2004 April 27 Tuesday
Spengler On Achilles Heels Of the West And Islam

Spengler says the West and Islam have different emotions that give each a specific Achilles Heel. (strongly recommended to read in full)

Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands. The West can break the revolt by inflicting even worse humiliation upon the Islamists, poisoning the confidence of their supporters in the Muslim world.

But radical Islam yet may horrify the West into submission, not only by large-scale acts of terrorism against Western countries, but also by provoking the West into mass destruction of life in the Islamic world. By operating in the midst of civilian populations, Islamist radicals put Western counter-insurgency in a delicate position. The Western response must be harsh enough to humble its adversaries, without turning the stomach of the Western population itself. To do this requires intelligence precise enough to target enemy resources without killing too many civilians.

Basically, Spengler is arguing that the West must carry out even more precise killings of its enemies. This will make Islam seem powerless in the face of a more technologically advanced non-Islamic civilization. Spengler's argument for a Western aversion to horror sounds right. Though if the terrorists ever manage to attack the West with weapons that kill hundreds of thousands or millions that horror will dissipate for a time.

Spengler also argues that Israel is actually an asset to the United States because simply by existing so successfully Israel is "an ever-present source of humiliation to the Muslim sense of self-worth."

Seen in Spengler's terms the problem with the Iraq invasion and occupation is that allows Islam and tribal insurgents in Iraq to force US military to respond in ways that end up killing civilian bystanders. This invokes both Muslim anger and Western horror. However, if the US can very selectively kill the Islamic jihadis in Iraq then the humiliation of the Islamists will weaken the faith of many Muslims and reduce the appeal of terrorism.

The United States needs both excellent intelligence in Iraq and weapons systems developed to allow more precise killings. On the latter count what is needed most of all are ways for soldiers down on the ground in urban environments to rapidly identify the sources of small arms fire and to more precisely respond exactly to the shooters. Robots and very small flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could both help to solve this problem. The US Army is already beginning to deploy a sound processing system mountable on Humvees that quickly locates the direction and distance of sniper fire. Imagine tying that to cameras that rapidly find the shooter and that direct a gun to precisely target return fire.

Spengler is right to see the limited intelligence gathering capability of the CIA as an Achilles Heel. Certainly the CIA needs more agents and far more talented agents who are out in the world penetrating Islamic terrorist organizations. But the CIA is just one part of the US intelligence establishment and that establishment as a whole is hobbled by a combination of the legacy of the 1970s Church Committee investigation and modern day Luddite privacy fanatics. The best person to read on that is Heather Mac Donald. See my previous post Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat and click through on the links in that post to read arguments on how information technology can make a decisive difference in the battle against terrorist networks.

For more on what ought to be done to respond to the Islamic terrorist threat see Andrew McCarthy's essay in Commentary entitled The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It

As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has observed, weakness is provocative. The fecklessness of meeting terrorist attacks with court proceedings—trials that take years to prepare and months to present, and that, even when successful, neutralize only an infinitesimal percentage of the actual terrorist population—emboldened bin Laden. But just as hurtful was the government’s promotion of terrorism trials in the first place. They were a useful vehicle if the strategic object was to orchestrate an appearance of justice being done. As a national-security strategy, they were suicidal, providing terrorists with a banquet of information they could never have dreamed of acquiring on their own.

Under discovery rules that apply to American criminal proceedings, the government is required to provide to accused persons any information in its possession that can be deemed "material to the preparation of the defense" or that is even arguably exculpatory. The more broadly indictments are drawn (and terrorism indictments tend to be among the broadest), the greater the trove of revelation. In addition, the government must disclose all prior statements made by witnesses it calls (and, often, witnesses it does not call).

Update: Again, read Spengler's full essay. One of his most striking points is to question the value of attempting to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. If his argument is correct then excessive deference to Muslim sensibilities (e.g. the British government's recent decision to exempt Muslim women from having their photos taken for ID cards) is counterproductive. My own intuition is that Spengler is correct.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 April 27 10:14 AM  Terrorists Western Response

Luke Lea said at April 27, 2004 11:59 AM:

Yeah, I think Spengler may be on to something. At the risk of going out on a limb, on the subject of not offending "Muslim religious sensibilities" I would raise the question of whether Islam is in fact a "religion" as opposed to a political movement -- at least as the word "religion" is used in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution and was understood by the Founding Fathers. They were thinking of various Protestant sects of Christianity and of the Pharisiac tradition of Judaism, neither of which made the kind of direct political claims that Mohammad does (who modeled himself on Moses, btw, the man who pretty much invented the idea of religious intolerance). True, Protestant sects sometimes made political claims (as in the Massachusetts Bay Colony) and in the relgious wars between Protestants and Catholics in Europe -- but it was precisely to avoid a repeat of that unhappy history that the principle of separation of church and state was put into the Constitution. (This also explains why Catholocism was accepted so reluctantly and belatedly in this country: it was thought the Catholic Church harbored political amibitions.) Islam, by contrast, if you take it literally, is pretty much where Moses was when he led the children of Israel to the promised land; the only difference is that, for Mohammad, the whole world is his promised land -- and we are the Cananites! This may not be fair -- but if it isn't, would someone please explain to me where I have gone wrong?

James Jones said at April 27, 2004 4:15 PM:

You're mostly correct. There are two substantial differences between the Israelite's religious mandate to conquer Canaan and Islam's religious mandate to conquer the world:

1) God told the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan. This was to prevent weakening of Jewish faith through intermixing with peoples that believed in false gods. In contrast, Mohammed told the believers to permit infidels to live as long as they submitted themselves to Islamic authority. This especially applies to Jews and Christians who are considered, "People of the Book," because many of their prophets/holy men and teachings are included in the Koran. I think non-Koranic religions are treated much more harshly, but don't know. Certainly, the oppression of Jews and Christians in many Islamic societies has been terrible.

2) God did not tell the Israelites to convert the Canaanites or any other peoples to Judaism. In contrast, Mohammad told the believers to convert the infidels to Islam whenever possible. Infidels who do not convert to Islam and do not submit to Islamic authority should be killed or enslaved.

Kind of makes you feel all warm and comfy toward the Religion of Submission, doesn't it?

Best regards,

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