Santorum: America must fight radical Islam

By
Friday, April 6, 2007

The United States “will pay a horrible price” if it does not recognize the threat posed by “Islamic fascism” and act to defeat it, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum told a near-capacity crowd in Salomon 101 last night.

Santorum, an outspoken conservative brought to campus by the Brown Lecture Board, said the United States’ current struggles in the Middle East are the beginning of a new chapter in the historical conflict between the Judeo-Christian West and the Islamic world. He said he believed the struggle would cause Americans to reject “multiculturalism” and return to traditional values.

After cracking jokes early on, an energetic Santorum quickly grew serious, saying that the last 40 years have seen “a cataclysmic shift in America and the Western world” away from traditional Judeo-Christian values, especially in Europe. But the conflict with radical Islam “will bring this country together more than maybe any war has ever done” in opposition to that trend, he added.

“I do not believe that all cultures need to be or should be respected equally,” Santorum said, calling that premise “one of the mainstays of the secular orthodoxy” and predicting that it will fall out of favor.

Later, in a question-and-answer session following the speech, Santorum said the Judeo-Christian tradition “is superior to all other cultures” and that Islamic culture is in need of reform.

“These folks have had plenty of opportunities to reform, to modernize,” Santorum said. “Christianity has become tolerant of other world views, and Islam has not.”

“The enemy are, as I have termed them, Islamic fascists. Some would argue that all of Islam is corrupt. I do not. Some would argue that it’s just a very, very small, one tenth of 1 percent. I would argue that it’s not that small either. But it is serious, it is real, it is growing,” Santorum said. “They want to conquer the world for Islam because that’s what their book says.”

Santorum criticized President Bush for “misdefinition of the enemy” and poor communication for terming the struggle a “war on terror.”

“Terror is a paramilitary tactic,” Santorum said. “It’s like calling World War II a war on blitzkrieg. … Why have we not said this is a war on an ideology?”

Santorum called for political liberals to support the war on radical Islam, pointing to the vulnerable status of women and homosexuals in Islamic countries as evidence that liberal ideals of feminism and gay rights are particularly threatened.

“There is a lot of common ground here,” Santorum said. “When you look at this enemy and who they are, there is much more for liberals not to like about them than even for conservatives not to like. Liberals want a secular government. Let me assure you, radical Islam is not about secular governments.”

Being called to the challenge of confronting an evil ideology “is not new for America,” Santorum said. Americans have also been hesitant to fight, he said, likening American reluctance to come to the defense of its allies in World War II to the public’s current ambivalence about the war in Iraq.

Like Britain in 1940, America is currently standing alone against a threat – this time from the Islamic world – without the aid of its traditional allies, Santorum said. “Europe is hardly Europe anymore,” he told the audience. “Europe will not fight.”

“(Islamic radicals) will not leave us alone,” he said. “My plea to you is to engage that battle now.”

“When we are fully engaged in this battle,” Santorum added, “we will re-examine ourselves, because we will be fighting an enemy that fundamentally… sees the world differently than we do.”

Santorum’s 45-minute speech was followed by over an hour of questions from the audience, many of whom challenged aspects of Santorum’s reasoning, sometimes vigorously.

During the question-and-answer session, Santorum explained that he believed “most of the Islamic world is not violent” and that the basis of co-existence between the West and Islam would be laid by acting forcefully against radical elements to “give space” for more moderate voices to reshape the Middle East.

But he contrasted the underpinnings of Judeo-Christian culture with those of Islam, saying that Islamic tradition, unlike Christianity, specifies the nature of “the Islamic state.”

“It’s very brutal,” he said.

He also stressed the danger posed by the current Iranian government, calling its leaders “a bunch of radical mullahs” and noting the apocalyptic nature of their beliefs.

Several questioners pushed Santorum to explain his support for the war in the Iraq, which he said stemmed from the destabilizing influence of Saddam Hussein’s regime, his support of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and now-discredited intelligence indicating Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Though most questions focused on foreign policy, a few audience members also challenged Santorum on social issues. One questioner asked him to explain his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Santorum noted that “there isn’t the inherent special societal benefit” to same-sex marriage that there is to traditional marriage, which he said has historically existed to encourage men and women to have children. He also said countries that have legalized the practice have seen fewer marriages as a result.

Several questioners challenged the premise that a conflict between the West and the Muslim world is necessary, but Santorum responded skeptically.

“By our mere existence, we offend them,” he said.