Arnold Kling is wrong, by the way

Lest anyone keep getting the wrong idea, let's set a few things straight. Arnold's post goes way too far by conflating the Islamist terror threat with all muslims and Islam. I do not support the idea that muslims per se are a threat, that islam by nature is violent and a death cult, nor do I support the idea that an entire religion's adherents should be generally disarmed or otherwise made a permanent underclass as part of a strategy for peace.

My objections to the nature of prior objections to Arnold aside, let me now address Arnold directly. As Baylen Linneken pointed out politely in response to a testy comment I made, what good points Arnold could have made were, if not invalidated, certainly overshadowed and defeated by the over-the-top conflation in two paragraphs- "Disarm Muslims" and "Winning Hearts and Minds?"

Prior to "Disarm Muslims," Arnold states the plain truth that "Today in reality, Islam contains a fanatical religious cult whose chief warrior seeks nuclear weapons." Which is fine, because yes, there is a fanatic death cult within Islam that is a threat to the world. The problem is that his answer to this is akin to the TSA's approach to
airline security- disarm *all* muslims, wherever and whoever.

Saying, "I do not have an issue with their religion, as long as they do not have weapons. However, the combination of weapons and Islam poses unacceptable danger to the rest of us," combines a truth with a falsehood. The combination of weapons and Islamism is currently an unacceptable danger to the rest of us, thus the current WOT. But the idea of, say, Aziz Poonawalla with a weapon doesn't frighten or concern me in the least. Because thus far, American muslims have by and large not conspired to kill Americans in America. As Jim Henley notes/ponders:

The slightly more interesting question is why Britain, which is fighting them over there, came very close to being victimized twice by major terrorist attacks in the last couple of years while America has, always provisionally, remained largely untouched. Both countries have substantial populations of Arab and Muslim immigrants; both countries have domestic-security establishments willing to cut corners; both countries are either stomping all over the Ummah with troops or coddling our enemies as you prefer; the US still has and will always have major holes in its border security. Both countries have those crazy Imams you’re always reading about. But as of this morning, we’re still serenely unbombed[.]

Not to go into the whole question Jim is posing, but the problem is radicalized Islam and a culture of death, neither of which seems to have (thank goodness) much hold on American muslims en masse. Sure, there are sympathizers and money flows, but no real queues for being a suicide bomber. No rockets flying out of Dearborn from apartment buildings at Jews or infidels in Michigan, etc.

This is why Arnold's argument immediately starts to fall- its clear that there are, in simplistic terms, "good muslims vs. bad muslims" and that, contrary to Al Qaeda hype, the Ummah has quite a bit of diversity of opinion and mindset, a great deal of it non-violent.

So starting from the gate and saying "all muslims ARE equivalent to Islamists" is giving up any battle for hearts and minds from the beginning. As they say, if you're going to do the time, might as well do the crime. If you're going to be damned as a terrorist anyway, why throw in with or cooperate with your condemnors?

Of course, in his piece Arnold has already given up on the hearts and minds:

Kevin Drum is tragically mistaken. The other side does not want "trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc." The other side wants to kill.


The idea of winning hearts and minds assumes that people are focused on the future, so that they pay attention to the carrots you are holding out to them. It assumes that people have a vocabulary that includes "satisfactory compromise," "peaceful solution," "splitting the difference," "settling the dispute," or "putting it behind us." That vocabulary does not seem to exist among Muslims, where every disagreement is treated primarily as a justification for violence.

Now I agree that Drum's proposed 'solution' is pollyannish (and, contrary to how Kevin seemed to think about it, its not like the West/US hasn't tried that before in previous decades). But just as Arnold started with the right idea earlier and then swerved way into the wrong, here again he conflates "the other side" (Violent Islamists) with all muslims. Non-radicalized muslims from, say, Bangladesh or India proper certainly have a larger 'vocabulary' than the Al Zarqawis of the world. They're not here trying to kill people. These are the precisely the people that need to be engaged to help thwart the Islamists.

And because of that conflation any good points are lost in the ensuing uproar.

What we *do* need to figure out is, after recognizing that yes, the problem is within Islam and among Islamic polities, how do you combat that ideology? Sometimes with military weapons, sometimes with police/covert action, and always at the same time with more what the west has been doing. Unlike either Arnold or Kevin Drum, its not either/or, its both. When someone is shooting rockets into your peoples' neighborhoods (or your own), you march out and eliminate the people doing it. Doesn't mean you should stop trading, talking, and encouraging better behavior elsewhere. A 'carrot and stick' approach works by increasing the costs for 'bad' behavior while simultaneously increasing the reward for the 'good'. If there's no upside to cooperating with the west, to joining the greater division of labor and shared prosperity, then why not support the Nasrallahs of the world and the Khameneis?

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