By David French
May 21, 2015
There are few things the Left loves more than a college liberal “speaking truth” to conservative power. Days ago, 19-year-old University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich seemed to enjoy just such a moment and “made headlines around the world” when she confronted Jeb Bush about ISIS. Ms. Ziedrich had the gumption to confront Bush in the midst of a scrum of reporters and confidently recite leftist conventional wisdom about the current Middle East crisis, declaring: “Your brother created ISIS!” After all, according to accepted academic conventional wisdom, the war in Iraq is the source of all (recent) jihadist evil.
And with that statement, the clock started running on 15 minutes of fame — no, 15 minutes of public adulation. Interviews with ABC News, the New York Times, and other outlets followed, with reporters eager to hear her thoughts on the Middle East. And while Ms. Ziedrich is no expert, there is one thing she said that is all too true: “It’s frustrating to see politicians ignore the origins of our conflicts abroad.”
Yes, Ms. Ziedrich, it certainly is. And if you’re on the left or from some quarters of the right, it must be downright exhausting to not only “understand” those origins but also link them in some way to the failings of American, Israeli, or imperialist European policies. Here’s the current scorecard: ISIS is George W. Bush’s fault. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban exist because of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (through the Afghan war against the Soviets and then the Desert Storm-related American troop presence in Saudi Arabia, of course), with the various al-Qaeda franchises in Syria, Yemen, and North Africa merely the fruit of the same poisonous Reaganite tree. The jihadist destruction of ancient — pre-Muslim — world heritage sites? That’s just collateral damage in the war against Reagan and the Bushes. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO are easy to peg — Israeli creations, one and all, existing solely because of the “Occupied Territories.” As for Libya, we actually put those jihadists in power. But what about Boko Haram? I’m sure any decent professor can tell me some way we’re responsible for their atrocities.
But that’s just the last few decades. What about tracing further back? To the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood or to the Ikhwan of the Arabian peninsula? The Ikhwan — as savage as ISIS — trace their origins back to 1913, before the Europeans dominated the Middle East. What about the centuries of conflict between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire? Vienna must have richly deserved its sieges. After all, Europeans launched the Crusades, right?
And before the Crusades, when jihadist Muslim armies invaded and conquered the Christian lands of the Middle East and North Africa, capturing the Iberian Peninsula and threatening modern-day France, there’s little doubt that they were simply striking out at . . . something the Christians did. No, Ms. Ziedrich, George W. Bush didn’t create ISIS. Islam did. Embedded within this faith is a concept called “jihad,” and no matter how many professors tell you otherwise, there are countless millions of Muslims throughout more than a millennium of history who’ve interpreted “jihad” not as a mandate for self-help and personal improvement but as a mandate for war and conquest, a mandate to purify and spread the faith at the point of the sword. The influence of militaristic jihadists waxes and wanes, but it is there, always.
To believe that American actions have created the jihad is to give America greater influence over the Muslim heart than Allah. The current jihad is an extension of the ancient jihad. The foes have changed (the Habsburgs are long gone, and the Holy League peaked at Lepanto in 1571), but the motivation is the same. Why did Osama bin Laden mention “the tragedy of Andalusia” (the more than 500-year-old reconquest of Muslim Spain) in his post-9/11 address? Because, for the jihadist, it’s all one war.
So, by all means, let’s not ignore “the origins of our conflicts abroad.” Regarding our conflict with Islamic terrorists, the origins lie in a religious imperative, one that predates the founding of the United States by more than ten centuries. George W. Bush is no more responsible for creating that conflict than he is for writing the Koran, passing down the Hadith, or establishing the first Caliphate. And in confronting that foe, our choices are the same choices faced by the great non-Muslim powers that came before us: convert, submit, die, or fight.
Given those options, there is but one valid choice for a free people. It’s too bad that Ms. Ziedrich, her peers, and her media cheerleaders can’t see past the politics to understand the troubling truth. After all, it will soon be her generation’s turn on the wall. Will they accept the challenge?
David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War.