Discussing the "war on terror" has been endlessly awkward. Terror -- like a blitzkrieg, sneak-attack or disinformation -- is a tactic, not an enemy. But in our politically-correct era, we dwell on the tactic, never defining the enemy. Drop 500-pound bombs on his head if we must -- and we must -- but don't describe him as an Islamic jihadist in the age-old tradition of Islamic jihadis going back to Muhammad. Such historical precision might be hurtful and insensitive, and we wouldn't want that.
Indeed, as a matter of American foreign policy, we don't want that. Better to keep things vague and indirect, much as the Victorians are reputed to have done to avoid giving offense in the drawing room. Once upon a time, We the People were crass enough to have repelled a German blitzkrieg, defied Japanese sneak attack, and even, some of us, combated Soviet disinformation. Now, We the Peoples are "enlightened" to the point where we send armies out for years to fight generic "terror" -- no matter how specifically Islamic that it is.
There are many reasons why this matters, not least of which is that, without understanding the religious nature of jihad (holy war), along with its sister institution of dhimmitude (inferior status of non-Muslims under Islam), there can be no triumph over jihad and no avoiding dhimmitude. There can also be no understanding of the religiously rooted attitudes toward jihad movements among even non-violent Muslims, generally ranging from a tacit ambivalence to wild adulation.
Even as we fight our war against "terror," we simultaneously fight against any such understanding. Maybe the reason goes beyond reflexive PC manners. Maybe the West simply doesn't want an "enemy" at all; maybe we simply want to safeguard ourselves against "terror." Maybe our elites believe that, in targeting only terror, the enemy will learn to like us, and terror will go away.
This mindset may explain why the United States exhausts itself trying to disclaim a connection between Islam and jihad, opening Islamic centers on U.S. military bases (most recently at Quantico at the behest of a Wahhabi-educated cleric). Thus, as Paul Sperry writes at frontpagemag.com, "facilitating the study of the holy texts the enemy uses, heretically or not, as their manual of war"; treating those same holy texts reverentially by military order at Guantanamo Bay; and even sending in the Marines to donate prayer rugs to an Iraqi mosque.
Such tactics suggest we no longer seek a military triumph over Islamic jihad -- if we ever did. Had we prosecuted such a war, it would be over by now. The president would have directed the military to eradicate, freeze or neutralize jihadi threats where they exist, from Iran to Syria, from Gaza to Fallujah. Concurrently, we would have closed our own borders as a post-Sept. 11 security precaution, and implemented an immigration policy designed to avoid repeating the European example of Islamization through massive Muslim immigration or, as some are calling it, "reverse colonization."
But no. Such a war on terror long ago gave way to the Struggle to Make Everyone Think We're Swell. In this no-win fight, we must watch what we say -- as when the government "distances" itself from an official's frank characterization of three suicides at Guantanamo Bay as a jihadi "PR stunt." And we must watch what we do -- as when we repeatedly send our military on dangerous house-to-house missions with restrictive rules of engagement rather than using air power. In a war in which an interrogation could save a city, we rewrite our interrogation rules to make sure that it won't. "If this debate were limited to what's best for interrogation purposes, the decision (about whether to soften interrogation techniques) would be pretty easy," a senior Defense Department official told The New York Times. "But then you have to look at what we lose diplomatically.'"
Why? What are we, Liechtenstein? We sure act like it. The Washington Times' Tony Blankley recently noted the defeatism in America's about-face with jihadist Iran -- the looming front in the war. By offering non-military nuclear technology or else threatening non-military sanctions, the Bush administration seems to have acquiesced to what Blankley describes as "the only 'respectable' position" among both European and American elites: namely, "the absolute exclusion of a military option."
If true, this would mean that the already inadequately titled "war on terror" would no longer refer to "war" at all. And that would leave only ....