DEFEATING POLITICAL ISLAM: THE NEW COLD WAR
By Moorthy S. Muthuswamy
Prometheus Books, $25.98, 287 pages
As the U.S. military slogs on, confused, trying to win the “trust” of the Afghan people; as the Obama administration, illogically, attempts to explain its way through Pakistan’s “uneven” record of fighting jihad to a new $7.5 billion aid package (on top of $12 billion spent by the Bush administration), it is great luck to come across a book like Moorthy S. Muthuswamy’s “Defeating Political Islam: The New Cold War.” It contains all the answers to the questions looming over our widening and deepening presence in “AfPak,” and more.
In short, the United States fails to understand Pakistan - whose army, not incidentally, sports the motto “Faith, piety, and holy war in the path of Allah” - for what it is: a member state of what the author calls “the axis of jihad,” which also includes Saudi Arabia and Iran. These three nations - with their arm’s-length proxy armies of the Taliban, al Qaeda and Hezbollah - are the most aggressive purveyors of what the book describes as “political Islam,” the jihadist creed based on Islamic doctrine that is destabilizing the world, from India’s Kashmir region to Britain’s old mill towns, from all of Israel to Parisian banlieues.
This destabilization is happening in plain sight, but incredibly, few see it as clearly as Mr. Muthuswamy. Nearly eight years after Sept. 11, 2001, such blindness marks the epic negligence of our leadership, beginning with former President George W. Bush. On Sept. 12, 2001, the brand-new “war president” embarked on what may be remembered as his most successful campaign: his “Islam is peace” offensive, which to this day confuses our policies, not to mention our people.
Mr. Muthuswamy, an Indian-born, U.S.-educated nuclear physicist, draws the opposite inference from the “Islamic trilogy,” including the Koran, the Hadiths (traditions of Muhammad) and the Sira (biography of Muhammad). He instead argues that “extremism - not moderation - is the mainstream among Islamic traditions.” Such a viewpoint stands the basis of post-Sept. 11 security policy on its head, from constructive engagement with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission (whose “major blunder,” Mr. Muthuswamy believes, was exonerating Saudi Arabia), to coalition-building efforts with Iraq and Afghanistan.
Working with “moderates” in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, he explains, hasn’t weakened political Islam in these nations. While it may have temporarily deflected jihadist attacks on the West, he writes, “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have continued to direct jihad at Israel, India and others. With political Islam as their guide, these societies have changed little since 2001.” As a result, Mr. Muthuswamy argues, it is high time to reverse the bizarre U.S. policy that, in effect, holds political Islam in the same esteem that the Islamic world does.
This is the PC or “politically correct” policy that informs not only our engagement with “axis of jihad” nations but also our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Muthuswamy writes: “As an occupying power in need of local cooperation, America could in no way afford to totally discredit political Islam, since it represented mainstream Muslim religious institutions. … America’s best chance of weakening political Islam and achieving true liberation in these areas, as it did with the former Soviet Union-based communist movement, is to function as a non-occupying power.”
“True liberation”? Doubtful. But “weakening political Islam”? You bet. Taking this paradigm of the “non-occupying power” and other lessons from the Cold War, Mr. Muthuswamy urges, for example, a propaganda campaign against political Islam akin to that waged against communist ideology. It would target “educated Muslims” in the West, he writes, who “would benefit from the local media and the government propaganda machinery willing to discredit the theological roots of political Islam.”
That they would, but here’s the rub: how first to deprogram the “local media” and the “government propaganda machinery” of their politically correct outlook on the world, including Islam?
It’s easier to imagine some of his other recommendations, more compatible in a foxy way with mainstream liberal sensibilities, gaining traction. Mr. Muthuswamy sees “a dire need to investigate whether the axis of jihadist nations - most notably the primary axis nation or the anchor state of the political Islamic movement, Saudi Arabia - have been involved in jihad-related crimes that could be categorized as crimes against humanity.” These might include campaigns of non-Muslim ethnic cleansing and potential genocide carried out from the Middle East to the South Asia.
Such human rights efforts, resulting in what he calls a “grievance build-up” against Saudi Arabia and other perpetrators of jihad, would serve to bind together “victimized non-Muslim populations,” from India to Israel, in a new coalition to fight political Islam. His novel idea to combat Islamization in Europe, for example, is to invoke what he calls “the right of indigenous civilizations to exist as entities in their respective homelands,” a measure the European blogger Fjordman also has proposed.
Mr. Muthuswamy’s must-read chapter about India’s debilitating fight against political Islam - which includes a shockingly rational discussion of a potential nuclear phase - makes a compelling case for the United States to elevate India’s role in fighting global jihad. If the United States could support Muslim forces against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, he writes, “why not back cornered Indians and other nations to fight political Islam and its international sponsors?” Unlike the jihadists who ultimately turned on the United States, “an India strongly backed by the West … is no threat to the Western civilization because it shares with the West a secular and democratic mode of governing.”
What “Defeating Political Islam” tells us is that the United States, in fighting the so-called war on terror, not only has allied with nations that can never be our friends - which explains the incorrigibilities of the AfPak theater, for example - but also has effectively shunned friends, such as India and Israel, that would love to be our allies.
It all makes perfect sense; in some ways, it’s even obvious. Survival strategy usually is. Which isn’t to say that “Defeating Political Islam” won’t come as eye-popping revelation to its readers. I only hope they won’t take the book’s urgent message to heart too late.
Diana West is a columnist and the author of “The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.”