Dr. Sebastian Gorka – Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University, Breitbart News contributor, and National Security editor – made an appearance at the Heritage Foundation on Monday to talk about his new book, Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.
Dr. Gorka said his family’s experience living under communism prepared him to understand the 21st Century’s preeminent totalitarian threat: the ideology of jihad. His father’s betrayal by Soviet spy Kim Philby at the MI-6 office brought a life sentence in Hungarian prison under the communist regime, beginning with “two years in solitary confinement, and two years down a coal mine after that.”
As the son of refugees from communist tyranny, and now a proud American citizen, Gorka said he “grew up with the mother’s milk of freedom and democracy just instilled in me, from Day One.”
“Because my father escaped from a communist dictatorship, from a prison in a communist dictatorship, I understood, before I could walk, the fragility of liberty – the importance of liberty, and how fragile it is. And how Ronald Reagan was absolutely correct, that the loss of liberty is always just one generation away,” he said, explaining why he chose to begin Defeating Jihad with his father’s story. “When I saw those two planes fly into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, I viscerally understood that the totalitarians are back. They may not be communists, but they are totalitarians.”
Gorka compared jihadi ideology to the twin horrors of the 20th Century, communism and fascism, explaining that Islamists similarly see themselves in a “global them-or-us competition.” In fact, strains of fascist and communist thought can be found in the work of the Muslim Brotherhood’s intellectual godfather, Sayyid Qutb.
“These people will not be negotiated with,” Gorka warned. “Anybody who thinks you can sit down with either the Taliban, or al-Qaeda, or ISIS, and negotiate about your future – they are living in an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ fantasy. The only thing you can negotiate with a jihadi is how you will be killed. Will you be decapitated, burned alive, or crucified? Or will you be enslaved as a sub-human, as a person who is not recognized as a human being, because you’re not a Muslim?”
The game plan for defeating this new totalitarian menace, outlined in Defeating Jihad, begins with the great strategist Sun Tzu’s admonition that “if you’re going to win a war, you must know yourself, and you must know your enemy.”
“We do not know our enemy,” Gorka said. “We have political correctness out of control.”
The trend of deliberately ignoring the reality of jihadi ideology began during the Bush Administration, but now it has reached “cataclysmic proportions,” through such measures as the White House banning the discussion of religion in counter-terrorism training – including a prohibition against using the word “jihad.”
“When the enemy gets control of what you say about them, you’ve already lost the war,” Gorka advised, quoting a dissertation from one of his students. “And that’s where we are today.”
He cited the importance of two seminal documents in building a strategy against the totalitarian threat of communist ideology in the Cold War: the “Long Telegram” from America’s charge d’affaires in Moscow, George Kennan, outlining the Soviet threat for Washington in 1946, and NSC-68, a Top Secret 1950 paper for the National Security Council that provided the blueprint for America’s response to that threat. Notably, that strategy included both military containment and ideological warfare – a plan to “defeat it from the inside, by de-legitimizing its ideology of the ‘worker’s paradise,’” as Gorka put it.
Understanding that ideology was crucial to undermining it, Gorka noted that NSC-68 used a combination of blunt language to describe the Soviet threat, and soaring poetic prose for the strength of American ideals, that would be unthinkable in our politically-correct self-doubting age. In fact, the current Administration is still trying to understand the so-called legitimate grievances of jihad, even when it has become patently obvious that conventional liberal wisdom about “poverty and political disenfranchisement” is completely inadequate for explaining their motivations.
Gorka warned that our politically-correct “thinkers” are still treating jihad as essentially unserious, more like an ugly daydream than a brutal reality, even as the Islamic State claims six million captive citizens, and issues instruction manuals for the proper treatment of slaves under Muslim law.
Another break from the current Administration’s ineffective strategy proposed by Gorka was a firm alliance with America’s Sunni Muslim allies against ISIS. “Let me be clear here: the majority of people killed by the Global Jihadi Movement are fellow Muslims,” he said. “They kill Yazidis and Christians, yes, I understand that. But it’s the man in the cage, the Jordanian fighter pilot, burnt alive, who best exemplifies the primary enemy of these individuals. As a result, we must support those nations that are on the front line – like Egypt, like the UAE, like Jordan – to be the face of this war.”
“A real Arab coalition to go and fight on the ground, to recapture places like Mosul, will never happen unless those governments, and those people, trust that we are behind them all the way, that we ‘have their six,’ as they say in the military,” he declared. “And I can assure you, those governments and those nations do not trust America today. And you know what? If I were a Sunni Muslim moderate, neither would I, after the last 15 years, and especially after the last seven and a half.”
During those years of the Obama Administration, Gorka judged, our bridges to the Sunni Muslim nations were “burned to the ground,” because they have become convinced America sides with the Shiite extremists of Iran. “They have drawn the conclusion that we don’t care about Amman. We don’t care about Cairo. We are on the side of the mullahs [of Iran]. That has to be addressed,” he urged.
Political correctness has removed America from the “battlefield of ideas,” which was so crucial to prevailing against Soviet communism. “Jihad as a lifestyle is far too popular,” Gorka lamented, noting that its popularity extends into Muslim communities in the West, driven by “fifty thousand social media postings a day.”
Responding to a question from the audience about where a superior version of Islam, fully compatible with Western concepts of plurality and liberty, might be found, Gorka admitted that “to be brutally honest, in the 20th Century, I see two functioning examples, or two large-scale ones: the Turkey of Ataturk, and his legacy, and also the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan.”
In both of those examples – rather spectacularly, in the case of Ataturk’s Turkey – the Islamic religion was aggressively disconnected from government. Paradoxically, this doesn’t sit well with the ostensibly secular State Department of the current U.S. government, because decoupling Islam from government required these moderate rulers to redefine Islam, using decrees backed by military strength.
In Jordan’s case, Gorka noted, the royal family has the advantage of religious authority, claiming a direct line of descent from Mohammed’s clan, combined with an appreciation for Western values gained by education for the royals and military elite in the West. Unfortunately, the Jordanian monarchy’s unique religious authority cannot be transposed to other countries, leaving Ataturks’ path as the only option – a path Gorka saluted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for pursuing. “I did what I did with the Muslim Brotherhood because I’m an Egyptian, before I’m a Muslim,” Gorka recalled the extremely devout Sisi telling him.
Sisi’s reward for this effort was, of course, being “blackballed by this Administration,” because he was “a man in a uniform.” President Obama and his foreign policy team claim to support “moderation,” but have a track record of treating Islamism as more sincere and authentic than Sisi’s approach to secularism.
That’s an insurmountable obstacle to entering the battlefield of ideas against Islamism, since Gorka noted that Islam has nothing resembling Christianity’s “render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s” ideal separating Church from State – on the contrary, Mohammed was a self-proclaimed prophet, a head of state, and a military leader, producing a religious tradition that tends to regard religious, political, and military power as inseparably entwined. “Oneness of the Faith, oneness of God, oneness of the ummah, and oneness of Mohammed, the perfect man,” as Gorka interpreted the one-finger victory salute of ISIS.
History shows the only effective counter to that ideology is what Gorka called the “Ataturkian model”: a political leader saying, “you have elected me President,” so “he decides what the religion is.” This is not something Western policymakers are comfortable with, but it is the only effective real-world implementation of the crucial Western ideal that must prevail over jihadi ideology on the battlefield of ideas.
As long as that ideal is presented purely abstractly, without real states empowered to demonstrate that it works – and does not interfere with proper respect for the Muslim religion – it will crumble before jihadis who can point at real-world examples of their ideas in action.
You can watch the full presentation from Dr. Sebastian Gorka below: