Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The Clash of Civilizations?"

Originally published by Real Clear Politics - July 28, 2007

"The Clash of Civilizations?" This is the title of a well-known book of essays published by Foreign Affairs. Only, I think, in the West would this phrase be followed by a question mark.

To our Islamist enemies the issues are crystal clear. The concepts are easily understood, simple and straight-forward. In their own words, they are soldiers in a righteous war, a war between Muslims and non-Muslims. There is little room here for ambiguity. Their goals in this war are to destroy Christianity, undermine the power of the West and subject the world to sharia law.

In the West, by contrast, the issues are confusing and our goals are muddled. We are still mired down in a battle of legalistic semantics. While we are attempting to more precisely define the enemy, they simple say, "Death to the infidel!" and plant another bomb.

Sooner or later we are going to have to face up to a disturbing truth -- throughout the universal ummah the Islamist message -- regardless of its conspiracy theory lunacies and its surrealistic expectations -- resonates. It gains more eager converts daily. Of course, it's that same old siren song of victimization, only sung in a different voice. It offers those same old promises -- the promise of power regained, the promise of a new found relevancy for previously irrelevant peoples. It offers self-respect and dignity -- and a shiny new sword.

We keep talking about the "moderate Muslims", as though they could (even assuming that they would want to) somehow extricate us from this growing peril. To me, these 'moderate Muslims' are behaving in almost exactly the same way as those Eastern European countries -- Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, et al -- behaved at the beginning of WWII. They were hedging their bets. They were waiting on the sidelines to see who would come out stronger, the Axis or the Allies. Unfortunately for them, they bet on the wrong team and ended their days on the frozen tundra of the Russian steppes.

For most Westerners, certainly for most Americans, it's so much easier to accept the concept of a peaceful religion which has been 'hijacked' by a fanatical few -- as Germany had been 'hijacked' by the Nazis -- rather than having to contemplate that awful alternative: that a major world religion could, itself, be violent and that we are, indeed, in the first days of an inevitable and bloody "Clash of Civilisations".

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