Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Time for War, and a Time for Propaganda

Wretchard at the Belmont Club has a discussion going concerning Rumsfield's complaint that we are being beaten by the Islamists in the propaganda war. I have participated in a number of discussions at BC in the past week, and have been attempting to press the point that what prevents us from fighting an all-out war is Christian altruism.

The people who have responded to me generally maintain that the Bible does allow the Christian to take up the sword in self-defense. Most of their references have been to quotes from the Old Testament, but also a few quotes from the New Testament taken out of context. My response to the former is that whatever violent actions God is recorded to have commanded in the Old Testament apply only to the time and situation that obtained then. They were not given as principles to live by for all time. My response to the latter is that it is not even worth debating whether Jesus counseled pacifism. He is not called the Lamb of Peace for nothing. His commandment to love thy enemies and turn the other cheek are unequivocal.

Of course, Christians have long found it necessary to look for ways around Jesus's pacifism when faced with a choice between self-defense and death. I do not accuse them of hypocrisy for choosing life, but of hypocrisy for retaining an ideal which does not serve life. My purpose, though, has not been even to accuse, but to goad. If they have an exclusion clause in the commandment to turn the other cheek, then by all means let's invoke it and put an end to this war.

The danger in that is that a resurgent, militant Christianity will seek to impose its will on those at home while it is imposing its will on our enemies abroad. I've pointed out before that there are many who want to frame the war as a holy war. (It was, in fact, as a response to such arguments at the Belmont Club that I began this blog.)

The majority of posters at the Belmont Club, though, seem to think that what is needed in the war are better words. Like Rumsfield, they think we should be trying to win the hearts and minds of our enemies. To some, better words means arguing more convincingly for liberal society, to others it means addressing Muslims by making use of the Koran and Islamic history to make our points, and to others it means using theological arguments to counter what is a theologicial position. I posted what follows on the Belmont Club as a reply to that latter position, but it applies equally to any attempt to convince Muslims that we are right and they are wrong.

I don't think it's our job to figure out how to reconcile their beliefs with liberalism. It's up to them to either modify or abandon their beliefs. All we can do is motivate the change by showing them that their current beliefs will lead to extinction.

We are too focused on talk. There is a time for talk, and there is a time for war. Once the shooting starts, you don't stop to talk until one side is ready to surrender. Are we ready to negotiate the terms of our surrender? No? Then back to shooting. When they are ready to talk, then there might be something to talk about.

Here is a point I have been pushing, it's not a military option, but the moral basis for the military option we probably agree on: the West is liberal, but it is also Christian. Even those who claim to be secular cannot imagine an ethical system that is not consistent with the Sermon on the Mount. For that reason, they shrink in fear from what has to be done in order to win this war. We do not lack the means to win, but we lack the will. We are a six-and-a-half foot tall linebacker being beaten on by a five foot tall, dried up little shrimp. We can stop the beating anytime we want to, but we're afraid to use our full strength. Blessed are the weak, because they never have to question their moral right to pummel those stronger than them.

If we were locked into a deadly struggle with an adversary nearly our equal, if our casualty reports were roughly equal to the casualties we inflicted, then Americans would be desperate to fight this war with every weapon available to them. But given that we could wipe out hundreds of thousands of our enemies in a 24-hr period without losing a single man, Americans shrink in horror from the thought of it. How can they endorse such a merciless slaughter? "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Well, we won't find mercy, not from our enemies. They know our weakness, and they are determined to exploit it. They have been exploiting it for the past 37 years. The only thing able to trigger a strong reaction from us was the merciless slaughter of 3000 civilians. That was enough for some of us to say goodbye to mercy, but we're a small minority as yet. Let the jihadists take out an American city, and then our Christian conscience will take a nap while we return the slaughter.

When we cease to be Christian, the jihadists will cease to be. They will either be dead, or they will have discovered a previously overlooked passage in the Koran that suggests they should live in peace with all people, especially those with large bombs.

Update: More on the same theme from Onkar Ghate at Captialism Magazine.


Steven Brockerman, MS said...

See, this is what I meant by a properly secular perspective. ;o)

Anonymous said...

"The only thing able to trigger a strong reaction from us was the merciless slaughter of 3000 civilians. That was enough for some of us to say goodbye to mercy, but we're a small minority as yet. Let the jihadists take out an American city, and then our Christian conscience will take a nap while we return the slaughter."

When you said goodbye to mercy, did you mean Osama Bin Laden? Because I would agree with you on that -- bombs away! Or even hundreds of thousands jihadists all grouped together on some desert mountain -- cargo doors open, check.

But hundreds of thousands of random people in a random city who had nothing to do with a merciless slaughter of 3000 people? How is that going to work like Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Japan had a state to protect and therefore something to lose. That worked then. Jihadists are nationless with no scratch in the game. No infrastructure to lose. Not gonna work - without even mentioning how cold that is. The whole reason they attacked us was alleged mistreatment of their peoples. This would only make more of them.

I think of Jihadists like cockroaches hiding in a house, I wouldn't blow up the house to kill them. Gotta find other ways of extermination. Unless of course you have a nuclear bomb making company, then I can at least see your interest in this solution.

Ardsgaine said...

That is the crucial mistake we have made: Thinking that this war is a police action to round up or otherwise eliminate a few criminals. We're at war with a religious ideology shared by a wider culture. We can't win the war without targeting that culture. We have to destroy its adherents, its infrastructure and its philosophical underpinnings.

We can't interview individuals in a city prior to destroying it, and find out which ones are innocent and which ones support the people trying to destroy us. If there are innocents in that city, then it is up to them to separate themselves from our enemies, and put themselves out of the line of fire. We cannot be expected to forgo our own self-defense on their behalf. If we took such an uncompromising stance, I promise you that very few cities would have to be destroyed before the "moderate" Muslims decided to take on the task of clearing our enemies out of their midst.