“What he said.”
Victor Davis Hanson is a brilliant historian and many, MANY times I’ve simply copied and pasted his thoughts on issues without comment. He just gets it right most of the time.
This time he makes the argument that in the past we’ve dealt with extremism by separating the extremists from the rest of a particular herd in order to beat them.
The terrorism in Paris is yet another bad chapter in an ongoing Western debate over a seeming paradox. Almost all recent global terrorism is attributable to Islamic-inspired violence — much of it directed against Muslims. And yet the vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims do not directly aid and abet the spate of Islamic extremism.
How then to focus on the Islamic terrorists without polluting the surrounding sea in which these sharks swim?
Do history’s radical movements assume initial or even ongoing popular majorities to ensure their viability? Obviously, the vast majority of Germans, Japanese, Italians, and Russians did not support the extremists who came to power with Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, and Lenin.
Indeed, besides carrying out the Holocaust against the Jews, Hitler killed thousands of his own Germans, an array of homosexuals, Communists, domestic critics, and the physically handicapped. Stalin caused more deaths among his own fellow Soviet citizens in the Twenties and Thirties than the Wehrmacht later did.
The point is that extremist movements, even when they become strong enough to reach power, are not always particularly kind to their own or well liked among them. That Muslim radicals kill Muslims in their midst does not necessarily mean that they do not prefer to kill non-Muslims.
The continued influence of radical Muslims who engage in terrorism hinges on whether they bring power, prestige, and resources to the people that they otherwise usually oppress. Islamic theocrats control governments only in the Gulf, Iran, and Gaza, and are trying to cobble together a caliphate largely in Syria and Iraq. Turkey likewise is moving toward theocracy. But Islamists are active, both above and below the radar, in almost every Muslim-majority nation — and they can manage this even where they enjoy very little popular support.
A great deal of attention has been given to radically changing views toward Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, after the disintegration of Syria and the rise of the Islamic State, along with the bloody rampage of Boko Haram in central Africa.
But what is even more striking is the large minorities who still either are willing to state their support for terrorists or say they are unconcerned about their activity. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Muslim support for suicide bombing has dropped in recent years. Yet even so, in 2014 in major Islamic countries — Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan — somewhere between 18 and 46 percent of the population expressed approval for the proposition that suicide bombing against civilian targets can “often/sometimes be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”
The vast majority of Muslims no longer express support for the late Osama bin Laden, but sizable minorities in some countries still do: 15 percent in Egypt, 23 percent in Bangladesh, and 25 percent in Palestine. The polls suggest two disturbing possibilities. In a world of 1.5 billion Muslims, perhaps 150 million Muslims worldwide — 10 percent — still admire bin Laden, are not concerned about Islamic violence, and support suicide bombing against the perceived enemies of Islam. While Muslim majorities are beginning to react negatively to the escalating violence in their own midst, millions still do not.
And there is the hic in the hiccup. I am convinced Muslims, almost all Muslims, are content to let their radical brethren take the fight to the unbelievers. They want Islam to dominate both religiously and as a government, it is the teachings after all, but are content to sit on the sidelines cheering for which ever side is winning.
For example, Iraqis fought against the Coalition. “We hate Americans!” Until we won and they realized we were staying for a while then it was “We LOVE Americans” until it the insurgency looked like it was going to drive out the Coalition. Then it was “We HATE Americans!” Then we crushed the insurgency and it was back to “Don’t leave us good friends!” Same with Afghanistan.
Germany wasn’t like that at all. They turned on Hitler because they were suffering defeat, loss of life and loss of quality of life (continuous bombings of civilian targets will do that!). And this is where we have a problem using this model to defeat Islamic terrorism. The vast majority of Muslims in the world do not suffer any negative effect for the acts of a relative few fellow believers. The reason is Islam is a religion spread out over the globe. Germany was a state, a place that could be identified and then destroyed.
Hanson gets to this point. Muslim really want the terrorists to act out and eventually win. If they don’t, they are not true to their religion. Sort of Christians secretly hoping Wickens one day rule the world sort of thing.
Clearly polls are not the only evidence of the level of support for Islamic-inspired radicalism. More important can be the degree of passivity of the population. General Sisi of Egypt recently argued that the Muslim clerical establishment bore a great deal of responsibility for global Islamic terrorism, not because these clerics necessarily voiced support for it, but because they were unwilling or unable to mobilize Muslims against it. I can recall meeting with a group of Libyan exiles living in the United States in 2006, all of whom were highly educated, Americanized professionals. They voiced optimism that their former tormentor Qaddafi was liberalizing their country and offering hope of recreating a civil society even for secularized dissidents like themselves. But when I mentioned the then-current case of the Islamic attacks against those associated with the caricatures of Mohammed in the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten, all four Libyans voiced unanimous approval of the violence against such blasphemers. And when I asked them about the then-recent suicide bombings in Israel, they again voiced support for such activities.
And there you have it. So how can you punish those people who want the violence in the name of their religion, but aren’t actually doing the violence. The real issue is how do we whack the mole when the population of the moles is about 1.6 billion, give or take a few that actually may be Muslim in name only and realize Sharia law is a really bad idea.
However, we will have to figure a way to do just that if we want to ever push the Islamic terrorists to the back burner and keep them there. We will never completely eliminate them, but we can persuade the others to smack them in the heads and make them go away- like a spoiled child at a picnic. And we have to figure it out soon, because if not, the Islamic terrorist movement will gain members, power and worse- reach.
Hanson points out the obvious.
So far, international polling organizations have not conducted surveys in Muslim countries to ascertain popular attitudes about the attack on Charlie Hebdo. However, we should not be surprised if sizable minorities should voice their support. I would assume that a certain number of Muslims worldwide — perhaps the 150 million posited above — would admire the so-called martyrs whose terrorist acts were thought to be in service to the reputation of the prophet.
While there is great talk in the West that it is only a small minority of Muslims who support Islamic terrorism, and that the remedy for such terrorism must be found within the world of Islam, there is not much logical or historical evidence that such truisms matter much. Ten percent is a tiny minority of any population. But if 10 percent of Muslims worldwide support ongoing terrorist movements, that is still 150 million Muslims, who comprise a large enough pool to aid and abet terrorism, either by giving moral and financial support or by acting as pressure groups within mostly autocratic political systems.
We should not be surprised at that fact. If just 10 percent of the French population is Muslim, and perhaps just 10 percent of that subset supports Islamic violence, there remains a pool nevertheless of perhaps 600,000 radicalized French residents of Middle Eastern descent that offers the sort of environment in the French suburban ghettos that spawns the current terrorist violence.
Moreover, theoretical support or rejection of terrorism as evidenced by polls does not necessarily translate into real-life consequences, especially in non-democratic societies — as we know from supposed German disenchantment with Hitler during the last year of the war. Were we wrong in January 1945 to keep bombing “the Germans,” given that most by then both did not like the Nazi government and yet did not dare to actively oppose it?
The truth is that to the degree that radical Muslim terrorists kill other Muslims inside Islamic countries and make collective progress impossible, or, by their actions, do tangible damage to the reputation of these Islamic countries overseas, they will be become unpopular and eventually find too little support to continue their violence.
However, if Islamic-inspired violence abroad does not directly and negatively affect the Middle East, or if it creates a sense of fear of radical Islam among Westerners that does not translate into hardship for the Muslim world — or that perhaps even succeeds in winning a sort of warped prestige — then there is no reason to expect the Islamic community will take the necessary measures to curb it.
Not as long as they can blame the “West” and keep convincing themselves it is our fault they are so screwed up.
Punish them. Part of it is weakening Saudi oil. Part of it is making sure the rest of the seven billion people are on the same page and no longer supporting, because it is cool to do so, Islamic foolishness (Hey Afflick, I’m talking to you, moron!).
Until then, we are going to be subject to concentrated and random acts of violence worldwide in the name of Allah.