I have long believed that the goal of bringing democracy to Iraq — a goal that is often confused with bringing freedom to Iraq — may in fact be inimical to the immeasurably more important goal of vanquishing the Jihad. This for the pulverizingly simple reason that the Jihad is popular in the Islamic world, including Iraq. I doubt that it commands majority support — but it certainly commands majority acquiescence, and enormous factional sympathy. That is to say, waging war to subjugate the infidel (however defined), being an ancient and enduring feature of the Islamic religion, perforce is an enduring feature of Islamic society. Emancipate that society from autocracy and suppression — free popular passions from the yoke of Leviathan — and you may well find that the Jihad is not weakened but considerably strengthened.
It is a matter of some astonishment, and indeed discouragement, to me that this possibility has not really been wrestled with. It is as if a man were to say in about 1970, “there is really no possibility that freeing the Poles from the yoke of Communism will issue in a Catholic revival”; or as if a man were to say in 1865, “surely you cannot imagine that blacks in the South will use their newly-won freedom to practice Christianity”; or as if a French nobleman were to say in the early 17th century, “only a fool would expect the Edict of Nantes to advance the cause of Protestantism in France.”
There is no necessary connection between democracy and secularism; or between democracy and religious temperance. Often the very reverse is true: religious enthusiasms are among the most popular, that is, the most democratic, and thus the most potent. King Philip II of Spain did not send his half brother Don John, the great victor at Lepanto, to suppress the republicans in the Low Countries because Calvinism was an unpopular fad of the elite. Monks were not the characteristic demagogues of Byzantium, leading common Greeks out into the streets of Constantinople against Emperor and Patriarch, because mystical Orthodoxy was a mere courtier fashion.
How impoverished is the imagination that merely assumes democracy to be a natural antidote to the Jihad! Consider: One of the more disturbing powers of this Islamic doctrine of holy war is its appeal to the alienated and villainous, to the petty thug or delinquent. The Jihad grants to the outlaw a higher purpose; it annihilates whatever pangs of conscience remain; its democracy reaches to the very basest elements of society, where the lofty platitudes of Western politicians are sneered at. In the late Middle and early Modern Age, the Mediterranean and its coast verily crawled with Christian renegades, brigands, pirates, gangsters, lowlifes, marauders, and the like, whose avarice or lust or aimless wrath was disciplined into service against the infidel. Some of the greatest corsairs and slavers, whose bloody trade sowed terror on the tranquil coasts of Christendom, were Italians and Greeks. Our own prison system, its Islamic chaplaincy awash in Wahhabi influence, is following this pattern. A plot out in Los Angeles originated in the California prison system; Jose Padilla was converted in prison. We hear reports on the alliance between Latin American gangs and the Jihad every few weeks — more jobs Americans won’t do, I suppose — and the same people who (quite rightly) remind us, in the context of Iraq, that there in no good reason to dismiss the potential for alliances between secular tyrants and Jihadists, find that alliance, on our very doorstep, uninteresting.
The lineaments of the catastrophe that Islamic democracy might mean have hardly been even conjectured at by most public men of our day. We are told that certain candidates are “good on the war,” who haven’t shown even an inkling of awareness of the problem. We are urged fervently to support the war in Iraq; but that support is idle at best, if the goals of the war run counter to the interests of the Republic. And if Islamic democracy is Jihadist democracy — I do not say it must be; I say only it might be — then they sure as hell do run counter. We are rightly implored to search for and uphold the moderate Muslim (which, if the phrase means anything at all, must mean the Muslim who rejects the Jihad) but what if he is also an Islamic heretic? You cannot preclude the possibility.
The unwillingness to think hard, and discuss openly, the character of the Jihad — its antiquity, orthodoxy, and commonality in Islam — paralyzes us. What might the last 50 years have looked like, if no one had the guts to look hard at what Communism actually is, where its sources of inspiration and strategy come from, who its adherents read and absorb? Imagine a Cold War where every mention of Communism was prefaced with some careful qualifier: “radical” Communism, “fundamentalist” Communism.
A republic, according to Publius, is that form of government where men are ruled by “reflection and choice,” as against “accident and force.” Some measure of my alarm and annoyance may be judged from consideration of this: that on the greatest crisis of our age, Americans have abjured Reflection and made their Choice for comfortable illusion instead of hard reality.
[Cross-posted at Redstate.]