Thursday, August 24, 2006

Islam and Jihadism - Part 3

Policies of the Terror State

Some people may be aware that the Ayatollah Khomeini, while exiled from Iran by Reza Shah Pahlavi during 1978-9 lived and taught in France. This apparently extraneous detail is important, as a study in tolerance as a strategic blunder and also as a lesson in cultural influence. Because Khomeini had studied European History, and was quite familiar with the Revolution of 1789 in France, along with the period known to historians simply as “The Terrors”, when the Jacobins arrested and massacred countless political and personal enemies, and established a thoroughly despotic regime. Bloody though it was, Khomeini noted that it effectively wiped out the monarchy, which was his own goal.

As I noted in the first two parts of this study, Islam has patterned itself after Christianity as the Imams perceive it. That is, because the Christian Church held broad temporal power by the 7th Century, the Mullahs pursued control of nations as well as spiritual conversion. Because Christian nations and Pagan nations had armies, Muslim leaders considered warfare an appropriate means for expanding their numbers, and coercion a valid spiritual tool. Because the Jewish and Christian and Buddhist practices were culturally established, the new Muslim faith’s leaders believed it was necessary to restrict such religions in territory they controlled, as if to quarantine debate and competition. As a result, whatever Mohammed intended for Islam during his years as its Prophet, the course following his death was distinctly militant, intolerant, and isolated. In total therefore, the sum effect of Islam has driven it towards Jihad – forcing all to choose between Islam or their own identity.

Ruhollah Khomeini was also a product of his environment. An old man by the time he came to power (he was born in 1902), Khomeini had learned the ways of the British, the French, the Germans, and to a limited extent he had impressions of the Soviets and the Americans. All of those ideas worked within his mind, along with the means he planned to employ to forward his vision of Islam. In many respects, Khomeini was strangely evocative of Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler, Khomeini’s father died while he was a child. Like Hitler, Khomeini started as a bit of an aesthetic, preferring philosophy in his early years in much the same way that Hitler tried to pursue art. Like Hitler, Khomeini found his fame as a rabble rouser, and a hater of Jews. And like Hitler, Khomeini rose to power through usurpation of the existing regime. In Hitler’s case the dissolution of political dissent after the Reichstag fire; in Khomeini’s case the strident cry for armed revolt against the Shah.

Khomeini also found the lure of ‘Mahdi’ irresistible, though the man was canny enough to avoid actually claiming the title. A devotee of ‘Irfan, which blended elements of mysticism into practices and study of the Koran, Khomeini took this largely Sufi practice and applied it to politics, essentially declaring that Allah had pronounced the “Rule of the Jurist”, or national rule through the Imams, firmly tying legitimacy of government to Sharia and control by the Mullahs. As their head, Khomeini pronounced himself the supreme ruler of Iran, and as such directed the revolution against the Shah. Declaring the Shah’s dictates to have “no value”, Khomeini further polarized the conflict, constantly decrying the corruption in the Shah’s government and the brutality of the SAVAK (ironic, compared to the sort of tactics Khomeini’s own regime later sponsored), and casting the conflict as a ‘Shah or Allah’ choice.

There are basically four ways for a leader to rule a nation:

• Many tribes and monarchies relied on the rule of love for the leader. This is also more accurately called the ‘cult of personality’;
• Leaders often rule by directing hatred towards a selected target, often a minority group within the country as a scapegoat for government failures, or a neighboring country to blame or attack for various economic or cultural troubles;
• Representatives democracies and republics use the rule of law to establish a consistent standard of expectations and accountability. Respect for the rule of law is the principle condition for this method;
• Governments which cannot justify their actions any other way will rule through fear, often by excessively harsh penalties for noncompliance.

Khomeini chose a blend of methods two and four, casting Iran as the sole defender of the faith against an Infidel world, and by creating a maze of government bodies based on his personal interpretations of Sharia, so that he maintained control of the military, police, and media. Further, he directed the funding, supply and moral support for dozens of terrorist groups to destabilize regional governments, including connections to the Jihadists who murdered Egyptian President Sadat in 1981. It speaks to the state of the Middle East that the assassination of their President did not result in a major war between Egypt and Iran. The Jihadists grew bold. After the American retreat from Lebanon following a terrorist attack on their barracks in 1983, the Jihadists grew bolder still, believing that they had found a way to take consolidate control of the Middle East, and establish the long-awaited Caliphate, secured by the military strength of terrorist attacks and paid for with oil.

The West answered, though not fully. Various dictators received comeuppance from both the United States and the Soviet Union, who cooperated in a secret and thoroughly unofficial manner in such events during the 1980s as the Osirak raid in Iraq, a number of rescue operations in Lebanon and Egypt, and in tanker protection for Kuwaiti oil during the Iran-Iraq war. There is even reason to believe that someone played a hand in the 1987 humiliation of Libya by Chad, though intelligence sources in both the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. only smile and deny any personal participation in the matter. The problem was not only the continuing, if diminishing, Cold War between East and West, but also the problem of addressing a threat which purportedly had no connection to a formal state. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, got around the appearance of sponsorship by funneling money and supplies through prominent families and religious groups.

So, the Ayatollah Khomeini came to signal a paradigm shift, from Islam as a personal practice led by a few theological Imams, to Jihadism and the expectation of public displays of piety and Political Correctness on a level only dreamed about in California. The Jihadists demonstrated whom they feared by repressing them harshly, from women who might vote, to media which might report both sides of an issue, to young Muslims choosing leadership based on their personal needs and aspirations. Sharia was used to keep women under male control, to control the flow of information and propaganda, and to prevent young men from holding major offices, unless they had proven their services in the revolution. It is no coincidence that Iran’s new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was directly involved in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, and a strict Jurist in the Khomeini mold. Nor should it surprise anyone, that the Imams have been working to insure the “political reliability” of anyone in power in the Middle East; leaders have been advised, sometimes in distinctly unsubtle ways, that their political survival, perhaps their literal survival, depends on support for Jihad. Muslims around the world have been told that Jihad is no more or less than a battle for the survival of Islam, and that any strike against Jihadists must be considered an attack on all Islam. Lacking an effective leader, Islam has not yet responded to correct this lie.

The Jihadists’ game plan operated on four levels. The primary level was to shove all foreign influence out of the Middle East, which is to say all non-Islamist governments, including Israel of course, but also Turkey and several of the aristocracies inclined to secular rule, such as Jordan and Kuwait. The second level was to push out the Soviets, which was effectively accomplished with the retreat from Afghanistan, which further fed the Jihadists’ confidence. The new second front is to deal with Asia, which is to say principally address relations with China – the Middle East has found that the People’s Republic is amenable to anything which insures the flow of oil, though the growing Jihadist threat along China’s Southwest flank gives its Army concern, as well it should. The third front is Europe – the Jihadists have found little to fear from Europe, seeing the flaccid response not only to the Bosnian Wars but also the Chechnyan and Balkan insurrections. Small wonder the matter has spread to incited violence in Holland, Germany, France, and England.

The fourth front, and the most difficult to predict, is the American front. The Jihadists learned American politics from Jimmy Carter. Claim to be the victim and hey, that’s what you are! The Jihadists misread Reagan, taking his focus on the Soviets for disinterest in the Middle East, but they read Bill Clinton right. Like the Chinese, Clinton seemed to judge successful relations in the Middle East in terms of oil production, trade agreements, and meaningless promises. The Jihadists noted the lack of attention to Hussein, the disinterest in North Korea’s nuclear buildup, and the mercenary character or Clinton’s political campaigns, and decided that money and stealth would suit their purpose in the course of actions. Ironically, one of their own uncovered their plans before they could come to fruition.

NEXT - Part 4, Jihadist Blunders and the Renewed America

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