The online essayist Bill Whittle has made a remark that many would agree with—but others would find offensive. The remark is not Politically Correct. Whittle said, ‘Israel is an island of civilization surrounded by barbarians. That’s why it’s being attacked’ (“The case for Israel”, youtube uk).
If that’s off-putting, replace the word ‘barbarians’ with ‘ruthless zealots’. The change of wording might help you understand the world you live in.
You live in a world at war. You may not know about that war. But it concerns you. It’s a war between civility and ruthlessness. It’s a war between those who are civilized and those who want to destroy that civilization.
Political Correctness (PC) teaches us not to offend someone else. It tells us to eliminate from our speech anything which might suggest that we discriminate against someone less privileged than we. It teaches us to protect minorities. It makes us civil.
Once we have been trained to be civil, we become reluctant to challenge another person (see Civilization and its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, Lee Harris, 2004). PC is really just another manifestation--a more personal one at that--of the current international obsession with ‘peace’. It suggests the Christian notion of the ‘end of history’, when peace and good will will reign.
But once we become ‘civil’, we make a mistake. We forget what an ‘enemy’ is (ibid). The most civil among us reach a point where they cannot fathom ruthlessness. Their idealism blinds them. They believe that an enemy is just a friend we hadn't done enough for yet (ibid).
Ruthless enemies flourish just when the idealism of ‘the civil’ peaks. At such a moment, Harris argues, the ruthless party knows he will be able to push very far before a break-point is even acknowledged. At that point, there may be no going back. The ruthless knows he may no longer be stoppable.
Think about the Arab war to destroy Israel. Think about ISIS.
Harris writes that the civil believe that the ruthless can be accommodated to civil standards by such (Christian) means as patience and forbearance (ibid). The way Harris puts it, the civil party believes that the ruthless party can be civilized in much the same way we might try to domesticate a feral animal.
The civil one is convinced he can succeed (ibid). He believes that the ruthless one has become ruthless only because of some defect in his psychological make-up, religious training or culture. Harris says we never even dream of identifying ruthlessness for what it really is—a strategy that works.
Civilization has become so successful at making us civil that we are no match for the ruthless. Harris writes because he is concerned about the war he sees coming between the civilized world and the international terrorists who wish to destroy it. He isn’t sure we are ready for that war.
Think about Hamas. Think about ISIS.
The essayist Neo Neo-con (“Will civilization decide to fight the enemies of civilization?”, Legal Insurrection blog, September 2, 2014) builds on Harris’ premise. He argues that when peace-loving, westernized nations become ‘civil’, the ruthless who are willing to stop at nothing will wield an inordinate amount of power. The rest of the world will then be very slow to meet that ruthlessness with enough force to stop it (ibid).
Israel has just shown in Gaza that it is capable of sufficient force to confront terror aggressively (but even Israel is ‘civil’: it didn’t eliminate the terrorists). The question is, as ISIS rises, will the civilized world be able to push back against it?
Neo Neo-con isn’t so sure it can. He wonders if the western world has now become so “civilized” and so resistant to thinking ill of other cultures that even the brutality of ISIS is not enough to prompt that world to defend itself adequately.
Israel, meanwhile, knows what ruthlessness looks like. The ruthless, Israel-hating Palestinian Authority demonizes Israel with the lie that Israel is responsible for the 9/11 attacks against America (“PA [Palestinian Authority] TV Feeds Into 9/11 Conspiracy: 'Israel Did It'”, Arutz Sheva, September 4, 2014). A ruthless Hamas continues to use (in 2008, 2012, 2014) its own citizens in Gaza as human shields in its effort to criminalize Israel. A ruthless Israel-hating Iran continues to work towards producing an atomic bomb (“Iran is Closer to Nuclear Capabilities Than Ever”, Arutz Sheva, September 3, 2014).
Israel understands that it must deal with that ruthlessness. Is it ready to be forceful enough to preserve its own civilization? Is the West ready to be forceful enough to defend itself against the Islamic State?
No one knows the answers to those questions. But if the civilized world is not careful, it may find itself too ‘civil’ to act with sufficient force to defend itself against the barbarism of ISIS.
Indeed, given how the nations of the world have treated the devastation in Syria, they may indeed be too ‘civil’, too PC, to stand up adequately against ISIS.
The irony here is that when the West will be attacked by ISIS—as seems inevitable--it may turn to Israel for help.
It could happen. Israel has more experience than anyone else fighting Islamic ruthlessness. Then there’s this: the Destiny of Israel is to become the nation to whom all others turn. Perhaps this is how that ‘turn’ will start.