The Enemy That Won’t Be Named

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, chosen by president-elect Trump to be national security adviser, again finds himself in the crosshairs of liberal ire. This time for calling Islam a political ideology masked behind religion.

A registered Democrat, Flynn served in the Obama administration until, in his words, “the stand I took on radical Islam,” led to his early retirement.

Liberal aversion to the phrase, “radical Islam” is a symptom of what psychologists call, the “false consensus bias”—the belief that, in the global brotherhood of mankind, everyone shares the same wants, needs, desires, and values.

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However, while everyone wants peace, the Western liberal and the radical Islamist promote vastly different means of achieving it—the former, through an ethic of universal tolerance and the latter, through the universal “purification” by the sword.

Waste Not a Crisis
Under the false consensus, a liberal in the West, for whom religion is largely irrelevant, cannot conceive that it could be any different for the shooter who goes on a killing spree in a crowded night club, screaming “Allahu Akbar!” Or, as just happened yesterday morning, an Ohio State freshman and Somali Muslim refugee who drives his car through a crowd of students injuring nine. Such a person can’t be motivated by religion, because religion is an outward expression of our primal longings, making every variety, even that of the jihadist, a “religion of peace.” Thus, televised beheadings and crucifixions are not acts of religious devotees, but of madmen given to fear, anger, xenophobia, depression, or the increasingly fashionable, “causes unknown.”

The tragic consequence is that each terrorist act becomes a crisis, not to be wasted, for politicians eager to mount their hobbyhorses of gun control, mental health care, and military action—measures that are ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst against the “enemy that won’t be named.”

Consider gun control. Even if all the ammunition and firearms in the world were rounded up and destroyed, the person intent on purifying the world will attempt to do so, be it with explosives, incendiaries, chemicals, biotoxins, knives, and vehicles, all of which have been used to great effect. On July 14, 2016 one of the most efficient terrorist attacks occurred in Nice, France. In only a matter of minutes, one man, armed with a 19-ton cargo truck, was able to kill 84 people and injure over 300 others.

As for mental health care, while some psychological problems have been exhibited by some jihadists, mental illness is not a common factor in Islamic terrorism. Thus, contrary to common depictions, the typical jihadist is not some deranged psychopath, but a religiously informed foot soldier who believes he has a divine commission in the imminent apocalypse.

The Enemy is Not Terrorists
Then there’s military action, which has not, and never will, defeat the “enemy that won’t be named,” because “enemy that won’t be named” is not the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, or any other jihadist group; it is the ideology upon which those groups are founded—namely, fundamental Islam.

Notice I didn’t say “radical” Islam, but “fundamental Islam”—Islam in its most pure and aboriginal sense. Fundamental Islam looks toward a utopian state where every aspect of public and private life is governed by Islamic law under a church-state theocracy. Its holy texts and the life of its founder, Muhammad, teach that the use of forceful means is commendable to achieve those ends. To the mind of the fundamentalist, vigorous military resistance by the “crusaders,” even when successful, only serves to validate Islam’s role in apocalyptic prophesy.

Cotton-candy Liberalism
The perpetrators involved in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, Chattanooga, and Orlando came from various backgrounds and claimed allegiance to different Islamic groups, but they all were united by the same ideology: Islam, according to its historical readings. Take ISIS, for example.

Contrary to the liberal progressive who characterizes that ideology as “un-Islamic,” in a smart piece for The Atlantic contributing editor Graeme Wood writes,

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

According to Princeton Islamic expert Bernard Haykel, politically correct liberals and embarrassed Muslims alike who denounce the religious ties behind terrorist attacks, have a “cotton-candy view” of the faith that willfully ignores what Islam “has historically and legally required.” The jihadist who participates in beheadings, crucifixions, and slavery is not following some corrupted version of Islam. Rather, he is “faithfully reproducing its norms of war” which were established in the Quran and advanced by Muhammad—says Haykel.

Foolish Schemes
The failure to recognize this connection makes Islamic terrorism and its operatives, incomprehensible to the modern mind. For instance, in a frank discussion about his brain trust of three dozen interdisciplinary experts, Gen. Michael K. Nagata, U.S. commander in the Middle East, admitted, “We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it.” Even after months of meetings, Gen. Nagata confides, we couldn’t agree on “whether the main objective of ISIS is ideological or territorial.” Well, the fact is, it’s both.

The territorial ambitions of ISIS are driven by its ideological purity. Fundamental Islam promotes the establishment of an Islamic state under the direction of a caliph whose duty is to expand the caliphate through offensive jihad, if necessary, until what Allah wills done is done on earth as it is in heaven.

“Muslims [and western apologists for Islam] can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do,” writes Wood. “But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

One of the foremost schemes is to ignore and obfuscate any connection Islam has to the barbarism done in its name by using politically correct substitutes like “domestic terrorism,” “violent extremism,” “workplace violence,” and “lone wolf” attacks. Another is to deny the connection by expunging public statements to the contrary by the perpetrators and characterizing such as radicals, extremists, and crazies acting against the “true” reading of Islam and independently from any known terrorist group.

A Better Ideology
The scheme, along with the military half-measures it sires, has proven (and will continue to prove) ineffective against the War on Terror. That’s because—channeling James Carville—“it’s the ideology, stupid!” And the only way to defeat an ideology is not with political correctness and air strikes, but with a better ideology.

Sadly, victory will be difficult for a country that has become ignorant, if not embarrassed, about the extraordinary ideology of its founding—one that for over 200 years has caused citizens of the world look to it as a beacon of freedom, equality, and opportunity.

The constitutional “givens” of common human dignity and natural rights derive from the Christian teaching that all men are created in God’s image. By contrast, Islam regards man as God’s creation, but without godlikeness, a being who needs redemption not by a Savior, but by the remembrance of Allah’s will, and whose path to paradise is only certain by death in holy war. Absent are the Western ideals of inherent human worth, individual liberty, and equality.

Because of its Christian-inspired ideology the United States, a nation of immigrants, has an immigrant problem, while Muslim-controlled countries have an emigrant problem and a well-documented history of human rights violations.

What’s more, the core of that better ideology in recent years has led to the conversion of as many as 7 million Muslims worldwide. As one Middle Eastern missionary observed—giving heft to the conviction of Victor Hugo that one can resist the invasion of armies, but not the invasion of ideas—“More Muslims have become followers of Jesus in the last ten years than in the last 14 centuries of Islam.”

However, as long as our political class operates under the false consensus, failing to recognize what makes Islamic terrorists do the things they do and what makes America the exceptional nation it is without embarrassment and apology, our unnamed enemy will remain unnamed and undefeated, ably resisting our best political and military strategies as the House of Islam is advanced, slowly and incrementally, by the House of War.


  • Regis Nicoll

    Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

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