I discuss an unexamined side of the Tancredo controversy in FrontPage: his suggestion wouldn’t work. Have at it.
Why not bomb Mecca? Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has brought the issue to the table. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has demanded that he apologize to Muslims, and commentators left and right have subjected him to vociferous criticism. At the same time, however, he seems to have tapped into the frustration that many Americans feel about official Washington’s politically correct insistence, in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary, that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists.
Although Tancredo’s presidential hopes and possibly even his seat in Congress may go up in the mushroom cloud created by the furor over his remarks, the idea of destroying Islamic holy sites in response to a devastating terror attack on American soil is not going to go away — particularly as long as elected officials rush after every Islamic terror attack to repeat the well-worn mantras about how they know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims abhor violence and reject extremism, and are our faithful and reliable allies against terrorism in all its forms.
However, although the resentment Tancredo has tapped is real and has legitimate causes, his suggestion that “among the many things we might do to prevent such an attack on America would be to lay out there as a possibility the destruction” of Islamic holy sites is still wrong “” but not generally for the reasons that most analysts have advanced.
Primarily, of course, it contravenes Western principles of justice which, if discarded willy-nilly, would remove a key reason why we fight at all: to preserve Western ideas of justice and human rights that are denied by the Islamic Sharia law so beloved of jihad terrorists. But even aside from moral questions, which are increasingly thorny in this post-Hiroshima, post-Dresden world, there are practical reasons to reject what Tancredo has suggested.
Tancredo’s idea, of course, is based on the old Cold War principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Both sides threatened each other with nuclear annihilation, and the threats canceled each other out. The Soviets would no more risk Moscow being wiped out than we would Washington.
But applying this principle to present-day Islamic jihad is not so easy. The Soviets did not inculcate into their cadres the idea enunciated by Maulana Inyadullah of al-Qaeda shortly after 9/11: “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” This lust for death runs through the rhetoric of today”s jihadists, and goes all the way back in Islamic history to the Qur’an, in which Allah instructs Muhammad: “Say (O Muhammad): O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful” (62:6). Will men who love death, who glorify suicide bombing and praise God for beheadings and massacres, fear the destruction of holy sites? It seems unlikely in the extreme “” and that fact nullifies all the value this threat may have had as a deterrent. Nuke Mecca? Why bother? It wouldn’t work.
Others have argued, however, that the deterrent value of destroying Islamic holy sites would lie not in giving jihad terrorists pause, but in showing Islam itself to be false and thus removing the primary motivation of today”s jihad terrorists. If Allah is all-powerful and rewards those who believe in him while hating and punishing the disbelievers (the “vilest of creatures,” according to Qur’an 98:6), wouldn’t he protect his holy sites from these disbelievers?
However, Muslims have weathered such shocks to their system in the past. In 1924, the secular government of Turkey abolished the caliphate; the caliph was considered the successor of the Prophet Muhammad as the religious and political leader of the Islamic community. By abolishing the office, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk hoped to strike at the heart of political Islam and create a context in which Islam could develop something akin to the Western idea of the separation of religion and state. Instead, his act provided the impetus for the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization, in Egypt in 1928. The Brotherhood and its offshoots (which include Hamas and Al-Qaeda), and indeed virtually all jihadist groups in the world today, date the misery of the Islamic world to the abolition of the caliphate. The ultimate goal of such groups is the restoration of this office, the reunification of the Islamic world under the caliph, and the establishment of the Sharia as the sole law in Muslim countries. Then the caliph would presumably take up one of his principal duties as stipulated by Islamic law: to wage offensive jihad against non-Muslim states in order to extend Sharia rule to them also.
The abolition of the caliphate, then, accomplished precisely the opposite of what Ataturk hoped it would: it gave the adherents of political Islam a cause around which to rally, recruit, and mobilize. In essence, it gave birth to the crisis that engulfs the world today. It is likely that a destruction of the Ka”aba or the Al-Aqsa Mosque would have the same effect: it would become source of spirit, not of dispirit. The jihadists would have yet another injury to add to their litany of grievances, which up to now have so effectively confused American leftists into thinking that the West is at fault in this present conflict. But the grievances always shift; the only constant is the jihad imperative. Let us not give that imperative even greater energy in the modern world by supplying such pretexts needlessly.