Two oddly varying March 8th versions of the same commentary, “Caliphate, Jihad, Sharia: Now What?” by Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum, appear on the Middle East Forum (MEF) and the Hudson-New York sites. In both he begins by quoting a Columbia University professor from a 2008 debate, “Clash of Civilizations.” The professor answered an “assertion that Islamists seek to resurrect the caliphate, and, according to the doctrine of offensive jihad, wage war – when and wherever expedient – to bring the world under Islamic rule.”
“Suppose you prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Islam is constitutionally [inherently] violent, where do you go from there?” (Brackets mine)
Ibrahim proceeds to describe a caliphate in two different ways. In the Hudson-New York version, he writes:
A caliphate represents a permanent, ideological enemy, not a temporal enemy that can be bought or pacified through diplomacy or concessions — economic or otherwise.
In the MEF version, however, he writes:
A jihad-waging, Sharia-enforcing caliphate represents a permanent, existentialist enemy—not a temporal foe that can be bought or pacified through diplomacy or concessions.
Note the difference. The term ideological is used as synonymous with existentialist. One might wonder why Ibrahim treats ideology as existential, except perhaps because it is a system of thought that exists and which has a measurable potency or influence. But ideologies, or ideas, do not exist independently of their progenitors, advocates, or exponents. Ideologies or ideas cannot act on their own; they must have “temporal” actors or men who carry them out. Islam is an “enemy” only in the person of jihadists who perform actions of both the physical and stealth kinds.
The jihad against the West is indeed temporal in nature, to either physically subjugate it, or destroy it.
Ibrahim then notes in the Hudson version what the establishment of a multinational caliphate would mean to the West.
The very existence of a caliphate would usher a state of constant hostility: Both historically and doctrinally, the caliphate is obligated to wage jihad, at least annually, to bring the “disbelieving” world under Islamic dominion and enforce Sharia law. Most of what is today called the “Muslim world”—from Morocco to Pakistan—was conquered, bit by bit, by a caliphate begun in Arabia in 632.
And in the MEF version:
Consider the caliphate: its very existence would usher in a state of constant hostility. Both historically and doctrinally, the caliphate’s function is to wage jihad, whenever and wherever possible, to bring the infidel world under Islamic dominion and enforce Sharia. In fact, most of what is today called the “Muslim world”—from Morocco to Pakistan—was conquered, bit by bit, by a caliphate that began in Arabia in 632.
In truth, the West did face an enemy that waged constant warfare against it: the Soviet Union. So, there is a precedent for what the West now faces in the form of a totalitarian ideology albeit which Ibrahim later in the MEF version describes as one dressed in “religious garb.” He speculates on what the West is or is not prepared to do about a caliphate. In his Hudson version, he asks:
Yet, as Western people begin to understand what is at stake, what exactly are their governments prepared to do about it — now, before the caliphate becomes a reality? Would the West be willing to launch a preemptive offensive — politically, legally, educationally, and, if necessary, militarily — if these were the only solutions to the establishment of a jihad-waging, Sharia-enforcing caliphate? Would it go on the offensive without waiting until its enemies were strong so that by the time one realized what was happening it would be too late, or would political correctness and pacifist inertia allow the Islamists to have their way?
And in the MEF version:
In this context, what, exactly, is the Western world prepared to do about it—now, before the caliphate becomes a reality? Would it be willing to launch a preemptive offensive—politically, legally, educationally, and, if necessary, militarily—to prevent its resurrection? Could the West ever go on the offensive, openly and confidently—now, when it has the upper-hand—to incapacitate its enemies?
It is noteworthy that Ibrahim substitutes political correctness and pacifist inertia with openly and confidently when he changes the thrust of his rhetorical question in the MEF version. It is also noteworthy that he leaves the military option until last. In the MEF version, he asserts that the West still has the “upper-hand.” On the contrary, that hand is palsied. The West’s “openness” and “confidence” have been disabled, if not completely amputated, by political correctness and pacifist inertia, not to mention by multiculturalism and unprincipled pragmatism of a succession of administrations.
And, openness and confidence about what? That the West is superior? That it is secular in nature, not religious? That the Mideast depends on its survival on the West? That there is no such thing as “Islamic” culture or an “Islamic civilization”? Was the Mafia crime empire, which stretched from Sicily to Chicago, with its warped code of ethics and use of force, fear, and murder, a “civilization”?
Ibrahim notes in the Hudson version:
The West, alarmingly, does not have a political history or language to justify an offensive against an ideological foe.
And in the MEF version:
The fact is, the West does not have the political paradigms or language to justify an offensive against an ideological foe in religious garb.
Actually, in the context of dealing with Islam, it does have such a “language” and a “political history” or “political paradigm,” ranging from the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century to the battles of Omdurman and Umm Diwaykarat in 1898-99, in all instances acting with military force against Islamist depredations and expansionist designs, and with the knowledge, implicit or explicit, that Islam was inherently hostile to Western values and dedicated to removing them from human existence.
In the Hudson version, he notes:
Worse, as Arab governments come crashing down, the Obama administration has made it clear that it is willing to engage the Islamists and permit the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in elections, even before institutions of democracy — such as rule of law, an independent judiciary, and above all, free speech and a free press — have developed.
On the MEF version, he writes:
Indeed, the Obama administration has already made it clear that it is willing to engage the Brotherhood, differentiating them from “radicals” like al-Quaeda—even as the Brotherhood’s motto is “Allah is our objective, the prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah our highest hope.” Likewise, a theocratic, eschatologically-driven Iran is on its way to possessing nuclear weapons—all while the international community stands by.
It is unclear in Ibrahim’s article whether he is underscoring his own rhetorical question-begging and inability to provide answers, or the Columbia professor’s. But overall, Raymond Ibrahim’s articles reveal serious and fatal indecision about what action should be taken against regimes that conduct warfare against the West, and in particular against the U.S., with the aim of subjugating it and imposing the Islamic ideology.
The West had the language and the resolve. And an important element in that resolve was that no Western nation was a top-to-bottom welfare state, was not “multicultural,” did not deprecate or suborn the things its citizens valued, such as individual rights, freedom from state interference in their personal lives and actions, and the rule of objective law. The West in the 19th century was riding on the mere momentum of an Aristotelian philosophy. But the rise of welfare states and the inculcation of statism undercut and finally arrested that momentum, and dissolved those things over decades of philosophical and moral bankruptcy. The United States reached a point where it elected a president who is actively anti-freedom, anti-reason, and unabashedly pro-statist, willing to apologize to the world for the U.S.’s greatness and working to see it diminished if not destroyed.
One could possibly date the phenomenon to WWI and the rise of Progressivism early in the 20th century, and the steadfast implementation of policies of pragmatism and appeasement. The roots of that phenomenon can be traced clear back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when Immanuel Kant and his successors launched an attack on Aristotelian thought, that is, on reason. The West will remain helpless and impotent “in the face of an ideological foe dressed in religious garb” unless it adopts an ideology that will identify that foe and strip it of that garb for all to see.
That is not going to happen when our policymakers refuse to identify Islam as the foe, but instead claim that Islam is fundamentally “peaceful” and that it was “hijacked” by “extremists.” One never heard FDR claim that Nazism and Shintoism were “hijacked” by “extremists” or say that these ideologies were somehow “radicalized.” Even left-wing FDR had a quantum of intellectual honesty that has put all of his successors to shame, including Eisenhower and Reagan.
It is the West’s policies that have put it in the perilous position it is now in. I see no solution to the problem except a revolution in political thought and policy in this country. It is either that, or recognizing very quickly that only long-overdue retaliatory force will begin to solve the problem, such as eliminating states that sponsor terrorism before they eliminate us, of acknowledging that Islam is indeed an enemy in the persons of its subscribers. The same policy should apply to extinguishing Somali piracy, even at the risk of the lives of the captives of the pirates. Lancing that particular boil would be a good start.
Without an honesty and confidence founded on reason and rational values, and faced with the prospect of another “evil empire” in the form of a caliphate, the only direction the West can go is down to its own destruction. The confusion and hesitancy on the part of “experts” like Raymond Ibrahim are not encouraging.