Monday, March 17, 2008

The Jihadi Drumbeat

Wretchard, writing at the Belmont Club, discusses in his post today on suicide bombers what we must do to ameliorate and defeat the jihadi ideology. I concur with his points, though I believe we can and should take a far more proactive role in fighting jihadism in the war of ideas.


Wretchard, in his post today on "the suicide mind," discusses several of the major themes I have been repeatedly raising in this blog. As to the need to defeat jihadism on the battlefield, Wretchard adds to the discussion with evidence of a Harvard study that shows the correlation between talk of withdraw in America and a spike of violence in Iraq.

When Nasserism and secular socialism were discredited by the Arab world's defeat at the hands of Israel it opened the way to a resurgence of the kind of Islamic fundamentalism that has produced the suicide bomber. While the military defeat of the Jihad may have no direct effect on Islamic doctrine, it will probably encourage ideological substitution and adaptation away from it, in the same way that explosive vests replaced the VBIED. In other words, military setbacks for the Jihad have the effect of undermining people's faith in it. That undermining might be the most important result of all. A study by Radha Iyengar and Johnathan Monten at Harvard demonstrated the correlation between faith in victory and the ferocity of attacks in Iraq. The authors found that:

Using data on attacks and variation in access to international news across Iraqi provinces, we identify an "emboldenment" effect by comparing the rate of insurgent attacks in areas with higher and lower access to information about U.S news after public statements critical of the war. We find in periods after a spike in war-critical statements, insurgent attacks increases by 5-10 percent. The results suggest that insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal. . . .

Read the post here. As I have said repeatedly on this blog, such as here, in order to defeat the jihadist philosophy, it is absolutely necessary for us to defeat the jihadists on the battlegrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. To be seen as giving up in Iraq would be putting the "holy" back in "holy war." It would be providing jihadists with a victory stolen from the jaws of certain defeat on their battlefield of choice. To do so would be seen as a victory delivered by the hand of Allah himself. As Bernard Lewis pointed out even before the change in fortunes in Iraq, the consequences of allowing the jihadists to portray themselves as victorious over the U.S. in Iraq would be dire and long-lasting. The flip side to that coin, as Wretchard points out, is that a defeat at the hands of the U.S. will go far to delegitimizing the triumphalist jihadi philosophy.

The second, and indeed, larger issue is in the war of ideas. As Wretchard notes:

The source of the enemy's strength is, if not the Koran, a particular interpretation of it. But if the primary force generation tool of the Islamic radicalism are the ideas taught in Mosques and madrassas how can they be successfully countered? In particular, what would a Cultural or Religious Surge look like? One obvious front is in the media. The Harvard study shows how life-saving public discourse literally is.

But any Cultural Surge needs foot-soldiers to wage it and this case the reinforcement cannot come primarily from the military. But if not them, then who will wage the polemical war against religious nihilism? Gen Petraeus knew where to get the brigades for his kinetic reinforcement. Where do we find those who will argue against bombing pet markets? Where do we get the soldiers of religious belief and ideas?

One is tempted to say one may potentially find them in universities, divinity schools and in the media of the West. But the reality is that is but faint hope. Not until these institutions reform themselves to fight against the suicide bomber; a reform process that must be largely internal, can the intellectual warriors be generated in sufficient numbers. To a large extent winning the ideological fight against radical Islam means waging the war against the forces which have crippled the intellectual life of the West.

This is a topic that I have blogged on at some length. Although I completely agree with Wretchard on the need for the "Cultural Surge," I do not believe that we can wait around silently hoping for internal reform within the institutional pillars of the Islamic community in the West. These institutions are being flooded with Saudi petrodollars precisely to insure that they remain immune from such reform. There needs to be an external impetus that our government should be providing within constitutional grounds. Simply put, step one in the war of ideas is to engage with it. For example, see:

What You Do Not Know (About Salafi Islam) Could Kill You

Tawfiq Hamid’s autobiographical account – The Civilized World Ought To Recognize The Immense Danger Salafi Islam Poses.

Counter-Jihad: Zhudi Jasser At The NRO

Islam and Defunding the UN

Worse than not engaging is the tack taken in Britain, making it government policy to pretend that the ideological problem with Islam does not exist: Orwell’s Britian Is Toast

Step two then is engage those who would work a change in their religion. Our government needs stop dealing with CAIR and the MAS, as the British government needs to cut off its reliance on the MCB, as discussed in a post here. We should be doing what we can within our constitutional boundaries to support people such as Zuhdi Jasser, Tawfiq Hamid and organizations such as the Center for Islamic Pluralism.

Suffice it to say, I agree with all of Wretchard’s points. My only point of contention is that, in the war of ideas, we must start proactively engaging.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that (the "essential" of beating the jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan).