Steven Den Beste has written what will probably be one of his most provocative essays. In it he argues, along the same lines as Victor Davis Hanson, that the only way to win the war on terror is by essentially committing cultural genocide and wiping away Arab culture.
I’m afraid he may be right. What Arab culture has now become is a threat to not only the future of the Arab people, but the world at large. It is a culture that wallows in its own self-pity, lashes out at anyone who acts differently, and rejects basic and innate human rights. If that is what Arab culture is, then yes, it must be completely altered.
On the other hand, I want to believe that there’s something more to Arab culture than that. I cannot fathom the idea that the people of the Arab world want to be oppressed, that they want to live under a system of totalitarian fanaticsm. No one chooses to be oppressed – and if shown what freedom is, they will do whatever it takes to reach it.
This war isn’t going to be won solely by guns and bombs. Yes, they will be necessary, and we may have to use military intervention to ensure that these regimes do not harm our interests. But it must not end there. I firmly and fervently believe that once a person sees freedom, they will want it for themselves. We won the Cold War not only with guns and bombs, but also with ideas.
Democracy and capitalism are superior to Islamofascism and totalitarianism. Human nature, for the most part, desires freedom. The only reason that the Middle East is in the mess that it is in now is because those regimes have done everything they can to restrict the freedoms of the people.
While precision munitions and stealth aircraft have their role, the best weapons we have against Islamofascism are the satellite dish and the television. States like Saudi Arabia have tried to introduce American culture piecemeal – trying to censor or destroy those elements that will "corrupt" their culture.
What they fail to understand is that is invariably a futile task. Freedom moves of its own volition – and no government, no matter how much they try, and quench the basic need for personal freedom. Benjamin Netanyahu once said that freedom always flows from places that are more free to those that are less free. Looking at the unrest in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the way in which many Afghanis welcomed the Americans as liberators bears this out.
Part of this war will be fought militarily, but the other part of this war will be fought in the hearts and minds of the people. We’re not fighting the whole of the Arab world. Not all Arabs are terrorists or fanatics. Most are people who live in a system that oppresses them and permits only fleeting glances at true freedom. Those people aren’t the enemy. If anything, many of them are allies in waiting.
Does this mean we shouldn’t be willing to take action against these regimes? No. But we need to be decisive in war and magnanimous in victory. We cannot let those who don’t believe in Western civilization keep us from instilling the values of personal liberty, limited government, democracy, and pluralism in the Middle East. If that’s cultural imperialism, then fine, let us have imperialism. The people of the Arab world deserve better than they’re getting, and our values can help them shape a better world for themselves.