Which Threat is Worse - Islamic Barbarism or Russian Resurgence?

Long-term vs short-term threats.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

- Robert Frost

In that vein, the writers of Scragged find themselves in an internal debate regarding whether the civilized world is more severely threatened by Islamofascist barbarians or by a resurgent and totalitarian Russia.

Scragged writers are far from monolithic in their views.  Christopher Marlowe, for example, in discussing the threat to America posed by the Soviet Union, said:

The future of Western civilization is under great threat from fundamentalist Islam, and Russia is a second order problem but if they materially assist the enemies of the US, do they really deserve special treatment?

While we all believe that barbarism motivated by militant Islam is the most severe international threat we face at the moment, some of us believe Russia to be the worst of the two in the long term.

There are several reasons why fundamentalist Islam might be thought to be a worse threat than the Russians. Looked at in the long view, though, there are clear limits to the damage Islam can do; these limitations don't all apply to Russia.


In his comments to an earlier article, Marlowe pointed out:

It is widely acknowledged that Reagan spent the USSR into bankruptcy. The Soviet economy could not match US spending on re-armament, especially in the construction of new warships and high-tech developments.

The Islamic fundamentalists share the communists' inability to manage an effective modern economy, but they don't need to because of their oil wealth.  The realities of modern technology absolutely require an abundant supply of affordable oil; without it, nothing resembling modern life or modern economies is even remotely possible.

Of course, there are alternatives like nuclear power and coal gasification.  Conveniently for the world of Islam, unfortunately for us, Mr. Obama's Democrats have precluded any use of these, leaving us stuck with the same old black goo from under Arab sands.  As a practical matter, we won't be permitted to find alternatives which means that we won't be able to beat the barbarians economically.

Russia, on the other hand, has no such stranglehold on the United States.  For all that their large supplies of oil and other resources are very nice to have on the world market, they are not a majority supplier.

The same, however, cannot be said for Europe: Russia supplies an increasing amount of European energy in the form of natural gas to a Europe which (save the French) is just as allergic to domestic nuclear power as any American green might wish.  Russia has already demonstrated awareness of its own strength by turning off the gas tap and sending Europe into the deep-freeze.  This situation is bad for Europe, but it doesn't directly affect the US.

Access to Women

Islam's less-than-respectful view of women is well known; every depravity imaginable is commonplace in the Muslim world, and some that aren't.  An aged Muslim grandmother famously arranged for terrorists to rape women so as to more easily persuade them to become suicide bombers.

The Russians used specially-trained female KGB agents to involve Westerners in "honeytrap" operations, of course, but because women were given a much higher status under communism than under Islam, they couldn't be simply given out as baubles to reward participants in the struggle.  Russians had to be content with using money and power as rewards; they couldn't offer bevys of heavenly virgins, and even the highest Communist leaders were not noted for their harems as are Muslim sheikhs and caliphs.

If you are a low-level Russian, you have as good odds of finding a wife as anyone else; not so for low-level Muslims.  This gives Islam a greater potential source of motivation, but also an inherent instability.  Desperately horny men are not the most disciplined soldiers; though they make excellent berserkers, making it impossible for men to marry is not so effective in modern war.  Even the 9-11 terrorists just had to swing by a strip joint on 9-10.

Religion as a Motivator

Islamists do what they do because of their religious beliefs.  Atheistic communism, by definition, could not call on religion as a motivator.

The communists appealed to patriotism, of course, but that's not nearly as effective since the power of patriotism mostly ends at death.  We've noted that our leadership elites can't really use patriotism as a motivator either because they don't believe in America as a nation and they don't understand enough about faith to deal with people whose actions are motivated by it.

Vladimir Putin seems to be quite effectively reviving the forces of Russian nationalism and patriotism.  This would not be a bad idea if he applied it to internal improvements, but he seems inclined much more towards channeling his people's fervor into outward aggression.

Islam, on the other hand, suffers from a jurisdictional mismatch.  With ordinary nationalism, the group is the nation and the leader of the nation is the leader of the group.  This doesn't work in the Islamic world, as there are quite a few separate nations, devoutly Muslim individually, but who hate each other.

Most Muslim nations have a fair contingent of citizens who are not Muslim and who are treated as second-class citizens if the Muslims happen to be in the majority.  What happens when one Muslim nation goes to war with another one?  What if a Muslim nation goes to war against its own "apostate" citizens?  Nothing helpful to Muslim fundamentalism as a whole, that's for sure, as al Qaeda discovered when it started killing Muslim Iraqis and wound up getting shot at by darn near everybody.

Long Term versus Short Term

In the short term, the Taliban and their ilk will certainly give us more trouble than the Russians.  The Russians don't want to die any more than we do; the Islamic barbarians don't value their own lives in quite the same way.  The Russians have at least something of an institutional respect for international law in that they aren't likely to invade countries who can fight back; al Qaeda has no such compunction.

Fighting wars in the usual nationalistic way is far more expensive than the occasional terrorist spectacular.  The Russians can't really afford to go to war for now; they are only now getting back on the air after spending some time in the national equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr. Putin is well aware of the long term versus the short term, however, and he has no intention of helping us wake up to the problems he intends to cause us as soon as his nation is once more ready to stand forth on the international stage.  By throwing banana peels around such as his efforts to help Iran with its nuclear program, Mr. Putin intends to multiply problems for us without getting directly involved.  That's fair, in a way - we used Islamic militancy against Russia when they occupied Afghanistan, why shouldn't they use Islam against us?

Given the Taliban's potential to get nuclear armaments by buying them or by being given them by an Islamic nuclear power, why do we believe that the Russians are a more severe long-term threat?

First, the Muslims don't have enough bombs to destroy America; the Russians do.  If the Muslims touch off any weapon of mass destruction on US soil, whether it be biological or nuclear, any President would be forced to turn the Middle East to glass from the Israeli border to the border between India and Pakistan.  Whether this would happen if Iran destroyed Israel with a nuclear attack instead of attacking the US is not as clear, but it's the next logical step in terrorism.

Anything less than a weapon of mass destruction would merely persuade Mr. Obama (or the overwhelming majority of the American people and thence Mr. Obama's quick replacement) that Mr. Bush was right in declaring that Islamic terrorism is, indeed, a real problem.

Second, the Russians have far more technical resources than militant Islam.  Islamists have plenty of money and are able to buy whatever weapons technology is available but they lack the technical expertise to come up with anything new.  The Russian economy is down just now, which is why Mr. Putin is deferring parts of his rearmament until 2011, but the Russians are smart people who are capable of amazing endurance and spectacular technical competence.

They also learn from experience; they aren't likely to repeat the economic mistakes they made under communism now that the central planning apparatus has been swept away. We've seen how a whiff of capitalism made the Chinese economy take off.  If Mr. Putin pulls off an economic revival while we dabble in socialism Obama-style, we won't be able to out-spend them next time 'round.

Third, the Russian people are patriotic whereas American leadership thinks patriotism is old-fashioned and irrelevant.  The Russian people revere "Uncle Joe" Stalin because, although one might quibble with his human rights record, he fought off the Nazis during WWII.

Americans who enjoy the safety of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have no clue how citizens of a land power which has been invaded repeatedly from East, West, and South feel about the essential need for a strong national government.  Many Russians argue that democracy is not muscular enough to defend their nation from the surrounding hordes; history would imply that they have a point.

Mr. Putin has no sympathy for militant Islam within his borders; events in Chechnya show that he'll stamp it out using whatever level of violence is needed should Islam threaten his core interests.  In the meantime, of course, Islam serves as a welcome distraction to keep us from noticing that he's rebuilding his intelligence apparatus and continuing with economic espionage while he gets his economy back in shape.

Mr. Putin knows how hard it was for America to maintain focus on fighting communism the first time.  He knows how extremely difficult it has been for America to focus on fighting terrorism given the treasonous nature of our domestic politics.  He's clearly intelligent enough to let us waste resources fighting terrorism while he builds up his country's strength for Cold War round II.  We'll be even less prepared than we were the last time.

Fourth, Islam may have a reformation and wind up less militant .  A less militant Islam would be hardly any threat at all, whreas there's very little chance that Russian nationalism will be reformed so long as the Russians are located in what they see as a dangerous neighborhood.

Who Can Win?

Imagine, for a moment, the day Muslim terrorists conquer the United States.  You can't, can you?

Sure, they can do a great deal of damage, destroy our economy, and kill millions; but it's totally inconceivable that they would ever be able to conquer and rule America.  It simply won't happen: they lack the organization, the technical sophistication, the industrial economy, really anything you need for world conquest other than the desire and dedication.

How about being conquered by the Russians?  It's already been imagined countless times, from Red Dawn to any number of fictional novels.  Russia, of course, never actually conquered America, or ever seriously tried, nor would it be an easy task - but it's at least conceivable.

Even without a formal military conquest, there's no shortage of analysts who seem to feel that America is on the path of inexorable economic decline.  If that's so, does it really matter whether China or Russia takes the top place?  The result will be the same.

Which brings us to the most serious and plausible fear.  The old Soviet empire was always happy to conquer other nations when the opportunity arose, but was just as agreeable to cutting deals with like-minded allies.

Russia directly controlled Eastern Europe by military means under the guise of the Warsaw pact.  Russia did not directly control Cuba, Yugoslavia, North Korea, or China, yet all those places were clearly Communist in nature and found themselves Russian allies more often than not.

As we have seen increasingly clearly over the last few weeks, those currently in power in Washington believe in the fundamentals of Communism, though not by that name.  What more plainly explains Obama's tax proposals than "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need?"  Who but an out-and-out Marxist would gladly reduce tax revenues by increasing tax rates so as to destroy wealth all round, as Obama specifically recommended during the primary debates?

What sort of free, capitalistic nation is it where the government feels itself qualified to tell banks who to lend to, corporations how much to pay their executives, and car manufacturers what sort of cars they ought to manufacture?  Are these not precisely the hallmarks of Soviet procedure?  Citibank and GM may be privately-held corporations in name, but we are perilously close to them being nothing more than government agencies in fact.

So it may not, in the end, be necessary for Russian paratroopers to land in American high school football fields.  Instead, voters in high school gyms may have led to the Communist conquest of America, just as Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev predicted.

The final joke would be if, as America becomes progressively more socialist and communitarian, Russia becomes more economically free - and its current state of quasi-fascism is definitely freer than it was under Communist days, just as China is far freer than once it was though still Communist in name.

Are the communist world and the "free" world passing each other going in opposite directions?  Who knows - in another half century, those names may have reversed their meaning.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Those that commit the acts of terrorism, who say they are acting in the name of Allah are not doing Allah's will. A true Muslim as in one who practices the 5 pilars of Islam and who reads as well as understands the Qur'an would disagree greatly in what those people have done.

I believe the terrorists are hiding behind a religion and using excerpts from the Qur'an to somehow justify what they're doing. Infact, many of the statements that have to do with war and "killing the infidels" have to do with the wars that happened between Medina and Mecca during Mohammad's lifetime.

Haven't we had others in history that hid behind a religion to impose the kind of rule or wage the war they wished to be waged? Hitler did it, look at his propaganda! President Bush did it with his invasion on Iraq.

"'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did.""

So, if someone enforces a religion as King George III had with Catholicism in England before the first of our people came to escape religious persecution, does that make everyone who's Catholic an evil tyrant that want's to assimilate you like the Borg? Not all Muslims are like this. "To you your religion and to me mine" (Surah 109:6)

Now tell me.. did the people above act in the name of God? or self interest? Some can debate whether George Bush acted in the name of God, but really now.. if someone was to point out the most tyrannical nation which needed liberating, I would have chosen a country in Africa rather than Iraq.

Before saying Muslims plural (saying this as if ALL Muslims are the problem), remember there are many Muslims out there that are good people who are true believers in their faith that AREN'T trying to kill you. The people in other countries waging war on the US are idiots. Their battlecry should not be one of hiding behind the Qur'an, Allah and Jihad, but one of their common beef with the US.

As for Russia.. I'll say this, we're in the calm before the storm. Enjoy it while you can people.
April 10, 2009 10:46 AM
Al Termind is undoubtedly correct in pointing out that the VAST majority of Muslims do not interpret the Qur'an in the way that the terrorists do, or at least don't act in the way the terrorists do.

The question is, what are the non-violent Muslims going to do about the violent ones? As I see it, and I could be wrong, non-violent Muslims have been conspicuous by their silence.
April 10, 2009 10:55 AM
See, that's the difference between Christians and Muslims at the moment.

There are nutcases on both sides. And on both sides, the vast majority just want to live their lives in peace and comfort.

But when an anti-abortion zealot guns down an abortionist or blows up an abortion clinic, his fellow Christians are the first people to condemn his actions and holler for the police to arrest, try, convict, and imprison him.

Whereas when a Muslim blows up himself and a nightclub full of innocent young people, the response from other Muslims is along the lines of "Well, I wouldn't do that myself personally, but you gotta understand, it's all America and George Bush's fault! You Western imperialists drove the terrorist to do what he did!" In other words, attempting to make excuses for barbarism. That makes them co-equals in guilt, and it's why we say that Islam AS A WHOLE and as a religion, is rotten.

Any religion which cannot wholeheartedly condemn the intentional targeting of innocent noncombatants, is no religion at all, but rather barbarism at war with civilization; and its defenders are at best dupes and "useful idiots." Islam urgently needs a Reformation; until it gets one, it's not fit for the modern world, any more than the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem witch trials would be.
April 10, 2009 11:05 AM
You're right.. What are they going to do? and as I get to know Islam more and more, I wonder why people aren't standing up and saying this is wrong?

The same could be said about the complacently of American people seeing their country slowly turn to Socialism rather than what the framers originally intended.

I can only assume that many are afraid to lose their lives and everything they have in standing up against those that seem to have a tight grasp on the operations of Islamic countries. The same could be said about the Americans here who are seeing their country slowly go more towards socialism, but don't want to lose everything they own and sound like a lunatic trying to topple the power structure that's grown over the last 40 years.

Most people want to raise a family, not start a revolution.
April 10, 2009 11:09 AM
"Well, I wouldn't do that myself personally, but you gotta understand, it's all America and George Bush's fault! You Western imperialists drove the terrorist to do what he did!"

And who said this?
April 10, 2009 11:10 AM
"Any religion which cannot wholeheartedly condemn the intentional targeting of innocent noncombatants, is no religion at all, but rather barbarism at war with civilization; and its defenders are at best dupes and "useful idiots." Islam urgently needs a Reformation; until it gets one, it's not fit for the modern world, any more than the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem witch trials would be."

You're right with this, but I defend Islam as a religion.. not what people have hijacked and invoked the Qur'an wrongly have done. Many people in these countries are uneducated so with the right "indoctrination" people can make any book say whatever they want. One can compare this to when the Ku Klux Klan would invoke the word of God to make it seem as if one race was greater than another, the eugenics movement of the early 20th century was the same.

The turn away from civilization came many hundreds of years ago when Islamic nations stopped paying attention to the advancements in the western world. Many of the things we have today we have Islamic Nations to thank for (Algebra, the decimal system, among others). Many Islamic nations at the heart of it's people (not looking at murderous dictators or interpreters inspired by Satan) are wanting what the West has. The problem is that every movement whether it be Socialist, dynastic, or by a lunatic needs a boogie man. America is easy to point at as being horrible because we have all these things that others don't.

The thing is that when people try to take on the word of God as their own words they do it for control of people and to be like God. No human can keep this power and keep sane because absolute power corrupts absolutely.
April 10, 2009 11:29 AM
The religion, as it is currently practiced, preached, and proclaimed by the overwhelming majority of its authorities (admittedly not quite all, and not all of its adherents either, but both the majority and the loudest ones) is barbaric.

Does that means it HAS to be? Maybe not. Catholicism was pretty barbaric in many of its practices 500 years ago - the Spanish Inquisition, anti-Jewish pogroms, and quite a few incidents during the Crusades come to mind. Did Catholicism HAVE to be that way? It certainly isn't NOW. But equally certainly, it was THEN.

Perhaps 500 years from now, Islam will have straightened itself out. Until it does, it must be opposed by anyone who values civilization. Do we welcome cannibal religions into our country? How about voodoo, with its zombies and bloody sacrifices? Of course not. Islam is no different from them, in that it imposes harmful strictures on people while preventing their escape should they wish it.

America does not have total freedom of religion and never was intended to - religious freedom only extends (or CAN extend) as long as no innocent victims are hurt and everyone has a free choice to participate or not as they see fit. Nobody makes you go to church, or pray. In Islamic countries, you'd better, or else. That's the difference.

If you are able to persuade most Muslims that the Koran is truly a book of peace, you'll be doing the world a signal service - just as Martin Luther's teachings eventually resulted in the freedom of conscience we mostly have today. However, I tend to think it'll have to be a Muslim who does this, just as Luther was a devout Catholic monk who challenged his own church's teachings from the inside. We in the West can hope for this, but not really do it, or even help - I don't suppose it would have helped Luther if the Ottoman Sultan had publicly praised him and sent him money to promote his teachings.

The difference between Russia and Islam is that the ideology of Islam is far stronger, but also sufficiently insane as to make serious modern industrial development impossible. Soviet Communism didn't prevent industrial development (though it did prevent industrial efficiency), but neither did it last as a faith ideology. Most Soviets, by the end, may have said the words but didn't really believe them, and that was probably true for a long time.
April 10, 2009 12:49 PM
UH. Is Brzezinski still at it?

Are we going to fight with Eurasia again?

April 10, 2009 9:18 PM
Russian women are having 1.2 babies. Muslim women are having 3.4 babies. You do the math.
April 12, 2009 12:18 AM
Towards the end of the article I believe you hit upon the real trouble facing America, and indeed it is the issues that this website most directly attacks. Our enemy is ourselves. We are destroying economic power through the growth of the idea of entitlement and labor unions. We are destroying our industrial ability, should we ever need to convert our factories to make tanks and planes again we'll have precious few to convert.

Strong nations are rarely destroyed. The Soviet Union died from the inside, China was on its way before the economic policy changes. England lost its will to maintain its empire. Spain refused to see the advantage of small ships. The Carolingian Empire, the Roman Empire, Byzantium; go back as far as you like, powerful nations are very rarely conquered until they have rotted from the inside.

America has little to fear if its people are vigorous economically proactive people. If we as companies and a society do not reward hard work, going above and beyond, intelligence, hard work, and individual initiative we will see first hand how great powers are defeated and conquered.
April 26, 2009 10:28 AM
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