On Defining Our Enemies

Iran? Shiite militias? After months of focusing on our new and exclusive enemy ISIS, the Western leadership and media are shocked, shocked! to discover that the conflict in Iraq and Syria has allowed an Iranian advance almost to the borders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. The front lines of the Muslim religious and civil war have dramatically changed, but our surprise is entirely self-inflicted.

Robert W. Merry, a “longtime Washington political reporter and publishing executive” writes:

Back in October 2006, the National Security Editor at Congressional Quarterly, Jeff Stein, took to asking national security officials and members of Congress if they knew the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Middle East. He wasn’t looking for arcane doctrinal disquisitions, merely if they could say who was on which side and what each wanted. He discovered a sump of ignorance in Washington officialdom on the subject, hardly one of only limited significance to the country at the time.

Our “expert” Merry goes on to clobber Senator Marco Rubio for his supposed ignorance regarding the Middle East; he then talks about “the Shiite nations of Iran, Iraq and Syria” (notwithstanding the fact that the latter is about 60% Sunni and 13% Shia), and ends up saying that we should help Iran against ISIS. This is what passes for knowledge of the Middle East in America and the West, where we project our ideas on the Middle East and see conflict there either as lack of democracy (nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan), or dictator versus people (Saddam Hussein vs the Iraqi people, Muammar Gaddafi vs the Libyan people, Bashar Assad vs the Syrian people), or we see only one enemy: a terrorist, jihadist or radical group (then Al-Qaeda, now ISIS).

It is funnily absurd that when religion is disappearing in the West, our atheist leaders have suddenly become theologians and purport to know what Islam is, who are real Muslims, and who have hijacked what they call “the religion of peace.” These self-anointed Islamic experts have the gall to define as “not Islamic” someone like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s Caliph, who apparently has a PhD in Islamic Studies. Talk about hijacking, or about Disney cartoons.

Topping off this wholesale stupidity, some of our pundits believe they have discovered a correct definition: radical Islam, the reason being that if Obama and Kerry don’t want to mention it, then it should be the correct name. But their discovery is nearly worthless as a basis for strategy. What should be clear is that there is Sunni Islamism and there is Shia Islamism, that they are fighting each other to the death in the entire Middle East, and that both of them see the West as their enemy. Talking about a foggy “radical Islam” and focusing on ISIS and forgetting Iran is not only erroneous but dangerous.

Besides the extreme complexity of the Middle East, its cast of medieval culture and characters, of Islam as a political religion that has no limiting principle, and the constantly changing alliances and enmities, one more factor complicates the explosive mix: our postmodern reluctance to confront reality. Therefore our desperation for a semantic escape: “war on terror,” “contingency overseas operations,” “violent extremism,” “radical Islam.”

The underlying reality is this: the Muslim civilization is in a state of religious and civil war that we in the West haven’t seen for almost four hundred years, a war similar to the Thirty Years’ War between two religious sects and two groups of countries led by Saudi Arabia and Iran. The only difference is, the main forces on both sides are also waging war against the West in a way that will increasingly include Muslims who live in the West.

If we don’t recognize this, we can’t understand why Muslims are killing each other from Egypt to Pakistan, or the rise of Iran together with its Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist proxies, or Iran’s quest for domination of Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, or Saudi Arabia’s historical support of the most extreme forms of Sunni Islam such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, or the confluence of thousands of young American and European Sunni Muslims in Syria to fight for ISIS or the reluctance of the Sunni monarchies and Turkey to confront ISIS because in doing so they would be helping Iran, their main Shia enemy, when it already has its eyes on Jordan!

At this very moment, the battle for the territorial division of the artificial states of Iraq and Syria is entering its final phases:

In Iraq, on one side is the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS) and on the other are the Iraqi Shia army, the Iraqi Shia militia, and the Iranian Shia military contingent, all led by the Iranian hero General Qasem Soleimani.

In Syria, hundreds of thousands of fanatical Iranian Shia Revolutionary Guards and Shia-Alawite fighters led by Bashar Al-Assad face equally fanatical Sunnis of the Islamic State. If Iran wins the battle for Iraq and Syria, it will not only have a common border with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, it will also be the hegemonic power in the Middle East. This unprecedented fact can only get much worse: Obama is making a deal with Iran so that this new Middle-Eastern hegemon, the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism, will also be a nuclear power.

Obama is telling this to Israel and the Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrein, Qatar, and Kuwait: you are on your own.

ISIS is not a terrorist entity, and neither are the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Iraqi Shia militias or the Yemeni Houthi Shia militias. Or, if you prefer, they are all terrorists because in a civil and religious war every fighter is a terrorist. ISIS is just the most radical expression of Sunni warmaking, and the same applies to Shia warriors on the other side. They all see themselves as jihadis or holy warriors.

But what if radicals are a tiny minority within Islam? What if Islam is really a “religion of peace”? That is not the case either. The Muslim world is in social and political turmoil. There have been more than 25,000 Islamic attacks in the world since 9/11. Just in the month of January 2015, there were 266 Muslim attacks in 28 countries, from Afghanistan to Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Dagestan, France, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, and Yemen. There are now more than 18 million Muslim refugees in the Middle East, and there could be up to 10,000 European Muslims fighting in Syria and Iraq by the end of the year.

Just try to understand Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against writer Salman Rushdie, who at the time was living in Great Britain, as a document of a religion of peace:

“I would like to inform all the intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled ‘Satanic Verses’ … as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, are hereby sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Moslems to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult Islamic sanctity. Whoever is killed doing this will be regarded as a martyr and will go directly to heaven.”



Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes

I recently wrote about the West’s unwillingness to confront reality. Our times are marked by postmodernism, a philosophical movement that appeared as a reaction to early modernity’s scientific certainties and quickly became the basis of Western culture. It considers reality as “socially constructed,” that is, we create reality ourselves and there are no objective truths, only our own interpretations, narratives, and feelings. And since all subjective “truths” are equal, we should be tolerant, inclusive and non-judgmental of everything under the sun. Post-modernism is the mark of late Western liberalism and therefore all kinds of political, social, economic and international relations fall within its huge house of mirrors. It is also the mark of passiveness, as modern liberalism is eons away from its Whig origins and no longer believes in anything worth fighting and dying for.

Just as progress is real, unidirectional and unavoidable, under the light of postmodernism liberalism is the final universal culture that overcame human nature and can mold it any way it wants. On the other hand, subjectivism, self-absorption and self-delusion are powerful weapons we give our enemies for free and the mirage extends across the board with Europeans, Americans, liberals and conservatives being similarly deceived. It is extremely grave when self-delusion (a form of madness that makes incorrect inferences about external reality) becomes the norm of conduct of entire societies.

I believe that postmodernism is no passing vogue or fashion but rather the last phase in the decadence and death of the West. As we are beginning to see, it passively accepts its future defeat brought by the arcane forces of human nature it refuses to recognize. This may be difficult to believe in these technological times, but it is totally in accord with history for human hubris to be the agent of its own destruction. It is also the way the young in the developed world —our future leaders— are taught. Decadence in the oven, so to speak.

There is, says Obama, “less war and less violence in the world today” and “America is again the most respected country on Earth” under his watch. He is reciting the liberal postmodernist Bible, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, an anti-human nature treatise that tells us we shouldn’t believe our own lying eyes because the modern centralizing tendencies have conquered the worst of our nature, notwithstanding Hitler, Stalin and Mao, or the Jewish, Ukrainian, Armenian and Cambodian genocides, or the more than 250 million total deaths in the 20th century that in unison cry out to us that Pinker is wrong. The truth is the world progresses and regresses and, human nature being what it is, the world certainly does not get better when the hegemonic power withdraws from it. Barack Obama is the worst possible leader of his country at this time: a shallowly educated but deeply indoctrinated postmodern, a barbarian at the head of the late Roman Empire. There is also the warning of the return of geopolitics —human nature in toto— as Walter Russell Mead tells us:

The United States and the EU, at least, find such trends disturbing. Both would rather move past geopolitical questions of territory and military power and focus instead on ones of world order and global governance: trade liberalization, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, the rule of law, climate change, and so on. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, the most important objective of U.S. and EU foreign policy has been to shift international relations away from zero-sum issues toward win-win ones.

Self-delusion is to think that Somali Muslim war refugees in Minnesota will suddenly forget their cultural and religious beliefs just because they stepped on US territory by chance or by necessity. Or that Muslims living in Europe would not hear the call of their Middle East brothers in this —as their interpretation of Islam sees it— apocalyptic moment, only because they happen to live in France or England. Or that Muslims need to be “radicalized” in order for them to fight for the Muslim Caliphate. Secular post-moderns don’t understand the power of religion, therefore any individual acceptance of jihad will be understood as part of a “distorted” view of Islam.

All the while, Muslim children in Europe play ISIS beheading games in preschool!

In this race to the societal cliff, the German Bishops are trying to force the coming Roman synod to accept their policies, that is, they want the rest of the world to follow the European Catholic Church to the tomb. As the German Father Eberhard Schockenhoff says, “moral theology must be liberated from the natural law, and conscience should be based on the life experience of the faithful.” The gift of subjectivism from Catholic Europe, when its churches are empty of parishioners, to the rest of the world. A sign of the times indeed.

The small cluster of countries that conform the West want to lead the world with platitudes and “soft power” while at the same time the illiberal powers Russia, China and Iran — plus several other rogue nations — plot to upend the global order. Obama pushes an ethereal war against climate change while the Islamic State advances and North Korea miniaturizes nuclear weapons it will eventually share with Iran and whoever else pays them well. What more proofs of living in an illusory world do we need?

During its colonialist past the West didn’t hear the call of nationalism in places like Algeria or Vietnam; pari passu, in its modern atheistic and hedonistic form it understands even less the powerful call of religious faith allied to nationalism. Therefore the stupid calls for “job opportunities” for jihadists, for countering the “radicalization” and for reinforcing the “civic duties” of the “disenfranchised youth” of Europe. As Pat Buchanan argues, unquestionably:

Historically, as the faith dies, the culture and civilization to which it gave birth die, and then the people die. And a new tribe with its own gods comes to occupy the emptying land.

As there is nothing new under the sun, the future will again be conquered by faith and belief. Nobody knows who will win but the outcome is not difficult to predict: the strongest believers, therefore also the most fertile, will be the winners. Imagine how far apart from postmodern liberal thinking this is.


Globalism is Contra Naturam

Nationalism is the normal political form of the modern world. It was announced in 1648, right at the dawn of the modern era, in the series of treaties known as the Peace of Westphalia. The treaties created a basis for national self-determination, justified the citizen as the source of legitimacy, and established the primacy of sovereign nations in the division of the world. Nationalism is also a natural political form because it recognizes a shared feeling of geography, ethnicity, culture and language as unifying factors. It is the expansion of the family and the tribe to an extreme that can still be considered as a similar enough group to be a common possession. Nationalism is emotional and concrete.

On the other hand, globalism, the group of ideas giving justification to globalization, is a scaffolding artificially built on top of nations without any root in human nature below it. Globalism began in the 1970s and its basis is the primacy of economics over politics and of international organizations over national governments and sovereignty. Globalism can also be thought as a creation of postmodernism, an invented reality, a “socially constructed” part of the general idea of relentless liberal progress towards a borderless world where all humans are brothers. Globalism is intellectual and abstract.

To understand globalism’s artificiality and the opposite pull of nationalism, all one needs to do is watch any soccer match during any international competition: the national flags waving, the national anthems blaring, the national citizens at their most tribal, as if playing their savage role in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Compared to those strong and primeval feelings, the idea of a universal brotherhood of man as the reason for international competition is a weak alternative.

This difference is also clear in religion. Judaism as a religion is strong —no matter how many attempts to destroy it — because it is the expression of a particular people, even more particular by being the chosen one. Christianity is a universalist creed but could only develop as a national religion, with triumphant nations such as Spain, France, England, Germany and America each believing in turn their capitals were the new Jerusalem and their nations the new chosen people. Christianity as the religion of a universal empire reigned for a time over a small, civilized, European part of the world but only because of the chaos unleashed by the collapse of the Roman empire and its takeover by Northern barbarians. The universality of Christianity was destroyed by the wars of religion and, with the birth of nationalism, it became as particular as any other religion.

The triumph of globalism during the last 45 years could only be achieved by its imposition by a small but powerful and vocal elite, the ones who benefited the most from implementing the idea. In that way, it could only appear as a veil on the eyes of the people. In Europe and America the elite has been exposed as the UniParty, a true ruling class composed of traditional financial capitalists, new digital-age capitalists, political donors, establishment politicians of all parties, and the media, pundits and intellectuals, the last three being amanuenses for the ruling class and conjurers of illusions for the common people.

Therefore it is not difficult to see why there is a rebirth of nationalism above and beyond the real suffering of most people in most countries due to the ravages of globalization. Brexit and the nationalist parties in Europe and Trump and his movement in America are the leading edges of this rebirth. Which of them will triumph and which will only be prophetic is not for us to know, but nationalism will certainly be part of the political and economic debate from now on.