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Rectification of Names

The "War on Terror" may be over but the fight against Islamism continues.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

April 28, 2012 - 6:22 pm

In the Analects of Confucius (Book 13, Verse 3), the ancient Chinese philosopher wrote that one of the first and most important duties of a government official was to perform a “rectification of names,” for “if names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”

The latest demonstration of the ongoing foreign-policy fecklessness of the Obama administration was the reported recent statement by a senior official that “the War on Terror is over.” He (or she) has been roundly castigated by many who point out that if the war is over, why are 90,000 troops still fighting (and dying) overseas?

But the administration and its critics are both wrong.

The “War on Terror” isn’t over, not because it is still going on, but because it never existed in the first place. As has been pointed out by some for years, it was always a misnomer to call the conflict in which we are engaged a war on “terror.” Terror is not an enemy to be fought  — it is simply a tactic in a broader strategy. The Bush administration came up with the misleading and dangerous euphemism after 9/11 out of a misplaced sense of political correctness (though nowhere near as pathological and reality avoiding as that of the current administration). The Bush administration didn’t want to call it what it really was — a war against Islamism — because it feared alienating the so-called “moderate” Muslims in American and the rest of the world, so it settled instead for declaring war on a particular (but not uncommon) way of waging war.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest resurgence of a war that has been going on since A.D. 700 or so, between Islam and the West, and it didn’t boil up a mere decade ago in September of 2001, except in the minds of the American people. That was merely the most successful of similar attempts to attack us that had been going on for years.

Some might say that it actually started in the late 1970s, when radical Islamists took over Iran. But while that certainly upped the anti-Western activity in the decades since, probably the precipitating event of the latest flare-up in the religious war was almost two-thirds of a century ago, when the Jews were granted their ancient homeland. Because the founders of Israel were largely European Jews, they established a little foothold of western civilization in the theocratic (and Jew-hating) Middle East, and thus ended up on the front lines of the battle that those in Europe who first tried to exterminate them, and then were happy to see them leave, disdain. And as their foremost ally and defender, the U.S. became the “Great Satan” supporting the “Little Satan” at the point of the spear.

That is not to say that we were wrong to support the establishment of the state of Israel, but simply to point out that we must recognize that in so doing, we reawakened not just ancient resentments, but ancient desires of world domination by those who adhere most faithfully to their holy book.

Note that in the story, this reality remains unrecognized by the same unnamed “high official”:

“Now that we have killed most of al Qaida,” the source said, “now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.”

Emphasis mine. A “legitimate” Islamism.

What in the world does that mean? Does the high official imagine that “Islamism” (the belief that Islam should be the dominant force in the world, that there is no separation between mosque and state, that Sharia law should prevail everywhere, that only the Dar al-Islam is the house of peace and that all other regions are Dar al-Harb, the House of War) was just a “perversion” of bin Laden’s, and that now that he’s dead, the Islamists will sing Kumbaya with us? Does the high official think that there are no longer any plots to kill any more Israelis or Americans, or that there are no sleeper cells in America, or if that they got their hands on devastating chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, that there would be any shortage of people in the world, or even in America, who would be willing to use them in the furtherance of their religious beliefs?

It would be wonderful it it were true, but both history and facts on the ground throughout the Islamic world indicate otherwise.

Obviously, it is unpleasant to contemplate the reality that we moved on from defeating one totalitarian ideology almost seven decades ago — Nazism — to having to defeat another one two decades ago — communism — and now have to confront a third (and the oldest one in the book )that we’ve been fighting on and off for thirteen centuries. It is particularly unpleasant when we realize that we defeated Nazism not just by killing Hitler (in fact, we didn’t know for many months whether he was dead or not), but by executing many of his henchman, and by forcibly converting his German followers away from Nazism, just as we forcibly converted the Japanese people away from the militaristic fascism that led them into attacking us. But the fact that such a contemplation is unpleasant, or that a moral solution to it is not obvious, doesn’t make the necessity for it go away.

As Confucius said, “…if language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” Calling things by their right names is the first step.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.
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