Thursday, August 10, 2006

Andrew Sullivan: This is a Religious War

Why is this war different from all other wars for Israel? The answer lies in Bernard-Henri Levy's essay in Sunday's NYT magazine. For the first time, we're not really discussing a conflict over land or territory or even the treatment of individuals. We're not talking about Arab nationalism. We're not talking about the Palestinians. We're not even talking about the political existence of the Jewish state. We're talking about the divine mandate that the Islamists believe they are following, an eschatological [a branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind] struggle toward the End-Times, where the Jews must be destroyed as a people and as a sovereign state in order for the Apocalypse to occur. In this, Pat Robertson and [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in complete agreement. The trouble is: Robertson can be dismissed as a corrupt kook; Ahmadinejad has some serious weaponry and a state under his control.

This is what happens when religion takes over politics. Rational negotiation becomes impossible; victory becomes a theological mandate; no end becomes feasible except conflict; and in this case, some of the actors actually want that conflict to be apocalyptic. We have to understand the fundamentalist mindset we are grappling with. It is not rational in worldly terms. It is other-worldly - and rational only under those theological constructs. For those reasons, it is the biggest threat to Western freedom since the totalitarianisms of the last century; and easily the most mortal threat to Israel since its founding. It cannot be disarmed or reasoned with; it can only be defeated.

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