And then there’s the recruitment question.
How many times have we heard how many people declare that Gitmo is a recruitment tool for terrorists?
How many times have we heard that speaking ill of the Prophet Mohammed is a recruitment tool for terrorists?
How often have we been told that our presence in the Middle East is a recruitment tool for terrorists?
How many times have we heard that our attacks on Islamist terrorists are going to be used to recruit more jihadis?
How many times have we heard that the existence of Israel is a recruitment tool for terrorists?
Perhaps as many times as we heard that Islam is a religion of peace and that the Islamic State (ISIS) has nothing to do with true Islam?
If you put it all together you will be forced to conclude that the only way we can stop Islamist terrorism is to submit to Islam.
And yet, a hands-off attitude, the attitude that the Obama administration had been following until last night—presumably—seems not to have stopped Islamist terrorism in its tracks.
In fact, the successes that ISIS has enjoyed in the Syria and Iraq seem to have been the best recruitment tool yet devised. As soon as ISIS took over Mosul would-be jihadis from Europe began flocking to the new Islamic State.
As the old proverb says: Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.
The more success terrorism has, the more recruits there will be. The more failures it has the fewer recruits.
But, David Goldman reminds us, this is only part of the story. We need also to examine the recruiting pool... the number of displaced and disaffected refugees created by the wars in Iraq and Syria.
Arab states, Goldman argues, are for the most part failed states:
The Arab states are failed states, except for the few with enough hydrocarbons to subsidize every facet of economic life. Egypt lives on a$15 billion annual subsidy from the Gulf states, and if that persists, will remain stable if not quite prosperous. Syria is a ruin, along with large parts of Iraq. The lives of tens of millions of people were fragile before the fighting broke out (30% of Syrians lived on less than $1.60 a day), and now they are utterly ruined. The hordes of combatants displace more people, and these joint the hordes, in a snowball effect.
Having argued that Islam is a dying civilization Goldman explains that the disintegration of society and community in the Middle East has become fertile ground for terrorist recruitment:
The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas) will compete with the Caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.
Goldman emphasizes the anomie that draws people to terrorism. But notes that the major part of the recruiting pool is made up of displaced people from Syria. Hmmm. It's difficult to blame the war in Syria on George W. Bush:
There are always lunatics lurking in the crevices of Muslim politics prepared to proclaim a new Caliphate; there isn’t always a recruiting pool in the form of nearly 14 million displaced people (11 million Syrians, or half the country’s population, and 2.8 million Iraqis, or a tenth of the country’s population). When I wrote about the region’s refugee disaster at Tablet in July (Between the Settlers and Unsettlers, the One State Solution is On Our Doorstep) the going estimate was only 10 million. A new UN study, though, claims that half of Syrians are displaced. Many of them will have nothing to go back to. When people have nothing to lose, they fight to the death and inflict horrors on others.
People who have nothing, who are nowhere… will join up with a force that provides structure, organization, rules and action. One might say that it gives their lives purpose. One might also say that they want a place in history and do not care what they have to do to get it. To their minds infamy seems preferable to anonymity.
While we are here, let’s underscore another of Goldman’s arguments. Our president has declared war on ISIS. It is surely the right thing to do. Whether he can do it with air power alone remains to be seen.
But Goldman argues, with Henry Kissinger, that ISIS is not the real problem. The real problem in the Middle East is Iran:
Iran’s backing for the Assad regime’s ethnic cleansing of Syrian Sunnis set the refugee crisis in motion, while the Iraqi Shi’ites’ alliance with Iran persuaded elements of Saddam Hussein’s military to fight for ISIS. Iran can make nuclear weapons and missiles; ISIS cannot. If we had had the foresight to neutralize Iran years ago, the crisis could have been managed without the unspeakable humanitarian cost.
We cannot do the killing ourselves, except, of course, from the air. We are too squeamish under the best of circumstances, and we are too corrupted by cultural relativism (remember George W. Bush’s claim that Islam is “a religion of peace”?) to recognize utterly evil Nihilism when it stares us in the face. In practice, a great deal of the killing will be done by Iran and its allies: the Iraqi Shi’a, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Assad regime in Syria. It will be one of the most disgusting and dishearting episodes in modern history and there isn’t much we can to do prevent it.
The Bush administration chose not to neutralize Iran at a time when it might have rallied public opinion against a nation that was responsible for killing thousands of Americans.
And, the current administration is not going to neutralize Iran either. In fact, it seems to want to make Iran into something of a strategic ally. Thus, it has tried not to offend Iran in any way. And it seems to have been pressuring Israel not to act on its own. As for Iran’s getting nuclear weapons, the question is when, not whether.