November 03, 2005

What Would the Descent of the West Look Like?

I'm reading Dalrymple's latest and was shocked at this section:

I noticed one day that his mood had greatly improved; he was communicative and almost jovial, which he had never been before. I asked him what had changed in his life for the better. He had made his decision, he said. Everything was resolved. He was not going to kill himself in an isolated way, as he had previously intended. Suicide was a mortal sin, according to the tenets of the Islamic faith. No, when he got out of prison he would not kill himself; he would make himself a martyr, and be rewarded eternally, by making himself into a bomb and taking as many enemies with him as he could.

Enemies, I asked; what enemies? How could he know that the people he killed at random would be enemies? They were enemies, he said, because they lived happily in our rotten and unjust society. Therefore, by definition, they were enemies—enemies in the objective sense, as Stalin might have put it—and hence were legitimate targets.

I asked him whether he thought that, in order to deter him from his course of action, it would be right for the state to threaten to kill his mother and his brothers and sisters—and to carry out this threat if he carried out his, in order to deter others like him.

The idea appalled him, not because it was yet another example of the wickedness of a Western democratic state, but because he could not conceive of such a state acting in this unprincipled way. In other words, he assumed a high degree of moral restraint on the part of the very organism that he wanted to attack and destroy.

Dalrymple has put his finger on a crucial weakness of the Islamist cause. The entire enterprise counts on a continuing moral restraint on the part of the West. It was a great shock to Al Queda that the US has launched the GWOT and not just lobbed a few missiles in "precision strikes" as in the past. But the tendency obviously remains to assume a great deal of moral restraint on our side (Dar al Harb).

Of course, as a practical matter, we have the technical capability to end things rather quickly. Even the emaciated militaries of W. Europe are quite capable of massive destructive acts far beyond anything that Islamists are capable of generating. The destruction of the entire world, for that matter, would be a targeting exercise doable over a long lunch in the US, and possibly Russia. If the target list were restrained to muslim nations, the UK, France, and the PRC would find themselves in that list.

Yet the Islamists universally ignore the danger that even a fraction of these technical capabilities will ever be used. They cannot imagine that the nice restrained kaffirs can ever revert back to the internecine warriors who for centuries would regularly make the streets run with blood and were the most accomplished and cruel butchers on the planet. They pretend that they can. In fact, they try to provoke overreaction in order to galvinize more muslims to their extremist variants of Islam. I sincerely believe that they do not understand the explosives that they are playing with.

I remember being in Bucharest, watching the images of 9/11 unfold, nightmarishly on the TV. A relative asked me what the US will do. I reacted instinctively, but truly. "The US will wake up, and the world isn't going to like it." I stand by those words to this day. The US has woken up, and the world hasn't liked it.

I have no such instinctive knowledge of France. I know enough to see the players. Given the right combination of factors, we could see an awakened France. The world would like it even less. An awakened France would not have the internal checks and balances that the US system has that have restrained our reaction more than most outsiders understand.

The next President will be elected in 2007. Chirac is out and Villepin is going to fight with Sarkozy for leadership of the Gaullists. If Villepin wins the internal struggle, France will have soggy (Gaullist) and soggier (Socialist) toast as its major party electoral choices.

This leaves Le Pen as the only alternative for those who believe that there should be no mini-3rd world autocracies in France. It would be better for Sarkozy to win and provide a major party option for law and order. The worst result would be for Villepin to not only win but purge Sarkozy and his faction, driving them into an alliance with Le Pen's National Front.

If the National Front makes the Presidential 2nd round again, its an earthquake that rolls across the entire EU. In the worst case, a Sarkozy fortified NF would have a good shot at winning.

I'm spinning the stuff of nightmares here. It's much more likely that the NF will continue its slow rise, or even fall if Sarkozy provides a more respectable outlet for the law and order impulse. I do wish I knew more about the internal politics of France. The French may soon start to matter in a way they haven't in decades.

Posted by TMLutas at November 3, 2005 03:54 PM