The British may react very differently than the Spanish did after Madrid–by doing nothing rather than by retreating from Iraq.
In the corrupt West these days, that is something
We all know the score of this war now in the near four years since September 11. The London bombings should remind us how the old tired game works.
Failed states in the Middle East–autocratic, statist, unfree, intolerant of women and other religions–blame the West for their self-inflicted miseries. Sometimes they are theocratic, like the late Taliban or the current Iranian mullahs. But more often they are dictatorial like the Syrians, Pakistanis, Saudis, or Egyptians, who all, in varying degrees and in lieu of reform, have come to accommodations with the terrorists to shift popular anguish onto the West and the Jews.
That is the Petri dish of Islamic fascism, an evil that will only disappear when the dictatorships that allow it or nourish it do as well. Whether the jihadists are in Iraq, the United States, or Europe, they all share a sick notion that someone else (the decadent Western oppressor and unbeliever) is responsible for their own poverty and backwardness rather than the fundamentalism, corruption, bias, and intolerance endemic to the Middle East.
In WWII we didn’t care much whether in fighting Bushido some thought we were in a war against Buddhists. We weren’t, and that was enough.
We knew the enemy were Nazis, not simply Germans, and didn’t froth and whine to prove that distinction.
But not now.
To criticize Islamic fascism is supposedly to be unfair to Islam, so we allow on our own shores mullahs and madrassas to spread hatred and intolerance, as part of our illiberal acceptance of “not offending Islam.”
It is not that we don’t believe in Western values as much as we don’t even know what they are anymore. The London bombings were only a reification of what goes on daily with impunity blocks away in the mosques and Islamist schools of London.
The enemy knows that and thrives on it. That refuge in religion is why imams shout that “Islam doesn’t condone such things”–even as bin Laden has become a folk hero on the Arab Street. Jihadists sense that even here at home more Americans are more concerned about a flushed Koran at Guantanamo Bay than five Americans fighting for the Iraqi jihadists or Taliban sympathizers in Lodi, California.
As long as there is not any price to be paid for Islamism, either by governments abroad or purveyors of its hatred in the West, the propaganda works and the killing will go on. But when a renegade Saudi Prince, Pakistani general, London imam, or Lodi mosque leader screams out to the jihadist, “Stop that before those crazy Americans really do go to war,” the war, in fact, will be over and won.
Terror is the signature of the Islamist: hit, back off; hit, back off–hoping in a few years to erode the will and nerve of affluent and leisured Western countries.
Bin Laden has so far only made one mistake: He took down the entire World Trade Center rather than the top floors, and had the misfortune of having George Bush as president. Thus he lost Afghanistan and ended up with democratic reform from Iraq and Lebanon to the Gulf and Egypt. Train bombings in Madrid and bus explosions in London, like the carnage in Iraq, are preferable, since they are enough to terrify and demoralize the Westerner but not quite enough to knock sense into him that only military resistance and victory will save his civilization.
So the attacks will never quite be of such a stature to convince Western voters that one more such explosion will destroy their societies. The trick is instead to wage war insidiously, incrementally, and stealthily to avoid an overwhelming response. A cooling-off period in between 9/11 and 7/7 in which Western apologists, pacifists, and Islamist sympathizers go to work is essential for the terror to continue.
Second, the denial of culpability is equally critical: a Syria, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia must always be able to profess that it deplores terrorism, and that to its knowledge no jihadists are in transit on its territory; bin Laden & co. are not in its country; and its royal family are not funding killers. Within Europe itself, a madrassa that indoctrinates directionless youth, or an imam who shouts hatred to his audience, must always simultaneously when called upon “condemn” terrorism, and then seek victimhood when the rare scrutiny of an outraged public nears.
Finally Western self-loathing and guilt is essential: A fascist agenda of the jihadist–religious persecution, gender apartheid, racism, militarist autocracy, and xenophobia–all that must be embedded deeply within the postmodern landscape of the oppressed. A non-Christian and non-Western “other” can mask his venom only through victim status, grafting his cause to the same exploited groups that seek from Western society benefaction and compensation.
The jihadists expect that Westerners will slink out of the Middle East, allowing fascist fundamentalists to gain control of half the world’s oil and thus buy enough weapons to blackmail their way back to the caliphate.
Destroying Israel, killing Christians in Africa, running Westerners out of the Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia, or Bali, all that is mere relish. In Europe, the goal for the unhinged is the creation of another al Andalus; for the more calculating it is enough intimidation and terror to carve out zones of Muslim sanctuary, where millions can live parasite-like, within the largess of Western society, but without its bothersome liberal agenda of freedom and equality, in hopes of implanting the universal law of sharia.
So here we are. Even though the killers profess revenge equally for Afghanistan (the so-called “right” war), they expect Westerners to scream “Iraq.”
Even though such bombings are predicated on infiltration, careful stealthy reconnaissance, and long sojourns within London, expect cries of anguish and worrying about the stereotyping of Middle Eastern males.
Look for the same scripted crocodile tears and “concern” from the Middle East’s illegitimate leaders, even as much of the Islamic Street takes a secret delight in the daring of the jihadists, and the governments sense relief that the target was Westerners and not themselves.
Anticipate Western leaders condemning the terrorists in the same breadth as they call for “eliminating poverty” and “bringing them to justice”–as if the jihadists and their patrons are mere wayward and impoverished felons.
In the short term, Bush and Blair will appear as islands in the storm amid an angry and anguished public. But as 7/7 fades, as did 9/11, expect them to become even more unpopular, as the voices of appeasement assure us that if they just go away, maybe so will the terrorists.
It is our task, each of us according to our station, to speak the truth to all these falsehoods, and remember that we did not inherit a wonderful civilization just to lose it to the Dark Ages.
–Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.