Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has posted on a difference of opinion between Bill Ardolino at INDC and Rusty at the Jawa Report. The debate concerns whether or not we should consider ourselves to be at war with Islam. Rusty takes the positive position, pointing out that the doctrines of Islam constitute a political ideology. Bill disagrees, arguing that the political component of Islam is optional, and that we can't afford to alienate modern Muslims because we need their assistance in the war--to put it more strongly, he does not think we can win without their assistance.
I disagree emphatically with the latter. If it were true, I believe that would mean that we have lost the war already. I'll expand more on that below, but first my opinion on Islam and politics.
My opinion about religion is summed up in the title of my blog. I don't believe in God. Still, I recognize that not all religions are equal. I believe that Christians have an easier time accepting the separation of Church and State because Jesus explicitly denied having any political goals. His concern was with the next world, not this one. Mohammed was concerned with both, and he laid down a strict set of laws for Muslims to obey. In that, Islam is similar to Judaism. Moses gave the Israelites a set of laws to live by, and ancient Israel was a theocracy. Today, Jews treat the Law of Moses as personal rules of conduct rather than as laws which must be enforced through the government.
It is possible that Muslims could make a similar adjustment. Those who live in free countries already do, although not all of them have relinquished the goal of establishing Sharia as the law in their adopted countries, as we saw with the protestors in London who carried placards calling for the decapitation of the cartoonists and the destruction of Europe. They believe that their law was given to them by God, as recorded in the Koran, and that God wants them to enforce it. Not to do so is to break faith with Him. Mohammed himself set the precedent for conversion through conquest, and spreading the jurisdiction of Islamic law by the sword.
Of course, any holy book is subject to interpretation. Neither Jews nor Christians obey the Law of Moses by carrying out capital punishment for idolatry. It takes a lot for a people to reach the point where they decide that a reinterpretation is necessary, though. For Jews it was the Diaspora, in which they were expelled from the holy land by the Romans after numerous rebellions against the Roman occupation. Deprived of a state, they no longer had the power to enforce the Law of Moses except as a set of cultural norms that they carried with them to the regions where they settled.
For Christians the crisis was the Protestant Rebellion and the sectarian wars that resulted from it. In the wake of Luther's challenge of Church corruption, interpretation of the Bible splintered like the shards of a broken mirror. Where before a monolithic church had been able to suppress dissent through persecution, corruption had eroded the foundation of its moral authority. Initially the new sects were fully as intolerant as the church had been. In those places where they acquired power, the persecuted became the persecutors. Beginning with a few lone voices, though, the idea of religious toleration began to take hold. Eventually it had to be recognized that enforcing religious orthodoxy was not worth the cost in blood and destruction of wealth.
It took about three hundred years of slaughter to reach that point though--and this, even though Jesus explicitly said his kingdom was not of this world. How much more difficult will it be for those who worship a prophet who claimed to have established the kingdom of God on Earth?
In order for Muslims to reach the point where they feel it is necessary to reinterpret the Koran, they will have to see the philosophy of jihad fail utterly and completely. Only bitter experience can dislodge them from that long held religious doctrine. The war will not be won until the Muslim world has accepted the principle of religious toleration. Just as with Judaism and Christianity, Islam will not adopt that principle until Muslims realize that rejecting it only brings death and destruction. Since we are the target of their jihad, it has fallen to us to demonstrate the principle by prosecuting this war against them to the full extent of our power.
We cannot negotiate the terms under which we will live. We cannot give up one ounce of our freedom. To do so would be a defeat, and every defeat demonstrates that jihad can succeed. That is why we cannot engage moderate Muslims in debate. They know where we stand--we are not a mystery to each other. The reason we are at war is because their society has rejected our principles. Not just the governments, not just the radicals, but Muslim society in general. If there is to be an engagement, then they must move to us. They must distance themselves from the forces of intolerance unambiguously, and give us their wholehearted support. That has to be our fundamental principle in the ideological war. It can be summarized in the implacable words of our Forefathers: Live free, or die!
If it turns out that we cannot win this war without the help of Muslim "moderates", that is, if we cannot win without making some concession of principle, without muzzling ourselves, without accepting some diminution of freedom, then we cannot win at all. Any compromise of freedom is defeat, both in the short term and in the long term. If we need the moderates to win, then they become the brokers of our freedom. They get to set a price on our victory and make demands of us that we must meet or lose their support, and with their support the war.
But how could it be that the nation with the world's mightiest military, a nation armed to the teeth with nuclear warheads, cannot win this war without the help of people who, if they agree at all with us, must necessarily be powerless in their own countries? That claim rests on this foundation: the belief that we cannot use our full force in prosecuting this war. We cannot use nuclear weapons. We cannot destroy whole populations with bombs. We cannot level cities, as we did in WWII. We must proceed softly. Gently. We must finesse the war, because using the brute strength which we have in abundance won't succeed.
The knee-jerk response is that we cannot kill 1.2 billion people. My response to that is, if killing 1.2 billion people is the only way we can survive as a free nation, then hell yes we can!
I do not know, militarily, what the requirements would be for our victory. There has never before been a war, though, in which one side had to totally wipe out the other side in order to win. Genocide has been carried out for the sake of racism and out of cruelty, but it has never been a necessary tool of war. I cannot predict, though, how many people would have to die in order for us to win. It seems to me that that figure will depend on how many of the enemy are willing to become martyrs in their attempt to subjugate us. Religious fanaticism encourages martyrdom, so the figure might be quite high. Whatever the figure is, we must not be held hostage by the body count.
Morality does not require us to accept dhimmitude rather than take on the responsibility of killing in our own self-defense. It demands the opposite! Those who would rather accept slavery or death than inflict casualties on the enemy have bought into one of the most monstrously evil notions of morality ever invented. It would make a slave of every human being on the Earth. We must reject it, and assert our moral right to kill in our self-defense.