WE OFTEN ARE told that we possess the most powerful military in the world and that we will face no serious threat for some time to come. We are comforted with three reassurances aimed at deflecting any serious discussion of national security: that Islam is a religion of peace; we never will go to war with China because our economic interests are intertwined; and the U.S. won the Cold War and Russia no longer is our enemy. These, however, are myths, propagated on the fight and left alike. We believe them at our peril, because serious threats already are upon us.
Let us begin with Islam. We were assured that it was a religion of peace immediately following Sept. 11, 2001. Pres. George W. Bush, a good man, believed---or was persuaded-that true Islam was not that different from Judaism or Christianity. He said in a speech in October 2001, just a month after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon: "Islam is a vibrant faith .... We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion." However, the President was trying to understand Islam as we would like it to be rather than how countless devout Muslims comprehend it.
Organizationally, Islam is built around a belief in God or Allah, but it equally is a political ideology organized around the Koran and the teachings of its founder, Muhammad.
Whereas Christianity teaches that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's--allowing for a nontheocratic political tradition to develop in the West, culminating in the principles of civil and religious liberty in the American founding--Islam teaches that to disagree with, or even reinterpret, the Koran's 6,000 odd verses, organized into 114 chapters or Suras, and dealing as fully with law and politics as with matters of faith, is punishable by death.
Islamic authorities of all the major branches of Islam hold that the Koran must be read so that the parts written last override the others. This so-called theory of abrogation means that the ruling parts of the Koran are those written after Muhammad went to Medina in 622 A.D. Specifically, they are Suras 9 and 5, which are not the Suras containing the verses often cited as proof of Islam's peacefulness.
Sura 9, verse 5, reads: "Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever ye find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them...."
Sura 9, verse 29, reads: "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of troth, even if they are of the 40 people of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
Sura 5, verse 51, reads: "Oh ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them for friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not the unjust."
Sura 3, verse 28, introduces the doctrine of taqiyya, which holds that Muslims should not be friends with the infidel except as deception, always with the end goal of converting, subduing, or destroying him.
It often is said that to point out these verses is to cherry pick unfairly the most violent parts of the Koran. In response, I assert that we must try to understand Muslims as they understand themselves and, I hasten to add, the average American Muslim does not understand the Koran with any level of detail. So, I am not painting a picture here of the average Muslim. I am trying to understand those Muslims, in the U.S. and abroad, who actively seek the destruction of America.
Here at home, the threat is posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its organizational arms, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, and various Muslim student associations. These groups seek to persuade Americans that Islam is a religion of peace, but let me quote to you from a document obtained during the 2(X)7 Holy Land Trial investigating terrorist funding. It is a Muslim Brotherhood Strategic Memorandum on North American Affairs that was approved by the Shura Council and the Organizational Conference in 1987. It speaks of "Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and a stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims' causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims' efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic State wherever it is."
Elsewhere, this document says that settlement is a "Civilization-Jihadist Process" with all the means. The Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) must realize that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes.
During the Bush Administration, the number of Muslims in the U.S. typically was estimated to be around 3,000,000. The Pew Research Center in 2007 estimated it to be 2,350,000. In 2000, the Council on American Islamic Relations put the number at 5,000,000. Pres. Barack Obama, in his Cairo speech two years ago, put it at 7,000,000.
In that light, consider a 2007 survey of American Muslim opinion conducted by the Pew Research Center. Eight percent of American Muslims who took part in this survey said they believed that suicide bombing sometimes can be justified in defense of Islam. Even accepting a low estimate of 3,000,0(10 Muslims in the U.S., this would mean that 240,000 among us hold that suicide bombing in the name of Islam can be justified. Among American Muslims 18-29 years old, 15% agreed with that and 60% thought of themselves as Muslim first and Americans second. Among all participants in the survey, five percent--and five percent of the low estimate of 3,000,000 Muslims in the U.S. is 150,00--had a favorable view of Al Qaeda.
Given these numbers, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the political aims and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood represent a domestic threat to national security. It is one thing to have hundreds of terrorist sympathizers within our borders, but quite another if that number is in the hundreds of thousands. Consider the massacre at Ft. Hood: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan believed that he was acting as a devout Muslim--indeed, he was obeying a religious mandate to wage war against his fellow soldiers. Yet, even to raise the question of whether Islam presents a domestic threat today is to invite charges of bigotry or worse.
As dangerous as it potentially is, this domestic threat pales in comparison to the foreign threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies--a threat that is existential in nature.
The government in Tehran, of course, is enriching uranium to convert to plutonium and place in a nuclear warhead. Iran has advanced ballistic missiles such as the Shahab-3, which can be launched from land or sea and is capable of destroying an American city. Even worse, if the Iranians were able to deliver the warhead as an electromagnetic pulse weapon from a ship offshore--a method they have been practicing, by the way--they could destroy the electronic infrastructure of the U.S. and cause the deaths of tens of millions or more.
Let me be perfectly clear: we do not today have a missile defense system in place that is capable of defending against either a ship-launched missile attack by Iran or a ballistic missile attack from China or Russia.
The U.S. trades with China and the Chinese buy our debt. They currently have two trillion dollars in U.S. reserves, about haft of which is in U.S. Treasuries. Their economy and ours intimately are intertwined. For this reason, it is thought that the Chinese will not go to war with us. Why, after all, would they want to destroy their main export market? On the other hand, China is building an advanced army, navy, air force, and space-based capability that dearly is designed to limit the U.S. and its ability to project power in Asia. It has more than 2,000,000 men under arms and possesses an untold number of ICBMs--most of them aimed at the U.S.--and hundreds of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles.
China's military thinking is centered on opposing American supremacy, and its military journals openly discuss unrestricted warfare, combining traditional military means with cyber, economic, and atomic warfare--and terrorism.
China also is working to develop a space-based military capability and investing in various launch vehicles, including manned space flight, a space station, and extensive anti-satellite weaponry aimed at negating U.S. global satellite coverage.
Absent a missile defense capable of intercepting China's ballistic missiles, the U.S. would be hard pressed to maintain even its current security commitments in Asia. The Seventh Fleet, however capable, cannot withstand the kinds of nuclear missiles and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that China could employ against it. The Chinese have studied American capabilities and have built weapons meant to negate our advantages. The destructive capability of the recently unveiled Chinese DF-21D missile against our aircraft carriers significantly raises the stakes of a conflict in the South China Sea, and the SSN-22 cruise missile---designed by the Russians and deployed by the Chinese and Iranians--presents a daunting challenge due to its enormous size and Mach 3 speed.
China has, for some time, carried out a policy that has been termed "peaceful rise." In recent years, though, we have seen the coming to power of what scholars like Tang Ben call the "Red Guard generation"--generals who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and no longer are content with China remaining a secondary power, and who appear eager to take back Taiwan, avenge past wrongs by Japan, and replace the U.S. as the preeminent military power in the region, and, ultimately, the world.
However farfetched this idea may seem to U.S. policymakers, it is widely held in China that America is on the decline, with economic problems that will limit its ability to modernize its military and maintain its alliances. Indeed, as things stand, the U.S. would have to resort to full-scale nuclear war to defend its Asian allies from an attack by China. This is the prospect that caused Mao Tse Tung to call the U.S. a "paper tiger."
Retired Chinese General Xiong Guong Kai expressed much the same idea in 1995, when he said that the U.S. would not trade Los Angeles for Taipei--that is, that we would have to stand by if China attacks Taiwan, since China has the ability to annihilate Los Angeles with a nuclear missile. In any case, current Chinese aggression against Japan in the Senkaku Islands and their open assistance of the Iranian nuclear program, as well as their sale of arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, would suggest that China openly is embracing the role that the Soviet Union once played as chief sponsor of global conflict with the West.
Cold War brainlock
This brings us to Russia and the degradation of American strategic thinking during and after the Cold War. This thinking used to be guided by the idea that we must, above all, prevent a direct attack upon the U.S. homeland. Yet, over the past 50 years, we have been taught something different: that we must accept a balance of power among nations, especially those possessing nuclear ballistic missiles, and that we cannot seek military superiority--including defensive superiority, as with missile defense--lest we create strategic instability. This now is the common liberal view taught at universities, think tanks, and schools of foreign service.
Meanwhile, for their part, conservatives have been basking in the glow of "winning the Cold War," but in what sense was it won, it might be asked, given that we neither disarmed Russia of its nuclear arsenal nor put a stop to its active measures to undermine us. The transformation of some of the former captive nations into liberal democracies certainly is worth celebrating but, given the Russian government's brutally repressive domestic policies and strengthened alliances with the U.S.'s enemies abroad over the past 20 years, conservatives have overdone it.
Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that our policy toward Russia has been exceedingly foolish. For the past two decades, we have paid the Russians to dismantle nuclear warheads they would have dismantled anyway, while they have used those resources to modernize their ballistic missiles. On our part, we have not even tested a nuclear warhead since 1992--which is to say that we are not certain they work anymore. Moreover, we have failed to maintain any tactical nuclear weapons or build the missile defense system first proposed by Pres. Ronald Reagan.
Just recently, with bipartisan backing from members of the foreign policy establishment, the Senate ratified the New Start Treaty, which will reduce our nuclear arsenal further and almost certainly cause more delays in building missile defenses--and this with a nation that engages in massive deception against us, supports our enemies, and builds ever more advanced nuclear weapons.
At the heart of the U.S.'s strategic defense policy today is the idea of launching a retaliatory nuclear strike against whatever nuclear power attacks us, but absent reliable confidence in the lethality of forces, such a deterrent is meaningless.
In this light, deliberating about the need for a robust modernization program, rather than arms reductions through New Start, would have been a better way for Congress to spend the days leading up to Christmas, which is to say it would have been supportive of our strategic defense policy, rather than undercutting it--but what about that strategic policy? Some of New Start's supporters argue that reducing, rather than modernizing, our nuclear arsenal places us on the moral high ground in our dealings with other nations, but can any government claim to occupy the moral high ground when it willingly, knowingly, and purposely keeps its people nakedly vulnerable to nuclear missiles?
The Russians know well the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the American defense establishment, and carefully have orchestrated things for two decades so that we remain preoccupied with threats of North Korean and now Iranian ballistic missiles. We spend our resources developing modest defense systems to deal, albeit inadequately, with these so-called rogue states, and meanwhile forego addressing the more serious threat from Russia and China, both of which are medernizing their forces.
Who is to say that there never will come a time when the destruction or nuclear blackmail of the U.S. will be in the interest of the Russians or the Chinese? Do we imagine that respect for human life or human rights will stop these brutal tyrannies from acting on such a determination?
If I sound pessimistic, I do not mean to. Whatever kind of self-deception has gripped the architects of our current defense policies, the American people have proved capable of forcing a change in direction when they learn the facts. Americans do not wish to be subjected to Sharia law, owe large sums of money to the Chinese, or be kept vulnerable to nuclear missiles. Having responded resoundingly to the economic and constitutional crisis represented by ObamaCare, it now is time for us to remind our representatives of the constitutional requirement to provide for a common defense--in the true sense of the word.
Brian T. Kennedy is president of the Claremont (Calif.) Institute and publisher of the Claremont Review of Books. He sits on the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense and is coauthor of Shariah: The Threat to America. This article is adapted from a speech delivered for a lecture series sponsored by Hillsdale (Mich.) College's Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship; manuscript courtesy of Imprimis.…