There are hundreds of important stories in today’s news.
How do we feel about Mr. Trump’s running mate?
Why do so many dislike Hillary?
What made Ruth Bader Ginsberg back down? Should she?
Is it going to be Hillary and Tim?
Can Theresa May bring sanity to Britain?
Congress adjourns (again!) without doing much.
Rio and health: Olympics and disease.
China’s new “islands” and South Korea’s attempts to copy.
Nice is attacked on Bastille Day.
Whoops! Let’s stop there. And the reason for stopping in Nice this morning is that today, for the first time ever in our hearing, a fairly respected cable pundit announced on a morning television show that we were going to lose the war against ISIS.
This came as something of a shock, as you can imagine.
Especially on the heels of hearing Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton solve the ISIS problem in theory only seconds before.
Mr. Trump’s plans are shadowy, imprecise but bellicose. Mrs. Clinton’s suggestions are international in scope and include another summit.
But what neither seems to grasp is that we can’t beat ISIS unless we are willing to spend every moment of every day, every cent of every dollar, tracking, seizing, and killing not only probable actors in this miserable drama but also probable innocents as well.
ISIS is a state – of mind. ISIS is in the air from the fragrant shores of the Mediterranean to the gasoline-soaked atmosphere of southern California. How do we combat something so ephemeral and yet so real?
We haven’t a solution, but suddenly we remembered how Spain in the fifteenth century did it.
Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spain was smaller than that country now. It was smaller because the southern half of the nation was ruled by what were then called Moors. Another name would have been Islamists.
For hundreds of years the Moors, having conquered Spain, ruled there beneficently, leaving architecture, infrastructure, art, music, and customs to enrich the celestial atmosphere of a country – though occupied – also at peace.
It was Isabella rather than Ferdinand who decided that Spain was for the Spanish, and who led the campaign to rid the country of Islamists. It was not an easy or short battle, but eventually she was triumphant. She used her armies, of course. She used The Church. She used propaganda and threats. It was a full-bore campaign.
In today’s military terminology, we might say she expelled and then “contained” her enemies. Thereafter, she allowed no immigration but for those who swore fealty to Ferdinand and herself.
Well, we aren’t quite in the same position. We don’t expect our enemies to kneel and pledge their hearts, hands and weaponry to our defense. But that’s what the Moors did, before, in time, scattering across North Africa and breaking into tribes and encampments that, until recently, gave Islam its tribal power and character. Not until the early twentieth century did interstate dependence grow into nationalisms.
This was also a hundred years before Islamic sectarianism evolved. Where once Islam had been content to be contained in its kingdoms, the boundaries, the borders of these embryonic nations contained – if not sufficient wealth and produce, status and influence – at least a homogenous view of Paradise. Or so it seemed. The West seemed unaware, or perhaps unable, to consider there was more than one brand of Islam.
Yet it was the West, in decimating religious and sectarian power in Iraq, that brought desert winds to uncover the fissures within Islam. And once unleashed and identified, wars – tribal and civil — flourished.
The tables were turned. Where once Isabella ethnically cleansed Spain, now Islam wanted to ethnically cleanse its own territories. But in order to do this, Islam had to silently declare war on states near and far in order, it was hoped, to defeat their senses of pride and power and to force them to withdraw their own nationals from the shores of all Islam.
Which leads us to Nice, only one outpost of European colonialism that sought to control, and if not to control then to kill, people in Africa, in South America, in the Far East.
Islam does not want to physically control France. Or Belgium. Or us. It wants two other things, one physical and one psychological.
Physically, it wants its own “Caliphate,” as it was once established before and shortly after 1492.
Psychologically it wants mental dominance over the rest of the world. It wants recognition as a great power. It wants parity with Catholic Europe and with Protestant North America. Thankfully its eyes have not yet focused on Latin America. As for Asia, Islam has been dominant there for decades, even though it still likes to remind those territories and states of the Pacific that Islam is where their fealty belongs.
But modern Islam has an even more frightening aim. If changing the attitudes and beliefs of the West is too great a task at this time to achieve, it wants the West’s ideas of progress, dominance, and freedom to evaporate. And to this end, it kills as many carriers of idealism and charity as it possibly can.
What we are engaged in, backing into it over the past dozen years, is mental combat. Islam is not afraid to go to war, kill, die, and go to Paradise. The West is not yet convinced that Paradise exists. Islam is certain it does.
Neither Trump’s saber-rattling nor Mrs. Clinton’s international summits are going to dissuade true Islamic believers.
What will – and we hate even to hint at this – apart from complete and total extermination?