It makes no sense to dismiss our enemies as lunatics just because “secular socialist” elites, as Gingrich called them, cannot imagine a fervor that stems from religious devotion. We ought to respect our enemies, he said. Not “respect” in Obama-speak, which translates as “appease,” but in the sense of taking them seriously, understanding that they are absolutely determined to win, and realizing that they are implacable. There is no “moderate” sharia devotee, for sharia is not moderate. Gingrich noted that in response to global outcry against the prospect of death by stoning for an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, convicted of adultery, the mullahs’ great concession appears to be that she will be hanged instead. Islamism is not a movement to be engaged, it is an enemy to be defeated.
Victory, Gingrich said, will be very long in coming — longer, perhaps, than the nearly half-century it took to win the Cold War. Invoking JFK, he urged that the survival and success of liberty will still require an unwavering commitment to pay any price and bear any burden, for as long as it takes. Will that entail an ambitious project to democratize Islamic countries — notwithstanding that sharia dictates waging jihad against Westerners who try? Gingrich’s embrace of President Bush’s second inaugural address suggests that he may think so.
How we go about it and whether we use our military to spearhead a “forward march of freedom” are matters the former speaker did not flesh out. He also wondered aloud why, after nearly nine years in Afghanistan, we had not tasked military engineers and contractors to blanket that backward land with highways, the roads to advancement and prosperity. But we haven’t defeated the enemy yet. One can agree wholeheartedly with the former speaker that, having taken on a war against Afghan Islamists, it is imperative that America win. But in World War II, which Gingrich invoked repeatedly, and to great effect, we had our priorities straight: unambiguous victory first; then, and only then, the Marshall Plan’s ambitious reconstruction of Europe and Japan.
Debate over all of this is essential. The crucial point is that we must have the debate with eyes open. It is a debate about which Gingrich has put down impressive markers: The main front in the war is not Afghanistan or Iraq but the United States. The war is about the survival of Western civilization, and we should make no apologies for the fact that the West’s freedom culture is a Judeo-Christian culture — a fact that was unabashedly acknowledged, Gingrich reminded his audience, by FDR and Churchill. To ensure victory in the United States we must, once again, save Europe, where the enemy has advanced markedly. There is no separating our national security and our economic prosperity — they are interdependent. And while the Middle East poses challenges of immense complexity, Gingrich contended that addressing two of them — Iran, the chief backer of violent jihad, and Saudi Arabia, the chief backer of stealth jihad — would go a long way toward improving our prospects on the rest.
Most significant, there is sharia. By pressing the issue, Newt Gingrich accomplishes two things. First, he gives us a metric for determining whether those who would presume to lead us will fight or surrender. Second, at long last, someone is empowering truly moderate Muslims — assuming they exist in the numbers we’re constantly assured of. Our allies are the Muslims who embrace our freedom culture — those for whom sharia is a matter of private belief, not public mission. Our enemies are those who want sharia to supplant American law and Western culture. When we call out the latter, and marginalize them, we may finally energize the former.
It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.