A Lesson on Terrorism from Harold the Saxon

The Battle of Hastings  was a turning point in Western Civilization, as the Norman invaders (from France) crushed the Saxon defenders, and eventually gave the world what was to become British civilization. The hapless Saxons were led by Harold Godwinson, AKA Harold the Saxon.  Harold's defeat in 1066 should be a sobering lesson to those who have the responsibility of protecting us from terror.

Admittedly, Harold had many factors working against him. The day before, he and his troops had fought a punishing battle against a usurping brother and had then made a forced march to meet the invading Normans. Harold and his soldiers were weary, outnumbered, and poorly equipped. But their main weakness was a tactical one.

Harold relied entirely on massing his forces on a hilltop, with their shields interlocked to protect them from the attacks of Norman troops.  And that 'shield—wall' worked, for most of the day, until repeated assaults finally wore it down. The trouble was that Harold's plan was purely defensive. He had no means of killing off his enemy—no offensive tactic. In contrast, the Normans had archers who sent clouds of arrows down on the Saxons to diminish their ranks. It was supposedly a lucky arrow that fatally wounded Harold and precipitated the Saxon defeat.

Harold sounds a little like us, doesn't he? Depending primarily on defensive measures against terrorism with no effective means of killing off the enemy before they attack. Only our position is worse. Our 'shield wall' is not on a bare hilltop but in a clearing in the middle of a forest. Our enemies are not in plain sight but hidden in the forests around us, becoming visible only when they strike.   Moreover, they are not just around us but also hidden in our midst, in copses and clusters of trees inside our shield wall, so to speak. Our raids into those trees are sporadic and generally unsuccessful. (You have probably noticed by now that this sounds uncomfortably like the situation our army encountered in Vietnam.)

Therefore, our only hope is to either cut down all those trees or somehow render them transparent.

In desperation, I am forced to be blunt. The 'forests' in which the terrorists hide, are the Islamic nations and communities in the Middle East and all over the globe. The 'copses' within our shield—wall are the Muslim communities in Europe and the US. It is no longer a secret that these are the breeding grounds and the safe havens for nests of terrorists.

The only humane way we can win—the 'transparent' way—is by receiving the wholehearted aid of these Muslim communities in ferreting out and destroying the terrorists in their midst. This has worked, occasionally, in Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly because the Islamic majorities in these countries perceive the extremists and terrorists to be their enemies. It may have played an important role in breaking the London ring planning to take down large numbers of airliners.

But it has not worked elsewhere, always. It has been established that the Islamic extremists who perpetrated the London underground bombings lived in Muslim communities there and were known to be extremists by the Muslims around them. If they had been reported by civic—minded Muslims, the bombings might have been averted.

The situation in Europe can only get worse. In view of the continuing intransigence of the Muslim communities and the tolerance, not to say pusillanimity, of the native Europeans, a stalemate will continue until, as Herbert E. Meyer pointed out in the Siege of Western Civilization, the Muslims simply breed themselves into a majority and, as they tried to do a millennium ago, take over Europe.

The situation in the USA is as yet uncertain. The majority of Muslims in America are, as Mark Gabriel would classify them, 'secular.' They do not accept, or at least do not practice, every sura of the Qur'an and, either guiltily or defiantly, do not believe in the practical necessity of Jihad. But they have friends or even family who do believe in such things and are potential terrorists or abettors of terrorism. So, like many liberal Christians, they maintain a state of denial and keep hoping that they will never be forced to choose between their lifestyle and the strict interpretation of their religion.

Like many Christians, their religion is largely a matter of tradition and custom rather than doctrine. Like many Christians, they try to serve both God and mammon and evade any consideration of the sterner tenets of their religion. Some of them are even distressed about being pulled both ways.

Their position is pitiable because the cajolery and bullying of the fundamentalists in their midst must of necessity resonate with their ethnic loyalty and religious guilt.  Therefore, some of them actively support the terrorists while others hope that they can compromise, by giving a little half—hearted aid to terrorist groups or at least ignoring their presence, and that the rest of America will tolerate their betwixt—and—between position.

In this, they are mistaken. The rest of America will not tolerate such a position and will eventually retaliate. I say this not vindictively but as a sympathetic warning. Americans react to terrorism not with terror (as Jihadists erroneously hope) but with dangerous anger. For all our apparent mildness, as de Toqueville discerned, Americans tend to meet violence with violence.

It is probable that smoldering US anger about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (a classic act of terrorism) had a critical effect on the fates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If al Qaeda manages to perpetrate something worse than the 9—11 attack, with an even greater loss of life, then  neutrality would no longer be an option, and mere lip service, such as the issuance of fatwas, will be ignored.  American Muslims will need to convince the people of the United States, by deeds instead of words, that they are doing their sincere best to root out the terrorists among them.

Paul Shlichta is a research scientist.

The Battle of Hastings  was a turning point in Western Civilization, as the Norman invaders (from France) crushed the Saxon defenders, and eventually gave the world what was to become British civilization. The hapless Saxons were led by Harold Godwinson, AKA Harold the Saxon.  Harold's defeat in 1066 should be a sobering lesson to those who have the responsibility of protecting us from terror.

Admittedly, Harold had many factors working against him. The day before, he and his troops had fought a punishing battle against a usurping brother and had then made a forced march to meet the invading Normans. Harold and his soldiers were weary, outnumbered, and poorly equipped. But their main weakness was a tactical one.

Harold relied entirely on massing his forces on a hilltop, with their shields interlocked to protect them from the attacks of Norman troops.  And that 'shield—wall' worked, for most of the day, until repeated assaults finally wore it down. The trouble was that Harold's plan was purely defensive. He had no means of killing off his enemy—no offensive tactic. In contrast, the Normans had archers who sent clouds of arrows down on the Saxons to diminish their ranks. It was supposedly a lucky arrow that fatally wounded Harold and precipitated the Saxon defeat.

Harold sounds a little like us, doesn't he? Depending primarily on defensive measures against terrorism with no effective means of killing off the enemy before they attack. Only our position is worse. Our 'shield wall' is not on a bare hilltop but in a clearing in the middle of a forest. Our enemies are not in plain sight but hidden in the forests around us, becoming visible only when they strike.   Moreover, they are not just around us but also hidden in our midst, in copses and clusters of trees inside our shield wall, so to speak. Our raids into those trees are sporadic and generally unsuccessful. (You have probably noticed by now that this sounds uncomfortably like the situation our army encountered in Vietnam.)

Therefore, our only hope is to either cut down all those trees or somehow render them transparent.

In desperation, I am forced to be blunt. The 'forests' in which the terrorists hide, are the Islamic nations and communities in the Middle East and all over the globe. The 'copses' within our shield—wall are the Muslim communities in Europe and the US. It is no longer a secret that these are the breeding grounds and the safe havens for nests of terrorists.

The only humane way we can win—the 'transparent' way—is by receiving the wholehearted aid of these Muslim communities in ferreting out and destroying the terrorists in their midst. This has worked, occasionally, in Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly because the Islamic majorities in these countries perceive the extremists and terrorists to be their enemies. It may have played an important role in breaking the London ring planning to take down large numbers of airliners.

But it has not worked elsewhere, always. It has been established that the Islamic extremists who perpetrated the London underground bombings lived in Muslim communities there and were known to be extremists by the Muslims around them. If they had been reported by civic—minded Muslims, the bombings might have been averted.

The situation in Europe can only get worse. In view of the continuing intransigence of the Muslim communities and the tolerance, not to say pusillanimity, of the native Europeans, a stalemate will continue until, as Herbert E. Meyer pointed out in the Siege of Western Civilization, the Muslims simply breed themselves into a majority and, as they tried to do a millennium ago, take over Europe.

The situation in the USA is as yet uncertain. The majority of Muslims in America are, as Mark Gabriel would classify them, 'secular.' They do not accept, or at least do not practice, every sura of the Qur'an and, either guiltily or defiantly, do not believe in the practical necessity of Jihad. But they have friends or even family who do believe in such things and are potential terrorists or abettors of terrorism. So, like many liberal Christians, they maintain a state of denial and keep hoping that they will never be forced to choose between their lifestyle and the strict interpretation of their religion.

Like many Christians, their religion is largely a matter of tradition and custom rather than doctrine. Like many Christians, they try to serve both God and mammon and evade any consideration of the sterner tenets of their religion. Some of them are even distressed about being pulled both ways.

Their position is pitiable because the cajolery and bullying of the fundamentalists in their midst must of necessity resonate with their ethnic loyalty and religious guilt.  Therefore, some of them actively support the terrorists while others hope that they can compromise, by giving a little half—hearted aid to terrorist groups or at least ignoring their presence, and that the rest of America will tolerate their betwixt—and—between position.

In this, they are mistaken. The rest of America will not tolerate such a position and will eventually retaliate. I say this not vindictively but as a sympathetic warning. Americans react to terrorism not with terror (as Jihadists erroneously hope) but with dangerous anger. For all our apparent mildness, as de Toqueville discerned, Americans tend to meet violence with violence.

It is probable that smoldering US anger about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (a classic act of terrorism) had a critical effect on the fates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If al Qaeda manages to perpetrate something worse than the 9—11 attack, with an even greater loss of life, then  neutrality would no longer be an option, and mere lip service, such as the issuance of fatwas, will be ignored.  American Muslims will need to convince the people of the United States, by deeds instead of words, that they are doing their sincere best to root out the terrorists among them.

Paul Shlichta is a research scientist.