Category Archives: Western Civilization

The Nature of Freedom

The title suggests that there might be something ambiguous about the definition of freedom. Well according to our old friends Merriam and Webster, it is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” Sounds about right to me. The freedoms enjoyed by all Americans are – according to our Declaration of Independence – natural rights, inherent to us as human beings, granted to us by Nature or God, and not by the Government, but secured for us by the Government. I’ve emphasized the word to for a reason that will be clear momentarily.

OK what are those rights that I have, my possession of which is characterized by the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint? These are spelled out generally in the Declaration, more specifically in the Constitution – including the Bill of Rights – and in the constitutionally permissible laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. There is no secret here; they include:

  • the right to reside where I choose
  • the right to pursue the vocation I choose
  • the right to marry, and more generally associate with, whomever I choose
  • the right to worship as I wish
  • the right to petition the Government
  • the right to peacefully assemble
  • the right to state my opinion
  • the right to a trial by a jury of my peers if accused of a crime.

There are more of course, but note the common word to. That is not surprising since Webster specifies that a freedom entails a choice or an action – that is, things I choose to do or act uponwhich choice or action is free from necessity, coercion or constraint. And so it has been understood – from the time of the American Revolution.

But beginning in the late 1890s, catching fire in the 1910s, and reigniting strongly in the 1930s, 1960s and 2010s, a substantial minority – and increasingly, looking like a majority – of the American people have settled on an alternate definition of the word freedom. If I may be permitted the liberty, I would state the new definition as follows: “the presence of security, comfort or guarantees in state or being.”

Now let us follow on this new definition with an exact parallel to the discussion above following the classic definition. First, the folks who propound the new definition rarely, explicitly discuss the origin or fount for these rights which are to be accorded to all residents of the USA. They – like Mr. Jefferson – hold them to be self-evident; but they scarcely specify their author, originator, source or justification. Self-evidence seems to be enough – although, alas, what is evident to you may be opaque to me.

Well, what are these rights that I should have that will guarantee my well-being by rendering my state more comfortable and secure? They have been spelled out by the presidential founders of progressivism: Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Obama. They include:

  • freedom from want (i.e., poverty)
  • freedom from fear (i.e., anything that makes me afraid); e.g.
  • freedom from expression of opinions that make me uncomfortable
  • freedom from prejudice
  • freedom from unfair competition (esp. from those more skilled or experienced than me)
  • freedom from violence (e.g., presence of guns)
  • freedom from superstition (i.e., religion)
  • freedom from incarceration
  • freedom from armed government agents (the police, ICE, etc.)
  • freedom from xenophobia (e.g., about undocumented immigrants).

Note now that the common word is from rather than to. That is because these freedoms do not pertain to an action or choice, but to a feeling or emotion or an external force on one’s person. As with ‘freedom to,’ there are more than those delineated above, e.g., freedom from illness or freedom from ignorance. And as with the first set of freedoms, these new freedoms are to be secured or guaranteed by the Government. But unlike the first set of freedoms, these are not granted or accorded to us by Nature or God; they are not natural rights in that sense. They are simply rights that just ought to be accorded to all individuals – or more precisely – to all groups living in an advanced society.

By whose authority? By the people themselves since the rights are self-evidently manifest to any enlightened member of society. Moreover, unlike the natural rights in the Founders’ society, the rights in the modern, enlightened society may evolve and change over time. New rights may be discovered; old rights may be discarded. Finally, the people, via their primary vehicle, the Government, determine what the current set of rights are, and then enforce them also via the Government. Thus, a “Living Constitution!” Which of course implies: Obsolescence of the Declaration and Abrogation of the Constitution.

It’s not my purpose here to compare the relative merits of the two systems. Rather it is to ensure that we understand the fundamental difference between the two definitions of freedom, and to allow the reader to ponder the drastic and overwhelming changes that would ensue if we the people discard the first definition and adopt the second. I will examine some of those changes in a future piece.

 

The Role of Religion in Liberty

It seems self-evident that in order for a free society to succeed, the people of that society must be virtuous. How so? Well, if all the citizens of a country are free to choose where to live, what vocation to pursue, with whom to associate and how/whether to worship, then with everyone free to make all those choices, it is inevitable that conflicts, inconsistencies and disputes will naturally arise. Members of the same family may disagree on where to live. Members of the same organization may – nay, will – fail to see eye-to-eye on how to run the organization. Business partners cannot agree on strategy to grow the company. Parents and children often fail to have a meeting of the minds on career path, social entanglements and how to pass leisure time. Co-religionists have different views on methods of worship or acceptable modes of behavior. Johnny and Sally – although married for years – may come to contrary opinions on parenting methods.

It is inescapable that free choice leads to conflicting choices. Thus the success of a free society requires that its people exhibit a tremendous amount of tolerance, patience, empathy, understanding, sympathy, reserve, deference, respect, generosity and a willingness to compromise. These are the qualities that mark a virtuous person. That is, a person of high moral character, who manifests exemplary behavior, is kind and considerate to others, a true “good person,” a paragon of virtue. But note that these are exactly the qualities taught to and urged upon us by the religions to which we ascribe.

Now this observation that for a free society to succeed, its populace must be virtuous, is hardly novel. It was made at the time that the “modern world” began to conclude that a society whose inhabitants are free is a much better way to organize said society than methods heretofore tried. With rare exception, all pre-modern societies were authoritarian, totalitarian, oligarchic, monarchal or otherwise classified, in which the average person was not free to make the choices we treasure (although often take for granted). Where to live, with whom to associate, how to earn a living, even whom (and how) to worship were prescribed for almost all individuals by others. During the Enlightenment, especially in the British Isles, but then spreading to North America and gradually to much of the globe, the notion that human beings ought to be free to organize their lives themselves became widespread. The implementation of the idea has been fitful depending on time and place over the last three centuries. Moreover, in certain places where it has been implemented (even if only partly), the requirement of a virtuous citizenry has been overlooked – with awful consequences. See for example, Russia in the 1990s, or Germany in the 1920s, or perhaps Iran in the 1970s.

I take the following two precepts as given and indisputable. First, human beings have the right to be free. Whether the right is conferred by God, Nature, some cosmic force, or even a group of men who put a few lines on a piece of paper (i.e., Founders writing a Constitution), the right is absolute and indisputable. Second, in order to successfully exercise that right, the free people must be a virtuous people. The success of free societies is directly correlated to the degree of virtuosity exhibited by its people.

Now it is not my purpose here to examine – currently or historically – how virtuous are/were the American people and how well/poorly has our free society succeeded. Perhaps in a future essay. Rather I would like to consider the question: whence the virtuosity? The title of the essay suggests an answer. Certainly the Founders (most, but not all of them) believed the answer was to be found in religion. Every major religion suggests that in practicing its tenets, its adherents will manifest virtuous behavior. Which will then play a fundamental role in the exercise of their rights as free human beings – and which, consequently, will engender a harmonious society.

Thus, according to George Washington, in his famous and oft-quoted farewell address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion, and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.“ [Emphasis mine]

And Benjamin Franklin in a letter written just before the Constitutional Convention:

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

But there are countervailing opinions. Many have believed – and many still believe – that it is eminently possible to be virtuous without being at all religious. (Thomas Jefferson was a subscriber to this idea.)  Theories and movements have grown up around the idea (Secular Humanism, e.g.). The evidence for its truth is mixed. Certainly history is full of exemplary characters who did not subscribe to any particular religion. Jefferson himself might be cited as an example – although recent research calls into question his virtuosity.  But without naming names, I suggest that Western Civilization has witnessed a multitude of individuals who aligned with no specific religion, but who led exemplary lives.

So here are two quotes to serve as a counterbalance to Washington’s opinion. The first is due to the late Christopher Hitchens, a well-known author, described in a NY Times obituary as “a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell…” and the latter is by Matt Dillahunty, described by Wikipedia as an American atheist activist:

Hitchens: “We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.”

Dillahunty: “I get my limits from a rational consideration of the consequences of my actions, that’s how I determine what’s moral. I get it from a foundation that says my actions have an effect on those people around me, and theirs have an effect on me, and if we’re going to live cooperatively and share space, we have to recognize that impact. And my freedom to swing my arm ends at their nose, and that I have no right to impose my will over somebody else’s will in that type of scenario. That’s where I get them from. I get them from an understanding of reality, not an assertion of authority.”

Nasty words from Hitchens, but Dillahunty presents a measured and cogent argument for a rational morality devoid of religion. Nevertheless, I believe that a religious free society has a very good chance of producing a virtuous citizenry. That is, virtue shall follow as a consequence of religious belief, thereby enhancing the chances for a successful free society. Well Hitchens, certainly, and Dillahunty, probably, would not agree. So the question remains: Can an irreligious, but free society generate the requisite virtuosity to succeed?

Perhaps not! Consider the following. Over the last seventy years, most of the countries of Western Europe have been exorcising religion from the lives of their inhabitants. The monumentally beautiful churches of France, Britain and Germany are nearly empty on any given Sunday. Has this resulted in a paucity of virtue? And is liberty in retreat in Western Europe? I cannot answer the first question, but it seems to me that the answer to the second is ‘yes.’ The peoples of Western Europe have been gradually surrendering their freedom to an authoritarian structure in Brussels known as the European Union. By the usual measures: ability to pursue a vocation of one’s choice, etc.; Western Europeans have slowly been losing their freedoms. Thus far the people of America have not made a similar choice. But in their attempt to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens us, we have moved in that direction recently. Perhaps it is temporary. We’ll see.

To summarize, a virtuous citizenry is required to maintain a successful free society. Virtue can come as a consequence of religion. Can an irreligious society generate the requisite virtuosity? The jury is deliberating. What do you think?

What’s the Difference Between a Gunman and a Terrorist?

Compare the following reports – the first from the Ottawa Sun describing the recent terrorist attack in Ottawa and the second from the Jerusalem Post detailing the also recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem:

Two people are dead after at least one gunman stormed Parliament Hill on Wednesday morning. One of the dead is a soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, a reservist with Argylls of Canada – 91st Canadian Highlanders in Hamilton, Ont., who was standing guard at the National War Memorial. The other is the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, born in 1982, who opened fire in Centre Block across the street. Two U.S. officials said that U.S. agencies have been advised that Zehaf-Bibeau was a Canadian convert to Islam. One of the officials said that the man was from Quebec. Police continued to search vehicles in downtown Ottawa, where blocks of the city’s core were locked down all day. Gunfire exploded shortly before 10 a.m., just outside where the Conservative caucus was meeting. The shooter was met with return fire — dozens of shots were heard — and was killed outside the parliamentary library.

A three-month-old girl, identified by her grandfather as Chaya Zissel, was killed and several US citizens and Israelis were wounded Wednesday evening when a convicted Palestinian terrorist from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan rammed his vehicle into a crowd of people in the capital. The attack, which was captured by a security camera, took place at the Ammunition Hill light-rail stop a few hundred meters from Israel’s national police headquarters, situated across a densely traveled thoroughfare, shortly after 6 p.m., a senior police official said. The terrorist was shot by police and late Wednesday evening he died in hospital.

In both instances, a lone-wolf terrorist, motivated by his rabid Islamist ideology, committed an act of wanton and indiscriminate murder of an innocent person and then was killed by authorities. In the Canadian account, the perpetrator is identified as a gunman, as might be an armed intruder in a bank robbery. In the Israeli account the perpetrator is clearly identified as a terrorist. In the Canadian report, the murderer’s Islamist background is handled gently and nonjudgmentally. In the Israel report it is made clear that the murderer’s background included previous violent attempts. In the former, it is never stated explicitly that the gunman killed the victim; only that “two people are dead.” Whereas in the Israeli report, it is abundantly clear who killed whom.

The behavior of Muslim terrorists in the United States is treated even more gingerly by the American media than by the Canadian press. And in fact, the Israeli report is if anything on the more circumspect side than is usually seen in the Israeli press. All of us in the West are the object of a holy (in fact, unholy) war perpetrated by radical Islamists. Terror is the main weapon they deploy. If we cannot recognize that – as the Israelis do, then we are going to have a very difficult time galvanizing ourselves to fight and obliterate the Islamist menace that threatens our countries and our lives.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was not a gunman; he was a terrorist, on a mission to murder and maim in the name of his religion, or at least in some bloody interpretation of it that he had in his mind. Unfortunately, there are literally millions of his ilk out there. They have declared war on the US, on Canada, on Israel and on the entire West. The longer we try to pretend that this is not so, the longer and more costly will be our ultimate battle to defeat them.

This post also appeared in The American Thinker

Who is More Evil: Al Qaeda or Islamic State; and Which Poses the Greater Threat?

Whether you seek its definition as an adjective or noun, you will find in any reputable dictionary two identifying components of the term evil: morally reprehensible and causing immense harm. The problem is that the first component and, to a lesser extent, the second are both relative terms. Whether an action is morally reprehensible depends on the moral code used to judge the action. And too often, one man’s assessment of damage is another’s evaluation of progress. According to the centuries-old moral code of Western Civilization, the actions of both Al Qaeda and Islamic State are morally reprehensible. Moreover, their deeds have resulted in enormous harm to Americans, Europeans, Christians and other non-Muslim communities in the Middle East, and even to numerous Muslim groups in that troubled region. Ergo, to those of us residing in the West, both are evil organizations.

Now, although it is natural to ask the first question in the title – especially as the answer might inform the answer to the second – it is also a bit silly. It reminds me of a childhood game that I recall playing – namely, who was more evil: Hitler or Stalin? In an attempt at an answer, I and my boyhood friends would compare: the number of people each had killed, how many countries they conquered, and the nature of their butchery – gassing victims in a concentration camp versus purposeful mass starvation in an artificially induced famine. Suffice it to say that both Nazism and Communism were maniacally evil systems that unleashed unimaginable misery upon millions of people.

The same is true of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Fortunately for mankind, the extent of the misery that their evil deeds have caused has nowhere near the scope of the Nazi or Communist Parties. But it has not been for lack of trying. The barbarism, savagery and cold-blooded ruthlessness exhibited by both organizations is more than enough to qualify them as evil – comparable to the standards, if not the scale of Nazism or Communism. I have no doubt that should either acquire the power that the Nazis or Commies had at their respective zeniths, the carnage would be comparable.

Which brings us to the second question in the title – which of these malevolent organizations poses the greater threat? To whom? I will consider the object of the threat to be the United States. In that case there are four types of threats that we must consider. Here they are in increasing order of severity:

  1. The conquest, domination or subversion of one or more states in the Middle East – or elsewhere – that causes severe damage to the economic or political interests of the US.
  2. Phenomenal growth in strength and adherents such that the organization becomes a force that can project power worldwide.
  3. Serous covert or overt attacks on the US homeland.
  4. A mortal threat to the existence of our country.

I find it very hard to believe that either Al Qaeda or Islamic State will rise in the future anywhere close to level 4 – however, see below. Al Qaeda has already proven that it has achieved level 3, and similarly Islamic State has demonstrated that it has reached level 1. Moreover, given the rapid and sweeping rise of Islamic State, it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that it can reach level 2. If one accepts the threat levels as I have assayed them, then Al Qaeda remains the greater of the two threats. It does not have the safe haven that it had in Afghanistan to plot and prepare attacks on US soil. But it has established substantial cells in many other places – for example, Yemen – and the will and determination of members of Al Qaeda to hit us remain undiminished. They have not succeeded in the last decade because we are better prepared and because we’ve been lucky. We would be fools to assume that they won’t keep trying.

Islamic State seems more concerned with establishing its caliphate than with attacking the US. But they have announced their intention to strike us. If they should succeed in capturing and domineering sufficient territory to (temporarily) satisfy their lust for expansion, they may very well turn their sights on us.

Having answered the title’s questions, let me turn to America’s ambivalent attitude toward evil, to what extent that played a role in our struggles against Nazism and Communism in the last century, and what role it plays today in our confrontation with radical Islam. Our historical attitude can be summarized in the following points:

  • America tends to be slow in recognizing evil intent on the part of hostiles.
  • Even when acknowledged, the US is hesitant to label it as such. We persist in seeking alternate explanations for evil behavior. We question the reality of evil as it conflicts with our reflexively benign interpretations of the nature of mankind.
  • Even when accepted, we are hesitant to act against evil forces. We see their behavior as so contrary to the manner in which we expect humanity to behave that we irrationally expect it will peter out or run its course.
  • Finally, even when we decide to act, we couch our actions in logistic rather than moral terms. Our counterattack becomes just another routine military mission, carried out judiciously and somewhat reluctantly.

All of this was evident in our battles with Nazism and Communism. I would say more so in the latter than the former. It took us more than eight years from the inauguration of Hitler to enjoin the battle against Nazism. And if the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, who knows how much longer it would have taken. However, once we decided to fight, we fought ruthlessly and mercilessly to rid the world of fascism. In this case, we completely overcame our inherent reluctance and we smote the evil force with overwhelming firepower.

The delay in engaging Communism was substantially longer. Roughly 30 years passed from the Bolshevik Revolution until the Truman administration initiated the battle. Moreover, the battle was not fully engaged until another 25 years later when Reagan entered the scene. Furthermore, throughout the long struggle, a substantial portion of the country refused to acknowledge the evil nature of the Communist menace and attempted to temper the country’s actions against it. To this day, many refuse to label Communism as evil and question whether we needed to, or actually did, smite it.

Alas, our ambivalence in the face of evil seems to be growing. As I observed earlier, the Islamist menace is as evil as Nazism or Communism. Like them, it aspires to world domination and implementation of a totalitarian system. Furthermore, unlike Nazism or Communism, it does not have a central font from which the evil flows. Instead, lethal branches have spouted spontaneously all over Africa and Asia (Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, the Taliban and dozens more.) Yet the proportion of our population that recognizes this danger appears to be quite limited. From our leaders to our policy makers to the general public, the reluctance to engage this mortal enemy is palpable. In the past, had we not overcome the twin evils of Nazism and Communism, the consequences for us and the free world would have been cataclysmic. The consequences of defeat by this new twenty first century evil force would be just as dire. Will we wake up in time?

 

This essay also appeared in Canada Free Press and in The Intellectual Conservative

Is Islamism a Totalitarian System Like Nazism and Communism?

The concept of a totalitarian state was an invention of the twentieth century. The notion of a state or nation whose government could control virtually all aspects of its citizens’ lives was not conceivable in prior times. It is certainly true that in monarchies throughout history, the average subject had little capability to individually alter his finances, geographical mobility or political status. But the monarch’s reach into the personal life of his subjects was largely restricted to the upper aristocratic coterie that surrounded him. Tradition, religion, ethnic constraints and geographical proximity were far more influential in determining the beliefs and behavior of the average subject than were the machinations of the king.

However, in a modern totalitarian state, technology, advanced communications and sophisticated surveillance techniques endow a relatively small ruling class with much more extensive powers. In the totalitarian state, the government completely controls the political, economic, social and cultural life of almost all its citizens. Such a level of control has actually only been achieved in two twentieth century nations: Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Although strongly authoritarian, heavily centralized and equally war-like, Imperial Japan wasn’t really a totalitarian state in the same sense as the other two. The lives of its citizens were determined more by rigid cultural and “religious” rules than by the exhortations of the Emperor and his court. There were also a few mini totalitarian states in the last century – for example: Albania, perhaps Burma and a few wannabees (Nicaragua, Belarus). But Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia are really the only examples of major nations that qualify as totalitarian states.

As is well-known, the rulers of such nations have an appetite for control that cannot be sated only by its own citizens. The urge to conquer other nations is overwhelming. And, alas, the history of the two twentieth century totalitarian regimes is replete with invasion, mass murder, concentration camps, gulags, occupations and unimaginable barbarism. It is to the eternal credit of the United States that it refused to be cowed by these murderous regimes, led international coalitions to combat them and – in the words of Ronald Reagan – dispatched them to the ash heap of history.

But, to the sorrow of the civilized world, the twenty first century seems to have coughed up a third major totalitarian system – Islamism or radical Islam. There is absolutely no question that the sponsors of this ideology have in mind a totalitarian system for all regions in which that ideology will rule. It may be that the prime motivating factor in this third case is religion – unlike Nazism, in which it was race or volk; or Communism, in which it was economic or class. Nevertheless, according to the self-professed intentions of the Jihadists who espouse Islamism, the goal is to create a society ruled absolutely by Sharia Law. Based on prior experience in Afghanistan and those few despoiled spots in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria) and Africa (Sudan, parts of Mali) where rule by Sharia Law has been implemented, one must conclude that it is a political system, which seeks to control all aspects of the lives of those under its domain. Ergo, a totalitarian system.

However, there is a major difference between radical Islam as it is developing and Nazism and Communism as they existed. While in all three cases, the goal was/is worldwide domination; in the twentieth century variety, the focal point for the system and the font from which all the branches were directed, was a single nation state. That is far from the case with radical Islam. For the latter, we are witnessing far-flung eruptions – like pimples on an ugly face – all over Africa and Asia (with tentacles all over the world). Although they are only loosely aligned with each other, each is guided by the same ideology and employs the same tactics. All seek to create a worldwide totalitarian system based on radical Islam that would totally dominate the lives of all who live under it.

Here is a partial list of the blemishes: Al Qaeda (AQ), AQ in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), AQ in the Maghreb (AQIM), Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Boko Haram, Abbu Sayyaf, Al Shabaab, Jabhat al Nusra, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban. Breathtaking! The cancer is metastasizing all over the world and new mutations spring up regularly. Incidentally, some would add the state of Iran to the list.

The West in general and the Unites States in particular are now confronted by a lethal threat from this metastasizing totalitarian system. The system’s adherents – in every case – have declared that the West and the US are indeed the mortal enemies of Islam and that the peoples of those entities must be converted or killed. That is not a negotiating position on their part. It is their hardcore belief – one on which they have acted and on which they promise to continue acting. We in the US (and in the West) do not have the luxury of dismissing their intentions as ludicrous and not worthy of our attention. They have declared war on us and even if we pretend it is not so, it does not change the fact that we are in their crosshairs.

Part of the reason that we have not taken the threat with the seriousness that it warrants is indeed the diffuse nature of the enemy. There is no single nation state that is its chief sponsor and upon which we might concentrate any ire that we could work up. (Again, some consider Iran to be a candidate, although we are extremely reluctant to confront them as such.) Another reason is the fatigue we feel – first from our two heroic struggles to overcome the twentieth century totalitarian systems; and second, from our halting and unsuccessful efforts to engage the Jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. But I think the main reason is that, since the threat emerged (roughly 20 years ago), all of our leaders (Clinton, Bush, Obama) have been loath to identify it for what it is. They tell us that Islam is a religion of peace and that the practitioners of Jihad are a small minority that has hijacked the religion. In fact there is no objective evidence for that claim and much to support its refutation. Moreover, I doubt that our leaders believe their own words. Instead, the emergence of the third totalitarian threat does not conform to their vision of the twenty first century as the West foresaw it developing following the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Another totalitarian monster? No way! Been there, done that. It’s so twentieth century.” The eruption of radical Islam just doesn’t square with the “end of history” theme to which they subscribe, and so Islamism must be a passing or insignificant trend that does not command the attention, resources and drive required of us that were needed to combat the evils of the twentieth century. The West just doesn’t want to go down that road again.

And so we call Jihad in Fort Hood “workplace violence”; we refer to terrorist actions against us in the homeland as “man-caused disasters”; and we label the limited sorties against the Jihadists that we have permitted ourselves “overseas contingency operations.” We strive mightily to fool ourselves so as not to recognize that, for a third time, a brutal and murderous totalitarian system has emerged to threaten the civilized world and that if we don’t confront and destroy it, the fate of mankind is bleak indeed.

But we are not fooling anyone. Islamism is indeed a totalitarian system. The way it has emerged and the nature of its existence differs from those of Nazism or Communism. That should not prevent us from a clear evaluation of its nature and the threat that it poses. We defeated Nazism by building and deploying a mighty military force that bludgeoned the Nazis into submission. We defeated Communism by building a mighty economy and social engine that exposed the hollow and false nature of Communist ideology – so that the Soviet Union collapsed on its own. We clearly have not settled on a strategy for confronting and defeating Islamism. It might be that we haven’t even begun looking for one. But we better get busy. The Islamists are coming for us. For them, it’s a fight to the death. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can get to work arranging for their death.

This essay also appeared in Canada Free Press as well as in The Intellectual Conservative