We are children of the bomb.
Those of us–especially those growing up in the ’50s and ’60s–lived under the shadow of the mushroom. From elementary school drill of covering our heads and hiding under our desks (highly effective ways of surviving a nuclear attack, by the way…), to watching the Cuban missile crisis play out on grainy gray TV screens, we felt that primal fear of impending annihilation, of bomb shelters and fallout, of silos releasing their deadly arrows as we waited that agonizing 15 minutes until the incoming salvos struck.
We learned, over time, to live with–and even love–our dysfunctional companion, like a battered spouse returning home, with no where else to go. Perhaps it was the dark humor, a la Dr. Strangelove, which dulled our senses; perhaps the overwrought rhetoric and ridiculous answers of the anti-nuclear left, with their unilateral disarmament proposals and Grim Reaper costume marches. But the fall of the Soviet Union let us focus on more important things, like global warming and saving the snail darter, televangelists and “reality” TV.
With two global giants armed to the teeth, toe-to-toe in MIRVed madness, our focus–when we stopped to think of it–was “The Day After“–a massive missile exchange, nuclear annihilation, the end of Earth as we know it. It was, ironically, a calming, reassuring thought: no one could unleash such madness, such horror, such destruction of an entire planet: it would be … suicidal.
Nation-states–even though they be fixated on world domination, as were the Soviets, or small-time despotic troublemakers like Syria or Iraq under Saddam–ultimately have their own self-interest–and self-preservation–at heart. As much as they desire global conquest, or regional dominance, they value their own lives and the preservation of their power base to sustain such dreams of glory–and such vulnerability allows effective deterrence to their threat. The nuclear standoff of the Cold War was at its heart a high-stakes game of chess, where the goal was challenge and response, perceived threats and feints–without ever putting your king in any real danger. There were, of course some frighteningly close calls–the Cuban missile crisis and the story of Stanislav Petrov come to mind–but ultimately the calculation came down to this: there is no sense destroying the world–yourself included–if you want to rule it.
Suicide as a weapon is not without precedent in nation-state warfare and struggle: Japan’s kamikaze pilots in WWII proved a potent and lethal–albeit short-lived–weapon, for which the Allies had little adequate defense: Approximately 2,800 kamikaze attackers sunk 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800–this carnage occurring in the brief period between October 1944 and August 1945. Their effectiveness was limited by the rapidly crumbling Japanese war effort, the vast supremacy of U.S. air power–and ultimately by the abrupt end of the war brought about by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the destruction and defeat of the Japanese nation-state–almost ironically, by nuclear weapons–which brought an end to the effectiveness of the lethal kamikaze weapon.
In the first post on this topic, I used the vehicle of historical fiction to portray an apocalyptic vision of the near future. It may come as a surprise to many readers that I am not particular enamored of biblical prophecy interpretation or end-times fear-mongering. I neither pine for, nor live in terror of, any end-of-world scenario. The world may end tomorrow, or in a billion years when the sun exhausts its spent fuel in a spectacular supernova. I have no prescience about such things–nor would I wish to: life is more calmly and sanely spent living a day at a time, rather than obsessing about some future catastrophic event.
Nevertheless, it is instructive to note how threatened some seem by even postulating that nuclear terrorism is a distinct possibility, and that its effects on global stability and commerce, should it occur, would be profound and catastrophic in many ways. One erudite commenter opined that I was “crazier than those Islamic fundamentalists.” OK, yeah, whatever–unfortunately my spam filter doesn’t exclude commenters with IQs under 50. Another commenter gleefully pointed out a numeric inconsistency in the story, proudly proclaiming that the “inhabitants of the story are wrong,” broadly consigning both me and my readers to the trash bin of easily-duped fools. Sigh–such are the products of today’s institutions of lower education, which produce fine postmodern deconstructionists, utterly incapable of discerning truth from falsehood, or good from evil. Bad math is easily corrected; hollow-souled intellectuals far less easily fixed. The grand mansion of Western civilization still stands, majestic, but its supporting timbers are rotting, the termites of nihilism relentlessly nibbling at its ancient foundational beams. The neutered Last Man, so elegantly described by Van der Leun recently, is alive and well, blissful in his tiny, blinkered, spiteful world.
What is striking in our current age–unlike decades past–is the confluence of technology, global communication and commerce, with modern weaponry which makes a scenario such as my prior post so easily imaginable. Such capabilities have existed for many decades, of course–what has now changed is the disinhibition brought about by the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islam. In what may prove to be the ultimate historical irony, the fall of the Soviet Union led to the geopolitical balkanization of nations and cultures which allowed Islam to rise in power and influence–and further isolated and economically undermined dysfunctional client states like Syria and North Korea, leading to their increasing dependence on the development and export of WMD technology for survival.
How then shall we deal with the contemporary threat of Islamic radicalism, which like the Japanese warlords before them have embraced the suicide weapon? Unlike a nation-state, Islam is trans-national; it has no capital, no cities, no boundaries, no industrial base. It is fueled not by economic self-interest, nor the desire for imperialistic expansionism, nor wealth, nor national pride. It is driven by religious zealotry–and not merely this alone (for many faiths manifest zealotry among their followers)–but by a zealotry which envisions as its highest duty the destruction of all other religious faiths, and all unbelievers–and holds as one of its highest ideals the martyrdom of its adherents. Islam views itself as God’s instrument of conquest and vengeance: bringing all into forced submission to the will and rule of Allah–and destroying those who will not submit. Such ruthless zealotry, combined with access to weapons capable of killing thousands or even millions, and the willingness–even eagerness–to die for this cause, is indeed a frightening development in world history–unlike any other.
Islam is of course one of the world’s great religions, its reach rapidly expanding in many parts of the world. As such, it commands a great deal of respect–especially in a postmodern world where all beliefs are equal, all cultural narratives tolerated and valued. In many regards, Islam is today accorded a deference greater than of both Christianity and Judaism: anti-semitism is rampant and rising throughout the world; Christianity often skewered and ridiculed, its adherents frequently characterized as ignorant and bigoted, especially by the media, among the secular and the intellectual left . Yet rarely is a disparaging word heard about Islam in public, and the cry of victimization of Muslims rings out with a predictable regularity. Such selective bias arises, one suspects, from the widespread postmodern contempt for Western civilization. Islam hates Jews and Christians, so the Islamist must not be all that bad–as the moral and philosophical principles of Judeo-Christian faith form the central pillar of Western democratic traditions, now widely decried as racist, oppressive, and imperialistic.
Yet the blindingly obvious is rarely spoken–that the followers of Islam are the perpetrators of some of the most horrendous acts in our modern world: suicide bombings killing and mutilating innocent men, women and children; hijackings, bombings, and assassination; beheadings videotaped and widely circulated in the world media; honor killings of raped women; and of course the horrors and destruction of September 11th, and London, and Madrid. Of course, there is no shortage of evil and heinous acts in the world, which are hardly restricted to Islam; nor are the vast majority of Muslims involved in such acts. But the situation which most threatens the peace–and even continued existence–of the world today is not totalitarian states, nor ethnic cleansing, nor despots torturing and murdering their own people, nor racist Western imperialism: it is radical Islam, and the lethal fusion of a religion pursuing the death of its enemies, and the technological means to accomplish this–in spades.
But even the term “radical Islam” is misleading–for it implies that a peaceful, benign religion has been hijacked by a few crazies, who are wildly misinterpreting its teachings to promulgate violence and chaos. We hear constantly–from politicians and pundits, the media and Islamic apologists–that Islam is a “religion of peace.” But even the casual observer would be remiss if he did not notice that the daily fare from Muslims worldwide seems anything but peaceful: vicious and institutional anti-semitism; enthusiastic support of terrorist acts and suicide bombers (or at the least, silent assent, which seems little better); riots and violent retribution against any real or perceived insult to Islam (such as the current outrage over the publishing of satirical cartoons about the Prophet in European newspapers); death sentences issued–and sometimes executed–against artists and writers critical of Islamic practices; the suppression of free speech and free expression in Muslim countries; the repression and subjugation of women. The list is long indeed. One cannot but wonder whether those who pursue the most heinous of acts–terrorism, suicide bombs, torture–are not rather quantitatively, rather than qualitatively different from their less notorious brethren–and whether it is in fact Islam itself, rather than some extreme perversion of the extremist few–which is the true seed from which this hideous flower blooms.
If you have not done so, I encourage you to read the interview of Dr. Andrew Bostom in FrontPage magazine. It is lengthy, but well worth your time–and a mere foretaste of Dr. Bostom’s remarkable book entitled The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of the Non-Muslims. This is, by the way, not a religious attack on Islam, but is a rather remarkable work of history: nearly 800 pages of highly detailed, extensively footnoted research on the history of jihad, using both Islamic sources–some first translated into English during this project–and the writings and history of those profoundly affected by its belligerent imperialism. With the precision of cold surgical steel, Dr. Bostom dissects and exposes the history and myths of Islam, from its inception up to the present. The effect is nuclear in magnitude: utterly destroying the myth of Islamic tolerance of Christians and Jews (the so-called “Andalusian paradise” in Muslim Spain); detailing the rape, pillage, subjugation, massacre, and brutality to infidels of every stripe–Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian; the centrality of jihad (holy war, not inner struggle) to the Islamic faith; the widespread deception found in Islam’s apologists today about the true meaning and goals of jihad. It is chilling in its calm, analytical approach to the “Religion of Peace”–and a wake-up call to a sleeping West desperately in need of clarity about its utterly committed, fanatical–and soon to be nuclear-armed–enemy.
We are daily told we are in a war on terror. We are not–we are in a war with Islam. It is not a war we declared, or wanted, but an ancient war now declared on us. It is imperative that we speak plainly about this, setting aside the soft sentimentalities which fear offending anyone. There will, of course, be hollers of protest by the usual suspects; these must be ignored, and answered firmly, with truth, and history, and fact, not wishful thinking and weak apologies.
The Prophet has told us his plans, his vision of a world at peace. It is a false peace, from a false prophet–yet his faithful followers pursue it to the gates of death, and we are their targets. The hour is late–it is dangerous to sleep.