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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hard Topics -- ISIS

What to do ... what to do? What to do about ISIS? Tough question.

John Kerry is in the news over his comments about the Paris attacks. He said,
There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.
I'm not a Kerry fan ... not even remotely ... but Kerry is right. He explained it was "not a legitimacy", but that there was "a rationale" behind the Charlie Hebdo attack. If people can't see that, they don't know people. People, you see, always act according to a rationale. No one does anything for no reason, even if it is as meaningless as "because it's there". Humans always do what they do for a reason. It may be a ludicrous reason or a nonsensical reason or a poorly formed reason, but there is always "a rationale".

What disturbs me is not that our Secretary of State thought there was a rationale (and not a legitimacy) to the one attack in Paris, but that the latest attack was different. One, he says, had a rationale (and not, as his detractors have argued, a "moral justification"), but the other apparently did not. If our government cannot figure out the rationale which certainly exists, how will they be able to address the problem? It would appear that they aren't looking for it.

The truth is the western world doesn't much get this version of Islam. It isn't ... western. Just look on the surface of it. We have always understood that the threat of death was a good method of preventing things from happening. I mean, you put an armed guard on something thinking that those who don't wish to die will avoid going in there. We get that. But now we find people whose ideology ignores the possibility of death and, instead, embraces it. How do you stop a person with a bomb strapped to his (or her) body who doesn't care if he or she dies because they intend to do just that? Suddenly we find that their ideology is outside our experience.

The Atlantic has an article entitled What ISIS Really Wants. It addresses the underlying ideology that, if we (those opposed to it) don't grasp it, we'll never have a chance of curbing it. At its core, this group believes itself to be ushering in the Day of Judgment. In this, their jihad is only a component, even a tool. We think it is their goal. And they aren't thinking of it like we do in modern 21st century categories and values. They're thinking of it in 5th century terms, way back in the early days of Islam. Those Muslims carried out a massive conquest, taking over most of the Middle East (which was the reason for the call for help that brought the Crusades to defend the region), north Africa, and even Spain and Portugal. They want to kill infidels, to be sure, but the goal is the apocalypse.

Nor is it a matter of personal gain or power. It's a matter of religious conviction. They're seeking a return to "Rule by Islam" complete with their standard death penalties for violation of religious rules. Public icons, both in the government and even in Islam, are arguing that "This is not Islam." Our last three presidents all assured us that it wasn't. It is. It is not the Islam they've embraced or recognized, but it is the Islam of Muhammed and his subsequent followers. It is exactly what you would find in their holy texts. Even the name, Islam, means not "peace" as many believe, but "submission". The tenet is that submission brings peace. Christianity by name is about Christ. Islam by name is about submission. Christians have "the Jesus hermeutic" where Jesus is the focus; ISIS uses "the Prophetic methodology" where walking in the path of the Prophet Muhammed is the way.

"Oh, no," they tell us, "it's not that. It's a problem of disaffected people who have been abused for too long." Right. Osama Bin Laden (who ISIS views as their predecessor) was born into a multimillionaire family living off privilege until he fell in with the Muslim Brotherhood and opted for war. He said, "Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hate towards Americans, Jews and Christians, this is part of our ideology. Ever since I can recall, I felt at war with the Americans and had feelings of animosity and hate towards them." That's not "disaffection". It's ideology. In 1996 he issued his “Declaration of War Against the Americans Who Occupy the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.” What "Land of the Two Holy Mosques" does America occupy? That's not abuse; it's ideology. In 1998 he declared, “We—with God’s help—call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans." That's not disaffection; that's ideology. George Bush did not create ISIS; ideology did.

So here we are in the West arguing about whether or not one attack had a rationale and the other did not. Our failure to grasp the rationale -- the reasoning behind the group we call "ISIS" (or "ISIL" if you're the president) -- will make it impossible to engage the problem. At its core it is a religious ideal, and you can't kill a religious ideal with planes and bombs, let alone the complete failure to grasp that it is a religious ideal. Indeed, defeat is part of their plan, thinking that they are fulfilling some end-of-the-world prophecy that snatches victory from an apparent defeat and places Islam in charge of the world. You don't fight that with "boots on the ground." You can limit it with military force, but you can't defeat it. As we've seen thus far.


Bob said...

the greatest difficulty of defeating the enemy is getting bogged down with the details.
isis is at war with the west. they declared it. they killed many people to demonstrate that they mean business. it is time to drop the academic discussions, and the political correct paralysis.
stop the analysis. we need to forget whether this is good islam of bad islam or radical islam.
yea we have the privileged of dissecting the topic from this safe place.
the plain truth: we are at war, whether we like to admit it or not.
people are dying , and will continue to die.
Christians and jews are hard targets.
do we fight to defend the innocent or wait until we have properly define the nature and reason for their hatred?

Stan said...

This IS part of the problem, isn't it? "No, we're not at war with Islam" makes the Muslims who don't agree with ISIS feel better, but it doesn't address the FACT that ISIS is at war with us.

The world only has the possibility of military force to limit the effects of their ideology. Good thing I'm not counting on the world to manage this problem. That would take changed hearts.

Bob said...

i realize the limits to the use of force to stop an ideology. unfortunately the use of force is a necessary evil. either we lay down like sheep and let this thing have it's way or we stand up and defend ourselves. i know that this sounds like just more war mongering. but apart from praying and trusting God, there must be a definitive action. we had this problem with every evil ideology that ever existed. from the Hittites to the Nazi's they all had formulated a world view, that when confronted was eventually destroyed. we cannot stop people from having crazy ideas, but we can limit their capacity to wage war on others. its a broken world we are in and our tools are limited. now it's like thank you Jesus, lock the door and pass the ammo.
i feel a little ashamed at having this discussion because it seems so unchristian, but then again i have to consider those that will be next weeks victims. what would they have to say about our president's obtuse and flaccid response ?

Stan said...

True, which is why I said that force can limit the effects (although not solve the problem).

And "i feel a little ashamed at having this discussion because it seems so unchristian" is (one of the main reasons) why I labeled it a "hard topic".