Jihad, Terror, and Utopia Part I

In an article that's basically par for the course with Cathy Young, she details the Left's reaction to the London terror bombings and finds it "an egregious moral muddle." I'm sympathetic to some of her arguments, but I have some serious reservations. She concludes the article:

It is certainly true that the war in Iraq has been mishandled; it may have been misguided in the first place. It is, regrettably, true that the cavalier attitude toward prisoner abuse has undermined our moral authority in the war on terror. But acknowledging our mistakes and misdeeds should not undercut moral clarity when it comes to terrorism. The jihadists are driven primarily by hatred of Western civilization and its freedom; their primary targets are innocent civilians; and they cannot be defeated except by force.

Au contraire, I think it will be very difficult to defeat an ideology by force. It failed to wipe out Vietnamese Communists and drug use here at home. It worked at defeating National Socialism, but only in a population still grounded in the Western tradition, and only at the great expense of military and civilian life. I don't like the fact, but I'm perfectly willing to admit that some force may help. But to say that only force can defeat the jihadists gives them far too much intellectual credibility.

The jihadists have a parasitic ideology. Whereas the great American tradition of making your own way is theoretically available to anyone at any time, the jihadists need an enemy and need to polarize the communities they're drawn from. An economically stable, or better, an economically prosperous Gaza would do wonders for eliminating suicide terrorists in Israel. An economically stable or prosperous Iraq would still have fanatics within its borders, but the entire jihad culture would suffer if ordinary Iraqis were too fat and happy to agree, however tacitly, with anti-American action. This point I'd like to emphasize. The jihadist radicals are just that: radical branches of an ideology that has broader moderate support. More on this in Part II.

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I think that in all of this

I think that in all of this discussion, the true motivations of the jihadists is missed. They are driven now by the same ideology that they have been for over a thousand years. Islam orginated as a culture of the sword. Mohammed converted rivaling states around him by invasion and massacre. To think that America pulling out of the Middle East would solve anything is a failure in reasoning by assuming that they think anything remotely like westerners. They don't hate the west because of anything that the west did. They hate the west because it isn't muslim. That simple. There will be jihadist fueled terrorism in the world until radical islam is wiped out, or the entire world is converted to islam. If America pulled out of Iraq right now it would have several devastating effects:

1) the insurgents would view it as a victory and use it as a terrorist recruiting tool

2) it would encourage terrorists to ramp up attacks in other countries, with the belief that once the Americans get bloodied a little they run (an ideology that is unfortunately already supported by the American withdrawal from Somalia in the early 90s. Bin Laden specifically quoted this event himself several times as proof that the Americans are weak)

3) Iraq would collapse into total chaos, interrupting a great deal of the world's supply of oil

4) It would demoralize the US itself, and discourage later, possibly more neccesary, action

The only way I can see to defeat terrorism is by battling it on both fronts. We must undermine them ideologically and kill them when we find them. To make the mistake of thinking that they are going to be nice if we treat them nice is a horrible fallacy based on the assumption that they have some sort of respect for the society in which we live.

qwest, where can I get a

qwest, where can I get a magic crystal ball like yours? It's a little premature yet to prophecy Iraq's failure (or success), don't you think?

If the US administration

If the US administration followed your simple logic , they would realize they are CREATING a future hotbed of hate filled jihadists. They created a giant gaza strip of the future.

It seems to me that the only

It seems to me that the only way ideologies are ever "defeated" is that they get in charge of a state. Then they proceed to do as states do - mess things up - and are discredited.

Leonard- that's a reason why


that's a reason why I don't mind democratizing the Middle East and having a bunch of jihadi/wahhabists come to power.

(a) State to State relations are, compared to decentralized non state action, much easier to deal with.
(b) We have a target to hit if they do bad (well, check that based on the other thread, but generally speaking yes)
(c) per your point, their obnoxious creed will be put into force et voila, discrediting in the eyes of the people (ala Iran).

Of course, ala Communism, this would result only in its discrediting in the Muslim non-west; academia will unfortunately likely remain a lingering source of infection well after no "indigenous" folk will have anything to do with it.

Well, democratizing the

Well, democratizing the Muslim world by force has two problems:
(1) it's really, really costly, requiring a huge military, war after war, etc.
(2) it draws fire from Muslims in the meantime.

Consider, by comparison, declaring victory and running:
(1) it's cheap! can disband most of our military.
(2) it stops terrorism! Jihadists lose reason to target us as Islam Enemy #1.

Both strategies end up about the same place, with Islamic dictators taking over and running nasty states. I'd have to say mine is better, though, if only on moral grounds, because war is morally problematic (to say the least).

Where'd I mention by force?

Where'd I mention by force? Bad choice in words on my part I suppose, since "democratize" is a verb that implies action, which isn't too much of a leap to "and by that action I mean military/force".

So, to clarify, I'm just saying that I'm not concerned (as some lefties, left-illiberals, mesocons, etc, are) about IF there were an election that grossly illiberal/evil groups take over the governments of SA, Egypt, Syria, etc., because of what I mentioned above.

I certainly don't think we can do any of that by force, nor should we.

I am not as sanguine as you are about the effects of pulling out, though. The excuses listed by bin Laden and his fellow fascists are of convenience, not legitimate beefs that *actually* spur his action. Remove the marginal excuse and you get the next one (the n-1th excuse). I presume you could go all the way to "because you're invading al-Andalus and we must throw you back" or even "you don't believe in Allah". They attacked us well before 1991, and other western powers & polities well before any interventions post-2001. They will even when we leave.

Leonard touched at this

Leonard touched at this already, but it must be said. The jihadists themselves hate our freedom and our way of life. However, their position would have no credence if that freedom wasn't connected in the minds of Middle Easterners with the years of imperialism and conquest brought on by the West.

They don't like capitalism because the only effects of capitalism they've seen relates to oil. Oil's legacy has often left these people with regimes like the House of Saud. Instead of seeing the proud legacy of capitalism, some of which is shared by the merchants from Islam's past, they see conquest and illegitimacy.

Elminating Islamism requires more than just establishing democratic regimes. It requires rolling back the effects of Western imperialism that has led to these corrupt regimes. Simply installing a democratic regime will more often than not lead to illiberal democracies that still breed terrorism. I'm not sure the US is capable of undertaking this task, and it's probably best left to NGOs and other entities capable of taking on the long and arduous task of nation rebuilding.

Cliff, Japan and Switzerland

Cliff, Japan and Switzerland and Sweden are nice democratic places. If Muslims hate the West so much, why aren't they attacking them? Why do they keep attacking those countries who they say they are mad at, for intervening in the middle east, for supporting their dictators, for pushing them around? The simplest explanation is that they both say they are mad at, and attack, the same countries, because they are mad at them. Occam's razor suggests I am right.

You see things too simplistically. Yes, they don't like capitalism and its consequence, our decadent society. But they also don't like our interventionism in their countries. Both can be true, and both motivational. The question is not how can we act to make them love us - that's just stupid. We don't control them, and in any case owe them nothing. The question is, what immoral things are we doing that are making them mad? Note that we should stop doing immoral things (like killing children, you know), regardless of what anyone thinks, Muslim or otherwise. However, unfortunately, we generally don't stop doing things we shouldn't be doing, unless pushed.

You are correct when you say "there will be jihadist fueled terrorism in the world until radical islam is wiped out". So what? The mission of America is not to eliminate terrorism; it is (among other things) to provide for the common defense of Americans. If we disinvolve ourselves with the Islamic world, they will see us as no more or less objectionable than Sweden or Japan, and attack us correspondingly less. They will, of course, attack their own governments more, since they will see that the tyranny they live under is not, in fact, our fault. And they may well topple said governments ala Iran. But that leads us back to what Brian was saying.

"And there you go again with

"And there you go again with the “they hate us for our culture". Yes, that’s why they are attacking Western capitalist countries everywhere: Germany, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, etc."

You're making several mistakes in this line of thinking. First, it isn't practical for them to attack every capitalist country, so they go for the leaders: US, England, Spain, Israel (which represents democracy in the middle east), Turkey and Indonesia (the largest Asian democracy) to name a few. Second, as you can see they ARE attacking capitalist countries everywhere (North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa)... just not EVERY capitalist country.

Ah, I see here the common

Ah, I see here the common refrain of Libertarians (and I was one for many years) - my wallet, my wallet.

Leonard, I disagree still.


I disagree still. My point wasn't about the army (though it was the symptom of the German economy) but exactly that the German economy was not on par, production and manufacturing-wise, with France and Britain. Steel production may have been a German specialty prior to WWI and 1939, I don't know, but I do know that French and British general industrial production outstripped German productivity in general (Despite the worldwide depression) and in relevant warmaking capacities. Isolated and alone for 2+ years, Britain essentially held Germany to a standstill- this after Germany has the benefit of undamaged French industry, low countries' industry, Czech industry, etc. Granted there was aid from lend-lease, but not in particularly great amounts until '41 and before the end of that year we were in it.

Factor too that Britain was fighting a 2 front war against Japan and Germany, simultaneously, from 1939 to 1941, when Germany and Japan had only Britain as their foe.

In short, I think you're seriously underestimating British industrial/economic capacity and capability in 1939 compared to Germany and the continent.

And yes I know this isn't germane to Arabia, arabism, neocaliphism, etc. I'm just a WWII pedant.

Brian, I didn't say Germany

Brian, I didn't say Germany had the strongest army in 1939. Just the biggest economy. Germany had almost as many people in 1939 as France and England combined, and outproduced them in steel.

Economy is what matters in modern warfare. The point for the purposes of this discussion is that Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have little economy to speak of and would be easy to deter from any sort of conventional military aggression.

Leonard, Just a hit a run,


Just a hit a run, but asserting that Germany in 1939 was the highest tech and strongest economy in Europe is hilarious. German industry was not on par with France or Britain in 1938 or 1939. Part of the reason for the "sitzkrieg" in 1939 was that Germany simply didn't have the industrial wherewithal yet (nor the materiel created by said industry) to invade France or Britain. And when Germany *did* invade, it did at an almost 2:1 disadvantage in terms of armor & artillery.

Germany bootstrapped itself quite a bit for WWII, but its initial victories depended on l'audace & tactics more than tech or industry. French & British armor doctrine in 1939 was to spread their tanks out piecemeal among their infantry regiments. The Germans concentrated their (meager) tank strength into armor regiments. Result- they tore through French lines like a knife through paper. Having Rommel commanding your tank corps helps, too.

But seriously, they had to parade the same artillery pieces over and over again to give the illusion of a big army going into Austria for the newsreels celebrating the Anschluss, they had so few weapons.

Cliff, some of them did

Cliff, some of them did revolt again Saddam, several times. Of course he slaughtered them for it, tortured them, and ran a nasty police state. He was willing to do what it took to stay in power. The difference is, we aren't. And good on us for that.

"The Great Satan" was invented by the Iranian revolutionaries, who hated us for the very good reason that we had installed and sustained the hated and evil Shah. Since you may not know, the Shah ran a state much like Saddam's (when Saddam was friendly with us). From the wiki article: Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran's monarch) grew increasingly dictatorial. With strong support from the USA and the UK, the Shah further modernised Iranian industry but crushed civil liberties. His autocratic rule, including systematic torture and other human rights violations, led to the Iranian revolution and overthrow of his regime in 1979.

The Iranian people hated the West for what our proxy did to them.

And there you go again with the "they hate us for our culture". Yes, that's why they are attacking Western capitalist countries everywhere: Germany, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, etc.

Mr. Simon, do you really

Mr. Simon, do you really think that a worldwide Caliphate is in the cards? It's not.

And even if, by some miracle, all Muslims across the world managed to set aside their differences and unite in one big country, we could easily contain them just as we contained the Soviet Union. Easier, really, when you consider these facts:
(1) the USSR had a bigger economy
(2) the USSR's official ideology had great credence in the West
(3) the USSR was far more self-sufficient economically

But really this is academic. The chance of a worldwide Caliphate happening are zero. Rather, nationalism and sectarian issues separate Muslims just as they do other people, which is no surprise, given that Muslims are people too. In fact, a Caliphate even uniting majority Muslim countries is extremely unlikely. Historically things have gone the other direction. Consider, for example, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Or "pan-arabism" and the U.A.R. Or consider the Kurds - think they are going to want to live in a nice big happy Arab nation, just like Saddam's but more powerful? I don't think so, do you?

What is possible? Perhaps a Caliphate uniting Sunni Arabs. Even that seems unlikely, given that there are dictators there who won't want to give up without a fight. But a pan-Arab state would have roughly the economy of California. But even that is misleading if you are talking about warfare; the US could crush such a state any time we felt like it. We have modern precision guided munitions. They don't make much of anything except oil.

Your analogy to Germany in 1939 is inapt. Germany was the strongest and highest tech economy in Europe.

Yep who gives a damn about a

Yep who gives a damn about a few dead Kurds, Marsh Arabs and Jews? Right?

One of the many tenents of the stoppers is that you have to believe that Saddam had nothing to do with terrorism which is patently not true. He funded suicide bombers families with his Martyrs funds. He also hosted many of of the worst terrorists in the world and there was the question of that rather large training camp north of Baghdad which they seem to forget about as well. I do not believe for a minute that we are worse off now viz terrorism than we were before Saddam was overthrown. In fact I think we are ultimately better off...I write this sitting in London I might point out.

I think that you are once

I think that you are once again misinterpreting the motivations of the extremists as political. The terrorists view politics as a means to achieve their goal. America actually kills much less children that Saddam ever did, why didn't they revolt against him? One of the main reasons is that though he ran a somewhat secular country (for the Middle East) he also took great pains to maintain his Islamic credibility.

"If we disinvolve ourselves with the Islamic world, they will see us as no more or less objectionable than Sweden or Japan, and attack us correspondingly less." Not true. They want to destroy us because of our culture. They view America as the well spring of all of the culture that they hate. Capitalism invaded the Middle East far before our troops ever did. They thought of America as "The Great Satan" long before the first bomb ever dropped. They eliminated America's neutral stance through terror attacks. We would not only have to withdraw our troops, but totally stop any exportation of our culture, which is impossible. That would be even if it wasn't too late in the game. I think that you've forgotten that the troops weren't in the middle east until AFTER 9/11. If we ever want to stop the terror, we have to stop assuming that they think like we do. They aren't nice little Muslims out resisting unjust occupation (even though this may be a recruiting tool), they are crazed little Muslims out to destroy your way of life.

America has had some success

America has had some success in nation rebuilding (Germany, Japan, S. Korea, etc.).

Name any NGO project that has had such success. I can't.

Lenoard, If we take the


If we take the jihadis at their word - they want a world wide caliphate - then leaving Iraq would not cause them to leave us alone.

Just as giving "that man" Chechoslovakia did not deter his expansionist desires. It just fed them.

Do we want to feed Islamic Nazism? "Mein Kampf" is a best seller in that world. Baathism is a local variant of the Nazi disease.

BTW war cured the Europeans of Nazism.

Palestinian Role in the Holocaust