Civilization and its Enemies, by Lee Harris (2004), is one of the most important books published since the end of World War II, and unless the Trump administration heeds its warnings, we may lose World War III!
Harris reminds us that civilized people forget “that there has ever been a category of human experience called “the enemy.” The enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason and not ours. He does not hate us for our faults any more than for our virtues. He sees a different world from ours, and in the world he sees, we are the enemy.”
The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was only superficially motivated by Islamic hatred of American wealth and power. America is hated because it is the enemy – the Great Satan. The same hatred animates Hamas and Hezbollah vis-à-vis Israel – the Small Satan. Israel, like the United States, is the enemy, the enemy of Islam’s world view.
Israel's mere existence is a historical refutation of Islam. Israel’s restoration is a refutation of Islamic prophecy and of its prophet Muhammad. This fact alone is a threat to the power structure if every Islamic state. Does Donald Trump, the great deal maker, fathom this?
Muslims are taught that the world is divided into the “Domain of Peace” and the “Domain of War.” This is the 1,400-year-old mindset of Islam drilled into the Muslim psyche from infancy. True, some Muslims have broken out of this mental straitjacket, notably Dr. Wafa Sultan, now living in America.
According to Dr. Sultan, a psychiatrist, Islam cannot be reformed; it must be “transformed.” But to transform Islam is to transform its view of Muhammad and the Qu’ran, hence, Islam’s concept of the enemy. This will not be done by “changing hearts and minds” via a “Voice of America,” Islam’s ideological centers need to be relegated to the dust heap of history.
Mankind has always thought of the enemy as one you must kill or destroy first, otherwise, sooner or later, he will kill or destroy you. We do not think this way. “We are caught,” says Harris, “in the midst of a conflict between those for whom the category of the enemy is essential to their way of organizing all human experience and those who have banished even the idea of the enemy …”
Americans who uphold the values of the Enlightenment refuse to recognize that those who are trying to kill them are their implacable enemy. “They hope that by pretending that the enemy is simply misguided or misunderstood … he will cease to be an enemy. This is a fatal illusion.
To see the enemy as someone who is merely an awkward negotiator is perverse. It shows contempt for the depth and sincerity of his convictions, a terrible mistake when you are dealing with [a master of dissimulation] who wants you dead,”
Americans like Obama, and Israelis like Netanyahu, do not viscerally, hence do not fully understand that if we are the enemy, then we have an implacable enemy. Once we recognize this fact, says Harris, we must change everything about the way we see the world. Thus, if your enemy consists of men who will stop at nothing, who are willing to die and to kill, then you must be willing to do the same. “Only those who have mastered ruthlessness can defend their society from the ruthlessness of others.” Ruthlessness will determine the outcome of World War III, just as it determined the outcome of World War II, when Dresden was napalmed and Hiroshima was incinerated.
Today, however, our educators have been shaping our minds with utopian ideals “designed for men and women who know no enemy and who do not take precautions against him. These ideals are appropriate for a world in which everyone plays by the same rules, and accepts the same standards, of rational cooperation; they are fatally unrealistic in a world in which the enemy acknowledges no rule accept that of ruthlessness.”
Harris dismisses as superficial the view of liberal-leftists who, in response to 9/11, said, eliminate poverty or cease supporting Israel and terrorism will cease. He also dismisses the view of conservatives who said 9/11 was an act of war comparable to Pearl Harbor, and that the grievances held against us by our enemy are irrelevant.
Harris states that both err in regarding 9/11 as having merely had a political objective. But Al-Qaeda made no political demands on the United States. “Indeed, it did not even claim to have made the attack in the first place.”
The tapes of Bin Laden reveal that the destruction of the World Trade Center was not part of the original terrorists’ scheme. Nevertheless, Muslims saw the collapse of the Twin Towers as a manifestation of divine intervention. The 19 hijackers did not bring down the towers; Allah did. It is no wonder that the Arab street erupted in exultation. 9/11 erased centuries of Islam’s degradation vis-à-vis the West. The destruction was a victory for Muslims everywhere. It restored their overweening pride, their sense of superiority over the enemy.
Harris sees Islamic terrorism, especially suicide, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. The Qu’ran praises the Muslim who “slays and is slain” for Allah (Sura 9:111). To die by annihilating the enemy is the Muslim’s supreme glory. This sheds light on the bizarre behavior of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Netanyahu’s “peace partner” with whom he wants to negotiate on the (impossible) basis of “reciprocity.”
The PA was offered statehood by PM Ehud Barak in 1999, but the transparent and ultimate goal of these Muslim/Arabs is not statehood but annihilation of the enemy, Israel. Israel’s ruling elites cannot face the fact that compromise – the modus operandi of democracy – is foreign to Islam’s world view.
Now, let’s consider what Harris understands by the term “civilization.” First, he rejects cultural relativism, the dogma of the West and of higher education in America. By civilization he means a standard that can be applied across cultures and across history. He sees civilization as having four prerequisites: (1) a stable social order, (2) the co-operation of individuals’ pursuing their own interests, (3) the ability to tolerate or socialize with one’s neighbors, and (4) a hatred of violence.
Clearly, Islam lacks three of the four prerequisites of Harris’s view of a civilization. Syrian-born psychiatrist Wafa Sultan arrived at the same conclusion. She denied a clash between the West and Islamic civilization because, in her words, Islam is not a civilization! Bat Ye’or calls it a “culture of hate.”
We face a deadly asymmetry. Muslim leaders know the enemy; America’s leaders do not. This is why if Iran develops nuclear weapons we may lose World War III.