Losing the War of Ideas
The West's ideological delusions are now too dangerous to ignore.
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
We have arrived at the point where the consequences of the West’s intellectual disarmament at the hands of political correctness begins to have disastrous consequences in the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Speaking last month at the memorial service for the five US marines massacred at a recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, “The meaning of their killing is yet unclear, and what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism, and hateful ideology was at work, we don’t know.”
US Vice President Joe Biden claimed, the “perverse ideologues…may be able to inspire a single lone wolf, but they can never, never threaten who we are.”
Both men were wrong, and dangerously so.
The meaning of the killings was no mystery.
Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot his victims down in cold blood because he was a jihadist. He wrote of his devotion to the Islamic war for global domination on his blog. He downloaded messages from Anwar Awlaki, the American al-Qaida commander killed in a drone attack in Yemen in 2011.
Awlaki’s most prolific follower to date was US Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan who massacred 13 soldiers and wounded 32 in his November 2009 assault at Ft. Hood, Texas. Yet, just as the Obama administration denies to this day that Hassan operated out of devotion to the cause of Islamic global supremacy through genocidal war, so Carter pretended away Abdulazeez’s obvious motive. And Biden stood before those whose lives were shattered by jihad last month and told them that jihad was not a threat to their way of life.
Ideas are the most powerful human force. And the idea of jihad that the Obama administration will not discuss is perhaps the most powerful idea in the world’s marketplace of ideas today.
The notion of jihad is fairly simple. It asserts that Islam is the only true religion. All other faiths are wrong and evil. It is the destiny of the one true faith to reign supreme. The duty of all Muslims is to facilitate Islam’s global rise and dominion.
How this duty is borne varies. Some take up arms.
Some engage in indoctrination. Some engage in subversion. And some cheer from the sidelines, providing a fan base to encourage those more directly engaged. What is most important is the shared idea, the creed of jihad.
The jihadist creed is a creed of war. Consequently, its adherents cannot live peacefully with non-jihadists.
By definition, those who subscribe to a jihadist world view constitute a threat to those who do not share their belief system.
Rather than contend with the idea of jihad, the West, led by the US, insists on limiting its focus to the outward manifestations of jihadist beliefs.
Physical bases of jihadists in places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen are targeted to kill specific people – like Awlaki. But the ideas that inspire them to action are ignored or dismissed as irrelevant and interchangeable with other ideologies, like Zionism and fiscal conservatism.
Unlike the Americans, the jihadists understand the power of their idea. And they invest hundreds of millions of dollars to propagate it. MEMRI recently reported that Islamic State (IS) runs at least three production companies. They disseminate professional- quality videos daily. The videographers, composers and singers who produce these films are IS members, no different from its beheaders, sex traders and chemical weapons purveyors.
Like IS’s battle successes and its sex slave industry, these videos have already had a profound impact on the shape of the Islamic world and the threat jihadist Islam constitutes for its opponents worldwide.
From Nigeria to Egypt to the Palestinian Authority to Pakistan, in Europe, the US and South America, jihadist armies and individual Muslims are embracing the idea of the caliphate – the ultimate aim of jihad – and pledging or weighing the option of pledging loyalty to IS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
As a result, the never reasonable notion that you can limit war against jihad to the physical bases of IS and other terrorist groups while ignoring the idea that motivates their actions has become downright deadly.
Consider Egypt. As Yoni Ben-Menachem reported last month for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, on August 20, Baghdadi officially asked the Muslim Brotherhood to join IS and pledge loyalty to his caliphate. His request was completely reasonable.
Both IS and the Brotherhood share the same ideology, including the goal of Islamic domination through the renewed caliphate. Like the Brotherhood, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar el-Makdis in the Sinai and other jihadist groups in Asia and Africa have already accepted Baghdadi’s invitation, pledged allegiance to the caliphate and changed their names to incorporate into the Islamic State.
Ben-Menachem noted that in January 2015, Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi said that Baghdadi is a member of the Brotherhood. Organizational cooperation, including military cooperation between IS and the Brotherhood, which is the largest organization in Egypt has grown steadily over the past two years since then defense minister Abdel Fattah Sisi overthrew the Brotherhood regime in July 2013.
IS’s goal is apparently to convince the young Brotherhood members to join forces. If the bid is successful, Egypt will become a tinderbox whose destructive force will be cataclysmic.
Then there is nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Last week the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center published a joint report warning that given Pakistan’s rate of nuclear activity, within five to 10 years Pakistan may have the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, behind only the US and Russia. According to the report, Pakistan is producing nuclear bombs four times faster than India.
The epicenter of Pakistan’s nuclear work is its Baluchistan province. IS’s popularity is high and growing in the area, as it is throughout much of Pakistan.
Indian intelligence reports claim that Pakistan’s security forces are making the same cynical use of IS that they have made of al-Qaida and the Taliban.
ISI, Pakistan’s spy service, facilitates the operations of these groups in order to coerce the US to provide Pakistan with more aid, which it is expected to use to contain the threat it has itself cultivated.
This game has been going on for decades. But there is no reason to assume that as IS gains power and adherents, the same Pakistani security forces that believe they can control IS will not end up joining it. And as a consequence, the danger that bombs they now build will fall under Baghdadi’s control is real and growing.
Last week the Pentagon’s Inspector General announced it is investigating reports that the Obama administration has required US intelligence agencies to minimize their reporting on the threat IS poses. Intelligence officers have allegedly been ordered to exaggerate the success of the US’s anemic campaign against its bases in Iraq and Syria while understating the threat IS constitutes.
Over the past year, jihadists published the home addresses of American soldiers and officers. On numerous occasions, what an FBI alert referred to as “Middle Eastern men” accosted the wives of US soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan outside of their homes.
Speaking to concerned soldiers last week, Carter again pretended away the problem. While insisting that protecting soldiers is “job one for all of us,” Carter insisted that the threat was limited to “a few troubled losers who are on the Internet too much.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop warned in June that IS may already have sufficient nuclear material to produce a dirty bomb. As we have seen with IS’s wide-scale use of chemical weapons in Iraq, we must assume that its fighters will use all weapons at their disposal.
Had the West – led by the US – been willing to abandon the intellectual straitjacket of political correctness with which it has willingly shackled itself, IS may very well have been a marginal movement able to attract no more than “a few troubled losers who are on the Internet too much.”
Biden’s pledge that while “perverse ideologues…may be able to inspire a single lone wolf they can never, never threaten who we are” might have been credible.
But because of our voluntary intellectual enslavement, we now face a real danger that IS and its demonic notions will take over Egypt. Because we seek to ignore the creed of jihad, Pakistan’s fast growing nuclear arsenal could very well become the property of the caliphate.
Ideas are the force that drives history. If we aren’t willing to fight for what we believe, then we will lose to those who are. And make no mistake, we are not winning this war.