It is fortunate that the world’s timeline worked out such that Attila the Hun and his rapacious hordes were long dead prior to the dawning of an age in which they might have gained access to nuclear weapons. It is also fortunate that Albert Speer thought nuclear weapons so longterm and speculative a project that he scuttled Nazi Germany’s program. It is yet fortunate again that, when the Soviet bear got its paws on the A-bomb, the United States was there to counter. For Cold War-era U.S.A. was not just a garrison of advanced weaponry; it was the world’s greatest sanctuary of a set of virtues elucidated by Locke during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, virtues that all humanists should hold dear.
These virtues—individualism, freedom, and reason over collectivism, authoritarianism, and superstition— and what Locke termed natural rights—were the basis from which America’s Founding Fathers exalted “inalienable rights” and forged the new nation’s plans. These virtues and rights, vital to human posterity, are in danger as never before.
The good fortune of our timeline has run out. The United States presently finds itself the primary target of Islamic fascists. Third-world fetishism and envy of the United States’ affluence and power are largely to blame, but more important, what made the United States great is the essence of the Islamo-fascists’ discontent. Over two centuries ago, our forefathers spoke of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and went on to create what is arguably the greatest Enlightenment document to date: the Bill of Rights. Our nation largely followed through to make this great experiment succeed. Our good life and prosperity demonstrate to the world that America’s embrace of Enlightenment virtues, our fierce commitment to individual autonomy and rights, yields something far better than what those opposed to Enlightenment have to offer. When we peel back a few layers of the onion, we find that Enlightenment philos-ophy—and its demonstrable validation via America’s incomparable success—forms the core of why the USSR hated us, and why today’s Islamo-fascists hate us. America’s Enlightenment values are a grave threat to the perverted values they yearn to see metastasize.
Today’s enemies present a different threat than did the USSR. The Cold War’s delicate counterbalance of deterrence succeeded, albeit with some close calls, for a number of reasons—not the least being that, since nuclear stockpiles existed on only two sides, neither side could strike the other anonymously.
Although the nuclear standoff is becoming a manybody problem, humanity can still arrest widespread proliferation throughout the nations opposed to Enlightenment values. But if we allow those nations to possess nuclear weapons alongside a robust community of terrorists eager to act as anonymous weapons delivery systems, we will be living amidst far greater peril than any Cold War-era game theory scenario.
“Kumbaya” campfire singers respond that we have no right to condemn North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, et al. because of our own nuclear arsenal. What they fail to understand is the distinction between Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment nations and the bearing that this has on whom is likely to wage indiscriminate nuclear war. Despite many differences, viable modern democracies (in other words, Enlightenment nations) have never gone to war against each other, nor even threatened to. The thought of the United States and Great Britain crossing the Channel to invade France is the stuff of late-night comedy. But Egypt has warred with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Iran has warred with Iraq. Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia; Syria invaded Lebanon. Red China had “border conflicts” with USSR. A few decades earlier, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperialist Japan declared war on the world, and so on.
If one loves humanity and wishes for a great posterity, the difference between Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment is not just relative. It’s absolute. It is not jingoism for me to write that societies that protect natural rights are superior to those that don’t, just because I am fortunate enough to be a citizen of one of the former. But nonetheless, if one insists on labeling me a jingoist for my pro-Enlightenment bent, I will wear the badge as proudly as champions of multiculturalism wear theirs.
Make no mistake: There is a great race afoot on this planet, and nothing less than humanity’s future rests on the outcome. What will pervade Islam dom first: the hare-fast proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or the tortoise-slow spread of freedom, individualism, and reason?
The unfortunate reality at this point in our world’s timeline is that, although there are some things we can do to assist the tortoise, there is no magic rocket booster that we can affix to its shell. Freedom, individualism, and reason will propagate no faster than the masses of un-Enlightened souls can accept such drastic change. In the meantime, we must rigorously comb that vast expanse of our Earth’s dark side, prepared to use military force when necessary to stop proliferation dead in its tracks.
No paradigm covers all nuances, but the framework that I propound here of two competing forces racing throughout Islamdom—Enlightenment virtue vs. WMD—should be of interest to those who champion reason. Anyone who has ever debated religion knows that efforts to change the minds of zealots and even moderates almost always fail.
I ask the reader: What if that Mormon you once argued with had been taught at Brigham Young that violent jihad against the West was righteous? You wouldn’t have had any greater a chance at changing the mind of a hypothetical jihadist Mormon than you did with the businessman from Salt Lake City. Well, the anti-Enlightenment world is filled with madrassas that teach this kind of evil, and that’s not a hypothetical. Madrassa graduates would like nothing better than to murder us. If you couldn’t change the peaceful Mormon’s mind by trying to reason with him, know this: You won’t change violent Islamist minds by reasoning with them. If reason is to spread to anti-Enlightenment nations, it will take time; in many sad cases, it will take generations.
The Mormon countered your arguments of reason with those of faith and so the debate concluded in an innocuous and probably friendly manner; it was a battle of ideas. Attempts to reason with populations under Islamo-fascist rule outrages Islamists.
Terrorists try to murder us, and so, with these populations, there are two battles—one of ideas and one of blood. And whether we deliberately set out to evangelize Enlightenment virtue or not, Internet and satellite broadcasts will continue to influence Muslim populations regardless of our intentions, albeit slowly. Muslim youth see how we live in the land of the free, and, when they express a desire for sweet freedom and the good life, Islamists react violently. There is no quick and easy solution.
In the meantime, the race between Enlightenment virtue and WMD capability is a race for man’s life. My bias is that I prefer humanity and pro-Enlightenment culture to be safe. Unfortunately, that means that the West’s might will have to protect what is right for now. As a humanist, I can live with that. In fact, I see no alternative for anyone who values Enlightenment culture.
The world ought not bet its future on the hope that our timeline will continue to churn out dumb luck. There is a genuine, even dire, threat to humanity’s future, but pacifists are too myopic to understand. France, Germany, and Belgium play petty politics. Without the intervention of our great American experiment, the hare of proliferation would surely beat the tortoise of Enlightenment. That is why we had no choice but to attack Iraq, and why I submit we have no choice but to continue to act in this vein.
Let us not forget that, while intrepid secular humanists march into court-rooms with chins held high to declare war against Nativity scenes on fire-house lawns, our freethinking brothers and sisters in the anti-Enlightenment world confront imprisonment, torture, and execution. Next time Western humanists haughtily tell you that cultural differences are relative, ask them whether the dirty looks they’ve encountered for yakking up their atheism are only relatively different from forty lashes and a toss into the dungeon . . . or worse. The difference is night and day, anti-Enlightenment and Enlightenment . . . inferior and superior.
Hooray to the troops that protect the Enlightenment!
Steve Hirsch is a businessman and investor living in Florida.