March 25, 2009
As the Obama administration tries to replicate the surge in Afghanistan and expands actions in Pakistan, U.S. strategic planners would do well to read Andrew Bacevich’s excellent review of yet another work on counterinsurgency. Bacevich isn”t shy in questioning the entire point of the so-called Long War. The effort to impose some modern notion of “stability” onto tribally based societies is indeed a counterproductive exercise in social engineering writ large. When confronting jihad, “containment rather than transformation should provide the cornerstone of U.S. (and Western) strategy … With time, our adversary will wither and die”unless through our own folly we choose to destroy ourselves first.”
Policymakers and self-styled statesmen don”t take containment seriously, though they should. It is the only viable alternative to the open-ended Long War bent on creating ex nihilo oases of democracy in the Middle East. Like other utopian experiments, America’s adventures in nation-building have failed to achieve their goals. Over 4,000 noble U.S. servicemen have given their lives in protracted campaigns guided by dubious ideological constructs. In addition to combat deaths, civilian casualties and the enormous material costs of the Long War, Bacevich notes that armed U.S. intervention in alien lands tends to create new cadres of insurgents from among local populations. So much for stability.
Containment of jihadism would not entail a Cold War-style grand ideological contest between the U.S. and elements within the Islamic world. The past eight years are enough to show us that such an enterprise is worse than pointless. The U.S. may build as many new schools, medical clinics and water treatment plants in Afghanistan as it desires, but it cannot build a new culture, and culture is what counts. Attempting by material means, even with the world’s most capable military, to transform a people’s tribal and religious customs to our liking is a fool’s errand. Refraining from interference in the domestic affairs of Muslim states would diminish one of the main justifications terror groups such as Al Qaeda use to replenish their ranks.
An effective containment policy of Islamic extremism must ultimately center on affairs at home. Most of our contemporaries focus on events such as the Mumbai massacre, but miss the bigger picture: terrorist acts are but one aspect of jihad, which according to Muslims is the divinely ordained struggle to expand Islam.
Today’s elites, in the thrall of a multiculturalist vision of homo economicus, promote mass immigration of Muslims and effectively introduce jihad into Western societies. Leaders and their spokesmen in the White House, 10 Downing and the Elysee Palace deny any intrinsic differences between the native population and newcomers while promoting “moderate Islam” as a means of obfuscation. It takes a special combination of arrogance and ignorance to choose for Muslims which of their religious doctrines are valid and which can be consigned to irrelevance.
If anyone cared to look, the historical record is quite helpful in showing that large-scale interaction between Westerners and Muslims is a recipe for large-scale conflict. Any containment program worth the effort would take this into account and commence a comprehensive revision of national immigration and citizenship policies. Our ancestors had little difficulty recognizing the irreconcilable differences between Islam and Christendom and acted accordingly. We can thank the post-Christian materialists who manage our societies for the current disaster.
Washington’s social engineering expedition in the Middle East is only the first half of an “invade the world, invite the world“ project. We are witnessing the revolutionary transformation of our societies by mass third world immigration, further centralization of political and economic power, and ever-progressing cultural decay. The growth in Europe’s cities of an alien population with a penchant for doctrinally based violence is only the most obvious example of this phenomenon. From Los Angeles to London, signs of decadence and breakdown are only symptoms of the wider disorder wrought by the embrace of Enlightenment ideologies that have torn the West from the transcendent.
If, as Bacevich says, we are to avoid destroying ourselves, then U.S. disengagement from an interventionist foreign policy is clearly required. Marines could plant Old Glory on the rubble of Teheran, but triumphalism will not slow America’s implosion into social chaos. In the realm of domestic politics, steps such as revising immigration laws and minimizing the undue influence of foreign lobbies (the Saudis and Israelis come immediately to mind) would make for a good start. Yet the true key to containment is more than just a policy option: for the West to survive, it must recover its cultural and religious tradition.
A call for the restoration of Christianity in the West seems radical only because secular thought is so entrenched after a century of total war and rejection of the moral order in every sphere of life. Although it might look unassailable, the success of modernity is leading to its unraveling as economic collapse and societal disintegration beckon. The ideals of unlimited growth and the individual sovereign will, unquestioned dogmata of the American civic religion, are beginning to bear their bitter fruits. Jihadists pose a danger to us precisely because of our civilization’s advanced state of rot.
To turn away from the path to self-destruction will demand not only smarter strategy in politics foreign and domestic, but at root a shift in faith and worldview. Wars to spread “liberty” and “human rights” are profoundly at odds with the teachings of the Prince of Peace. The cults of devotion to the phantoms of progress, material advancement, or perpetual adolescence bring ultimate ruin in their wake. No matter how disheartening the present circumstances may seem, hope can burn bright for the future through our own actions. The Truth that has been forgotten can be remembered; what spiritual treasures lost, rediscovered.
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