The Islamic Vortex (Part 4)
The story that follows was stolen from somewhere, but I’ve not been able to recover the source. It has a definite neoconservative edge to it, which isn’t surprising given the early-nullities brain-feed it was no doubt extracted from, but it’s neat enough to be passed on.
If Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires in space, the First World War was the equivalent burial ground in time. The German Second Reich, the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) Empire, the Russian (Romanov) Empire, and the Turkish (Ottoman) Empire were all interred by it. In their place arose new geopolitical entities based upon an unstable mixture of ethno-nationalist self-determination and moral-universalist internationalism. The role of American ideas in the New Order – most immediately conveyed by the vehicle of ‘Wilsonism’ – was both substantial and ambiguous. A tight swirl of Americanization and Anti-Americanism would be essential to everything that followed.
If Austro-Germanic imperial collapse can be considered one thing, for the sake of elegance, the true narrative marvel of this story can unfold, because each dead empire was the germ of a world war, structuring history in its fundamentals up to the present day. From each imperial grave, in succession, came a challenge to the Anglophone global order, distinct in certain respects, but also displaying common, recognizable features.
Given what is being said of their origins, we can think of these sequenced global challenges as Undead Empires, re-animated from the ruins of the old order. In each case a supra-national ideological wave was radiated from an extinct crater of traditional authority, married in complex ways to ethno-nationalist impulses, and self-defined in explicit opposition to Anglo-Jewish planetary capitalism. First Central-European National-Socialism (1933-45), then Russo-centric Bolshevism (1946-89)*, and finally – because this narrative implies completion – from out of the Arabian hinterland of the broken Ottoman empire came the last of the great Undead Empires, the one that concerns us still.
The Eurasian Undead Empires have ceased to moan. Ghoulishly re-animated, then re-broken, and rebuilt, Germany dominates Europe once again, and Russia has re-established itself as an assertive autocracy with extensive, but strictly finite, reach. Neither any longer pursues its interests in the name of a cosmic ideology, as if its traumatic grievance deserved to shake the heavens. Neither still aches to burn down the world, in order to share the ruin it has known. The sullen grumbles they might still nurse have ceased to awaken the dead. Only normal disgruntlements remain.
Islam remains in a very different place. The collapse of its last — Ottoman — Caliphate was constitutionally formalized by Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the new Turkish Republic, on March 3, 1924. The cosmic ideology of Islamism is unintelligible without reference to that event. What political Islam wants, centrally, is the revival of the Caliphate. The Great War’s last curse thus determines it as an Undead Empire dreaming, in the lurid crypt-chatter of blood and screams …
… which was the neoconservative nightmare, best articulated by center-left hawk Paul Berman in his Terror and Liberalism. In compliance with the pattern of historical analogy here outlined, only one outcome was conceivable — a fourth world war. The ‘War on Terror’ was thus predicted, and promoted, until — after the best part of a decade — it had bled out into a parody of itself. The grating disproportion between the WoT’s tawdry squabbles on the one hand, and the apocalyptic confrontation which the narrative demanded on the other, had become unbridgeable. In a sense it was over. At least, attention wandered. Yet nothing had been settled, or laid to rest.
Realism has to be more than ceasing to think, just as it must be more than a call to action. The story of the Undead Empires, now freed of neoconservative excitability, has either to be discarded for a reason, or more thoroughly explored. Despite the directionless adventures that have attached themselves to it, the intrinsic plausibility of the narrative itself has not, by an iota, been diminished.
This is most clearly demonstrated through simple elaboration of the pattern. World War II was an extremely intense global conflict, with a number of theaters simultaneously active, and total duration of less than a decade (from the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 to the surrender of Japan in 1945). World War III, in contrast, was so prolonged, and dilute (or ‘cold’), that it is generally considered not to have happened at all. Between the major hostile powers, deterrence predominated over active engagements, with the latter generally conducted as peripheral, asymmetric conflicts. (US military deaths approached 100,000 a year during WWII**, close to the country’s total toll — almost entirely from Korea and Vietnam — suffered over the 40 years of ‘WWIII’).
Of course, simple extrapolation into WWIV gets nowhere near to a forecast. All it tells us is that there was never any reason to expect compact, burning Armageddon. The crude trend line (counting for nothing) projects 30,000 US military deaths over the course of a 200 year hyper-diffuse cryo-war. American narrative fundamentalist would depart from that as the ‘norm’. Not the ‘clash’, but the slow squelch of civilizations.
Perhaps more suggestive is the trend to involution. National Socialists, despite the diversion of the Holocaust, spent most of their time killing foreigners. The communist regimes of ‘WWIII’, in contrast, focused almost entirely on massacring their own populations, reaching a 9-figure body count over their ‘lifespans’. The vague narrative ‘prediction’, therefore — which the word ‘war’ increasingly obfuscates — is that the long struggle to revive the Caliphate is an opportunity for Islamo-demographic self-cannibalization, on a scale that has only been delicately hinted at so far. The default pattern points to an extended hideous occurrence that is, almost entirely, inflicted by the Ummah upon itself.
The only reason to be persuaded by this pattern is that, right now, it’s the only pattern we have …
[Some involutionary carnage in detail next]
* These are Cold War dates, rather than internal Bolshevik regime dates (1917-89). The latter would contribute to a more intricate time structure, in which sequence took the form of historical envelopment, rather than simple succession. I’m trying to keep things cognitively manageable, for the moment.
** December 1941 – August 1945