Oakes

What to call the enemy

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It appears that the Bush administration has switched the standard phrase from "war on terror[ism]" to "struggle against extremism." The news has been kind of confusing; Don Watkins blogged on this, saying that the new term is actually "Islamist extremism," which he says isn't much better.

ARI's choice of word-usage is "totalitarian Islam"; it's used in Yaron Brook's and Onkar Ghate's just-published op-ed. Is this the most correct term to describe the enemy we are fighting?

(BTW, as a side issue, why is their new op-ed published on capmag, but not on ARI's website?)

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ARI's choice of word-usage is "totalitarian Islam"; it's used in Yaron Brook's and Onkar Ghate's just-published op-ed. Is this the most correct term to describe the enemy we are fighting?

The first step should be to identify the criteria for selecting a name for a new thing. One criterion should be that the name, based on its common usage, should identify an essential characteristic of the thing being name. Ideally, that essential characteristic should also be distinguishing.

I nominate "Islamo-fascists." This term identifies two essential characteristics that make these killers what they are, philosophically: They demand submission (Islam) to Allah and Allah's dictates, and they are willing to use aggression as an iron band (fascism) binding the elements of a society into one collective serving Allah.

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The first step should be to identify the criteria for selecting a name for a new thing. One criterion should be that the name, based on its common usage, should identify an essential characteristic of the thing being name. Ideally, that essential characteristic should also be distinguishing.

Besides distinguishing, I think another criteria is brevity. "War on terror" fits this criteria well, but "terror" does not name the ideology, so it neglects the root cause.

I nominate "Islamo-fascists." This term identifies two essential characteristics that make these killers what they are, philosophically: They demand submission (Islam) to Allah and Allah's dictates, and they are willing to use aggression as an iron band (fascism) binding the elements of a society into one collective serving Allah.

I like the name in terms of brevity -- it's easier to say than "Islamic fundamentalism (or totalitarianism)." But if fascism simply means "us[ing] aggression as an iron band," there is nothing to distinguish it from communism, kleptocracy, or any other form of statism. I've always thought of fascism as specifically the type of statism with de facto state-ownership of the means of production -- something I don't know if the enemy advocates.

The term I was thinking of was "Islamism." Dictionary.com defines it as "An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life." It has brevity, and as for the first criterion: it acknowledges the philosophical basis (Islam) but focuses on the specific form of Islam not influenced by Enlightenment values, so it keeps it distinct from the (probably very few) Westernized Muslims who genuinely reject terrorism.

"War on Islamism."

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Why don't you call them barbarians, as an over-arching term?

At the base level, it really is the true West versus the rest of the world. While currently we are fighting the Islamo-Fascist, they are by no means the only threat...or the only group we are against right now (North Korea?).

The reason I think this distinction is important is because it draws one line: good against evil. When you do this, you begin to link the evils done by China with the evils done by the Islamic world, and thus you don't become narrow-minded to one "enemy".

It seems to me that Bush is so focused on the Islamo-Fascist that his "talks" with North Korea are just for looks, and China he is letting slide. This is in fact a dangerous view; you can't separate evil from evil.

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At the base level, it really is the true West versus the rest of the world.  While currently we are fighting the Islamo-Fascist, they are by no means the only threat...or the only group we are against right now (North Korea?). 

I wasn't talking about all our enemies, but the one I couldn't name because I didn't have a word for it yet :D Yes, it's useful to have an over-arching name to describe all our enemies, but we also need specific terms when talking about specific enemies. I want a term for the enemies who attacked New York, Madrid, London, and elsewhere.

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I wasn't talking about all our enemies, but the one I couldn't name because I didn't have a word for it yet :D Yes, it's useful to have an over-arching name to describe all our enemies, but we also need specific terms when talking about specific enemies. I want a term for the enemies who attacked New York, Madrid, London, and elsewhere.

That's what I'm saying (maybe I didn't make it clear :D ).

I like the name that Burgess gave.

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One phrase (which is not a concept, being multiple words) that I frequently use because it can be correctly applied to the Islamic dictatorships, the North Koreas, the radical environmentalists, people who think that the American Indians should have lived as they were for the next 20,000 years, etc. of the world, is: enemy of civilization. I think this has the virtue of accurately identifying and emphasizing an important characteristic, that all of those groups are (whether explicitly or implicitly) fighting against civilization, with all that implies. The murderers of 9/11 used an advanced machine of civilization, a jumbo jet, in order to destroy another advanced machine, the World Trade Tower buildings, filled with some of the most civilized people in the history of the world - for example. The environmentalists act to block the progress of civilization, and to reverse it, as much as they can. etc.

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One phrase (which is not a concept, being multiple words) that I frequently use because it can be correctly applied to the Islamic dictatorships, the North Koreas, the radical environmentalists, people who think that the American Indians should have lived as they were for the next 20,000 years, etc. of the world, is: enemy of civilization.

What a beautiful expression of their common denominator! I mean, the term itself is not new to me, but now I see why it is important to make such an overarching (as JRoberts alluded to) phrase for them: to integrate every enemy into a single, almost palpable target you can focus on.

Using that as the abstraction, how does one name the particular enemy of civilization motivated by Islam? The terms proposed so far are "Islamofascism" and "Islamism." Using the criteria of 1) essentialized meaning and 2) brevity, "Islamofascism" is much more clear and recognizable, but 1) I'm still not sure whether fascism is being used correctly, and 2) it is slightly longer (Islamofascists vs. Islamists).

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The enemy of whom, and in what battle?

In the battle of Western survival - the enemy is that large sect of Islam calling for jihad against the west. Call them Militant Islamists if you will. The name doesn't really matter as long as you know who you are talking about.

In the battle of ideas, Islam is just one more religion - and it should be fought as such.

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The enemy of whom, and in what battle?

In the battle of Western survival - the enemy is that large sect of Islam calling for jihad against the west. Call them Militant Islamists if you will. The name doesn't really matter as long as you know who you are talking about.

In the battle of ideas, Islam is just one more religion - and it should be fought as such.

Islam is not "just one more religion," and the name matters. Note Ed Locke's comment in this Op-Ed "The Terrorists' Motivation: Islam" released last week from ARI: "In fact, what is often referred to as the 'fanaticism' of many Muslims is explicitly endorsed by their religion." The name matters because it is Islamic religion itself that is to be condemned, not simply some "large sect of Islam." The Christians who want to convert me do so by sending me email, but Islam chooses force to make me convert or die.

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How about a "War against terrorislam."

Maybe a third criteria should be that it must be a word in the English language :D

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Islam is not "just one more religion," and the name matters. Note Ed Locke's comment in this Op-Ed "The Terrorists' Motivation: Islam" released last week from ARI: "In fact, what is often referred to as the 'fanaticism' of many Muslims is explicitly endorsed by their religion." The name matters because it is Islamic religion itself that is to be condemned, not simply some "large sect of Islam." The Christians who want to convert me do so by sending me email, but Islam chooses force to make me convert or die.

Where you say it is "explicitly endorsed by their religion" -- according to whom? The problem with trying to understand the content of any religion is that it is always detached from reality. It is just as possible to find Bible quotes that lead some Christians to condemn homosexuals, Jews, atheists, Blacks, women, etc., etc.

My opinion is that because there is no objective means of uncovering which parts of a religion are meant literally and which are metaphorical, or which are supposed to be historical fact, there is no such thing as a "real meaning" of a religion. It is arbitrary through and through. There's no such person as a "true adherent" and a "false adherent," if we compare two people who both take the religion seriously yet differ in the interpretation of the doctrines.

So, while religion as such is to be condemned, I doubly condemn those who wish to kill me or convert me by force. I see no basis to differentiate between Christianity and Islam in terms of the content of their dogma. Where I do differentiate is the approach to the religion taken by its adherents, and Muslims, especially in the Middle East, take it far more seriously.

I agree that we need to explicitly and specifically identify our enemies and their ideology, because we cannot fight them without thinking about who they are and understanding where they are and how they operate. But I'm not convinced all Muslims are an immediate threat. Islam as a religion is a threat to us just as much as Christianity is. The difference lies in that a far, far greater number of Muslims than Christians wish to see civilization destroyed.

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Where you say it is "explicitly endorsed by their religion" -- according to whom?  The problem with trying to understand the content of any religion is that it is always detached from reality.  It is just as possible to find Bible quotes that lead some Christians to condemn homosexuals, Jews, atheists, Blacks, women, etc., etc.

I was quoting from the referenced Op-Ed.

Since 9/11 there have been unending discussions of this on many different forums. I have not studied the issue first-hand myself, but what I have taken away from those who have spent countless hours documenting the facts, Islam, not just now but throughout history, seems to be in a despotic class of its own. And, in modern times, there seems unequivocally to be good reason to separate out the religion itself from all others, as manifested in the worlds where that religion prevails.

But, frankly, I have not the interest nor a full-enough grasp of the knowledge necessary to make a deserving case in support of what I asserted. So, just treat my remarks on this Islam issue as a second hand opinion for which I have accumulated just the bare-enough knowledge to think it is probably true.

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Since 9/11 there have been unending discussions of this on many different forums. I have not studied the issue first-hand myself, but what I have taken away from those who have spent countless hours documenting the facts, Islam, not just now but throughout history, seems to be in a despotic class of its own.

Do you mean that Islam is more dangerous than other religions, not just because it lacks a rational influence like the Enlightenment brought to Christianity, but also because the content itself is more approving of violence? I have heard this too, but because it is so fact-intensive to prove it, I usually fall back on the easily proved notion that the Middle East simply didn't have an Enlightenment like the West did, so their religion is far more uncivilized.

A Catholic friend of mine was quite enthusiastic of a book, The Sword of the Prophet: History, Theology, Impact on the World, which he says explains (in a very non-PC way) why Islam is so dangerous. I might get this or a similar book to go deeper into this topic.

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I have heard this too, but because it is so fact-intensive to prove it, I usually fall back on the easily proved notion that the Middle East simply didn't have an Enlightenment like the West did, so their religion is far more uncivilized.

Quite the contrary, the Middle East was the center of Science, Math, Art, and Philosophy for hundreds of years. The Crusades witnessed a barbaric Europe fight a civilized Middle East. It was they who preserved Aristotle (and many liked him). Also, many inventions (such as Algebra) come from this time period.

The Middle East is now, however, in it's dark ages like Christianity was. The tables have turned.

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Quite the contrary, the Middle East was the center of Science, Math, Art, and Philosophy for hundreds of years.  The Crusades witnessed a barbaric Europe fight a civilized Middle East.  It was they who preserved Aristotle (and many liked him).  Also, many inventions (such as Algebra) come from this time period.

The Middle East is now, however, in it's dark ages like Christianity was.  The tables have turned.

Right, I've heard of this, but the fact is that today they have no Enlightenment-style influence. Whatever civilization they created ten centures ago has withered away completely.

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Do you mean that Islam is more dangerous than other religions ...

Yes, because fundamentally they want to use force for world domination.

I usually fall back on the easily proved notion that the Middle East simply didn't have an Enlightenment like the West did, so their religion is far more uncivilized.

As I understand it they were the ones who resurrected Aristotle and the ancient Greeks. But, others know much more about this than me.

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As I understand it they were the ones who resurrected Aristotle and the ancient Greeks. But, others know much more about this than me.

I phrased that wrong. What I meant was that they currently lack rational influences. I usually use this to explain why they "fundamentally they want to use force for world domination," rather than trying to prove that there is something in Islamic scripture that sets it apart from other religions.

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What I meant was that they currently lack rational influences.

Nominated for the Understatement of the Week Award. :D

It is really difficult for me to imagine anything on the organized scale of Islam that is more anti-life.

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Islam is not "just one more religion," and the name matters. Note Ed Locke's comment in this Op-Ed "The Terrorists' Motivation: Islam" released last week from ARI: "In fact, what is often referred to as the 'fanaticism' of many Muslims is explicitly endorsed by their religion."

I dont think that Islam is intrinsically, in terms of the content of relevant 'holy books', more violent than Judaism; the Torah (Old Testement) is hardly a book filled exclusively with peace and love. Christianity is in the same boat - look at past history for examples of how the religion can be used to endorse mindless violence and barbarism. It's not primarilly about the religions themselves - its about the attitude of the majority of practioners. Most modern Christians are relatively apathetic towards their religion; they might attend Church on Sunday and vote against gays and pornography, but they dont have anywhere near the fanatical devotion that modern Islamists do. If Judeo-Christians cared more about religion, you might see a lot more abortion doctors getting murdered, and similar atrocities.

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It is really difficult for me to imagine anything on the organized scale of Islam that is more anti-life.

I recently read something in a book called The Discoverers that serves as a perfect example of the abject irrationality of Islam.

One of the first problems primitive men faced after graduating from hunting and gathering their food to growing it was deciding when to plant their crops. The counting months by the lunar cycle just didn't cut it any more: man needed a calendar that followed the solar cycle so that the date for planting was reasonably constant. And a miscalculation of this date could spell death during the following winter.

The Egyptians came up with the first consistently practiced calendar: they divided the year into twelve months each thirty days in length. The based the first day of the year on astronomical observation and added five extra non-month days to come up with a 365 day year. Now the months would wander throughout the year since the year is about 365 1/4 days long. But this drift rate was slow enough that most people would not live long enough to notice. This calendar worked for the Egyptians for about 5000 years. Julius Caesar would adopt this calendar and add a day to one month every four years.

The early Christians then adopted the Julian Calendar and fixed March 21 as the vernal equinox. Their reason for this was not scientific curiosity of a desire for precision: they wanted to be able to figure out when Easter is. The calendar we have today accounts for the fact that the year is actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365 1/4 days, and Pope Gregory XIII adopted it when, by 1582, people began to realized that -- gasp! -- they might be celebrating Easter on the wrong day. The Protestant world was reluctant to adopt the calendar of a virulently anti-Protestant pope. Indeed George Washington's birthday was changed by one year and eleven days during his lifetime.

If you've read this far, then you might be asking what all of this has to with the thread? The early Christians and later Gregory XIII at least understood that a calendar should follow the solar cycle, and they adopted a rational calendar to suit their mystical needs. The Islamic calendar rejects rationality completely. It is strictly lunar, with a year that is 354 or 355 days long. It exists for one purpose alone: to tell Muslims when to start and stop Ramadan (the month of fasting) and Dhu'l-Hijja (the pilgrimage to Mecca). Crops and the work of thinking men since the Bronze Age be damned!

It gets worse. These religious events are to begin and end upon observation of the new moon, so if it is cloudy one village may start Ramadan later than the next and if it really cloudy celebrate it for longer than a month. Any "resort to calculation" such as consulting a calendar based on the solar cycle is blasphemy.

It doesn't get any more anti-man than this. But my point is simply to point this fact out and not try to evaluate whether or not the basic texts of Islam are worse than their counterparts in other religions. That would take a thorough analysis of all of them for which I have neither the time nor the stomach. Still, the Middle East aside, it dismays and sickens me that significant portions of the populations of London or New York or San Diego could have the such a mentality as to treat such a rudimentary invention as the calendar with such contempt.

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But if fascism simply means "us[ing] aggression as an iron band," there is nothing to distinguish it from communism, kleptocracy, or any other form of statism. I've always thought of fascism as specifically the type of statism with de facto state-ownership of the means of production -- something I don't know if the enemy advocates.

"Fascism" comes from the Latin symbol, the fasces. It was a bundle of rods. In the middle was an ax (of authority, I suppose). Each rod represented an element of society, at least to the Italian fascists, under Mussolini. Example elements are business and church and family.

The iron band binds those elements together. Thus, fascism ideally does not own the means of production or the Church but controls them because it is responsible for society as a whole. Symbolically the iron band does distinguish fascist aggression from communist aggression, in theory.

Most fundamentalist Muslims I am aware of are fascists, not socialists or communists. Of course, there are always mixed cases -- as with the Islamo-fascists who want the state to own oil industries. But otherwise they prefer to advocate controlling business rather seizing it. Based on news reports, I would say the Taliban were Islamo-fascists, not socialists or communists.

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Well I have studied Islam in college, and while it's true that Islam has some special attributes that make it much more prone to become militant (that's an understatement, actually - The Koran does call for a holy war on heretics, and Mohammed himself did just that) - its basic evil is the same as any other religion. I.e. - that it is boastfully irrational.

The means to fight Islam is by exposing and ridiculing its inherent irrationality; but you can't do that without at the same time attacking all other religions.

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The means to fight Islam is by exposing and ridiculing its inherent irrationality; but you can't do that without at the same time attacking all other religions.

Would you consider it a wise move to alienate yourself from the very means of fighting Islam?

If not, then how do you propose to fight a religion pointing a gun at your head as opposed to one that points a gun at their head?

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