TCS Daily


Pape-al Fallibility: It's Not All About Us

By Michael Totten - August 12, 2005 12:00 AM

Islamists have killed thousands of Westerners over the past couple of years -- thousands in New York City alone. But they have killed far more of their own fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and too many other places to list. The Terror War, or whatever we ought to call it, is not about us. It's a war waged by totalitarian Islamists against the rest of the world. We aren't targets because of what we do or even because of who we are. We are targets because we are not them. They hate everybody and we're part of "everybody."

So many Westerners, liberal and conservative alike, are only interested in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world at the points of inter-civilizational contact, when and where its problems intersect with us and become our problems. It's understandable, but it's blinkered. Islamism exists independently of the West, not merely in reaction to it, and it would continue to exist if America and the rest of the West did not. It's not all about us.

Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine recently published an interview with University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape:

        "The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not 
        driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: 
        to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory 
        that the terrorists view as their homeland...Since suicide terrorism is 
        mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism

        the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you 
        would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at 
        us." [Emphasis added.]

So Pape thinks Islamic fundamentalism isn't the problem. Foreign occupation is. Therefore, no foreign occupation...no suicide terrorism.

It's total nonsense.

First of all, let's get one thing out of the way. "Terrorism," suicidal or otherwise, isn't the enemy. Totalitarian Islamists are the enemy. They won't go away just because Western troops go away. Terrorism is merely the tactic they use against Westerners because they're too militarily incompetent to use anything else.

The overwhelming majority of Islamist killers aren't terrorists. They are soldiers and members of state-sanctioned death squads. Most victims of Islamists violence aren't Westerners...they're the Islamists' fellow Muslims. It's easy to forget this -- or not even be aware of it -- if you aren't interested in what happens inside the Muslim world when George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the rest in the West aren't involved.

The Islamist regime in Sudan has killed more than a million people all by itself in the Christian south and in the Muslim region of Darfur. It would take tens of thousands of terrorists to do worse than that.

But the Islamists in Algeria gave it a hell of shot. More than 100,000 were killed during the past ten years in that country's civil war between radical Salafi fundamentalists and literally everyone else.

Iran's Islamist regime killed its way into power and kills to remain in power. Afghanistan's former Taliban regime likewise killed its way into power and killed to remain in power.

Naturally Islamists want to push Westerners out of what they think of as their part of the world. That's one part of their plan. But it's only one part. Westerners and other non-Muslims are also attacked when they get in the way of Islamist imperialism.

Hamas, for example, does not wish merely to liberate the West Bank and Gaza from Israeli occupation. They intend to conquer Israel itself -- Tel Aviv, Haifa, all of it.

Jemaah Islamiyah hopes to create an Islamist "superstate" in South Asia called Daulah Islamiyah -- and that superstate would include the non-Muslim countries of Thailand, Cambodia, and Australia. These are the Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists who murdered almost 200 hundred Australian tourists in Bali before the Iraq invasion had even begun.

This is the same jihad that rages in Thailand where more than 600 people have been killed by terrorists and in clashes with the police.

Iran's Lebanese proxy militia Hezbollah fought a guerilla war against Israeli occupation. But they also killed hundreds of people in Argentina, a nation that has never in its history occupied Muslim lands or fought a war against a Muslim country.

Spanish police found a bomb on the high-speed railway connecting Madrid and Seville that was almost identical to those used to kill hundreds in Madrid's train stations last year. This bomb was planted on the tracks after Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq.

Meanwhile Britain's political party Hizb'ut Tahrir, as the BBC put it, "promotes racism and anti-Semitic hatred, calls suicide bombers martyrs, and urges Muslims to kill Jewish people." The party is banned in most European countries, and for good reason. They not only want to see Western countries withdraw from Muslim lands. They want to Islamicize Europe and turn the West (along with the rest of the world) into a global Islamist theocracy.

Terrorism is not about us. It's about them and their totalitarian designs.

It also is not about Islam. At least it's not about Islam per se. It's about the radical fascist (and counter intuitively modern) Wahhabi and Salafi sects of Islam. A certain kind of conservative believes any and all Muslims are ideologically wired for jihad against Western infidels. I suppose it's easy to believe that if, like Robert Pape, they only pay attention to Islam when it violently collides with the West.

Intra-Muslim conflicts tell us as much about what it all means as conflicts between Muslims and the West. Take Iran, for instance. The regime is Islamist. "Death to America" is one of its rallying cries. But the Iranian "street" prefers "Death to the Ayatollahs." Few people in the world are as pro-American as the average Iranian. Those who want nothing more than to hang the mullahs from cranes are Muslims, too. They aren't driven to jihad against the West. They are gravitating toward the West, and specifically toward the U.S.

The Sunni Muslims in Iraqi Kurdistan also are among the most pro-American people on Earth. Their only "jihad" is against the Baathists and the theocratic fascists -- the very same people who just so happen to be our enemies.

Moderate Muslims aren't an urban legend imagined by politically correct liberals. They already make up the absolute majority in some parts of the world. They are our friends as well as our allies.

Robert Pape thinks we should withdraw from the region completely and "secure our interests in oil," as he put it, from a distance. If we take his advice we won't end the threat from our enemies. We'll give them military victories for free. And we'll throw our liberal Muslim friends to the Islamist wolf. It's the most disgraceful and despicable thing we could possibly do, not to mention one of the dumbest. Empowered liberal-democratic Muslims with guns will defeat the Islamists in the end. We can't do it without them, and they can't do it if they're languishing in mass graves and dungeons.

Michael J. Totten is a TCS columnist. Visit his daily Web log at http://michaeltotten.com.

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