It is my firm view that the most vital problem of American national security, the question upon which hinges our fortune in the war that came to our shores on September 11, in short, nothing less than the most pressing issue before the Republic, is whether or not we will comprehend the ineradicably Islamic character of the enemy.
Are we or are we not a people capable of embracing hard truth about the war that is made against us — the hard truth that the enemy finds his motivation, his inspiration, his justification, his rhetoric, even his strategy and tactics, in the authentic and primitive traditions of the religion of Muhammad? Are we or are we not a people possessed of the fortitude equal to this challenge? As the cliché goes, can we handle the truth?
It is an open question, I’m afraid; and I am convinced that it is one whose answer will tell for or against this Republic for generations for come.
It is in this context that we ought to read with alarm and indignation of the dismissal of Major Stephen Coughlin from the Pentagon. Coughlin worked as a counterterrorism analyst, and took an unsparing view of the Jihad. The document he authored concludes that a “working threat model” of the enemy must begin with “an unconstrained, undelegated, systematic, factual analysis of the threat doctrine that the enemy self-identifies as being driven by Islamic law.” The pulverizing fact is that our current model begins with an unthinking rejection of such analysis: it begins with a deliberate closing of the mind, enforced by the standard methods of intimidation and vilification. Coughlin, for instance, has been publicly castigated as a “Christian zealot with a pen.”
There have been varying official explanations for his removal, but as The Washington Times’ Bill Gertz reports, “officials supportive of Mr. Coughlin said the real reason is that critics . . . want him sidelined because they oppose his hard-to-refute views on the relationship between Islamic law and Islamist jihad doctrine.” One of these critics, an assistant to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, is reported to have ties to a propaganda arm of the Jihad.
A number of eminent military men are willing to go on record in Coughlin’s defense. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney: “Steve Coughlin is the most knowledgeable person in the U.S. government on Islamic law. The secretary of defense should ensure that he stays at DOD.” Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Corps, "[Coughlin’s work] hit the mark in explaining how jihadists use the Koran to justify their actions.” U. S. Central Command analyst Neal Harper: “Ignoring Steve Coughlin's honest assessments and terminating his contract sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent.”
Imagine, if you can, men in the late 1940s arguing, or at least implying by their silence, that our security services should not take seriously the stated doctrines and historical development of Communism; that it is too controversial for analysts to treat Marxism as the ground of the aggression from the Soviet Union, and study it diligently in that light. This, in embryo, is the sorry state of affairs in America today. [Update: it was just brought to my attention that Diana West made this same argument, even more vividly, last week.]
Patriotic indignation should swell against this oppression. Under its influence, the public mind of the Republic may have no compass over the character, the origins, the antiquity, the variations and predecents, of the war being made against us. Friends, it is an oppression — a crippling and dangerous one. We invent new euphemisms to conceal the facts virtually every day; we invent them because, as Chesterton aptly put it, short words startle us while long words sooth us. Sen. John McCain, for instance, is said to be a hawk on the war on terror. For him the enemy is a comically redundant string of emotional descriptors: “radical Islamic extremism.” My personal favorite is the talent of our sheepish writers for piling on suffixes. The enemy becomes “Islamicism”; whatever is necessary to rhetorically distance him from the Islamic religion as such. The purpose of these lengthy phrases is not to properly identify and understand the enemy; it is to sooth the distressed conscience of Liberalism.
Now let us consider another question: What is the traditional American rejoinder to oppression? How have our fathers generally replied to the specter of a rising tyranny? How have they answered a proposed oppression of their self-government, their very inheritance as Americans and freemen?
It is defiance that we desperately need, my friends and countrymen. Do not be cowed by this oppression. Do not fear the degrading whims of political correctness. Do not flinch at its honorless fashions and shameful bullying. Think of your heroes, the patriots who sacrificed to give us what we have here on these shores. Think of Reagan’s dogged defiance of any intellectual accommodation with Communism. Think of the boldness and courage of the men and women who resisted segregation. Think of Burke’s defiance of the French Revolution, Churchill’s of Fascism, both of whom were cast into the wilderness for their “warmongering,” only to be rehabilitated when their prescience was realized.
One obvious practice step to take is this: We are in the midst of a rather wild and wooly primary season. Rarely has there ever been such an opportunity as this to bring immediate and perceptible pressure to bear on politicians. These men and women would be our commander in chief in a war which has already included the most grievous blow ever struck against us by a foreign enemy. Do not let this moment pass. Press the candidates with these questions. Make them squirm. Embarrass them (gently) for their foolish euphemisms. Demonstrate that we will have no truck with such rhetorical games. Make obvious our impatience with that cupidity, that inertia, and that cravenness which would deprive us of our capacity for self-government on the war into which we have been flung.
We must defy the oppression that would drive good men like Major Coughlin from places of influence. We must stand with fortitude as our fathers once did, and earn the right to be called American patriots.