The conundrum of dealing with radical Islam

I’ve written about the military side of dealing with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism in these pages from time to time.  The trouble is, a military solution isn’t a solution, because it can’t target the mindset that produces legions of suicidal fanatics.  The Russians developed a very direct, pragmatic and utterly ruthless approach to Iranian-sponsored terrorism during the 1980’s.  It worked, because those ‘at the top’ who were controlling the terrorists could be threatened into compliance.  That doesn’t seem to be the case with an organization like ISIL in Syria and Iraq.  When you believe – truly believe, with all your heart and soul – that death in battle, or by assassination, earns you a martyr’s reward in Paradise, death isn’t a threat.  It’s a promise of greatness that you embrace eagerly. The same applies to Hamas and its extreme attitudes towards Israel.  How can you reason with a movement that celebrates death in combat, that indoctrinates its youngest children with lessons about the praiseworthiness of martyrdom and hatred for Israel?  There are many other fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups who’ve adopted similar outlooks on life.

So, how do we deal with them?  It’s easy to say “Kill them all” – but it’s also completely impractical.  Despite losing thousands of its fighters in combat, ISIL appears to have a limitless supply of replacements.  Young women in Europe and America even travel to areas it controls out of a desire to become brides of ‘jihadists’.  Fanaticism is an inbred streak in the human race – not confined to Islam by any means – and as long as there are fanatics, there’ll be those driven to join fanatical movements.  We can’t kill them all without killing the entire human race.  Speaking as a member of that race, I have a profound objection to being included in that process!  There is no way to completely destroy fanaticism.

The mistake politicians make is to assume that they’re dealing with rational human beings.  Rationality is relative.  ISIL’s leaders and its wannabe martyrs are entirely rational, according to their system of thought and belief.  To change their behavior, we have to change that system.  To do that, we have to radically reform the society and culture that have produced it.  Attacking and militarily overrunning that society won’t inculcate contrary values – we’ve proved that time and time again, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The solution has to include methods of changing the situation on the ground.  However, that requires a long-term commitment and huge amounts of money, neither of which are available right now.

The only answer our politicians and leaders appear to have is to keep killing as many Islamist fanatics as possible in order to ‘control the infection’ in their society and culture, even though they must know that doing so will produce still more fanaticsEinstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  That perfectly describes how we’ve tried to control radical Islam for the past few decades.  When will we learn from our failures and try to find a better solution?  Is there, in fact, a better solution?  In my darker moments, I fear there may not be one at all.  History suggests that may be the case, and that the struggle against fanaticism in all its forms may be a Sisyphean endeavor.

Your guess is as good as mine . . .



  1. And when, as a Government, you can use those fanatics and the threat that they pose to gain more power, why would you even want to solve the problem?

  2. I think that we ought to start pounding all of Islam's holy sites with guided concrete bombs. Nothing spectacularly high tech, save for the delivery and guidance systems. Nothing terribly flashy and explosive. Nothing intended to cause extra death or destruction. Just a big rock falling out of the sky that Allah is powerless to stop.

    It's not the Islamists that we need to target, because they'll always make more. It's the Islamists' faith that needs to be destroyed.

  3. Well as long as we handicap ourselves with pretend "morals" and pretend "religion" this will continue unabated. The solution to the Islamic problem is simple. So simple in fact that is was perfected by Rome 3000 years ago. Extermination. We have nerve gas, we have Nukes, we have the military power to isolate the Islamic scum until we wipe them from the earth, and we had best get busy with that before they wipe us from the earth. Because that is exactly what Islam is poised to do with us. They intend to kill us all; Lets kill them first. Shall we?—Ray

  4. We can dance around what the real problem is until Hell freezes over, but until we acknowledge that the invasion and occupation of Palestine by the Jews in 1948 (UN sanctioned or not) with the resulting expulsion of Palestinians by the tens of thousands from their ancestral lands and homes is the root cause of all this present Arab/Muslim hatred for the West.

    UN Resolution 181 created the State of Israel in the territory already known as Palestine, and then(ridiculously) called for the creation of a Palestinian State, an entity that already existed. You of course know this, so you also realize that the Jews Praised the part of R181 that created Israel, but totally rejected any notion of a Palestinian State, since their stated goal is – and always has been – an Israel far larger than what the UN "authorized".

    Like it or not, admit it or not, everything the Arab world has done since has been in response to that original UN authorized occupation.

    As an American citizen, I should have no dog in this fight, but I do, because there is a small but incredibly influential group of Jews/Zionists/Israelites that literally control the United States Congress that cannot be expunged.

    As a result, there is no solution possible for America. The Arabs know this, and know that America will continue to mindlessly support Jewish goals for the contested area and that's why Iran – and other Arab States – have decided that the only solution is the total destruction of present-day Israel, by nuclear means if necessary.

    I believe that one day soon they will be able to destroy Israel because America – as her only powerful friend – is collapsing.

    Hell of a deal. Armageddon is coming, like it or not, and there are far to many lunatics in high place that believe this is a good thing.

  5. The battle between Islam and the West, and Islam and the East started about 600 or 700 years before the State of Israel existed. Ever read about the conquest of India?

    If you want to deter a person who is convinced they will go to heaven when they die for the cause, figure out what, in their doctrine, will prevent them from going to heaven- and use it.

  6. I think what frustrates me the most with US foreign policy vis-a-vis ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, and the like is that the State Department refuses to accept that the Salafists do not operate from the same basic set of rules as does the US and Northern Europe. "They just say 'death to America' to please the crowds, but that's not really what they mean." Um, Secretary [insert name], what if they do, indeed, seriously want to eliminate Western culture from the world? "No, no, it's much more nuanced. Trust us, that's just their propaganda. They don't really believe what they are saying."

    And Bob, you might look back at the Ottoman conquests, the Moghuls, and the Battle of Broken Hill in Australia. Islamic expansionism goes back far, far longer than 1946-49.


  7. In a more direct way, you're saying "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" as Ann Coulter famously said. Ann was almost certainly trying to be inflammatory, but has a good point. Our problem with each other, both from their viewpoint and ours, is that the other side's moral system is wrong. Western Judeo-Christian society values freedom, free speech, free expression, liberty, knowledge and learning, separation of church and state. Islamic society values none of that. Boko Haram translates crudely as "learning is a sin". It's a surprise they raid girls' schools to kill teachers and students? It's no surprise the modern slave trade is primarily in Islamic countries, and ISIS/ISIL is taking elementary school-age girls as sex slaves.

    We find that indescribably horrible in a moral sense; they think it's perfectly moral.

    How do you reconcile that? It's almost that 100% of what we think is moral consider "haram" (forbidden/sinful) and 100% of what we think is sin, they consider "halal" (approved/blessed). Christianity doesn't believe in conversion by the sword. Islam (apparently) does. We're highly unlikely to try to "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity". They are highly likely to try to kill us and convert us to Islam – in their minds.

    I'll grant that going over there and killing them all isn't a good solution, although it may well be technically feasible. From the viewpoint of so many talking heads we hear: if they'd just live within their borders and "live and let live" with other religions, everything would be fine – which is the same as saying "if they just adopted western morals, everything would be fine". That's a horrible sin to them.

    To channel General Patton, "we're going to have to fight those sons of bitches one of these days". Like it or not, if they're determined to wipe out our moral system then sooner or later they will try.

    The only thing that will slow the aggressors is for them to change. The fact that Christianity is growing wildly in Iran and other "unsuspected" places is our only hope.

  8. Take a leaf out of their own book. Set up an islam tax for anyone who is or can reasonably be expected to be muslim. 10% on income and 10% on fortune.
    Forbid establishment of new mosques and expansion of current mosques also forbid establishing of new muslim congregations and associations as well as of "culture associations" that an be reasonably expected to be fronts for mosques. This will make many choose to convert to christianity (put in an element of bridgeburning by requiring conversion and baptism to be put up on youtube). You could add a bit of extra incitament by using part of the islam tax to finance a stipend to anyone who converts from islam to christianity. Also, reduce welfarepayments for muslims to 80% of what a christian or atheist gets.
    Make it impossible for muslims to attain citizenship. This will make many leave islam and dissuade many from joining. Also, teach everybody about islam as well as about christianity, make people realise that islam is an ideology of hate and violence.

  9. It's not that difficult. Use their own stupidity against them. Do what Gen. Black Jack Pershing did in Philippine's in early 1900s: grease your bullets with pig's blood/lard. Bury the dumb bastards with the freshly slaughtered pigs. Repeat if necessary. Put it on youtube and every other video channel. Demolish their precious black rock and any other thing they hold dear. Keep killing them and never let up.

  10. If a sufficient combination and quantity of radioactive isotopes were to come to rest in Mecca, then the hajj would become impossible, and Islam as the Muslims know it would no longer exist.

  11. I may be off base, but my understanding of the history of the area is that Islam has, throughout its span, produced bands of fanatics. When the local governments had a reason to suppress them, they were a minor annoyance on the fringes of civilization; bandits, with a slightly religious overtone. When, for whatever reason, the local governments did not or could not suppress them they tended to swell into large bands of crusading nutters.

    The problem we are seeing now is that killing a bunch of them for a little while isn't going to stem the tide. We have to kill them consistently, over a period of decades, because they have been rewarded with fame and approval for decades by the Post Colonial Diplomatic Idiocy that has ruled the UN from the first. We have to demonstrate that allowing them to annoy us is a good way to draw our negative attention, so that local strongmen like Q'daffy Duck and Saddam and his merry Sons have a practical reason to want to put them down.

    We keep muddying the waters with maters that are none of our concern. Why do we care if Libya is run by a nut, if he doesn't bother us? Why do we care if the Saudis keep slaves, so long as they understand that the day they make a slave of a U.S. citizen is the day their country ceases to exist?

    If we aren't going to build a colonial empire (and please, God, let's not; we lack the temperament), then what other countries do is none of our goddamned business UNLESS IT DIRECTLY AFFECTS US.

    Cut back to that simple principle, and then land on those that violate it like a ton of C4, and A) We will have a much easier time of it B) Our diplomatic goals will be greatly simplified, and therefore get met more and C) The whole world may have a very public fit about our behavior, but behind closed doors those in power will probably heave huge sighs of relief. When you get right down to it, our position that we are nothing but itinerant benevolence and charitable impulses isn't particularly believable, even when true.

    Example: Post 9/11 we should have announced "Saddam's Iraq was supposed to do a bunch of things to meet the terms of surrender. He hasn't. We've been patient, but with these attacks on us, we are out of time." Followed by invasion of Iraq, the destruction of the Saddam government, the hanging of Saddam (if convenient only) and our departure. No "Nation Building" (why is it our business?), just *pow*, "there's more where that came from, any questions?"

    Pursue that for twenty years and the terror orgs will be chased so far back into the hills they'll have to ship in daylight. They'll never go away entirely, but they won't be any more important than they were to the Raj.

  12. One of the problems with Islam is that is really brain washing that starts before they are born and continues all though their life if you question any part the punishment is death.

  13. Bob's screed would make more sense if he had remembered that the ARABS who left the Israeli territory in '48 were ARABS who were urged to leave by the countries that had declared war on the newly established Israeli state. And that the term "Palestinian wasn't applied to them until Arafat(the boy lover) started calling them that sometime in the '60's – IIRC.

  14. Those girls and wannabe jihadists are going there for a reason, and it's not because they've suddenly become more devout. It makes them feel good to become a part of something big and grand.

    ISIS needs to lose a few fights. Their defeats must become humiliating, disgraceful, and something to laugh at.

    I wouldn't (yet) exactly put myself in the nuke 'em all camp, but massive bombing campaigns would be worth considering.

    FWIW: Einstein didn't say that. Wikiquote cites Narcotics Anonymous in 1980 as the earliest known usage.

  15. Christianity no longer believes in conversion by the sword. It sure did early on.

    As far as the violent Muslim problem, our 1st solution should be to forbid Muslims from our lands, no entry for any from anywhere period. Repatriate any you can as well . This won't stop all conversions or trouble but its a good start.

    The 2nd is for us to leave the Middle East , gradually and let area sort itself. we don't need to back Israel or anybody else and if we conserve and frack, we can do without their oil. This won't happen easily as too many of our leaders are in someones pocket over the issues or like the Left are enamored with Islam but its the less expensive, less violent approach

    If this doesn't give us a high degree of safety than we escalate till they leave us alone.

    I'll pass on the war porn but we have tons of ways to do this with only small risk to our own people. I think our fear of using this power is justified but if needs must?

  16. The crux of the problem is not radical Islam. It's the complete non-response of moderate Islam to the atrocities committed in the name of the Deity and Prophet. All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, and they doing that completely.

    No more prophets are needed; it's time for a reformer. Where is Islam's Martin Luther?


  17. The "Islamic Problem" will be pontificated about by the hand-wringing chattering classes ad infinitum with nothing more accomplished than polite nibbling around the edges.

    Which will work just fine until that magic moment when agents of Islam unleash several dozen kilotons on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange or behind Space Mountain in Orlando or the parking lot of the Louvre or in front of St. Paul's in London. Or, maybe all of them.

    At that point the pontificators and hand-wringers will not only lose the argument, they will lose control of the entire process. When soccer moms in Omaha and Liverpool and Munich and Cherbourg and Naples and Kiev, fully realize – not just with intellectual distance, but emotionally – that their kids and grandkids face a direct and immediate threat from Islam and all it represents, and that the future of Western Civilization hangs in the balance, the pogrom will begin. Western Civ will start at one end of the world and work its way to the other, utterly destroying anything associated even remotely with Islam. No differentiation will be made between "radical" Islam and "non-radical" Islam. Politicians won't like it, the militaries won't agree with it, leftists will revolt over it, but The People will insist on it.

    Young Islamic men will be killed because they are terrorists; old Islamic men will be killed because they support the terrorists; Islamic boys will be killed because they grow up to be terrorists; Islamic women and girls will be killed because they give birth to terrorists; goats and sheep will be exterminated because they provide food for Islamic terrorists. Islamicists in western countries will be excoriated and exiled.

    The tattered remnants of "Islam" will be driven deep underground because it's easy to kill practitioners but impossible to kill ideas; witness today Naziism – no rational person aware of history is not thoroughly repulsed by the atrocities of 1930s-1940s Germany driven by the Nazi regime, yet we still have random very tiny groups of Nazi proselytizers, all regarded as uneradicable aberrations.

    This is the point where the philosophy behind Coulter's comment may begin carrying some weight; the concept of peaceful coexistence and the consequence of its failure could – if properly managed – lead to modifications in Islam's internal structure, potentially making it non-threatening to everyone else.

    I'll go out on a very long and fragile limb here and predict that, in one form or another, the above will happen. Whether it occurs in a year, a decade or a century, I have no clue, but there will come a tipping point; America, at least outside of a very small group in D.C., was studiously unconcerned with conflict on December 6th yet wholeheartedly embracing it on the 8th, and famously proceeded to Show The World How It Is Done over the next four years.

    It might be possible, today, to avoid the conflagration if the Powers That Be in Islam become convinced that Western Civilization has the will to take such action. That would require WC leaders who understand the problem and have a spine of sufficient diameter to sincerely support the violent problem resolution necessary and Islamic leaders who take the WC leaders seriously; none of either group, unfortunately, seem to be on the horizon.

  18. I realize you're not going to like it, but I feel I should say it.
    We haven't yet tried killing them. Oh, sure, we kill a few of their soldiers on the battlefield. We haven't tried waging war against them.

    It took the loss of over 10% of their total population, and the vast majority of their physical territory, to force Germany to surrender in 1945. We haven't even considered approaching the conflicts in the Middle East with this sort of intensity.

    We killed about 4% of the population of North Vietnam in ten years – but they never gave up. And they won through an act of superior national willpower.

    Imposing our will, and our concept of peace, will involve causing megadeaths. If it isn't worth doing that, there's no point in doing it at all.

  19. I will be reposting this soon on my humble blog, as it is a most eloquent statement of an inelegant problem.

    Thank you,


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