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« Talk Like A Pirate, Or Walk The Plank! | WILLisms.com | The White Man's Burden, Part III: You Go To War With The Geopolitical Reality You Have, Not The One You Want »

The White Man's Burden, Part II: “Honor The Threat”

The real world, it is often said, is not tidy. It would do much better if reality were more like fiction, when enemies took their turns in threatening us and waited patiently in line. One threat would be defeated, and a decent interval would pass before the next would arise.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t tend to happen. Threats rise and fall on their own, and the overlap between them tends to lead to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” evolving into “defeating today’s foe by creating tomorrow’s.”

During the 30’s and 40’s, three strains of totalitarianism arose around the world to threaten the democracies. Imperialism in Japan, Fascism in central Europe, and Communism in the Soviet Union all vied for supremacy. Eventually two allied and sought to prevail against all comers, then the third joined. Shortly thereafter, the Fascists turned on and attacked the Communists. The Western democracies saw the Fascist/Imperialist axis as the greater threat, and chose to ally with and bolster the Communists for sheer survival. That led to the eventual defeat of the Fascists and the Imperialists, but led to over 40 years of the Cold War and sentencing a large portion of the world to suffer under the Communist yoke.

During the Cold War, we once again found ourselves with allies of convenience, as we backed some truly unsavory governments and factions against the Soviets’ puppets and client states. Among those whose flaws we chose to overlook were the Islamists, as we on several occasions backed them in opposition to the Communists. It was, like our alliance with Stalin, a matter of choosing to oppose the very real threat today and accepting the risks of creating another threat for tomorrow.

Today, the Soviet Union is literally, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently, been relegated to the ash heap of history. Today’s college students have no recollection of its existence – it’s like Nazi Germany, a thing of yesterday, never a frightening reality. And the hard decisions we had to make when fighting for our very survival are coming home to roost.

I am not arguing that the choices we made at the time were wrong, or even ill-considered. That is a matter for historians to argue, and it is still far too close to those events, and the consequences not fully played out, for such a judgment. But it is indisputable that those choices came with prices, and those are coming due.

We, as a nation, chose to defer concerns about the rise of militant Islam from the 1970’s onward in the face of the threat of Communism and global nuclear annihilation. While we worried about that big threat, the lesser threat grew largely unchecked. And today, 15 years after the final, formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, we find the greatest threat is the same militant Muslims who served as such useful pawns of both sides.

Now, I do not see militant Islam as the existential threat that the Soviet Union posed. They do not hold the potential to destroy America, and are not likely to develop such power any time soon. But they are strong, and the stronger they grow, the greater the butcher’s bill will be to finally stop them.

Some time ago, I stumbled across the metaphor of militant Islam as a small child in your neighborhood. The child is a holy terror – loudly threatening you, committing small acts of vandalism, even sometimes openly hitting you. Each time, we have sent the child home – sometimes with a swat across his fanny, often with a threat to involve his parents. But the pattern remains unbroken – he keeps coming back for more mischief.

The situation seems unpleasant, but tolerable. Stable, even – and “stability” is a very popular word these days, and “destabilizing” is hurled around as an insult. So the child is left alone to continue.

The problem is that no child stays a child forever, and bad behavior left unchecked worsens. That child is growing larger and stronger, and their acts more and more violent. Yesterday’s 3-year-old kicking at our fence is today’s 10-year-old pitching rocks at our window – and tomorrow’s 15-year-old throwing bigger rocks at our heads. The fully-grown adult capable of seriously injuring or even killing us is years away – but he is coming, make no mistake about it. Such behaviors and patterns must be recognized and stopped as soon as possible; it is the kindest thing for both the child and the adult.

In the excellent movie “Manhunter,” based on Thomas Harris’ novel “Black Dragon,” "Red Dragon," the hero is an empath; he can capture within himself the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the serial killer he is hunting. When his boss accuses him of feeling sorry for the killer, the as-yet-unknown Francis Dolarhyde, Will Graham replies:

“As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster. But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick f*ck out of his socks.”

There is no paradox here. Francis Dolarhyde is indeed a monster, and needs to be stopped. But he wasn’t born a monster, he was terribly abused as a child. That does not excuse his conduct, but merely heightens the tragedy of his situation.

Militant Islam is much like the young Francis Dolarhyde. It is well on its way towards becoming a monster. In some ways, it already is. But it does not yet possess the power to threaten all our lives, or even our way of life. It can only bother us, hurt us to a degree. That is changing, and is not changing for the better. That is why it must be stopped now.

Posted by Jay Tea · 19 September 2006 07:00 AM


this is the "plan 9 from outer space" of essays. what makes you think you are qualified to coment on islam or american history? yo support GEORGE BUSH. sorry you are qualified to operate an ice cream truck and that's about it. have you ever been to a muslim country? have you ever even read one thing by a muslim?

Posted by: lester at September 19, 2006 01:03 PM

Never mind Lester, Jay Tea, he's harmless enough.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at September 19, 2006 03:59 PM

he didn't answer any of my questions on the other thing. some "blog" more like a boring article

Posted by: lester at September 19, 2006 06:14 PM

lester, I just got home from work. Sorry if my need to earn a living actually interferes with my sacred obligation to leap into action the INSTANT you post some questions.

Especially questions as stupid and inane and mind-numbingly idiotic as yours.

"what makes you think you are qualified to coment on islam or american history?"

Well, Lester, for one, I understand how to use capital letters and how to spell "comment," so there's two qualifications that you sorely lack. As for the (laughable) "substance" of your questions, my qualifications are this: I can read, I can observe, and I can think. If you don't like the results of that, you're cordially invited to not read my material.

"yo support GEORGE BUSH." Said that myself a few times -- "Yo, homey, support George Bush. He's got his issues, but at least he's FIGHTING this War on Terror, unlike Clinton and unlike Gore or Kerry would have."

"Sorry you are qualified to operate an ice cream truck and that's about it." Well, considering that operating an ice cream truck requires certification by the Department of Motor Vehicles AND the Health Department, those are pretty high standards. Fortunately for you, there doesn't seem to be a literacy requirement -- but your habit of drooling all over yourself might keep the Health Inspector from approving.

"have you ever been to a muslim country? have you ever even read one thing by a muslim?" No, but muslims have visited my country. One group in particular killed nearly 3,000 of my countrymen five years ago. Numerous others have killed many more of my countrymen here. And I've read the Koran, so I KNOW just what sort of things "good Muslims" are supposed to do -- and a goodly proportion of it seems committed towards converting me, subjugating me, or killing me. Thanks, but I'll pass. I'm no Dhimmi, and I won't buy your Jizya. I understand the fundamental fact, lester, that "Islam" does NOT mean "peace," but "submission" -- and I'm not the submissive sort.

Ken, sorry I didn't listen to you and ignore the git, but sometimes I just need to smack around the idiots for my own satisfaction.


Posted by: Jay Tea at September 19, 2006 06:44 PM

And it's your thought that the Iraq incursion was a "smart" thing? Actually, here's how this thing plays out; we're hosed in Iraq; Pakistan goes Islamofacist; Iran gets the bomb; will China allow the "west" to neutralize Iran?

Posted by: Ed at September 20, 2006 11:55 AM

lol. you don't know one muslim, have never visited a muslim country, and have read the koran, which does not address any of the issues in the current brouhaha such as palestine or lebanon. and you are writing an article about islam. Would you write an article on van gogh having never seen one of his paintings? even in a book?

None of the experts in foergin policy, from Michael Sheuer Leon Hadar and the rest of the realist crowd, to our own pentagon or CIA would give any credence to any of your "white mans burden" sorry, but the bars been raised a little bit since 2002.

Posted by: lester at September 20, 2006 04:24 PM

lester, for the most part, I don't care in the least about Islam. Only when it intrudes on me and that which I care about does it matter in the least to me. And right now the people cutting off heads and blowing things up and shooting people and committing slaughter around the world aren't doing so while singing the praises of Jesus or Krishna or Buddha or Joseph Smith or Martin Luther, they're shouting "Allahu Ackbar!" Or hadn't you noticed?


Posted by: Jay Tea at September 21, 2006 04:56 AM

I don't care much about islam either. I think it's as messed up as you do. which is why I find it pretty ridiculous of you to assert that we should go into their countries. isn't that at least superficially counter inutitive? to realize you can't exist side by side with someone and to respond by GOING TO THEM? Your view of islam is at odds with your view of interventionism. did NAFTA solve the illegal immigration problem? I don't think so. is planting the seeds of democracy in Iraq going to stop another 9/11? . seems to have made matters worse

Posted by: lester at September 21, 2006 01:42 PM

Lester. I have been in several "Muslim" countries. By the way, what is your definition of a "Muslim" country? Which sect qualifies? Elected or facist? Next. What did we know about German, Japan, Italy in the 1930s? What did we know about Communism behind the Iron Curtain? You do admit there was such a thing and that the USSR not only hid what they were doing, but killed over one hundred million inncoent civilians in the process, including "Muslim" countries. How about debating intelligently instead of talking about driving Ice Cream Trucks.

Posted by: Chief RZ at September 22, 2006 01:39 PM

chief- my defination is either elected or fascist. and it's 2006. we know much much more about muslim countries than we did about communist or fascist countries in the 30s. or about say north korea today. there are lots of americans who go in and out of iran. not so north korea.

Posted by: lester at September 22, 2006 01:56 PM

Lester, there was only one real communist country in the 1930s.

Posted by: Robert at September 25, 2006 04:41 PM