Small Wars Journal

Friday the 13th in Paris

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 10:07am

Friday the 13th in Paris

G. Murphy Donovan

“The influence of the (Islamic) religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.”

- Winston Churchill

Islamic fanatics struck another blow for cynicism last Friday night in Paris; wholesale and gratuitous slaughter in the name of some sanguinary Muslim god. History teaches few lessons these days.

We say “Muslim” god because most other religions forsook ritual religious slaughter centuries ago. Indeed, the nearest historical comparison is actually political. Before contemporary jihad, the Nazis were the last imperial movement to use industrial scale pogroms to underwrite an ideological message. Ironically, the EU now opens its borders to religious fascism, more virulent than the political strain that led to the Holocaust and associated carnage of WWII. Angela Merkel and the European Union do the ironic walk of shame here.

Alas, any distinction between politics and religion in a Muslim context is now moot. Politics are mostly religious in the Ummah and dystopic religion seems to be the only relevant politics permissible in much of the Muslim world.

Indeed, the irony is compound. The most egregious exporters of religious hate and sharia bigotry are putative EU/American “partners;” or allies; i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Arabia, and Persia. Withal, Europe and America are fatally impaled on the horns of the Shia/Sunni dilemma - by choice. Judeo/Christian tolerance now has all the earmarks of a suicide pact. Body counts, as Stalin prophesied, are now just another statistic.

Indeed, Islam today is both sword and shield.  Terror strikes and then retreats to sanctuary under a burka of global religious immunities. Somehow the larger bovine Muslim majority has no moral or civic responsibility for terrorists, passive aggressors (nee moderates), or those unassimilated and indigestible Muslim refugees. The EU and America are paralyzed by guilt and restraint that has no meaning for Muslim shooters and bombers. The new law of international war is now made by religious zealots while the “best” in the West assume the defensive crouch of infidel catamites.

In the after-orgy of post-Paris apologetics, few western leaders dared to mention Islam, Islamism, or the global jihad. The enemy is still the undifferentiated local, militant, terrorist, or criminal as if the ideology or motive that binds them all doesn’t matter. In the not too distant past, the threat was atomized as local phenomena like Black September, Fatah, Hamas, al Qaeda, or Boko Haram. The flavor of Islam du jour at the moment is ISIS or the Islamic state.

No matter the body count or venue, Europe and America refuse to recognize jihad as a global Islamic assault. And as with the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, the best response that Francois Hollande and France can muster now is a karaoke Marseillaise, a knee-jerk hymn to irrelevant if not discredited notions of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

Fey responses to terror are now routine in the West. Call it cultural appropriation. Summary executions are accepted by Islamist butcher and infidel victim alike. Atrocity has been routinized, now hallmarks of 21st Century practices in the East and tolerance in the West. Suicide bombers and their victims are joined by the same moral vacuity. The former have no moral compass and the latter are loath to exert any prudence.

Excuses are epidemic. Bernie Sanders on the looney Left actually believes that global warming and ISIS are wingmen. The Sanders pronouncement is of a piece with team Obama’s flawed assessments where ISIS has been described as the “junior varsity.”

Exaggerating a threat might be a no lose hedge but underestimating an existential threat can be fatal. Just ask Paris.

Maybe Parisians should build a monument to terror too as New York and Washington did after the Saudi Muslim attack against lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.  Appeasement, withal, seems to be the new deterrence.

For those with the attention span to notice, global Islamic terror is the most obvious symptom that globalization is not working. Democratic civility and “one-world” comity are not ascending stars, especially in the Muslim world. Societies that venerate 7th Century absolutist monoculture or cult prophets are impervious to fact or reason – much less democracy.

With the possible exception of Kurdistan and a few of the former Soviet Muslim republics, the Ummah is morphing into universal dystopic theocracy.

The quest for Islamic monoculture is facilitated by three trends: a weak or indecisive West, dishonest assessments of the threat, and a generation of leaders in the West who fail to appreciate or defend the virtue, indeed, superiority of their own culture. Indeed, of the three, the most pernicious is the last, the notion that all cultures and religious beliefs are morally equivalent.

Culture is the synergistic interplay of positive national values which allow independence, civility, cooperation, tolerance, and peaceful productivity. None of these virtues can be attributed to most of the Muslim world today. Indeed, much of the Ummah is a cesspool of human depravities. Friday the 13th in Paris is just one of too many examples.

Days before the latest Paris slaughter, the President of the United States declared unequivocally that ISIS had been “contained.” Here again we have another triumph of false hope over experience. The White House, the Pentagon, and the American Intelligence Community still treat Islamism as a public relations problem to be “managed” largely with hyperbole, wishful thinking, and domestic mendacity. The Islamists win in places like New York, London, and Paris because they understand that real victories in real wars war come from the barrel of a gun - not the mouths of fools.

Huntington was correct; the “clash of civilizations” is here. If the latest Muslim massacre in France does not underline that clash, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of losses or atrocity might have to be endured to convince the West.

Immigration, nonetheless, is not the only Trojan horse in the Muslim kit. The pathologies of Islamic culture are well recorded at the expense of women, children, ethnic and non-Muslim minorities. Alas, there is no single Islamic Trojan horse; the phenomenon today is more like a diseased herd at full gallop. Allahu akbar!

About the Author(s)

The author is a former USAF Intelligence officer, Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Iona College (BA), the University of Southern California (MS), the Defense Intelligence College, and the Air War College. He is a former Senior USAF Research Fellow at RAND Corporation, Santa Monica and the former Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies, ACS Intelligence, HQ USAF, serving under General James Clapper. Colonel Donovan has served at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Central intelligence Agency.


Tangentially related…

See the linked article for details, but I think the clash is not as total as implied in this post, mostly because there IS no united Muslim enemy. Islamicate civilization is in a state of near-collapse. The Westphalian states established in the Middle East are mostly run by dictators and most of them will remain that way in the near future. Their elites are both pro-Western and anti-Western, but are mostly just crooks and charlatans.
A clash of civilizations implies two civilizations in conflict. This is not the case here..
This is not to endorse the brain-dead postmodern left-liberal narrative that dominates SOME relevant sections of Western liberal academia (and from there, the media, etc), but any realist narrative will be some distance from this rather apocalyptic post. The US could have had "sort-of-friendly-good-enuff-for-guvmint-work" regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan and even Iraq for less than half the money and lives wasted, using local collaborators with carrots and sticks and old fashioned imperialism... but failed because it's own planners and executives included an unhealthy proportion of pious ignoramuses, careerists and outright crooks. That may imply that the US is simply not capable of being the kind of imperial power that can impose pax-Americana on the region, but it does not mean some sort of binary clash of civilizations is underway.
The Islamicate core will be a mess for many years, no doubt about that. But it will not be a coherent civilization or a coherent single opponent for any given country or any civilization.
Something like that.

From our author, G. Murphy Donovan, in his article here:

"Huntington was correct; the “clash of civilizations” is here. If the latest Muslim massacre in France does not underline that clash, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of losses or atrocity might have to be endured to convince the West."

From Samuel P. Huntington's "The West and the Rest"article in the Feb 20th, 1997 issue of "Prospect Magazine:"

" ... As indigenisation spreads and the appeal of western culture fades, the central problem in relations between the west and the rest is the gap between the west’s efforts to promote western culture as the universal culture and its declining ability to do so. The collapse of communism exacerbated this disparity by reinforcing the view in the west that its ideology of democratic liberalism had triumphed globally and was thus universally valid. The west-and especially the US, which has always been a missionary nation-believes that the non-western peoples should commit themselves to the western values of democracy, free markets, limited government, separation of church and state, human rights, individualism and the rule of law. Minorities in other civilizations embrace these values, but the dominant attitudes toward them in non-western cultures range from scepticism to intense opposition. What is universalism to the west is imperialism to the rest ... "

" ... The belief that non-western peoples should adopt western values is, if taken seriously, immoral in its implications. The almost universal reach of European power in the late 19th century and the global dominance of the US in the latter half of the 20th century spread many aspects of western civilization across the world. But European globalism is no more, and US hegemony is receding, if only because it is no longer needed against a Soviet threat. Culture follows power. If non-western societies are once again shaped by western culture, it will happen only as a result of the expansion of western power. Imperialism is the necessary consequence of universalism, yet few proponents of universalism support the militarisation that would be necessary to achieve their goal. Furthermore, as a maturing civilisation, the west no longer has the economic or demographic dynamism required to impose its will on others. Any effort to do so also runs contrary to western values of self-determination and democracy ... "

" ... What should the US and Europe do to preserve western civilization? The west needs greater unity of purpose to prevent states from other civilizations exploiting differences. It should: incorporate into the EU and Nato the western states of central Europe; encourage the westernization of Latin America; slow the drift of Japan away from the west and toward accommodation with China; and accept Russia as the core state of Orthodoxy and a power with legitimate interests. The main responsibility of western leaders is to recognize that intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is the single most dangerous source of instability in the world. The west should not attempt to reshape other civilizations in its own image but preserve and renew the unique qualities of western civilization. That responsibility falls overwhelmingly on the most powerful western country, the US. Neither globalism nor isolationism, neither multilateralism nor unilateralism will best serve US interests. Its interests will be advanced if it instead adopts an Atlanticist policy of close co-operation with Europe, one that will protect the interests and values of the precious and unique civilization they share."

( Read Huntington's "Prospect Magazine" article, in its entirety, here: )

So what should the West do? Should it:

a. Adopt (continue to adopt?) the militarism that will be necessary to see its imperialist/universalist mission through; this, so as to achieve its (the West's) goal of reshaping other civilizations in its own image? (Huntington, if I read him right, says this is the way to ruin.)

Or should the West, instead (and in order to avoid -- as per Huntington -- "the single most dangerous source of instability in the world"),

b. Preserve and renew the unique qualities of western civilization; this, by adopting an Atlanticist policy of close co-operation with Europe, one that will protect the interests and values of the precious and unique civilization we and they share? (This, Huntington suggests, is the way to go.)

The problem, however, with Huntington's "b" suggestion above is that it would not seem to provide for the classic political objective of the universalist/imperialist power(s), to wit:

1. The gain, by the imperial/universalist power(s), of greater power, influence and control throughout the world. And

2. The ability of the imperialist/universalist power(s) -- via state and societal transformation more along the imperial power's political, economic and social lines -- to gain greater access to, and greater utilization of, the human and other resources of "outlying" countries, nations, societies, cultures and/or civilizations.

Thus, and on the basis of achieving the benefits provided by items "1" and "2" above, to understand why a great power/great coalition -- in spite of the well-known difficulties/dangers associated with such an approach -- might still go down (or continue to go down) the "imperialist"/"universalist"/"militarist" road?

G. Murphy Donovan

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 5:27am

In reply to by Morgan

What to do indeed! As an analyst, I'm loath to give prescriptions, but if pressed I'd say we could resolve the kerfuffle with Russia. The Kremlin has legitimate border interests and that nuclear/naval facility in Crimea is one of them. A Russo/American alliance against a common enemy like Islamism would be a powerful weapon. Putin is, after all, an upgrade after Stalin. And if Huntington was correct, we have worlds in common with Russian culture and little in common, except petrol, with Arab or Muslim cultures. We don't have to like Putin, but all effective coalitions need at least one bruiser on the team. Unfortunately, with a US presidential election on the horizon, I don't see either American political party endorsing a more pragmatic approach to Moscow. Russophobia also allows all the Beltway desk warriors to ignore, minimize, or marginalize the Islamist threat against which we are trailing or failing. Ins'allah.

Elegantly accurate description of our collective problem but what are we to do? The US is tired, most of Europe lacks the will, & the Russians are simply showing off (so far). We can't stop globalization and we won't go "Vlad-the-Impaler" on ISIS and the rest of the "Ummah". What are we to do?