James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 20, 2005

Warring against Radical Islam

I wrote this letter to the editor in response to The Real War is Against Radical Islam, Stupid! by Mike Thomson at the Partial Observer. Concluding remark:

Third, fighting “radical Islam” is really a fight against all Arabs and all Moslems. If the tables were turned, the USA was weak and a foreign superpower declared war on “fundamentalist Christianity,” everyone would know that this would really be a war against a) all Americans and b) all Christians all over the world. This is because you can’t separate fundamentalist Christians from the rest of the population, and there is no possible agreed upon line between “reasonable” Christianity and the fundamentalist sort. In the ensuing war, every single insurgent fighting this superpower would be called a “fundamentalist” when in reality they could just be normal people defending their country, their families, and their property.

It would also be clear that such a war could not be “won” by either side, and that it is best to not wage such a war.


  1. I am always suspicious of wars against abstractions: war on terror, war on drugs, war on poverty, etc. How can military force be deployed to make war on a religious point of view? This would mean killing and terrorizing the faithful.

  2. "The Real War is Against Radical Islam, Stupid" contains an interesting mix of common sense and naivete. You were right to call out portions of this in your letter.

    The concluding paragraph of your response fails to recognize that radical Islam, or the ideology inspiring the fanatics we should be combating, is indeed distinguishable, primarily by its attitude toward and willingness to carry out acts of violence.

    The ideology of radical Islam is not an abstraction, but rather a real threat to the continued existence of the United States as we know it. It is the common denominator of recent attacks on U.S. civilians and sovereign territory (9/11 twice, East Africa embassy bombings).

    Were fundamentalist Christians preaching the value of indiscriminate violence in the name of religion, it would be easy to delineate a boundary between that and a "reasonable" Christianity.

    It is far too easy to paint everyone fighting the U.S. with the "radical Islam" brush (and it is done far too often). Many "insurgents" in Iraq are not of the radical Islamic ilk and are inspired by altogether different factors, but are nonetheless grouped into this bucket.

    The problem we face is the blurring of lines between radical Islam and the rest of Islam, spurred in large measure by the actions of the United States. We risk engendering a feeling of solidarity between the radical Islamists and the everyday Moslems who would otherwise lack in sympathy for them.

  3. The problem with separating radical Islam from traditional Islam is that Americans lack the cultural knowledge to make the distinction.

    It's easy for Americans to pick out extremist Christians because the culture has a complex and nuanced definition of Christianity. When it comes to Islam, Americans have a very limited schema.

  4. vache folle, you raise a very valid point here. I, too, am hesitant about abstract wars. This statement in the article has raises an issue that most people don't consider when they jump headstrong into the ongoing wars.