If we can’t democratize Islam, and we can’t destroy it, then what?

Andrew McCarthy’s great statement refuting the Bush/neocon Democracy Project raises a deeper question that McCarthy will need to resolve. McCarthy is making two distinct and correct assertions: that Islam is indeed the problem; and that Islam is not just a reaction against American freedom (as the president imagines) but is a coherent belief system with a billion followers, most of whom are passionately devoted to it. This being the case, what is McCarthy’s strategy for the war on Islamic jihadism, a.k.a. the war on Islam? McCarthy says we have to defeat our enemies. Surely McCarthy is not suggesting that we can “defeat”—i.e., subdue and bring under our direct power—the whole of the Islamic world and force them to give up their religion, in the same way that we defeated and destroyed Nazi Germany and uprooted Nazism?

I would suggest that McCarthy is touching on a contradiction in his own thought process that will eventually move him toward the logic I have been enunciating for the last few years:

  1. Islam is the problem.
  2. However, we do not have the ability to destroy Islam.
  3. Nor do we have the ability to democratize Islam.
  4. Nor do we have the ability to assimilate Islam.
  5. Therefore, the only solution is to separate ourselves from Islam.

This is my rollback, isolate, and contain strategy. I assume the reader has read my two-part article, “The Search for Moderate Islam,” but, if not, here is the final section of Part II where I lay out the key elements of what I call a “civilizationist” (as distinct from “ecumenist”) strategy to defend ourselves from Islam.

From concluding web page of
The Search for Moderate Islam, Part II
If it doesn’t exist, then what?
Lawrence Auster
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 28, 2005

The civilizationist approach

[Daniel] Pipes’s second objection to the belief in permanent civilizational conflict is that it leaves us without policy options. In fact, the civilizationist perspective has given birth to a variety of proposals for coping with the Islamic menace, ranging from intellectual confrontation to military confrontation to radical changes in immigration policy.

Bat Ye’or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam and the soon-to-be published Eurabia, has said that our aim as Westerners should not be to save the soul of Islam but to save ourselves, our values, and our civilization. The approach she urges is primarily intellectual: we must stop closing our eyes to the reality of jihad, stop blaming ourselves for Muslim terrorism, and stop imposing crippling taboos on our own speech. Instead, we must openly discuss the Muslims’ jihadist beliefs, both among ourselves and with the Muslims. This would force them to face the truth about themselves, which in turn might bring about a positive alteration in their outlook and demands. An unstated premise of Bat Ye’or’s argument is that Muslims cannot change themselves. We must help them do it—or rather, we must put them in a position where they will have no choice but to moderate their own attitudes and behavior toward us. Bullies respect strength.

A corollary is that any such positive changes in Muslim attitudes could only be temporary. This is because the changes would not be the result of any organic development arising from within the Muslim community, but of pressure and rebuke coming from without. As soon as that external pressure and rebuke were withdrawn, as soon as the West reached out a hand of friendship and tolerance, the Muslims would return to their “default” mode, which is jihad. Therefore, as long as Islam exists, the only solution to the problem of Islam is to keep the Islamic world in a powerless condition, as it had been through all of modern times until 1979. Western criticism of and confrontation with Islam must be permanent.

On the military side, Mark Helprin of the Claremont Review has proposed a World War II-scale expansion of American military capabilities plus a permanent U.S. base located in an isolated though strategically central spot in the Mideast or Persian Gulf region, giving us the ability to destroy any Muslim regime that becomes dangerous to us. Helprin rejects any notion of occupying and reconstructing a Muslim country after we topple its government. The purpose of his strategy is not to reform or democratize the internal politics of terror-supporting Muslim societies, as President Bush and the neoconservatives seek to do, but to make militant Muslim leaders realize that they have no hope of harming us and that they face the loss of their regimes and their lives if they try. Once they get this message, they will change their behavior. In Helprin’s military plan, as in Bat Ye’or’s proposal for intellectual confrontation with Islam, the West does not seek to change the Muslims, but places them in circumstances, not of their choosing, where they will be pushed to change themselves. The demand is not that they become democrats and liberals, but only that they cease being dangerous to us.

Angelo Codevilla, also at the Claremont Review, goes further than his colleague Mark Helprin, advocating the outright destruction of several terror- and jihad- supporting Muslim regimes, either by killing the members ourselves (about 2,000 in each country) or, better, turning them over to their domestic enemies. This, he says, is the only way real regime change occurs in the Arab and Muslim world. Like Helprin, Codevilla advises that we have no interest in occupying these countries or building democracies there. The precise borders and political systems of Mideastern Arab societies are not our concern. We’re not trying to create a positive, we’re only trying to eliminate a negative—the international network of jihadist and Ba’athist terrorists and the regimes that make them possible.

Let us also note the remarkable fact that Helprin and Codevilla, who reject the need for universal democracy and accept civilizational differences, talk about killing only the top 2,000 regime members in several hostile countries, while Mark Goldblatt, who sees universal democracy as the only long-range solution, warns that if universal democracy fails we will have to kill millions of innocent Muslims.

Finally, there is the immigration side of the problem. I have proposed at FrontPage Magazine a set of policies—the end of mass Muslim immigration, the deportation of all jihad-supporting resident aliens and naturalized citizens, the closing of Wahhabi mosques, and the explicit abandonment of multiculturalism—aimed at achieving a net out-migration of Muslims from this country. If we reduce both the jihadism and the numbers of the U.S. Muslim immigrant community, those who remain will no longer pose a cultural or physical danger to us, simply because they will have become a relatively insignificant group. Or rather, they will have been made insignificant, by our decisive actions. As with Bat Ye’or’s, Helprin’s, and Codevilla’s proposals, the aim of my plan is not to reform the Muslims, i.e., to “assimilate” them to our way of life, but to confront them and diminish their power. Those policies will have the effect of encouraging the reduced U.S. Muslim population to adapt themselves more to our society, or choose voluntarily to leave.

Whatever the specific proposal may be, the basic civilizationist idea is to speak the truth about Islam, to confront Islam, and to contain Islam. It is to initiate a net out-migration of Muslims from the West and to isolate the Muslim world in its historic lands. It is to restore the Realm of Islam to the powerless and quiescent condition in which it resided during the early modern period. We of the West, along with other non-Muslim peoples, cannot be safe co-existing in this world with Islam, unless Islam has no ability and opportunity to affect us.

Years ago the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb called for the “re-moralization” of society—the reviving of the moral fiber and discipline that had made earlier generations of Westerners, particularly the Victorians, such strong, disciplined, and self-confident people, whereas we have become unsure, guilt-ridden, and disbelieving in ourselves and our culture. If I may coin a phrase, I would suggest that alongside the re-moralization of our own society, what we need today is the re-demoralization of Islamic society.

Of course, Daniel Pipes says: militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.

But I say: Islam is the problem. The defeat and re-demoralization of Islam, combined with the steady return of Muslims from the West to their own countries, is the solution.

Many people will condemn me for saying that Islam is dangerous and must be suppressed. They will say that there are good and deeply rewarding things about Islam, at least from the Muslims’ perspective.

But the key point, from our perspective, is that Islam can only be “good” when it has no power. As soon as Muslims achieve power relative to non-Muslims, or feel that they are gaining such power or that they can gain such power, then the jihad aspect of Islam automatically kicks in. When we make a cult out of “moderate” Muslims, we are, in the long run, helping Muslims gain power. Their moderateness will revert, sooner or later, to militancy, but they will still have the power—and the moral sanction—that we gave them. The only way to keep Islam’s inherent tendency toward jihadism in abeyance is to keep Muslims in a situation where they have no influence over non-Muslims and no chance of achieving it.

To weaken Islam in the manner I’m suggesting is not to deny the Muslims’ humanity. Powerlessness or defeat is not what most deeply bothers Muslims, but the loss of honor. As they have demonstrated over and over in their history, they view honorable defeat, even honorable death, as desiderata. Thus Muslims can be powerless, and still keep their honor. It should be the goal of our policy to return the Islamic world to that salutary condition.

Once that has happened, Western students and romantics of Islam could still pursue friendships and cultural interchanges with Muslims. Such inter-cultural contacts would no longer be dangerous because they would no longer be premised on the myth that Islam is benevolent to non-Muslims. If we want the possibility of decent human relations between individual Westerners and Muslims, we must defang the dar al-Islam and keep it that way. Lasting peace—or, rather, the absence of violence—can only be achieved through Western strength and dominance, not through trying to make friends with a non-existent moderate Islam. Under such circumstances a more decent type of Islam may arise. But, as I’ve said over and over, it will have arisen only because we confined the Muslims to narrower quarters on this globe.

Summary and conclusion

Two starkly different paths lie before us.

If we pursue the course of ecumenism, we will embark on a decades-long attempt to turn Muslims into moderate Muslims. The endeavor would become the central political project and moral commitment of our society, an obsessive, irrational quest that—like the Oslo “peace” process—we could never permit ourselves to abandon, no matter how many times it had failed. In the process we would empower Islam and lose ourselves.

If we pursue the course of civilizational defense, we will unstring Islam as a global force by decreasing Muslims’ presence in the West and containing them within their historic lands. Once the two civilizations are no longer in each other’s faces, our freedom and safety will no longer depend on our begging, cajoling, and bribing them to give up their deepest convictions.

Which path is more promising? The path of civilizational realism, in which we recognize Islam as our eternal adversary and act accordingly, or the path of the civilizational peace process, in which we look on a billion Muslims as moderates who have somehow failed so far to realize that they are moderates, but who—we devoutly believe—will somehow discover that they are moderates if we keep trying hard enough to convince them of that fact?

FrontPageMagazine.com | January 28, 2005

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 21, 2006 08:24 AM | Send

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