April 11, 2004

Battlefield Mind 

Since my “State of the World” post, some significant things occurred on the front of the war against radical Islam: Islamic terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid, causing almost 200 deaths and hundreds of wounded. Sheikh Yassin, the mastermind of Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, was killed by an Israeli airstrike. The situation in Iraq became suddenly worse, with the uprising of Shiite militias (probably piloted by Iran), and fights also in Sunni areas. Coalition forces are regaining control of the whole country, but it’s not the easiest of tasks. Islamic terrorist plots have been foiled in London, with the arrest of several people and the seizure of a great amount of explosive material.
The War on Radical Islam is thus being waged by military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan (and other places like the Philippines), and by law enforcement bodies in all the Western world – even the Saudis are doing something quite serious about it.

But the main battlefield is elsewhere: in our minds and hearths.
The Islamic extremists, in fact, have shown a total dedication to their cause and a steel determination: they are eager (not just ready) to die to kill infidels. They probably won’t surrender, and the only available option is to kill them all.

But will we have the same determination and resolve?
I do not mean that our soldiers should become as ruthless and savage as them: the response must be with carefully calibrated force, to destroy the enemy but not to harm the innocents – as much as it’s possible. Ferocious in battle but magnanimous in victory.

But will we stand fast, sad but still focused, when our cities will be devastated by more attacks, when our loved ones will die or get injured, when our soldiers will go to the war and never return, and when they will kill innocents in the unavoidable collateral damage? Will we keep our resolve in front of hard trials, determined not to surrend neither to lash out in blind fury?

We have the military power to win, even without recurring to the dreaded nuclear weapons (the nuclear option is so extreme that no sane man in considering it, except as a last resort).

But the will to win is an altogether different matter: it needs a moral foundation. We need to know that there is something good worth fighting and toiling for. The evil of war now (I never thought that war was nice) will avoid a bigger and worse evil in the future.
In these conditions, it’s too damn easy to become radical in another sense – maybe Christian.
But the what is worth fighting for is not another religion. It must be the free, democratic and liberal society, where people can worship any God or none at all. Where thoughts, ideas and information can flow freely, and where men and women can decide individually the course of their lives.

We don’t need so many soldiers in the field (technological evolution more or less put an end to the era of million-men armies, human waves and carpet bombing), but the soldiers need support. The whole society needs a sturdy foundation, otherwise it would crumble to rubble, and our armies and weapons will be useless.

The ideologues in the enemy field know this (they may use skewed logic and irrational reasoning, but they are not stupid) and they are betting that our resolve will fail.
Let’s make them lose the game. Let’s make them realize in horror that the civilization they thought coward, empty of values and resolve, still has spine and soul.


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