Thursday, June 03, 2004

Disclaimer to the Memo

I wrote the Memo to Osama series in the spirit of the Screwtape Letters. Readers have written suggesting a suitcase nuke or some other disease would be more appropriate to the scenario and they may be correct. But the Memo doesn't really aim to describe an actual scenario of what might happen over the summer any more than Screwtape's letters depict the actual the workings of hell. The most serious error in the piece, because it was not intended to be part of the fiction, was the construction date of Osama's mansion. One reader pinned it down to 1997, some years before the September 11 attack. Osama may not have intended to abide there after the dust had settled in Manhattan.

But like the Screwtape Letters it was my hope to allegorically raise certain real issues. There really was a debate within the Al Qaeda over the correct strategy for the global Jihad. Al Qaeda really does try to magnify their acts by manipulating the media. Actual dangers do exist, or so we are told by Homeland Security, including the threat of unconventional weapons attack, but their extent and possible form is something only the professionals may know.

The core problem the Memo tries to explore is how a committed Jihadist might try to destroy the West given their limited means. Since the Jihadi leaders are intelligent men, they must know their chief hope lies in exploiting the weakness of the West: to turn Western weaponry on itself and exploit the inner divisions in its society. While the Islamist's performance on the battlefield has been laughable, their success at using Western institutions to further their goals has been remarkable. They have converted passenger aircraft, fertilizer, crop sprayers, sources of electrical power and news agencies into potential weapons. Although they do not vote in elections, they decide or strongly influence their outcome in Western nations. While they have no armies worth the name, they are the principal threat to the world today.

The writer of the Memo understands how their enemy, the United States, by adopting a strategy of bounding the threat has limited the Jihad's prospects for direct action. But the Memo's author also realizes how little success America has had in mastering the destructive tides within the West itself. The Jihadi problem then, as the Memo's author suggests, is how to use Western institutions to amplify their rather puny capabilities; how to harness these destructive tides to tear down the House of the Infidel. In the Memo author's view, that this possibility exists at all is a judgement on the West. The West is disgusted with itself;  longs to die; yearns for condemnation. The job of the Faithful is but to put it out of its misery. Standing offstage only by their implied presence is the remnant of the West that that has not lost sight of love; that remembers  its covenant; that recalls "the starlight on the western seas." That is whom the Jihad must defeat and all it must defeat.