Eric Raymond ends his series on Islam with a call to war. The series has been analysis thus far, and I think very good. Now Raymond gets to suggesting policy, and suddenly loses all sense of history.
To people who view the entire world through the lens of the Western tradition, the strategy I will outline is doubtless going to sound bellicose and regressive. It is not; it is founded on a cold-blooded realization that Arab cultures (and the Arabized cultures of the rest of the Islamic world) regard victory in war as a sign of Allah's favor and regard compromise and concession as a sign of weakness.

Well, yes, what follows is bellicose. "Regressive" is a judgement call that I will leave aside. As for that cold-blooded realization: all societies that I am aware of have regarded victory in war as sign of favor of their favorite diety. And all regard compromise and concession, at least over matter of principle, as weakness, because they are.

I agree with Raymond that we should take measures to improve our self-defense: "these will include conventional police and security measures. It must also include a revival of the role of the unincorporated militia and the armed citizen."

Raymond proceeds to argue that somebody (practically, the USA) needs to project military power against the "terrorist bases and havens". Bases, no problem. (Proof is an issue, but I ignore it for the purpose of discussion.) Havens? Problem. Right now, every Arab country has citizens who that hate Jews, the West, and the USA. All offer "haven" to at least a few terrorists. What we are talking about here is full scale war, between the USA and essentially all of the Arab world. Raymond does not quite admit that, but close enough - his call for targeted countries: "the war must continue in Iraq, and it is likely to encompass Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as well."

So the USA is to overthrow all the governments in the Islamic world. To what end? To change the minds of the Islamic people: "We must teach the Dar-al-Islam to respect and fear the power of the West. We must not negotiate or offer concessions until it is clear from the behavior of governments, the umma, and the 'Arab street' that the public will to support jihad has been broken."

In other words, Raymond is advocating a sort of memetic engineering: from outside, we will apply force of arms that will change the hearts and minds of Muslims, making them give up on the idea of terrorist jihad. This point is emphasized later in the article, where he talks about cultural subversion.

Now, there is one, huge, gaping problem with this idea. And that is, that there is zero historical evidence that memetic engineering has ever worked, without the application of truly horrific levels of violence. Examples of effective imposed meme engineering are few: the conversion of Japan to democracy after 1945. Failures are many: Reconstruction. Vietnam. The War on some Drugs. "Nation building" sounds simple, but it is not.

Even more unlikely is the idea of forceably meme-engineering a foreign religion. Religion tends to strongly resist all change, internal or external. The expansion of Islam by the sword is one of the few examples I can think of where people were converted by external force. And in fact, it was not external force after the conquerers won - they moved in, and waged a sort of permanent battle for a while against the infidel.

Why is it so difficult to forceably change the thoughts of the masses? The reason is quite simple: people do not like to blame themselves, for anything. Given a problem and an even vaguely plausible external cause (such as an occupying army), we avoid self-criticism and blame the other. This is only human. It makes engineering other people's cultures extremely difficult.

History shows that only excessive levels of violence will serve to change a culture from the outside. The US government killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians, for example, to put the survivors in the right frame of mind to accept American tutelage. But we are more progressive now, and we will not stand for our soldiers terminating Arabs in the street. Nor will we tolerate our boys and girls coming home in body bags, altruistically sacrificed for Arabs. Any attempt by the US government to inject new ideas into Islam will fail.

So what should we do?

The USA, and the West, should disengage with Islam. We should remove our standing armies. We should give up the embargo that is hurting the Iraqi people but not Saddam. We should stop training Arab secret police and other CIA-type interventions into their society. And we should strongarm Israel into unilateral separation from the Palestinians. We should, of course, trade freely with the Islamic world. And we should continue sniping at their lack of freedom, but only with words from private groups. Publicly we should simply say we believe in self-determination and let the Arab street figure it out.

We should also make it clear that any attack by an Arab country on a democracy will result in us entering the war, and either capturing or killing all Arab leaders that are plausibly responsible for the decision to fight.

What will happen? Well, terrorists will continue to attack us for a while, and we must be ready. That's why I agree with Raymond on self-defense measures. After a while, the terrorists (along with many good Arabs) will realize that the local dictators are vulnerable. Social revolution will break out. The dictators will be swept aside, replaced by nasty socialist theocratic regimes. (I hope they will be nice playful liberatarian Western regimes, but let's be realistic.) These regimes, in turn, will fail because socialism always fails, and both socialism and theocracy will be discredited. They will evolve fairly peacefully into democratic market economies. This is the pattern we have seen in the undeveloped world (substituting nationalism for theocracy). This is the pattern that we are seeing in Iran. It will work in the rest of the Arab world. Note the key to it all: they will evolve. Social evolution has to come from within. Raymond's open-ended war will only prolong the current period, of deeply angry people being turned against the West by clever rulers.

And guess what? The policy of peace is also moral. How about that?

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