In her most recent column at the Wall Street Journal and reacting to the terror attacks in Brussels, Peggy Noonan weighs in on defeating radical Islam:
There are said to be 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Most are and have been peaceful and peaceable, living their lives and, especially in America, taking an admirable role in the life of the nation.
But this is a tense, fraught moment within the world of Islam, marked by disagreements on what Islam is and what its texts mean. With that context, the child’s math: Let’s say only 10% of the 1.6 billion harbor feelings of grievance toward “the West,” or desire to expunge the infidel, or hope to re-establish the caliphate. That 10% is 160 million people. Let’s say of that group only 10% would be inclined toward jihad. That’s 16 million. Assume that of that group only 10% really means it—would really become jihadis or give them aid and sustenance. That’s 1.6 million. That is a lot of ferociousness in an age of increasingly available weapons, including the chemical, biological and nuclear sort.
My math tells me it will be a long, hard fight. We will not be able to contain them, we will have to beat them.
This is a widely-held view and a lot of policy is predicated on it. I also think it’s wrong. It assumes a steady state system.
Quite to the contrary I think that, since Islam is sola scriptura and lacking in a magisterium (teaching authority) which means that anybody’s interpretation of the sacred texts is as good as anybody else’s, there will always be idiots who give those sacred texts literal and bloody interpretations, something to which Islam lends itself distinctively because of the high incidence of bloody prescriptions in its sacred texts compared with, for example, the Christian New Testament. The New Testament isn’t without bloody prescriptions and historically there have been literal and bloodthirsty interpretations of it but a difference in degree is a difference in kind and objectively the Muslim sacred texts are considerably more violent than the New Testament. My point here is not that all Muslims are violent radical jihadists; it is that violent radical jihadism is in a sense endemic in Islam.
The choices then are extermination of the good with the bad, something I think that any right-minded person should reject, containment which will be painful, difficult, and go against the grain of most liberal Westerners (liberal in the old sense rather than liberal in the sense of progressives), or acceptance of risk in a world of increasing individual empowerment in which a handful of jihadis can do more damage than a regiment could have a couple of centuries ago.
Those aren’t appealing alternatives which explains why we’ve been so reluctant to select one. Grasp the nettle, as me auld mither used to say.