Friday, January 09, 2004

The Final Lap

Thomas Friedman begins a five part series with a plea for the West to help Islam overcome its own hate. He reasons from the premise that Islamic hatred toward the West is so intractable that it will literally stop at nothing.

With the Islamist militant groups, we face people who hate us more than they love life. When you have large numbers of people ready to commit suicide, and ready to do it by making themselves into human bombs, using the most normal instruments of daily life ? an airplane, a car, a garage door opener, a cellphone, fertilizer, a tennis shoe ? you create a weapon that is undeterrable, undetectable and inexhaustible. This poses a much more serious threat than the Soviet Red Army because these human bombs attack the most essential element of an open society: trust.

To such as these, nothing is sacred. Not churches, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes nor medical evacuation helicopters. We are, Friedman says, in the midst of World War 3, which unlike other wars has no conceivable end. An acquaintance of his ventured that "the cold war ended the way it did because at some bedrock level we and the Soviets 'agreed on what is shameful'"-- but what to do, Friedman asks, about an enemy without shame? His conclusion:

What we can do is partner with the forces of moderation within these societies to help them fight the war of ideas. Because ultimately this is a struggle within the Arab-Muslim world, and we have to help our allies there, just as we did in World Wars I and II.

There lingers about the piece an atmosphere of concession to the inevitability of the War on Terror. Gone is the strident,  self-flagellatory why-are-we-to-blame screed that immediately followed September 11, the reflexive continuance of 1960s attitudes taking its final, doddering steps into the 21st century, the Leftist chicken still treading its way forward without a head, dead but not yet buried. At last even the Left is coming to the conclusion that Woodstock, like vaudeville, will never come again; that there is a problem in the Islamic world, to use a monumental understatement, and that the solution proposed by President Bush is inherently correct: not to nuke them, but to free them.

But absent from Friedman's article (let us see what the four remaining parts bring) is a realization of how close-run President Bush's effort is. He forgets that the natural conclusion from the premise of intractable Islamic hatred is that the West may be forced not so much to befriend its tormentors so much as destroy them utterly. Friedman's own article is proof of how steadily, yet imperceptibly, the tides have risen in the course of the war itself. What would have been unprintable in any major American newspaper in November, 2001 -- immediately after the attack on New York city -- now seems so hopelessly weak that one cannot but wonder how close the crisis point is. And it is Islam, not the West, that is skirting the edge of the abyss. Unlike the reluctant Friedman, many Islamists, caught up in their invincible ignorance and the fantasy engendered by controlled media, will never know how paper-thin is the wall that stands between them and the roaring waves they have conjured until it bursts in on their poor world, upon unfortunate children in their evil playhouse. Now has the last race between the requirements of humanity and urgings of necessity begun. Let every man do his utmost.