October 06, 2004
The Case for Nuking Mecca
In this post I make the case that nuking Mecca would be a rational deterrent to radical Islamists bent on using WMD against American civilians. However, even if there is no deterrent effect, attacking Mecca and wiping out the central locus of Islamic ritual worship may be in the long-term interests of the US and Occidental world.
Ace: What would we do if we get nuked? Continue to "hunt down the terrorists" who nuked us? At what point does the desire to survive outweigh the desire to be merciful and sparing in the use of force?
Bill Whittle: If a suitcase nuke detonates in Times Square, or Long Beach harbor, or outside the Capitol building, what do we do? Nuke Mecca? Incinerate Damascus? Because â€“ so help me God, I tremble to say it â€“ that is exactly the response our enemies would hope for. They care not a whit about their own people because they have no allegiance to anyone but themselves and their vision of a vengeful and bloodthirsty Allah.
Let me make a couple of points first. One: I do not advocate using nuclear weapons. Two: I do not advocate killing Muslims or any other follower of any religion. Three: I do not imagine in any way possible the US government actually doing this--or even thinking it. Four: These are rudimentary thoughts. This post is used as a sounding board only. Much of what I say may be wrong and all is subject to revision. The purpose of this post is to start a conversation.
First point: Bill's major argument about deterring terrorists is well taken and mostly on the money. I think he's right, for the most part: you cannot deter these guys, only defeat them. And if incinerating Damascus were the only threat we could use to deter terrorists then certainly a MAD scheme would not work in this new Cold War we find ourselves in.
However, Mecca is not Damascus. It plays a central role in Muslim worship. Five times a day Muslims pray toward it. All Muslims who have the means are expected to make the Hajj--a pilgrimage to Mecca which revolves around the Kaaba stone. The Kaaba stone is really the reason Mecca is considered holy. Muslims believe the site was used for worship as far back as Adam and that the shrine around the stone was first placed there by Abraham (Ibrahim). There is a 12 mile zone around the stone that infidels are restricted from entering. It's that holy. No non-Muslims near it. In fact, without Mecca and the Kaaba stone, Islam would be very different.
Mecca, then, is quite unlike any other place in the world for Muslims. It is an entire city dedicated to Muslim worship. A place set apart. A holy place. It is an entire city that is thought to be the Temple of God.
Islamist terrorists also consider Mecca the holiest place in the world. It is central to their mode of worship. They face it when they pray. They too believe they must make the hajj. If we take them at their word, then the reason they commit terrorist acts is because they take their religious convictions so seriously. When they kill us, it is because they believe that this is what their God wants them to do.
So, ask yourself the question again: Can terrorists be deterred from using WMD against American targets?
Maybe they can. If Islamic extremists really love their religious institutions in the way that they claim they do, then pointing an ICBM at Mecca may not be the most irrational thing to do. They may not care if the rest of the world goes up in a nuclear mushroom cloud, as Bill points out, but Mecca is not the rest of the world. Would they really risk blowing up New York City if they believed the consequences of such an action would be a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion over the Kaaba stone? After all, the nuclear destruction of Mecca would end Islamic forms of worship as they presently exist.
If I might misquote Sting for a moment, "Is it such a crazy thing to do, if the Terrorists love their Mecca too?"
Second point: Why would destroying Mecca have potentially beneficial long-term affects to US and Occidental interests?
I have already made the case that Mecca is central to Islamic forms of worship. Mecca, I have argued, is a Temple City. Although many Muslim theologians will deny that any place is holy in Islam, there is at least a de facto holiness ascribed to the area surrounding the Kaaba stone. In many ways the city of Mecca is central to Islam in just the same way that the Temple of Solomon was central to ancient Judaism. It is this similarity which is so striking, and why the destruction of Mecca might do to Islam what the final destruction of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem did to Judaism. While the bloody events surrounding Rome's sacking of Jerusalem are indeed disgusting and tragic, that event forced Jews to rethink their relationship with God. More importantly, that event forced Jews to rethink their relationship with their fellowman.
Without wishing to reduce all of Jewish history or life to one paragraph, and thus leaving out the many facets of ancient Hebrew worship, let me go ahead an do that anyway (with many apologies up front--and welcoming any corrections or differing opinions). Ancient Judaism had a legal structure which was similar to Islamic sharia in that they both unify the religious codes thought to be handed down by God with secular authority. In fact, the Old Testament laws seem just as draconian as any I would find in sharia. There is just something about stoning adulteresses that I kind find of harsh, that's all. I know such applications of Mosaic law were probably rare, but Muslims would argue the same thing about the strict application of sharia law in the ideal Islamic state.
Ancient Judaism also had another commonality with Islam: worship was centered on a holy place of ritualistic practice. After the destruction of the Temple, though, Jews had to ask new questions about the meaning of being holy. Stateless, they found that strict religious codes of conduct could not be enforced in the same way as before. While the Jewish Diaspora had already begun the process of transforming Judaism, the final destruction of Temple centered worship forced this transformation on a broader scale.
Jews found that God no longer had a place to reside in. Jews found that they could no longer perform the rituals required by God to be purified. Jews found that they could no longer enforce God's law. Jews found that their specialness was different than they had previously supposed. Worship changed. Everything changed.
What I propose is simply this. Would destroying Mecca begin a similar process for Muslims? Perhaps only the threat of destroying Mecca would be enough.
Radical Muslims believe they are in a race to bring about the world wide Caliphate. They believe that Muslims are destined to rule the world. What I propose is simple: show them that they cannot rule the world. Show them that Allah is not on their side--at least, not in the way that they believe.
Osama bin Laden once famously said that people will choose the strong horse over the weak horse. What if Islam is shown to be the weak horse? What if one of the central tenants of Muslim worship, the hajj, was gone? Would this not force some serious rethinking in the Islamic world?
Today we are told by Muslims that the true meaning of jihad is internal struggle. Unfortunately, the actions of too many Muslims shows that they believe jihad means armed struggle against the infidels. Destroying Mecca may have the long-term affect of convincing radical Muslims that Allah really doesn't want sharia law around the world. That all that stuff about killing the infidels in the Quran--that's all metaphor.
After all, if Muslims can be convinced that the whole hajj thing is just metaphor, then what else might they consider as metaphorical? Perhaps jihad. Perhaps sharia. Perhaps the global Caliphate.
These are just some thoughts. No one should take them too seriously.