One empire falls and another rises in its place. It’s an old story and it is what we are seeing in the Middle East.
The Islamist resurgence was fed by the collapse of two world powers, the USSR and the US. The fall of the Soviet Union robbed the Arab Socialist dictatorships of their support. The last of these, Syria, is now under siege, by Sunni Islamist militias.
Egypt’s Sadat had made the move to the American camp early enough to avoid the fate of Syria or Iraq, but instead his successor, Mubarak, encountered the fate of the Shah of Iran. With the fall of Egypt, Syria is the last major Arab Socialist holdout, and if it falls, then the Middle East will have shifted decisively into the Salafi column.
Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States has not actually collapsed, but its international influence is completely gone. Bush was accused of many things, but impotence wasn’t one of them. Obama however gave the Taliban a premature victory with a pullout deadline, ineptly waffled over the Iranian and Arab protests, before eventually getting on board with the latter, and allowed the UK and French governments to drag him into a poorly conceived regime change operation in Libya.
The loss of American influence was felt most notably in the Middle East, where its former oil patrons took the opportunity to back a series of Salafi crusades, the political Islamist version of which was known as the Arab Spring. The rise of political Islamists in democratic elections was however only one component of a regional strategy that depended as much on armed militias as on the ballot box.
In Egypt, protests followed by elections were enough to allow the Salafis, a category that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, to take over. That was also true in Tunisia. In Libya, a new American client, the government put up a fight, little realizing that Obama wasn’t Putin. Instead of getting American backing, Gaddafi got American bombs, and the Islamist militias, armed and funded by Qatar with Obama’s blessing, got Libya. In Benghazi they repaid the help they received from Obama and Stevens by humiliating the former and murdering the latter.
In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood’s militias are racing the Al-Qaeda linked militias to the finish line in Damascus, while Western pundits prattle reassuringly about a moderate and secular Syrian opposition, which is as moderate and secular as Egypt’s Morsi.
The land rush of the Arab Spring has begun as secular governments affiliated with Russia and the United States fall, to be replaced by believers in an emerging Islamist Caliphate. The Arab Spring isn’t 1848; it’s 638, the Mohamedan expansion at the expense of the ailing Byzantine Empire, a rampage that eventually ended in the Islamization of the Middle East. For Salafis, this is their opportunity to Re-Islamize the Middle East under the full force of Islamic law.
The Salafi crusades are the beginning of a new wave of global conquests, with old sheiks using oil money from the decadent West to outfit militias of young men with top quality American and Russian weapons before sending them off to die, while they wait for news of the new caliphate and bed down with their eight wife.
This isn’t an entirely new game. Bin Laden was playing it for decades and Salafi crusaders have been fighting the Ottoman Empire and massacring Shiites for centuries. The notion of the Salafis threatening the Middle East and the whole world would have been even more absurd if American oil companies hadn’t rewarded their tribal allies with inconceivable wealth while turning a blind eye to their ambitions. And the notion that the Salafi crusade would ever extend to Europe would have been even more absurd, if not for the jet plane and the liberal immigration policies of Socialist governments with aging populations looking for a tax base and a voting base.
The Salafis, despite their feigned obsession with the purity of the desert, have piggybacked their conquests on Western technologies and policies, from the wire transfer to the jet plane to the cell phone to liberal political correctness and Third Worldism.
Declining empires want stability without war and they are willing to cut a deal with anyone on the way up who has a large enough army and will promise to keep the peace. Carter’s Green Belt strategy hoped to build a wall of Islamist governments to keep the Soviet Union out of the Middle East. The Soviet Union is dead but the Green Belt strategy has been revived by Obama in the hopes of using political Salafis willing to run for office to hold down the Salafist militias willing to kill everything that moves.
It’s hard to imagine a more decadent strategy than trying to outsource your defense policy to the least evil of your enemies, but variations on that theme have been the American defense strategy since the Salafi terror attacks of September 11.
After a decade of trying to divide the Islamist sheep from the Islamist goats, feeding billions to Pakistan to fight terror, extraditing Gitmo terrorists to revolving door rehabilitation programs run by Saudi Arabia, setting up a Palestinian state, making nice to Muslim Brotherhood front groups at home and then setting up the Muslim Brotherhood with a few choice countries of their own in the Middle East; the United States is less secure than ever for trying to appease its way out of the Salafi crusade.
Handing over Egypt and Tunisia to the Islamists earned us a new wave of attacks on September 11, 2012. What handing over Syria to the Muslim Brotherhood will get us can only be imagined.
But Western leaders have a long history of misreading the Muslim world by assuming that Muslim leaders want what good European and American liberals do. Instead Muslim leaders want the sort of things that even few European right wingers want anymore.
Understanding the Salafi crusades means imagining a society where Anders Behring Breivik wasn’t a deluded madman fantasizing about an international network of knights waiting to carry out acts of terror in a war to seize control of Europe and murder millions, but where he and his ideas were mainstream enough that billionaires would fund them and tens of thousands of young men would go to carry them out while television shows and preachers cheered them as martyrs.
Europeans, of course, shudder at the idea, but they have brought those tens of thousands of Breiviks into their own societies through Muslim immigration and Saudi and Iranian mosques. And they have turned over the Middle East to the sort of men who make Breivik look like a schoolboy.
We saw the Salafi crusades in action on September 11. We can see them in action in Nigeria where Boko Haram terrorists blow up churches and in Mali where Salafi fighters chop off the hands of thieves and give teenage girls 100 lashes for talking to boys on the street. We can see them in action in Aleppo where the bodies of tortured priests turn up and in Israel where their terrorists fire rockets from the shade of schools and hospitals.
The Salafi political victories, militia victories and terror attacks are all part of the same phenomenon, and it is about time that we confronted it for what it is. War is politics by other means and politics is war by other means. To the Salafis seizing power, by the bullet or the ballot, the one are one and the same so long as the road leads to the Islamic empire of the Caliphate. Obama’s forced decline of America has led to a new wave of Salafi conquests and the war for civilization has begun in earnest.
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