The West has several historically standard options to deal with the world of Islam.
The most common approach, extermination of the hostile population, is not practical because the Muslims are too many. Is it immoral? Well, Red Indians are still stereotyped in America.
Another approach is exemplary punishment. Rome was famous for that tactic; it was generally benevolent, but sometimes reacted with extreme cruelty and local extermination campaigns. If that sounds too harsh, recall Sudafend, Coventry, Dresden, and Hiroshima. Did the world change after the world wars? Recall Setif or Arpalik. Perhaps the Americans are different from the bloodthirsty French or Greeks? Recall the Hanoi bombings or My Lai, a village where a random sampling of US soldiers shot civilians, from babies to eighty-two-year-olds, at point-blank range in a manner entirely reminiscent of the massacres of Jewish people by German police battalions. Perhaps My Lai was an isolated incident? Then read the eyewitness accounts of anti-communist journalist Katsuichi Honda, who describe the incessant murder of Vietnamese civilians by American troops. The Americans aren’t evil at all, but nice and moral most of the time. Jews, too, are generally nice and moral: except in the places like Dir Yassin, or when shooting POWs or rolling over them with tanks. The first ethical commandment is, Do not murder. Since wars violate that basic prohibition to begin with, no ethics survive the battlefield experience. Mild wars, such as in Iraq and Lebanon, leave room for moderation; really dangerous wars don’t. The Western conflict with the world of Islam is a major conflict.
Exemplary punishment has to be short and terrifying like Hiroshima, not persistent like Vietnam. People, especially the poor, get used to ongoing violence. Long-term military operations are costly to the empire.
In order to be exemplary, punishment must threaten everyone. Not only the soldiers or inhabitants of border areas, but all Muslims must feel the heat. The proper response to 9/11—assuming the official version of its perpetrators—would have been massive bombing of random Muslim cities. People fight when they hope to prevail; exemplary punishment destroys that hope. Given the number of purposeless deaths in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, exemplary punishment is economic: it claims fewer lives.
As numerous war episodes have demonstrated, cruelty to aliens is acceptable to civilized soldiers. To reduce the strain on the imperial public opinion, locals could be co-opted for the job. Americans thus relegated extermination of Taliban POWs to the Northern Alliance gangs. Thousands were murdered with the full knowledge of the occupiers, often in presence of US troops. Brutal regimes stemmed communism in places such as Guatemala, and South Lebanon Army fought the PLO to the benefit of Israel.
Statehood is a measure of civilization. Sovereignty is a measure of others’ respect for one’s statehood. Not every tribe can automatically form a state, and not every state’s borders should be respected. Imperial punishment of internationally mischievous states should be routine; there is no need to explain it in terms of democratization or benefiting the locals. Short, punitive expeditions are preferable, and collaborative regimes are the next-best option, but the invaders have to be prepared for the resettlement. One option is the classic resettlement of tribes on the Assyrian model—uprooting their national identity and causing them to assimilate into less troublesome nations. Another is Vietnam-style internment, and pro-actively combing for agitators in refugee camps; that is no long-term solution.
American peace demonstrators were Vietnam’s best hope for victory. The same happens today with Islam. If mass murder of enemies is justified, then suppression of local peace activists and other collaborators is even more so. The survival of the civilization takes temporary precedence over the liberties of individuals.
Passive defense isn’t helpful. Security has always been local: people were watchful and armed. The technological revolution briefly gave nation-states the means of securing immense perimeters, but terrorist warfare has returned the situation to the historical norm: citizens and small neighborhoods deal with local threats, and governments project their power onto hostile states to extinguish the concentrated threats. Isolationism works no better for America than for an ostrich who buries his head in the sand.
Ideological warfare is the most efficient way to project power. Traditionally understood as leaflets and radio broadcasts, ideological warfare takes on a new dimension in the information age. Free DVDs and DVD players, glossy pornographic magazines and movie tickets, compact satellite dishes and crowd-gathering concerts of Western pop stars are more efficient than weapons. Bombing—and only overwhelming bombing—crushes the will to fight; cultural subversion extinguishes that will. Cultural wars are PR-friendly: the media shows happy faces rather than crushed skulls. Cultural wars are cheap compared to the cost of invasion. Enemies’ indigenous cultures are worth sacrificing.
Muslims are eager for Western goodies—in Huntington’s terms, for Magna Mac rather than Magna Carta. Satisfy their superficial desires, and you quell their jealousy. Cheap Chinese consumer goods and American used cars do a great job of pacifying hostile populations.
It remains to see whether these enemies can be culturally subverted. Historical precedents show mostly conquerors’ assimilating the decadent culture of the vanquished, and the assimilated nations’ accepting their host’s culture. America successfully projected its cultural influence into the USSR—jeans and jazz won over communism—but Russian nationalism is now resurfacing. Even total wars, however, don’t achieve perpetual results. Ideological warfare is efficient in the short-term, and if continued after the ostensible victory, could abrogate enmity in the long run.
Failure to deal with the hostile civilization breeds hatred on two fronts. Muslims become jealous, and are encouraged by the West’s inability to counteract minor terrorist violence. Westerners start hating Muslims to justify their own xenophobic enmity and inability to deal with a primitive threat.
When civilized people sense their inability to confront barbarians, they welcome the barbarians and adopt their culture.