July 28, 2010
Brilliance at Midnight - the Dawn
In the comments of the previous post, commenter BigLeeH asked how I would "go about pursuing the war of ideas which we both agree should be a central focus in our confrontation with radical Islamism." Here are some thoughts I've had recently on that very subject.
(Note that I only discuss here the war of ideas against the radical Islamists; we of course also need actual military action... but that is beyond the scope of this piece.)
I point out that every one of these suggestions was actually carried out during World War II, within the context of the 1930s and 40s, of course. In fact, the defenders of American values went even farther, making scores of movies that were pro-American, pro-allied (including pro-Soviet), anti-Nazi, and anti-Imperial Japanese; producing pro-America propaganda for radio and the stage; and enlisting the aid of popular entertainers world-wide. There is no reason that conservatives within the entertainment industry -- and there are some -- cannot do at least some of that; "What Man has done, Man can aspire to do again."
School's in forever
The most important task before launching into a war of ideas is to fully arm and equip our "soldiers" -- in this case, our soldiers comprise all Americans willing and able to defend Western values of individual liberty, property and Capitalism, freedom of speech and religion (not merely freedom of worship, as Obama would have it), actual rule of law, and governance by the consent of the governed. Bluntly, I mean educating the masses about the Grand Jihad, its goals, its methods, and the existential danger it poses.
There are, as we know, any number of excellent books which will give the reader a very good education in the goals, strategies, and history of what Andrew McCarthy calls the Grand Jihad or the Project, a.k.a. the Islamist Project (just to be more specific). I'm not going to give a suggested reading list, because I can't possibly survey the literature deeply enough to make even a fair pass at it. But I'm sure there are experts in the field, such as former federal prosecutor McCarthy, or Professor Bernard Lewis, or even a lowly journalist like Mark Steyn or Hugh Hewitt, who could promulgate a required and desired reading list.
Step 1 in the war of ideas is not to be a tabula rasa; let's assume you've all read enough to educate yourselves. We move along.
Alas, while such books are necessary, they won't do the heavy lifting of educating the American heartland. Not because Americans are too stupid to read (that's a canard of the Left), but because most Americans either don't have time to read, or have been so traumatized by being force-fed leftist propaganda in school that they never developed the habit of reading. Thus, a 300-page tome is unattractive and intimidating.
Too, young Americans prefer a more interactive, more human style of communication. I believe much of what we find out, despite the left-leaning news media's desperate attempts to suppress it (such as the true nature of ObamaCare, with its huge taxes, massive premium hikes, and rationing councils that amount to death panels), we find out just by talking to our friends. (I call this news distribution system "water-cooler samizdat.")
Americans are always news-hungry; but for the water-cooler samizdat to start spreading the news virally, it must have an input source somewhere.
Our ideological army must publish short, readable articles in surprising venues, from Readers Digest to People to McCall's to Newsweek to Popular Mechanics, even to Playboy... except for the last, all magazines you'd find in a doctor's office or in the lobby of your office building or in the waiting room of your automobile service center.
These articles should:
- Keep the message simple and clear, using plain words.
- Include necessary examples but not lard down the piece with too many anecdotes.
- Be brutally honest -- not minimizing, but not exaggerating, either.
- Focus on the ideology and how it encourages violence when necessary, but is even more dangerous when it's "mere" propaganda and sabotage.
So much for structure; what about substance? I think this should be the general outline of the articles, though obviously each one should deal with a different aspect or "take" on the central theme:
Radical Islamism has been at war with us not just since 9/11, not even just since 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini seized control in Iran, but at least since 1928, the year that Hassan al-Banna founded the Society of Muslim Brothers (the Muslim Brotherhood). Or perhaps since the mid-eighteenth century, when Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab began preaching what we now call Wahhabism. Or one could even trace the war's beginning all the way back to Mohammed himself at the turn of the 7th century.
The point is that they, the Islamists, have always known they were at war with us, the West; and they have acted accordingly. Contrariwise, we have known, then forgotten, then remembered, then forgotten again, then remembered again, then forgotten again... for literally centuries. 9/11 was an alarm klaxton warning us that we've allowed the enemy to breach the outer defenses. The threat persists; but too many Americans, and especially too many of our national leaders, have long since hit the snooze button, rolled over, and fallen back asleep.
But can anti-Islamists really gain a toehold in national magazines? Not all, but surely some.
A few of the obvious venues will be utterly hostile to "outing" radical Islamism. But credentialed journalists who oppose the Grand Jihad must keep trying; and of course, keep publishing in those magazines that are not actively hostile to Western values or active collaborators with radical Islamism.
(How does an ordinary writer get published in a magazine like the above? It's not easy; I've never been able to crack them. But one tactic is to team up with someone who has "credentials" in the national-security or Islamic studies field, someone who has the knowledge but not the ability to write a strong article. National magazines are much more likely to publish something by, say, a former senator and his co-writer, or a former CIA analyst and his co-writer, than by some no-name writer whose only nonfiction publication is the blog he writes. Of course, if the writer himself has such credentials, that's even better!)
Another good source of education is a guest speaker at a club, service organization, or church gathering. Such venues are often desperate for entertaining and motivational speakers on a wide variety of topics; so why not this one? Those of you who are good at public speaking could work up a nice 45-minute talk: Why the world seems suddenly upside-down -- and how it's been a long time coming.
The presidential "bully pulpit" is another powerful venue. Of course, Obama is highly unlikely to aid or abet this effort... but if this president won't do it, we must demand that the next president becomes the Great Communicator, like Ronald Reagan, about the threat of our time that rivals the threat of Communism that Reagan faced -- and defeated.
But there are plenty of mini-bully pulpits, many Republican and even some anti-jihad Democratic congressmen who can talk about the Islamist Project -- its origins, its agenda, the threat it poses, and what we can do about it -- during town-hall meetings, during interviews, and during their reelection campaigns. It shouldn't be too much of a distraction; national security is always an important "issue" for American voters.
Once Americans have a much better understanding of what we're up against and where to look for radical Islamist subversion of our system of government (for example, demands for "sharia law" in some section of an American city that happens to have a large Moslem population), they can denounce the idea, out the vermin who are pushing it, and largely neutralize the "soft jihad."
There's gotta be a law...!
And for the most part, there is.
It's long past time we start prosecuting (at the least) every member of the government, federal, state, and local, who knowingly leaks classified information, contributes money or effort to terrorist groups, or infiltrates vital agencies or departments with the intent to sabotage them. For too long, our policy has been to fret and dither but never actually file charges.
This stands in marked contrast with how we treat those caught spying, infiltrating, or sabotaging on behalf of foreign governments in past decades, such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or a host of other hostiles. Why should covert agents for enemy ideologies like radical Islamism get a free pass?
We'll win some prosecutions and lose others; but even the losses, if well publicized, will serve to wake up Americans and other Westerners to the danger. And every prosecution will out another batch of deep-cover, enemy organizations and individuals; just as the Holy Land Foundation prosecution outed CAIR, the Council for American Islamic Relations, as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Grand Jihad.
More particularly, we need to find and expose all the "Major Hasans" who have infiltrated the military, the intelligence services, or the State Department; alas, I suspect there are hundreds of such (wide awake) sleeper agents in our midst.
At the very least, we can start with the loudest, most visible, and most astonishingly overt about their sympathies... as was Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with murdering thirteen of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and attempting to slay 32 others. His radical Islamism and America hatred was an open secret for years, but the Army did nothing substantial about him. And then he had his episode of "sudden" jihad syndrome. But in most cases, such explosions of violence are neither sudden nor surprising; such radicals generally cannot contain themselves for longer than a few minutes without outing themselves... if anyone's listening.
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on them
Similarly, whenever anti-Islamist government officials of any party, or any news organization that actually supports freedom of the press, obtains intelligence of some atrocity or infiltration or subversion in the West, even outside the United States, it should issue a press release or publish a story, respectively. In the first case, politicians should e-mail the press release to every newspaper, local or national news channel, and news radio show in the country. Many small-town newspapers love getting national press releases, because they can quickly write a story from it, getting some nice, international coverage without them having to pay reporters to hang out in Washington D.C. And Even the big metro papers and the network newsies find it hard to ignore forever a story that powerful Washington personalities are pushing hard.
Even if they write a story to try to refute or rebut the claim that Islamists are trying to subvert and destroy Western democracy, that would be better than completely ignoring it... which is what they do now, with nobody pushing back.
As a general rule, the best way to disrupt the infiltration and sabotage phase of the soft jihad is to drag it, writhing and screaming, into the light of day.
Invite the God of the West into the debate
Conservatives who are well educated on the subject of the Islamist Project, and who are members of a congregation, should encourage their pastors to begin giving sermons on the differences between the Judeo-Christian God and what He wants from Mankind -- and the radical Islamist version of Allah, and what he demands from Mankind. I daresay many more Americans get their worldview and moral compass from church or synagogue than from the rive-gauche news media, shocking as that may sound.
Again, it's vital not to exaggerate; we are not fighting a jihad against all of Islam. There are hundreds of millions of Moslems who reject the Islamist Project, who have undergone a quiet Enlightenment on their own, however ahistorical such moderating influences may be within Islam.
Of course, the Mediaeval Christian Church itself was militant, supremacist, totalitarian, and perfectly willing to slaughter those we now see as innocents, but who the Church damned at the time as heretics, infidels, Jews, witches, or sadly, sometimes simply people who owned property that some powerful clergyman coveted. Such hypocritical or intolerant behavior is, in fact, what led to the Judeo-Christian Enlightenment in the first place; and it can lead to the same rejectionism within Islam... though admittedly, Enlightenment thinkers had more to work with in Judeo-Christianity; neither Jesus nor Moses was a bitter, enraged, vengeful old man defined entirely by who and what he hated, rather that what he loved.
Still, the Reformation and the Enlightenment are precedents we should not discard. I don't believe there are many today who defend, say, the harsh sentences (including death by stoning) for seemingly trivial offenses in ancient Judaism; the violent excesses of the crusades; the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492; the continent-wide Inquisition against witches in the fifteenth century; the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572; the brutal suppression of Catholics under Queen Elizabeth in the late sixteenth century, the seventeenth-century witch-mania among Protestant churches in the United States; or even such modern-day acts of extraordinary religious violence as the Mountain Meadows Massacre of more than a hundred peaceful settlers by the Mormons in 1857.
Yet today, neither the Catholic Church, nor the Protestant churches, nor any branch of Judaism, nor the Mormons engage in, condone, or even tolerate such violence and totalitarian control over the individual. They changed; they changed in the wink of an eye; and they changed much for the better.
But no one living in the earlier versions of those societies would have suspected such a change was about happen. It seemed to come out of nowhere; but reformation and englightenment typically do spring "ex-nihilio." There clearly is hope, and we must believe there is hope, that Islam too can shed its own history and become "just another religion."
Such change begins by dissidents drawing contrasts between the paradise the radicals promise -- and the Hell on Earth they actually deliver.
Finally, closer to home, Christian ministries must focus with an even greater intensity on converting black prison inmates to Christianity, to save them from being converted by the Nation of Islam instead. The combination of a violent life history, an unwillingness to live within the law, and a violent, jihadist ideology is the ideal incubator for terrorists, subversives, and saboteurs. Reform would be best; but even if they remain mere criminals, that's far better than becoming self-styled "soldiers of Allah."
"Good enough" is good enough
This list of suggestions is surely not inclusive, but we cannot wait for the perfect plan before we start to implement what we can do today. In fact, if we even followed half or a third of the obvious paths I suggest here, we'd be a heck of a lot better off, better armed, more vigilant, and we would make much harder targets than we do right now.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2010, at the time of 4:26 PM
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The following hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr
Well spoken and planned.
May I add an additional tactical element, though?
One of the cultural dimensions in this conflict is the disgust that many historically Moslem cultures feel at "Western" decadence. Many conservatives are uniquely positioned to argue that Moslems should not feel that disgust towards the West in general, but specifically toward the decadent West. We can convincingly say, "Yes, Hollywood is typically antagonistic to your culture and is interested in destroying it; but we are not Hollywood."
Undercut that disgust -- even partially -- and you undercut the impetus to support the wholesale destroyers.
It's also generally much easier to engage a Moslem in religious conversation than it is to engage a typical Westerner. Get educated, learn some ambassadorial skills, and ask questions (don't assume what they believe, no matter what your education says; ask them and then don't argue that this isn't what they actually believe). Friendships only happen one at a time, so they're not how this war will be won; but once you have a friendship you have an opportunity to explain ideas, and ideas (unlike friendships) can affect more than one person.
It's also useful to distinguish between the Islamic sects, as well as between cultural backgrounds, especially if you can recognize the cultural Moslems from cultures which were dominated by Arabic Moslems. For example, as I seem to recall you saying, Dafydd, the Iranian people seem to have a good deal of annoyance at Arabs and love for the people of the United States. (Of course, they tend to love their own country more, naturally.)
The following hissed in response by: GW
Great posts, Linked. You might also want to see Andy McCarthy's post praising Gingrich for his AEI Speech on this issue.
The above hissed in response by: GW at August 1, 2010 1:57 PM
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