26 August, 2006

Check or Checkmate? Death by Cop on the Global Stage

It's finally hit me: we're stuck. Seriously stuck. We have been for years and are only starting to realize it - and only at the margins. In a very real sense, we've been check-mated by Islamofascism, and specifically Iran.

Let's play out a few scenarios, albeit from 50,000 feet:

Iran continues to take action towards building a nuclear bomb and doesn't even work very hard to try and hide the fact. Oh, they continue to dissemble in public statements, but only enough to keep the useful idiots fired up and the world divided.

They continue to act by proxy through Syria and Hizbollah (as they have for decades) and to send out conflicting signals, knowing that it would take something utterly outrageous to get the U.S. (much less the UN or the world) to support decisive wholesale (i.e., D-Day level) action to stop their nuclear activities and/or to depose the mullahs.

In that light, a successful WMD attack on the West that kills orders of magnitude more people than 9-11 is exactly what they don't want - not yet anyway (besides the cost and risk of failure). Better to mete out the terror in dribs and drabs - 100 dead here, maybe 1000 there - just enough to keep the faithful motivated, the international jihadi terror networks primed and to keep us tied in knots (financially, socially and politically) while they slowly increase in power.

The goal of the Iranian mullahs (or at minimum, their expectation) under this scenario is to be attacked - but not decisively. They seek the kind of pulled punch that Saddam endured in Desert Storm and their distributed underground bunker systems (plus our lack of collective will for extensive collateral damage and civilian casualties) virtually ensures that such punches will be pulled. Their absolute best case would be an attack by Israel that would allow them to deepen and consolidate support in the Muslim world almost without limit.

But it remains true that a Muslim culture that's already shown its tendency to harbor grudges for centuries, even millennia, will gain generations of fodder for widespread jihad recruiting around the world after any attack.

Draw your enemy to make the first move in order to reap a much larger gain in sympathy, patriotic fervor and erosion of that enemy's resolve.

Never mind the nukes, they may think. They're nice, but ultimately the game is more about boasting that they can create them (in defiance of the West and using Islamic engineers) than about actually doing so. If they manage to build them without being opposed, so much the better, but the physical fact of obtaining them is not as essential as the political bounce they get from trying and being martyred en masse for it.

Of course if we and the Israelis think through all of these chess moves and choose not to attack, Iran continues to build the bomb anyway and of course they eventually use it (e.g., against Israel and/or as blackmail to expand their influence). Such an attack might still be Israel's last, best option to save itself even if the longer-term blowback on the rest of the West leads to Israel's loss along with our own later on. D#$%ed if we do... and if we don't.

At the same time, Islamofascism more broadly enjoys the slow, quiet encroachment of radicalism within Western culture as a result of the tolerance we generously extend to everyone. This book (Londonistan) should make that plain enough if others haven't.

Iran can play for time as the nuclear material accumulates - both in the literal sense (in the reactors) and in the figurative sense of more and more juiced-up jihadi warriors camouflaged within Western countries. The Judeo-Christian foundation of our civilization demands that we not look too hard for these individuals on the basis of their faith, culture or ethnicity.

We can choose to monitor and censor religious speech that we deem incendiary, but they know we're unlikely to go there wholesale. And if we do, they know, we only drive more converts - especially among the socially disaffected (prison populations, minorities and youth). That all begs the question of why those populations are disaffected in the first place, which points the finger back at politically correct welfare state myths and philosophies of permanent victimhood. But that's a different post.

Net/net: Advantage - Islamofascism. Which does not mean they've won the match. Yet.

We (finally) won the Cold War by forcing an acceleration in the undeniability of the internal contradictions in the Soviet system. One of the advantages that Greater Islam has been able to exploit in the West is our internal contradiction of tolerance for intolerance.

The tenets of Islam, by contrast, tend to drive away from moderation or compromise, defining them as the most egregious offenses against the almighty, punishable by death. The tenets of Islam don't just polarize (a flawed Western frame we like to apply - e.g., thinking about the difference between Southern Baptists and Unitarians). Instead, Islam draws in and ratchets: you can neither check out any time you like nor can you leave. You can only watch as your son or nephew or neighbor get more and more radical and gain more respect by doing so.

So what are the internal condradictions of radical Islam?

I don't mean the ways in which they offend our Judeo-Christian-enlightenment reverence for life, democracy, gender equality, love for freedom and all that. Within Islam, as Bernard Lewsis, Robert Spencer and other scholars of Islam make abundantly clear, those reference points carry little meaning or even negative meaning. E.g., if one embraces freedom in Islam, one embraces disrespect for the prophet, which leads to one's expulsion from Islam.

Islam's claim to loving peace is surely an internal contradiction in light of decades of terror, however it is not as powerful - again, within Islam- as those that brought down Communism. Nor are the contradictions as abundant. Soviet boasts about equality were clearly lies from the beginning, their boasts about quality of life were obviously false by the 1980's and false to those in the know by the 1960's. Their claims to military superiority became presumptively false with Reagan's initiation of SDI - the final straw.

So, where can we find these in Islam when it altogether eschews our Western reference points for validity? What if any internally critical aspects of Islam can we in the West force to the surface - force to be recognized - that would accelerate an implosion of Islamofascist ideology? Answering that question may be our last best option when Iran has already baked success scenarios based on our attacking... and our not attacking.