The Lizardís Tongue 4
Are We Really at War With "All Islam?"
A number of commenters here and at other blogsites, as well as some bloggers and even a few talk-show hosts, have claimed that we are "at war with Islam." Sometimes they get sneaky, claiming that all Islam is at war with the West, as if every Moslem, whatever his nationality, secretly yearned for a sharia-ridden world run by a Grand Caliph.
Besides being an obvious variation on the antisemitic canard that all American Jews have "divided loyalties," this claim is functionally equivalent to saying we're at war (or should be) with all Islam. It's a cute dodge, but it amounts to the same thing.
Hugh Hewitt makes an impassioned argument that we're not at war with all of Islam, as does the administration. Not even Ann Coulter has called for such an Armageddon against a whole religion worldwide. Big Lizards certainly agrees with the Hewitt-Bush side of this argument (that is our bias); but we do not do so thoughtlessly, rather after thinking long and hard about it.
But what exactly would it mean to be "at war with Islam" anyway? Let's really take a look.
The proponents of this position clearly mean we should be at war with Islam in the same way we were at war with Nazi Germany: that is, I have never heard anyone both call for a war against all Islam -- and then suggest that the war should be a limited war; anyone calling for the first is calling for a total war, a kulturkampf, Armageddon.
So I will assume throughout, until the end, that this is the meaning of "at war with Islam." At the end, I'll poke around a bit about the possibility of a "limited" war with all Islam. Until then, we assume we're talking about war with Islam the way we were at war with Germany in World War II.
During WWII, warfare was fought on both sides with a complete disregard for civilian deaths; we have the German attack on Guernica, but we also have the British and American attack (mostly British) on Dresden. But contemporary warfare -- post Geneva Conventions -- requires countries waging war to avoid deliberately targeting civilian populations, and I assume this would continue.
But contemporary warfare certainly sanctions the ancillary deaths of civilians in attacks clearly aimed at military and political targets. So the question arises -- what would we target?
Obviously any terrorist bases would be legitimate targets. But when fighting a nation in a total war, we're certainly not restricted to only attacking irregulars! We're allowed to attack regular army units... therefore, we would in this scenario be allowed (and encouraged) to attack any military target of any Moslem country anywhere in the world, even a military that has not previously participated in any warfare against us (just as we could attack units of the Wehrmacht that had not yet engaged in any combat).
Similarly, political and industrial targets are fair game in total war; that's pretty much part of the definition of total war. Therefore, proponents of this position claim we have the right to attack any factory, any railway or airport, any port, any highway, any dam, or indeed, any highrise office building anywhere in any majority-Moslem country, as well as every government building.
Since most Moslem countries mandate Islam as the state religion, making Islam a part of the government, that would extend to every mosque or madras anywhere in any Moslem country. This is especially true because militant Islamists very commonly use mosques as military bases: plotting attacks from mosques, retreating to mosques, and even storing munitions and WMD in mosques. Thus, no mosque can be assumed to be entirely civilian, and most proponents of the "war against all Islam" position typically make it explicit that every mosque is a possible target.
Finally, even in countries that were nominally not allied with Germany, we certainly held during WWII that we had the authority to attack German sympathizers who might be working to sabotage the friendly nations. We did this with or without the help or even acquiescence of the governments of those countries on a "military necessity" basis.
Therefore, inherent in the definition of total war, if we were "at war with Islam," we would quite literally be claiming the authority to attack any majority-Moslem nation anywhere in the world, or any Moslem population within a non-Moslem nation, including any economic, political, or Moslem-religious building, place, or entity, with or without specific provocation, and with lethal intent.
In total war, a nation uses its entire military and economic might to reduce the enemy. Thus, certainly there would be no restriction on using our most powerful munitions -- including nuclear weapons -- in this war. (As we refrained from using either poison gas or biological warfare even during WWII, I will assume those same restrictions would apply in the war against all of Islam.)
However, we certainly would be allowed to use flame throwers, tanks, bombs of any size, extensive mining of roads and areas that might be used by Moslems, defoliation, cluster bombs, airdropped Napalm and white phosphorus, the destruction of dams upstream from large population centers (such as the Aswan High and Low Dams in Egypt, which would threaten the lives of 70 million people who live within a dozen miles of one or the other), the destruction of nuclear power plants (regardless of any radioactive danger to surrounding civilian populations), and the firebombing of crops that could result in mass starvation.
Ordinarily, we would avoid attacking hospitals or Red Crescent centers, personnel, or vehicles; but Islamic jihadis have a history of using such facilities for military purposes (transporting terrorists inside a Red Crescent or even Red Cross ambulance, for example), and I doubt that a country committed to total war against all Islam could be prevented from targeting medical facilities that were suspected of also being military sites.
In total war, everything goes except that which is specifically forbidden by treaty.
Executing prisoners was not particularly uncommon during WWII, particularly during the liberation of the Nazi death camps. When passions among our soldiers ran high, they would sometimes simply machine-gun the SS death-camp guards -- or indeed any nearby German unit that was mistaken for death-camp guards. While officers would typically try to stop such massacres, the soldiers involved were not significantly punished. After all, there was a war on.
Presumably then, with this precedent, persons suspected of particularly vicious attacks who were captured in battle would be subject to mass extermination -- either legally or simply as a fact on the ground.
As "de-Nazification" followed whenever we liberated a country from the Nazis, presumably the American military would have to "de-Islamicize" all captured territories, making the religion of Islam illegal and enforcing the prohibition with punishment from imprisonment up to and including execution. We would need to be on the lookout for, e.g., ostensibly Christian or Jewish sects that were in fact covertly Islamic; the military authorities would need to maintain up-to-date lists of all acceptable religions, and they would have to have the power to question any person about his religious beliefs and arrest him if those beliefs were suspect.
As captured Germans were pressured to turn against their earlier comrades, so presumably would the advocates of the "war against Islam" proposal urge that captured Moslems be encouraged or threatened into going back into communities of secret Moslems and turning them in to American authorities to be rounded up like the rest.
"Fifth columnists" are fair game in total war; indeed, in the 1940s, we rounded up about 75 thousand Americans of Japanese descent (and 45 thousand Japanese nationals) merely on the possibility they might turn out to be fifth columnists. Therefore, we would be justified, indeed compelled, under this war-against-all-Islam doctrine to close all American mosques and round up all 3 million or so Moslems in the United States. The Constitution would be suspended in this instance (as it was in 1943 in the Supreme Court decisions in Yasui v. United States, Hirabayashi v. United States, and Korematsu v. United States).
We would need to build vast War Relocation Camps (concentration camps) to warehouse all these people. As the war could take decades, many of these people would live their entire lives in these camps, as would their children and grandchildren. They would have to be more or less permanent "Moslem zones," with people only being allowed to leave if they formally converted to some other religion -- as determined by the American government.
In 1945, Germany formally and unconditionally surrendered to the Allies (we insisted that the surrender be unconditional); later that same year, so did Imperial Japan. But those were each single political entities that could, in fact, designate persons authorized to sign such surrender documents.
Islam is a religion, not a single political entity. Moreover, unlike Catholicism, Islam does not even have one recognized caliph who could speak for all Moslems... so "Islam," as an entity, cannot surrender.
Therefore we would presumably be forced to continue fighting until all possible resistance was destroyed. That means every city leveled, every population reduced, every industrial or economic base ruined or captured, every pocket of Moslems ferreted out and either destroyed or otherwise neutralized, all resistance crushed, all mosques in the world either destroyed or at least monitored constantly, all transportation restricted, and concentration camps built to contain hundreds of millions of "enemy soldiers" pretty much from here to eternity.
We would require American hegemony over the entire world, in the manner of the Roman Empire (or perhaps the Spanish colonial period of 1500 to 1800), with constant spying on everyone to ensure no rebellion was being plotted. The military would by and large be in charge of most enforcement on the ground, as it always is in such empires, even if there is nominal civilian control of the military. The president's role as commander in chief would trump his role as chief executive officer in such a state.
Then we could declare victory.
For the hardy souls who have made it this far, it should be pretty clear that the consequences of honestly declaring war on all of Islam even in victory would be dire: America would cease to exist as we know her today; we would instead have something akin to a combination of Roman Empire and Nazi America, but with the venom against Jews replaced by venom against Moslems.
There would be so many executions, we would have to have special sites set up for round-the-clock extermination of people who refused to convert from Islam to some other religion. As none of our historic allies would likely join in such a crusade, America, in order to conquer all of Islam, would have to first conquer all the world to impose pax Americana.
Freedom of religion would be one of the first things to go, as every person in the world -- including every American -- would have to prove again and again that his religion was acceptable to the military authorities. Of course the rest of the Bill of Rights would also be gone.
The Soviet gulags would be replaced by American counterparts. Millions would be wrongly suspected of Moslem sympathies and would lose jobs, children, and perhaps even their liberty. Children would have to be raised by the government to ensure there was no backsliding on such dangerous subjects as religion and rights.
In trying to rid the world of Moslems, we would have rid ourselves of our own souls; that is the first and worst consequence of making war upon an entire religion.
Total War Lite: the Limited Version of the War on All Islam
There is a good reason that proponents of the "war against Islam" don't accept the idea of it being a limited war, and that is because limited wars typically end only two ways, especially against entire cultures: either in escalation to total war -- or in defeat.
It's hard even in theory to imagine how one could have a limited war against something as large, entrenched, and ubiquitous as a religion; it would be worse than saying we're going to fight Nazi Germany -- but only particular battalions, leaving other battalions unmolested.
And even if we began to fight it as a limited war, the natural consequence to America attacking non-terrorist Islamic countries simply because they were run by Moslems would be for other Moslems themselves to escalate attacks. Heck, they already do that to some extent even when we are clear in word and deed that we're only attacking terrorists!
So for those reasons, I believe that a "limited war against all Islam" is a non-starter and need not be extensively analyzed.
For all these reasons, I draw several conclusions:
- The consequences of attempting to eradicate not just militant or terrorist sects of Islam but Islam itself from the world would be awful and dire were we to win -- and unthinkable were we to lose.
- We have neither the might nor the means to carry such a total war on Islam to victory.
- Americans would not stand for it unless we had already suffered an attack so catastrophic that our entire national character were changed; and if we had, we would have even less might and means to carry out such a program.
- None of our allies would stand with us in such a total war on all Islam.
- Even if we somehow managed to win the war, we could not keep the peace.
- An America that would seriously contemplate such a program would be an America unrecongizable to anyone reading these words.
- Those people advocating such a proposal -- a war against all Islam, a clash of West vs. East, the final Armageddon of Christianity against Islam -- have not actually thought it through, or are incapable of understanding the consequences, or are simply bleating for effect... and in any event are fundamentally unserious people who cannot distinguish between a Moslem who believes in democracy (of which there are millions in this country alone) and a Moslem who believes in tyranny.
That is, anyone who advocates such a course, even for effect, is a mindless bigot who should be shunned by all persons actually serious about winning the real war: the war against terroristic jihadism, militant Islamism, or Islamofascism, whatever one chooses to call it... not against "all Islam."