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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Extreme Violence

Barack Obama's “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” ended with a wimper yesterday. It comes as no surprise that it accomplished nothing. Worse, it projected a message to the world—that the President of the United States honestly believes (or at least he says he believes) that a 'Jobs for Jihadis' program is a key to defeating radical Islam (oops, I mean "violent extremism") and that if only we better understand the "grievances" of those radical Islamists and address them with understanding and, of course, with Twitter, that ... well ... they will see the error of their ways and never, ever, ever join ISIS or any of the dozens of other groups that espouse a radical Islamic philosophy. It's Peter Pan thinking, but the frightening thing is, it's espoused by this president, his Secretary of State, and his Director of Homeland security—not to mention every other member of the Team of 2s that currently inhabits the White House.

A few days before most of the mainstream media discovered it, I was fortunate to run across a seminal paper by Graeme Wood, entitled, "What ISIS Really Wants." Published at the left-leaning Atlantic website, it is a dissertation-length refutation of just about everything that Barack Obama claims relative to the "un-Islamic" nature of ISIS and all other radical Islamic groups.

Peggy Noonan does a good job of summarizing some of the salient points:
Great essays tell big truths. A deeply reported piece in next month’s Atlantic magazine does precisely that, and in a way devastating to the Obama administration’s thinking on ISIS ...

Mr. Wood describes a dynamic, savage and so far successful organization whose members mean business. Their mettle should not be doubted. ISIS controls an area larger than the United Kingdom and intends to restore, and expand, the caliphate. Mr. Wood interviewed Anjem Choudary of the banned London-based Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, who characterized ISIS’ laws of war as policies of mercy, not brutality. “He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies,” Mr. Wood writes, “because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.”

ISIS has allure: Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are believed to have joined. The organization is clear in its objectives: “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change . . . that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. . . . The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”

The scale of the savagery is difficult to comprehend and not precisely known. Regional social media posts “suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks.” Most, not all, of the victims are Muslims.

The West, Mr. Wood argues, has been misled “by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. . . . The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers,” drawn largely from the disaffected. “But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” Its actions reflect “a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bring about the apocalypse.”

Mr. Wood acknowledges that ISIS reflects only one, minority strain within Islam. “Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

He quotes Princeton’s Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on ISIS’ theology. The group’s fighters, Mr. Haykel says, “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition,” and denials of its religious nature spring from embarrassment, political correctness and an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”
Extreme political correctness has led this administration to "get on its high horse" and proclaim that military solutions alone won't solve this problem," and then proceed to suggest the typical far left narrative that demands an airing of grievances (by the Jihadis), and end to poverty, helplessness, corruption, etc. (for the Jihadis) and an indirect demand for social justice (applied to the Jihadis).

Here's the thing. Sheltered, progressive Western elites simply don't understand what is driving the young men who join ISIS or al Qaeda, or Boko Haram, or dozens of other radical Islamic terror organizations. It's not they they are poor, or helpless or have grievances, because if that were the case, analogous groups would be found among impoverished Catholics in South America or impoverished Hindus in parts of India, to name only two of many peoples around the world who live in poverty and at the same time experience helplessness. Like it or not, there's something about Islam that spawns groups like ISIS, and the elites don't like it, so they reject any connection between those groups and Islam. Graeme Wood demonstrates unequivocally that a connection—a very strong connection—does in fact exist.

But something else is going on in the minds of young men who in their religious fervor allow Islam to assuage any guilt about the barbarous acts that they conduct. Part of it is that the texts of Islam can be interpreted in ways that enable it to recommend many of those acts—beheadings, burnings—against infidels and apostates. But that interpretation alone isn't enough.

ISIS (or for that matter, Boko Haram or al Qaeda) is muscular. It's perceived as the strong horse, talking trash to "Rome" (the West) and daring Rome to react. That's very attractive to young Jihadis—who swarm to Syria to join the "winning" team.

How do we fight that? Not with jobs programs or tweets, or round-table discussions of grievances. It requires making ISIS a loser. And the only way to do that is to apply extreme violence—something that the young Jihadis will undoubtedly understand. The big question is "Who applies the violence?"

The answer must be: those Muslims who are in the region, who are threatened by ISIS, and who, if we are to believe the protestations of the Western elites, are opposed to everything ISIS and other radical Islamists stand for. The West can provide weapons, logistical support, special operators to guide tactics, and massive air support along with other essentials including psy-ops conducted via social media. But 100,000 troops from Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia (along with select Syrian militias, the Iraqi army, and the Kurds—another 10,000 fighters or more) with heavy armor and the will to win must apply the extreme violence. We have to accept the fact civilian populations will suffer, cities may be destroyed, and collateral damage will occur. We must allow the armies of the region to define rules of engagement that enable extreme violence. Muslims must kill the Muslims who are out to destroy or subjugate them all.

But most important, the Muslims of the region need to know that they have a reliable partner in the West—a leader who will keep his promises, who has the courage and the will to help them defeat ISIS and its brethren. A leader who can convince them that they must apply extreme violence and do it soon.

For if they they are not convinced and do not act, extreme violence will be visited on their people as ISIS grows ever stronger.

Do moderate Muslims have a reliable partner in the West? Someone who can convince them that they must act and act soon. Do they have a leader who has the courage and the will to help them defeat ISIS and its brethren?

They. Do. Not.

And therein lies the problem.

This hardhitting infographic—developed for Barack Obama's conference on "violent extremism" tells us what's really important as we work to eliminate ...uh,  "violent extremism."

But then again, all of us folks more than 50  miles from Washington, DC or located outside the salons of the progressive elites aren't nuanced enough to understand how profound this little graphic (produced, no doubt, with taxpayer dollars) really is.  Might be a good idea to put about 40,000 images on sheets of paper and drop them on ISIS. That's the kind of air strike the administration could really get behind.

I'm absolutely certain ISIS would see the light, drop their automatic weapons and beheading swords and become moderate members of the religion of peace.