Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fr. Schall on "The One War, The Real War"

Just at a moment when many liberal western media and political sources insisted that this war was "caused" by overreaction on the part of President Bush to 9/11, the Islamic militants oblige us with another graphic incident. They will not go away until actually defeated. They do not negotiate or give advanced warnings. They kill the innocent, in cold blood, precisely because they are innocent and unprepared to defend themselves. They see and justify this arbitrary killing as a legitimate means to their religious and political end, the conquest of the world for Islam. . . .

. . . There are not "two" wars -- one in Iraq and one against the terrorists. There is but one war, wherever it is fought, including in London or Baghdad. The terrorists are fully capable of being everywhere. They are invariably Muslim radicals intent on a world mission at least claiming a religious duty. They are not primarily "caused" by poverty or any of the usual ideological reasons given to justify terror. . . .

The main battlefield of the war is not Iraq or even London tubes. It is in the media and public opinion in the United States and Europe about whether the will to do what is necessary to prevent these attacks is firm enough over a long period of time. Civilian and suicide bombings have a political purpose and a religious purpose.

The political purpose is a calculated risk that continued bombings would show that Western powers cannot defend their own populations. Consequently, they should cease trying. They should rather, in return for "peace," submit to Islamic neutralization of their territories, a kind of compromised second-class citizenship. Likewise, they should withdraw from any effort to prevent such attacks in Muslim lands themselves.

The religious purpose of this war, in the minds of its advocates, is to succeed in subjecting the world to Allah. This purpose, no doubt, sounds preposterous. But I think that we misunderstand the problem if we do not disassociate what these terrorists themselves say from our theories of "terrorism." The problem is not caused by fanaticism or some political, sociological, or psychological derangement. . . .

. . . Al-Qaeda forces may have seen their reputation so questioned by the effects of the Afghanistan and Iraq phases of the war that they felt it absolutely necessary to show some flashy sign of strength. If so, this too is in effect a sign of their weakness. They revealed themselves for what they are once more. It has been taken as a truism that it is better to fight these forces on their own grounds and not in London or New York or Madrid. The war overseas does not prove that it is not effective, but that it is. But the latter three cities, however orchestrated, are part of the same war.

In this sense, we can be grateful that the Islamic terrorists in London again called our flagging attention to the real war, the one against those who first declared war against us in the name of their religious and political mission. The first effort has been and still is to undermine any effective opposition. Whether this purpose can be achieved by terrorism and its effect on public opinion remains to be seen.

Excerpts from "The One War, The Real War", by Fr. James Schall. Ignatius Insight July 8, 2005.