The terms "maximalism" and "minimalism" are used with great regularity in biblical studies [primarily by Middle Eastern Archaeologists to refer to the degree of their acceptance of the biblical narrative as historical truth. Those who believe that the Bible is mostly figurative and contains very few reliable historical references refer to themselves as Minimalists. Whereas those researchers who believe that the Bible is actually an archaeologically-substantiated historical record describe themselves as Maximalists]. To the best of my knowledge, these terms were coined by William W. Hallo in his 1989 Presidential Address to the American Oriental Society, published as "The Limits of Skepticism" in the Journal of the American Oriental Society 110 (1990): 187-199.
A note from Radarsite: For the purposes of the following article I have borrowed the terms Minimalism and Maximalism from the biblical archaeologists. It is my hope that by reframing the concept of this Global War On Terror (GWOT), we can gain a more meaningful appreciation of what we are actually up against: that is, whether or not we are actually in a war, and if we are in a war, what this war actually is and is not. I believe that these two terms more accurately define the true nature of our national differences than do our present inadequate and often confusing labels of Democrats or Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, Pacifists or Warmongerers. Here then is a new paradigm. We begin with the Minimalists. - rg
There are two diametrically opposed views on our current "War on Terror", what it is, and how it should be prosecuted. The minimalists hold the view that the problems issuing from Islam are not representative of Islam as a whole, but are rather discreet and episodic criminal actions, perpetrated by a fanatical few. Therefore, they believe, that the proper response to these provocations should likewise be discreet and contained. By no means should we reproach, hold responsible, or punish all Muslims for the actions of a few. It is the minimalists' fundamental belief in the inherent goodness of all humankind that drives them and sustains their worldview. With a few rather negligible exceptions, for the past four decades American foreign policy has been directed by the minimalists. Beginning with the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 (and, arguably, even some centuries before this event) we have treated these ongoing and escalating Muslim attacks against the West in general and Americans in particular as isolated criminal activities -- as opposed to what many believe are clearly acts of war. Our responses have therefore been -- to be somewhat kind and euphemistic -- 'measured'. Our national response to the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979, for example, was one failed and pathetically ill-advised helicopter attack. And that was it. And since 1979? Here is a partial list of what followed, together with our subsequent responses.
1993 World Trade Center bombing, New York. Truck bomb set off in basement of 110 story tower blocks holding up to 50,000 people. 6 killed, 1,000 injured but tens of thousands of civilians escape down stairs.
Law enforcement and Intelligence Response: tracks down and convicts some members of Osama Bin Laden's gang on US soil, including 'blind Sheik' Omar.
1995 Operation Bojinka (Airliner hijack, bomb) plots foiled by US intelligence, Bin Laden believed responsible.
multiple airliners intended hijacked over Pacific.
Arrest of Ramzi Youssef yields his computer with good intelligence.
1996 Khobar towers barracks bombed in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US troops.
Protective response: since intelligence was hard to come by, the US moved and secured its barracks more carefully.
1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya, Tanzania: 224 killed, many civilians wounded outside. Intelligence believed Bin Laden was responsible.
Military Response: Clinton administration ordered bombings of a pure drugs factory in Sudan and a bunker headquarters in Afghanistan. Neither holding any terrorists, the retaliation was unsatisfactory.
2000 USS Cole, guided missile destroyer, bombed in Aden harbor by small boat with suicidal crew; 17 killed but ship is saved; intelligence indicates Bin Laden responsible. Owing to military target, probably not to be defined as terrorism.
2000 millennial bombings plotted but foiled by US intelligence. Several major incidents are found in captured plans. Plotters have links to Al Qaeda.
Law enforcement: 2000-2001 some plotters from previous Al Qaeda bombings tried and convicted in US courts.
The Clinton Administration offers us a perfect example of the minimalist response to Islamist terrorist attacks against Americans. Here is an excerpt from National Review's excellent Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez with Richard Miniter, "Clinton's Loss?". Richard Miniter is a Brussels-based investigative journalist. His new book, Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror has just been released by Regnery.
How [did] the previous [Clinton] administration fumble on bin Laden?
1. Did not follow-up on the attempted bombing of Aden marines in Yemen.
2. Shut the CIA out of the 1993 WTC bombing investigation, hamstringing their effort to capture bin Laden.
3. Had Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key bin Laden lieutenant, slip through their fingers in Qatar.
4. Did not militarily react to the al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 5. Did not accept the Sudanese offer to turn bin Laden.
6. Did not follow-up on another offer from Sudan through a private back channel.
7. Objected to Northern Alliance efforts to assassinate bin Laden in Afghanistan.
8. Decided against using special forces to take down bin Laden in Afghanistan.
9. Did not take an opportunity to take into custody two al Qaeda operatives involved in the East African embassy bombings. In another little scoop, I am able to show that Sudan arrested these two terrorists and offered them to the FBI. The Clinton administration declined to pick them up and they were later allowed to return to Pakistan.
10. Ordered an ineffectual, token missile strike against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory.
11. Clumsily tipped off Pakistani officials sympathetic to bin Laden before a planned missile strike against bin Laden on August 20, 1998. Bin Laden left the camp with only minutes to spare.
12-14. Three times, Clinton hesitated or deferred in ordering missile strikes against bin Laden in 1999 and 2000.
15. When they finally launched and armed the Predator spy drone plane, which captured amazing live video images of bin Laden, the Clinton administration no longer had military assets in place to strike the archterrorist.
16. Did not order a retaliatory strike on bin Laden for the murderous attack on the USS Cole.
Minimalists base their threat assessments on mostly secondary sources, i.e., their stable of policy experts, popular pundits, authors, and MSM reports. These appreciations tend to align with their pre-disposed, all-encompassing liberal worldview: All people are basically good, and want the same things. It is only a matter of dealing with the few 'bad apples' amongst them. To the minimalists, the threat itself is suspect, often the product of the maximalist's overactive imagination, or, more menacingly, a total fabrication contrived by the maximalists in order to achieve more power. For the minimalists, the less we do the better.
How do the maximalists perceive the threat of Islamic terror? Unlike their ideological opponents, the maximalists base their appreciation of the Muslim world threat on primary sources: the Koran, the Hadiths and the Sura; the writings of the terrorists and their mentors themselves; the clearly-stated objectives of the various Islamist terror organizations, such as Hamas, Hezbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. The maximalists believe that the problem begins and ends with Islam itself; that the lure of victimization is bringing more and more Muslims to answer the call for Jihad. The maximalists believe that Muslim aggression against the Infidel, rather than being a logical reaction to some recent Western outrage, is an historical core precept of Islam. By its very nature, the free and democratic West is, was, and always will be the sworn enemy of Islam. This latest incarnation of Muslim holy war against the West is a continuation of this age-old war of pre-ordained conquest. Here is a relatively concise example of the maximalist's view of our Islamic enemies:
Ideology and Goals
The principal stated aims of al-Qaeda are to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia; destroy Israel; and topple pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle East. Bin Laden has also said that he wishes to unite all Muslims and establish, by force if necessary, an Islamic nation adhering to the rule of the first Caliphs.
According to bin Laden's 1998 fatwa (religious decree), it is the duty of Muslims around the world to wage holy war on the U.S., American citizens, and Jews. Muslims who do not heed this call are declared apostates (people who have forsaken their faith).
Al-Qaeda's ideology, often referred to as "jihadism," is marked by a willingness to kill "apostate" —and Shiite—Muslims and an emphasis on jihad. Although "jihadism" is at odds with nearly all Islamic religious thought, it has its roots in the work of two modern Sunni Islamic thinkers: Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb.
Al-Wahhab was an 18th-century reformer who claimed that Islam had been corrupted a generation or so after the death of Mohammed. He denounced any theology or customs developed after that as non-Islamic, including more than 1,000 years of religious scholarship. He and his supporters took over what is now Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism remains the dominant school of religious thought.
Sayyid Qutb, a radical Egyptian scholar of the mid-20th century, declared Western civilization the enemy of Islam, denounced leaders of Muslim nations for not following Islam closely enough, and taught that jihad should be undertaken not just to defend Islam, but to purify it.
Here is more from the eminent Brigitte Gabriel.
During this first month of the New Year 2009, we have seen some stunning
developments that, considered together, should leave absolutely no doubt about the rising radical Islamic threat on our doorsteps in America.
I have been warning Americans since 2002 about this threat, and that the threat is not just confined to terrorism. This is not a "war on terror." Terror is a tactic, one of many in the arsenal of radical Islamists.
I have been declaring, to anyone who would listen, that Islamists are well on their way to subverting and transforming Europe, and they are riding that wave here to America.
I have told my personal story, of how Islamists, step by step, took over my country of Lebanon. How they used our freedoms and commitment to tolerance and multiculturalism against us to further their ultimate ends. And how they are using the same strategies and tactics against us in the West. In just the past three weeks we have seen:. A violent Islamic protest in Britain, where an angry mob shouting "Allahu Akbar" chased - yes, chased - dozens of British policemen for blocks. You must see this video to believe it! (Please be warned - there is offensive language and profanity). Click here<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97hyDRjdXCE> to see this shocking video.
Pro-Hamas, anti-Israel Muslims conducting demonstrations here in America, shouting praises to Hitler for what he did to the Jews, yelling "go back to the ovens," and at times physically attacking counter-protestors. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals ordering the prosecution of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders because he has made statements
deemed "insulting" and harmful to "the religious esteem" of Muslims. Austrian parliamentarian Susanne Winter convicted of "incitement," <http://www.investigativeproject.org/ext/2255> because of public statements she has made, including the claim that the prophet Mohammed was a pedophile.
Muslim protest marches in Italy that ended with the protestors, in an obvious act of intimidation, conducting mass prayer vigils directly in front of Catholic places of worship.. The release of an official U.S. government report<http://thebulletin.us/articles/2009/01/23/top_stories/doc49781a64e0d2b381984861.txt> stating that Hezbollah is forming terrorist cells here in the U.S.that could
The UN continuing to move ahead with the "Durban II" conference and its document that is little more than an anti-Israel rant that calls for suppressing public "defamation" of religion - notably Islam. This has
run parallel to an effort by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to get the UN Human Rights Commission to pass a resolution condemning public"defamation" of Islam.
My friends, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. Radical Islam is on the march, and it is growing stronger and bolder with every passing day. What elected official in Europe or the UK will now have the courage to speak out against this threat? Certainly the actions against parliamentarians Wilders and Winter will ultimately have a chilling effect on American elected officials as well. How many more "no-go zones," Muslim enclaves here non-Muslims and even police officers fear to go, will appear in Europe? We're already seeing such enclaves develop here in America right now. There's a reason why Dearborn, Michigan, is frequently referred to as "Dearbornistan."
What will happen in America when 50,000 ranting, chanting Islamist
demonstrators attempt to aggressively back down and chase police officers trying to maintain order? Will the police use the force necessary? If they do, we can expect howls from groups like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations).
How will government officials respond? And if the police back down and run, as they recently did in Britain, what message is being sent to radical Islamists?
With the recent announcements by the Obama administration regarding ending the use of certain coercive interrogation practices, will this administration have the courage and use the tools necessary to protect us from Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda terrorist cells in our midst?It is becoming crystal clear that 2009 is going to be a critical year in our effort to roll back the rising tide of Islamofascism.
Obviously, Brigitte Gabriel is a maximalist.
While, as we have seen, for the minimalists, less is better, the maximalists see the present GWOT in a much larger frame of reference. The combat in which we are presently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, is perceived to be just battles in this monumental Clash of Civilizations, this existential war of barbarism against civilization. The repercussions of this great clash are truly global. Our enemies, and our allies alike, are watching this great contest unfold and shaping their future foreign policy on how they perceive our strengths and weaknesses. It is no accident, that by our wavering on our military commitment in Iraq, we are showing these watchers our weaknesses, our adolescent impatience, and our lack of will, and consequently the Russians, the Chinese, and even the puny potentates of the world, like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong Ill are beginning to rattle their sabers. Thus, we maximalists view this GWOT as an immense struggle with huge stakes involved. In our view, this great struggle has just begun, and our collective future will be formed by the efficacy of our response.
A few final thoughts.
Unfortunately, the line between the maximalists' worldview and that of the minimalists is often blurred and indistinct. It cannot be neatly delineated by party affiliation. There are maximalists and minimalists on both sides of the aisle. Immediately following 9/11, President Bush himself described Islam as a "religion of peace", hijacked by a few fanatics -- a perfect expression of minimalism. Thus, even this brave president who brought the GWOT to the terrorists ( and paid a huge political price for doing so) has, by his often inscrutable statements, helped to muddy the waters, and drain our collective will to fight.
Is it any wonder then that the American public is so torn apart and confused? When our own leaders have so often shown an astonishing ignorance of the true nature of our enemies, how can we expect more from a grossly-misinformed, or purposely-manipulated public?
Finally, however, there is such a thing as personal responsibility. It is no longer feasible to claim ignorance; there is just too much information out there. It is no longer a valid excuse to say that you are too busy to study the issues involved. It is no longer morally conscionable to walk the fence between these two diametrically opposed views of our world. We must understand the differences between the two and we must choose. Our future will be determined by which path we take.
Ominously, by our choice this past November, we have, it seems, embraced the dangerous delusions of the minimalists. Is it too late to change course? Is it too late for the Western World?
God only knows - rg
Comment to this article transposted from StopThe ACLU:
AirborneVet on January 29th, 2009 6:16 pm
As a person with a degree in Middle East Studies, and over 10 years experience teaching and dealing with this subject and with Islam, I very much enjoyed your assessment here concerning minimalists and maximalists. It fits the GWOT concept very well. Only in the end, will we find out which approach was best. Personally, I agree with the Maximalist point of view.
And this latest from Iran