Friday, February 10, 2006

So why are they doing it?

Cliff May has a good article at discussing the reasons why the militant Islamists are doing what they're doing. He argues that those who are orchestrating the violence (and most of it is quite well orchestrated) know quite well that they're doing far more harm to the image of Islam than the cartoons were. But they know their Machiavelli: for those who would rule, "it is better to be feared than loved." For ruling is exactly what they're after: rule over non-Muslims, and even over those Muslims who would like to join the modern world.

As an aside, I think it's great that one key to understanding their behavior is contained not in some bright new analysis from some think tank, but in the writings of one who was observing politics five hundred years ago.

Another key is the long tradition of Muslim aggression against non-Muslims, and of intimidation and threats when their targets were beyond their physical reach. It was that way when Islam first exploded out of the desert in the 640's. It was that way when they started roughing up Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land in the 1000's. It was that way when Islam kept pressing into eastern Europe during the Renaissance, and besieged Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683.

And it's still that way today, when terrorism has provided an effective weapon such as Islam hasn't had since the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 1800's.

May's article draws parallels between the Islamists and Nazi Germany; the insatiable lust to rule is common to both. I'd draw another parallel. In the mid-1930's, when the Nazis consolidated their hold on German politics, many Germans tried to oppose them, and others, less courageous, despised the Nazis but were too afraid to resist. It's the same with Islamic countries now. We keep hearing that the Islamists are a minority, and that most Muslims don't share their extremism. I'll grant that, for the sake of argument. But that minority has gained control of Iran and Syria, is close to it in Egypt and Turkey, and is flexing its muscles everywhere else. When Europe was overrun in 1939-41, it didn't matter that dedicated Nazis were a political minority in Germany; the overrunning took place anyway. And it won't matter to the rest of us that Islamists are a minority when they hold the reins of national power in a dozen countries and use oil money to buy nuclear weapons and missles.