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The Nature of the War Against Terrorism

The British thwarting of the planned airline bombings is a victory in the war against terrorism. The stricter restrictions on travel are a loss.

Security screening for high explosives became a search for mere knives and has now become a search for for ordinary household chemicals. This slippery slope is seriously damaging the airline industry and has made many people, myself included, detest the thought of flying commercially.

The so-called Global War Against Terrorism is not being properly waged. We should be devoting our resources much more heavily toward offense instead of defense. And crucially, we need to begin fighting on the correct front in this war. I don't expect President Bush to do this; I don't expect anyone who could win an election to do this. But the true road to victory depends on the proper answer to the question asked by so many people five years ago: Why do they hate us?

Because of their religion.

The "Global War Against Terrorism" is a poor name because it misses the point. This is not a war against a military tactic. This is primarily an intellectual war, whether politicians acknowledge the fact or not. Islamic fundamentalism as an intellectual movement has declared that Western civilization is heretical and must be destroyed.

Nevermind the particular complaints of the day, based upon some trumped-up example of alleged injustice or oppression. Justifications for Islamic anger abound … and they're irrelevant. They're easily seen to be excuses for a broader agenda when you view the situation in context. Look at Israel: when it pulls out of an area, acquiescing to the demands of its enemies, they do not stop attacking Israel. While their stated goal may be freedom from Zionist oppression or somesuch nonsense, their actual goal as revealed by their actions (and occasional overt declarations) is to push all the Jews into the sea. Genocide.

Or is it? Al Qaeda has made it clear that their hatred extends far beyond a simple matter of race. September 11th and subsequent attacks (successful or foiled) were clearly not targeted at Jews. They were targeted at heathens of all kinds … and were accompanied by predictions of the reestablishment of the Caliphate and warnings to the unbelievers to convert to Islam or to die.

Above all, this is a war of ideas. Western civilization values intellectual diversity, but this is anathema to Islam — in the same way and for the same reason that the Catholic church silenced Galileo hundreds of years ago: Intellectual freedom is a threat to religion because in any fair competition, reason prevails over faith.

The existence of Western civilization, with all its manifest and spectacular successes, is a continuous reminder that Islam is not the One True Path. Religion deals with this threat in the only manner it can deal with any conflict: by force. Faith and force are corollaries. Only reason allows the facts of reality to decide conflicts. (This conflict has another name, philosophically: The primacy of consciousness vs. the primacy of existence.)

Our enemies are, by their own proud admission, religious fundamentalists. A consequence of this is that they are not open to persuasion. No rational argument can convince them to live in peace with us; their minds are closed to reason. Our choice is therefore between three alternatives: 1. Surrender and submit to their demands, converting to Islam. 2. Continue to fight a long-duration war that gradually saps our freedoms. 3. Go on the offensive and utterly destroy our enemy.

I choose the last. And so should every person who values reason. We should take the gloves off and pursue the enemy with moral confidence and military vigor. To the death! Not because we want to kill them, but because they refuse to stop trying to kill us.

The most important weapon in this war, in the long run, will be education. And this is the weapon I sadly do not believe a U.S. President will employ, because doing so would entail the explicit advocacy of reason over faith. This position would be very difficult, politically.

But I'll do my part. (More to come…)

Tiny Island