Economic failure is all about us. Manufacturing jobs move, because capital is fluid and labor is immobile, from the United States to China, to India, to places where workers do not have the salaries and the benefits that workers acquired through slow time in this country. Bailouts of the undeserving, if they are powerful, and cruel indifference to the deserving, if they are unpowerful, are part of a larger problem. The stock market goes up, or goes down, but the economic degringolade continues.
But in all the discussion of economic difficulties, editorialists, columnists, talking heads on television, speak and write about the success or failure of Keynesian economics, the need for spending or for austerity, the need to do this and the need not to do that. They talk and write about the costs of the health care legislation, this year, next year, five years hence. They write and talk about the Looming Crisis in Social Security. They talk about the extension, or failure to extend, unemployment benefits. They talk, and write, and lament, the inability of many recent college graduates to obtain employment. They note the changes in middle-class life, and how shrunken are the chances of those graduating today from those of their parents or their grandparents. They note that the states are now $140 billion in the hole, with the largest states – especially California and Illinois – having to fire hundreds of thousands of teachers, and reduce the salaries of government workers, and how the slashing of state budgets leads to a slashing of aid to cities and towns, and how ineffective have been the measures taken to right things.
But what surely needs to be focused on is the colossal financial drain, the demoralizing drain, caused by the squandering of trillions of dollars in those wars that have been waged to attain exactly the wrong goals (which in any case are unattainable) in Iraq and Afghanistan. We hear different figures for the costs of those wars. The real cost of both wars, leaving out nothing, was estimated by the Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his fellow author Linda Blimes a few years ago. They had to make assumptions about when the Americans would withdraw from Iraq, and from Afghanistan. They figured on 2010 for Iraq, 2011 or so for Afghanistan – very close to what has turned out to be, or is scheduled to be. They had to make guesses as to indirect costs associated with both wars, including the rise in the price of oil, and the cost for lifetime care for tens of thousands of severely wounded veterans. Their title proclaims their book-length estimate: The Three-Trillion Dollar War.
That seems a reasonable figure to come up with. What is not reasonable at all is that such amounts should have been spent without holy hell having been raised, raised every day, every hour, by everyone who cares about the future of the United States. The folly of that expense will soon be seen in Iraq to have been largely a waste, and – with a little lapse, a little decalage – it will then be understood to have been equally idiotic in Afghanistan.
And to those three trillion dollars we can add all the other sums that have been given to Muslim nations in addition to the more than thirteen trillion dollars in oil revenues that have been transferred from the oil-consuming nations to the Muslim members of OPEC since 1973 alone. There is the $75 billion that has been given to Egypt by the American government — for what, exactly? For continuing to give lip service to its “Peace Treaty” with Israel, while Egypt has steadfastly refused, once it had recovered the entire Sinai, to observe its solemn undertakings to end hostile propaganda and acts against the Jewish state. In fact, the government-controlled media in Egypt broadcast programs based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as non-stop anti-Israel and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Egyptian public opinion is as anti-Israel, and in addition as anti-American, as any country could be – despite those $75 billion.
There is also the nearly $35 billion that is the true amount sent, as economic and military aid and debt forgiveness, to meretricious Pakistan. Pakistan for decades has been playing the Americans, since the heady days of the Dulles brothers who believed that Islam was “a bulwark against Communism.” Then there are the billions that have gone to Eastern Palestine, that is, Jordan, and to those Arab-occupied parts of Judea and Samaria, renamed by the Jordanians as “the West Bank.” There the IDF helps maintain Arafat’s successors, formerly his henchman, in pretend-power, so that they can continue to help themselves to a goodly portion of the billions in aid that the Americans and the Europeans continue to give, for some reason that is difficult to understand, to the most spoiled set of fake “refugees” in the world, the “West Bank” Arabs. And other moneys have gone in the past to the Gazan Arabs, the other wing of the “Palestinians” who form the shock troops of the Jihad against Israel.
If one were to add up the amounts that have been received from the sale of oil and natural gas, that alone would make the Muslim Arabs, or a great many of them, the beneficiaries of the largest transfer of wealth in human history – more than thirteen trillion dollars since 1973 alone (and hundreds of billions before that). Yet not a single oil-or-gas-rich Arab state has created a modern economy; not one can afford to exist without vast armies of foreign workers, with the most important ones being non-Muslims, who in some of the smaller sheiklets outnumber the natives by 2-1 or 3-1 or 4-1. No Arab Muslim land can do without access to Western medical care and Western education and Western technology – not one. And they rely completely on their revenues from oil (and to a much lesser extent, natural gas). None of them, and certainly none of the ruling houses or tribes, can even defend themselves adequately. Why then do we continue to believe what a small army of Western hirelings who are in the pay of the Saudis, or profiting from business and other dealings with them, have succeeded in establishing as the dominant belief in the chanceries of the West: that we “need” Saudi Arabia’s goodwill, or that we “need” the goodwill of the U.A.E. (threatened in a territorial dispute with Iran) or of Kuwait or Qatar or of any of the other tiny statelets that, like frogs, puff themselves up to appear much bigger than they are, in order to ward off predators.
We are not predators, but we need not be patsies, either, and a policy or policies can be constructed that save money, not least by demanding that these rich oil states pay for the keeping of the peace in their area. They were made to pay, or did pay, for a large part of the Gulf War, for there their interests were immediately threatened. They won’t want to pay the Americans for having made possible Shi’a rule in Iraq, or for keeping the Taliban down in Afghanistan, but they can certainly be asked to pay for all the other expenses, including those in Pakistan, a state that exists only because of, and for, Islam.
And it is the rich Arabs, with their trillions still coming in, who should be expected to pay – if anyone is to do so – for Egypt, for Jordan, for the “Palestinians.” As a matter of finance, and of psychology, it is important for the Infidels, in North America and Western Europe, to stop paying for Muslims, and above all to end the growing conviction, on both sides, that somehow this further transfer of wealth (beyond the sums that go for oil and gas) is actually somehow coming to the Muslim Arabs, that they are “owed” it — and that if we stop, they will be angry with us (they will) and things will go hard with us (they won’t). That is the classic attitude of both Infidel giver and Muslim taker. It accompanies the yielding-up to Muslim masters by non-Muslims of the Jizyah in the classic Islamic polity.
Because we don’t want to take the time to think clearly about the meaning and therefore of the menace of Islam, we have undertaken in the last decade or two to attempt to temporarily buy Muslim goodwill by lavishing vast amounts of aid on many of the Muslim lands that do not have the riches of other Muslim lands, and feel that they somehow are not only entitled to support from American (and other) Infidels, but offer no gratitude in return. Instead, they appear to think that such aid is theirs by right, a kind of Jizyah that the Infidels should offer and continue to offer them. And we, the donors, make matters far worse by acting as if somehow it is right, it is just, that we, and the Europeans, should give that $75 billion to Egypt, a country whose people are virulently anti-American and full of conspiracy theories about Israel and Jews that receive a hearing on the government-controlled television and radio and newspapers. We act as if it is fitting and proper that those tens of billions more should go to meretricious Pakistan, and billions to Jordan, and billions to the shock troops of the without-end Jihad against the Infidel nation-state of Israel, that is the Slow Jiahdists of the “Palestinian” Authority. There are even those in high places who are just itching to extend that aid to the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, that is, to the Gazan Arabs, if only one or two of the right and transparently meaningless phrases were to be uttered with some demihemisemi quaver of pretend-sincerity — just enough to satisfy, say, the ludicrous likes of Tom Friedman or Nicholas Kristof.
It is difficult to understand why, when the day’s news is always about more economic difficulties for Americans and further financial catastrophes looming, that more attention is not paid to the costs of those wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the reasons for these wars. Once you have seen with your own eyes, as so many American soldiers have (and more than a million have served in Iraq and Afghanistan), have seen the pallets of American cash off-loaded by Iraqis, have seen or heard about the local contractors who were paid for doing no or little work, or who destroyed what they had done in order to be hired to do it all again, once you have heard or seen or read about all the ways that Iraqis managed to inveigle more and still more money out of the ever-compliant Americans, then you might begin to think. It was only monopoly money, money that didn’t matter to those handing it out, money that seemed not to be real or to have value. And you come home, and you realize, because you were there, what a waste it all had been. If you can avoid that business of telling yourself it was not a waste because you had been part of it and who wants to think he had been sent on and participated in a fool’s errand, then you might indeed begin to think very hard.
And if you are following things, and trying to determine where all that money went, nothing will madden you as much as the reports of all the Iraqis who made off with millions or tens of millions, and are now having a high old time in Paris or London on money that came from Americans who are not having a high old time.
As I wrote at the beginning of this article, this endless largesse, these lavishments from Infidels to Muslims take place, and keep being renewed without a squawk — as when, the other day, Barack Obama simply told Mahmoud Abbas that the Slow Jihadists of Fatah would be getting another $400 million from the American government. There was no consultation with Congress, no discussion, no nothing – just $400 million, poof!, like that, signed over to those who are every bit as dangerous to the survival of Israel, and because more cunning, possibly more dangerous than the Fast Jihadists of Hamas who are now dominant among the Gazan Arabs and, were the IDF not around to prop Abbas up, would likely win favor, being less corrupt than Fatah, in the “West Bank” too.
But why? Why are we spending all this money? Why did we spend all this money, these three trillion dollars and more in Iraq, if not because no one in the Bush Administration wanted to face up to, or was well-prepared to think about, the threat posed by the ideology of Islam? The entire effort in Iraq was based on messianic sentimentalism, the belief that advanced Western democracy could be transplanted – just add Miracle-Gro, and water with American money and blood daily – to a primitive and violent place, its people made violent and kept primitive by Islam itself. For many who call themselves “Republicans” or “conservatives,” it was their leader’s policy, right or wrong. They were determined to support Bush in Iraq, because…. Well, because it was the “lefties” (the surpassing vulgarity of the discussion needs to be remembered) who were for pulling out, and therefore, pulling out must necessarily be opposed, must necessarily be the wrong thing. It was a crazy quilt, a topsy-turvy world, where objectively a pullout would in fact have left us to see that once the Infidel troops were removed, the sectarian and ethnic fissures in Iraq would not disappear. The inability to compromise (that comes from the atmospherics of Islam) would reveal itself, and the aggression and violence of those fighting over money and power would continue, since aggression and violence are natural to societies suffused with Islam. But it would continue without the Infidel Americans to blame or to take as targets.
The goals sought by the Bush Administration were absurd. Those goals were not only to “bring freedom” to “ordinary moms and dads” in Iraq, but, so it was hoped, to then have Iraq serve as a Light Unto the Muslim nations, or rather to the other Arab states. But all the Arab states, including Iraq until recently, are run by Sunnis, whose views on the Shi’a range from mild dislike to murderous hatred. Why in the world would those in Washington think that any Sunni Arabs would be pleased by the inevitable result in Iraq – a Shi’a-run state? Why would they take inspiration from such a model? The spectacle of such a state merely enrages, and possibly, with Iran’s growing threat seemingly unstoppable, it also fills them with fear.
The Bush Administration had been impressed by, even inveigled by, Iraqi Shi’a in exile who gave their American interlocutors the assurances they knew they wanted, in order to make sure that the American army would do what those exiles wanted. All of the exiles who were listened to were Shi’a – Chalabi, Makiya, Rend al-Rahim Francke – but that was not remarked upon. That made no difference to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz. They were snookered to help transfer power from Sunni Arabs to Shi’a Arabs, but it was all done under the guise of “helping bring freedom to Iraq.”
Everywhere you look in the United States, the signs of economic distress and misery are obvious. Look at recent graduates of colleges, and the trouble they have finding jobs. Look at the recent graduates of law schools, of business schools. The problem does not lessen as you go higher up the professional-training food chain, where the amounts borrowed to pay for such schooling mount and mount. We read the human interest stories about the people in their 20s, or 30s, or 40s, or 50s, who have to move back in with parents, or with in-laws, who have to sell this and have to sell that, as they try to figure out how to survive when the unemployment benefits run out.
But in all the talk and chatter about that economic degringolade, it maddens not to hear howls of protest about the vast sums that have been spent and are being spent, and if many in power have their way, will continue to be spent in order to “deal with the problem of Islam” in all the wrong ways – by bringing “freedom” to “ordinary moms and dads” in Iraq, which was supposed to serve as some kind of model for other Arab countries. But what Arab country, all of them ruled by Sunnis, would take any comfort, much less model itself on, Iraq, where the Sunnis have been stripped of their power, which is now firmly in the hands of Shi’a Arabs? And in Afghanistan, the theme is one of “reconstruction,” which is certainly an odd word to use about one of the poorest, least accessible, most remote, and least developed countries on earth, a place where whatever is spent is likely to be diverted into the pockets of the endlessly corrupt. For in Afghanistan there is hardly any understanding of the concept of citizenship, of good government, of true patriotism. In Muslim countries, political power has always been the way to seize wealth as well, and then to distribute it to one’s family, one’s tribe, fellow members of one’s village or city or sect.
In America, the very rich, having acquired their wealth, want the glamor and glory of entering politics, and are willing to spend large sums – even hundreds of millions of dollars – to obtain high office. In Arab and Muslim lands, high office is ordinarily obtained by violence and guile and sometimes both. The point of acquiring political power is to acquire wealth for oneself and one’s closest associates — the Family-and-Friends Plan is very popular in the Middle East.
The failure to be well prepared has had many disturbing consequences. The failure, that is, to learn about the doctrines of Islam has had many disturbing consequences. Those doctrines are immutable because they are based primarily on the Qur’an and on the Sunnah. The Sunnah consists primarily of the attitudes and practices derived from the sayings and acts and details of the life of Muhammad, believed by Muslims to have been preserved in written form in the Hadith (the record of his sayings and deeds) and the Sira (his biography, as written for Believers). The people in charge in our political system, and the people who are in charge of our media – that is, the two groups of people who presume to protect and instruct us – have singularly failed to take on the task of learning about Islam. They have not read and reread the relevant texts. They have not read, much less reread, the scholarly material available that has been compiled by dedicated Western scholars from dozens of different lands, in the century of Western scholarship that came to an end round about 1970. At that time, Arab money began buying up, or even helping to open, “academic” centers where only those who toed the apologist’s line were hired or promoted.
Hired and promoted were Muslims who were quick to defend the faith, and as part of defending it, to misrepresent it in ways not always detected by the unwary. The membership, for example, of MESA, the Middle East Studies Association, has gone from 7% to over 70% Muslim. Even this figure does not tell the full story, for those non-Muslims who enter the field and expect to survive consist often of those who are self-selected admirers of, say, what they take to be a milder form of Islam (such as Sufism). Others have found a vocationally and socially acceptable outlet for their own otherwise-unacceptable mental pathologies (i.e., antisemitism). Still others may be working out their resentments toward Christianity. The ex-nun Karen Armstrong, though not in academic life, has found a well-paid niche where she can indulge her dislike of Christianity, as well as other antipathies, in her “neutral” treatment of what she keeps telling us are the “three abrahamic faiths.” She also provides a sanitized version of the life of Muhammad, and of the tenets of Islam, that at this point appears so grotesque that the need to rebut her may not be as pressing as it once was (see “The Coherence of Her Incoherence“).
But just as ideas have consequences, the lack of ideas, or the lack of knowledge, has had consequences. The doctrines of Islam have not changed in 1350 years. While there are certainly differences of sect (Sunni, Shi’a, Ibadi) and differences of approach to God (the Sufis, for example) and differences in emphasis, it cannot be said that the essential irreducible doctrines of Islam vary, even if Muslims themselves may vary in the degree to which they fully accept, or fully apply in their own lives, the doctrines that are inculcated.
The doctrine of Jihad did not disappear between the time Europe entered the Middle East in 1798, with Napoleon’s entry into Egypt, and the latter half of the twentieth century. And it did not suddenly reappear in the last few decades. Rather, it was always present, but in a period of perceived Muslim weakness and Western strength, was not, in the West, acted upon. All that has changed, and changed for three reasons. The first is that I have already mentioned – the trillions of dollars in OPEC revenues that the recipients of that colossal wealth did nothing to deserve. But with that money, they have bought trillions in arms, bought the ability to spread Islam through mosques, madrasas, propaganda, Westerners on the payroll. The second are the millions of Muslims who have been allowed to settle deep within the countries of Western Europe, without any thought being given as to whether or not Islam itself, the ideology of Islam, might make it impossible for all but a handful to truly integrate into Western societies.
Those immigrants came not to be loyal and grateful to the Infidels for saving them from the hellholes of their own countries but, rather, came to enjoy what the Western world had created and could not have created had that Western world been Muslim. Yet failing to understand this, these Muslim immigrants held fast to their contempt for Infidel laws and institutions and social arrangements. A great many supported the same goals as the many Muslim terrorist groups, even if they did not participate in terrorism, or indeed in violent acts, directly. The third change that helped to bring about the “return of Jihad” was the exploitation by Muslim propagandists of Western technology – audiocassettes, videocassettes, satellite television, the Internet – to spread the full message of Islam both to those who were always Muslims but knew very little about the faith beyond the Five Pillars. So many illiterate villagers have now, alas, been made more aware of what is required of them as Muslims, and more aware, too, of just how wicked are the Infidels.
Jihad never went away, but the ability to engage in Jihad, and to dream that it might be possible to conquer the hereditary enemy, “Western Christendom,” not through military means but through demographic conquest, has been discussed by several Muslim leaders (Boumedienne, Qaddafy) in public, and by others, no doubt more prudent and clever, in private. And the theme is never far from Muslim websites, produced by and for Muslims, but which you may eavesdrop on at any time.
What maddens about the failure to grasp all this is that it has led directly to the squandering of three trillion dollars. Had the American government under Bush, or under Obama, been filled with people who had taken it upon themselves to spend the time to study Islam, then the irrelevance of the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan to the real goals and the important theatres of war, and the instruments of war or rather Jihad that matter, would have been seen. Yet Islam is not hieratic, it’s not obscure or abstruse, it’s not particularly difficult. Almost anyone of moderate intelligence could do it, and in a few weeks learn enough to at least not be fooled so readily.
What result can be achieved for the Americans and other Infidels in Iraq by creating a state that remains relatively free of internecine strife, and able to use its vast oil wealth wisely? What good does that do us? If we build up Iraqi forces by 600,000 men (army and police) how does that help us? If we do everything we can to prevent Shi’a and Sunnis from warring with each other in Iraq and possibly causing similar strife between Sunnis and Shi’a in Bahrain, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait, Al-Haza province of eastern Saudi Arabia, how does this help to divide and weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad? And will this strife not happen inevitably, because the atmospherics of Islam encourage violence and aggression? We’ll soon find out, and I am convinced that many Americans will suffer pangs of remorse for having been so foolish as to indulge their nation-making polypragmonic impulse, rather than to follow and even happily embrace the wisdom of exploiting, by doing nothing, the pre-existing fissures, sectarian, ethnic, and economic, within that Camp of Islam.
And the same squandering of resources can be seen in Afghanistan. What is the outcome desired? That the Taliban will cease to exist? That it will allow itself to make peace with the government? That the government of Afghanistan will be, could ever be, a true friend of the Infidel Americans, even though every Muslim in Afghanistan learns that the permanent enemy of Muslims are Infidels, and that no matter how seemingly generous those Infidels may be, it is only to promote their own, Infidel, and therefore unacceptable, interests? And if we supply Afghans with electricity grids so that every village can now be hooked up to the outside world, doesn’t that mean that every village will now be able to receive Islamic propaganda, which is far more likely to be listened to and accepted than anything else on offer, because the audience already consists of people who think of themselves as Muslims and, as Muslims, are ready to do whatever they find out that Muslims are expected or required to do? How many Muslims have you heard of who, ignorant of much of Islam, upon finding out more about it, and what it says about the treatment of non-Muslims, recoiled in horror and decided to drop Islam? There are remarkable exceptions, people who did jettison Islam. But how many? Can policies be constructed on the hope that the numbers of the remarkable exceptions will magically increase? Does that make sense? Is that wise?
In Iraq, we will be blamed, we are being blamed, on all sides, for whatever outcome they do not like. If the Sunnis do not acquiesce, the Shi’a will blame us for trying to “foist Allawi” on them. If the Shi’a do not surrender some of their power, the Sunnis will blame us for having given power to “the turbans” and not having supported Allawi (whose party had two more seats than Maliki’s slate), whom they claim was “the winner” even though the Shi’a outnumber the Sunni Arabs by 3 to 1, and have shown they will make deals in order to preserve Shi’a dominance. The Arabs will blame us for encouraging Kurdish dreams of independence. The Kurds will blame us for “abandoning them” if we try to force them to accept the Arabs in Mosul or Kirkuk and to abandon dreams of independence, and so on. And the same blame-the-infidels scenario will occur and is already occurring in Afghanistan, where the oily Karzai has turned into the slippery Karzai, threatening to “join the Taliban myself” if the Americans don’t watch it – and now he has turned on the charm again, in order to keep the American men and money there.
But we don’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the world in order to do the impossible, to give Afghanistan a central government that works and whose writ runs far beyond Kabul. Or rather, we might be able to do it if we are willing to stay for five or ten or twenty years, and to spend another few trillion dollars to make that our little project for the first quarter of the twenty-first century. But should we? Does it make sense? If we refuse to do this, if we leave, are we then forever prevented from vigilantly monitoring the territory of Afghanistan lest “Al Qaeda come back”? And can’t we, intermittently, using Special Forces, drones, and missiles from afar, from time to time disrupt any attempt to return Al Qaeda or any of a dozen terrorist groups to Afghanistan? Wouldn’t that make better sense? And why should we build up yet another Muslim country, when it is impossible for its Muslim inhabitants to abandon Islam and what it teaches them? And what it teaches them requires them to view us with permanent, deep, if occasionally hidden, malevolence. Even if there are sincere examples of Afghan Muslims who do not feel this way, that is, who ignore a central feature and duty of the ideology of Islam, what comfort should that bring us? Why should we base a policy in Afghanistan on a handful of touchingly charming women trying to be educated, or a seductive warlord, or a Gunga-Dinnish army commander who truly, deeply, madly, wants to be on our side? Such exceptions can, given American sentimentality, cloud the mind. Those who make policy have to sober up.
Why should money be the theme of this article? Because not everyone thrills to the subject of what Islam inculcates. Not everyone quite wants to go through learning about Jizyah, or dhimmis, or naskh, or isnad-chains, or any of the rest. But everyone in the United States knows that we have been having a terrible time economically, and that we are talking about losses of tens or possibly hundreds of billions of dollars, and are regarding these losses with horror – just look at the State of California. Yet we have not focused on the greatest (continuing) expenditure of them all – the wars to protect ourselves against jihad by refusing to see it as primarily an ideological war, and by continuing to fool ourselves into thinking that if we create better (by our lights) societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, that will somehow – no one has ever explained how, or even thought he had an obligation to explain how – dampen the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide for Jihad. That Jihad, however, is based, let it be emphasized, not on an “interpretation” of Islam that can be changed, but on the immutable text of the Qur’an, and the Hadith that more than a millennium ago were studied, and winnowed. What remained was assigned different ranks of “authenticity” by those deemed to be the most authoritative muhaddithin, such as Al-Bukhari and Muslim. This can’t be undone, not by Bright Young Muslim Reformers who keep getting grants from the American government and the Carnegie Foundation, or who keep getting hired and promoted on the basis of their entirely factitious achievements in this line.
Three trillion dollars have been wasted on a misguided policy that is a result of a failure to study, and then grasp the nature of, Islam.
Three trillion dollars is surely enough in squandered and desperately needed wealth to cause some to think, or rethink, about the folly of policies based on confusion, ignorance, wishful thinking — that is, on a refusal to understand the ideology of Islam.