If that thesis be accepted, then the question arises:
what should be the strategy of those who reject extremism?
The challenge for moderates is to determine a way of simultaneously defending themselves against a very real physical threat to both their way of life and their very existence while avoiding the trap of allowing themselves to be sucked into either of the extremist camps. Moderates need to keep foremost in their minds at all times that being pulled into one of the extremist camps—either camp(!)—is the extremists’ fondest desire: when an extremist gains the allegiance of a moderate, he has strengthened his ranks and wins; when an extremist sees a moderate join the enemy extremist camp, he uses that to justify his own extremist behavior and again wins. Radicalization of society helps the extremists (and the worldly fellow travelers exploiting extremism). Two critical components of any moderate policy to undermine extremist influence are 1) denying extremists the nationalist flag and 2) supporting, not victimizing, the population.
Denying Extremists the Nationalist Flag
A profound danger in this situation is the ease with which the emotions of war can suck moderates into supporting “our” extremists (who naturally pose as superpatriots) against “their” extremists.
Pashtun Nationalism & the Taliban. Westerners should, for example, consider the case of
It follows that moderates in the West who hope to live in a peaceful world should support policies that make it as difficult as possible for Islamic extremists to make such an argument. The more Islamic extremists can point to the deaths of innocents at Western hands, the more power accrues to them. Avoiding civilian casualties will not directly address the extremist threat. Some other method must be devised for dealing with that. But avoiding civilian casualties will minimize moderate Pakistani support for Islamic extremism. An implacable enemy may exist in any case; still, a weak enemy is better than a strong one.
Israeli Nationalism & Zionist Expansion. Although
Persian Nationalism & Iranian Democracy. “Containment” of Iran that denies Iran its natural place as a major regional power both by discriminating against it in terms of nuclear issues and trying to exclude it from regional diplomacy nicely serves the purposes of both Iranian Shi’ite zealots and advocates of a “Greater Persia.” Moderate Iranians hoping for economic development, regional peace, and improved civil rights are marginalized to the degree that the Shi’ite clergy and their anti-Saddam war generation allies in the military can seize the nationalist flag and claim only they can protect the nation against the threat of foreign aggression. It is in the interests of American, Israeli, and Iranian moderates to take this nationalist flag from the hands of Iranian extremists by offering
Supporting, Not Victimizing, the Population
Extremists win by tricking regimes into victimizing society. If the regime under attack happens to have an agenda of its own that it desires to implement at the expense of the society it is supposed to be protecting, then the extremists will of course have little trouble achieving their goal. Whatever one may think of
An internationalist coalition of moderates will be a difficult policy to implement because those desiring to exploit the conflict for personal profit will always be quick to charge moderates with lack of patriotism. Indeed, if patriotism is an unjustifiable bias in favor of one’s own country even if wrong, then replacing patriotism with a concern for mankind is precisely what is needed to help one’s own country. Patriotism has these past three centuries been an excellent organization motive, but it is becoming a bit dated in this shrinking world of globalization (whether the Western kind or the global jihad kind). The fact is that patriotism in our tightly interconnected world is a pointlessly zero-sum perspective: my country gains at your country’s expense and mankind ends up right where it started (unless one pushes the conflict to war, which one of course tends to do, in which case mankind ends up worse off than before). Mankind may end up worse off because war leads to recession or refugee flows or collateral damage. Regardless, in the type of world we now have, patriotism can easily be an extremely expensive luxury…and one ready-made for exploitation by the power-hungry.
The nationality of the actor killing innocent civilians is not the issue: the issue is the killing of innocent bystanders. Extremists are a tiny minority. They achieve power by making their bid for control appear to be an attempt to defend society against an external enemy. The strategy of moderates should be to expose and thereby isolate the extremist minority as the enemy of democratic society (without reference to ethnicity or nationality). It is highly unlikely that the moderates of any single society can succeed in such a policy on their own. Just as extremists of one society depend on extremism by their opponents, so must moderates in one society coordinate their policies with moderates in other societies, rejecting the calls of extremists to pit societies against each other.