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It’s Religion and Altruism, Stupid

In an article titled “It’s an Islamic jihad, stupid,” Diana West wonders why the Bush administration “keep[s] things vague and indirect,” pursuing a “war on terror” rather than a war on “Islamic jihadists.” Ms. West notes that

without understanding the religious nature of jihad (holy war), along with its sister institution of dhimmitude (inferior status of non-Muslims under Islam), there can be no triumph over jihad and no avoiding dhimmitude. There can also be no understanding of the religiously rooted attitudes toward jihad movements among even non-violent Muslims, generally ranging from a tacit ambivalence to wild adulation.

This is true, and it points to a deeper fact that Americans need to face. Either faith—i.e., the acceptance of ideas in support of which there is no evidence—is a valid means of knowing the truth, or it is not. The Islamists have faith that they are right and good and that Americans are wrong and evil. If faith is a valid means of knowing the truth—as many Americans continue to believe—then how can anyone say that the Islamists are wrong? What Americans need to face is the fact that faith is invalid. Man’s only means of knowledge is reason. The true and the good and the right can be known only by means of observation and logic and recognition of the requirements of human life on earth. If Americans want to name and defeat their actual enemy, they must lose religion; they must embrace reason.

Ms. West further wonders why “we repeatedly send our military on dangerous house-to-house missions with restrictive rules of engagement rather than using air power.” The cause of this insanity is another sacred cow that Americans need to reject: altruism. Either being moral consists in being selfless, or it does not. If it does, then such policies are perfectly moral. After all, what could be more selfless than sacrificing our sons and daughters to the enemy? If sacrifice is moral, then losing loved ones is virtuous.

Being moral does not consist in being selfless; it consists in being selfish—i.e., acting in a rational, life-promoting manner as a matter of unwavering principle. Accordingly, acting morally with regard to the Islamist threat means swiftly eliminating the regimes that support the movement—especially those in Iran and Saudi Arabia—using the full force of our military. It means destroying these regimes, not by sending soldiers into close-range combat, but by launching big bombs from high altitude and long distance—as we are perfectly capable of doing. But in order for Americans to see the morality of taking such action, they would have to be willing to challenge the dogma of altruism—something that few Americans today have the independence or courage to do. Thus, we relentlessly engage in acts of blatant stupidity and court our own destruction. As Ms. West notes:

In a war in which an interrogation could save a city, we rewrite our interrogation rules to make sure that it won’t. “If this debate were limited to what’s best for interrogation purposes, the decision (about whether to soften interrogation techniques) would be pretty easy,” a senior Defense Department official told The New York Times. “But then you have to look at what we lose diplomatically.'”

Why? What are we, Liechtenstein? We sure act like it. The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley recently noted the defeatism in America’s about-face with jihadist Iran—the looming front in the war. By offering non-military nuclear technology or else threatening non-military sanctions, the Bush administration seems to have acquiesced to what Blankley describes as “the only ‘respectable’ position” among both European and American elites: namely, “the absolute exclusion of a military option.”

If true, this would mean that the already inadequately titled “war on terror” would no longer refer to “war” at all. And that would leave only….

Indeed, it would. So long as Americans embrace religion, faith, and altruism, we will suffer the consequences. What will it be, America?

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