Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy is the new e-book from Andrew C. McCarthy, the prosecutor of the Blind Sheik and a National Review Online contributor. It’s meant to be “your antidote for the obsession that has become conventional American wisdom: the obdurate portrayal of the ‘Arab Spring’ as a triumph of freedom,” he writes. Andy talks with NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the Fever.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is there anything positive to say about the “Arab Spring”?
ANDREW C. McCARTHY: It is a very clarifying chapter in the history of the Muslim Middle East. Given that the worst of the many bad problems we’ve had is making policy based on the region as we wish it were rather than as it is, anything that shakes the scales from people’s eyes is a positive.
LOPEZ: Is there anything positive to say about the Obama administration’s policies toward Muslim countries?
McCARTHY: Nothing positive springs to mind. But if we focus on violent jihadists operating within Muslim countries, then there are some positive things to say. As I maintained during the 2008 campaign, President Obama had a far superior position to John McCain on the question of attacking terrorist redoubts in countries that claim to be our allies but allow their territories to be used as platforms to launch attacks against us. My hesitation about Obama on that score lay in not believing he was serious — I figured he was just posing as a tough guy on Pakistan because he had been so weak on Iraq and so in favor of turning the clock back to the pre-9/11 criminal-justice paradigm of counterterrorism. But he proved me wrong: He can’t bring himself to say “jihadist,” but he certainly has attacked jihadist redoubts.
Still, his policy is ultimately a failure. Our forces now kill when they could capture and increase our intelligence base. Obama doesn’t want to capture terrorists overseas because he’d have to figure out what to do with them. All his demagoguery over Gitmo — the ideal, obvious place to detain and interrogate captured jihadists — has made a mess of combatant detention. Moreover, while the occasional drone strikes are a positive, they’re not enough to discourage and defeat the enemy, and, more significantly, they are overwhelmed by the negatives of his appeasement policies.
Obama’s “outreach” policy is based on a thoroughgoing fiction that imagines a sharp divide between “violent extremists” and “Islamists” — the former supposedly kill irrationally and wantonly; the latter are “moderates” committed to pursuing their agenda through regular politics. In reality, they are all Islamic supremacists. Terrorists — violent jihadists — kill very rationally. Their goal is exactly the same as that of other Islamists: They want sharia implemented because it is the necessary precondition to Islamizing a society. The “non-violent,” “moderate” Islamists are a figment of our bipartisan foreign-policy clerisy’s imagination: Their sharia agenda is extreme and they support terrorism strategically (e.g., Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian faction; Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s leading jurist, calls for terrorism against American troops operating in Muslim countries). Consequently, by empowering Islamists and effectively legitimizing their ideology, Obama empowers their terrorist factions. It’s ironic to think of all his carping about how Gitmo “causes” terrorist recruitment, because Obama’s embrace of Islamists has done more for terrorist recruitment than almost anything else our government could have done — I mean, we’re now funding the Brotherhood in Egypt and the Palestinian territories. We’re working with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to which 57 Muslim states belong, to impose sharia speech-suppression standards and, in effect, to legitimize the theory that jihadist attacks against Israel are not terrorism but “resistance against an occupying power.”
If you couple the facilitation of Islamists with Obama’s policy of negotiating with terrorist organizations — with the Taliban, with the Iranian-backed terror networks that operate in Iraq, with the Blind Sheikh’s Islamic Group (whose operative was recently invited to the White House for consultations on the future of Egypt) — it more than undoes the good done by occasional drone strikes against jihadist targets.
LOPEZ: What does freedom mean anymore? Does this White House understand it differently than we have in the past? Are there different tiers of freedom depending on where you are or who you are?
McCARTHY: I’m glad you asked that because it is a big theme of Spring Fever. There are two divides here: Islam versus the West, and progressives versus the Constitution.
On the first, the Islamic concept of “freedom” is virtually the opposite of ours. For us, freedom is liberty, self-determination, the right of each individual to chart his own course and maximize his own potential without any more interference from the state than what is minimally necessary to ensure the order we need to flourish. In Islamist-supremacist ideology, which is the dominant Islam of the Middle East, “freedom” means complete submission to Allah’s law — what Islamic scholars over the centuries have called “perfect slavery.”
Now, that will be called “Islamophobic” because I’m the one mentioning “submission” and “slavery.” But such things are commonly said by Muslim jurists — and it is more accurate for us to call them jurists than clerics. The supremacist interpretation of Islam aspires to be more than a set of spiritual principles; it’s a complete framework for how human life is to be lived, down to the minute details. Obviously, the jurists don’t mean their assertions as an insult, and neither do I. My disagreements with Islamists are intense, but they are substantive. I have enough respect for them to try to understand their point of view rather than pretend they are something they are not. Their point is that Allah has been beneficent enough to give mankind the gift of sharia, his “path” or prescription for how life is to be lived. To thumb one’s nose at this gift once one is aware of it is a profound affront. That is how they see it.
That is why Western democracy — real democracy, the culture of liberty, not mere procedures like voting — cannot mesh with their construction of sharia. Our fundamental premise is that the governed have a right to make law for themselves, irrespective of any belief system. Islamic supremacists deny the right to make law that contradicts sharia in any way. That divide cannot be bridged; it’s too basic.