In a previous Rants and Raves logbook post based on an article by Andrew C. McCarthy III in the National Review Online, I addressed the issue of whether the Islamic principle of zakat is equivalent to charity as defined by common understanding and usage of the word in non-Islamic contexts. Having accepted McCarthy’s contention that it is not, I concluded the post with:
Are we therefore to conclude that through ignorance of Islam the President has embarked on a mission of inadvertently making it easier for Muslims to fund jihad from within the United States? Or could it be that within Islam the concept of zakat isn’t as universally defined as McCarthy makes it out to be?
Whatever the reality in this specific instance, I believe a far more fundamental disconnect exists in the world today that condemns us to a future of never-ending bloodshed if we do not re-evaluate our current mindset and recognize the futility of our misguided objectives in the Middle East.
I promised a follow-up to that post. Here it is, and I caution you that it includes controversial subject matter with the potential for eliciting strong emotional reactions.
Since the dawn of recorded history, more human beings have been slaughtered in the name of organized religion than for all other reasons combined. This is not to condemn religion as inherently evil, only to illustrate the awesome destructive forces unleashed when differing beliefs in, and worship of, a superhuman, controlling power collide.
Whether you agree with that assessment or not, you probably have no quarrel with the statement that the most significant and fundamental source of deadly conflict today is the battleground between Islam and the Western world. I’ll leave the scholarly discussion of the basis for this to others far more learned than I and ask a very simple question ala Rodney King: Why can’t we all get along?
I’ve tried my best to understand why some Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace and others see no duty other than to wage holy war. At one point, I concluded that the schism within Islam formed between modernists, traditionalists, and fundamentalists. Similar differences exist within all religions to some degree, and bloodshed is not an uncommon result. But in this instance, the issue is less about conflict within a religion than it is between a religion and any others.
To illustrate the point, let’s consider the following questions: Do you believe that the Muslims we are currently fighting around the world seek to convert all who are not Muslims to Islam or else treat them as infidels and kill them? Is their ultimate objective to establish Sharia law throughout the world through whatever means necessary? If so, then you have to believe that to protect ourselves from that threat, we must engage them in armed conflict wherever we find them, hopefully on someone else’s soil.
So that’s what we’re doing by maintaining a massive military presence throughout the Middle East, right? If we don’t engage them there, the battleground will ultimately be Main Street USA when they try to force your daughters to wear burqas.
Just for the purposes of further illustration, let’s consider an alternative conclusion by asking a hypothetical question: What if the leader of a Middle Eastern country announced an agreement with the government of Cuba to establish a military base there? How would the United States respond?
That’s an easy one. We couldn’t let them do that. It would threaten our security. Cuban Missile Crisis Redux. Now let’s toss aside the hypothetical and consider what’s really happening.
The United States of America is squatting like a giant interloper smack dab in the middle of the Middle East. We’re doing it for two very basic reasons: we can, and we cannot stand the thought of not maintaining the ability to influence what happens there for our benefit. It has nothing to do with building schools for girls in Afghanistan, for example. That’s an admirable objective, certainly, but nation-building and trying to establish the rule of democracy and further the cause of freedom from the top down is doomed to failure.
And at what ultimate cost? The American experience in the Middle East is a colossal tragedy by any measure. We have allowed our reliance on foreign oil to increase to the point that it is the single most glaring vulnerability and threat to our national security. We have wasted billions of dollars on one fiasco after another, borrowing our way into bankruptcy and sending this nation into fiscal free fall while a tiny percentage of volunteer servicemen and women shed their blood, flesh, and tears on the other side of a wall of indifference.
Here’s a thought: that’s why our enemies hate us. We are reaping the harvest of our insatiable compulsion to remake the world in our image because that’s what’s best for us. And like the Great Hypocrite, we hide behind a smokescreen of do-gooder platitudes and trumped-up motivations.
It’s almost certainly too late to change the course of events, but why not try something different?
Stand up in front of the world and admit the truth, that we’re carrying the biggest stick and we’ll use it when and where necessary to establish a reliable, unobstructed flow of oil as long as the supplies last. Get in our way and we’ll crush you. And if that’s what the American people want, then each and every one of us needs to step up to the plate and contribute by not allowing the sacrifice of so few to support the narcissism of many.
Or what about this? Decide to reclaim ownership and control of America’s future in the only way that makes any sense. Let’s quit trying to fix the world and concentrate on us. I submit that this would eliminate the prime motivator fueling the mutual hatred.
Imperialism: a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.
History tells us that all empires flow and ebb. Scholars have documented the most common elements leading to the decline of empires, and the causes have remained consistent over time. No empires have ever re-flowed.
America would do well to take heed of that reality.