Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Today kind of a pause for reflection. I have been working with the Staff College’s editor on an article for a professional journal, and that has been tiring. In 1919 T.E. Lawrence wrote a memorandum to the British Foreign Office warning of what we are seeing today: “A Wahabi-like Moslem edition of Bolshevism is possible, and would harm us almost as much in Mesopotamia as in Persia…” The self-proclaimed Islamic State, or better called DAESH is the fulfillment of that warning.
As I have said many times, I am a realist when it comes to human nature and the reality of the evil that human beings can do. I have been to war, and personally I can think of nothing worse than more war. For me war is part of the reality that I live with, and which I am reminded of every time I try to sleep. That being said, the war which has been going on for close to two decades is gaining in intensity and threatening to blow away what is left of the old “new world order.”
For most modern Americans and others living in the West, war is an often abstract concept regulated to small bodies of professionals fighting actions far away, of which we only catch occasional glimpses of on television or the internet. For most Americans and others in the West, modern war has become a spectator sport, and one far less interesting to most than either American or European football matches.
But in the chilling aftermath of numerous Al Qaeda and DAESH terror attacks that have spanned over 15 years, war has come to the west. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11-2001, the attacks on London and Madrid, and now Paris killed thousands of people. Of course this does not mention the hundreds of attacks committed by those groups in the Middle East and Africa. In the past two weeks nearly 400 people, almost all innocent civilians, have died in attacks in Paris, Beirut, and the Russian Metrojet airliner. Earlier in the year, Kenya, as well as incident after incident in places like Nigeria, and Mali. Of course, most of us in the west really could care less about the victims of DAESH and related groups in Africa or the Middle East. We have seen the videos of DAESH terrorists beheading aid workers and journalists, shooting mass numbers of prisoners, burning a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage, and throwing homosexual men off of tall buildings to their deaths. The accounts of their enslavement, rape, and forced conversion of women are too numerous and brutal to describe.
These attacks, coupled with the influx of massive numbers of refugees from Syria is bringing out the best and worst in us. If we are not careful we can find ourselves falling into the trap of imitating or e4xceeding the brutality of DAESH in order to win. Sadly the worst is how we are preparing to dehumanize and re-victimize people who have fled from DAESH, people who are victims of terror. I’ll leave aspect of the crisis that for the time being and probably return to it tomorrow.
The people of DAESH that we are fighting have embraced a fanatical cause, deeply rooted in a perverse understanding of their religion, but they are true believers. American philosopher Eric Hoffer described such people in his classic book The True Believer. Hoffer wrote:
“The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self assurance out of his individual resources-out of his rejected self-but finds it only by clinging to whatever cause he happens to embrace. This passionate attachment is the source of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. Through his single minded dedication is a holding on for dear life, he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings….Still his sense of security is derived from his passionate attachment and not from the excellence of his cause. The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. Often, indeed, it is his need for passionate attachment which turns every cause he embraces into a holy cause. The fanatic cannot be weened away from his cause by an appeal to reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted. His passionate attachment is more vital than the cause to which he is attached.”
Yesterday I outlined what I think is needed to overcome DAESH, and while the military aspect is just one component of that, it is still important, especially when dealing with the fighters and terrorists who are DAESH. Reza Aslan, the noted Islamic scholar understands the type of individuals fighting for DAESH batter than most people. He told CNN last year, “Number one, you do have to respond militarily to ISIS soldiers and fighters. These guys are fighting a war of the imagination, a war that they think is happening between the forces of good and evil. There is no negotiation. There’s no diplomacy. There’s nothing to talk about with these guys. They have to be destroyed.”
How to do this is another matter. I will touch on that topic soon, and discuss the potential dangers of such a war to who we are as a people, and to civil liberties and human rights.