In commentary on "The 21st-Century Crusade" appearing in The Washington Post Weekly Edition for January 13-19 , Dennis Mullin usefully analyzes the threat to world peace of militant Islam; his enthusiasm for a crusade to match the jihad, however, is at best badly timed.
Eric Hoffer's 1951 book The True Believer makes some points Mullin and everyone else should keep in mind. If Hoffer is right, the undermining of traditional societies frees up large numbers of people to lead unsatisfying lives and is a major source of potential converts to mass movements. Also available for mass movements are people recently unemployed and people with education and no suitable jobs.
Globalization and recession have produced a large number of potential True Believers, and there are religious and nationalistic mass movements actively recruiting or just waiting to happen not only among Muslims but also Jews, Hindus, Christians, and maybe Korean Communists.
All that is missing is charismatic leadership, and there is a fair chance a crusade against Iraq will generate that leadership for many Muslims, possibly by making Saddam Hussein a hero (or martyr) of Islam.
When fanatics march, things get deadly: estimates for deaths in World War II range between 40 and 61 million. Significantly, those deaths were barely a pause in the increase of Earth's human population. Since World War II, we have seen the proliferation of atomic weapons, and the desire Mullin cites for an "Islamic Bomb," to match what can be perceived as Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and godless Communist or secular Capitalist bombs.
Everything did not change 11 September 2001; to re-date Albert Einstein's assessment, everything changed for humans some time in the 1960s, when the USA, USSR, and other nuclear powers accumulated enough weapons to destroy much of human civilization directly and perhaps all of human civilization, and the human species, through nuclear winter.
One generation does not have the right to preclude or even endanger the existence of succeeding generations. Total nuclear disarmament is not currently possible, but before we Americans start crusading, we and the other nuclear powers need to destroy—not store, destroy—a large number of nuclear weapons. And then we need serious nonproliferation treaties.
When Earth is safe again for war, we can start thinking about risking another forty to sixty million deaths and develop serious ways to resolve disputes that do not involve mass killing—and ways to capture, try, and put away for life fanatics who murder.
Well, Saddam Hussein failed in his attempt to present himself as a defender of Islam — the attempt was a hell of a stretch on his part — and he never became a martyr of the faith, nor its leader; and more recent estimates on the body count for World War II, worldwide and from 1939-45, are up to 65 million, although people in Manchuria and Nanking people might assert that World War II began earlier than 1939, and, certainly, the dying continued after 1945.
I'll stick with the point on nuclear and thermonuclear bombs as the truest weapons of mass destruction and the only weapons posing a literal existential threat to human civilization and the human species. Still, in 2015 — when Jihad is more likely than ever to provoke a crusade — a few words are needed on old-fashioned massacres and what can be done with merely Medieval technology of destruction and death.
The words here aren't mine but one major and some minor witnesses to a literal Crusade, one of the crusades President Obama was chided for being "artless" and insensitive enough to throw into a conversation on fanaticism, suggesting that Christianity, too, has done some very bad thing because, some important people thought, "God wills it" (Deus vult!).
From Raymond d'Aguiliers: Historia francorum qui ceperint Jerusalem ["The History of the Franks who Captured Jerusalem"]
But now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood. Some of the enemy took refuge in the Tower of David, and, petitioning Count Raymond for protection, surrendered the Tower into his hands.
WIKIPEDIA NOTE: However, this imagery should not be taken literally; it was taken directly from [the New Testament, Christian God-of-Wrath (RDE)] biblical passage Revelation 14:20. Writing about the Temple Mount area alone[,] Fulcher of Chartres […] says: "In this temple 10,000 were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared." ¶ The eyewitness Gesta Francorum states that some people were spared. Its anonymous author wrote, "When the pagans had been overcome, our men seized great numbers, both men and women, either killing them or keeping them captive, as they wished." Later the same source writes, "[Our leaders] also ordered all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses; and so the living Saracens dragged the dead before the exits of the gates and arranged them in heaps, as if they were houses. No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids, and no one knows their number except God alone.
Now that the city was taken, it was well worth all our previous labors and hardships to see the devotion of the pilgrims at the Holy Sepulchre. How they rejoiced and exulted and sang a new song to the Lord! For their hearts offered prayers of praise to God, victorious and triumphant, which cannot be told in words. A new day, new joy, new and perpetual gladness, the consummation of our labor and devotion, drew forth from all new words and new songs. This day, I say, will be famous in all future ages, for it turned our labors and sorrows into joy and exultation; this day, I say, marks the justification of all Christianity, the humiliation of paganism, and the renewal of our faith.
Fordham University: The Jesuit University of New York, "Medieval Source Book: Raymond d'Aguiliers Historia francorum qui ceperint Jerusalem represents the experiences of chaplain of Raymond de Saint Gilles, Count of Toulouse, who lead the Southern French army of the First Crusade. Here. Selection 12, 'The Frankish Victory,' capturing Jerusalem, 15 July 1099. "
Non-nuclear Wars of Religion would not threaten human survival; they would, however, produce horrible suffering and loss of life and, necessarily, at least a variety of new Dark Age.