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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

This is in a way one of the most important questions we are faced with these days. David Brooks makes the point that we are fighting an ideology, rather than terror:

We are facing, the report notes, a loose confederation of people who believe in a perverted stream of Islam that stretches from Ibn Taimaya to Sayyid Qutb. Terrorism is just the means they use to win converts to their cause.
It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory.
. . .
Last week, I met with a leading military officer stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose observations dovetailed remarkably with the 9/11 commissioners. He said the experience of the last few years is misleading; only 10 percent of our efforts from now on will be military. The rest will be ideological. He observed that we are in the fight against Islamic extremism now where we were in the fight against communism in 1880.
We've got a long struggle ahead, but at least we're beginning to understand it.

I was going to respond to this at length, but I noticed Michael Ledeen already has:

All of a sudden everybody's asking, "Who are we fighting anyway?" It's an interesting question, but it's not nearly as important as many of the debaters believe. The 9/11 Commission tells us we're fighting Islamists, or Islamist terrorists, and David Brooks has cooed over this, because he likes the notion that we're fighting an ideology. The White House has devoted lots of man-hours to this matter,
. . .
You see where I'm going, surely. The debate is a trap, because it diverts our attention and our energies from the main thing, which is winning the war. It's an intellectual amusement, and it gets in our way. As that great Machiavellian Vince Lombardi reminds us, winning is the only thing.
That's why the public figure who has best understood the nature of the war, and has best defined our enemy, is George W. Bush. Of all people! He had it right from the start: We have been attacked by many terrorist groups and many countries that support the terrorists. It makes no sense to distinguish between them, and so we will not. We're going after them all.
. . .
But all the terror masters are tyrants. Saddam didn't have any religious standing, nor do the Assads, but they are in the front rank of the terror masters. Ergo: Defeat the tyrants, win the war.
And then historians can study the failed ideology.

I have little to add, except caution. Unlike Ledeen I don't believe that the military defeat of terrorists and their sponsors will automatically destroy their ideology. The ideological war must be fought and won with ideological weapons. By whom, though? Not by the West, we can't do this. Muslims must do this for themselves, to find a way of reinterpreting Islam and particularly political Islam in a way that make it possible to coexistent peacefully with the West. When and how they will do this is anyone's guess, but Western meddling in the process will be counter-productive. The only thing we can do is defend ourselves against those who threaten us. To the extent that we need to wage an ideological war it is amongst ourselves, to win the hearts and minds for our battle to defend ourselves. For the West there is only a military solution to Islamofascist terror. Until the civil war within Islam comes to end we are just going to have to hold our nerves and stand firm. No alternative.


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