Americans could learn a thing or two from Bibi Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister was in
Less controversial but more intriguing was his description of the turmoil in the
Everyone understood what he meant, of course. The Islamic State believes the Muslim world took a wrong turn more than a thousand years ago.
The Taliban, the Wahhabis, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and all the other Islamists share this same worldview to one extent or another. Not every Islamist believes in crucifying Christians or throwing acid in the face of little girls going to school. But they all reject modernity, pluralism, secularism, democracy and, in many cases, even science.
"Medievalism" isn't a perfect word, but it's a better word than "terrorism" or "Islamism."
First, terrorism is a tactic. If
Second, in a war, tactics are secondary. Let's imagine the Islamic State kept growing and became a major military power. If it replaced typical terror tactics with tanks, ships and armies but continued to make war against the U.S. and our allies, that wouldn't change the fact that we'd still need to destroy our enemy.
Last, there are many terrorist groups that are not Islamic at all. The self-described "Real IRA" is certainly a terrorist outfit, and I have no problem with it being crushed, but it is not a strategic threat to
This is why many conservatives prefer terms like "jihadism" or "radical Islam" -- for the simple reason that it is more accurate. Conceptual clarity is essential to national security strategy.
Still, one can understand why Bush didn't want to declare war on Islamism or jihadism. Put simply, such labels create a propaganda problem because they make it easier for the radicals to claim we are at war with Islam itself. There are more than a billion Muslims in the world, and while far too many are sympathetic to the jihadists, there are still hundreds of millions who reject terrorism. It does not help us with our Muslim allies when we sound like we are at war with their faith.
At the core of progressive ideology is the Whiggish idea that modernity is preferable to the customs of the past. As a conservative, I think progressives often go too far -- way too far -- in applying and misapplying this thinking. But they are right on the big picture. Modernity -- by which I mean tolerance, pluralism, equality, democracy -- is preferable to absolutism.
In February the U.N. issued a report chronicling how the Islamic State was burying alive, beheading and crucifying children. The next day, President Obama went on a tear about how we in the West shouldn't get on our "high horse" about it because Christians did terrible things a thousand years ago.
I'd still rather live under medieval Christians than under the Islamic State, but that's beside the point. The reason Obama's statement was so morally obtuse is that he was comparing medieval Christians from a millennium ago to monsters who proudly videotape their crimes in the here and now. If we can't get on our high horses about that, what use is there in having high horses at all?
And that's what I like about the term "primitive medievalism." It highlights the real divide not just between modern Westerners and the barbarians, but between modern Muslims and the barbarians.