Islam Must Evolve to Serve Its Followers
Let's Build an End to War
Inigo Montoya was obliged to avenge his father, but he recognized that "there is not a lot of money in the revenge business." The civilized world has similarly realized that there is not a lot of money in the war business. Modern industry can create far more wealth than a country is likely to gain through violence, but most of the Islamic world has yet to realize this.
Boko Haram's recent massacre of hundreds of Nigerian villagers, along with mass beheadings by ISIS in Iraq, are only the two most recent examples of why militant Islam has nothing to offer its followers but squalor, poverty, and violence. Militant Islam needs to replace its mantra of jihad, hatred of infidels (including the wrong kinds of Muslims), and deluded dreams of world domination with Lowe's slogan, "Let's build something together," if it wants to continue to be relevant to its followers.
Let's Build an End to War
The rise of industry has made war theoretically obsolete. War, and slavery, evolved from the agriculture that made civilization possible. There is no real incentive for either in the absence of farms. Combat between Zulus was originally ritualistic, and a man who killed an opponent had to leave the field immediately for ritual purification. The losing tribe had to relocate from desirable grazing land, but, because Zulu wealth (cattle) was portable, nobody was willing to fight to the death over the issue.
The wealth and livelihood of the ancient Greek farmer was not, on the other hand, portable. If an invader drove him off his land, he and his family became immediate paupers who might even starve to death. This was why the Greeks perfected the art of killing at close quarters, which the Romans adopted quickly. It is also why agricultural societies tend to be a lot better at war than nomads, who prefer raids over pitched battles. The nomad loses nothing by running away from a fight he is losing, while the farmer cannot afford to run away.
Agriculture is also why many societies allowed only land owners to vote. A man whose wealth was not portable had to stand and fight to defend it, and the surrounding society. The key takeaway is that, for all but the most recent 150 or so years, agriculture was the principal source of wealth. This was a strong incentive to steal land from weaker neighbors.
Then came the Industrial Revolution, and factories that could transform raw materials into enormous wealth. Working-class people who once went barefoot to avoid wearing out their only pairs of shoes could now afford several pairs of shoes. Textile mills allowed the mass production of clothing as well. Steeleye Span's "The Wife of the Soldier" describes how a woman gets, presumably as loot from war, gifts that were valuable during the Napoleonic era. A couple of hours' worth of decent wages will buy any of the named items in a retail store today, and without any risk of freezing to death in Russia.
Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, a man whose business was war, realized even in the late 19th century, "[n]either territorial gain nor billions in indemnity can replace the dead nor offset the mourning of families." Then Henry Ford introduced his moving assembly lines, which should have made war obsolete more than 100 years ago. Ford pointed out correctly that the average criminal worked harder, and for less money, than a worker in a good manufacturing job.
A country can similarly gain far more from industry than it can from war, which underscores the real tragedy of World War II. If Adolf Hitler had, after reoccupying the Rhineland and tearing up the Versailles Treaty, simply let Germany's factories make high-quality goods, Germans would now revere him as much as they do Frederick the Great, Helmuth von Moltke, and Otto von Bismarck. He chose instead, of course, to perpetrate genocide while using violence against his neighbors. This brought ruin to Germany, and eternal shame to the name of Hitler. If Hitler read Henry Ford's My Life and Work, he clearly did not understand it.
Japan's warlords chose similarly to wage war on their neighbors for resources like oil and even slave labor. It is far easier to add enormous value to raw materials through manufacturing and use a tiny fraction of the revenues to pay a fair price for those materials.
I would contend that no country has won a war, in the sense of having been better off for having fought it, since 1905 (the Russo-Japanese War), and even that is questionable. North Vietnam supposedly "won" the Vietnam War, but we really need to ask where the country would be today had it chosen instead to trade with, and learn from, its Southern neighbor. Maybe its economy would now be comparable to that of Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. North Korea, in exchange for achieving a draw in the Korean War, is now a poverty-ridden hell-hole whose people are noticeably shorter than South Koreans due to malnutrition.
Before anybody asks where I keep my rainbow and unicorn, "no country has been better off for having fought a war" is not the same as "no country has been worse off because it fought a war." It is quite obvious what would have happened to the civilized world had it not fought Hitler, and the instant South Korea or Israel disarms, there will certainly be a genocide similar to the one that happened in Cambodia.
The lesson is, therefore, that industry and science have the power to make war obsolete, and assure relative affluence for all the world's people. There are, unfortunately, certain people such as Kim Jong-un, Khaled Meshaal, Ali Khamenei, and the leaders of ISIS who simply don't accept this proposition. Most of them are in the Islamic world. This is why the world's honest people, and honest countries, must remain heavily armed.
Militant Islam: By Its Fruits Shall Ye Know It
Ernest Volkman's Science Goes to War (p. 60) shows what happens to countries in which Western education is forbidden, i.e. Boko Haram:
At the very moment [Thomas] Aquinas was telling his fellow Europeans how faith and reason could coexist, his counterpart, the leading Arab philosopher Ghazzali, concluded that the treasure of ancient texts represented social dynamite. The study of science and philosophy, he wrote, was harmful because it would shake man's faith in God and undermine the Muslim religion. Accordingly, the ruling caliph of Baghdad, to demonstrate his piety, ordered the burning of all manuscripts in the city's great library.
The Islamic world has, as a result of this attitude, produced a grand total of nine Nobel Prizes. Of these, two (Anwar Sadat's and terrorist Yasser Arafat's) can be dismissed as illegitimate, and Shirin Ebadi's as non-representative of Islam. Ebadi had to flee Iran's theocrats because of the activities that earned her the prize.
This leaves us with 6 Nobel Prizes that legitimately represent the Islamic world of roughly 1.5 billion people. The world's 15 million Jews have produced 160, and the Christian world has earned 100 times as many Nobel Prizes as the Islamic world.
Then there is the matter of per capita gross domestic product (GDP). Israel, a resource-poor country, has a per capita GDP of $34.8K (International Monetary Fund data). The GDP of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is less than $2,000, while that in Gaza is less than $1,000. The fact that the Palestinians looted and destroyed the greenhouses they were given when Israel evacuated Gaza, instead of using them to produce food, might have something to do with the problem.
This article asked previously where Vietnam would be today had the North sought peaceful economic cooperation with the South. It is similarly instructive to ask where Israel's Arab neighbors would today be had they chosen to not attack Israel in 1948, but rather join the Israelis in saying, "Let's build something together."
William A. Levinson, P.E. is the coauthor of The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford's Universal Code for World-Class Success and author of other books on manufacturing and productivity.