Summary: Western history is one of clashing cultures, as we see today on a global scale today. Again we respond to jihad with crusade. Previous posts discussed the military dimension of this long war. This post looks at the big picture. Western culture will crush our foes, as it did in the Cold War. We need only remain strong and avoid bold errors that bring defeat (as the Syracuse expedition did to Athens).
“They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
— Speech by President Bush, 20 September 2001.
We attack them with invincible weapons
The people of fundamentalist Islamic regimes suffer an unrelenting bombardment by a callous great power that casually and thoughtlessly destroys their society with high-tech weapons against which they have no defense. It attacks at a people’s most vulnerable point: their children, interrupting the delicate transfer of beliefs from one generation to another.
Radio, television, rock music, Hollywood blockbusters, video games, the internet — all bombard their children with images of affluence, of easy sex, of enjoyable booze and drugs, of freedom from patriarchal authority — showing them a more attractive way of life. We attack them like a high-tech Pied Piper.
Western culture acts as a virus, with the American strain its most virulent. A more accurate analogy is that our culture acts as a mass meme displacing weaker ones. In Silicon Valley they speak of “mindspace.” America exports our ways to fill the minds of the world’s people — crowding out their native culture. Martin van Creveld describes this as “colonizing the future.”
The vital centers of Middle Eastern Islamic culture — Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria — adapt, albeit slowly and painfully. But what of the more fragile and rigid societies? Such as Saudi Arabia (and the other Gulf States)?
To survive in the 21st century their leadership class must understand western methods. So they send their young men to western schools, from which most return infected with western values. They hide their vices behind the walls of their wealth, with weekends in Paris and Bahrain — but their people nonetheless know — undermining the Princes’ shallow authority and inevitably weakening their alliance with the Wahhabi ulema, the state’s foundation.
We are like the Borg (in the Star Trek universe).
- The world watches our movies and listens to our music.
- Our values are “human rights”, which become the universal standard before which all must genuflect (to sooth their feelings we pretend to believe in multiculturalism).
- Our political system, which we call “democracy”, becomes the sole legitimate form, to which even tyrants must pay tribute via sham elections.
- Nations must adopt our economic system, which we call “capitalism”; the alternative is autarky and poverty.
- We employ technology to break the natural biological order by freeing gender from sex. Control of contraception destroys cultures based on highly differentiated gender roles.
Can they successfully defend against us?
Probably not. Ideas and technology have always spread irresistibly. Cultures that have walled themselves off, such as China did for centuries, suffered as a result. Globalization makes borders porous. Travel and trade allow cultural contagions to spread rapidly across the globe. Modern communications technology allows the first two factors to change cultures in years instead of over generations.
Don’t expect them to like us
We should not expect the people of other societies to like the challenges we force upon them. After all, most Americans despise some aspects of our culture. Nor will the elites of other lands obligingly and quietly die to ease their societies’ adoption of western ways, as did King Mongkut of Siam in the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I”.
This is clearly seen by those of the West who dislike western society, such as Charles Allen. In God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad he blames Hollywood and the Left for the enmity so many Muslim people feel towards us. He believes America has polluted the world with its combination of degeneracy, pornography, and radical feminism. He sees Jihad as a natural if regrettable response.
We need not listen to westerners to understand the Islamic fundamentalist perspective, as they have written about this challenge often since WWII.
The impact of western culture on Islam was clearly foreseen by Sayyid Qutb, Egyptian intellectual and Islamist (1906 – 1966) when studying in 1949 at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, Colorado. Established as a utopian community in 1870, the city proudly maintained in the 1940’s the moral rigour, temperance, and civil-mindedness that were the hallmarks of its founding fathers. Greeley’s highly touted civic virtue, however, made very little impression on Qutb. In his mind, the inhabitants of Greeley, far from representing a kinder and gentler population of Americans, carried within themselves the same moral flaws of materialism and degeneracy that were characteristic of Occidental civilization in general.
He recounted how he once attended a church dance and was scandalized by the occasion’s “seductive atmosphere”. As Qutb wrote, “the dancing intensified,” and the “hall swarmed with legs”. … Qutb’s American writings are laced with such anecdotes, which reveal a strong concern with moral issues, especially concerning matters of sexuality.
— “Sayyid Qutb in America,” ISIM Review, newsletter of the International Institute for the Study of Islam, March 2001 (PDF here).
For more detail see Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri (2008) — or the summary in “Laptop Jihadi” by Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books.
For a more analytical perspective on this see Samuel P. Huntington’s seminal article “The clash of civilizations?“ in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, later expanded into The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.
Who is at fault for this conflict? America or them?
Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. here we discuss what was, what is, and what might be. More importantly, neither Mother Nature nor Mistress Clio (the muse of history) cares about blame. Nor should we. Instead let’s have empathy for those whose cultures we threaten — and probably will irrevocably change. No matter if we disagree with their values, we can understand and sympathize with their anguish and lost traditions.
Other posts in this series
- How America can survive – even prosper – in the 21st century: a defensive strategy.
- Why we lose wars so often. How we can win in the future.
- Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on the West to win big.
- Why the West loses so many wars, and how we can learn to win.
For More Information
- The Fight for Islamic Hearts and Minds.
- A look at al Qaeda, the long war — and us.
- How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game.
- We are the attackers in the Clash of Civilizations. We’re winning.