Militant Islam: Totalitarianism, Not Ideology

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Just to add another thought to those already registered by the incomparable Michael Ledeen. The depth of cooperation in Iraq between Sunni and Shi’ite terrorists gives us much more insight into the nature of enemy than we have previously had.

Let’s remember back to January 2004. At that point American forces intercepted a letter from Jordanian/Sunni terror master, Abu Musab Zarqawi, to al Qaeda’s leadership urging a strategy of attacking Iraqi Shi’ites in order to foment a destabilizing civil war between Shia and Sunni that would defeat the U.S. effort. (I’ve previously described it here).

Here is some of what Zarqawi had to say about the Shia:

The Shi’a in our opinion, these are the key to change. Targeting and striking their religious, political, and military symbols, will make them show their rage against the Sunnis and bear their inner vengeance. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of these Sabeans, i.e., the Shi’a. Despite their weakness, the Sunnis are strong-willed and honest and different from the coward and deceitful Shi’a, who only attack the weak.
Zarqawi – now openly with the blessing of bin Laden – has been making good on this strategy for some time now (and, indeed, was already suspected of having done so in the months before this letter was seized). The Iranians, of course, are Persian Shi’ites, with deep historical grievances against Arab Sunnis. What does it tell us that they would nonetheless make common cause with Zarqawi, bin Laden and al Qaeda when it becomes clear that this is the best way to wage war against the United States? What can we glean from the fact that Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has had a similar comfortable arrangement with al Qaeda for years?

It tells us that for all its pretensions about ideology and doctrine, militant Islam is first and foremost about power. It is totalitarianism, not ideology. It is the Communism of this era. Consequently, obsessing over the taxonomy of militant Muslims is probably about as useful as sorting out the different species of socialists who became Communists. From an American national security perspective, the essential fact was that they became Communists, their only real utopia was power – not a just, egalitarian society – and they were bent on destroying obstacles to their designs. This enemy is no different, and defeating it is no less an imperative.

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