Monday, November 24, 2014

The War Against Suicidal Cultures

We credit David Goldman with the concept of the death of civilizations. By his reasoning Islam is in the process of self-destructing, committing cultural suicide. Apparently, it wants to go out with a bang, not with a whimper.

Goldman despairs because we do not understand this process of cultural suicide and thus do not know how to fight it. We do not know how to neutralize it or to direct its energies toward production.

In his words:

The suicide of cultures is incomprehensible to liberalism, which places the human condition in a Petrie dish for the edification of social scientists. It is also incomprehensible to the main currents in American conservativism, that is, the Straussian and Catholic versions of natural right and natural law. We flounder in the face of suicidal cultures because we lack the intellectual tools to confront them. Men do not always seek the good, as Aristotle opines in at the outset of the Nicomachean Ethics: often they seek nothingness. When in history have so many volunteered to commit suicide to murder civilians, as the jihadists now do? When in history has a combatant tried to maximize the number of casualties among its own civilians, as does Hamas? The liberal mind reels with horror at the phenomenon of mass suicide.

So, how do you fight nihilism? How do you fight people who are seeking nothingness? How do you fight people who embrace death, who do not fear for their own lives?

You cannot beat them by killing them. They will take it as a triumph. Their followers will call them martyrs.

Yet, despair is the wrong response. If your opponents can convince you that there is nothing you can do to defeat them, they have won a psychological victory over them.

How do these suicidal maniacs assert their superiority? For one, they commit acts of unthinkable brutality. The Nazis excelled at this task and used it to show, not only that they were not afraid to die but that they were stronger and more powerful than everyone else. If so, then their victory should have been inevitable.

It would be good to get over the notion that Islamist radicals are looking to achieve nothingness. It would also be good to get over the notion that if they do not fear death they are stronger than everyone else… even to the point of being invincible.

The truth is, they, like their Nazi forbears are looking to assert their own importance by destroying what others have built.

In common parlance, it’s called deconstruction. You do not built anything yourself, but you destroy or dismantle what others have built. Thereby, you gain a false sense of pride, but false pride is surely better than the abject humiliation that we associate with failure.

It’s one way to overcome the shame of losing out in economic or political competition.

When Hamas terrorists put their money and their effort into buying rockets and digging terror tunnels they are saying that they can only affirm their self-worth at the expense of Israel. The success that Israel has enjoyed in the midst of civilizational failure provokes Arab shame. Better to think that the fault lies with Israel than to imagine that the fault lies with a failing civilization.

Of course, if certain peoples believed that they could compete in the marketplace they would not be resorting to terrorism. Having no confidence in their ability they resort to deconstruction. But, this works both ways. In some cases the deconstruction induces feelings of despair.

So, how do you fight people who do not fear death and who are hell-bent on destroying what others have built?

First, we should recognize that something is worse than death. That would be: shame and humiliation. Terrorism is not a sign of strength but an effort to cover up and disguise shame.

If we do not understand that, we will never defeat it.

Thus, the Obama administration, and in some cases the Bush administration got it wrong.

Showing respect for Islam, speaking reverentially of Islam, calling Islam a religion of peace is precisely the wrong tactic.

One does better to respond to terrorism with contempt and derision, with force where need be, but without respect. If Islamic terrorism degrades the character and reputation of all Muslims, then it is for Muslims to restore their good name and the good name of their religion.

We should be unflinching in our support of Israel and stop trying to make the Israelis and the Palestinian terrorists moral equivalents. We should be supporting those Islamic forces that are fighting against the terrorists, leaders like President Sisi of Egypt. And we should respect those Islamic countries that have renounced terror and have successfully joined the world economic order… like Dubai.

There is only one way to overcome the shame of failure: success. Trying to cover up shame by blowing up the products of someone else’s success is ultimately a losing strategy. Those who oppose it should expose the shame that drives it.

More humiliation is the correct counterattack, not more respect and reverence.

And let's not forget: unabashed pride in the achievements of Western civilization would also put us on the right path.


Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

re: Terrorism is not a sign of strength but an effort to cover up and disguise shame. If we do not understand that, we will never defeat it.

I categorically agree with the diagnosis, but I'm less sure about what victory looks like.

I'd consider terrorism as a tactic of the weak against the strong, but what does it mean to be weak or strong. I'd consider holding a gun against someone makes me weak, because it means I'm too afraid to stand tall without that gun.

But as Goldman suggests, once you have a neighbor who is willing and able to threaten you with a gun, and whom apparently doesn't care if he lives or dies, you've got a problem that isn't solved by simple cooperation.

On the other hand, if you're the one with the guns, and your neighbor is encouraging his kids to throw stones at you, that's a different sort of problem.

You can try to take away all the stones. You can try to punish your neighbor by demolishing his house, but in my mind, this escalation has no ending, unless you're willing to use your guns, and end the threat once and for all, and killing all of the stone throwers dead, as they clearly want to be. The idea that you can humiliate children or childish adults to make them behave, or convince others to behave, seems hopeless to me in any scenario.

If we accept there can be no moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinian, and one is for order and justice, and the other is for chaos and destruction, if the first side has guns, its easy to wish to take the ultimate action, even in mass murdering 4.5 million people, to end the problem. After all, how can you let any of them live?

On the other hand, with a billion Muslims in the world, and only 8 million Jews in Israel, perhaps a suicidal culture is just waiting for proof that the Jews are evil, exterminating 4 million men, women, and children for being unwanted, if you want to create paranoid crazy vengeful Muslims, that would be the ticket.

So I guess we have to spend eternity supporting the Israelis in an endless hot-cold war until the humiliation of another 1000 years of losses finally sink a billion Muslims into the dust.

I say that with utter despair of course, and a better fantasy would be to give Israel a 90 day "unconditional surrender" order, and then forcefully evacuating all the Israelis and Palestinians from the country, and carpet bombing every bombable structure until there's nothing left but dust.

And then we'd say they can return to their ruins, or move to the United States, and hopefully the Muslim countries would allow refugees or perhaps they'd be happy to live in ruins they can call their own, and the problem would be settled.

That to me would be the ultimate humiliation to everyone involved, and everyone who is tired of a 60-year old problem can finally sleep in peace.

OH, I forgot Israel has secret Nukes. I wonder who they would threaten if we promised we'd flatten their country? Maybe we'll need some secret forces to do their magic, before we issue our surrender order.

OTOH, Israel isn't a death culture, so we can be pretty sure they wouldn't really “press the button”, right?

Anonymous said...

“How do you fight people who embrace death, who do not fear for their own lives? You cannot beat them by killing them. They will take it as a triumph.”

Ever heard of a Pyrrhic victory? Let them keep winning until they are ruined.

Dennis said...

Not to mention that the people who are pushing others to die for the cause are very careful to insure that they are not. The easier way here is to ensure that those who die for the cause do not go to heaven or receive the rewards they believe they will obtain.
The very strength that binds them is the weakness that will destroy them.

wolfwalker said...

"So, how do you fight nihilism? How do you fight people who are seeking nothingness? How do you fight people who embrace death, who do not fear for their own lives?"

You stop thinking of it as a problem in warfare or human psychology, and start thinking of it in evolutionary terms. Traits which are rewarded will be reinforced; traits which are punished will be avoided.

In simple terms, terrorism - or extremism of any sort - is a trait that can be selected for or against. In some individuals it will be active and strong. In others it will be active and weak. In most it will be latent, requiring an external stimulus to activate it. So you start selecting against it, by killing the individuals in which it's strongest. Yes, they will be replaced -- but the replacements will be individuals in which the extremism trait is weaker. Kill them, and the trait in their replacements will be weaker still. Eventually you will have eliminated all active forms of the extremism trait, leaving only the latent form without any available activator.

Meanwhile, you have to also recognize that most people are not naturally extremists. They are turned into extremists by extreme circumstances - such as living in gross, obscene poverty while their rulers live in luxury. There is no better way to trigger the extremist trait in a normal man (or woman) than to ignore his (or her) legitimate concerns. So even as you're killing the active extremists, you also do all you can to solve the underlying problems, thus reducing the probability that latent extremists will be triggered into being active ones.

This process will be long, and hard, and vicious, and bloody. But I think it will work.

Anonymous said...

Qatar seems successful in the marketplace, but they are the foremost underwriters of terrorism.

The problem is the failed political system of Islam. That's what they need to be ashamed of, and since it can't be separated from religious Islam, we must be very careful in our tolerance for Islam in the USA.