My New York Post column today takes a look back at how Kitchener handled the forces of the Mahdi after Gordon’s death at Khartoum, and compares it with the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. My thesis is that, historically, jihadist movements have faltered and collapsed in the face of overwhelming defeats:
The death of Osama bin Laden — another charismatic who preached death to the infidels — may have a similar disheartening effect — especially if followed by the relentless and, if necessary, brutal use of targeted force against Islamic terrorism.
From Charles Martel at Tours in 732 to Sobieski at Vienna in 1683 to Kitchener at Omdurman, nothing has had a greater calming effect on the Muslim world than decisive defeat. Yes, bin Laden was still exercised about the 15th-century Spanish reconquest of el-Andalus, but his animus died with him. Now the Muslim world must decide whether the war shall continue.
A raid like Sunday’s (a tip of the hat, by the way, to the peerless helicopter pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, formed in the wake of the Carter-era Iran-hostage-rescue disaster) will go a long way to pacifying non-jihadis, who understand that they are no match for American power and will only suffer should the radicals succeed in making this a conflict of Islam vs. the West.
That is, it doesn’t have to come down to a Kitchenerian slaughter. All that “the Islamic world” needs to accept and understand is that its Mahdi is not coming.
Bin Laden’s demise will not in itself end the War on Terror, but if we can build on it, it can mark the beginning of the end of this phase of the eternal conflict between Islam and the West by plainly showing the Islamic world which horse is still stronger.
At the moment, we don’t need massed armies at the gates of Vienna or the Holy League fleets at the Battle of Lepanto to remind the Muslim world of its technological backwardness and its utter dependence on Western innovation. The SEALs raid on Sunday was a useful reminder of our superiority, and our superior will.