In “Stephen Coughlin’s Thesis” at National Review’s Phi Beta Cons (thanks to James), Carol Iannone outlines Coughlin’s assessment of some nomenclature, and of the principal views on this issue:
I’ve been reading Stephen Coughlin’s master’s thesis, “‘To Our Great Detriment’: Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad,” submitted to the National Defense Intelligence College, and I can see why it got him into trouble. He frankly declares that this administration has been wrong on the relation of Islam to jihadism and terrorism. While members of the administration sternly warn of the dire threats we face and how we must know our enemy, they themselves are lost in illusions about that enemy. The enemy is not Islamo-Fascism, but the jihadist elements of Islam itself. Coughlin points out that on the basis of very little, Bush, Rice, and other Administration people blithely declare Islam a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a few violent extremists for their own agenda, an agenda which they insist has nothing to do with Islam. They ignore all the evidence from Islamic sources that support violence in the name of spreading or defending the faith and bypass the professed and frequently stated aims of the jihadists.
Absolutely. That’s what I’ve been arguing for years now.
Coughlin’s thesis suggests that there are not two schools of thought on Islamic terror, those who think it is simply a criminal problem and those who think it is a war we will be fighting for a long time, but three. First, there is the view that largely comes from the liberal-left, that thinks there really is no Islamic threat, that it’s really America and its actions that have called forth violence from Muslims, that if there is violence, it is from a tiny few and can be managed by the world community like an international criminal problem.
Then there is the conservative-right view, that there is indeed a terrible threat, a virtual World War Four, and the threat is from Islamo-Fascism, not from Islam itself, but from the aberrations of radicals who are creating some distorted blending of Islamic beliefs with 20th century fascist concepts. This is only a recent development, according to this view, not centuries old, and therefore we can be very hopeful about stomping it out. About ten percent of the world’s Muslims do believe in Islamo-Fascist jihad, and that is a serious number, but ninety percent of Muslims don’t believe in it and want what we all want, material security and prosperity. In fact, the underlying causes of terrorism arise from the material deprivation and lack of freedom and opportunity in the Muslim world. There is thus no conflict between Islam and liberal democracy and modernity in general, and certainly no clash of civilizations. The Islamic world will not be able to resist the march of liberal democracy and the irresistible call of freedom. This view is largely that of President Bush.
The third view says that there is indeed a problem with Islam itself, that even if only a minority of Muslims will ever take up jihad, most Muslims know that that is mandated by their religion and they do support it in belief and sometimes financially. The term Islamo-Fascism is really a euphemism for those who wish to deny or ignore the violence inherent in Islam. This view sees that jihad has been a feature of Islam from its beginnings and that martyrdom is honored and rewarded in Islam. This view also finds that Islam may well be in conflict with liberal democracy. Muslims are told that they are meant to Islamicize the countries they live in, through “peaceful” means if they can, and violent means when necessary, and we already see signs of this in Europe and America.
I have always held, of course, to the third view, and have argued for it here and in my books. This view is abundantly borne out by Islamic texts and teachings, as well as by statements from numerous contemporary Muslims, but it is nonetheless completely ruled out of consideration a priori by a mainstream media dominated by the first view and a conservative media establishment dominated by the second. However, the truth will out, one way or the other, and cannot be ignored and denied forever.
One small caveat: “The term Islamo-Fascism is really a euphemism for those who wish to deny or ignore the violence inherent in Islam.” While this statement is true of many who use the term “Islamo-Fascism,” I don’t think it is a necessary or universal component of that usage. Some who are fully aware of the violence and supremacism taught in the Qur’an and other core Islamic texts use the term to denote those Muslims who are actually waging jihad, in whatever manner, as opposed to those who are not. (Yes, that does leave out those who approve of the jihad while doing nothing, and those who are potential jihadists.) There is an illuminating FrontPage Symposium going on now about this term. I am participating in it, and I hope it will be published soon, although it seems to be moving at a glacial pace at this point.
In any case, it is also true in my experience that those who hold the second view and those who hold the third can work together in certain areas, and there is no reason to close off that cooperation — especially since there are so few people resisting the jihad in any way. Of course, the idea that relieving “material deprivation and lack of freedom and opportunity in the Muslim world” will end the jihad is completely wrongheaded and doomed to failure, but those who hold these two views can and do still work together domestically against jihadist and stealth jihadist initiatives in the United States.
So, to return more strictly to Coughlin’s thesis, he says that we are hampered in dealing with the enemy and in producing good intelligence for our strategic plans because instead of listening to what the enemy is saying, we impose our own hopeful, optimistic kind of view on the Islamic world, that everyone is really like us at heart and that we will see this in the end.