Neo-cons, Muslims and “Last Men”

Douglas Murray, author of the Social Affairs Unit’s Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, recently made a speech at the Pim Fortuyn Memorial Lecture on the topic “What Are We To Do About Islam?”. This lecture has been reproduced on the SAU’s blog, trots out the usual rhetoric about “dhimmitude” and calls for, among other things, the ending of all Muslim immigration and the “persuasion” of Muslims to return to their own countries, and suggests that western converts to Islam are no more than the “Last Men” written of by Fukuyama, who cannot bear the idea of a life without struggle.

He starts off on very familiar territory – the Munich peace agreement at which Neville Chamberlain agreed to a German take-over of Czechoslovakia. Churchill told him on his return that he had been given the choice between dishonour and war, had chosen dishonour and would have war. The notion of Chamberlain as the cowardly appeaser has been common currency in apologia for any sort of aggression for decades now. A few months ago Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech on the Iraq war using exactly this same appeasement formula, obviously bringing his dad’s war exploits into it as well. The fact was that at that time Czechoslovakia had been a state for only twenty years, before which it had been under Hapsburg rule since the fall of Hussite Bohemia. Its incorporation into yet another German empire may have seemed a relatively small price to pay to avoid yet another major war for their generation than it would for ours, who have grown up in a Europe of nation-states rather than of empires.

The present threat, he goes on to claim is not of the nature of what we faced then, and if it was, there would be no difficulty in persuading people to fight it:

The conflict which we are now in – which we have been most visibly engaged in for five years, but which had in truth opened far earlier – is not a conflict which looks familiar to the people of Europe. It barely resembles conflicts of their past. And just as this war does not much look like earlier wars, so victory in this war will not look like earlier victories. This poses a problem: what will victory in the war on terror – the war against Islamic extremism – look like? How will we know when it is over? How will we know when we’ve won? The only, and deeply imperfect, guide may be time – the length of time in which we are not hit, seriously threatened or cowed. If we are to have victory then it will emerge as an almost imperceptible victory: it will be a diminuendo towards victory. Only historians will then be capable of determining which battles were vital, which significant, and which illusory triumphs of their time.

Similarly, defeat will not look as it would have in the 1930s: it would “consist of a gradual accretion of hurts on our society, a wearying accumulation of often minor humiliations: death by a thousand cuts”. Our society “will simply become aware, with a growing sense of numbness, that what we had has slipped away”. Europeans, as Brits did in the 1930s, prefer to pretend that the threat Murray claims faces us now was not there, and refuse to accordingly cut their welfare budgets, increase defence spending, and do what is “required to cease or reverse the disastrous effects of mass immigration”. He cites a Transatlantic Trends survey which suggested in 2003 that “fewer than half of Europeans believe that any war at all – even one in the national interest – can be considered just”. The notion that this may be a legacy of the Cold War, in which Europeans relied on the USA for defence from their only likely foe, Russia, and were able to build up their welfare states and their industries (with the exception of the UK, whose industries stagnated and ended up closing or falling into foreign ownership), is not even mentioned.

His position – “the neoconservative position” – is that among the answers to the “problem of Islam and the West” is “a putting onto the right track of the fundamental problems of the Islamic world”, namely the misrule of most, if not all, of the Muslim countries. Among the answers to this is that, while there are a few ugly regimes which could be removed with relative ease, assuming a “duty” to take care of the affairs of the Muslim world is a recipe for a disaster similar to Iraq, but on a much vaster scale. How difficult would it have been to remove the secularist dictatorship in Tunisia, which routinely earns praise for its championing of “women’s rights” (excluding religious rights), for example? Or, for that matter, Colonel Qaddafi? The assumption behind this is that all of the Arab world’s govenments are so awful that an invasion would prompt an Iraq-style abandonment of defence, something which should not be assumed for a moment. The Islamists, after all, have offered the Arabs an alternative to the pseudo-democracies and “crime-syndicate families” for decades, one which has always been rejected – hence their tendency to increase in brutality, as we saw in Algeria.

Murray goes on to suggest that, while the al-Qa’ida tendency has never won a serious battle, they have the potential to win “the war of ideas”:

If you doubt this, then just think back on the so-called “defeats” which we are meant to have suffered since 9/11. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, 100,000 civilians alleged to be dead by a fanciful survey courtesy of The Lancet magazine. What did our enemy do to win these victories? Absolutely nothing. It all came from within.

In short, we cannot lose on the battlefield, but we can be stabbed in the back by defeatists at home. Where have we heard this before? In this case, the “stab in the back” is coming from the press reporting that “our boys” are capable of dreadful brutality, something which has been well documented since well before 9/11. The fact that our press is entitled to criticise “the boys” for torturing and humiliating prisoners and for beating up citizens of an occupied country in the streets should not be discussed in these terms; to include Guantanamo, many of whose inmates are innocent and were picked up by criminal gangs, among these demonstrates a disregard for the truth. Perhaps Murray figured his audience did not care.

As for his jibe about “hoping your Kalashnikov un-jams in time to fire at those Daisy-Cutters”, it’s also a well-known fact that “our boys” are kitted out with the much less reliable SA-80. Lions led by donkeys, indeed.

Murray’s explanation for the various so-called capitulations which have taken place in response to terrorist attacks, such as the “sympathetic socialist” who was elected in the wake of the Madrid bombings, ignore the simple fact that there had been massive popular opposition to participation in the Iraq war in all the countries which took part except, possibly, for the USA. This was coupled with the attempt by the then prime minister of Spain to blame the bombings on ETA. The people were not voting “for al-Qa’ida” but against the people who had exposed them to danger. Consider this: if someone pushes you in front of a car driven by someone they know will not stop, and you are unable to get out of the way for whatever reason, you will blame both the driver and the person who pushed you. The same is true of people who had been exposed to danger by their politicians. Nobody, not the Muslims nor those in western countries, Muslim or otherwise, voted for the terrorists. They do not represent anyone but themselves, and they cannot gain anyone’s sympathy unless their enemies narrow the moral gap between themselves and the terrorists. So the worst enemies of the western occupation are elements in the occupying forces, who have proven themselves time and again incapable of upholding the civilised values to which the western democracies hold themselves, and hold others.

He goes on to explain the reasons for the west “losing this war” in terms of a “creeping increase of dhimmitude”, meaning any accommodation to Muslim sensibilities, at a time when “the enemy is, as a demographic and political fact, massed not just on foreign shores, but within the gates of our cities”. Manifestations of “dhimmitude” include a judge apologising to a Muslim for “inadvertently bringing [him] to court to answer criminal charges on what turns out to be a Muslim religious festival”, the French government pretending last year’s riots had nothing to do with Islam while getting imams to act as intermediaries, the cancellation of screenings of an offensive bad movie because its co-director was murdered, and non-Muslims referring to “The Prophet” without believing that the person they are referring to is in fact a prophet. One notices that he refers to this country’s Muslim population as “the enemy” when a fair percentage were born here and have never been any trouble. He stereotypes a report by “a bunch of Islamists” commissioned by the government after last July’s bombings as saying “that the fact that Britain was attacked was Britain’s fault – oh, and the fault of the Jews of course” – and compares the Muslim authors to nazi apologists in a similar fashion to “Will Cummins” in the Sunday Telegraph last July. Of course, the difference between those who wrote said report and any Nazi apologist of the 1930s or 1940s is that the Nazis would have directly supported an invasion, a difference lost on Murray, assuming he cares to tell the truth.

The root of this is, Murray claims, relativism, the “AIDS of the west” which “has made the opportunist infection of Islam so deadly”, referring to a remark by Mark Steyn calling “radical Islam” an opportunist infection which leaves other diseases to kill. “It is the belief that all cultures are equal even while one culture (our own) is ridden over daily and even while another (Islam) is becoming uniquely violent. The belief that all things are relative has led to an inability among the cultural elites of Europe to stand up for what is right, or even to stand up for their own, because right does not exist in their vocabulary, and in the moral armoury of a self-flagellator, self-defence is the only inexcusable vice.”

Relativism is, of course, what has made Europe and the societies it has spawned in the Americas and Oceania what they are today. Absolutism is what preceded it: the era when the church ruled, when heretics were burned at the stake and control was maintained over the people by refusing to allow them to read the scriptures in their own language. His solution is that Europe become absolutist, but the question must be asked: about what? About Christianity, or about a few traditions borrowed from it, or about “our way of life”, or about “freedom” – that is, about a practical form of relativism?

Murray supposes that tackling relativism would diminish the appeal of relativism to the young, who “are at present attracted to Islam because they see in it a rigidness they do not at present see in other faiths”. This is a gross misrepresentation. Islam is in so many ways a moderate path, and its commands are very often less severe than other religions which have clearly-defined laws, which are without exception observed in small, isolated communities. Its purity laws and dietary constraints, for example, are markedly less stringent than those followed by strict Jews. We have no menstrual huts – as found in parts of south Asia and west Africa – and no concept of a transmissible state of impurity. I have personally met many converts and not all of them appear to have converted in any search for rigidity. Quite a few, in fact, maintain a middle-class lifestyle and liberal outlook. They fit in well in middle-class parts of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire.

He likens converts to Islam to the Last Men spoken of by Nietzsche and Fukuyama:

Living under the system of representative governance – always the end-point of human aspiration – there is yet a type of Last Man who cannot bear the lack of struggle, cannot live without struggle and who as a result struggles for the sake of struggle. When there is nothing left to struggle against, he struggles against liberty, against democracy and against freedom. Now the majority of struggling Last Men are presently found among the left who support dictators over democracies, those people whose relativism has brought them full circle back to a support for authoritarian tyranny. But a much smaller section of Last Men are the converts. When we hear of Western converts from Last Men to Muslims, we are witnessing the breaking away of people who never wanted to be part of the system they were fortunate enough to live under.

As stated earlier, the number of converts who came by the route Murray describes, having been some sort of liberal who hates their own society, is miniscule. Many more come through the ghettoes and prisons, and others come through privately searching for the Truth. The fact that a lot of our converts are unbalanced may well have much to do with da’wah concentrated on the easy targets of prison and the ghetto and virtually none concentrated on rural areas, for example, does not give any credence to Murray’s observation. There are, of course, plenty of old-lefties knocking around who were veterans of the anti-Thatcher struggle of the 1980s, but very few of these have converted to Islam. Many of them are irreligious and secularist even if they support a schoolgirl’s right to wear hijab, which may well be why they opposed a war in Iraq which aimed to unseat a secularist government and may have led to an Islamist one taking its place.

I would also dispute the notion that living “under the system of representative governance” is “always the end-point of human aspiration”. Representative governance as we know it today matured only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the working classes and women were given the vote (in some places, the process was delayed until the 1960s or 1970s). And while the system as we know it has obvious advantages in terms of allowing observations on societal ills and suggestions of ways to put them right without the fear that comes with doing this in a police state, those who see reasons to struggle against it may not see this as what is wrong with it: they may be thinking of the rampant crime, the breakdown of the family, the abysmal, pornographic and scurrilous content of the popular press. The notion that liberty produces a space where corruption may flourish is hardly a new one; today, the notion that government action might be taken to reverse the decline in popular culture seems an absurd one, while the abolition of ancient rights precisely to appease the aforementioned popular press is ongoing.

As means to “stop the further humiliation of Europe, and its eventual morphing into an entirely different continent”, his first imperative is to “turn around the demographic time-bomb (sic) which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities”. The means to this are entirely concentrated on the Muslims: the cessation of all Muslim immigration, save (temporarily) in the event of another genocide, and that existing refugees be “persuaded back to the countries which they fled from”. He insists that Muslims who “for any reason take part in, plot, assist or condone violence against the West (not just the country they happen to have found sanctuary in, but any country in the West or Western troops) must be forcibly deported back to their place of origin”. While many people would no doubt support the removal of rabble-rousers like Abu Hamza and anyone actually complicit in terrorism, his proposal would take in, for example, Muslims in the UK openly supporting the Turkish side in any flare-up in Cyprus, or any resistance to western “intervention” in any Muslim country, or indeed any country. What he is proposing is that norms such as respecting someone’s birth and citizenship, and freedom of speech, be torn up in favour of kicking someone out for expressing an opinion.

Besides all this, the other side of the “demographic time bomb” is that westerners are not reproducing at the rate they need to replace themselves: nearly all the countries in Europe, east and west, have declining populations, with (according to a UN report from 2001) fewer than two children on average per family in all countries except the Czech Republic, Iceland, Albania and (if you count it as Europe) Turkey, which all have stable populations. Clearly, workers have to come from somewhere if British families are not raising them, and we cannot expect a supply of cheap Polish labour forever (particularly once the motorways start getting built in Poland). The point is made in the same article by Mark Steyn (It’s the Demography, Stupid) from which Murray got his quote about an “opportunistic infection”. The fact is not disputed that the trend in the west is towards having children later and later, long after the most fertile period in a woman’s life (late teens and early to mid twenties) is past. As Steyn puts it, “the design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it”. Furthermore, the increasing strength of Muslims in urban areas has much to do with non-Muslims, and whites especially, moving away. They are not necessarily fleeing Muslims; they are fleeing crime and seeking out better housing in the suburbs and semi-rural areas (often pricing poorer locals out of their own neighbourhoods in the process), while Muslims are seeking a Muslim infrastructure (mosques, halal shops and the like) which they cannot build in isolation.

He then suggests that Europe be made less attractive to Muslims by making conditions “harder across the board”; no doubt this means petty obstructions to mosque building and malicious impositions on schoolchildren and workers. (Hugh Fitzgerald, in a recent article on one of Robert Spencer’s blogs, openly recommended that people not employ Muslims.)

From long before we were first attacked it should have been made plain that people who come into Europe are here under our rules and not theirs. There is not an inch of ground to give on this one. Where a mosque has become a centre of hate it should be closed and pulled down. If that means that some Muslims don’t have a mosque to go to, then they’ll just have to realise that they aren’t owed one. Grievances become ever-more pronounced the more they are flattered and the more they are paid attention to. So don’t flatter them.

Another obviously glossed-over fact: whatever the situation on the continent, only one mosque in the UK has ever become a “centre of hate”, and that did not belong to the people who made it so, but rather to the community they forced out. The takeover could have been reversed by legal action at any time, but the state declined to intervene until Abu Hamza’s gang became an embarrassment to them rather than just to the Muslim community. Other extremists, like Abdullah Faisal and Abu Qatada, did not use mosques, but rather community centres. Apart from the obvious fact that the buildings belong legally to the community and exist not because of any right to have mosques, but because the community raised the money, bought the land and built them, simply closing down one mosque may well have the effect of dispersing the problem to places where it is less easy to find the people involved, or to places where they can spread their poison among other impressionable people. (As with a fair number of anti-Muslim bigots, he cares only for what they might do or say that affects non-Muslims. As for the fact that Muslim parents might not want their children involved in such activity, or that they do not want to be bothered and harrassed by extremists, who are also sectarians, as they go about their worship does not occur to Murray in the slightest.)

Murray, of course, believes in more war as well:

Abroad we must continue our work at taking the war to the terrorists. We are winning that war, and we should extend that war. Iran, Syria and any regime which sponsors or supports terrorism must be made aware that their days are numbered. We must remind the malignant that this war and this era will be dictated on our terms – on the terms of the strong and the right, not the weak and the wrong.

A preposterous suggestion: where does he propose getting the troops to fight this extended war? He will most likely not get them from Germany or France, and other European countries will not be willing to send troops to Syria just to depose a regime that threatens only Israel. Of course, a planted atrocity – another Reichstag, another Bay of Tonkin – might be enough to persuade many of the public to accept war, or the reintroduction of conscription – assuming that the troops called up will not be too busy dealing with the unrest this itself might cause. The upshot of our declining birth rates is that people are more used to comfort: we are likely to be one of two or three children, to have been the focus of much parental attention and expense. The British who fought Germany in the 1940s were used to a lot more hardship than we are, having just lived through the Depression. Could we be relied on now to engage in the sort of war that repeated “anti-terror” adventures might lead to? And if all our troops are bogged down in Iran, that leaves the question of who will actually defend Britain from the enemy of which nobody knows yet: perhaps Russia, or another mainland European country, perhaps a resurgent Scandinavian country, perhaps even the USA.

And he tells Europeans (those who are not Muslims, I suppose) to “become absolutist – absolutist in defence of our societies, our traditions, our heritage, culture, freedoms and democracies”. This is hardly consistent with his earlier proposals: kicking out anyone who condones violence, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into war until most of our young men are away fighting. How is that a defence of our traditions? Unlike most continental countries, Britain has no tradition of a conscript army: it had one for much less than half of the twentieth century. Murray’s proposals are nothing less than a recipe for a complete transformation of British society into one which, like his imaginary dhimmified Europe, the public would not recognise, and all for what? An illusory security on the streets of London massively outweighed by losses abroad, and the driving out of a mostly productive religious minority. It would benefit nobody except the undertakers and the arms manufacturers.

  1. George Carty said:

    On the issue of Neville Chamberlain, I think fear of Communism was one of the major reasons for appeasement of Hitler. He feared that a war between the Western democracies and the Nazis would devastate both, leaving the Soviets as the master of Europe (which is exactly what would have happened, had the United States not entered World War II).

    This is similar to how the only real winner of the Byzantine-Sassanid War was Islam.

  2. Shamil said:

    As far as I know the reason Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler was because there was nothing else he could do. Germany’s military was far larger and better equipped and trained than anything else on the continent. The only way Germany was defeated was through combined Russian, British, American and Canadian effort.

    In terms of the general subject I find it kind of ironic that neo-cons are complaining about European relativism when jews are largely responsible for this. I mean this in terms of the fact that the neo-cons are a self declared jewish movement. If it wasn’t for “European relativism” many of the opinions expressed by the far right of zionism in Britain wouldn’t be allowed.

    Look at Eastern Europe. Much of that has reverted to a pre-relativist society and jews in Ukraine can’t even admit what they are in public. I doubt this is what the neo-cons want. It seems more likely that the neo-cons are against multi-culturalism for everyone except the jews.

  3. Wolfie said:

    How quickly everyone forgot how broken Broken Britain was following WW1. My Grandfather recalled the mid-30’s as a Britain blighted by depression where it was still common to see men on the street hideously disfigured by war dying by degrees from their injuries or emotionally shattered alcoholism. There was no taste for more war.

    Got to agree with you Shamil on the Neo-con hypocrisy.

  4. Phil E said:

    He feared that a war between the Western democracies and the Nazis would devastate both, leaving the Soviets as the master of Europe (which is exactly what would have happened, had the United States not entered World War II).

    I think it’s more likely that he hoped that a war between the USSR and the Nazis would devastate both, leaving Britain the leading European power. As for the clause in brackets, it’s so far adrift of anything I’d recognise as an account of WWII that I don’t know where to start. Who do you think the main combatants were at the beginning of December 1941?

    (Sorry to go off on a tangent, Yusuf, but if people are going to invoke Chamberlain I think they should at least have a clear idea of what they’re invoking.)

  5. constablesavage said:

    I agree there wasn’t a lot else Chamberlain could have, Britain wasn’t ready for war before 1939, and wasn’t very keen on it at first even then – see the ‘phony war’ period.

    Indeed you can make the case that the trouble with the policy of appeasement was it wasn’t persisted in for long enough: if WWII had started a couple of years later, after the French Army reforms had gone through, then things could have gone very differently.

    Also without Chamberlain’s support in Cabinet Churchill could have been defeated by those who wanted to negotiate with Hitler: the man deserves better then being constantly portrayed as history’s archetypical wimp.

  6. George Carty said:

    What do you view as the root cause of the demographic deficit? I would suggest a need for two incomes per household, in order to pay ever-rising mortgage costs, is the key issue…

  7. Steve Thursby said:

    It should also be remembered that Britain disarmed after the first world war. The planning was that there would be no war in Europe for at least ten yeras, so no need to be armed now. This continued until about 1933, and even then it only started the process of re arming from about 1936. E.G. This was when Britain started the development of modern figthers (Spitfire and Hurricane) it took four years to develop them and they were only just starting to be produced in numbers in time for the battle of Britain, certainly not available in 1938.
    The other point was that Czechoslavakia was an artificial nation created just 19 years previously, I wonder if people just saw this an ongoing part of the process of amending boundaries after the first world war (still ongoing in the middle east, where the break up of the Ottoman empire is still being sorted out, and only recently the cause of mass murder in the former yugoslavoia, another artificial construct after WWI (just like Iraq))

  8. George Carty said:

    Shamil: It seems more likely that the neo-cons are against multi-culturalism for everyone except the jews.

    I don’t understand this statement. Jewish neocons are very well assimilated into Western society. I think it is more likely that they view Islam as uniquely threatening – because it is a prosetylizing religion, which hasn’t been defanged like Christianity or Judaism (ie the Christian and Jewish equivalents of the Islamist movement have negligible popular support), and which most importantly is tenacious in the extreme.

  9. Laurence said:

    I have read the article you describe at length, and though I think some of what Murray says is a little intemperate, this is because he (like me and a lot of other people) are very angry at the incredible degree of appeasement towards Islamic extremism in Britain and other western countries. I think you are extremely disingenuous – verging on dishonest – in your depiction of Mosques and other Muslim centres in Britain as being completely innocent of extremist teaching. Perhaps you should read some of the writings by Afshin Ellian on the SAU website about the violent tendencies of Islam from its very foundation? Also some of his suggestions, such as stopping Muslim immigration to the UK, are probably impractical, even though I think the principle is correct, as Islam as a religion and culture is deeply inimical to everything that liberal democracy represents, and a majority of Muslims either currently resist integration with our democracy and values, or active wish to institute the horrendous medieval ‘sharia’ code of law. Otherwise I agree totally with the sentiments expressed in Murray’s article, and only hope a lot more people will read it as a result of this.

  10. soru said:

    Relativism is, of course, what has made Europe and the societies it has spawned in the Americas and Oceania what they are today. Absolutism is what preceded it: the era when the church ruled, when heretics were burned at the stake and control was maintained over the people by refusing to allow them to read the scriptures in their own language.

    And there is the point at which I stopped reading, filed the author in the category ‘needs to read a book (any book)’, and moved on.

  11. Neil W said:

    In 1938 if Britain and France had had some guts to stand up to Hitler, the German Army and Airforce weren’t at
    that point much better then ours – if we had threatened Germanies western border and the Czechs would have fought in the east – the Czechs
    had a rather well equipped and trained army (sat in very good defences) then in all likelihood the Germans would have backed down, Hitler would have looked an ass and Nazism would have had a short shelf life.

    Instead the Tory establishment chose to suck up to the facists. Quell suprise.

  12. Chris Williams said:

    “It should also be remembered that Britain
    disarmed after the first world war.”

    No. Not even slightly true. In the 1920s
    the British Empireh ad the best navy in
    the world, the second biggest air force,
    and a half-decent army as well. Britain
    demobilised after 1918, yes, but that’s
    what you do at the end of total wars
    (unless you’re Kim Il Sung).