ourselves. To pretend that something more than this principle is needed would be to deny the sufficiency of the principle. To base our reasons on the alleged good of others, especially on any alleged benefits to the people of the Middle East, would be to accept a position of moral dhimmitude: the moral subordination of our right to life and self-defense to an allegedly higher principle. It would be to subordinate our lives to the lives of the ayatollahs—who would become our masters. If we cannot stand on the principle of our right to life and liberty against the Islamic Totalitarians’ claim that we must submit to the will of “Allah,” then we cannot claim the right to exist. America’s “weakness of will” is the jihadists’ great hope—as it was the hope of Japanese warriors—but it is something they cannot impose on us. Their only prayer is that we will accept it voluntarily. The price for doing so is our lives and the lives of our children. We must not submit.
To remove this cancerous Islamic State loudly and forthrightly will have immediate benefits. We would avenge the thousands of American terror victims since the 1960s. We would reverse the pitiful image we projected when Iranians stormed our embassy in 1979, and when we fled from Mogadishu and from Lebanon—actions that the Islamic Totalitarians claimed as evidence of our weakness. We could even reverse a tremendous injustice by un-nationalizing the oil companies in Iran—stolen from their owners in 1951—and placing them back into private hands, under government protection. Certainly guarding those facilities from a surrounding civil war—a legitimate protection of private property, backed by a credible threat of crushing force—would be a far better use of our troops than guarding a few blocks in downtown Baghdad from its own residents. The pipeline of money into Islamic jihad would be cut.
Most importantly, by ousting the regime in Iran, we would send a clear message to the world: Political Islam is finished. Weaker states and groups would cringe in terror—as they did briefly after 9/11—and would literally retreat into holes in the ground. Anti-totalitarian forces across the world would be emboldened by the sight of a real defense of life and liberty. Allies we never knew existed would raise their heads with confidence and join the cause of freedom. The land of the free—rejuvenated as the home of the brave—would rejoice as the nation of the secure. We would truly be on the road to victory, freedom, and peace. By affirming the efficacy of reason and individual rights over incompetent dark-age theocracy, America could once again claim its place as a real world leader, and become a beacon for those who understand, and value, freedom.
Once this central task is complete, further intransigent policies toward Islamic Totalitarianism will be necessary. One pertains to state economic support for Islam, another to state-sponsored education. The 1945 telegram—again, with Islam replacing Shinto—addresses both of these points:
Islam, however, insofar as it is directed by governments, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People [will] not be taxed to support Islam and there will be no place for Islam in the schools.The Muslim world must be made to understand that any government that provides economic support to jihadists will be summarily destroyed. In order for this policy to be taken seriously, we must demonstrate its truth—by destroying the Iranian regime and stating why we have done so. Only the clear threat that “you will be next” can break the entangled network of Islamic economic support for jihad that masquerades as “economic development.” There can be no more playing games with Saudi apologists who speak smooth English and describe their work as “charity.” In 2003, the International Islamic Relief Organization, a Saudi charity, claimed to have dug 1,615 wells throughout the Middle East—but it also established 4,400 mosques and distributed millions of Islamic books and pamphlets. The result has been the display, on television, of young children as “True Muslims,” trained to see Jews as pigs and apes, screaming “Allahu Akbar” and dedicating themselves to jihad.13 Such “charity” means raising money to spread the ideas, and tactics, of Totalitarian Islam. It must end.
Ending this state economic support cannot occur without confronting one of Islam’s five pillars: alms. By separating church and state, alms can become something that it has never been in Islam: truly private charity. In the primitive society in which Mohammed lived, there was no concept of the separation of church and state. The religious leaders were the political leaders, and the payment of alms was a state-imposed taxation as much as a religious duty. Since then, nothing has changed within Islam. It is high time that all government involvement in so-called “charities” be ended. All states known to have sponsored terrorism against the West must be forbidden to impose taxes or provide funding on behalf of Islam.
Regarding education, the adapted 1945 telegram ends as follows:
Islam as a state religion—National Islam, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Islam . . . The dissemination of Islamic militaristic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. Middle Eastern Governments will be required to cease financial and other support of Islamic establishments.One of the strongest parallels between Japanese Shintoism and Islamic Totalitarianism is the deep inculcation of theological militarism in children—a philosophical ideology centered on military service to a divinely sanctioned state—and the suicidal “socialization for death” that results. In each case, the central purpose of the educational system is to train children to obey a divine presence by inculcating in them a sense of submission and insignificance married to violence. Japanese children memorized the calls to duty by the Emperor; indoctrinated Islamic children memorize sword verses in the Koran. Japanese children bowed to the Emperor and obeyed his generals; Islamic children bow to Allah and obey his clerics. The grip of Islam over education has to be broken, as was the grip of Shinto over the schools in Japan.
After the regime in Iran is destroyed, the leadership in countries sponsoring such state training in Islamic jihad—especially Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt—must choose: Close the state-funded schools, or face the Iranian alternative. Until the U.S. demonstrates the nature of that choice, by serious retaliation against Iran, unambiguously connecting principled words to practical actions, there is no reason for any Middle Eastern leader to expect serious consequences. Until then, they are right to regard us as a paper tiger. Only the forthright destruction of the Iranian Islamic State can demonstrate the resolve needed for this task.
As the telegram makes clear, the dissemination of militarism is broader than the schools; it encompasses the media. Ending Japan as a threat, and reforming the society in a long-lasting way, required the strict suppression of militaristic education, publications, and broadcasts. This is also necessary in the case of Totalitarian Islam.
America needs a Commander-in-Chief today who can understand and state this simple truth: In war, there is no “right” to free speech on behalf of an enemy. The string of obviously false, contrived, and manipulated “news” by the supporters of jihad—the staging of civilians crying when a home is destroyed, and the throwing about of children’s dolls when a terrorist’s safe house is wrecked—are all part of the enemy’s war effort. In war, the psychological disarmament of the enemy, including the inculcation of terror through vicious propaganda, is part of the fight. American unwillingness to quash such propaganda is seen, by our enemies, not as respect for freedom of speech, but rather as a lack of will and as evidence of weakness. In the present situation, Americans must forcibly prohibit the dissemination of militaristic ideology and propaganda anywhere it rises. To make the point clear, Al-Jazeera—the fountainhead of Muslim taqiyya, or deception—must be shut down.
In summary, Political Islam, Militant Islam, rule by Islamic Law—and all the economic and intellectual support associated with it—must go. This means that Iran must go.
The removal of Islamic political states will not be the end of the task; many intellectual battles will have to be waged. Most importantly, Western intellectuals must present not only a negative—a repudiation of the Totalitarian Universe—but also a positive—a clear explanation to the world that the moral purpose of a government is to protect its citizens’ rights to think and act on the judgment of their own minds, free from coercion by church, mosque, or state. But such battles cannot be fought by pretending that those who make death threats instead of arguments are offering anything but clubs in place of syllogisms.
This is not a clash between civilizations; it is a clash between civilization and barbarism. Until civilized people assert themselves with a depth of moral confidence exceeding that projected by those who submit to the “will of Allah,” America will remain permanently on the defensive, in a state of moral dhimmitude, and the war will continue to its logical conclusion: a mushroom cloud over America.
Is it possible for a “moderate” form of Islam to become an alternative to the totalitarian world-view infecting so many Muslims? Perhaps, but let us be clear about what this would mean. This would mean an Islam that is explicitly separated from political power. It would mean an Islam whose clerics renounce all attempts to impose its law by force. It would mean an Islam that (like modern Christianity) is open to critical self-reflection, whose thinkers examine the Koran as a set of stories, compiled and interpreted by men—and not the infallible word of God to be spread by the sword. It would mean an Islam that allows apostates to make their own decisions, and that tolerates no death threats against them. It would mean the explicit rejection—by Muslims—of State Islam, Islamic Law, and the pursuit of jihad. Such “moderate” Muslims will support the obliteration of Totalitarian Islam. The rest must witness the defeat of this poisonous ideology, and grasp the hopelessness of supporting it.
To achieve this goal requires us to be confident in our positions; certain of our own rightness; and forthright in our commitment to freedom and the defense of individual rights. Hiding the truth behind allegedly “prudent” language designed to obfuscate our intentions is of no use against an ideology with the directness of Islam. We cannot out-taqiyya the Islamic Totalitarians. We must state our end goal openly and clearly; we must identify the principled means of achieving it; and we must become people of integrity—people who act in accordance with their values and convictions. There is no substitute for integrity, and that means no substitute for victory.
There was a time when this was understood in America. In 1945, Americans knew that there was truly “no substitute for victory,” as General MacArthur said in his farewell speech to Congress. In 1945, Americans also knew the meaning of “victory.” It was not a mere word, empty of content. It named a specific task, and a precise goal. To say that our aim today is “to attain victory” can be as empty and futile as urging a college student to “do well,” or a businessman to “succeed.” What constitutes “doing well”? What is “success”? How will we know when we have achieved “victory”? The question is: What is it that we really need from the enemy?
History offers yet another example. The words proclaimed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which defined the terms of victory, and which he held intransigently for over two years, are “Unconditional Surrender.” Bringing long-term peace to the world, said FDR,
involves the simple formula of placing the objective of this war in terms of an unconditional surrender. . . . Unconditional surrender means not the destruction of the . . . Japanese populace, but does mean the destruction of a philosophy . . . which is based on the conquest and subjugation of other peoples.In other words, continued FDR:
We have learned that if we do not pull the fangs of the predatory animals of the world, they will multiply and grow in strength . . . [they] must be disarmed and kept disarmed, and they must abandon the philosophy which has brought so much suffering to the world.14The term “Unconditional Surrender” has been closely linked to Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who demanded “no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender” from his southern foe at Fort Donelson, Kentucky. For this victory, Grant was heroized as “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. To Americans of the time, “U. S.” stood for Ulysses S. Grant, for the United States, and for Unconditional Surrender. Americans demanded nothing less than victory, and equated victory with their own identity as a nation.
This is what we must regain today: the sense of ourselves as right to drive victoriously over a viciously evil enemy. We must demand the unconditional surrender of the Islamic State in Iran—and of every other Islamic Totalitarian State on earth—to the legitimate laws of man, the laws that protect individual rights. Every Islamic cleric must renounce the goal of inciting his audience to jihad; he must proclaim, loudly and openly, his repudiation of Islamic law; he must state his intention to live under the laws of men in accordance with the requirements of man’s life on earth. Every Muslim intellectual must denounce the Islamic State as an aberration and a monstrosity, as being contrary to the requirements of life on earth. Immediate, personal destruction can be the only alternative.
If it is true that the majority of Middle Eastern people want a decent free life for themselves—as the vast majority of Japanese did after August, 1945—then they will rejoice over the excision of Totalitarian Islam from their midst. They will cheer for the freedom to make their own decisions about their own lives. They will react as the Japanese did—by embracing a constitutional government that renounces war, by purging state religion from the schools, by excising militarism from the media, and by building corporations rather than suicide cults. But if they do not, the unconditional surrender of Islamic Totalitarianism must be taken to mean its political defeat: There will be no negotiations over the place of Islam in government, for it has no such place.
Americans, and all lovers of civilization, must realize something: We can do this. This is not some Platonic ideal, good in theory but unattainable in practice. We Americans can—and must—re-establish our integrity by re-uniting our ideals and our actions. History is on our side here. In relative terms, the physical forces facing America and her allies in 1941 were far more formidable than those we face today, and America then was far weaker militarily. In our own day, the technological and industrial superiority of the U.S. over the Middle East is staggering. Islamic warriors can shoot an AK-47, but they cannot build one; all of the arms possessed by Islamic countries come from outside those countries. They are pathetically weak; the American army ended the regime of Saddam Hussein in three weeks, after Iran could not beat him in eight years. Our overwhelming material advantage, however, will be of no help if we lack the will to drop a bomb—or if we use our forces to strengthen our enemies. As it was for Germany and Japan in the 1930s, so it is today: The power of the Islamic Totalitarians grows every day that we wait. The strategic balance will shift—the Islamic Totalitarians will have the capacity as well as the will to bring about the nuclear Armageddon that they so deeply crave—if Iran acquires nuclear bombs. It is not a kindness to wait, knowing that our response will have to be even more lethal after a mushroom cloud rises over American soil. To wait, in light of that knowledge, is irrational—criminally irrational.
The need to understand the gravity of this situation—and our capacity to prevent a catastrophe—is particularly urgent at this moment in time. It is obvious that the defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 mid-term elections was a repudiation of President Bush’s policies in this war. But it is more important to understand that President Bush has not mounted an offensive strategy, and that an offensive strategy is not the reason why American troops are dying in Iraq. There has been no drive to victory, only a string of casualties and the progressive discouragement of the American people. As a result, our primary enemy has been strengthened, and allowed to address the world as a leader just a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. (Imagine Hitler being granted this privilege.) Bush’s war strategy of non-war has resulted in a functional paralysis caused by our self-imposed failure to identify and confront open and avowed enemies.
What has been demonstrably repudiated by the actions of the Bush administration is not the first of the options I presented, but the second. What has been tried and has failed are the altruistic, pragmatic policies of an administration that is as desperate to appear tough as it is to avoid being tough. The Democrats—the party that won World War II by dropping two atomic bombs—have an opportunity to regain a position of moral stature before the American people. Should they not do so—should they choose to retreat—then their unwillingness to value the lives of American citizens over the lives of foreign enemies will be made clear, and the Democrats will be seen as no better, no more principled, no more courageous, and no more American than the Republicans.
Our military capacities are not in doubt today. It is our moral self-confidence that is in question. What was it that stopped us from confronting Iran in 1979, except a lack of confidence in our own rightness, and an unwillingness to defend ourselves for our own sakes? Had we removed the Iranian regime in 1979, thousands of Americans would have been saved, and children across the world would not have grown up with sword verses rising in their minds as they give their lives to jihad. Consider the Japanese—and ask whether it would have been in our interest to have left the regime of 1945 in power, to continue preaching religious militarism and training kamikaze. The best thing Americans did for themselves (and, incidentally, the kindest thing for the Japanese) was to burn that regime to the ground. So it is today. The Islamic State—Totalitarian Islam—must go. And it is the moral responsibility of every American to demand it.