Chapter 22

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The Great Religious War

 

ďWe had better dispense with the personification of evil, because it leads, all too easily, to the most dangerous kind of war: religious war.Ē

Konrad Lorenz

      The next great danger, apart from America destroying herself from within through bad decisions, is the Great Religious War. This is the war between radical Islam and the West with America being the foremost symbol of the West.

      I will discuss their culture so the reader will see how we differ from our enemy.

      The issues are very complicated given the vast differences between Middle Eastern and Western cultures. We simply do not understand each other. I was in the Middle East for 4 months. This was my first exposure to that part of the world and the first thing I noticed was the unbearable heat. The men all wear white and the women all wear black. The womenís heads are covered with only a small slit for them to see through. It is very strange walking down the street. We called the women BMOs (black moving objects).

      So the first difference I noticed was the total lack of fashion although there are very cheap and very expensive versions of what they wear, but westerners canít tell the difference. Fashion is very important part of Western culture with very few people wearing the same outfit two days in a row. Where their women wear sandals, our women have dozens of pairs of high heeled shoes. While on the subject of shoes, the greatest insult you can pay an Arab is to show them the sole of your shoe. I was warned repeatedly about this. We men have a way of sitting with one leg laying horizontally across the other. This stance of necessity exposes the bottom of the shoe. I caught myself doing that many times. A strange way to insult people and itís the equivalent of giving someone the finger in the West.

      I enjoyed the food which was very tasty and healthy. I was doing business there and learned a lot about how they do business. First, nothing is ever settled. The deal is completed only after money has actually changed hands and it's too late to get the money back. Any verbal arrangement and even contracts are up for renegotiation and change until the money actually changes hands. This explains the problem that we had negotiating with Yassar Arifat who was always backing out of deals that were made verbally. To him this is how business is done. What was said yesterday has little to do with today especially if something changed last night.

      We, on the other hand depend on agreements and contracts to lock things in and the changing hands of money is a formality once the deal is made. This is our business culture, theirs is totally different.

      An interesting idea they have is Islamic banking. The Koran forbids charging interest as we do in the West. So how do banks make loans? The bank lends you money and becomes a partner in your business. They will share in the profits and this, with the payback of the principal, makes the bank a profit. This means that it is in the bankís interest that you succeed in your business and they will help you do that. They use their contacts to help you succeed so they will not only get the principal back, but some of your profits as ďinterest.Ē

      In the West a bank might make a loan to you and also make a loan to your competitor also. Giving your competitor a loan is actually against your business interests but the Western banks make money off of both of you.

      I went to open a bank account. Saving accounts are easy but a checking account is more difficult. You have to be recommended by another customer of the bank. If you bounce a check and refuse to make it good, the bank will go to the person who recommended you and request that they make it good. If that person refuses the bank will go to the person who recommended him and ask them to make it good. All along this gets embarrassing for everyone who are seen as recommending a deadbeat. It usually gets taken care of at the lowest level. So there are few bounced checks.

      Crime was virtually unheard of. Punishment is very, very strict. They could lock you away for a very long time, cut off your hand or cut off your head. You are perfectly safe walking the streets at any time of the day or night and in any neighborhood. When there is an issue to deal with the police appear and says the equivalent of ďfreezeĒ. Anyone who runs is shot, the thinking being that if he wasnít guilty, then why did he run? In America that would guarantee that the policeman would brought up on charges. There the policeman might get an award for a job well done.

      If your dog bites someone who is not on your property, the police come and shoot your dog. That is the end of it. So people keep their dogs well locked up.

      In Bahrain I saw some beautiful mansions generally made of marble. People had marble driveways. The sides of their mansion were marble as were the floors inside. The Holiday Inn I stayed at was solid marble. But next to a beautiful mansion might be a junk yard or a mini-mall. They have no sense of zoning. There was a large, oil pipeline that ran through the front yards of a long line of beautiful mansions. Residents had to drive across a little bridge to get to their house. Nobody seemed to mind. Their attitude is that this is my home and I canít be held responsible for what is around me. I have no control over that.

      So you can see how we differ and to try to understand them in terms of our own beliefs is impossible. Yet we are forced by circumstance to deal with these people and now those relationships have taken a sharp turn toward a very threatening place.

      First, if we did not get our much needed oil from there, we would ignore them completely and they would live in 800AD.

      The West has always meddled in the Middle East beginning when that area was a part of the trade routes to the East ĖIndia and China. The British Empire dominated the place and built the Suez canal. They built railroads as well. Lawrence of Arabia, a British officer wanted to unite all of Arabia into one country and thought that he had the blessing of his government to do that, but the British decided that having them as a bunch of feuding tribes would make it easier to control hem. If you look at a map of the Middle East you will see a lot of straight lines, rather than so called natural boundaries caused by rivers and mountain ranges. This is because those boundaries were drawn in the British Foreign Office with a ruler. The British actually created those countries and their boundaries.

      When WWII ended, the Jews, given the suffering that they endured as the West initially looked the other way, felt that they were due their own homeland. They wanted it to be their historical homeland which was Palestine. The British obliged and eventually Israel was formed.

      To understand the significance of that in Arab terms you have to remember two things. First, the Arab people can trace their heritage continuously back to the Roman Empire. In Europe their Roman heritage was interrupted by the Dark Ages which lasted until the Renaissance. Although this is continuous history, it is not a continuous heritage in the cultural sense. By comparison, Americans can only trace their culture back a couple of hundred years.

      So the Arabs see their history as one long continuous unpunctuated event. The second thing to remember is that Arabia, in addition to a long history of being dominated by Europe, was invaded many times by the Crusaders. European armies actually invaded and killed many of their people. They then see Israel as a permanent European settlement in their land and are determined to remove this permanent settlement. Accordingly, they see Americaís wars like the Kuwaiti war and now the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars as just another invasion from the West and exactly like another crusade, only this time led by the Americans rather than the Europeans. We, of course, donít see it that way. Thus, there is a great misunderstanding between us.

      Accordingly, they see our support for Israel, who drove the Palestinians off their lands, as our support for a Western settlement in their land. The Israelis see their occupancy of Palestine as land that was won fairly in war and in a war that they did not start. Throughout history land was won in war and was kept by the victors as the fruits of the victory. Nearly every country in the world was formed that way including America, who took the land from the Indians.

      These views continued with a minor war from time to time for a long time. But now a fundamental change has taken place. Radical Muslims have sensed that the West is weak and in decline. And they are right. They think that now is the time to strike. They have the manpower and are close to the oil fields that we need. If they can get control of the oil they can, bring the West to its knees. To do that, they will have to topple Middle-East governments that are friendly to the West. To do that they will need gorilla armies. This was the model that caused America to lose the Viet Nam war.

      They have the people and all they need is a cause to unite them. Israel is the cause. This will, they know, have to be an unconventional war because they do not have cruise missiles and supersonic jet fighters and bombers. American once fought an unconventional war against the British to win her independence. The radical Muslims see this as exactly the same thing.

      As for the use of suicide bombers, the Japanese used these in WWII. As for the killing of civilians, the Americans and British bombed German cities ruthlessly during WWII killing many civilians. The cruelest was the fire bombing of Dresden. Thousands of civilians were burned to death including children and old people. So the West has killed its share of innocent civilians.

      As far as the development of nuclear weapons goes there is this argument. Israel has nuclear weapons so why canít we? Suppose this compromise is put forward. Letís make the Middle East a nuclear free zone. We will stop our development of nuclear weapons and Israel will give up her nuclear weapons and agree to inspections to verify compliance. Sounds fair except that Israel will never give up her nuclear weapons. They are their ace in the hole that Israel will never be destroyed. So that compromise is out.

      How about if we setup a homeland for the Palestinians? Many attempts have been made to do that. Jordan even turned over the entire West bank to them. Israel claims to want this but that may only be lip services. If there was a Palestinian homeland then it would be sovereign country. This means that it could have an army. The homeland would get much support from the rich Arab states so it would have a fine army. Probably not as good as Israelís armed forces since they enjoy having the finest American weapons. We would not make those weapons available to the Palestinians. They would have to get their weapons from the French and the Russians.

      What if there was a war? Given that Israel has nuclear weapons Israel would ultimately win that war. So what if Palestine got nuclear weapons from, say, Iran? Well now we would be back to the MAD theory. MAD stands for Mutually Assured Destruction. This is what prevented nuclear war during the cold war. Both sides knew that they would be destroyed in such a war. MAD worked.

      This would be the case if the Palestinians had nuclear weapons. Neither side would be able to use them. In this case, either side would pollute their own lands with radio activity. That pollution would made the land uninhabitable a century. Thus, neither side could or would use them. If there was a war it would be a conventional war as all the wars in that part of the world have been. Israel, with the better weapons would win that war. Plus the Palestinians would be busy for years just establishing their new country. They would not have time to think about war for a long time. So why donít they have a homeland? This would take a lot of the pressure off that part of the world.

      So our arguments to them seem hypocritical as if the radical Muslims are being held to a different standard than soldiers in previous wars. It seems unfair. Talking, as so many recommend, may be fruitless. First, our general outlooks are vastly different owing to our cultural differences.

      Removing Israel is out of the question. Anything we recommend is going to look one-sided and not a fair deal. War seems the only solution but we are not winning the war. Our hands are tied by our own softness and by a division in the American public. Like all wars, the most vicious generally win and we are not the most vicious. Not only that, we do not even have a cause to rally our people behind. They have a cause and it is getting Western influence out of their lands. The people will rally behind this cause. What do we have? The survival of Israel? How many Westerners really care about that and are willing to die for it? We do have the economic cause of continuing to get the oil but nobody wants to say that all this killing is over oil. We need a moral cause. 9/11 gave us that and stopping the terrorist became the Clarion call. 9/11 was a big tactical error on their part and Bin Laden took the heat for it. Their cause is so strong that their people are willing to commit suicide for it while we have trouble raising funding for the war.

     This is why we have not had any more terrorist attacks here. The word has been put out. The American public is turning against the war. We want that trend to continue. So no terrorist attacks that would unite the American people and change their thinking. When the Americans pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan as they will surely do, then we can start the terrorist attacks as payback. We have to win this war, they only have to keep it going until we grow tired.

      This makes the speech from President Bush curiously correct. We are fighting them over there so that we do not have to fight them over here. And they will follow us home if we pull out.

      This is one of those great turning points in history. We canít leave Iraq and Afghanistan without having terrorist attacks here and we canít stay in Iraq and Afghanistan either. This was an ill-conceived operation from the beginning as was the Viet Nam war. (But it does create jobs.) There they had the strong moral cause of uniting their country, we had the weaker cause of stopping communist aggression.

      When the body bags start coming home only a strong moral cause will do.