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December 1, 2003

World War IV
The Islamicist War

R.J. Rummel

Below is the new epilogue to the paperback edition of Militant Islam Reaches America by Daniel Pipes. For one opposed to democide and war (I subscribe to the classical Just War doctrine as modernized by the Catholic Church--no, I am not a Catholic, but the doctrine makes good moral and realistic sense), this is an important analysis worthy of the most serious consideration and debates.

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, there have been two hot world wars, world Wars I and II, and the Cold War. The latter was only cold in that the major enemies, the United States and the Soviet Union, but also hot in that there were a number of Soviet surrogate or supported wars in Vietnam, Korea, China, and elsewhere not involving direct military action between the Soviet Union and the United States.

World War I was history's last bloody splash of European monarchism and the beginning ascendancy of democracy. World War II was the defeat of the power and ideology of fascism by democracy and communism. And the Cold War ended in the early 1990s with the clear world victory for the idea and power of democratic freedom. Except for one remaining and powerful ism. Although it lacks the capability of a Big Power, it dominates tens of millions of minds. It is both a secular and religious ism; it believes that a state should be under the exclusive and totalitarian control of one pan-state religion and that the government must be subservient to this church. This is a militant and deadly version of Islam.

Today, Muslims, the followers of Islam, number about one and a half billion people. As pointed out by Freedom House, 47 states have a Muslim majority, 11 of which are electoral democracies, and of them only Mali is a liberal democracy (for the distinction between electoral and classical democracies, see Chapter 3 of my Saving Lives). Of the 16 Muslim Arab states in North Africa and the Middle East, not one is democratic. Compare all this with the fact that of 145 states in the world without Muslim majorities, 110 are democratic, 85 of which are liberal democracies.

Clearly, Islam is inherently inhospitable to democratic freedom, as was pan-country Catholicism when it was the exclusive religion of a country (states, as such, did not exist) and it controlled virtually all of Europe before the Protestant Reformation. This is not to say that Islamic states cannot become electoral democracies. As noted above, 10 are. It is to say that democratic freedom is near impossible for those Islamic countries whose society, culture, and governments, in their current development, are under the control of Islamic clerics. Consider that in these countries:

All this is anathema to democratic ideas and peoples. In how Islamic states currently treat their citizens; their version of Islam is a natural enemy of democratic freedom. However, where war is understood as a directed struggle for supremacy between enemies, it does not follow that there should be war between Islam and democracy (nor does it follow that democratization is impossible-in one state or another the balance of power between secularizing elites and the church can change for democratization, as happened in Turkey, for example). As long as Islam is content with peaceful evolution, development, and proselytization, there should be peaceful, although competitive, coexistence between democratic freedom and Islam.

The supreme problem now is that with the defeat of militant fascism and communism by the democracies, a militant Islam has arisen among Muslims and is rapidly gaining adherents. As was true of fascists and communists, Islamicists believe that only they know the absolute truth and moral laws, and nonbelievers wherever must be converted or eliminated. And they intend to impose Islam on the rest of the world through force and violence. What we should label these Muslims is still unsettled. Whether called Militant Muslims, Muslim extremists, fundamentalists, Muslim terrorists, Islamicists, or Islamofascists, the idea is the same: war on democracy and nonbelievers everywhere. I will use the term Islamicists for these violent people, and I will label their militant beliefs Islamicism.

Islamicists see violence, including terrorism, and whatever other political and economic means available, as the way to global victory. In the Islamic bible, the Quran, violence is right and proper against non-Muslims, and Islamicists take this seriously. They have completely thrown out the Geneva Conventions, and agreements that have attempted to limit violence, especially against noncombatants, including outright genocide. Their use of violence is raw, naked, without scruples.

This is now a hot war; it is World War IV. And this is the context within which one should understand the American coalition's attack on Afghanistan to defeat the Islamicist Taliban regime, and the Islamicist Al-Qaeda they supported; the attack and defeat of Saddam Hussein's bloody regime, which while secular worked closely with Islamicists, including Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, even involving giving $10,000, $12,000, or $25,000 (depending on the source) to genocide-suicide bombers; and the military involvement elsewhere, such as in the Philippines. This is a global war. The American Administration and its coalition partners realize this.

It may be asked why such a powerful state as the United States makes it its business to fight Islamicists, who after all, as far as military power is concerned, do not control any but third and fourth rate states. The question assumes that Islamicists are no direct threat to the United States. And if they tried to take over the important Middle Eastern source of oil, well, then, we should take action. This is an attractive isolationism. But, it neglects the incredible vulnerability to attack of the democracies.

The Power of the United States is supreme regarding other states. No state or combination of states could militarily defeat the United States, even if granted a surprise attack. But, this is military power on military power. And for this, the outcome is certain. But, the United States and other liberal democracies are loose, open societies vulnerable to attack of many kinds by Islamicist groups (not overtly states, although Islamicists governments may secretly support and aid them), like Al-Qaeda that could take thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of lives. The 9/11 successful attacks on the Trade Center Twin Towers that killed almost 3,000 people are only a potentially small example of what is possible. Gas and bacteriological attacks are great danger and could cause catastrophic economic disruption of a democracy (just consider the disruption of the very minor anthrax attack which only killed 5 people--consider the disruption if thousands had been infected and killed). The worst possibility is a suitcase sized nuclear weapon smuggled into and exploded in major cities (this is the plot of my novel, Nuclear Holocaust Not Again). If the Islamicists get such weapons, they have no compunction about using them.

For these reasons, the American coalition is fighting World War IV through preemption, invasion, economic and military aid, intelligence, domestic anti-terrorism policies and laws, and public relations. Best to go after the Islamicist enemy, rather than wait for their attack. This is not to say I always agree with the tactics used, but it is to say that this war must be fought. It is a war for freedom and, as shown by the studies on this web site, peace. It is a Just War.

Epilogue: World War IV?
Militant Islam Reaches America
(Paperback edition, W.W. Norton, 2003)

Daniel Pipes

[NB: Footnotes omitted]

Is the "war on terror" really World War IV?

That's what the American strategist Eliot Cohen argues and the term is apt. It captures two points: that the cold war was in fact World War III and that the war on terror is as global, as varied, and as important as prior world wars.

Militant Islam distinguishes itself from any other contemporary political movement in the magnitude of its ambitions, seeking not just to influence the adherents of one religion or control one region. Rather, it aspires to unlimited and universal power. Only Islamists have the temerity to challenge the liberal world order in a cosmic battle over the future course of the human experience. This translates into a worldwide battlefield.

Of course, a war in which so much is at stake cannot be about mere terrorism, and Cohen notes that "The enemy in this war is not terrorism, but militant Islam." As in world wars II and III, the ultimate enemy is a cohort of powerful ideas that can cause some of the most competent members of society to dedicate themselves to a vision and go so far as willingly sacrifice their lives to speed its attainment. The U.S. government, though usually reluctant to make this point, does allude to it on occasion, as when President George W. Bush states that the enemy is "a fringe form of Islamic extremism" and a "new totalitarian threat."

Terrorism, in other words, is just one dimension of a war that has many fronts and takes many forms. Violence is an important symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Other methods might include acts of violence by loners, smuggling, rioting, lawful street demonstrations, raising money, teaching, proselytizing, intimidating, and even running for elected office. These methods complement each other, constituting the sophistication and reach of militant Islam. The battleground includes Muslim-majority countries as well as countries like Argentina where Islam is a minor presence.

Militant Islam's varied and persistent offensive is often missed in the focus on Al-Qaeda and other well-developed networks. A look at the daily rhythm of the war makes this clear. Here are some top-of-the-news stories from a random two-week period in late 2002; note that Al-Qaeda-style terrorism makes up just a portion of the general assault:

  • November 20, Saudi Arabia: An Islamist burns down a McDonald's near Riyadh.

  • November 20, Nigeria: Muslims rampage in the north, shout "God is great," and attack Christians, leading to 215 deaths, after a Nigerian fashion writer named Isioma Daniel comments on a planned beauty pageant in Nigeria that the Prophet Muhammad "would probably have chosen a wife from among [the contestants]."

  • November 21, Kuwait: A policeman in a patrol car flags down two American soldiers driving along a desert highway, ostensibly for speeding, then shoots and seriously injures them.

  • November 21, Lebanon: An Islamist murders an American nurse and missionary, Bonnie Penner, as she opens her clinic for the day.

  • November 21, Indonesia: Imam Samudra, the self-acknowledged organizer of the Bali attack on October 12 that killed more than 180 people, is seized.

  • November 21, Israel: A Palestinian Islamist suicide bombs an Israeli bus, killing eleven and injuring dozens.

  • November 22, France: Police arrest five Islamists, including Redouane Daoud (who escaped from a Dutch detention center in June), and accused them of providing logistical support to Islamists engaged in jihad.

  • November 24, India: Islamists attack a Hindu temple in Jammu and Kashmir, killing at least twelve people and injuring fifty.

  • November 24, Pakistan: Security forces arrest three men attempting to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan in a truck carrying hundreds of mortar rounds and antitank rockets hidden under bags of dry fruit.

  • November 24, Jordan: Islamist rioting in Maan leads to one death and several wounded.

  • November 25, Nigeria: Mahamoud Shinkafi, the deputy governor of one Nigerian state, announces that "the blood of Isioma Daniel [the fashion writer] can be shed."

  • November 26, Hong Kong: Three Islamists of South Asian origin appear in court for extradition hearings on charges they sold drugs to raise money to buy missiles for Al-Qaeda.

  • November 26, Malaysia: Authorities arrest three suspected members of the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah, accusing them of planning suicide missions against Western embassies in Singapore.

  • November 26, United Arab Emirates: A customs officer fires on a U.S. military helicopter but misses.

  • November 26, France: Prosecutors place five men of Algerian origin under investigation for "criminal association with a terrorist group" connected to shoe bomber Richard C. Reid.

  • November 27, United States: Prosecutors accuse Jesse Maali in Orlando, Florida, of having financial ties to Middle Eastern organizations that advocate violence.

  • November 28, Turkey: Parliament approves a government formed by the Justice and Development Party, a watered-down Islamist party.

  • November 28, Kenya: Islamist suicide bombers kill three Israelis and ten Kenyans in an attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa; also, two missiles just miss a commercial Israeli airliner with 271 on board on takeoff from Mombasa.

  • November 28, Belgium: Police arrest Dyab Abou Jahjah, head of the Arab European League, an Islamist group, on grounds he incited two days of Muslim rioting in Antwerp.

  • November 29, Pakistan: A pro-Taliban Islamist wins the elections and takes charge in a key province.

  • November 30, India: In a surge of violence in Kashmir, Islamists kill ten and wound more than twenty in four separate incidents.

  • December 2, Holland: Four Islamists believed linked to Al-Qaeda go on trial in Rotterdam, charged with planning attacks on U.S. targets in Europe, including the embassy in Paris.

  • December 3, Germany: A Berlin court case reveals that an alleged member of the Hamburg cell that led the September 11 attacks had the business card of a Saudi diplomat based in Berlin.

  • December 3, United Kingdom: British authorities in Manchester arrest Hassan Butt, who had claimed to have recruited some two hundred British Muslims to fight for the Taliban.

  • December 3, Germany: Aeroubi Beandalis, one of four Algerians accused of plotting to blow up a French Christmas market in 2000, admitted to a court in Frankfurt that he was intending to turn pressure cookers into bombs.

This range of activities implies that an effective defense cannot be limited to disrupting networks of violence. The forces must include anti-Islamist Muslims as well as non-Muslims, intellectuals as well as special forces, teachers as well as police officers, filmmakers as well as forensic accountants. World War IV, in short, involves many fronts and requires a strategy that looks far beyond counterterrorism. The sooner we understand this, the faster we can win.

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