Friday, January 22nd 2016
Recommended approaches to defeating ISIS, and/or appealing to followers or potential recruits, and/or addressing the social environment where it has arisen largely flow from intellectual premises – presuppositions, perhaps -- about the human condition. Few would deny that the Islamic State has a mix of political, economic, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious characteristics, but responses to the threat depend on how analysts, commentators, and policymakers judge which factors are fundamental. In a February 19, 2015, essay, “ISIS and the left’s Vulgar Marxisim problem,” in The Week, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of the Ethics and Public Policy Center focused on the centrality of religion. Here are a few quotes:
- . . . the White House's inability to understand ISIS and its ideology has severely hobbled the West's efforts to fight ISIS.
- [Graeme Wood reports that] ISIS, as it turns out, is motivated by a specific interpretation of Islam.
- . . . the main difference between ISIS and al Qaeda is not primarily over tactics or a clash of personalities, as we're often told, but over theology. Both ISIS and al Qaeda believe in apocalyptic end-times where an Islamic caliphate will face off against the forces of Christianity in an ultimate war. But while al Qaeda believes this time to be far off into the future, ISIS believes it is now. This is not an idle difference.
- Our lack of understanding of ISIS has led to epic bungling and needless death.
- Now, why are our policymakers so blind about ISIS? Most of my fellow conservatives have flagged a simple answer: political correctness. Political correctness dictates that "Islam is a religion of peace" and, therefore, if there are Islamic terrorists they cannot be motivated by Islam and must be motivated by something else.
- But, of course, the problem is deeper than political correctness. For progressives, it's something I've come to call Vulgar Marxism . . . . dialectical materialism, or the idea that the only driver of history is socioeconomic forces.
- According to this view, religions, philosophies, ideologies, worldviews, and even culture at large are simply illusions, embraced after the fact to justify this or that move in our class warfare.
- Marx's . . . . notion that religion is just "the opium of the people" . . . [implied] beliefs have no influence on history.
- Human beings are human beings — we are not just animals. We do not just want to feed and reproduce. We actually have beliefs and we actually make choices on the basis of those beliefs.
- It's kind of crazy to have to point this out. We were made with an orientation toward ultimate truth, goodness, and beauty, and we seek it however we understand it — and how we understand it determines our actions.
- The historian N.T. Wright talks about a worldview being like a set of glasses: not something you look at but something you look through; something that you don't think about — until there's a problem with it. Almost no progressive will make an explicit argument for Vulgar Marxism, but it's hovering in the background of much of their writing on almost every issue. And, in the case of ISIS, this mistaken worldview has almost certainly led to more bloodshed than there would have been had the progressives in the Obama White House actually tried to understand what ISIS believed, and why.