West returns to pre-Sept. 11 thinking
by Salim Mansur
Eight years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 that unleashed the 'war on terror' and brought regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Islamist (or Islamofascist) beast remains alive.
The 'war on terror,' as former president George W. Bush defined it, is over and President Barack Obama's 'overseas contingency operations' mean returning to the pre-9/11 world.
This return to Sept. 10 thinking was anticipated. No democracy can wage any sort of war indefinitely and the 'war on terror' went well beyond the duration of America's decisive engagements in the two world wars of the last century.
Setting aside for this column the looming debate over Afghanistan, the big question on this eighth anniversary of Islamist attacks on America remains frankly whether the United States and allies win, draw or lose the 'war on terror.' This is the question that will haunt the West for a long time to come.
In the meantime, as concerns over the global economy's health take precedence over all other issues and democracies turn inward to contend with domestic priorities, the Islamist beast will gather strength and prey upon the free world it detests.
It needs to be said that the West in general never seriously took full measure of the Islamist beast. This was for a number of reasons – oil, relationships with the Arab-Muslim world, geopolitics – but, more important, the political-intellectual elite's investment in the politics of multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism inhibited the West from naming the enemy and understanding his nature. The 'war on terror' remained a euphemism for what could not be named and hence, the war was not fought on the main ideological terrain of the enemy.
Though the roots of Islamism can be traced back to the early years of Arab-Muslim history, it is a modern totalitarian ideology at war with modernity.
The goal of Islamism is Islamist state. And as Mawdudi, one of the founders of Islamism, wrote, 'Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states.'
Khomeini's Iran and the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia, despite their mutual hostility – as there was between the former Soviet Union and communist China – are the two faces of Islamist state and Islamism is the global movement that keeps the Islamist beast alive.
The West cannot reform the Arab-Muslim world from the outside. If reformation is to occur, it will have to be from within and will require of Muslims to slay the Islamist beast.
This is the long struggle in which the Arab-Muslim world is engaged and Afghanistan is just one theatre of this struggle.
In another time the West would either slay the Islamist beast or cage it from doing harm.
Instead the multicultural sensibility leans towards accommodation, and the 'war on terror' was shadowed by the willingness to appease Islamism.
Bruce Bawer's recent book Surrender is an instructive study of this phenomenon, and a bleak narrative of the extent to which Islamist stealth jihad has undermined freedom in the West.
Beyond this illusory end of the 'war on terror' there is uncertainty as to when the Islamist beast ignites another war, likely more costly and ruinous than it did on 9/11.