Monday, February 23, 2015

Sympathy for Marie Harf

A little sympathy for Marie Harf, please.

Last week deputy state department spokesperson Harf was sent out into the media jungle to articulate and defend Obama administration policy on Islamic terrorism.

By all reports she was auditioning for the role of chief state department spokesperson. The same reports say that she failed at the task. As of now she is apparently not going to take over from Jen Psaki.

One might say that Harf was sacrificed to an absurd policy. She could not turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Perhaps this means that she lacked a few deception genes. Or it might meant that she possesses too much integrity to continue mouthing nonsense.

One Harfism  received the most attention. She asserted that disaffected young Muslims were attracted to ISIS and other Islamist terrorist organizations—of course, she could not have called them such—because they don’t have jobs. They are suffering from a lack of economic opportunity.

She seemed to be saying that Islamist terrorism could be defeated with a strong jobs program.

It makes some sense to say that Middle Eastern Muslims are drawn to terrorism because it offers employment opportunity. But what about Muslims who inhabit the West and who have been loath to assimilate.

Obviously, there are fewer job opportunities if you refuse to play by the local rules. And there are fewer job opportunities if the reputation of your group is being systematically destroyed by the actions of your co-religionists.

Be that as it may, Harf’s point is not quite as crazy as it sounds. Even if many terrorist leaders came from wealth or belonged to the upper middle class, still and all, their nations, by and large have failed to keep up with the rest of the world… in economic competition.

As of now, Islam has all the hallmarks of a failed civilization. Were it not for terrorism committed in the name of Islam, how many people would be talking about the religion?

Better to be feared than forgotten.

So, Muslim nations definitely need more economic growth and opportunity. And yet, even when given the opportunity they refuse to compete.

After all, massive amounts of foreign aid have been flowing to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Keep in mind that the people of Gaza elected Hamas.

What did Hamas do with the money it had collected? It bought rockets and built terror tunnels, the better to destroy Israel.

Given a choice between building its own economy and destroying Israel, Hamas preferred to destroy, or better to deconstruct the Israeli economy and nation. By the by, it also wants to kill all Jews.

Effectively, Hamas and other Islamist terrorists are refusing to compete in a game they did not invent. Perhaps they all believe that the Industrial Revolution and free market capitalism were invented by the Judeo-Christian west and thus are alien to their faith.

Of course, the Confucian East seems to be fairly adept at the capitalism thing, so perhaps we should qualify the statement.

Be that as it may, Islamist terrorism is obviously reactionary and seems to be inspired by deconstruction. If you can’t construct, you deconstruct what others have built.

If you want to make it sound less nihilistic, you can say that they know that they cannot construct what is needed themselves, so they feel constrained to take what others have built.

But, what does it all mean.

Perhaps, Islamists are competing against the West, not in the marketplace but on the battlefield. But, they are not competing according to the rules of traditional warfare. They are conducting a massive psychological insurgency, using a different strategy to bring down a stronger enemy.

Or better, Islamists are trying to convince the West to self-deconstruct. The only way you can defeat a stronger enemy is to convince the enemy to defeat himself.

Islamists believe that theirs is the psychologically stronger culture. They believe that the West is weak and decadent, that it does not have the stomach for the fight and that it will, for all its missiles and bombs, cut and run when the price in human life becomes too high.

Wherever do you think that they got that idea?

Americans and other Westerners luxuriate in the benefits the Industrial Revolution has provided. Islamists believe that the too-comfortable Westerners have gone soft.

We revel in our multicultural diversity. Islamists see a house divided against itself.

We torment ourselves for sins real and imagined. Islamists see a weak and guilt-ridden civilization in its death throes.

We worship celebrity and demean achievement. Islamists see a civilization that has lost its compass.

Following a venerable Hegelian principle they believe that they will prevail because they are less afraid of death.

Muslim extremists are trying to restore pride. For that reason they are respected in many Muslim communities.

The terrorists believe that competition in the marketplace is beneath them. They prefer to repair to the greatest competitive arena, the battlefield and induce the West to defeat itself.


Ares Olympus said...

There are SO much speculation here. First, who are we talking about?
--> The terrorists, ISIS, Hamas, Disaffected young Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims, Muslim nations, Muslim extremists?

Can we really say anything at all when there seem to be so many different groups named?

It made me wonder what Marie Harf actually said, at least a quote here:

So at least it does sound naive to say "joblessness" is a cause, although to me it does show our own collective madness.

Have politicians become "job-junkies"? Perhaps we can take it back to Bill Clinton's "It's the economy stupid."

What is "The economy"? What are "jobs"? And you can go back to the end of WWII when industrialists discovered they could make more products than could possibly be sold in local markets, and which lead to economic empire where we were determined to expand markets for everything as far as possible, and stop producing things in wealthy countries that can be more cheaply produced in a poorer country, and call that progress, in the imaginary hope that poor people could eventually get wealthy enough to buy the things they make and live like Americans?

It’s not clear that America has any answers on "jobs" for the world, when we can't face our own. We have a pretend low unemployment rate now, while "male labor force participation rate" is at the lowest since forever (86% in 1950 down to below 70% now), somehow there are a large number of men who have given up looking for work.

I don't know if this is on Harf's mind, but perhaps all bureaucrats are taught “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and desperate to create the appearance of opportunity, just like payday loans create opportunity for poor people.

And so if declining labor force participation is an "intractable problem" for America, imagine how much harder it might be in a country with religious fundamentalism?

It looks like so far we've "papered over" our employment problem by producing massive amounts of new debt that gets sucked up by the rich, and we get by for another year.

So is it true "Islamists believe that theirs is the psychologically stronger culture." And if we're weak because we have to double our debt every decade, are they responsible for that?

Last year we had to face a bit more of our own feared racism in neglected and abused black communities who are easy targets for police aggression, and all we can say is "We need more jobs for these young blacks so they can get ahead and stop causing problems."

And Stuart, you end with "The terrorists believe that competition in the marketplace is beneath them. They prefer to repair to the greatest competitive arena, the battlefield and induce the West to defeat itself."

But of course if we are to believe this, it is WE who believe the battlefield is our strength, and it’s the Terrorists who can act like the Revolutionaries, losing every battle, and winning the war by waiting for the giant to bankrupt itself.

Somehow we going to sooner or later retreat from our global ambitions and refocus our attention on "people" rather than "jobs" because when the jobs dry up, you can be sure there's going to be a lot of unhappy people looking for scapegoats, and no matter how big our police state gets, its will be us killing ourselves, and who will be watching that chaos that will be coming?

My primary fear is debt, the sort that enslaved you, where you can't rip up it at the end of the day when you get tired of paying it, and need to redirect your remaining resources somewhere more productive.

If irrational religion is our enemy, then irrational economics must be our god we're worshiping.

Larry Sheldon said...

I have as little sympathy for her as is possible without having none at all.

Sam L. said...

She is doing what she is paid to do. She may be a true believer in Obama, or a close student of Machiavelli, possibly something I can't imagine; if not, she's in it for the money, and the left will love her for it until they don't need her.

Anonymous said...

Bernard Lewis said Europe will be Islamic by the end of this century.

It's hard to deny the demographics and immigration.

French Canadians used to call their response to English victory and rule, "Revenge of the Cradle". I don't know if they do anymore. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...