When enough becomes too much

Posted: Dec 03, 2002 12:00 AM
One of these days, Islamic apologists, who are numerous inside and outside Islam, should explain why the "religion of peace" attracts such vast numbers of the anything-but-peaceful. But before that day dawns, the significance of the question may in some sense have abated. A non-Islamic power, the United States, will have begun a definitive clampdown on the perpetrators of violence. It will have kicked Saddam Hussein out of power and undertaken the pacification of Iraq. Enough is sometimes too much. Like now. How many more innocent civilians must be blown apart or gunned down, as in Nigeria and Kenya in recent days, for it to sink in that we can't go on like this? The Islamic world either cannot or will not dispose of its human refuse. The United States and such allies as it can enlist, open or secret, must do the job. It might not seem apposite to start with Saddam Hussein, a secular thug hard to distinguish from Reinhard Heydrich or Horst Wessel, but you have to start somewhere, and Iraq, a squalid, anti-Western despotism is as good a place as any. Kicking out Saddam will send a necessary message: We in the West are deadly serious about ending anti-Western violence; the uncooperative should ponder the consequences of non-cooperation. What goes on, in any case, isn't theological debate: the abstract merits of Islam over against those of Christianity, e.g., Jesus as prophet (the Koran) or incarnate son of God (the New Testament). What goes on is war. Repellent people have leagued in order to commit racist murder. That is not all. The violent put forth no cognizable aims. Oh, all right, Israel. The terrorists' posture toward the Jewish state, being historical, can be inferred. That posture is, kill the Jews. All of them. Possibly not quite all, assuming they vacate the land -- Israel -- they reclaimed from the Islamic wasteland it had become under the Turks. As propositions go, here is a clear non-starter. The Israelis are going nowhere. Murdering for the sake of scaring them into flight amounts to murdering for the joy of it. Which is very much the way it looks when some psychopath blows up a bus full of ordinary Israelis or when a Kenyan dance troupe entertaining newly arrived tourists at a peaceful hotel falls victim to the same madness and evil. Say you wanted to reason with the killers. How would you do it? Where, to start with, would you find their leaders? There are leaders all right -- hundreds if not thousands of them, unorganized in any formal sense, unresponsive to direction from the top. There is no top. Each chieftain nurtures his independent vision of the will of Allah. Thus, you bring them down one by one -- faster where possible. A point to which scant attention is paid by analysts of the terror question is the asymmetry of terrorist action and anti-terrorist reaction. You best appreciate the asymmetry in question by asking -- and answering -- this question: When was the last time a gang of foot-washing Pentecostals shot up a Moslem wedding or sent someone to blow up a commuter bus in Riyadh? Not only has it not happened; there is no possibility of its happening. Facts should be faced: The West is under attack. What are the options? Surrender, of course -- but to whom, on what terms and at what cost? Victory is the other option: extinction of the threat or reduction of it to near-invisibility. There is no triumphalism in this approach, certainly no imperialism. And -- a highly urgent point -- there is no hatred of Islam itself. The West will be pleased to live on amiable terms with Islam once the current killing frenzy ends. First, the frenzy must end. The Bush administration's Iraq planners aim at no grander objective. Nor at any lesser one.