Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hope Amidst the Ruins

Yes, the fight against jihadis still rages coming up on 16 years after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the Islamic world has already changed a lot. It can change more to be less of a threat to the West by producing jihadis, as well as to their own people.

In an otherwise good article about the dangers of conspiracy-thinking, Kevin Williams writes:

The reality of George W. Bush’s “democracy project” program for the Middle East — to bomb the Arabs until they became Canadians — just wasn’t crazy enough for his critics. There needed to be something more.

Yes, Williams may be just mockingly describing what critics thought, as part of the point of the article against deep conspiracies on the left and right, but the charge is too close to what many people wrongly say about the Iraq War to let that stand.

One, we were always very careful in our use of firepower in the Iraq War. Russians bomb Moslems until they become Russians (or allies). America truly wants hearts and minds.

Most basically, the democracy project is not futile. I know I'm an outlier in both liberal and conservative circles, but I think that the much-mocked democracy project is the long-term solution to solving the long-standing choices given to Moslems of living under an autocrat or under a mullah-run regime.

Indeed, even in the days after the 9/11 attack, when I felt at war to my very bones, I did not descend into the bomb all of "them" until they are Canadian mentality:

Above all, vigilance must not degenerate into paranoia. We must trust that our Moslem and Arab neighbors share our values. They or their parents or grandparents immigrated to America because they too cherish our freedoms and way of life. Like most Americans, they are here because someone in their family fled poverty, oppression, or both, to build a better life for their children. They are horrified and angry like all Americans. "They" are our friends and neighbors and are part of "us." Some, whether citizens or residents, will be guilty of cooperating with the enemy or even actively fighting us. This is not new. Fascism and communism had their admirers here even in our darkest hours during those fights. Those betrayers were guilty as individuals and not as members of any religion or ethnic group. Let us not descend into the logic of our enemies that the perceived or actual guilt of one condemns all similar innocents. Our enemies will have won the war in a fundamental and lasting way if we become like the terrorists even as we physically destroy our terrorist enemy.

The Arab Spring was the first indication that people in the Moslem Arab world wanted something more than that choice.

Yes, it has failed for the most part. The forces of autocratic and mullah-run options are still strong enough to win when it comes to a fight. Nor did the democracy advocates in the Arab Spring really appreciate that democracy is more than just setting up an election, requiring rule of law and the suppression of corruption to work.

But the short-term defeats can't blind us to the potential of long-term reform that gives the Arab Islamic world true democracy with rule of law.

Remember, already the Moslem world has been transformed by contact with democracy and the West. The Moslem world is ideally a caliphate unbound by national borders. That is the appeal of ISIL in proclaiming the beginning of a new caliphate to recapture the glory days when Islam was one entity.

Yet the Islamic world has overwhelmingly rejected the appeal of that caliphate. Yes, some heard the siren song of jihad and journeyed to die in Iraq and Syria and other battlefields. But the Islamic world is large and so a small percentage could fuel that caliphate. They are too many, to be sure, but it is a failing appeal.

The Islamic world is made up of states in a still-Westphalian United Nations world. Has anyone in the Islamic world argues that Islamic states should merge their membership any more than European Union fans argue their states should let the EU represent all of Europe?

And the Moslem world has governing institutions modeled on the West, with executives, legislative bodies, and court systems. This alone is significant if function follows form.

Territorial-based states and Western-style governing bodies are not how classical Islam worked and the reality of today is far from that ideal. Yes, pan-state Islamic appeals still stir hearts. But the modern Islamic world is built on states with countries providing the primary appeal to loyalty rather than pan-Islamic solidarity.

This is the bigger picture of my observation that seeing head-scarved Moslem women driving mini-vans in my city is a daily assault on the Islamist-defined world of Islam. Indeed, choose any--even radical--Moslem woman in America publicly advocating for an Islamist-friendly cause, and then put them in an actual Islamist-friendly society, and you won't see that woman any more because the Islamists consider a public woman more of a threat. Ponder that irony.

Driving and even disturbing advocacy within our system are signs of Western influence that given time will be decisive.

As an aside, that's a potential gap in Islamist thinking that could be decisive in reform. Islam has rules on how Moslems are to behave in Moslem societies and even in Moslem societies conquered by non-Moslems. But given the long stretch of early Islamic conquests, nobody setting down doctrine thought about the duties of Moslems who choose to live in a non-Western society, as so many have chosen in the modern era. It is a lacuna in Islamic thinking that damages the idea of Islam as an organizing template for every facet of life.

Within my lifetime, plenty of people argued that Latin American Catholic countries--including the Philippines--weren't suited for democracy because of their religious culture. Yet democracy has spread there.

And recall that the European Catholic hierarchy doesn't quite know what to make of the American Catholic world that has been deeply changed by the new world of freedom of opportunities--and assimilation.

Killing jihadis shouldn't be the objective--it should be the means to an objective. We bomb jihadis in Iraq in defense of a freed Iraq so that Iraqis could have the opportunity to become more like Canadians.

That opportunity is needed for more Moslems than just Iraqis. Let's not overlook the real changes and potential for more change in the Islamic world as we rightly condemn the brutality of the jihadis and resist the threats.

If Islamic society doesn't change to dry up the pool of jihadi recruits, we really will have to bomb forever--as President Obama set up his drone program to do--just to keep the production line of jihadis off balance to reduce the pace of carnage in Western cities.

And really, what's crazy with having more Canadians?

UPDATE: Really, wasn't the Obama drone project to bomb Arabs until they stop wanting to kill even Canadians? 

Yeah,  I'm under suspicion of bigotry because I think Moslems are deserving of and capable of achieving rule of law and democracy. It's a funny world.