“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago,” said the Time Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”
It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a “podunk little college” to be able to concentrate fully.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the Time Traveler. “In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means.”
I waited. Finally I said firmly, “You can’t go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong.”
The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, “Let me give you an analogy . . .”
God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.
“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler, “that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”
“That’s absurd,” I said.
“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.”
“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now. He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have . . .”
Hardly. World War II was driven by religious as well as political doctrines - each reinforcing the other. Can the West continue to turn a blind eye to Islam any longer? There is some hope: that Islam can be turned into a tame variant the way Japan's Shinto religion is today. But the process of taming Japan was terrible. What can be done for the Islamic World?