The most powerful weapon of our time: ideas

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then without a doubt the most powerful weapon of our time is ideas.

The Cold War was not won with guns and bombs, it’s was the power of democratic idea that let to the implosion of the Soviet Union. In the war against global Islamic extremist (GIE) guns and bombs has proven to be insufficient, we need to once again call upon the power of idea to fight.

Democracy is compatible

However this time around the fight is not between democracy and Islamism, its liberalism and Islamism. As a political system, there is nothing incompatible between democracy and Islamism. As shown by earlier by the Roman Empire, and later by the United States in the past that democracy is not incompatible with slavery, sexism, racism or intolerance. According to opinion polls conducted by Pew Islam is not incompatible with democracy too. Across 15 Muslim majority countries (Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia etc) most people thinks Islam should play at least a fairly large role in politics, at the same time they also think western-style democracy can work well in their country. There is no inherent incompatibility between democracy and an extremist Islam majority country.

Liberalism is at war

So the war is between Liberalism and GIE. Liberalism describe here is not democracy but the values that guides democracy in the west. Examples of these values are, freedom of religion, equality for both sex, (still questionable in some western country), openness about sexuality, tolerance, individualism and separation of church and state. These are what GIE don’t like, and find incompatible.

Extreme Islam vs. Moderate Islam

Just like idea of democracy causing implosion inside communist Soviet Union. We need the idea of liberal moderate Islam to win the war against extreme Islam. We need to help strengthen the argument for moderate Islam. The war can only be won from within Muslim communities, guns and bomb can only do so much, if not hinder our effort.

GIE’s huge arsenal

The history of western engagement with Muslims and the state of affairs in many Muslim countries is strengthening the ideas of GIE, namely, Crusader and colonial legacy, American middle eastern policy, Chechnya, Xinjiang, poverty in Muslim countries, and Israel-Palestinian conflict. On top of that many observers are voicing concern about the damage Iraq War is causing to the more important war against GIE by strengthening the argument of GIEs.

Blasting their ideas through Internet Airwave

GIE has not only being effective in building their case against liberal west but are also effectively delivering their message through the use of internet. As I have argued in previous article isolated extreme views flourish on the Internet. Recent London bombing by British grown Muslims suggest perhaps the tides of war in ideas is GIE’s favor. Remember GIE only needs to convince a handful of people to cause terror to a lot of people.

How to help Moderate Islam, you ask. Well we should start by eliminating GIEs arsenal of support for their idea. The rest is another topic for another article.

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7 thoughts on “The most powerful weapon of our time: ideas

  1. Very interesting.
    Certainly it was the idea of the liberalism which brought american sides to the victory of past cold war.
    But I have to say that it was not only the ideas, but also the apparent gap between the american sides and Soviet-union, “Wealth”.

    But this time, there is no such a big difference in Wealth between wenstern countries and some muslim coutries, thanks to their Oil.
    And it was obvious that one of the reasons why USA started the iraqi war was their “oil”, to appropriate the sourse of Iraqi wealth.
    (Of course there might have been other reasons, but this must have been one of the reasons.)

    I agree that many of the extreme muslim coutries are less liberal and they might rule out the use of force against the democracy and have a megatrend for liberalism in their country someday.
    But it’s gonna be very difficult, I guess.

    Please have a look at the below site.

    In fact, some western european countries, like Netherland, Scandinavian once welcomed lots of immgrants of muslims to their countries when their goverments were pretty left (i mean, still they are), believing that the integration of different cultures and races are not so difficult.
    As a consequence, those immigrants make their own residential compound and started to educate their own children by themselves in order to make the kids to hate democracy and fight against the liberalism.
    Even though they live in one of the most liveral and richest coutries in the world, their hatred againt the liberalism and heathendoms are sometimes even more extreme than the quote-unquote “extreme countries” like Iran.
    Why that?

    I’m afraid this war might be a trigger for further violence, such as third world war.

    And taking advantage of this confusion, something might happen in east asia. For example China might invade Taiwan, Japanese islands and some other their neighbors….

  2. First of all, congratulation

    Habonesa. you have just become the first ever person to comment on this apparently unattractive blog.

    Just want to clear a few things
    Americans together with its anti-communist alliance won the cold war more on the bases of democratic ideal and capitalism, and less on their liberal ideals, if not non at all.

    My apology for using liberalism without defining what I meant by it, it was misleading.

    Let me declare my terms

    Liberal ideal is referring to a set of particular values that guides society, namely, freedom of religion, equality and open sexuality, tolerance, individualism and separation of church and state.

    Where as democracy is referring to a particular set of governing mechanisms: separation of executive, legislature, and judiciary; and election base on the principle of popular sovereignty.

    And capitalism is a particular way of organizing production and distribution of goods that use the market to decide on what to produce, how many, and level of quality.

    This is a critical distinction we need to make. Democracy and capitalism does not have to be liberal too. As Roman democracy and American democracy is demonstrated, democracy is compatible with racism, sexism, and slavery.

    I wanted to point out Islamist is compatible with democracy but incompatible with liberal ideal.


    Even thought, there was a very large gap between the wealth of Soviet Union and America as the result of WWII. The fact that capitalist economies of west Europe and East Asia was able to catch-up to America while Soviet cannot demonstrates that the superiority of capitalism over soviet’s socialism that let to soviets attempt to reorganize which ultimately let to the implosion. Therefore I think its safe to say it was (at least) the ideal of capitalism that won the war against the soviet.


    There is a big gap between the wealth of Muslim state and western states. Comparing the GDP / person of Briton’s $29,600 and Saudi Arabia’s $12,000 (biggest oil reserve in the world).


    Scholars has yet to form a consensus regarding the true motivation of the American invasion of Iraq, no doubt oil is one of the reason together with many other reasons, but the question we should be asking is not what is THE reason, but how each reason weights in the overall motivation for war. I personally believe oil is not the weightiest motivation in the minds of American policy makers not only because the price of oil has only gone up since the beginning of the war, but also because with the money and the political capital bush is spending on the war. Americans could have just bought all the oil they need, without driving the price of oil up.


    If you look at the history of Christian, you would say the same thing about them as you would about the Muslims today. If the bloody Christian can become liberals, I would like to believe Muslims can do the same. It well be difficult to convince the extremist, but we should also recognize majority of Muslims are not extreme I personally share my office with a Muslim, and he is just sooooo nice and very liberal.


    I should not think that most Muslims in Europe are teaching their kids hatred. Majority British Muslim community leaders uniformly condemn the London bombing straight after the event. Those kids that bombed London, I am guessing is not so different to the kids that Columbia school shooting suicide that happen in America several years ago. These are disenchanted kids who’s properly been discrimination against, bullied and did not receive enough attention from their parents let to their exploitation by who radical Islamist.


    Without taking nuclear weapon into consideration, Two American aircraft carrier battle group 手加減しなかったら (gloves off) can defend Taiwan and Japan, while the rest stay engage elsewhere, according to American military specialist in my department. I am guessing that he is right.


  3. Ok, interesting debate, let me add some random comments:

    First of all the fall of Soviet Union was far more complex than to say it was the democratic/liberal/capitalist ideal. It was combination of many factors, the economic unsustainability being one of the most important in my eyes. Nonetheless, democratic ideas also were important. That is a topic for a very long discussion, though.

    Secondly, the claim that Muslims in liberal countries hate liberalism is a bit bold. First of all, many Muslims are integrated well and use the liberal opportunities to their benefit (they offer their service on the market). There is other group of isolated fundamentalists that you speak about. But consider that: these are isolated ghettos of Muslims, some of whom never cross its borders (esp. women). They don’t offer their service on the market, instead they receive social tranfers from the state they live in. In fact it is the state itself, who suicidally supports the people, who challenge its foundations. Now, is that liberal? I don’t think so.

    Thirdly, Steve claims that Christians were unliberal before, so Muslims can become liberal too. I totally agree with that statement, but there are risks that must be considered. The rise of liberalism was preceded by centuries of bloody wars. The question of today is, can Muslim countries transform to sort of liberal regimes without this interplay, or a war is necessary? For our sake as well as their I hope it will be possible…

    Lastly, even though most of oil reserves are in Muslim countries, only a minority of Muslim countries are rich with oil. Fortunately, because large reserves of raw materials are hindrance for emergence of liberal regime. Fareed Zakaria in “Future of Liberty” puts it nice: oil rich governments rule the people, they have teh wealth and distribute it to subordinate people. In countries that don’t have so much raw materials, though, the government must collect taxes. People who pay taxes then oversee how the government uses the money, because it is their money that the government works with. Government is (philosophically speaking) subordinate to the people.

    That’s it for now:-)
    PS: please no Japanese in response to me:-)

  4. Before my response. A little introduction of this man called Ondra
    He is an academic comrade whom I met during my master years
    Currently undertaking a PhD degree in Political Science at the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic.


    My position is that it is the isolated Islamic extremist rather than the moderates that hates liberal ideas.

    I think I should find a better label to describe liberal values. I mean liberalism in the individual sense.

    I see ideas separated into three realms they are: governance, economic and social. I believe the battle for ideological supremacy in the realm of governance is in capitalism’s favor; Capitalism is properly winning in the economic realm. However in the social realm the battle is happening right now between multiple ideas that guide the value and norm of society, for example liberalism, intolerant Islam, tolerant Islam and Christian right. The possibility of future ideologies in the social value realm is not excluded.

    Liberalism in this realm represents tolerance, individualism, on issues like abortion, separation of religion and state, sexuality and other social value-based issues. Liberalism in this realm is not about property rights, or elections.

    I like to point out, as I have perhaps not point out clear enough in the article. That I think it’s a mistake to think ideas comes in sets. Democracy, capitalism can mix with anything from sexist, slavery, racism, and difference religions.

  5. Thank you guys for your response to my comments and questions.
    The definition of Liberalism you meant is now clear for me.

    I need to think about this topic a bit more by myself, and your comments are very helpful , thank you.

    It was also interesting point.

    >The rise of liberalism was preceded by centuries of bloody wars. The question of today is, can Muslim countries transform to sort of liberal regimes without this interplay, or a war is necessary? For our sake as well as their I hope it will be possible…

  6. It’s been a while since you let me know about this article. I am sorry for my belated response. But you know what? This is my official debut to blogs written in English! Sugoi (“cool”)!

    I enjoyed reading your essay. I like the way it shows your “liberal” sensitivities. For example, by making the distinction between moderate Islam and extreme Islam, you are bringing readers’ attention to the political “agencies” of local people and their power to think and decide for themselves. So it is good strategy to keep focusing on the ideological side, not to mention (too much) economical factors, for the argument sake. But it is true that your argument left me wonder how you locate your political analysis in your overall look on the past ideological wars as well as materilalist/Marxist perspectives on economy and ideology. So I enjoyed reading your discussions with your friends too.

    Thank you so much for introducing me to your blog!

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