The Corner

Response to Rich

Rich,

I’m afraid your new points do not account for my answers to your last questions, so some of this seems repetitive.

The President has admirably waged the military war, but he has been AWOL on the ideological war. I maintain that the ideological war – smoking out and discrediting the actual beliefs of the Islamic militants – was nearly as important as the military war. You say settlement is a matter of compromise. OK. But compromise is a matter of the facts on the ground as they exist at the time of the compromise. The facts on the ground are now unpalatable precisely because the president has declined to engage on Islam. The available compromises are thus unpalatable to Western liberals not because they are Western liberals but because they have declined to take up this challenge. If militant precepts had been discredited by now, secularists would either not have to argue about Islam or not have to fear a well defined moderate Islam.

This dovetails nicely with your last point. Of course you need allies in an ideological struggle. That’s why it’s important to engage that struggle. We haven’t. Engaging it means talking about militant Islam and provoking a dialogue, so you find out who your allies are (and also expose your enemies, as opposed to letting them operate under the radar screen, pretending to be moderates). If, to the contrary, you take Islam off the table – as the administration did immediately after the 9/11 attacks – you default from the ideological struggle, and you not surprisingly find yourself without allies or credibility.

Your “who do you think the enemy is” question is puzzling. The enemy is militant Islam. The national security threat I refer to has nothing to do with equality for women (that is simply a bedrock American principle we should not be abandoning). The national security threat is based on what we know from long, hard experience is the inevitable cultural consequence of Islam being established as an official or quasi-official state religion. It breeds militant Islam.

As I argued in the piece yesterday, Islam has no clerical hierarchy empowered to say a particular interpretation of the faith (such as, say, “the Koran obliges you to kill all Americans”) is heresy. If you grant Islam OFFICIAL prestige, you are necessarily increasing the authority of the radical clerics who preach such things. By making Islam the state religion, you are certain to increase the number of militants – which threatens U.S. national security. That women’s rights are also diluted and that it is not a good idea to have a state religion in the first place are also bad fallout, but they are quite beside the point.

Finally, there’s a war on. Naturally, when it’s over, people should get to have a greater say in how they govern their own affairs. But while the war is on, we have to do what’s needed to win the war. I’m not looking, willy-nilly, to run around knocking over Islamic regimes. I’ve talked about Iran and Syria. Do you disagree that they have been making war against us and that – if the Bush Doctrine means anything – we should be dealing with them? If not, then they don’t get a pass because Muslims will be upset. And I haven’t said Muslims shouldn’t have a significant say in how they run their lives. I’ve said the United States should not facilitate the establishment of Islam as the state religion of a country we are responsible for. If people choose to conduct their private lives as Muslims, who cares (as long as they don’t violate the civil law)?

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