Why they fight (No, really, why?)

Posted: May 01, 2006 12:05 AM

No one has ever adequately explained why the jihadist "insurgency" fights on in Iraq. Really. It's not enough to say these Islamic fanatics want to drive "infidel" U.S. forces out of Iraq, or that they want to bring down the Iraqi government. It is by remaining in Iraq that the United States has built up a democratically elected but Islamic government in Iraq -- and an Islamic government is the goal of every good jihadist. In other words, our Islamic enemies should be at peace with the Iraqi government because its constitution makes Islamic law supreme. "No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established," says Article 2. That single line contains the blueprint for a sharia state, and if there's one thing a jihadist apparently likes, it's a sharia state.

Recently, Sayyed Ayad, a liberal member of Iraqi parliament who favors the separation of church (mosque) and state, spoke in Washington. When I asked him what could be done under Iraq's constitution to foster democracy, not sharia, his answer was chilling.

Pointing out that Iraqi voters chose this sharia-supreme document, he said: "They have to try it for 10 or 20 years, and then change it." Maybe.

Which leads me to another point no one has adequately explained: Why exactly American troops fight on in Iraq. Sure, the objective is to destroy the hellions of the insurgency -- a killing machine more aptly and derisively described by the late journalist Steven Vincent as "paramilitary death squads." And I still believe the goal of killing jihadists "there," not "here," is entirely commendable. But even after their destruction, does an American victory lie in making Iraq safe for sharia?

The same question applies to Afghanistan, where another democratically mandated sharia state has been established thanks to the U.S. of A -- as the world finally noticed when an Afghan Christian "apostate" named Abdul Rahman had to flee to Italy rather than face Islamic "justice" in the courts or on the street.

Maybe this all proves that Islam and democracy don't mix. Then again, maybe they mix just fine; it's the mixture itself -- sharia for the people -- that clashes with liberty as defined in the Western world. This is the lesson we seem determined not to learn. But in making such ignorance inviolate, we end up making the world safe for sharia.

Certainly, we didn't put up all those ballot boxes across the Middle East to mandate a rollback of freedom. But in failing to assess the ideology central to Islam that makes Western notions of liberty fatally heretical, this is increasingly what is happening. Which gives a head-hurting circularity to our policy. Maybe such dizzying confusion should make us welcome the advent of the Iraq Study Group, a presidential advisory council created, as The New York Times put it, "to generate new ideas on Iraq."

But new ideas on "Iraq" are the last thing we need, particularly as generated by a bipartisan snooze of a group that includes James Baker, Vernon Jordan, Charles Robb, Sandra Day O'Connor, Alan K. Simpson, Lee Hamilton -- I can hardly tap out the other names because they're so solidly and venerably uninspiring (with the notable exception of Rudy Giuliani).

Framing their study around "Iraq" reveals how blinkered government thinking is. Iraq is only a small piece of our troubles in this period of resurgent Islamic jihad, from Osama bin Laden's cave to downtown Tehran, from worldwide Danish cartoon protests to Tel Aviv falafel stands, from Paris banlieus to Zacarias Moussaui's courtroom hot seat. Squeezing big brains for "new ideas" about winning Iraq is sort of like planning the Normandy invasion to win France. We need something bigger. We need new ideas about Islam.

My list of idea men and women would include Hirsi Ali, Bat Ye'or, Bruce Bawer, Andrew G. Bostom, Walid Phares, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, and other experts and observers unbowed by the strictures of political correctness that strangle debate on Islam -- its teachings, its demands, its history. Iraq would figure into such a curriculum, but from a broader perspective that would allow us to size up the global battlefield in terms of the two great threats to the Western way of life: the spread of sharia through active jihad (war, terrorism), and the spread of sharia through Islamization (demographics, multicultural correctness). Of the two, the second -- quiet jihad -- is the more serious threat, as the continuing Islamization of Europe shows.

We need an Islam Study Group.