Monday, August 29, 2016

Winning the Long War

Unless we help Islam reform itself--as many Moslems want to do--one day we will experience a nuclear 9/11.

One aspect of the Long War I've come back to is the need to help Islam get its own house in order. In many ways we are collateral damage in an Islamic civil war to define Islam. If the jihadis win this civil war, Islam itself will wage war on the West rather than the current situation where Moslem governments are helping the West--imperfectly--fight the jihadis on the one hand while on the other hand trying to avoid appearing to fight jihadi ideology that calls out to the loyalty of too many Moslems at some level.

This article discusses the efforts within Islam to change the rules of how Moslems are governed:

Yet despite the devastation and the pervasive feeling of failure [in the Arab Spring], those days of rebellion constituted a rare signpost for the entire Arab world. They posed a first, perfect opportunity for the establishment of true states whose function would be to protect citizens, their freedoms and rights — not artificial states in which the regime functioned only to protect itself from its citizens.

This is what I have written again and again. In 2011 during the Arab Spring, Arab people cried out for democracy and freedom, rejecting the traditional alternatives of autocrat or mullah to rule their countries.

These people who took to the streets may not have had a good understanding of what democracy and freedom required in practical institution building, but that is why I urged the West to help the revolutionaries set up systems that would allow them to elect good men.

Egypt instead became the poster boy for failure of hopes against the forces of first the mullahs of the Moslem Brotherhood that took advantage of mistaking voting for democracy (neglecting the component of rule of law to keep voting from leading to a dictatorship of the majority) and then autocracy that regained control.

Tunisia is a guarded success.

Syria the biggest failure with the biggest body count and regional repercussions.

Libya is a smaller scale failure of similar scope of disaster.

Iraq is a state that we put on the road to democracy before the Arab Spring and which could yet be a laboratory for democracy if we stay after beating ISIL to help build the institutions that support democracy and rule of law; and block the efforts of Iran and Saudi Arabia to exploit their natural allies within Iraq to build sectarian support for themselves and so increase their influence inside Iraq to battle the other.

Even though we failed to help the Arab Spring learn how to build democracy, this help is still necessary in the long run to protect ourselves from a future jihad as we face today.

Another aspect of the long war I've written about is that our military actions are a holding action while Islam reforms itself.

One problem is that there have been repeated waves of jihad exploding out of the Arab world. We are in one now. the rage will in time fade even if we fail to help the Moslem world reform itself.

We might then declare victory as the bombs stop going off in the West, and support autocrats in Moslem states because we are unwilling to help reformers in the Moslem world build true democracy and marginalize the Islamist ideology that has suffered momentary discredit from the casualties among Moslems that the jihadis inflicted.

That momentary discredit of Islamism will fade over time. And if Islamism hasn't been discredited and if democracy has not been made a real alternative to autocrats, the Islamists will again gain supporters who see it as a way to overcome corrupt regimes that grow wealthy from exploiting their people.

We can see this playing out in Algeria where the bloody Islamist uprising in the 1990s momentarily made Algerians anti-Islamist because of the death toll. But now the appeal of Islamism in the face of continuing regime corruption is resurfacing:

Mosques are going up, women are covering up, and shops selling alcoholic beverages are shutting down in a changing Algeria where, slowly but surely, Muslim fundamentalists are gaining ground.

The North African country won its civil war with extremists who brought Algeria to its knees in the name of Islam during the 1990s. Yet authorities show little overt concern about the growing grip of Salafis, who apply a strict brand of the Muslim faith.

Algerians favoring the trend see it as a benediction, while critics worry that the rise of Salafism, a form of Islam that interprets the Quran literally, may seep deeper into social mores and diminish the chances for a modern Algeria that values freedom of choice.

If the Moslem world follows the path of Algeria, one day the Moslem world will see Islamism reborn and see a new jihad build and explode against the West.

There will be more Moslems in the West then. And no matter how small a percent of the Moslem immigrant population is pro-jihad, there will be more then than now inside the West.

Worse, by the time the next jihad explodes, the tools of destruction currently limited to states with the budgets to make them (nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) will likely be cheaper to build and accessible to wealthy sub-state groups or even individuals.

If we want to avoid a future nuclear 9/11, we need to help Islam reform itself.