Saturday, August 13, 2005

Please God, No Blood Feud!

On Bunnie Diehl’s blog, after the London bombings, Eric Phillips and I debated Joel Gehrke over the appropriate response. Joel stated that “We need to invoke the name of Christ against their false God. And answer jihad with crusade.” While understanding both his anger, and his frustration with the bend-over-backward-not-to-offend-Islam spirit that so often accompanies public reactions to such attacks, I had to challenge his viewpoint.

You can trace the line of the debate over on Bunnie’s blog. It’s mostly petered out by now, but I thought the following post by Wretchard at Belmont Club is both worth reading for it’s own sake, and also as an strong statement of what I was trying to argue with Joel. (I hope you mind Joel that I’m bringing this up again on “home turf” so to speak).

Wretchard quotes Lee Harris on the concept of blood feud and its contrast to the state-centered concept of war we have inherited from the Roman tradition. In this tradition, found in all states, whether Rome, China, or any other, war is (or should be) initiated over some specific issue, fought either to victory or to defeat, and then concluded with a formal peace. By contrast, blood feud, again found in societies without sovereignty all over the world, from Ireland to New Guinea, is fought over personal insults and injury, has no vision of a final aim, and just goes on and on. As writers as different as Victor Davis Hanson and Jared Diamond have shown, the gift of sovereignty and the replacement of unending blood feud by war and peace is perhaps the most underappreciated blessing of civilization. (Lutheran theology is the only Christian theology to express properly thanksgiving for this inestimable gift.) He then observes that a growing number of Westerners are starting to think in terms of a blood feud with Islam:

Western citizens are still focused on the 'larger issues' but personal loss and anger are making the war less abstract. They want to find particular people who attacked them on specific occasions for the purpose of visiting upon them individual punishment. For many, the war is no longer business, it's personal.

One route to victory, the ugly route, is to match the entropy within Islamic societies with a corresponding entropy within the West. The rising resentment against Islamic immigrants in Europe and the growing willingness in the West to see Islam and even Muslims as the enemy, are all early signs of the transformation of war into a corresponding blood feud. One of the constant themes of the Belmont Club is how this development is undesirable because it will, at the limit, result in the destruction of Islamic society and make us all murderers. The alternative route chosen by President Bush, but only half-heartedly pursued by mainstream politicians, is to decrease entropy within the Islamic world by making those countries functional, modern and free so that the "blood feud" concept becomes as anachronistic in Riyadh as it is in Cleveland.

That’s the danger I see, Joel: turning this into a blood feud. And it scares me. Last night I rented Black Hawk Down. It was frightening and very instructive to feel within me the growing desire to destroy the Somalis as a whole as the movie progressed. Only adding to the cascade of rage was the fact that this attack on American peace-keepers trying to deliver food to the starving was, we now know, organized by Mohamed Farrah Aidid in alliance with Osama bin Laden, and was seen as proof to al Qaeda that America was weak and would always run away when hit. Watching the Somali crowds dance after they'd mobbed the desperate American soldiers, it was so easy to forget what General Garrison told the men going in, that it was Bakara Market which was the hostile area, not all of Mogadishu, let alone all of Somalia. Only in the last scene, when the Rangers are jogging out of the hostile zone, behind the APC’s of the UN peacekeepers that wouldn’t let them board because there was “no room” (grrrrr!), and they stagger into a friendly district where kids begin waving to them and grateful Somali townspeople cheer, do you realize with a shock how easy it is in the heat of blood feud, especially for civilians like us, to become cheerleaders for blind killing.

P.S. This post at Belmont Club (hat tip to the Corner) is also well worth reading, although I do have to nitpick that jihadi is a ridiculous pseudo-Arabism. The real Arabic word for someone engaging in jihad is, as all my regular readers know well by now, mujahid (plural, mujahideen).

Originally posted at Here We Stand