Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

The Biggest Threat to Western Civilization

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China and Russia are commonly considered the biggest military threats to Western civilization, but I believe that is incorrect. The biggest strategic threat is a terrorist Jihadi Caliphate.

This is not about religion but about those who are radicalized, support terror, have an ideology of martyrdom, aspire to a dominant Sharia-ruled regional or global caliphate, and may behave as non-rational actors, posing a threat not only to the West but to their own good people as well.

Terrorism and religious fanaticism to establish a dominant caliphate are exemplified by the Islamic Republic of Iran, but secondarily by Jihadist terrorists such as the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda. These dangerous extremists pose a threat of domination, repression, barbarous violence, and even the potential use of weapons of mass destruction.

While both China and Russia are powerful nuclear-armed countries, neither poses a rational threat to Western civilization. Currently, Russia is a threat primarily to Ukraine, where it has been fighting continuously for the last two years, but it does not pose a conventional military threat to the vastly superior NATO. Similarly, China poses an explicit threat to Taiwan’s independence, but it hasn’t fought a war in 45 years, and aside from its menacing pursuit of cyber warfare and advanced technologies, it is not an active threat to the United States and Europe, which it primarily desires economic and trade ties with.

A Radical Caliphate

A radical Islamic caliphate (Sunni, Shiite, or joint) can absolutely pose an existential threat to both Europe and the United States. While historically, a caliphate may have meant a political and religious successor to Muhammad leading the Muslim world, a caliphate these days is often viewed as a potentially brutal regional or world order that could include a radicalized version of Sharia law and the religious and political domination or death of the infidel. A jihadist-led caliphate elicits the potential for repression of the masses; discrimination against other races, religions, and sexual orientations; the curtailing of education and freedom of thought; the imposition of strict dress codes; perhaps forceful conversion; and corporal punishments such as public whipping, hangings, beheadings, burnings, and stoning that can send shivers down the spines of those in western civil societies.

Currently, there are about 50, out of 195 countries in the world today, that are Muslim-majority. Further, there are 1.9 billion Muslims in the world, and it is the acknowledged world’s fastest-growing religion. Muslim countries span the entire world, from Morocco to Indonesia. While 90% of Muslims are Sunni and many are from moderate countries, Iran is home to the world’s Shiite-dominated majority and is run by a dangerous, radicalized regime that is a threat not only to the West but also to Sunni countries in the region and their own Iranian people. According to Fondapol, a French think tank, between 1979 and 2019, there have been about 34,000 “Islamic terror attacks” involving firearms, explosives, blades, and incendiary weapons that have taken more than 167,000 lives in the world.

Sunni Terror Groups

The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS represent Sunni-led terror threats. Already in 1998, Al Qaeda bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in 2000, they attacked the USS Cole-guided missile destroyer with a suicide bomb. To counter these and the deadly attacks of 9/11, the US and its allies spent nearly 8 years in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terror and 20 years in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. Similarly, the US pursued the mastermind of the 9/11 attack and killed the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan (the 6th largest nuclear weapons country in the world) in 2011. Moreover, by 2014, Islamic State (ISIS) held a third of Syria and 40% of Iraq, and a US-led coalition fought to destroy them and finally killed their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2019. Other Sunni countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain) have demonstrated a more moderate and even friendly stance and have various levels of relationship with the US, including diplomatic relations, military and supplies of arms, and cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as peace treaties with Israel and the Abraham Accords in 2020.

The Iranian Shiite-Led Threat

The vast majority of Shiites reside in Iran (as well as in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen). The US and Iran severed diplomatic relations in April 1980 after the Ayatollah established a repressive theocratic government. Since 1984, Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Moreover, Iran has been under various international sanctions due to their significant involvement in terrorism, weapons proliferation, human rights abuses, and their nuclear weapons program. Since 2022, Iran has been deepening its “axis of evil” with both China and Russia and has been supplying weapons to Russia, including drones and missiles, for their war in Ukraine. Iran has also established an “axis of resistance” (to the West) with state, semi-state, and non-state actors, and they span an arc of terror from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Gaza (Hamas), and Yemen (the Houthis), providing financial, military, and political support. Both Hezbollah’s manifesto and Hamas’s charter call for the destruction of Israel, and Iran has repeatedly threatened death to both Israel (“Little Satan”) and the United States (“Great Satan”).

Militarily, Iran and its terror proxies have long conducted terror operations against the West, and this has included the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran, the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks, the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Center in Argentina, ongoing terror attacks in Israel, including the first and second Intifada, 170+ attacks on US bases in the Middle East since 2023, a barbaric Hamas attack on October 7, as well as a barrage of 300+ missiles and drones against Israel just this April 2024, to name just a few. Even more concerning is that Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades, and despite IAEA inspections and international sanctions, they have enough fissile materials for several nukes today. Finally, a radicalized theocratic Iranian regime could very well decide, as non-rational actors, to use their nukes against the West in an apocalyptic operation that they felt could lead to their regional or global dominance goals and provide a path to paradise for their martyrs.

Subversion: The Road to Domination

Aside from regular terror and progress towards weapons of mass destruction, what has become painfully clear is that the road to radical Islamist-led domination is through a strategy of subterfuge and subversion that is paving the way for the undermining of Western civilization and destroying it from the inside. Thus, the war with radical Jihadis is not just being fought militarily but on numerous fronts, including the following:

  • Immigration Warfare

Illicit immigration to the US and Europe has led to an invasion of city after city and country after country. It is now common to see many of these migrants attacking, burning, and looting the places they now call home.

  • Education Warfare

Similarly, radical Islamist ideology has infiltrated our education system, which is dominated by sympathetic alt-left liberals and an indoctrination of wokeism that brainwashes students into a fantasy world of modern-day Western colonialism, imperialism, and occupation and divides the world into oppressors and oppressed that must be resisted by “any means necessary (including brutal violence).”

  • Ideological Warfare

Radical jihadists attempt to conflate their goals and ideology with others such as Antifa, Marxists, BLM, LGBTQ, and more to create an alliance of the oppressed that they propose to fight the world with for their freedom and collective rights, even though those exemplified by Hamas persistently refuse negotiation, compromise, recognition of Israel, and generous offers for peace. Usurping aspirational phrases like “none of us are free until all of us are free,” they surreptitiously use other people and groups towards their ends, even though in radical Islamist societies many of their “allies” would be grossly discriminated against or even killed.

  • Communications Warfare

Radical jihadists and their supporters use communications, including social media, to paint a narrative of Western oppression, occupation, “genocide,” refugees, and demands for a ceasefire that turns logic and common sense on its head. Rather than focusing on their people, settlement, economy, education, and more, they incessantly blame others for their predicament, look for incessant humanitarian handouts, and abrogate self-sufficiency despite a whole world of other people who have faced and worked to overcome slavery, the Holocaust, refugee status, war, and various forms of oppression.

  • Psychological Warfare

Radical jihadists are pushing back on Western initiatives to fight against terrorism and a dangerous caliphate by hijacking and inappropriately calling out “Islamophobia” on nearly every occasion to undercut those who are not in line with their agenda. In other words, you can’t disagree with their policies or behaviors without being labeled a racist or oppressor.

  • Lawfare

Where all else fails, proponents of radical jihad will use constitutional laws against us by claiming free speech and free assembly to not only speak out but to act out, taking over public and private spaces, intimating, harassing, blocking, and committing violence against others, including against law enforcement and politicians. Despite their “observers,” lawyering up, and seemingly innocent claims of “peaceful protest,” they simultaneously call for “Intidada (revolution)” and violent jihad.

In short, radical jihadists are not only using everything from terrorism to the pursuit of nuclear weapons to achieve their goals of domination and a caliphate, but they are also employing a dangerous strategy of subterfuge and subversion of our democratic institutions and society. As long as we continue to focus almost exclusively on threats from China and Russia and attempt to downplay the significant danger of a radical terrorist caliphate, we ignore the “revolution,” the ideology of martyrdom, and the pursuit of Jihad that is a threat to freedom and human rights not only to the people in their own countries but to those around the world.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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