The Wolf Age
Did you ever get the feeling that the recent events in the world followed a theme? About two months ago and half, the recurring theme of punishing the law-abiding common man and rewarding the bully and outlaw prompted me to write the post The Lawlessness That Masquerades As Law. Now the theme, demonstrated by the British sailors incident (taken hostage by Iran, then released as a “gift”), the clash in Malmö (three posts on Jihad Watch: , ,  ), and now the shooting at Virginia Tech, is that of self-defense—the right of individuals to defend themselves from attackers, and how the modern state is failing them, and by extension, the right of states to defend themselves from attackers, and how international law is failing them.
The worldwide ideological cause of our frustrating inability to attain even the beginning of the end of this war, more than five years and a half since the fall of the World Trade Center towers, is, I contend, the inability to perceive the (sorry about this, I know the phrase is cliché, but here it’s really the best fit) paradigm shift in world politics since the fall of the Soviet Union. We are led by capable, competent former Cold Warriors, even a few former World Warriors, but their expertise goes to naught, because the paradigm that ruled supreme in the years 1914–91, the paradigm that dates at least back to the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, has become of reduced relevance. The state-oriented way of thinking is outdated.
How amazing it is to contemplate that Franz Joseph Haydn was, in effect, nothing more than a minstrel, a troubadour, while Ludwig van Beethoven was a free composer setting the timetable for his own concerts, and all that because of just a century’s separation, the difference between Europe of the 18th century, with its princes and dukes and barons giving patronage to their artists, and Europe of the 19th century, with its nation-states. That is not to say Haydn did not live in nation-states, or that Beethoven did not sometimes perform for nobility who requested it; but the significance had shifted, to such an extent that even culture, even art, was influenced. Although Metternich attempted to restore the old order (through the dictates of the Congress of Vienna, 1815), it was futile: the Battle of the Nations (also known as the Battle of Leipzig) had taken place just two years earlier, and by 1848 the rebellion against the former way was clear for all to see.
The formation of more nation-states, such as the united Italy and the united Germany, marked the rest of the 19th century. By the time we get to 1914, although the old titles are still there, such as archduke, the assassination of an archduke triggered not a local feud but a war between states, mushrooming into a world war of state against state. The wake of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 saw the defeated Germans wishing to address their grievances as a nation and state, and World War II, though it was about an ideology striving for world hegemony (Nazism), was about nation-states, just like the previous. It ended when those nation-states were defeated by other nation-states.
After that, the Cold War brought a slight portent of our age, in the form of a non-nationalistic ideology: whereas Nazism was tied to the German Volk, Communism was transnational; Soviet Russia was its material powerhouse, but not its ideological root, and indeed, today, more than 15 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, Marxism is alive and well, and operating, and sabotaging the West from within as it had done for long. But the Cold War was still within the state-based paradigm, with both material powerhouses competing for states, fighting proxy wars. It was because of this that the United States of America got involved in Vietnam, while the Soviet Union meddled in the Middle East by aiding “Arab Socialist” states (Nasserist Egypt, Baathist Syria) against the USA’s allies there—Israel and Turkey.
I can trace the beginning of the present order to the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979). Khomeini disavowed the West/East, Capitalist/Communist dichotomy and declared Islam the only right political framework for a state to be governed by. But because this was a state revolution, a capturing of a state by an ideology, similar to that of Russia by Communism and Germany by Nazism, there was no way the superpowers could think outside their state-based box. The USA pitted another state, Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, against Iran, and the Soviet Union attempted to quell a potential Islamic revolt within itself by invading Afghanistan. Whenever people mention the blunders of Ronald Reagan, truly one of the best leaders the free world has ever had (all the more so when compared with the dimwit who preceded him), in confronting the rising political challenge of Islam, my reaction is: Even now, nearing six years after the explicit Islamic attack on the USA, people, including President Bush himself, are circling around the issue; how, then, could you possibly expect such awareness from a world still in the midst of the Cold War? And even if there had been an awareness of the Islamic threat, freedom to operate against it had to wait until 1991 at the earliest, when the polarity of the two superpowers and their proxies was broken.
The interim period of 1991–2001 had the people of the world too immersed in their desire to enjoy the new “Peace at last!” rather than acknowledge the dangers looming on the horizon. Bosnia, the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center and the suicide bombings in Israel were rationalized as local conflicts and incidents. The opening shot of the 21st century was fired on that terrible day, September the 11th of 2001, but the reaction had “Old Order” written on it from the start.
The USA invaded Afghanistan, because of the Taliban regime there, giving sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden. It would have made just as good sense to invade Saudi Arabia or Iran, which are terror-supporting regimes without doubt (the 19 suicide-terrorists of 9/11 were Saudis). Later, it invaded Iraq, for a reason which, despite all speculations (WMD, oil etc.), is still unknown. Both moves can now be seen as failures: the Taliban are rearing their heads again, and as for Iraq… suffice it here to say that there is no greater indication of the failure of it than the rise of Islamic parties and the plight of the non-Muslims of Iraq. “We fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” has resulted in the opposite situation, in which the flower of the West are stuck in a faraway place without even a name for the enemy, and of course, following from that, without the foggiest idea of what the word, “victory” could mean in this context; all while the heartland of the West is being assaulted by the Marxism-Islam alliance from within. Which brings me to the recent events.
Today’s states have failed their citizens, and today’s global rules and laws have failed the states. The welfare state and the Geneva rules of engagement made perfect sense back when they were devised—in the aftermath of World War II. Today, they are as sure a shackle on the backs of the West as it would be for a soldier to carry a musket in addition to his M-16. The welfare state and the UN conventions on warfare were conceived with the purpose of preventing a global conflict between nation-states. Though it is probably because of wise or fortunate moves that the Cold War did not erupt into another worldwide conflict as many thought it would, the old laws can be said to have basically succeeded. But the old order is gone, and the world is chafing under its rules, much as Europe did under the aforementioned dictates of the Congress of Vienna.
This war is not between states. States are just its most potent vehicles, and the capturing of states just the ultimate goal. This war is between cultural systems that rule the minds of men first and the political systems after. If one really must frame this war in the old state-based paradigm, then he could say this is the war of existing states against the formation of autonomous states within them, expanding in their independence and scope until the critical point is reached where the original host state is under threat to its existence.
This war is not one we are destined to lose. But we cannot win under the old, post-WWII order. We cannot win under a paradigm that robs the individual, and the individual state, of the capability of self-defense by relegating it to the state and to the supra-national organization, respectively. We cannot win when unelected officials use the old order as a means of preserving their power. And we cannot win when the former counter-measures, for example the swift and immediate reaction against the once very real problem of racism, are used to nip any attempt at self-defense in the bud.
What is so apparent about the leadership of the current world is how out of touch it is with the citizenry it claims to represent. On YNET (website of Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot), I read each time of an Israeli Jewish politician saying something like, “It is important to reach an agreement with the Palestinians” or “Syria can provide a diplomatic horizon”, and below that, on the talkbacks, an overwhelming number that say things of the type of, “What is that guy smoking?!” The leadership worldwide is clueless, so clueless you feel like banging your head against the wall. The state not only does not do its purported job of protecting the individual, but the opposite—it takes all the steps to rob the individual of the capability of self-defense, thus concentrating in itself that ability to blackmail the individual into submission. Multinational organizations like the European Union dictate the policies of the individual states in opposition to their interests. And, towering above them all, the UN Rules of Engagement are providing a haven for the global Islamic insurgency: the non-Muslim signatory states are bound to them, and receive condemnation if they break them, while the Muslim non-state actors are free to disregard them entirely. That is the essence of asymmetric warfare.
The Old Order must go. Whether it will go in Armageddonian fashion or peacefully is as yet unknown, but this situation, in which Ahmadinejad must be laughing himself silly at the sight of those sailors who were ordered not to defend themselves, and in which Al Qaeda terrorists must be looking in great interest at the recent event of a shooter unstopped because he was the only one with access to arms, cannot be allowed to go on. Its toll is already high, and it could only get higher, G-d forbid.
The new order is marked by a return to that pastoral metaphor: a world of wolves, where the survivors are those who take on the role of sheepdogs themselves, rather than waiting for a government above to do it for them, which, as we can see, isn’t happening. That Holocaust survivor who defended the students, Liviu Librescu (HaShem avenge his blood), conveyed the message bodily: unarmed, people are destined to be sheep led to slaughter; armed, they stay alive as sheepdogs fending off the wolves. This so-called “progressive, enlightened” age is nothing of the sort. The right of individuals and states to defend themselves both inwardly and outwardly is the critical issue of our day.