The stock argument used by those arguing against the War on Terror is that the terrorists cannot possibly win. These people believe that even if America did not take military actions against Islamic jihadists, the jihadists could not defeat the US. This is false. The Clausewitzian cliche’ here is that war is an extension of politics. In this case terrorism is an extension of politics. Al-Qaeda need not destroy all of America’s military forces, or its infrastructure, or imprison large swaths of its population in prison camps. It only needs to change the way people think and vote. It has already done this.
In 2004 an Islamic terrorist cell inspired by al-Qaeda detonated 10 bombs in a Madrid train terminal, killing nearly 200 people and wounding over 2000. Three days later the Spanish Socialist Party was elected to office, ousting the incumbent conservative prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, from office. The Socialist Party leadership then implemented legislation to remove the 1500 Spanish troops from Iraq, as it was determined that the prime motivation for the bombings was Spanish contribution to the Iraq War.
Through the ballot box, terrorists rendered Spain’s military combat ineffective in Iraq. That’s something that a modern-well equipped army would have had a much tougher time accomplishing were it to adhere to the old rules of locating enemy military assets and destroying them until the opposing government capitulated. Instead, the opposing government was rendered ineffective through the democratic process.
Personal security is the number one concern of the animal. Hobbes knew it and Abraham Maslow came close to knowing it. Maslow placed the need for food, sleep, and sex above (or below at the base of his pyramid) the need for personal security. However, I disagree. People will give up food, sleep and sex if they are immediately threatened with physical harm. I’m quibbling. Obviously the imminence of the problem comes in to play. Either way, physical security is very important. Societies do not progress without it; all the people’s minds stay focused on war and fighting for security.
The terrorist must sow the idea of imminent attack. The victim population must come to believe that the terrorists can move freely about, that any lull in violence is the choice of the terrorists and not because security forces are limiting the terrorists abilities to move, plan, build bombs and attack. The media plays a huge roll in modern terrorism. Not only in changing the minds of ordinary civilians, but in motivating and recruiting other terrorists. The internet is rife with jihadist propaganda. Another argument against the War on Terror is that the dangers of being killed in a terror attack are so small, any great fears of terrorism are based on illusions. To some extent this is true. However, were America’s military and police not constantly on watch, I believe that 9-11 or the Madrid train bombings would be a monthly occurance, at the very least.
Through the ballot box, the jihadists can win. And they can do it with far less damage and effort than it takes to win a conventional war. In many places in Europe, it’s now illegal to make any derogatory comments about Islam. Many in the West view their tolerance of other cultures as proof of moral superiority. Any talk of why another culture’s practices are evil or not acceptable are viewed as proof of hate mongering. These cultural relativists have little idea of what true hate mongering is, but they’ll get a glimpse of it as their culture is changed slowly through the democratic process to a place more comfortable to extreme Islam.
Or maybe they won’t even realize it when it happens.
The truly frightening thing about the power of culture is that a person ensconced within the living tomb of a dying society can be experiencing hell but barely realize it. There is no experience of not living in Hell. Hell becomes the default for life. It goes a long way in making the Buddhist argument that man should reduce his expectations and desires, not increase them. Europe is dying a slow death. It’s birthrates are catastrophically low. The Muslim birthrates are about 4 to 5 times higher than white Europeans. The low European birthrate will have multiple negative effects. First, the current European economic model cannot be sustained. If one thinks that America has looming economic problems because of its social security system, it’s nothing to what Europe faces. Not only do Europeans have much more generous retirement and unemployment benefits, they barely have any military to speak of. As fewer young people are injected into the work cycle, fewer people are paying into the government handout system. This is exactly what happened in Greece. By 2040 or so, the Greek retirement system will absorb 25% of the Greek GDP. The rest of Europe will follow in domino fashion. At some point we may wake up to find ourselves in a political system more akin to that desired by totalitarian theocrats than to Western democracy. We may not even know the difference.
Secondly, a rising Muslim population in relation to white European population will spell more votes for Muslims. If you don’t think that will have real, negative impact on the continent, take a look at the pew report that shows 75% of Muslims polled don’t believe that Arabs took part in the 9-11 attacks. Not enough? 40 percent of British Muslims want Sharia in their country. Sharia courts are used in Britain to settle Muslim civil cases. Terrorism has worked and it’s not because we fought back. It’s because many continue to believe that by changing laws in Muslims’ favor, it will somehow change the way many Muslims feel and believe. However it’s not working out that way. By changing the laws and customs of our culture, we’re merely changing ourselves. Sometimes changing ourselves is good. It’s just difficult to believe, when we look at the state of every predominately Muslim country around the world, that that’s what we want to change into.
Yes, the jihadists can win. The oddity of democracies is that they can be changed in different way than oligarchies. They can be changed merely because the people feel like changing laws. When the West stops fighting for what made it great, when we think that by passing laws to appease the more brutal and aggressive people among us, militant Islam will be well on its way to winning. The people will lose faith in their state’s ability to protect them from aggression, and so will live only for today, which means a cycle of appeasement that brings transient comfort to those who cast the momentary vote, but condemns future generations to the slippery slope greased with the hanging chads of weakness and cowardice.