On Sunday’s Meet the Press, in asking former British Prime Minster Tony Blair about the war against al Qaeda, David Gregory argues that it was the US and UK response to 9/11 and the 7/7 London attacks that made Islamic extremism so powerful today. Blair’s fascinating response demonstrates a level of understanding of the threat the West faces that is not currently shared by the political leadership of the United States.
The former Prime Minister first dismisses the underlying justification for the narrative that we, the West, are to blame: “We make a huge error when we end up thinking somehow it’s our actions that caused this,” he declares.
This idea that successful Western nations are the cause of heinous terrorist acts is not just pervasive amongst the followers of Noah Chomsky and reflected in the philosophy of isolationism or non-interventionism typified by Ron and Rand Paul but also drives current counterterrorism policies in the White House.
Buying into academic arguments from books such as Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World, by Mohammed Hafez, and Islamic Activism, by Quintan Witkorowicz, the belief is that hardship and repression inevitably leads to violence. Extremism is seen as an inevitable response to “social injustice.” Under this view, free will is removed from the equation. The Egyptian government is bad so you have to join the Muslim Brotherhood and then graduate to al Qaeda. America oppressed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan so it was inevitable that Major Nidal Hassan would shoot 13 fellow soldiers and an unborn child at Fort Hood. We, or our allies, transgress, so there must be a response. Al Qaeda has no choice.
Unfortunately, this theoretical argument has not stayed in the ivory towers. Wiktorowicz, for example, became a Senior Director in the National Security Council of the Obama administration and apparently managed to convince the White House that ideology or religion is irrelevant and the problem is that the perpetrators of terrorism are in fact the real victims.
Subsequently, in 2011, the administration ordered that all counterterrorism training done for the Department of Defense and Department of Justice, to include the FBI, must be reviewed and any mention of Islam or Jihadi ideology be removed. Why the 9/11 hijackers did what they did was deemed a taboo subject. The responsibility lay not with the terrorists but with the people that drove them to violence.
Prime Minister Blair sees it differently: “I think we’ve got to recognize something very, very seriously. This is a long battle… This ideology is not going to be defeated by an engagement in Afghanistan, in Iraq, or even in these individual arenas.” For Tony Blair, it’s about the ideology, not about body counts on individual battlefields.
His words appear to be more than just the musings of a former head of government. Earlier this month the current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, ordered an investigation of the Muslim Brotherhood because its ideology calls for recreating the empire of Islam, the Caliphate, and it shares this goal with al Qaeda.
The fact that one of most important works on how to destroy the West and re-establish the theocractic Islamic empire was written by the central Brotherhood figure Sayyid Qutb, and that the book is constantly quoted by al Qaeda and has been found in the possession of captured terrorists and insurgents, has not apparently been lost on the British security services.
The book, called Milestones, explains how Islam has lost its greatness in part because of the influence of democracy–which is un-Islamic, given that under a democracy laws are made by men and only Allah can be the legislator and the Koran the constitution. That is why, according to Qutb, bin Laden, and now Zawahiri, all the world’s democracies must be destroyed in a Holy War–in a Jihad.
Interestingly, Qutb was executed by the Egyptians in 1966 for involvement in the assassination of President Nasser of Egypt. He died, therefore, more than 30 years before America and her allies invaded Afghanistan or Iraq. Who, then, started this war?
Yes, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom could have been executed much better. Encouraging the nations we controlled to approve constitutions that elevated Islamic sharia law to a position above all else, including the decisions of their own governments, seems strange. However that too can be explained by our lack of understanding of the religious ideas that feed the cultures of Central Asia and the Middle East.
Perhaps Blair’s newfound comprehension of the threat is connected to his conversion to Catholicism after leaving 10 Downing Street. It is very difficult to understand an enemy driven by ideas of salvation and martyrdom if you abide by the the relativist values of a post-modern world which has no comprehension of the power of faith and doesn’t take religion seriously. At least one side of this war has declared it a religious one.
Dr Sebastian Gorka is National Security editor for Breitbart News.