Fight Ire with Fire

John Boehner–yes, that one–argues:

>The battle in Iraq is about more than what happens there. This is one part of a larger fight–a global fight–against radical Islamic terrorists who have waged war on the United States and our allies.

>This is not a question of fighting for land, for treasure, or for glory–we are fighting to rid the world of a radical and dangerous ideology. We are fighting to defend all that is sacred to our way of life. We are fighting to build a safer and more secure America–one where families can raise their children without the fear of terrorist attacks.

Right after 9/11 some smart guy–no doubt branded a coward and a traitor–pointed out that the very idea of declaring war on terrorism was mistaken. Terrorism is a method. Beyond that, however, he also argued that declaring war on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda only gave them the kind of global significance he had been aiming for.

In a similar vein, waging war (real war, with troops and such) on an ideology only repeats the same basic category mistake. However justified we might have been in attacking people who disagreed with us, attacking them with guns and ammo in order to defeat their ideology makes about as much sense as trampling someone’s feelings underfoot.

I suppose maybe, however, the ideas part of Boehner’s strategy consists in our steely resolve in persisting with our strategy. That’s kind of an idea. But that would only confuse how determined we are to hold our idea, not the cogency of our idea. After all, don’t we constantly complain that the terrorists hold their idea with steely resolve?

10 thoughts on “Fight Ire with Fire”

  1. “This is not a question of fighting for land, for treasure, or for glory–we are fighting to rid the world of a radical and dangerous ideology. ”

    even if this statement is (gak!) true, what makes it incumbent on the United States to rid the world of dangerous ideologhies? he’s not making that argument, he just assumes it to be the case. you know, i’ve got a dangerous ideology in mind right now: thinking one’s country is divinely appointed to act as the worldwide police force. i even know how to rid the world of it–STOP DOING IT.

  2. It sounds like Sam Harris’ meme has mutated enough to take root in a republican. I think Sam is right. I think you are right jcasey in the fact that there is a little too much ‘steely resolve’ going around. This whole thing is a mistake. At the risk of ‘conflating’ the war in Iraq with the War on Terror and Terrorists with Radical Islamists I think this whole thing is a variation of the ‘mid-east’ conflict that I grew up hearing about and is based on a faulty premise that starts between 700 and 800 BC. I was doing research shortly after 9/11 (when I was still a ‘believer’) I found documents in the United Nations archives from the 19th century that shows that Jewish Pilgrims were becoming a problem for that region referred to in the document as Palestine ( I think that it is likely that if the Palestinians had been able to curtail the influx of Jewish Pilgrims at the end of the 19th century we might not have this problem now. They became enough of a nuisance to cause the Government at the time to ask for help for the from the other nations of the world. During world war 1 Britain took possession of that area and proposals were made to create a Jewish State . Antisemitism has been around for a long time, in fact, the Christian Gospels are charged by some to be Antisemitic. I know that the Jews are Blamed for killing Jesus because of the Gospels (was there a Jesus to kill?). Then Antisemitism was a sufficient cause for the persecution and killing of the Jews in World War 2. The idea of forcefully making Israel a state at the end of World War 2, I think, can only be be attributed to a belief that the Jews had a right to that land. And where did this right come from? Do pilgrims have a right to claim land? Should the rest of the world care about centuries old land disputes? A case could be made that the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) declares this ‘right’ and was sufficient to influence the intervention (expressed or not) of the United Nations. Until someone proves that there is a God and he did write whatever scripture he is purported to write, this whole mess is based on a Faulty Premise. And I agree with Sam, that until people wake up and realize that, at the very least, God is not involved, this is going to last a long time.

  3. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eliminate ideologies which preach the destruction of one’s state.
    There is, however, something the matter with the way the United States has gone about doing it. Radical and dangerous philosophies are always more attractive to a desolate people. When compounded with the humiliation of being invaded by another nation, the result is doubly dangerous. The common Iraqi is economically much worse off today then he was before the 2003 invasion. It was uncontrollable inflation
    and national humilation which made Hitler’s Nazi Party attractive to the German people. Economic sanctions and the desctruction of infastructure have done more for promoting Fundementalism than the rule of Saddam.

  4. As Nazism has survived, so will radical Islam. The ideology isn’t defeated by weapons. It’s people with the ideology who have weapons as well as the means and specific intent to use them against us or someone else who might be defeated by us. But, unlike Nazism, the goal of the radical Islamic terrorist is (for the moment at least) only ideas. Terrorism is the means to that. The terrorist want us to wage actual war on them–that’s their point.

  5. “The ideology isn’t defeated by weapons”. Certainly no ideology will ever be defeated, but the influence of those who expunge those ideas can be significantly reduced. That cannot be done with weapons, but with economic development. Terrorists (or specifically militants who endorse Radical Islamic Thought), want the us to attack them because it only makes their ideas more attractive to the people. People resort to extremism in desolation. By invading Iraq we have confirmed for many more people, that we are not interested in their well-being. Real economic developlment is the only way to reduce the spread of Islamic Fundementalism. By treating Islamic Extremism as a physical entity that can be destroyed, we have misunderstood the nature of what we are trying to undermine- namely a dangerous ideology.

  6. I’d agree with your assessment–but I don’t know how to determine whether economic development will end extremism. Many very rich individuals are ideological extremists.

  7. There are in fact many weathly political extremists today. While extremists do depend on the capital of their weatlthy patrons, they also rely heavily on ordinary citizens to carry out their attacks. Al Queda and other terrorist organizations depend on regular recruitment largely from the lower classes. What economic development can do in a nation such as Iraq is improve the condition of the ordinary citizen. That, historically, is the only thing that has ever actually prevented the spread of extremism.

  8. If I remember right, the reasons for invading Iraq were that the ‘regime’ was a destabilizing force in the region, we were overdue in enforcing UN sanctions and it was likely that they had weapons of mass destructions. Well, they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, we enforced the UN Sanctions and it still seems to be a destabilizing force in the region. In my estimation, according to my premises, two out of three reasons turned out to be valid. I don’t think it is likely that those ‘freedom fighters’ (sarcasm, loaded language) moved in there after the fact because as Steven pointed out they are dirt poor. That takes resources to move your organization around especially from country to country even if you are a small, efficient organization on a shoestring budget. So with this in mind, how would the ‘education’ of these individuals have taken place? Or how should it take place? How do you get them to sit still long enough to listen? Where does the money come from to make them comfortable enough to not want to squander it on violence caused by prejudice and bias? I agree with Steven with the respect that I think it is likely that your average Iraqi didn’t really care one way or the other who was in power as long as they had their creature comforts taken care of. i think it is likely that we are dealing with a small radical group of Muslims, and that rest of the population wishes things ‘were not so crazy’. My guess is that they would have continued to participate in ‘magical thinking’ unimpeded, pro-creating and moving west through Europe. Now there is good reason to want to move out of Iraq and Afghanistan. I live in Europe, I see the catholic Europeans wrestling with immigration from the East of Europe and Africa and complaining about Muslims. I think it is fair to say that we had reasons to go into Iraq that I supported, but now the character of the War has changed and the US hasn’t done a good job keeping up with it. While I don’t support a ‘fallacy of waste’ by cutting our losses, I don’t support the strategy this far either, and If i were in charge, I would bargain for help with the Europeans by saying something like ‘hey guys we are really having a rough time over here. We are so busy and taken up with Iraq, I don’t think we can do much about Iran. Boy, you guys sure do have large Muslim immigration population. Gee, look how close Iran is to you. Even though the Iraqis and Iranians have a stormy past, they sure do hate us. We have become like a common enemy to them. I sure hope they don’t get Nuclear Power, but there doesn’t seem to me much we can do about it’. I know this is filled with all kinds of logical fallacies, and unethical persuasion tactics, but the short of it is, that not a lot of people care about logical thinking and philosophy except for people like us (sitting in my warm, safe house writing this on a Mac) and advertisers and politicians that know that it is to their benefit not to have a critical thinking populace. I agree with you guys on all this, but I don’t see how we can change the minds of people that think ‘everything has a reason and the reason it to fill a divine purpose’ until we get serious about saying “look, we can trace your religion back to near eastern mythology. We have documents that predate the Tanakh to show that it is likely it was manufactured from them. Borrowed words, Gods, Syncretism you name it. How can you say your religion is right when it is based on the Tanakh, Abraham and the god of Abraham when the god of Abraham was created out of near eastern myth or at least it can be shown that he is suspiciously similar to near eastern mythology? ” Getting them to sit still for that would be trick because they are obligated by scripture to put you to death. Talk a ‘critical discussion’ killer.

  9. There is certainly a lot in your last post to address. To begin, when I was speaking of increasing educational opportunities I was simply referring to the external benefits of greater economic productivity. While there would be some UN and American Aid directed earmarked for thendevelopment of new educational resources, most of the added benefits would be accounted for by the economic growth. You also spoke heavily about the religious nature of Islamic Fundementalism. While, there are many who support extremism out of their religious conviction, that does not encompass the whole. Many others see in extremism a way to a greater prosperity and a collective identity. Prosperity, through the labor market, is another way to fill that void. Take for example the declining influence of Extremism in Turkey, as it has revitalized its economy for admission into the EU. Increasing investment from Europe has reduced unemployment and strengthened productivity and equity. Opening a state to mainstream ideas, is often best accomplished with economic growth.

  10. I agree with you Steven. But I do want to make it clear that I know the large majority of Muslims are peaceful, like the majority of Christians and Jews and Hindu’s and Buddhists. I’m frustrated with watching what I consider ‘political and religious posturing’ going on over this. I believe that plenty of good people (regardless of nationality or culture) are hating life right now. Some of my friends are in the middle of this, some of them left their kids with grandparents and siblings because they were reservists and got called up. Some of them want to be there, some of them don’t. I could go on, i typed in a lot of stuff and deleted it. I don’t imagine it is courteous to the rest of this blogs audience to clutter it up with my junk. I hope to see more of your posts.

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