"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"It's about oil"

With that easy cynicism which so often passes for sophistication, opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom often assert that said U.S. venture is really all about oil. It isn't, of course—at least not in the sense such people imagine. There is no rational calculus by which our expenditure of blood, treasure, and prestige in Iraq is justified by any real or even imagined advantage to us in the oil markets. If and when it emerges from the current jockeying and wrangling, the fledgling Iraqi government will need every penny of oil revenue and lots more just to keep operating. But in a sense, our self-inflicted handicaps in the war with radical Islamism are about oil, and the battle against the Iraqi insurgency is mainly a theater in that war. We need to understand why in order to be prepared for what lies ahead.

There is no religious freedom in the most influential Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both countries are enemies of religious freedom and therefore our enemies. The former subsidizes and exports Wahabbism, the "fundamentalist" version of Sunni Islam to which al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and many other non-terrorist Muslims subscribe. That al-Qaeda is bent on overthrowing the House of Saud and is engaged accordingly in violent conflict with it is merely an internal squabble within Wahabbism about relations with the West: the terrorists believe that the Saudis are whores by getting into bed with "the crusaders" for money and for protection from the many dangers they face. In other words, some Wahabbists believe that the Wahabbist custodians of the Muslim holy places aren't pure enough in their religion and therefore are no better than infidels. As for Iran, persecution of Christians has resumed with the advent of a president so radical in his theology that he wants to hasten the return of the Mahdi by violent action against Israel and the United States. And now that Hamas, an unrepentantly terrorist organization, is the freely elected government of the Palestinian territories, Iran will be an increasingly important source of funding for them as the U.S., Britain, and eventually the EU cut off funding. Iran has long been that for Hezbollah, the most established non-Palestinian terrorist organization confronting Israel, and is eager to control Hamas by doing the same for it. These groups are all coming together for a decisive showdown with Israel as the latter continues retrenching behind what it hopes will be its permanent borders.

Why don't our leaders acknowledge all this for what it is: a religious war? Why does the Bush Administration speak instead of the war on "terrorism" and the need to prevent Iran from acquiring "the bomb"? Why focus only on the weapons instead of on the issues feeding the conflict? Simple: they're terrified of seeming to be disrespectful of Islam and thus religiously intolerant. Apparently, such an appearance would be too politically costly. It probably would be. But why?

Well, our leaders can't afford to be frank about Wahabbism, because then the Saudis and their Persian-Gulf allies would take offense and make it much harder for us to get oil from them. That's why we allow their violent anti-Jewish filth free reign everywhere, including in the U.S. And we can't afford to point out, with frankness that would be justified, that the Shiite ideology which rules Iran has produced a regime run by a religious nut bent on kindling a conflagration for essentially religious reasons. Iran has lots of oil that our European friends need; saying such things would only inflame Muslim sentiment all the more and thus hurt all Western interests. In short, candor would be counterproductive. Or would it?

That's what our leaders think, and they are right. But only in the short run. In the longer term, their policy is itself counterproductive. By refusing to make the real issue clear to the general public, our leaders ensure that the real issue will not be understood and confronted. As long as the real issue is not understood and confronted, people will harbor the illusion that our enemies can be placated by negotiation and mutual economic self-interest. But all that such factors produce are temporary truces that are bound to break down eventually. There is no real peace between radical Islam and the West, nor can there be. The reasons why are clear in what the Islamists say and do. The longer people fail to understand that, the more tempted we'll be to become dhimmi instead of fighting for our freedom, as we have already begun to be obliged to do.
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