Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Spain Fuels Extremists’ 300-Year-Old Cause

The year was 1683; the date, Sept. 11. Vienna had been under siege by the Muslim Turks and their allies since July; dysentery was sweeping through the city as the beleaguered garrison struggled to keep from being overwhelmed by an enemy force numbering over 100,000. Vienna was the last city blocking the Muslims’ campaign to seize all of Hungary and begin the conquest of Central Europe. But help was on the horizon – a relief force of 40,000 men, the Holy Alliance called by Pope Innocent XI, was amassing nearby. On that evening, hope was in the air, for the next day, a Sunday, the relief force would attack and route the besieging forces. Vienna would finally be saved. Exactly 14 years later, on Sept. 11, 1697, the forces of Prince Eugene of Savoy would catch the Ottoman Empire’s army crossing the river Tsiza, inflicting 30,000 casualties and taking only 300. This was truly the last Crusade: the end of Turkish and Muslim incursions into the West, and the victory that assured the dominance of the West and its liberal political and philosophical traditions for years to come.

But now our own success may become our defeat. It is no coincidence that Osama bin Laden and his followers chose to attack on Sept. 11, 2001, precisely 318 years after that first Sept. 11, when Western forces defeated the Ottomans at Vienna. Islamist extremists believe that after over 300 years, their time has finally come and the Koran’s command to “kill” the infidel “wherever you find them” (Sura IV.89) might finally be properly implemented for the glory of Allah. What gives them this window of opportunity? New technologies and weapons of mass destruction, the result of the technological advancement of Western civilization, and the West’s own moral and cultural laissez-faire.

They thus turn the excesses of the West’s technological and sociological advances against it. They hope to use advanced weapons of mass destruction to inflict mass damage upon us that their armies of the past could never achieve, and depend upon our extreme moral relativism and cultural tolerance to give their attacks unprecedented efficacy in breaking our collective resolve. To combat them, therefore, the West must fight proliferation with utmost resolve and keep weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorists’ hands. It must fight off the cultural relativism and moral skepticism that tempts it to believe that nothing can be absolutely more or less choice-worthy about any particular culture because nothing at all is truly absolutely choice-worthy. Such beliefs lead to appeasement, and appeasement will fail in the face of those who are motivated by pure hate, people whose hunger for the blood of the infidel will not be slaked until there isn’t an infidel left to slay. Moreover, the West cannot hope to win if it refuses to cherish those traditions and institutions such as ordered liberty, democracy and religious tolerance that set us apart and make the fight itself worth winning.

But I fear the West may not have what it takes. Exactly 911 days after Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorists showed their dual strategy of using our own excesses against us to be horribly successful. On arch 11, 2004, they struck Spain’s well-developed public transit system and killed over 200 people. The resolve of the Spanish people did not hold; they delivered political victory to the Socialist candidate who vowed to remove Spanish troops from the frontlines of the battle for the heart of Islam, the battle to introduce liberal values into the Middle East and steer the course of Islam away from fundamentalist fervor. The Spanish apparently believe that terrorists act with reason, and therefore believe that there is some credence to their cause. Perhaps this is a result of Europeans’ proclivity to refuse to absolutely proclaim that any particular thing is incontestably just or good. But whatever the case, just as Hitler’s cause was without any component of justice or good, that of the Islamists is equally lacking. Nothing can appease them. Not even a Palestinian state will appease them – witness that most Middle Eastern states do not grant refuge to Palestinians, and violence against Israel continues despite Israel’s real concessions and acceptance of the concept of a Palestinian state. The Palestinian cause is just one of an innumerable number of excuses for violence against the West. Even the removal of every U.S. troop from all the Middle East would still fail to halt the attacks; the Islamists’ true desire is to pick up where they left off on Sept. 11, 1683: to destroy the West once and for all.

Who now stands against evil and for our traditions and values? Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Both counter the terrorists’ dual strategy, aggressively fighting them abroad and working to stop proliferation while protecting our core values and fundamental institutions both at home and abroad. As our own presidential election approaches, we should be mindful of what is truly at stake; we must be mindful of history and the terrorists’ true motivations. We must not follow Spain and deliver the terrorists a political victory and lifeblood for their cause. We must not flee the field. No, we must show them our resolve; we must show them that the West will not be browbeaten into submission. We must make clear our belief that Islam can and will, with our aid, reject their murderous goals. We must demonstrate that we believe in our own institutions so much so that we believe they can transform entirely the very nature of life in the Middle East. And we must show the terrorists beyond any doubt that we will stop at nothing to defend our ways.

Douglas Wardlow is a third-year student at the Georgetown University Law Center and a 2001 graduate of the College.

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