Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On the Clash of Civilizations, Part 1

Charles Krauthammer:
One of the reasons Westerners were so unprepared for this wave of Islamist terrorism, not just militarily but psychologically, is sheer disbelief. It shockingly contradicts Western notions of progress. The savagery of Bouyeri's act, mirroring the ritual human slaughter by Zarqawi or Daniel Pearl's beheaders, is a return to a primitiveness that we in the West had assumed a progressive history had left behind.

Our first response was, therefore, to simply sweep this contradiction under the rug. Put the first World Trade Center bombers on trial and think it will solve the problem. Even today, there are many Americans and even more Europeans who believe that after 9/11 the United States should just have done Afghanistan -- depose the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda's sanctuary -- and gone no further, thinking that would solve the problem.

But the problem is far deeper. It is essentially a civil war within a rival civilization in which the most primitive elements are seeking to gain the upper hand.

Mona Charen:
Radical Islam is unlike any other modern religion. Imagine being afraid of someone because he had recently become a committed Christian, or Buddhist, or Jew, or Hindu? And indeed, most Muslims around the world are peaceable. But radical Islam is like a throwback to violent cults of mankind's more primitive past. We know that Aztecs cut the hearts out of young men and women as they offered them to the gods. We know that many early civilizations practiced child sacrifice. People are evidently capable of any atrocity, provided they are convinced that the act is ordained by God -- or some substitute for God, like Nazism or communism. And it is a most powerful idea indeed that can induce young, healthy men not just to kill infidels but to kill themselves for the satisfaction of killing infidels.

We have declared a war on terror, but the critics of this imprecision in language are right. Failing to name the true enemy obscures our task. The enemy is Islamism -- the radical interpretation of Islam that sanctions violent jihad, and whose grievances include, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, the unveiled female face, the existence of the Jews, the existence of Hindus, music, literature, democracy, and nearly everything we hold dear.

Until we clarify the enemy, we fumble about in the dark when it comes to fighting this war.