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Jewish World Review June 11, 2002 / 1 tamuz, 5762

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world? | William Lind saw America's war with terrorism coming 13 years ago, when he co-propounded the concept of "fourth-generation warfare" to describe how wars of the future were going to be fought.

Warfare in the 21st century, Lind predicted as the Soviet Union began to crumble, would no longer be the monopoly of the state. Instead of the armies and navies of nations fighting each other, wars would be fought between "non-state" forces who were fighting for religious, ethnic or ideological reasons. And war was going to be fought not way "over there," but on our own soil.

Welcome to the post-Sept. 11 world.

Besides being an author and military expert, Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, is one of the founders of cultural conservatism, which argues that America's success is a result not of our political or economic systems but our Western Judeo-Christian culture.

Lind and Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, recently wrote an essay in which they said Islam - as it was only 300 years ago - is a deadly threat to the West because it is inherently "a religion of war."

Q: The fight against terrorism isn't confined to a single state at all, is it?

A: No. First of all, terrorism is merely a technique. It's a very common technique in (modern) warfare, in the form of terror bombing by aircraft. When we say we're in a war on terrorism, obviously you can't make war on a technique. What we're really fighting here are non-state opponents.

Our point is that one of the principal non-state opponents that we now face is Islam, is a culture. One of the many dimensions of fourth-generation warfare is a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict.

We are used to a world in which the nature of war is defined by Western cultures. And war is army versus army, navy versus navy, air force versus air force. But other cultures don't necessarily fight this way.

In fact, if we look, for example, at the historic way Arabs fight, which is like irregular cavalry warfare, what we're calling terrorism is essentially that now carried out not only with modern technical means, but at the operational and strategic levels, not merely the tactical level. So other cultures are not going to fight the way we do.

Fourth-generation opponents don't try generally to engage your military. What they want to do is bypass it. They want to bypass the whole apparatus of the state and strike directly at your society, your people and your own culture.

Q: Which is how our current war with terrorism is being fought.

A: Yes. Absolutely. Of course this is happening. But again, what we see is, we don't know how to respond, because we're responding like a state. So we, in effect, declare war on Afghanistan. Sure, we can go in and take Afghanistan but it doesn't make any difference.

As the Pentagon repeatedly says, al-Qaida is all still there. It still has plenty of ability to act. And al-Qaida is only one of a myriad of non-state organizations within Islam that are waging war. Probably the two most competent are Hamas and Hezbollah, which between them have done a very good job of defeating the Israelis.

We've all seen how great the Israeli has been historically in stand-up wars with other states. But Israeli is losing, and it is losing to non-state opponents. So the state does what the state knows how to do, but it is irrelevant to a non-state opponent.

Q: So is Islam the West's greatest enemy at this moment?

A: Yes. At this moment in my view the No. 1 challenge we face - and it's a very old challenge revived, it's not a new challenge - is the threat from Islam. As we note in our monograph, there are lax Islamics, but there is no such thing as peaceful or tolerant Islam, and there never has been.

Q: Are all Muslims equally dangerous or equally trying to overturn Western culture?

A: The answer is no and yes. In other words, not all are equally dangerous, but yes, all are trying to overturn Western culture. Because to be an Islamic means that you are committed to all the world becoming Islamic.

This is central to Islam itself and this is at the very root of the concept of jihad. Islamic theology says it's only a question of when everyone in the world is Islamic and every Muslim has the duty of furthering that.

Now, Christianity also has that same concept of course. Both are proselytizing religions. The difference is that in Islam it is perfectly legitimate to do that by war.

Q: Many people say that the problem with Islam is that it sort of hasn't grown up and matured or come to its senses the way Christianity has. A thousand or 1,500 years ago, Christianity could do some pretty nasty things when it was one with the state. Is there anything to this? Will Islam ever be able to lighten up a little?

A: Essentially, no. Because first of all, Islam is, by definition, all fundamentalist. That is to say, the Koran is to be accepted as literally true. There are fundamentalists within Christendom who believe the Bible is to be taken literally, but that's very much a minority viewpoint.

Second, Christ never comes out and says, "Hey guys, go out and go to war." But Mohammed says it all the time. Mohammed was a military leader himself.

So if you combine that with the fact that to be an Islamic means to accept the Koran as literally true, and Mohammed as the model for your own life, what do you have? You have a religion of war.

Q: So you can have, as we have seen, a religion of war that doesn't even need to be allied with a state to commit warfare.

A: It goes even further than that. One of Islam's advantages in a fourth-generation world is that in Islam the state is not and cannot be legitimate. All legitimacy is found only in the ummah, which is the community of all Islamic believers. The state is not legitimate. So, not only is it a religion of war, it is a religion of war that automatically looks beyond the state.

Q: So the church is the state?

A: Yes. There is no separation. The only legitimate law in Islam is shariah, which is based directly on Koranic injunctions. In other words, you just look it up in the Koran. Which, unlike the New Testament, is a complete model for the rules for life.

It tells you everything you need to know for life, including what punishment would be for crimes. The only legitimate law is Islam is law that comes directly from the Koran.

Q: How do you win a war in fourth-generation warfare? What does the West or its defenders have to do to defend itself?

A: Essentially, to survive in a fourth-generation world, a state needs two characteristics. It needs a unitary culture and an open political system.

That means in our situation, obviously, we need to recognize that multiculturalism (the idea that all cultures are equally valid and the West's culture is nothing special) is poison. We need particularly to control immigration and we need to make sure that all immigrants assimilate to our tradition American culture.

Obviously, that means English language, the whole Anglo-Saxon culture of the public square that has always defined America.

Q: Which doesn't have anything to do with being white or Protestant.

A: No. In other words, what we showed in the 19th century we took people from all over. We took people from the Russian shtetl and Americanized them very effectively.

The other thing that it requires is an open political system, which we say we have but we don't. A real open political system, for example, makes extensive use of referenda, which we make very limited use of here. An open political system gives you more than a choice between two parties, both of whom essentially represent the same thing.

Two good examples of not having an open political system: First, over and over again, when, at the state level, people pass something by referenda and one man, a member of the establishment, a judge, overturns it. Second, look how Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan were shut out of all the debates in the last presidential race. So the people essentially had a very limited choice.

Our situation in America today, with a relatively closed political system and an establishment preaching multiculturalism, does not bode well for America's survival in a fourth-generation world.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
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04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
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03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
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02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald