Obama can’t defeat ISIS with soft power, though ISIS could beat him with soft power assuming its Caliph ever decided to agree to sit down at a table with John Kerry without beheading him. Iran has picked up billions in sanctions relief and the right to take over Yemen and raid ships in international waters in the Persian Gulf just for agreeing to listen to Kerry talk for an hour.
And that might be a fair exchange.
As bad as having your capital or ship seized by Iran is, listening to John Kerry talk is even worse.
If ISIS were to agree to a deal, it could pick up Baghdad and Damascus just in exchange for showing up. All it would have to do is find a Jihadi who hasn’t chopped off any heads on camera to present as a moderate. The administration and its media operatives would accuse anyone who disagreed of aiding the ISIS hardliners at the expense of the ISIS moderates who also represent the hardliners.
If Obama did that, he would at least lose in a way that he understands; instead of in a way he doesn’t.
So far ISIS has preferred the classical approach of killing everything in its path. The approach, deemed insufficiently nuanced by masters of subtlety like Obama and Kerry, has worked surprisingly well. Their response, which is big on the Bush arsenal of drone strikes, Special Forces raids and selective air strikes, hasn’t. But Bush was fighting terrorist groups, not unrecognized states capable of taking on armies.
It’s hard to destroy something if you don’t know what it is. And it’s hard to know what a thing is if you won’t even call it by its name or name its ideology.
The left loves root causes, but the root cause of ISIS isn’t poverty, unemployment or a lack of democracy.
The Islamic State isn’t unnatural. Its strength comes from being an organic part of the region, the religion and its culture. Its Arab enemies have performed so poorly fighting it because their institutions, their governments and their armies are unstable imitations of Western entities.
The United States can’t make the Iraqi army work because Iraq isn’t America. The assumptions about meritocracy, loyalty to comrades and initiative that make our military work are foreign in Iraq and Afghanistan where the fundamental unit is not the nation, but the tribe, clan and group.
Iraq and Syria aren’t countries; they’re collections of quarreling tribes that were forced into an arrangement that included the forms of Western government without any of the substance. When the Europeans left, kingdoms quickly became military juntas. Now the juntas are fighting for survival against Islamic insurgencies that are striving to return the region to what it was in the days of Mohammed.
ISIS is the ultimate decolonization effort. It’s what the left claims that it wants. But real decolonization means stripping away everything the Europeans brought, including constitutions, labor unions and elections. The cities that ISIS controls have been truly decolonized. There is no music, there are no rights, slavery is back and every decision is made by a cleric with a militia or a militia leader with a cleric.
That’s Mohammed. It’s the Koran. It’s Islam.
ISIS, or something very much like it, was always waiting to reemerge out of the chaos. Before ISIS, there were the Wahhabi armies of the Ikhwan which did most of the same things as ISIS. The British bombed them to pieces in the 1920s and the remainder became the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
The insistence on democratic institutions weakened the military juntas holding back Islamist insurgencies. Islamists took power across the region. Where they couldn’t win elections, they went to war. But whether they won on the battlefield or the ballot box, violence and instability followed them.
ISIS is not a reaction. It’s the underlying pathology in the Muslim world. Everything planted on top of that, from democracy to dictatorships, from smartphones to soft drinks, suppresses the disease. But the disease is always there. The left insists that Western colonialism is the problem. But the true regional alternative to Western colonialism is slavery, genocide and the tyranny of Jihadist bandit armies.
Our policy for fighting ISIS is colonialism by another name. We are trying to reform Iraqi institutions in line with our values and build a viable Iraqi military along the lines of our own military. We’re doing much of what the British were doing, but without their financial interests or imperial ambitions.
And all of this is reluctantly overseen by Barack Obama; the progressive campaigner against colonialism.
To deal with a problem, we must be honest about what it is and what we are doing about it. If we lie to ourselves, we cannot and will not succeed.
After the failure of democracy and political Islam, Obama has been forced to return to what works. Islamization has failed and so we are back to trying Westernization. The missing element is admitting that Islamization has failed because Islam was the problem all along. The West is the solution.
But institutional Westernization that that never goes beyond a few government offices and military officers won’t work. Neither will the attempt to artificially inject a few big ideas such as democracy into an undemocratic tribal culture. The only alternative to depending on military juntas is transforming the people. Sunni Gulf Arabs responded to their military and economic dependence on the West with a largely successful campaign to Islamize the West. The West won a culture war with the USSR. It is capable of winning one with Saudi Arabia. It has even unintentionally won a culture war with Iran.
ISIS is not a military force. It is a cultural one. Much of its success has come from its cultural appeal.
As long as the Middle East is defined in terms of Islam, some variation of the Islamic State or the Muslim Brotherhood bent on recreating the Caliphate will continue reemerging. We can accept that and give up, but the growing number of Muslim migrants and settlers mean that it will emerge in our country as well.
We have a choice between Islamization and de-Islamization.
After defeating Saddam, we pursued the de-Baathization of Iraq. If we are going to intervene in the Muslim world, it should not be to reward one Islamist group, whether it’s Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood, at the expense of another. Instead we must carve out secular spaces by making it clear that our support is conditional on civil rights for Christians, non-believers and other non-Muslims.
Our most potent weapon isn’t the jet, it’s our culture. We disrupt Islamists with our culture even when we aren’t trying. Imagine what we could accomplish if we really tried.
But first we must abandon the idea that we need to take sides in Islamic civil wars. Any intervention we undertake should be conditioned on a reciprocal degree of de-Islamization from those governments that we are protecting. Instead of pursuing democracy, we should strengthen non-Islamic and counter-Islamic forces in the Muslim world.
We can’t beat ISIS with Islam and we can’t fight for freedom while endorsing constitutions that make Sharia law into the law of the land in places like Iraq and Libya.
We don’t only need to defeat ISIS. We must defeat the culture that makes ISIS inevitable.
A good place to start is Lebanon.De-islamise Lebanon, and make it an associate member of NATO.
This will re-constitute a new Lebanon - free and prosperous, a shining light to Islamic hell holes in the area.
Excellent article sir! It appears Obama (and perhaps by extension Bush) has decided that it would be better to side with the Shiite entities in the region, even at the expense of Israel. As you say, that is a bad idea. Both entities are two faces of the same Islamist coin and shouldn't be allowed more power.ReplyDelete
On the issue of Westernization, it's a viable and noteworthy concept with an abundance of live historical examples (countries like India, Japan and South Korea have definitely benefited from Westernization I believe). The left will almost certainly denounce it as nothing more than neocolonialism, never mind the benefits it can bestow on societies that embrace its essential pillars. They'd probably also suggest that said societies would be better off with native versions of socialism, or Islamicism for that matter since it fits nicely with their self-reliance mentality. Never mind the utter chaos such ideologies always create.
I know you can't beat ISIS with nostalgic memes but...ReplyDelete
Just a note for regular readers here....A Handbook on Islam. I've just approved it for release and it should be available for sale on Amazon in a day or two. In the meantime, the Kindle edition has already registered some sales. Both editions feature Bosch Fawstin's drawing of Mohammad as the sole illustration.ReplyDelete
"We don’t only need to defeat ISIS. We must defeat the culture that makes ISIS inevitable." More than that, we must endeavor to repudiate Islam altogether as an anti-life, anti-value, anti-civilization, nihilist ideology. That can be done by approaching the task as a philosophical task. We need to ask: What are the fundamental premises of Islam, aside from its theological and mythic ones? What are its existential and metaphysical ones? With which Western philosophies is Islam in agreement with -- Aristotelian or Kantian or Hegelian? The answer will govern how to approach the problem of refuting and repudiating Islam and effectively consign it to the dustbin of history. Anything less, and we are merely dealing with effects, with consequences, and not causes. True, the culture that empowers ISIS is nihilist, as well. What is that culture? That question can be answered by the same methodology.ReplyDelete
Great points, I don't know where to start. However, that aside, we really do know the answer to current problem with Islam. You hit on part of the answer: stay out of their religious rivalries. We have nothing to gain. The other part of the answer is well documented. There is an interesting and enlightening article in the Military History Quarterly from Autumn, 2004 about the US war with the Barbary Pirates. Just as now, any attempt to be diplomatic, including paying the bribes and ransoms only led to more demands and demeaning treatment. So, the answer is to knock the living daylights out of them and let them live in their own little paradise. Do not import their ideology and theology.ReplyDelete
The colonization attempts by the European powers failed in the Middle East and Africa because these are clan and tribal societies. Their religion tends to reinforce this. When a professional modern military met with the wild rabble. the result was the same: the West won. However, when the rabble disperses and goes back home, there is little to gain by trying to "defeat" them. They know where every rock is and everyone is in league.
How do we ultimately win this contest? We certainly cannot and will not if we abandon our values, ideology and theology. The leftist moral equivalence and "diversity" leads to acceptance of what we abandoned as unacceptable and detrimental to society. Our theology and ideology trump theirs when they meet head on in the battle of ideas, which is why Islam cannot allow these to flourish. As in many areas of society, change and innovation occur at the fringes, the leading edge. In other words, we should be in contact with them, but maintain our borders and barriers just as they do. Let the converts to Western ideals and values then go back into their own and let the seeds of new thought do its work.
This may sound far fetched, but having lived there, I can tell you there are a lot of people in those countries that would leave Islam at the drop of a hat when offered something better. But, as Bush and Obama refuse to see, you cannot go in there and make this happen. Nor can you let boatloads of these people in, let them congregate into their own closed little communities, support them with taxpayer funds, and then expect them to become one of "us."
Obama is NOT trying to beat ISIS in any way, shape, or form. He is one with them in his support of the Muslim agenda and in his hatred for us and for Israel/Jews.ReplyDelete
When will conservative writers and broadcasters stop criticizing him for being ineffective and proclaim that he is being very effective as per his agenda? BTW: His agenda is becoming more and more transparent.
so iran and saudi are 2 examples of those de-islamicized nations???????ReplyDelete
The only way to remake the Middle East to our liking is to simply kill them all and colonize the region with White people. Lacking the will to do that, we should simply leave them alone. Nothing we do over there will work at all by our definition of what works.ReplyDelete
In the meantime, while we are leaving them alone, we keep ALL of them out of White countries and start deporting ALL of the ones already in our White countries along with the Mexicans, Asians and Blacks. We have the power. All we need is the will.
And finally, we leave Israel to its own devices. No more aid or support. For that matter, no more aid or support for any third-worlders. They're adults. Let them take care of themselves; or not.
It seems to me that some cultures require a Strong Man form of government to function at a modest level..Tito, Peron,Mao, and Hussein all had this pathology in common. It is no accident that the above all come from heavily populated countries, whose citizens by their sheer mass, could have deposed their despots.ReplyDelete
Those actions would have required planning, courage and will, but even more, they would need knowledge that something better was possible.
And how do we de-Islamize the Middle East? Will it be easier than wiping out all diseases? All religions?ReplyDelete
My solution is permanent involuntary removal of the "holy men" who preach Jihad and murder of those they disapprove of.
When they realize they are a genuine "endangered species", they will moderate their interpretations of the Koran.
If your method is easier, I may adjust my recommendation.
This really is an important idea.
Here, in a single word, is what should have been the objective of Western Civilization from the very beginning.
An avalanche begins with a single snowflake,
a flood with a single drop of rain,
and a journey of a thousand miles with a single step.
In fourteen hundred years the struggle against Islam has been one step forward and two steps back
Mark this day.
“De-Islamization” spells the end of Islam once and for all.
But institutional Westernization → that that ← never goes beyond a few government offices
What does de-Islamization mean? It can only mean one thing of two things – conversion or expulsion!ReplyDelete
The failure of the west is a failure of clarity due to a failure of definition. This is a religious war! Religious wars are started by those who believe they have a divine mission to violently convert those they attack. These Islamists, including those living in the physical and legal comforts provided by western nations, have stated that over and over again. It’s fundamental to Islam!
The other side has one of two options. Fight and convert (or expel) those who started the war - or give up and be converted. It would appear to me the western leaders are totally delusional and leaving their citizens at the mercy of these monsters. At some point violence is going to erupt against Muslims by the citizenry just as it did with the Myanmar Monks. Things can’t go on as they have.
There are nine ways to stop the spread of Islam in the US. The more of these that we can impose, the better we'll be.ReplyDelete
1) Cut the money supply, support the Open Fuel Standard.
2) No follower of Islam can be a teacher or work anywhere in the school system.
3) No follower of Islam can hold political office.
4) No follower of Islam can work in law enforcement, including as judge or on a jury. 5) No follower of Islam can serve in the military or be a contractor.
6) There can be no new construction of Mosques or Islamic Centers.
7) Although the US Constitution Article VI paragraph two technically prohibits the use of Sharia law, an amendment should be passed to specifically prohibit Sharia law.
8) The production, sale, consumption, possession, distribution and importation of Halal certified food should be banned.
9) No follower of Islam can own a gun.
Great article defining the problem, but lacking in more “specific" remedies.ReplyDelete
Mr. Greenfield makes the reader think de-islamization can be done bloodlessly. He is very wrong about that.
Those camel-humpers in the Middle East only understand force.
Eventually, they will end-up with leaders like Hussein & Nasser again!! It has already happened in Egypt with Sissi.
Consonant with your declaration that "it's about the culture, smartie", is Robert R. Reilly's assertion that anti-intellectual Ash'arism has to be replaced with Hellenism, the region's legacy from the Alexandrian conquest. "robert r reilly the closing of the muslim mind"ReplyDelete
Thanks again, Daniel. Great post.ReplyDelete
To Mr. Cline who so shamelessly plugged his book in the comment above, I just wanted you to know I bought both of them.
DP: Why Lebanon and not Jordon?ReplyDelete
Unfortunately, Western culture has become so degraded that it may not be a match against Islam.ReplyDelete
A good place to start would be fitness for the women. Get them into running shoes and out of the tents they wear. Get them into the world with their kids. Kids carry the future. Its a big world.. Lots of room for changeReplyDelete
Somebody finally said it!! This is really a brilliant analysis.ReplyDelete
Your pc echos exactly what I believe but have been unable to put into words. Thanks. I will carry it with me.ReplyDelete
Yes Daniel you are correct but you have already said that Islam is rising because the West is shrinking. We can't fight Islam with Westernism because modern day Westernism is somewhere between a corruption supported welfare state and hard fascism. The media and universities are pretending to provide a patina of information and free thought while they hammer away at any thinking different than themselves.ReplyDelete
From what I've read about the Middle Ages this is very similar to how Islam expanded and then was held and defeated. It was excellent at subverting morally weak governments but when the true freedom fighters emerged and gathered into fighting forces Islam couldn't adapt and its own corruption held it back. Those fighting forces then became governments and from there emerged a renewed and confident West. Most likely we will see the same. We won't be exporting the Democratic Party. We'll be sending over militiamen who will be the true power upon their return. It's scary but it's also quite possible the best thing in the long run. Time will tell.
For years I said that what we needed to do with the prisoners in Guantanamo was too bring in missionaries -- Christian, fine, but if there were such a thing, Jewish, Buddhist, Zoroastrian missionaries -- to preach to and missionize the prisoners. It might have worked for maybe 1%, but that is a hell of a lot better than what we did do, providing them Korans and prayer rugs.ReplyDelete
you can't beat them with Islam,ReplyDelete
you can't beat them with Westernism values,
you can't beat them with all-out war,
yet, you dream about beating them?...with nothing?