A provocative piece by James V. Schall, S.J., a professor of government at Georgetown University (Espositoland). From Policy Review, with thanks to Uncle Jeff:
Many “peaceful” alternatives to war are unhappy ones. One of them consists in being conquered by a hostile power, another in complete civilizational destruction. We read of Muslim and Mongolian armies before whose swords we would not like to fall, knowing that if we do, our culture, religion, and way of life, not to mention many of our lives, would disappear. No one in the decade before the sudden appearance of Mohammedan armies in the seventh century could have imagined the configuration of the world map today, a configuration in many areas due precisely to the permanent conquests of these earlier and later armies. The modern integrity of Europe is unimaginable without two victories over Muslim forces: one at Tours, one at Vienna….
We do have a concern that “terrorists,” as we are wont to call them in lieu of calling them what they call themselves, will gain possession of nuclear weapons. We could reasonably suppose that communists did not want to be destroyed. We are not so sure about Muslim war planners. The “suicide bomber” may prove to be more lethal and more intellectually perplexing than any nuclear weapon ever was.
Nuclear and conventional weapons, in fact, have become so accurate, so downsized, so controlled, that all the elements of the just war theory devised by the most scrupulous moralist are in place and in operation. One might even argue that current American weaponry is constructed the way it is precisely in order to live up to just war concerns. Again, the problem is never the weapons themselves, but who uses them. The knowledge of how to make such weapons simply exists, along with the technology to make them. We cannot think these plans out of existence without thinking much of modern science out of existence. And we have no reason to think that present-day terrorists, who have a different religious philosophy, will not use nuclear weapons if they can, even if they destroy themselves in the process.
How do we deal with or even understand the “suicide bomber?” Just war theory is relatively useless in this area. What, after all, does a fully armed GI do in confrontation with a pregnant Muslim woman who has bombs strapped inside her dress and intends to blow him, herself, her baby, and dozens of others up? All the literature and normal understanding about “innocent women and children” have become, if not irrelevant, at least maddeningly difficult to apply in such increasingly common cases.
The answer to the question of why a Muslim man or woman will blow himself or herself up is not simply political or military. Aristotle said that if someone is willing to die in the process, no one can really prevent him from trying to kill us. Augustine had a similar problem with the fourth-century schismatic Donatists. A Muslim who blows himself up along with 15 others can pretty much rest assured that this type of weapon will not be used against his own people.
The real question is whether this current situation constitutes a new war of civilizations. Much vested interest is devoted to the proposition that it is not. Our leaders, both civil and religious, have been loath so to designate it as a civilizational war. Islam is said to be a religion of peace. To suspect that it is a threat on a much broader scale is one of those things that must be classified as “secret writing.” It goes against the dominant religious mood, namely, ecumenism, and against the liberal mode, namely, tolerance, according to which all issues can be resolved without war. But ecumenism and tolerance are not in accord with a certain Muslim viewpoint: The world, in their missionary view, ought to be Muslim even if by war, even by suicide bombings. War can be precisely “holy.” Until we can understand that, we simply will not be able to grasp the essence of the problem.
There is considerable talk both in the West and in certain sections of the Muslim world about making Islam over into politically acceptable forms without altering any of what are considered its basic beliefs. This radical reconstruction of Islam, which identifies the current military attacks as coming from a minority “terrorist” movement and not from Islam in any genuine form, is said to be the main “neoconservative” project.
One can, I think, defend this program on prudential grounds. No one, including the churches, is willing to examine in a serious way the truth claims of Islam, not only its own understanding of Allah and of Judaism and Christianity, but also its practiced way of life and the direct relation of its religion and its politics. Until this latter effort is undertaken in a much more serious way, the prudential approach can be justified as a holding operation. But what is ultimately behind the effort to provide models and forms of “democratic” and “free” political systems is the effort to undermine those teachings and customs of Islam that cause the problem, the first of which is the claim of the truth of Islamic revelation and its understanding of the absolute will of God as arbitrary. In this sense, MacArthur was right. Political problems often have theological import at their basis.
The Italian paper Il Giornale (May 26, 2004) published an interview with Caesare Mazzolari, bishop of Rumbek in the Sudan, a place where Christian-Muslim relations are those of war, war against the Christians. His remarks perhaps serve to contextualize this issue, particularly in the light of the Dawson thesis:
Q: Is there a clash of civilizations . . . ?
A: The Church has defeated communism but is just starting to understand its next challenge “” Islamism, which is much worse. The Holy Father has not been able to take up this challenge due to his old age. But the next pope will find himself having to face it . . . .
Q: Some bishops in Italy have allowed chapels to be used as mosques.
A: It will be the Muslims who convert us, not the other way around. Wherever they settle down, sooner or later they end up becoming a leading political force . . . .
Q: Does it make sense to export our democracy to agricultural and sheep-herding societies that make no distinction between religion and politics?
A: No. This is idiotic. Islamic people base their decisions only and exclusively on the umma. They don’t even know what individual rights are.
This is a blunt analysis from someone located in a country where over 2 million people “” Muslim dissidents as well as Christians “” have been killed in Muslim attacks. Whether we look on it as the wave of the future or as an exceptional, isolated case will determine the kind of attitude we have toward war and the necessity for the retention and use of military power.
Read it all.