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A soldier takes issue with Pat Buchanan.

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Why They’re Really at War With Us

A soldier takes issue with Pat Buchanan.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In his recent article, Pat Buchanan purports to define why al Qaeda is at war with us. Instead, he recites enemy propaganda serving only to reinforce their talking points while continuing to convolute the real motivation behind their actions.

Over eight years since 9/11, it is amazing that a prominent conservative would not understand the fundamental motivation and doctrine driving those who have and continue to attack us. This is not rocket science.

Raymond Ibraham’s analysis in his invaluable book, the Al Qaeda Reader, best summarizes it. On page xii he explains that radical Islam’s war with America and the west is not finite and limited to political grievances real or imagined but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in [the Islamic] faith.

Pat mentions only half of al Qaeda’s binary worldview in his article, the dar al-Islam (the land of Islam). By failing to even mention the dar al-Harb (the land of warfare), he fails to acknowledge that Islam, by doctrine (Koran 9:29), views the entire non-Muslim world as a land that must be subdued under Islamic rule (read sharia law).  This is explained in the primary text of Islamic Law, Reliance of the Traveler by Ahmad ibn Naquib al-Misri (page 605).

What Buchanan also fails to mention, is taqiyya – the Islamic doctrine of deception, the understanding of which is fundamental to understanding the threat. Muhammad himself said war is deceit. (See “Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari” by Muhammad Muhsin Khan, p. 614) Here again, Mr. Ibraham has done yeoman’s work analyzing and explaining the doctrine of taqiyya and its impact on jihadist terrorism in his article, “How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War.”

As we learn from Reliance of the Traveler, by Islamic law there are things Muslims are required to know and there are other things we, as non-Muslims, are allowed to know. In fact, Islamic law requires lying at times (it is obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory.) (See pages 8-14, 732 and 745).

As a result of their binary world view, al Qaeda has two main audiences: the Muslim world (the ummah) and the non-Muslim world, consisting of the United States and the rest of the Western world. As such, it uses markedly different approaches to address each group.

When speaking to America and the Western world, al Qaeda turns statements made by what Lenin called the “useful idiots” into popular propaganda. They frequently cite Michael Moore, William Blum and other liberal commentators.

In contrast, when speaking to their constituents — the Muslim World — bin Laden and Zawahiri instead use formal Islamic theology and sharia law as levers to enforce Muslim compliance. Those who don’t comply are labeled apostates, who, by sharia, must be killed and will inhabit hell. (See “Reliance of the Traveler,” pp. 595-98 and 848).

Written for Muslim audiences, they [al Qaeda’s Islamic theological treatises] are rarely translated into English or disseminated to a non-Muslim public. This is unfortunate since they reveal much more about al Qaeda’s ideology than the more famous political [propaganda] speeches. In these theological tracts, al Qaeda gives Muslims reasons why they should hate and fight the West that differ from those they give in their political speeches. (“Al Queda Reader,” p. 2)

There’s a difference between reciting the enemy and knowing the enemy. Buchanan confuses the two concepts. Which is why his cry for appeasement is misguided. He implies that if we packed up and came home (from Iraq, Afghanistan and all other Muslim countries), and adopted an isolationist foreign policy, then they would stop attacking us. Wrong.

Not only would this hand them a strategic victory, but they’d simply find another reason to continue to attack us. Islam cannot be appeased. (Koran 9:29). Not to mention the moral bankruptcy of abandoning the Afghan people and leaving them under the repressive rule of the Taliban.

Buchanan writes as if the Taliban were a legitimate government. The Afghanis know we are not the Russians or some other malicious occupier. But they are realists in a hostile land with a legitimate concern about our staying power and what will happen after we leave. Pat’s argument doesn’t help our cause.

Buchanan states that this is their war (the Muslim world’s war) and suggests that if we stayed out of it they would leave us alone. Even if this were true — and it is not — it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

Americans are not being killed, as Buchanan retorts, for the propaganda reasons he repeats, but rather for who we are and what we believe. Not one American died in Iraq in December because the Iraqis finally saw the bankrupt ideology al Qaeda was selling and they helped us eradicate them.

To bin Laden and his ilk, we are the Great Satan. They hate us more than they hate Israel.

As for Hamas and Hizballah — which Pat paints as if they have benignly left us alone — they are here in the United States — actively pursuing a strategy of non-violent jihad that is arguably a more dangerous threat than the challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia.

I can understand his sentiment and aversion to war. As a career soldier, I know too many Gold Star parents to be cavalier about war.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself
. – John Stuart Mill

As a parent, you’ll not hear me utter the unfatherly expression, Give me peace in my day. Rather, I will always say — as the real Thomas Paine said in 1776 — If there must be trouble, let it be in my day that my child may have peace.

It’s time we start to know our enemy.

As for Mr. Buchanan, it’s encouraging that he’s started to learn the enemy’s vocabulary. I hope he’ll stop repeating the enemy’s talking points and blaming us for the enemy simply executing their own offensive, totalitarian doctrine.  

It takes many hours to read and study books such as the ones I have mentioned here.  But unless more Americans do — especially opinion leaders such as Mr. Buchanan — we cannot understand the true nature of the enemy.

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Written By

Thomas Paine is the nom de plume of an active-duty Army officer with two combat deployments to the Middle East and almost two decades of service. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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