Wait a second, you say: If sharia permits retaliatory killing, can’t Muslims help us against these assassins from al-Qaeda and Taliban? No, with exceptions that are not relevant to this discussion, only when the murder victims are Muslims is retaliatory killing permitted. Muslims who kill non-Muslims are expressly protected. Moreover, non-Muslim forces in Islamic countries are deemed “occupiers,” the term the detestable Afghan president Hamid Karzai has taken to calling American troops. Occupiers (like any non-Muslims who fight and kill Muslims) are seen as oppressors and enemies of Allah. The Koran sternly warns Muslims not to take such non-Muslims as friends or protectors (e.g., Suras 4:139, 60:01), and most certainly not to take up their cause against fellow Muslims. As Sura 4:144 puts it, “O, ye who believe, take not for friends Unbelievers rather than Believers: do ye wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves?”
Private Abdo may not approve of al-Qaeda. He may not want to see the Taliban retake control of Afghanistan. But that is not the point. They are Muslims. He, like the Muslims of Afghanistan, sees himself as a Muslim first. He is not going to side with us over them. It doesn’t matter that he may privately believe they are reprehensible. Since they are Muslims, he sees it as Allah’s place, not his, to condemn them. In this life, in the sharia schema of Muslims versus non-Muslims, he is with his fellow Muslims — and would risk grave peril, both here and in the afterlife, were he to cross over to the other side.
On the Corner this week, Iraq vet David French complained that counterinsurgency had developed an undeserved reputation for being “touchy-feely” because of its close association with nation-building. His point is well taken. COIN, as he attests, involves “intense fighting” under conditions that are exceedingly dangerous — made intolerably dangerous, I would add, by the stringent rules of engagement imposed on our warriors, given the impossible task of wooing the Islamic population with one hand while they battle the Islamic enemy with the other. That our forces make such progress in the constraints under which they operate is an astonishing testament to their bravery and competence.
The problem is that COIN and nation-building, if they are to have a prayer, cannot succeed until after the enemy has been defeated. What wins hearts and minds is not showing how virtuous and decent we are — especially in a confrontation between civilizations with very different ideas about virtue and decency. Hearts and minds are won when the enemy’s will is broken. COIN and nation-building worked in postwar Germany and Japan because complete victory was achieved first. As Jed Babbin recounts, it did not work in Vietnam, where, as in the War on Terror, the enemy was never conquered and its state sponsors were permitted to fuel the fighting with impunity.
Victory is not a step that can be skipped. Its stark absence cannot be disguised by miniaturizing the enemy, by pretending it is an aberrant fringe of violent extremists. The Taliban enjoys broad popular support — or, at least, sympathy — because the Afghan public is more aligned with its beliefs than with ours. That makes the population the enemy. There is a reason why so many U.S. and allied troops are being attacked and killed in sneak attacks by the Afghan recruits they are trying to train. There is a reason why the Obama administration is negotiating with the Taliban — conceding that the Taliban won’t be defeated and must be accommodated — even as Americans are told that battling the Taliban is the reason our young men and women must remain in harm’s way.
It is madness.
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.