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I am a warrior for God.
Therefore victory is mine.
What then happens to the syllogism if he is defeated? To understand, we must enter the mind of primitive fundamentalism. Or, shall we say, re-enter. Our Western biblical texts speak of a time 3,000 years ago when victory in battle was seen as the victory not only of one people over another but also of one god over another. Triumph over the "hosts of Egypt" was of theological importance: it was living proof of the living God--and the powerlessness and thus the falsity of the defeated god.
The secular West no longer thinks in those terms. But radical Islam does. Which is why the Osama tape, reveling in the success of Sept. 11, is such an orgy of religious triumphalism: so many dead, so much fame, so much joy, so many new recruits--God is great.
By the same token, with the total collapse of the Taliban, everything has changed. Omar has lost his robe. The Arab street is silent. The joy is gone. And recruitment? The Pakistani mullahs who after Sept. 11 had urged hapless young men to join the Taliban in fighting America and now have to answer to bereaved parents are facing ostracism and disgrace. Al-Qaeda agents roaming the madrasahs of Pakistan and the poorer neighborhoods of the Arab world will have a much harder sell. The syllogism of invincibility that sustained Islamic fanaticism is shattered.
We have just witnessed something new in the modern world: the rollback of Islamic fundamentalism. We have just witnessed the first overthrow of a radical Islamic regime, indeed, the destruction of radical Islam's home base. Yesterday the base was Afghanistan. Today it is a few caves and a few hidden cells throughout the world. Al-Qaeda controls no state, no sovereign territory. It is an outlaw on the run.
Rollback is, of course, a cold war term. For decades our approach to Islamic terrorism was like our approach to communism: containment. Do not invade its territory, but keep it, as Clinton liked to say of Saddam, "in a box." We tried containing al-Qaeda with a few pinprick bombings and an attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. These were nothing but an evasion, a looking the other way. Sept. 11 proved the folly of that approach. President Bush therefore announced a radically new doctrine. We would no longer contain. We would attack, advance and destroy any government harboring terrorists. Afghanistan is now the signal example. Just as the Reagan doctrine reversed containment and marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, the Bush doctrine marks the beginning of the rollback of the Islamic terror empire.
Of course, the turning of the tide is not the end of the war. This is the invasion of Normandy; we must still enter Berlin. The terrorists still have part of their infrastructure. They still have their sleeper cells. They can still, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, inflict unimaginable damage and death. Which is why eradicating the other centers of terrorism is so urgent.
We can now, however, carry on with a confidence we did not have before Afghanistan. Confidence that even religious fanaticism can be defeated, that despite its bravado, it carries no mandate from heaven. The psychological effect of our stunning victory in Afghanistan is already evident. We see the beginning of self-reflection in the Arab press, asking what Arab jihadists are doing exporting their problems to places like Afghanistan and the West; wondering why the Arab world uniquely has not developed a single real democracy; and asking, most fundamentally, how a great religion like Islam could have harbored a malignant strain that would rejoice in the death of 3,000 innocents. It is the kind of questioning that Europeans engaged in after World War II (asking how Fascism and Nazism could have been bred in the bosom of European Christianity) but that was sadly lacking in the Islamic world. Until now.
It is beginning now not because our propaganda is good. Not because al-Jazeera changed its anti-American tune. Not because a wave of remorse spontaneously erupted in places like Saudi Arabia. But because, with our B-52s, our special forces, our smart bombs, our daisy cutters--our power and our will--we scattered the enemy.
What the secular West fails to understand is that in fighting religious fanaticism the issue--for the fanatic--is not grievance but ascendancy. What must be decided is not who is right and wrong--one can never appease the grievances of the religious fanatic--but whose God is greater. After Afghanistan there can be no doubt. In the land of jihad, the fall of the Taliban and the flight of al-Qaeda are testimony to the god that failed.