Wednesday, August 28, 2002
An interesting piece from First Things: Jihad and Just War. The point being: there is an Islamic theory of just and unjust wars, and the Islamists have obliterated it as they have obliterated all subtle distinctions in Islam. Kind of how Communists obliterated all ethical distinctions within Western philosophy, so that "human rights" could be the justification for mass-murder and a state of terror.
The core argument: there are two kinds of just war within traditional Islamic thought. The first is a war led by the legitimate leader of the House of Islam against the infidel in order to expand the House of Islam. This war has detailed ethical guidelines similar to Western notions of jus in bello or just conduct in war: no targeting of civilians, no conduct of war by irregulars, etc. In the case of Islam, this kind of war - aggressive but ethically limited war to expand Islam - is technically no longer possible because there is no legimate leader of the House of Islam since the end of the Turkish sultanate (and, arguably, since the Mongols trampled the last Kaliph of Baghdad to death; or, if you're a Shiite, since the early days of Islam when the true line of descent from Muhammad was usurped.) The point is, this kind of jihad could not be undertaken by individuals ever in the history of Islam, but only under proper authority, and even then it was subject to strict ethical controls.
The second kind of just war is a defensive war: where an enemy army has invaded and there is no time for the legitimate ruler to organize a proper defense, the entire community must undertake that defense. Since the invaders constitute an army, all of them are fair game; since an Islamic army is not available to fight them, civilians must conduct an irregular defense, acting as guerillas. This, also, has its parallels in Western history; the French resistance to the Nazis, the American Continental Army's resistance to the British, the Haganah of the pre-state yishuv in Israel, all engaged in irregular, guerilla warfare against an invading enemy army, and all are considered legitimate by most Westerners.
What the Islamists have done is take the norms of guerilla war originally designed for use against an invading army and apply them to any situation of conflict between a Muslim and non-Muslim power, whether or not that non-Muslim power is an invader, whether or not that power is an army. Moreover, it is not only every individual in the local community who has the responsibility for communal defense, but every Muslim around the world who can, on his own authority, take up arms to fight a lawless war against any infidel power he considers to be an "invader" - or any Muslim power he considers to be "in league" with the infidels. Thus, the Jewish State of Israel, the Indian control of Kashmir, the civil wars in Bosnia and Kossovo, the Egyptian peace with Israel, the presence of American soldiers in Arabia - all these are invasions of the House of Islam by infidels, which justify any Muslim using any amount of force against any individuals or groups associated with the infidels in order to repel the invaders.
Such a philosophy is clearly a logical deduction from the original idea of jihad. It is a logical deduction in the same way that Pol Pot's ideology was a logical deduction from the principles of the Enlightenment. After all, if human progress is possible, and if government is justified by the good it does for the citizenry, and if Marxism has persuasively critiqued existing society as oppressive and doomed, then it is perfectly justified to kill one out of every five members of society in order to totally remake that society along just lines. That's logic of a sort, the same logic that the Islamists use.