Soldiers in the War on Terror
We sometimes forget that the War on Terror is really being fought on two separate battlefields. The first involves guns and bombs, suicide killings and barbaric executions, and the security of civilized nations. The other is related, but far more subtle. It is war of ideologies. If we fail to respond in kind to this threat, we lose the war even if we win, for the threat will never go away.
On one side, you have the international spread of western modernity, with its enlightened vision of democracy, freedom, equality humanitarian conscience, freedom of religion and speech, and the use of reason in the name of progress for all.
On the other side is unbending, religious fanaticism at its worst, disrupting civilization with its rebel armies, indiscriminate killing, and even mass murder - crippling the functions of legitimate governments while ruining the lives of millions, in the supposed name of God. They reject democracy, freedom, equality and religious freedom. Indeed, they reject everything of western civilization, except for its weapons of destruction.
Most of us strongly believe in the self-evident value of our western ideals. We cannot understand the attraction of an ideology of hate (even though we toy with it politically). Why would anyone join a movement to wage war against freedom and equal rights and peaceful, civilized coexistence? And for what? The tyranny of some self-styled caliph, who claims power not by reason of worth or beneficence, but by the insane deviltry of killing and terror? Surely they would be happier if they embraced western ideals. Don't they know that?
These are the questions we must face before we can win a conflict of ideologies. You can be certain that our enemies know exactly what they are fighting against, true or false, which explains their enthusiasm, compared to our frustrated, reactionary response.
The enemy we face does not look upon the west as the successful realization of high ideals. They see, from their perspective, a wanton Babylon of immorality and greed, hated by Allah for insulting all that is sacred. Seeing us as hypocrites feeds their hate and justifies their bloody jihad.
To win this War on Terror, we must intellectually and spiritually take hold of what we believe in, and live accordingly. Quite frankly, the west is suffering from the neglect of its own ideals, replacing them with empty words and platitudes. That needs to change. We must know what we are fighting for beyond our own physical security, or terrorism wins. We must wake up to the inspirational depth and beauty of our own ideals in order to stand up to terrorist propaganda. We must prove to ourselves and to the world that greed, and all the ugliness that comes with it, is not the natural result of freedom, but the remolding of freedom into something else. The ideal of true freedom produces virtue, not greed. Only when we surpass the enthusiasm of the jihadists for what we believe in will we will find our greatest strength.
It is time to resurrect the primacy of conscience to solidify our moral base. Capitalism succeeds when we realize that true happiness does not come from the acquisition of expensive toys, or the diversions from life that come from being constantly entertained. It comes from leading a virtuous life. That was the central message of the Age of Enlightenment, from which the west blossomed, and the vision of our founders.
And to make all this work, we must rescue and reform our politics by preventing partisanship from perverting the will of the people.
This is where each of us, as citizen soldiers of freedom, plays a vital role. We must myopic selfishness aside and commit ourselves to the moral flourishing of our own ideals, and show the world that they are valid through the way we live.
Whenever we counter lies with truth, whenever we offer kindness to those in need, whenever we defend the weak, or fight for justice, or measure our words before speaking to make sure that they support higher goals rather than our egos, we strike a blow for freedom in the War on Terror.
We cannot proclaim freedom as an ideal without also being responsible for making it so. Believe it or not, the whole world is watching what we do with it. Ideals are just empty words until we bring them to life in our everyday lives. If we fail to do that, if we fail to live them enthusiastically and with pride of accomplishment, then we inadvertently empower our enemies.
take a moment to listen to the quiet voice of your own conscience, which
is an integral part of who you are, and longs to complete you. We are
being called to a battlefield where bombs and bullets cannot win the day.
Our weapons are what we say and do to the least among us, and the rationale
of building a society forever immune from moral hypocrisy. There can be
no greater defense against the ideology of darkness that threatens us
© Copyright 2014