Impelled by 9/11, President George W. Bush told the American people “we are at war,” at war with an “axis of evil.” Mr. Bush defined the enemy as “international terrorism.” Given this amorphous enemy, America’s war aims are equally amorphous. However, since the recent 9/11 commission, Mr. Bush has defined the enemy as “militant Islam”—a tautology made current by Daniel Pipes. Unfortunately, the war symbolized by 9/11 is even more monumental: it is nothing less than a “clash of civilizations,” as eminent scholars like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington have shown, and, in the case of Islam, a civilization animated by a world religion.
Mr. Pipes disagrees. He contends that “militant Islam [is] best understood not as a religion but as a political ideology.” He seems to have forgotten what he wrote In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power: “However much institutions, attitudes, and customs have changed, the Muslim approach to politics derives from the invariant premises of the religion and from fundamental themes established more than a millennium ago.”
If American war aims are to be sound, Washington policy-makers must understand that “militant Islam” is Islam pure and simple. The heart of Islam is the Koran, which the renowned Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University refers to as a “deadly doctrine,” and which Winston Churchill described as the Mein Kampf of war. America and Islam are indeed engaged in a clash of civilizations, which virtually every Muslim writer would admit.
The Bush administration avoids this conclusion, which is why it has failed to formulate, with any precision, America’s war aims. Americans are therefore confused. They are divided over the war in Iraq and about U.S. policy in the Middle East. The world’s only superpower flounders, intellectually and militarily unprepared to confront its ill-defined, ubiquitous enemy. President Bush refers to Islam as a “religion of peace.” His administration appropriates a mere 3.6% of GDP for defense, a figure below America’s peacetime average. Meanwhile his opponent, John Kerry, disarms the public by declaiming against defense expenditures as depriving the budget for education!
To compound the confusion, pundits [including Pipes] focus the hopes of Americans on Muslim “moderates,” as if this minute fraction is strategically relevant in Islam’s global war against “infidels.” The fact that Muslim “moderates” advocate the destruction of Israel, America’s only reliable ally in the Middle East, should caution us about the depth or reliability of their moderation.
The current clash of civilizations will eventually result in the ascendancy of one and the decline of the other, as was the case in the less encompassing conflict between liberal democracy and Nazi Germany—a conflict that did not involve a world religion. But it is precisely because Islam is a world religion that the U.S., the champion of tolerance and pluralism, finds it so difficult to identify its enemy.
The conflict between liberal democracy and Nazism was a conflict between good and evil. The U.S. is loath to refer to its conflict with Islam in such terms. No one can feel comfortable calling the religion of 1.2 billion people “evil.” Islam is commonly regarded as a monotheistic faith having much in common with Judaism and Christianity. This is NOT the way adherents of the Koran regard Judaism and Christianity!
To formulate war aims appropriate to Islam, the U.S. must identify the root cause of the conflict, namely, Islam’s jihadic ethos—its bellicose and contemptuous hatred of non-Muslims. It must be the unremitting objective of the U.S. to eliminate or radically alter this murderous ethos. Jihadism must be condemned as evil, and so long as Islam propagates this ethos, Islam must be denounced as the enemy of peace and of civilized society.
The war aims of the United States should be based on the Seven Noahide Laws of Universal Morality, which Muslims cannot reject without rejecting their own religion. Strange as it may seem, a 1991joint resolution of Congress explicitly incorporated the Noahide Laws in Public Law 102-14”! The Noahide Laws were recognized by Hugo Grotius, the 17th century jurisprudent, as the basis of peaceful international relations. They can provide the moral basis of America’s war against the ethos of jihad embedded in Islamic civilization.
The U.S. should issue a declaratory policy having the following elements: (1) The U.S. will regard as a belligerent any Islamic state that supports or harbors terrorists. (2) The U.S. will regard as racist any Islamic state that encourages its people to hate and kill non-Muslims, and will take action to have that state banned from the United Nations. (3) The U.S. will proclaim that the bellicose concept of jihad contradicts the UN Charter as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which prescribes “tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial, or religious groups.” Accordingly, the U.S will take action to terminate the UN membership of any Islamic state that does not renounce that concept. (4) The U.S. will regard public renunciation of jihad as the litmus test of whether a Muslim state is sincerely committed to peace and worthy of diplomatic relations.
The war aims of the United States should not include wholesale democratization of Islamdom—an impractical and, in many countries, an undesirable objective. In such countries, constitutional monarchy is preferable. The political objective is to rid Islam of tyranny. The moral objective is to rid Islam of its jihadic ethos. In pursuing these objectives, the U.S. will require the cooperation of other nations. Such cooperation will be more forthcoming if American war aims are clearly articulated, tenaciously pursued, with consistency and moral integrity.