Why not nuke Mecca? Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has brought the issue to the table. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has demanded that he apologize to Muslims, and commentators left and right have subjected him to vociferous criticism. Although many have attacked him for the wrong reasons, his suggestion is still wrong.
Primarily, of course, it contravenes Western principles of justice which, if discarded willy-nilly, would remove a key reason why we fight at all: to preserve Western ideas of justice and human rights that are denied by the Islamic Sharia law so beloved of jihad terrorists. But even aside from moral questions, which are increasingly thorny in this post-Hiroshima, post-Dresden world, there are practical reasons to reject what Tancredo has suggested.
Tancredo’s idea, of course, is based on the old Cold War principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Both sides threatened each other with nuclear annihilation, and the threats canceled each other out. The Soviets would no more risk Moscow being wiped out than we would Washington.
But applying this principle to present-day Islamic jihad is not so easy. The Soviets did not inculcate into their cadres the idea enunciated by Maulana Inyadullah of al-Qaeda shortly after 9/11: “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” This lust for death runs through the rhetoric of today’s jihadists, and goes back to the Qur’an. Will men who glorify suicide bombing and praise their God for beheadings and massacres fear the destruction of holy sites? It seems unlikely in the extreme — and that fact nullifies all the value this thread may have had as a deterrent.
Others have argued, however, that the deterrent value of destroying Islamic holy sites would lie not in giving jihad terrorists pause, but in showing Islam itself to be false and thus removing the primary motivation of today’s jihad terrorists. If Allah is all-powerful and rewards those who believe in him while hating and punishing the disbelievers (the “vilest of creatures,” according to Qur’an 98:6), wouldn’t he protect his holy sites from these disbelievers?
However, Muslims have weathered such shocks to their system in the past. In 1924, the secular government of Turkey abolished the caliphate; the caliph was considered the successor of the Prophet Muhammad as the religious and political leader of the Islamic community. By abolishing the office, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk hoped to strike at the heart of political Islam and create a context in which Islam could develop something akin to the Western idea of the separation of religion and state. Instead, his act provided the impetus for the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization, in Egypt in 1928. The Brotherhood and its offshoots (which include Hamas and Al-Qaeda), and indeed virtually all jihadist groups in the world today, date the misery of the Islamic world to the abolition of the caliphate. The ultimate goal of such groups is the restoration of this office, the reunification of the Islamic world under the caliph, and the establishment of the Sharia as the sole law in Muslim countries. Then the caliph would presumably take up one of his principal duties as stipulated by Islamic law: to wage offensive jihad against non-Muslim states in order to extend Sharia rule to them also.
The abolition of the caliphate, then, accomplished precisely the opposite of what Ataturk hoped it would: it gave the adherents of political Islam a cause around which to rally, recruit, and mobilize. In essence, it gave birth to the crisis that engulfs the world today. It is likely that a destruction of the Ka’aba or the Al-Aqsa Mosque would have the same effect: it would become source of spirit, not of dispirit. The jihadists would have yet another injury to add to their litany of grievances, which up to now have so effectively confused American leftists into thinking that the West is at fault in this present conflict. But the grievances always shift; the only constant is the jihad imperative. Let us not give that imperative even greater energy in the modern world by supplying such pretexts needlessly.