The Enemy from Within and the Enemy from Without
In 1453, with the Turks literally on the verge of storming the once-impregnable walls of Constantinople, the Byzantine Greeks persistently devoted their energies to their longstanding passion for arguing over matters of religious minutiae among themselves rather than attending sufficiently to the catastrophe at hand. Even if by that date the final fate of the Byzantine Empire had already been sealed, it is nevertheless marvelous to behold how the Byzantines could not stop themselves from indulging in their customary habits of bitter religious disputation even as the Turk was poised to engulf them forever.
In a similar vein, the political histories of both Ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy are full of examples of factions in a given city regularly allying themselves with the traditional enemies of that city in order to achieve or maintain their own power in their own city.
The dynamic of the whole process of such internal disintegration resulting from intense domestic political rivalry can be said to revolve around a fatal combination of the principles of "divide and conquer" from without and "a house divided against itself cannot stand" from within, with that inevitably present taskmaster the ego blinding the judgment and driving the actions of the ill-fated players involved.
Human nature being as consistent as it is, it should come as no surprise that factions have arisen in our country that are so obsessed with triumphing over their internal rivals that they not only choose to ignore the dangers arising from external enemies, but are more than happy to ally themselves with those very external enemies in order to insure victory over their domestic foes. How else can one explain the hopes of those on the left that the Boston Marathon bomber turn out to be a white male, rather than what he obviously was from the start: a Muslim terrorist? Or the constant harping of so many on the left that it is America's fault that otherwise peaceful and well-meaning Muslims have been forced to strike back in the only way they can: as freedom-fighters motivated by an understandable desire to combat an unjust, exploitative, and overbearing American presence -- not just militarily, but also economically -- throughout the world? Or the excuse that Muslims who brutally murder Americans within the U.S. do so because Americans have caused these Muslims to feel alienated or out of place in American society?
And then comes the fairy tale: if only (how much of the thinking on the left is qualified by this conditional construction!) we admit our failures, change our ways, give them what they want, and show them that we are nice people and just want to be friends, then they will respond accordingly, because they do not really mean us any harm, but are only responding to our provocations. And we will love them, and they in turn will learn to love us. And finally the world will be one happy place where everybody sits around the campfire singing kumbaya.
This manner of thinking is very reminiscent of a starry-eyed animal lover who, thinking that the bear is so cute and cuddly, goes over to pet the bear and winds up getting seriously mauled.
We are often told that not all Muslims support terrorists or are hostile to the West, and no doubt there is some truth to that statement -- which, once accepted, inevitably leads one to set up a type of "good Muslim, bad Muslim" dichotomy when discussing how to deal with Islam.
Outsiders can do only so much with regard to internal problems, whether of a nation or of a religion. It is not possible for the West to effect what we see as desirable changes in Islam; that can come only from the Muslims themselves. We must be prepared to face the uncomfortable reality that there is a huge block of humanity that simply does not wish to live by what we think of as a common or universally applicable modern code of civilized conduct, discourse, and toleration, but prefers rather to cling to ancient prejudices, resentments, and hopes.
For Westerners to think that what the West does will matter with regard to the necessary internal reformation of Islam represents intense narcissism and arrogance. What we do need to do is protect ourselves against Islam as long as Islam remains unreformed and hostile -- by being vigilant and keeping our wits about ourselves, and by being prepared to take vigorous action when necessary to defend our values, families, and homes, for many generations if necessary.
Long periods of peace are the exception, not the rule, in human history. Even the long Pax Romana, imposed militarily by an imperial regime, was regularly disturbed by external incursions from Germans, Persians, and Berbers, among others, and by internal revolts like those in Judea. The longterm peaceful and friendly U.S.-Canadian border is a very unusual situation and is the result of unique circumstances.
Europe spent centuries battling the Muslims for control of the Mediterranean and even of Europe itself. At no time throughout all those long centuries did either of the contending parties expect to achieve anything more than a temporary cessation of hostilities, which served the purpose of "recharging the batteries," until the climax of a final victory could be achieved. This is still the default Muslim mindset, and all our wishing otherwise will not change things.
During World War 2, we had to demand nothing less than unconditional surrender from the Germans in order to definitively defeat Nazism; our wartime leaders knew that nothing less would get the job done, that Germany could not be reformed from within, but rather needed to be destroyed totally from without for our own sakes, not for the sake of the Germans. This is not really feasible with the Muslim threat, but nevertheless, the attitude of the Allies is an instructive example of the kind of courage, tenacity, confidence, clear thinking, and sense of purpose that we need to maintain in order to protect our own lives and civilization. As Churchill put it:
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender[.]
But courage, tenacity, confidence, clear thinking, and a sense of purpose represent manly virtues in short supply in our present touchy-feely society. Like the overly civilized and luxury-loving Byzantines, we may have made ourselves easy pickings for the rude barbarians at the gates.