Puzzle 1: How do we overcome the fact that our military might, combined with our theoretical feebleness, has produced a strange condition of paralysis? The quintessential incongruity of Capitalism shackles us: material mastery alongside philosophic confusion.
Stating the confusion is simple enough: we do not know who the enemy is; and, on the evidence, do not care to know. The possibility that the enemy is an authentic institution, founded upon a native doctrine, of the Islamic religion, is just too much for the Liberal mind to bear. Liberalism’s bluster about “all questions are open questions,” is a manifest falsehood on this subject. A great force of insinuation and outrage bears down upon the man who dares to open the question of whether Islam as such, being the incubator of the Jihad, is an intolerable threat.
Thus our paralysis.
Puzzle 2: While we have shown our military proficiency, what has not yet been demonstrated is whether Islamic democracy and the Jihad are incompatible — which is what I take to be the main point at issue in Iraq. The war has been prosecuted on the proposition that the two are indeed incompatible: that building democracy will weaken the Jihad. The successes of the Surge, even the tentative steps toward political progress, do not demonstrate this. And there is still a huge mass of evidence pointing the other way; pointing, that is, toward a convergence of democracy and the Jihad.
We are aided now right by the fact that the Jihad is by and large manned by criminals and brigands, if not outright madmen. The cruelty and fanaticism of these men is hardly tempered by shrewdness, flexibility or foresight. They resemble not the disciplined energy of the Turkish Jihad but the anarchic terror of corsairs, which the Turks used with such skill to disrupt European powers on the Mediterranean.
If the Jihad ever begins to develop or attract real statesmen, political innovators with vision, we will have more serious problems — one of them being the ease with which an independent Iraq could fall under the sway of a new Saladin or Osman or Suleiman.
By way of conclusion, I offer this provocative conjecture: if we are looking to the Middle East for such a statesman, we’re looking in the wrong place. The next great captain of the Jihad will be European, and will wield European resources, both human and natural, against us. He will make the lunatics of the Arab street a mere instrument of disruption and distress; his real power will lie elsewhere, sheltered from American military might.