The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Durable Solutions

James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal discusses a commentary by James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dawes uses the prevalent left-wing narrative that demands that we understand the motivations of ISIS—and is very hesitant to use the word "evil" to characterize anyone or any entity. Dawes suggests that characterizing the Islamic State (ISIS) as "evil" is a way of allowing ourselves to do them harm—a justification as it were. Dawes writes:
We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.
OOOOKaaay, then.

The only "context" that will allow us to "understand" the actions of rabid Islamists is to observe their actions (e.g., murder of large numbers of non-believers, gratuitous beheadings, subjugation of entire populations, genocidal acts toward other groups of non-believers) and make an immediate judgement as to whether those actions are evil. The only way to interpret their words and their threats is literally, with no nuance required. The only way we can "unmake" rabid Islamists is a context that leads to their death.

Like every good Leftist, Dawes goes on the denounce the "Shock and Awe" attitude that he contends is counter-productive. He writes:
While invasions and bombing can be effective in the short term, they are not durable solutions to terror-based violence.

Even if U.S. military force could effectively destroy ISIS, there will be similar groups waiting in the wings. If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking.

How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive? We can choose to answer these questions in two ways.
To paraphrase the fictional character Col. Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men, Dawes and his fellow travelers on the Left "... can't handle the truth." Dawes wants to "understand," to develop "durable solutions." Dawes wants context.

Okay, let me try.

The Islam practiced by ISIS and tens of millions of radical Islamists is an ideology, not a religion. It is an ideology that is pervaded by thinking that is more akin to the 9th century that the 21st century. It is an ideology that defeats any attempt at modernization, that demands blind compliance, that is bent on world domination, that has adopted sharia law that condones barbaric acts for minor crimes (stoning for adultery comes to mind), that justifies violence wherever it flourishes, that is belligerently intolerant of non-believers, that subjugates women, that terrorizes gay people, that wrecks the economy of any country in which it exists, that elevates its religious leaders to dictatorial powers (including the power to issue fatwas that are nothing more than death sentences), and that is intolerant of any criticism.

These "truths" are best evidenced in the Arab crescent. Using virtually any modern measure of political freedom, economic progress, or societal growth, the Islamic countries of the Arab crescent fall woefully short. Sure, they have oil (the luck of geography) but even with the enormous wealth it provides, the measures remain awful.

Even if Islamist sympathy pervades only 5 percent of the citizenry in Arab countries (and that's a very, very conservative estimate), it has a reach that has far greater impact on each of the countries in which it resides. As Barack Obama correctly noted, it is a "cancer" that is destroying any effort at modernity, allowing Islamic countries to fall further and further behind the West.

So when James Dawes suggests that understanding will somehow magically lead to ... well, he never really tells us what ... I say this:

Those of us who don't believe in fantasy already understand the context. In fact, we understand all too well. There are no "durable solutions to terror-based violence." The problem is that we can't solve this. It is an intractable problem. Therefore, we can only act to manage and constrain it. And if that means shock and awe, let's get started.