It’s amazing how close Marie Harf was to the real solution to “violent extremism” on Monday, 2/16. She said, “We need… to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups,” meaning that in addition to killing active fighters, we had to remove or counter their motivation. She then ran off the rails by suggesting that meant they needed to have “opportunity for jobs.” But it’s right that to discourage new converts, the best way is to understand their motivation and counter it with better ideas. What is that root cause now?
The answer is staring us in the face, but because our President insists we are at war with “violent extremism,” rather than against believers in a violent (and not insignificantly small) strain of Islam, the real dilemma we face is invisible to him. The name that some observers of modern Islam call this strain is “Political Islam,” or Islamic control of the reins and power of government. It doesn’t have to be violent, but its goal is to install Islamic theocracies, ruling by Sharia Law, and violence isn’t forbidden.
The “root cause that leads people to join these groups” is clear. They are true believers in Political Islam. They believe Islam is the only way to worship Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet and has told them the way to do so; that the Quran is therefore to be interpreted quite literally; that non-believers are to be made subservient to believers (even to be held in slavery or put to death); that all nations should be ruled by Sharia Law; and that it is their holy mission in life to see that those goals become reality. And although most Muslims do not completely subscribe to this form of Islam, many of them believe Sharia Law should be the law of all lands. Many believe that the punishments prescribed by the Quran should be administered as directed therein. Many, in this case, means hundreds of millions, and of them, there are many who would not personally carry out the deeds the way ISIS has done, but who approve of them.
Political Islam is the only kind of motivation that makes any sense. The alternative would be that we are fighting thousands of madmen who take pleasure in torturing and killing their fellow men, and they merely select those to attack by their decision to be non-believers or to practice a different form of Islam. There may be thousands of psychopaths in the world who would be happy to carry out the butchery that is being practiced by ISIS, but not that many who would give up life in the civilized world to join them in what is obviously a difficult undertaking. The other mundane motivators, like poverty and lack of “a voice,” are not strong enough to drive this many people to commit wanton murder and torture in the name of Allah.
If I’m right about what motivates them, and if Marie and the President are right about the need to change motivations, all we need to do is convince them all to change their minds about their Muslim faith. They have it wrong. They should be practicing a much more peaceful form of Islam. How hard can it be?
Pretty hard, of course, but even harder if our President refuses to acknowledge that their Muslim faith IS their primary driving force. It’s silly to even consider the other possible motivations, which is why those pronouncements from the State Department spokespeople draw snickers instead of applause.
So. The way to win this conflict is to kill the active participants in the fight one way or another (better yet to capture and interrogate them, then hold them out of combat), and to use effective non-violent means to dissuade them and potential Jihadists from joining the ISIS cause. This should include efforts at the highest levels to work with peaceful Muslim clerics to counter the recruiting appeals of ISIS.
It should also include a change of attitude toward radical Imams and their mosques in the United States. Those congregations should be considered to be suspected terrorist recruitment centers, just as if they were suspected of being part of organized crime. That doesn’t mean interfere with their religious matters, but it means conduct covert surveillance. We can only hope they’re already doing so. We note that some of these religious leaders issue fatwahs calling for the murder of people whom they believe have offended Allah. How different is that from a Mafia Don putting out a hit on a rival family? Issuing orders to kill removes the organization from the ranks of the religious.
What this evil phenomenon is called isn’t important; what is important is to know what it is, and to be able to formulate plans to fight it effectively. None of the suggested actions makes sense unless one believes that some kind of Islam is the root cause.
It’s impossible to tell what the President believes. Unfortunately, all we can do is wait to see what he does, because his words today tell us he’s being deceptive at best or oblivious at worst.