Roots and Radicals, II
Yesterday’s posting on “Roots and Radicals” and the issue of inquiry into the “root causes” of terrorism seems to have been timely, given this morning’s news of a hostage taking incident at a cafe in Sydney Australia and reports of anti-Muslim marches in Germany. Our times are nothing if not full to the brim with irony. So, maybe this is a good time to dive deeper into the meaning of the GWOT — the so-called “Global War on Terrorism” which also happens to be the globalisation of terrorism, too.
How does “universal terrorism” grab you? By that I mean, the total abandonment of all human standards by all parties involved in a total orgy of mutual brutalities where no place is safe for anyone. From “total war” to “universal terror”. But this is what the “clash of civilisations” doctrine ultimately results in. And that suits some devilish people just fine.
First of all, let’s be clear that the “clash of civilisations” first proposed and promoted by Samuel Huntington in his book by that title (The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order) was written as a response to one of Huntington’s former students, Francis Fukuyama and his book The End of History and the Last Man. Oh dear! We can’t seem to escape the absurdity, which has become tautology. The windmills of our minds and the mental merry-go-round that is the centrifugal “widening gyre” of W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming“.
Let’s also be clear that the “clash of civilisations” is nothing of a sort. It is a conflict between fanatics and bigots and there is scarce anything to distinguish the attitudes of the one from the other. The “clash of civilisations” is a mirage and a trompe l’oeil, but like all mirages and hallucinations it has an enticing and seductive reality to it — that vague nimbus of “truthiness” made famous by Stephen Colbert. And it belongs, altogether also, to the contemporary self-negation of reason in the disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness structure.
Only the most deranged and demented minds among us could cast a conflict between bigots and fanatics as a conflict of “civilisations”. Savagery is infectious, as you may have learned from reading the news recently. Unfortunately, there seems to be no help for it. The demented nihilism of the savagery will play itself out in mutual exhaustion.
The “managed savagery” and brutality that is the ISIS jihadis and terrorism’s calculated strategy, which seems so mindless, is in fact designed to provoke and foster the kinds of anti-Muslim ferment and backlash that we see, for example, in Germany today, and which seems to be the apparent motive for the Australian incident. The Islamists want Muslims everywhere to feel unsafe in, and estranged from, their communities. This designing “management of savagery” is calculated to provoke backlash against Muslims in their communities, and not (as the usual thinking goes) to intimidate or to paralyse others with fear. It belongs rather to agitprop. It’s other Muslims that the jihadis want to feel unsafe, unprotected, and oppressed by deliberately engineering “Islamophobia” and the backlash. These dupes who are marching against Muslims in Germany are fulfilling the means and ends of the jihadis, and might as well be ISIS recruits.
Arousing anti-Muslim sentiment is precisely the purpose of Islamist terrorism and the “managed savagery” of the Islamic State. The ultimate target of the terror is not Westerners, but other Muslims. Failure to understand this makes the “war on terror” totally self-defeating. The logic of the jihadis is this: that by making Muslims feel unsafe in their persons and property, however much they may despise the caliphate and the Islamists, they will nonetheless be driven to seek the protection and safety of the “Ummah” as this is defined by the caliphate, on the principle of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”.
It’s an old formula, actually: first terrify and make sick, and then offer yourself as the sole benefactor and cure.
You may have noted, that the overwhelming number of victims of Islamist terrorism have not been “Westerners” but other Muslims. Westerners are not the ends but means in this. By provoking antipathy and backlash against Muslims, the bigots are effectively recruited in helping IS succeed in its goals, which it could not do without co-opting the very powerful forces that are arrayed against it. By cunning and co-optation, you get the more powerful enemy to defeat himself.
If that is the case, the most effective counter-terror strategy is not enmity and “clash of civilisations” but plain, old-fashioned, sincere goodwill, and not the knee-jerk response of the lizard brain.
It’s quite true that the “endgame” for the Islamist fanatics is global religious war. No one should have any delusions on that score. We are dealing with fanatics after all. It is their quite logical interpretation of the meaning of “the clash of civilisations”. We should not be aiding and abetting them in realising their goal, which is largely what we are doing presently — playing the dupe and being completely oblivious to it.