Pape-al Fallibility: It's Not All About Us Font Size:
By Michael Totten : BIO | 12 Aug 2005
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Islamists have killed thousands of Westerners over the past couple of years -- thousands in New York City alone. But they have killed far more of their own fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and too many other places to list. The Terror War, or whatever we ought to call it, is not about us. Its a war waged by totalitarian Islamists against the rest of the world. We arent targets because of what we do or even because of who we are. We are targets because we are not them. They hate everybody and were part of everybody.
So many Westerners, liberal and conservative alike, are only interested in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world at the points of inter-civilizational contact, when and where its problems intersect with us and become our problems. Its understandable, but its blinkered. Islamism exists independently of the West, not merely in reaction to it, and it would continue to exist if America and the rest of the West did not. Its not all about us.
Pat Buchanans American Conservative magazine recently published an interview with University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape:
The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland...Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us. [Emphasis added.]
So Pape thinks Islamic fundamentalism isnt the problem. Foreign occupation is. Therefore, no foreign occupation...no suicide terrorism.
Its total nonsense.
First of all, lets get one thing out of the way. Terrorism, suicidal or otherwise, isnt the enemy. Totalitarian Islamists are the enemy. They wont go away just because Western troops go away. Terrorism is merely the tactic they use against Westerners because theyre too militarily incompetent to use anything else.
The overwhelming majority of Islamist killers arent terrorists. They are soldiers and members of state-sanctioned death squads. Most victims of Islamists violence arent Westerners...theyre the Islamists fellow Muslims. Its easy to forget this -- or not even be aware of it -- if you arent interested in what happens inside the Muslim world when George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the rest in the West arent involved.
The Islamist regime in Sudan has killed more than a million people all by itself in the Christian south and in the Muslim region of Darfur. It would take tens of thousands of terrorists to do worse than that.
But the Islamists in Algeria gave it a hell of shot. More than 100,000 were killed during the past ten years in that countrys civil war between radical Salafi fundamentalists and literally everyone else.
Irans Islamist regime killed its way into power and kills to remain in power. Afghanistans former Taliban regime likewise killed its way into power and killed to remain in power.
Naturally Islamists want to push Westerners out of what they think of as their part of the world. Thats one part of their plan. But its only one part. Westerners and other non-Muslims are also attacked when they get in the way of Islamist imperialism.
Hamas, for example, does not wish merely to liberate the West Bank and Gaza from Israeli occupation. They intend to conquer Israel itself -- Tel Aviv, Haifa, all of it.
Jemaah Islamiyah hopes to create an Islamist superstate in South Asia called Daulah Islamiyah -- and that superstate would include the non-Muslim countries of Thailand, Cambodia, and Australia. These are the Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists who murdered almost 200 hundred Australian tourists in Bali before the Iraq invasion had even begun.
This is the same jihad that rages in Thailand where more than 600 people have been killed by terrorists and in clashes with the police.
Irans Lebanese proxy militia Hezbollah fought a guerilla war against Israeli occupation. But they also killed hundreds of people in Argentina, a nation that has never in its history occupied Muslim lands or fought a war against a Muslim country.
Spanish police found a bomb on the high-speed railway connecting Madrid and Seville that was almost identical to those used to kill hundreds in Madrids train stations last year. This bomb was planted on the tracks after Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq.
Meanwhile Britains political party Hizbut Tahrir, as the BBC put it, promotes racism and anti-Semitic hatred, calls suicide bombers martyrs, and urges Muslims to kill Jewish people. The party is banned in most European countries, and for good reason. They not only want to see Western countries withdraw from Muslim lands. They want to Islamicize Europe and turn the West (along with the rest of the world) into a global Islamist theocracy.
Terrorism is not about us. Its about them and their totalitarian designs.
It also is not about Islam. At least its not about Islam per se. Its about the radical fascist (and counter intuitively modern) Wahhabi and Salafi sects of Islam. A certain kind of conservative believes any and all Muslims are ideologically wired for jihad against Western infidels. I suppose its easy to believe that if, like Robert Pape, they only pay attention to Islam when it violently collides with the West.
Intra-Muslim conflicts tell us as much about what it all means as conflicts between Muslims and the West. Take Iran, for instance. The regime is Islamist. Death to America is one of its rallying cries. But the Iranian street prefers Death to the Ayatollahs. Few people in the world are as pro-American as the average Iranian. Those who want nothing more than to hang the mullahs from cranes are Muslims, too. They arent driven to jihad against the West. They are gravitating toward the West, and specifically toward the U.S.
The Sunni Muslims in Iraqi Kurdistan also are among the most pro-American people on Earth. Their only jihad is against the Baathists and the theocratic fascists -- the very same people who just so happen to be our enemies.
Moderate Muslims arent an urban legend imagined by politically correct liberals. They already make up the absolute majority in some parts of the world. They are our friends as well as our allies.
Robert Pape thinks we should withdraw from the region completely and secure our interests in oil, as he put it, from a distance. If we take his advice we wont end the threat from our enemies. Well give them military victories for free. And well throw our liberal Muslim friends to the Islamist wolf. Its the most disgraceful and despicable thing we could possibly do, not to mention one of the dumbest. Empowered liberal-democratic Muslims with guns will defeat the Islamists in the end. We cant do it without them, and they cant do it if theyre languishing in mass graves and dungeons.
Michael J. Totten is a TCS columnist. Visit his daily Web log at http://michaeltotten.com.