Ok, Islam is the enemy. Therefore, what?

(Note: This blog entry is not just about Robert Spencer. It is about the different ways of defining our enemy, and what the consequences of those different definitions are.)

Jeff in England writes:

Here we go again! How can Robert Spencer keep saying that we (policy analysts, Bush, all of us) have to name the enemy as Islam itself when he won’t say that that enemy absolutely shouldn’t be allowed into our Western countries. When we criticise him for not doing so he gets all defensive and says he never said that or something like that.

Yes, he seems to have gone a step further than Pipes and others as he talks of Islam as the enemy and not just some imagined “radical” Islam. Good. But, as with Melanie, I still don’t know where he stands on Muslim immigration to the U.S. and the U.K. I challenge them to declare clearly that Muslim immigration should stop completely for an indefinite time (preferably forever but I don’t want to phrase it that way). These are two of our most influential commentators, I read them daily, yet I still don’t know where they stand on this? After all the recent correspondence? Incredible! I get more clarity out of the 12 year old son of my friend who said to me during the cartoon protests that if they (Muslims) act badly, why don’t we stop them coming in. What did Jesus say about how we need to become like children?

Bush and Blair and the “analysts” refuse to name Islam as the enemy and Spencer rightfully gets annoyed. He wants to remind us that ISLAM is the enemy. For what? Why does he care if we identify them as the enemy if he is not willing to support the most obvious solution, one which is a lot easier to enact than fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I call on Spencer to (a) declare to readers his views on Islamic immigration in a clear way, (b) support a full stop to further Muslim immigration. Otherwise he should stop writing in this subject. We don’t need this sort of psychopolitical onanism.

LA replies:

I notice in particular that Spencer’s blog article is about our war with Islam and the fact that this war has not progressed because we have failed to name the enemy. But then he doesn’t say what this war should consist of, once we name the enemy. He seems to think that once we name the enemy, the war will be won, just as Mark Steyn seems to think that once Westerners have more babies, the war will be won, and just as other neocons say that as soon as we believe in ourselves again, the war will be won.

For Spencer to say that Islam is the enemy, and then to propose, at most, that we submit Muslims to a questionnaire, is laughable. Moreover, the questionnaire idea, as inadequate as it is, is not exactly what you would call front and center in his writings. I’ll bet most people who are familiar with the name Robert Spencer don’t even know that he has proposed it. So I believe Jeff’s indignation is justified.

It’s funny. Left-liberals refuse even to think we have an enemy; if Muslims are mad at us, the liberals say, it’s our fault, and we have to change our behavior and then all will be well. Compared to the left-liberals, President Bush is tough; he says we’re fighting “terrorism.” Once every two years he gets really tough and says we’re fighting “Islamic fascism.” So, Bush is tough compared to the liberals, but he’s still evasive because most of the time he says we’re fighting a technique. Then there are the Bush supporters and neocons, who are impatient with Bush that he’s such a liberal and won’t (except for once every two years) name the actual enemy, which is … Islamic fascism. So the neocons, who think they’re tough and realistic compared to the temporizing Bush, are themselves committing liberal evasions. Then there is Spencer, who says that the left-liberals (who deny we have an enemy), Bush (who says the enemy is terrorism), and the neocons (who say the enemy is “Islamic fascism”) are all wrong, all committing liberal evasions, because none of them is naming the real enemy, which is Islam. This makes Spencer look like the non-liberal who speaks the difficult truth. But, after all this, after naming the enemy, Spencer still won’t say plain and clear what we ought to do about this enemy. He won’t say simply that if Islam if the enemy, Muslims should not be allowed into this country. He says, somewhere, that the enemy should be made to answer a questionnaire. So Spencer, the right-wing extremist in this picture, is also deep in liberal evasions.

The problem with this is the same problem with Bush’s phony war. If you keep telling people you’re in a war, but you don’t act as if you’re in a war, the mind can’t grab onto anything and soon loses interest. Spencer keeps stirring his readers into fervor with the argument that Islam is the enemy. For many of his readers, repeating the phrase, “Islam is the enemy,” seems to become a self-fulfilling activity in itself. But because Spencer so signally fails to propose any measures suitable for dealing with an enemy, the thought that Islam is the enemy doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t take root, doesn’t connect with anything larger, doesn’t mature into anything. It just dissipates uselessly. So what is the point of it all?

Leonard K. writes:

Both Jeff and Lawrence misinterpret and overestimate Robert Spencer’s “December 7, 1946” article. Where exactly does he say “name the enemy as Islam” or “name the enemy, which is Islam”? Search the article for “Islam,” and you’ll find two quotes: “deep roots that jihad violence has in the Islamic texts” and “it [jihad] springs from imperatives within Islam.”

Excuse me, but this is not the same as saying “the enemy is Islam.” BTW, I’ve heard Spencer on the radio many times, and every time, confronted with the question “So, is Islam our enemy?,” he always answers “No.”

LA replies:
First, Spencer’s whole point is that unlike in World War II, we are not fighting effectively against our enemy and indeed are not fighting our enemy at all. So we know that he’s concerned about some enemy. Who is this enemy? He saying the enemy is not terror. He’s saying the enemy is not Islamo-fascism. He’s saying the enemy is not Islamism. So what is he saying the enemy is? He’s saying the enemy is jihad, which is something deep within Islam, something springing from deep imperatives within Islam. That gets so close to saying that the enemy is Islam that it’s hard to see any practical difference.

If someone said to you, “Leonard, I don’t regard you as my enemy. I regard your essence, the deep inner imperatives of your being, as my enemy,” would you feel that he did not regard you as his enemy?

LA continues:
First, I want to say that in my response to Jeff, as Leonard indicates, I did overstate Spencer’s point, since he never actually said Islam is the enemy. He said the ideology of jihad, springing from deep within Islam, is the enemy.

When I was writing my 2004 article, “The Centrality of Jihad in Islam,” that was a key moment in the development of my understanding of Islam. To realize that jihad is central in Islam was to realize that jihad and Islam are so organically associated with each other that for all intents and purposes they are one. But, as I now see, maybe there are people for whom the statement, “Jihad is central to Islam” does not mean, as it means for me, that Islam and jihad are practically one. If Robert Spencer sees jihad as distinct from Islam, then we have to expand the number of definitions of our enemy (or, as I prefer, our adversary):

1. Left-liberals say there is no war and we have no adversary except our own racism, greed, insensitivity, etc.

2. Bush says we’re in a war and the adversary is terrorism.

3. Neocons and regular conservatives say the adversary in this war is Islamic fascism, which is an offshot of Islam but is quite distinct from Islam. (On rare occasions Bush will say this too.)

4. Spencer says the adversary in this war is jihad, which has deep roots in Islam but is not the same as Islam.

5. And I say that the adversary is Islam.

If jihad, though having deep roots in Islam, is nevertheless seen as distinct from Islam, that leads to further reflections. I realized recently that the expression “war on jihad” is as senseless as the expression “war on terrorism,” since jihad, like terrorism, is a method of warfare, not a substantive entity. That’s why I welcomed Diana West’s formulation that our enemy are supporters and promoters of sharia. That is concrete and specific. It is also identical with traditional Islam and the Islamic community itself. Sharia is what Islam is all about. Jihad is the method and ideology of war which is commanded by sharia and by which the rule of sharia is imposed. So, I now realized, to say that our adversary is jihad or jihadism is not adequate, because “jihad” is not the name of a concrete entity. And this may be the answer to the question that Jeff initially raised. The reason Spencer does not propose concrete measures against the enemy is that he regards the enemy as a method and ideology of warfare, not as a concrete people following a concrete religion and a concrete way of organizing human life.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

It’s worth mentioning that the kind of discussion I’ve pursued in this entry, trying to get at the meaning of words and what we should call our enemy, has been deliberately rejected by the editor of America’s leading conservative magazine. According to Richard Lowry, naming the enemy correctly is “just not that important,” because “everyone knows what we’re talking about.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 07, 2006 08:24 PM | Send

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