|Crusaders are coming back?|
The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world … besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”
Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.
And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?
With apologies to the frankenfood-fearers and polar bear-sentimentalizers, the biggest danger we face is the Clash of Civilizations, especially as we rub against the “bloody borders” of Islam.
What if, in the coming century, we lose that clash—and the source of our civilization? What if Muslims take over Europe? What if “Eurabia” indeed comes to pass? Would Islamic invaders demolish the Vatican, as the Taliban dynamited Afghanistan’s Buddhas of Bamyan in 2001? Or would they settle merely for stripping the great cathedrals of Europe of all their Christian adornment, rendering them into mosques? And what if the surviving non-Muslim population of Europe is reduced to subservient “dhimmitude”?
It could happen. Many think it will. In July 2004, Princeton historian Bernard Lewis told Germany’s Die Welt that Europe would be Islamic by the end of this century, “at the very latest.” Other observers, too, have spoken out: Melanie Phillips in Londonistan, Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, and Mark Steyn in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.
Admittedly, these writers share a mostly neoconservative perspective, but such can’t be said for Patrick Buchanan, author of the book that out-Spenglers Spengler, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization.
On the other side of the great divide, militant Muslims are feeling the wind at their backs. Last November, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, released an audiotape in which he vowed, “We will not rest from our jihad until we are under the olive trees of the Roman Empire”—which is to say, much of Europe.
This August, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, traveling to Afghanistan, declared, “There is no way for salvation of mankind but rule of Islam over mankind.” To be sure, there’s no shortage of Christians who speak this way, but none of them are currently heads of state.
In other words, if present trends continue, the green flag of Islam—bearing the shahada, the declaration of faith, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”—could be fluttering above Athens and Rotterdam in the lifespan of a youngster today. If so, then the glory of Europe as the hub of Greco-Roman and Christian civilization would be extinguished forever.
If this Muslimization befalls Europe, the consequences would be catastrophic for Americans as well. Although some neoconservatives, bitter at Old European “surrender monkeys,” might be quietly pleased at the prospect, the fact is that a Salafist Surge into the heart of Europe—destroying the civilization that bequeathed to us Aesop and Aristotle, Voltaire and the Victorians—would be a psychic wound that would never heal, not across the great sward of America, not even in the carpeted think-warrens of the American Enterprise Institute. A dolorous bell would toll for all of us, scattered as we might be in the European Diaspora.
So for better ideas, we might turn to J.R.R. Tolkien. The medievalist-turned-novelist, best-known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has been admired by readers and moviegoers alike for his fantastic flights. Yet we might make special note of his underlying political, even strategic, perspective. Amid all his swords and sorcery, we perhaps have neglected Tolkien’s ultimate point: some things are worth fighting for—and other things are not worth fighting for; indeed, it is a tragic mistake even to try.
In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area—the homeland, which he calls the Shire—even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.
So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism—the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us—it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.
Tolkien comes to the particular through the peculiar, creating his Bosch-like wonderland of exotic beings: Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Wargs, Werewolves, Ents, Eastlings, Southrons. To audiences relentlessly tutored in the PC pieties of skin-deep multiculturalism, Tolkien offers a different sort of diversity—of genuine difference, with no pretense of similarity, let alone universal equality. In his world, it is perfectly natural that all creatures great and small—the Hobbits are indeed small, around three feet high—have their own place in the great chain of being.
So the Hobbits, low down on that chain, mind their own business. One of their aphorisms is the need to avoid “trouble too big for you.” Indeed, even Hobbits are subdivided into different breeds, each with its own traits. Frodo, for instance, is a Fallohide, not to be confused with a Harfoot or a Stoor. Tolkien wasn’t describing a clash of civilizations—he was setting forth an abundance of civilizations, each blooming and buzzing and doing its own thing.
In addition to the innate differences, Tolkien added a layer of tragic complexity: the enticement of power. Some races in Middle Earth were given Rings of Power—19 in all, symbolizing technological might but also a metaphor for hubristic overreach: “Three Rings for Elven-kings under the sky / Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone / Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die.”
One notes immediately that the Hobbits, along with other categories of being, have received no rings. Again, Tolkien’s world doesn’t pretend to be fair; we get what we are given, by the design (or maybe for the amusement) of greater powers. Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity—the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it
Of all the men and mice in Tolkien’s bestiary, the Hobbits are his favorite. Jolly good peasants that they are, Hobbits never hunger for martial fabulation or Riefenstahlian dramatization; their nature is to accomplish their mission first and brag about it only afterward. And the Hobbits’ biggest mission, of course, is the destruction of the One Ring.
In Tolkien’s tale, there aren’t 19 Rings, as thought, but actually 20, and that 20th Ring, the One Ring, or Ruling Ring, is most to be feared. Loaded as it is with Wagnerian overtones, the One Ring is Tolkien’s symbol of evil, or, more precisely, it symbolizes temptation, which leads to evil. Even the dreaded Sauron is but a slave to his ambition to acquire the One Ring—and if Sauron can get it, then all hope for freedom and difference will be lost under his world-flattening tyranny.
Enter Frodo, hero Hobbit. Tolkien, who served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the Great War, modeled Frodo, admiringly, after the Tommies—the grunt infantrymen—who fought alongside him. Neither a defeatist nor a militarist, Tolkien admired those men who were simultaneously stoic and heroic.
In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.
And even for Frodo, the task is not easy; he’s that lonely epic hero who wishes that none of this had happened. But as the wise Gandalf tells him, it was meant to happen And so it goes: events unfold to a successful but still bittersweet conclusion.
Indeed, the greatest desire for power, Ring-lust, is felt by men, not the lesser beings. And so when our heroes are confronted by two dangers—the danger from Sauron’s encroaching army, hunting for the Ring, and the infinitely direr prospect that Sauron might gain the Ring—it is a mostly virtuous man, Boromir, who is most sorely tempted.
Don’t destroy the Ring, Boromir insists; use the Ring to repel Sauron: “Take it and go forth to victory!” In other words, use the Ring to guarantee triumph. But that’s Tolkien’s point: absolute power is always tempting—and always corrupting.
The good are good only as long as they resist temptation. A wise Elf, Elrond, answers Boromir: “We cannot use the Ruling Ring … the very desire of it corrupts the heart.” That is, a good man who uses the Ring automatically becomes a bad man, who would “set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.”
And so the varied group convened by Elrond—Elves, Dwarves, Men, and Hobbits—agrees to an arduous plan. The Council of Elrond will fight Sauron’s army through “conventional” means, while a smaller team, the Fellowship of the Ring, chiefly Frodo, crosses into enemy territory in hopes of destroying the sinister golden band. But as Tolkien makes clear, the Ring threatens to overwhelm everyone, and everything, with temptation.
Tolkien died in 1973. During his lifetime, and ever since, critics and pundits have put their own spin on his work. He was writing, it was said, about the totalitarian temptation. About the lure of fascism. Or maybe about the Circean song of communism. Or perhaps it was all a jeremiad aimed at industrialization. Each of these was, of course, a universalism, and so each was, in its way, antithetical to the natural variegation that Tolkien so treasured.
The author himself abjured simplistic allegorical explanation, perhaps in part to keep his multiple audiences happy. In the ’60s, for instance, the Hobbits were celebrated as proto-hippies, inspiring jokes about what might be tamped into their smoking pipes; the whole oeuvre was seen as a druggy trip.
But Tolkien once confided, “The Lord of the Ringsis of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” That is, Catholic in the sense that reality and history are complicated, that the world is rich in majesty and mystery, that human nature is but a poor vessel. In his world, the Shire is Christendom, and Christendom is the Shire.
Yet more than three decades after Tolkien’s death, new universalisms—new all-encompassing ideologies—have gained prominence, vexing, once again, tradition and difference throughout the world. One such universalism is capitalist globalism.
In the late ’80s, Francis Fukuyama published his legendarily misguided piece “The End of History?” suggesting that the West had found The Answer. Madeleine Albright expressed similar hubris when she declared that America was “the indispensable nation.” And Thomas Friedman has since argued that everyone has to submit to “golden handcuffs,” managed by planetary financiers, even as the wondrous force of capitalism “flattens” the world.
But of course, it took Paul Wolfowitz to bring Rousseau to life in another century: Uncle Sam would force people to be free. And how are these bright bold visions working out, in the wake of 9/11, in a world that includes IEDs, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Jazeera?
Underneath his neo-medievalism, Tolkien preached realism. He wrote, “It will not do to leave a live dragon out of your plans if you live near one.” That is, the dragon, red in tooth and crescent, is lurking. It cannot be ignored.
Nor can we ignore the painful reality of a genuine fifth column in the West. This summer, Gordon Brown’s government concluded that 1 in 11 British Muslims—almost 150,000 people living in the United Kingdom—“proactively” supports terrorism, with still more rated as passive supporters.
And this spring, a Pew Center survey found that 13 percent of American Muslims, as well as 26 percent aged 18-29, were bold enough to tell a pollster that suicide bombing was “sometimes” justified. These Muslim infiltrators, of course, have potential access to weapons of mass destruction.
That won’t work. Just as the Roman Empire’s dream of universal dominion once collapsed, leaving the peoples of Europe to create new institutions for their own survival, so, today, any thought that the United Nations could save us from ruin has evaporated. The Blue Helmets have fallen, and they can’t get up.
At the same time, at a level just below the UN, the vision of an ever-expanding European Union, to include all the states touching the Mediterranean, has happily collapsed. Now it seems certain that even Turkey will never be admitted.
Increasingly, people see that in a world of transnational terrorism, the key issue is not figuring out a common agricultural policy that unites Denmark and Cyprus, but rather a common survival policy for Europa, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Ural Mountains.
So we must look to older models for hope and survival—models more faithful, more fighting, more fertile. A case in point is France. To be sure, on the Mars-Venus continuum, most Americans regard the French as hopelessly Venus, but they were Mars in the past. Perhaps their most virtuous Martian was Charles Martel, King of the Franks, who defeated the Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours in AD 732.
In the words of the contemporaneous chronicler, Isidore of Beja, “In the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords, they hewed down the Arabs.” The defeat of the Muslims was one of the “Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World,” according to 19th-century historian Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy, because it saved the West from destruction.
The French have remembered “Charles the Hammer” ever since, even naming warships after him. Indeed, across 2,000 years, from Vercingetorix to Charlemagne (Martel’s grandson) to Napoleon, the French have showed plenty of fight, and usually much skill. That’s why there’s still a France. And now, despite their recent failures and cupidities, the French are showing renewed determination, as in the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who based his campaign on restoring border security, as well as law and order, to his beleaguered nation.
Meanwhile, as European birthrates plummet, the continent faces the prospect of demographic desiccation. Yet surely a civilization-saving alternative to imported Muslimization must be found. One option, bringing in Eastern Europeans to Western Europe, is probably less than desirable because those Eastern Europeans are needed where they are, to defend Russia and Ukraine against the New Tatars further east.
A better solution would be to bring the poorer children of Europe—from countries such as Argentina—home to Europe, allowing the New World to help rescue the Old World. But we need bigger and broader ideas as well, to replace the doddering vision of international law as the antidote to terrorism.
The Revival of Christendom
Two years ago, the Eurocrats in Brussels drafted a 300-page EU constitution that consciously omitted reference to Europe’s specifically Christian heritage. The voters of France, as well as Holland, rejected that secular document.
Maybe there’s a lesson here. The people of Europe might not be so eager, after all, to declare that they are “united in diversity.” What does that phrase mean, anyway? How about trying to find something that unites Europeans in unity? How about a revival of Christendom as a concept—as a political concept? A revival, or at least a remembrance, of Europe’s cultural heritage could be the healing force that Europe needs.
After all, it worked in the past. In the words of the 19th-century French historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, the victory of Christianity marked “the end of ancient society”—and all the petty divisions that went with it. Fustel de Coulanges continues, “Man felt that he had other obligations besides that of living and dying for the city. Christianity distinguished the private from the public virtues. By giving less honor to the latter, it elevated the former; it placed God, the family, the human individual above country, the neighbor above the city.”
As history proves, a larger communion can be built on such sentiments. In the 9th century, Alcuin of York declared that the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor would bring forth a new Imperium Christianum.
Ten centuries later, Hilaire Belloc asserted, “The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith.” Indeed, during those many centuries, Europe enjoyed a pretty good run. Only in the last century—the century of atheists, psychiatrists, and National Socialists—has Europe’s survivability come into question. Today, the Christian author Os Guiness puts the issue plainly: “A Europe cut off from its spiritual roots cannot survive.”
Some will smile at the thought that Christianity might be part of the solution to the problems of the Third Millennium. Admittedly, there’s an element of faith in the idea of trying to revive the idea of Christian unity. But Christendom is the Shire Strategy, applied.
To keep the peace, we must separate our civilizations. We must start with a political principle, that the West shall stay the West, while the East can do as it wishes on its side of the frontier, and only on its side. The classical political maxim cuius regio, eius religio(“whose region, his religion”) makes sense.
To be sure, it has been unfashionable to talk this way in the West, but Muslims are avidly applying it as they set about martyring the remaining Christian populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. So we of the West can build walls, as needed, and as physically imposing as need be. Going further, we can finally recognize the need for an energy-independence embargo, so that we no longer finance those who wish to conquer or kill us.
For obvious reasons, strategic as well as moral, the Western political alliance must be bigger than just a few relatively friendly countries along the other side of the Atlantic. It should include, most pressingly, Russia. Vladimir Putin might think of himself as a rival, even a foe, of the United States, but he knows he faces a mortal enemy in Islam; it’s the Chechens who are killing his soldiers.
So as Russia enjoys its own Christian revival, a reconciliation with mostly Christian America is possible. Immediately, America should renew the spirit of Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative speech, in which the Gipper called for including Moscow inside the protective shield.
So instead of building missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, dividing Europe from Russia, the United States should put those sites in Russia’s southern reaches, to face the real enemy, which is Iran and the rest of nuclear Islam. Even Putin has suggested this defensive placement, perhaps because down deep, he, too, understands that the Christian West should be unified, not divided.
But what of Christians elsewhere in the world? What, for example, of Latin America—which includes the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez? And even more urgently, what of Africa, where Christians are suffering from many afflictions, including the inexorable Muslim advance, pushing south past the 10th parallel into the Christian populations of countries including Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia? How to withstand these many challenges?
The answer: through political co-operation. In Tolkien’s world, it was the Council of Elrond. Perhaps in our world, it could be Council of the West.
It’s been done before. In AD 325, Constantine the Great convened the Council of Nicaea, drawing together quarrelsome bishops from across Europe to hammer out the basic doctrines of the church. Constantine was the first Christian Roman Emperor, although he concerned himself more with geopolitics than theological minutiae.
“It is my desire,” he told this first ecumenical convocation, “that you should meet together in a general council … and to know you are resolved to be in common harmony together.” The council was a success, producing the Nicene Creed, which united European faith for centuries to come.
But today, how to find a new unity that reaches across oceans and continents, to include the likes of Putin and Chavez? Answer: with great difficulty, not all at once, and with no certainty of success.
And what of other hard cases? What of Africa? The Christian countries of Africa are part of the Shire Strategy and need to be embraced with tough love. The immediate mission is to delineate a Christian Zone and a Muslim Zone, dividing countries if need be. All Christians, and all Muslims, have a stake in minimizing conflict; the obvious way is by separating the combatants. So a wall should go up between the warring faiths, and then a bigger wall, until the flashpoint risk of civilization clash goes away. Then, and only then, might we hope to find workable solutions within the Christian Zone.
No matter what we say or do, the blocs of Hindus, Chinese, and Japanese are all going their separate cultural ways, rediscovering their own unique heritages. And Islam, of course, is at odds with all of its neighbors.
In his book a decade ago, Huntington, mindful of the indirect danger posed by American universalism, was even more mindful of the direct danger posed by Muslims: “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards,” he writes.
“Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny.” That’s bad news, but there’s a silver lining: if Westerners, Russians, Africans, Hindus, and Chinese all feel threatened by Islam—and they all do—there’s plenty of opportunity for a larger encircling alliance, with an eye toward feasible strategies of containment, even quarantine. But not conquest, not occupation, not “liberation.”
So the big question is whether or not Christians will continue to be divided into four blocs, as they are at present: Western, Russian, African, Latin. Can four smaller Christian blocs really become one big bloc? One Christendom? Perhaps—borrowing once again from Tolkien—such unification was meant to happen.
That is an encouraging thought: a Council of the West, bringing all the historically Christians countries of the world into one communion.
The Rescue of Israel
But what of Israel? If East is East and West is West, what of the Jewish state, which sits in the East? After all, the entire Middle Eastern region is looking more and more Mordor-like. Tolkien described that terrible wasteland: “High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.” Not much hope there, at least for Westerners. Whatever possessed us to think we could make Muslims into our own image? Was it a Ring that lured us?
We can make two points: first, Israel must survive, and second, on its current course, Israel will likely not survive.
In recent years, Israel finds its strategic situation worsening. It is increasingly confronted, not by incompetent tinhorn dictators but by determined Muslim jihadists, many of whom live in the Palestinian territories, some of whom live within Israel itself.
Meanwhile, Iran proceeds with its nuclear program, while Pakistan, just a heartbeat away from Taliban-ification, already has its nukes in place, ready for export should the right fatwa be uttered. And the Russians and the Chinese, empowered and lured by high energy prices, have their own designs on the region, which include no good tidings for Jews.
Unfortunately, if we look forthrightly into the future, we can see blood and fire ahead for Israel. Aside from the civilization-jolting moral tragedy of a Second Holocaust—a phrase used freely, albeit not lightly, by such Jewish observers as Philip Roth and Ron Rosenbaum—there would be the physical devastation of the Holy Land.
How would Christians recover from the demolition of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem? How would Diasporic Jews absorb the Temple Mount’s obliteration? And how, for that matter, would Muslims react to the detonation of the Noble Sanctuary, which sits atop that mount?
Any destruction of Israel would be accompanied, one way or another, by the destruction of much of the Middle East. If Masada came again to Zion, it would likely also be a Strangelovian doomsday for tens or hundreds of millions in the Middle East. And it might mean the annihilation as well of other Muslim religious sites, from Qum and Karbala to, yes, Mecca and Medina.
Some say that the solution to Middle Eastern problems is some sort of pre-emptive strike: get Them before they get Us. That, of course, is exactly the sort of bewitching that Tolkien warned most strongly against—the frenzy to solve a problem through one hubristic stroke, to grab the One Ring of power for oneself, even if that grabbing guarantees one’s own fall into darkness.
A better vision is needed. The Council of the West must do its duty, to Christians, to Jews, and to the need of the world for peace. Having agreed that Israel must survive, within the protective ambit of Christendom, the council could engage Muslims—who are, themselves, in the process of restoring the Caliphate—in a grand summit. Only then, when West meets East, in diplomatic twain, might a chance exist for an enduring settlement. When all Christians, and all Muslims, are brought to the bargaining table, they all become stakeholders in a pacific outcome.
This summit of civilizations would be difficult and expensive, even heartbreaking. It might take a hundred years. But let us begin because the reward could be great: blessed are the peacemakers.
The Knights of the West
With great effort, the West could unite around the Shire Strategy, seeking to secure and protect all our Christendom, spanning oceans and continents. But it won’t be easy. It will take more than diplomacy—it will take strength.
This Shire is ours now, but the way things are going, it won’t be ours permanently. So we must vow to defend the Shire, always. In the last of the “Rings” films, Aragorn the Strider proclaims, in full St. Crispin’s Day mode, “A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
We in the West will always need warriors. We must have chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche—“Knights without fear and without reproach”—to safeguard our marches and protect our homes.
Men such as Leonidas, whose Immortal 300 held off the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, long enough for other Greeks to rally and save the nascent West. Or Aetius, the last noble Roman, who defeated Attila the Hun, Scourge of God, at Chalons in AD 451. Or Don Juan of Austria, who led the Holy League to naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. Or Jon Sobieski, whose Polish cavalry rescued Vienna from the Turks in 1683.
These are not just legends, not just fictional characters—they were real. And if we dutifully honor those heroes, as heroic Men of the West and of Christendom, we will be rewarded with more such heroic men.
Future epics await us. Future Knights of the West, ready to defend Christendom, are waiting to be born, waiting for the call of duty. If we bring them forth with faith and wisdom and confidence, then also will come new heroes and new legends.