John Mauldin posted some work by Charles Gave and George Friedman. They cut to the chase, citing the most basic causes of terrorism:
Charles writes as a patrician French patriot and examines the question “[Do] France and its neighbors have a part of their population that rejects the rules on which the nation is based and wishes to build a nation under a different set of rules?”
The question of Islam’s compatibility with Western democratic values is not a question that we, in the West, can answer. This is a question that only the Muslim world itself can answer. For example, can a line of the Koran be changed or interpreted in different ways? After all, like most holy books, the Koran states many contradictory things and one can find quotes to justify almost anything. But the Koran is different from other religious books in that it was written by Mohammed, but dictated by God (through an archangel). Meanwhile, the Torah, as well as the Ancient and New Testaments, were written by men, inspired (or not) by God. These men are accepted to have been imperfect, unlike Mohammed, whom as the Charlie Hebdo staff paid dearly to show, one cannot criticize. So the Bible can be criticized and even re-interpreted. Can the Koran? Can this be done without criticizing the prophet? Or is the Sharia not adaptable and thus, for the true followers, an almost guarantee of conflicting systems?
He offers a very nuanced and thoughtful analysis of the difficulty of answering that question by means of simplistic reactions. And he comes to the uncomfortable conclusion that
As far as France and most other Western nations are concerned, it is obvious that these questions will now more than ever (in spite of mainstream politicians’ best efforts to keep them out) enter the political stream and discourse. And instead of calming tensions in an era of great economic discomfort, this will likely amplify them.
George sees the problem in terms of geopolitical analysis and through the lens of history (emphasis mine):
The Europeans do not see Muslims from North Africa or Turkey as Europeans, nor do they intend to allow them to be Europeans. The European solution to their isolation is the concept of multiculturalism — on the surface a most liberal notion, and in practice, a movement for both cultural fragmentation and ghettoization. But behind this there is another problem, and it is also geopolitical. I say in Flashpoints that:
Multiculturalism and the entire immigrant enterprise faced another challenge. Europe was crowded. Unlike the United States, it didn’t have the room to incorporate millions of immigrants — certainly not on a permanent basis. Even with population numbers slowly declining, the increase in population, particularly in the more populous countries, was difficult to manage. The doctrine of multiculturalism naturally encouraged a degree of separatism. Culture implies a desire to live with your own people. Given the economic status of immigrants the world over, the inevitable exclusion that is perhaps unintentionally incorporated in multiculturalism and the desire of like to live with like, the Muslims found themselves living in extraordinarily crowded and squalid conditions. All around Paris there are high-rise apartment buildings housing and separating Muslims from the French, who live elsewhere.
These killings have nothing to do with poverty, of course. Newly arrived immigrants are always poor. That’s why they immigrate. And until they learn the language and customs of their new homes, they are always ghettoized and alien. It is the next generation that flows into the dominant culture. But the dirty secret of multiculturalism was that its consequence was to perpetuate Muslim isolation. And it was not the intention of Muslims to become Europeans, even if they could. They came to make money, not become French. The shallowness of the European postwar values system thereby becomes the horror show that occurred in Paris last week.
The Mediterranean borderland was a place of conflict well before Christianity and Islam existed. It will remain a place of conflict even if both lose their vigorous love of their own beliefs. It is an illusion to believe that conflicts rooted in geography can be abolished. It is also a mistake to be so philosophical as to disengage from the human fear of being killed at your desk for your ideas. We are entering a place that has no solutions. Such a place does have decisions, and all of the choices will be bad. What has to be done will be done, and those who refused to make choices will see themselves as more moral than those who did. There is a war, and like all wars, this one is very different from the last in the way it is prosecuted. But it is war nonetheless, and denying that is denying the obvious.”
Christianity has been sapped of its evangelical zeal and no longer uses the sword to kill and convert its enemies. At least parts of Islam retain that zeal. And saying that not all Muslims share this vision does not solve the problem. Enough Muslims share that fervency to endanger the lives of those they despise, and this tendency toward violence cannot be tolerated by either their Western targets or by Muslims who refuse to subscribe to a jihadist ideology. And there is no way to distinguish those who might kill from those who won’t. The Muslim community might be able to make this distinction, but a 25-year-old European or American policeman cannot. And the Muslims either can’t or won’t police themselves. Therefore, we are left in a state of war. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called this a war on radical Islam. If only they wore uniforms or bore distinctive birthmarks, then fighting only the radical Islamists would not be a problem. But Valls’ distinctions notwithstanding, the world can either accept periodic attacks, or see the entire Muslim community as a potential threat until proven otherwise. These are terrible choices, but history is filled with them.
So Gave sees a problem originating in the Koran itself, which may not be fixable at all, and definitely not by anyone outside of the Muslim world. Nothing actionable on our end.
Friedman sees a problem originating partly in Islam, but also in Europe’s non-assimilation of Muslim immigrants, and in historical precedent. This is mainly actionable, as he suggests, in pretty ugly ways – deportation, racial profiling, war.
Marianne Williamson seems to agree that the ugly remedies are necessary, but she reminds us that these actions cannot address what she identifies as the true root cause of terrorism:
Terrorism is a manifestation of the accumulated moments when humanity has chosen not to love; but we still have the opportunity to choose again. We have the power to override the heinous efforts of those who terrorize, to overrule them and nullify their malevolence. First, however, we have to override our resistance to doing so. We must overrule our ego-based reticence about surrendering to love and making our lives its instrument. That is the contest which matters the most. Are we willing to rally to that cause, not just one day in Paris, but to the best of our ability every hour of every day of every year, not only when it’s easy but also when it’s difficult? Any moment when we don’t, is an inch of ground we cede to the terrorists. Any moment when we do, is a moment when we gain the upper hand, turn on the light that casts out darkness, and do the work of transforming our civilization into the sustainable, beautiful, and wondrous thing it is meant to be.
Guns alone can’t do it. Bombs alone can’t do it. Surveillance alone can’t do it. But with God’s help, we can.
Honestly, as much as I agree, that’s not enough for me personally, or the government as an institution, to do to combat terrorism unless you can somehow convince the terrorists to do it, as well.
George Washington Blog (via Barry Ritholtz) mentions causes not included above, although hinted at in Marianne’s column.
- …top American terrorism experts say that U.S. support for brutal and tyrannical countries in the Middle east – like Saudi Arabia – is one of the top motivators for Arab terrorists.
- James K. Feldman – former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies – and other experts say that foreign occupation is the main cause of terrorism. University of Chicago professor Robert A. Pape – who specializes in international security affairs – agrees.
- Top terrorism and interrogation experts agree that torture creates more terrorists.
- Top CIA officers say that drone strikes increase terrorism (and see this).
So they hate us because we are camping in their backyard by force, among other real harms that we are causing.
This post incorporates Marianne’s ideas into something a little more concrete, I think. At least 4 of the 7 specific actions GWBlog lists, and arguably 5, are about increasing the good in the world and eliminating the evil. These are things we can demand our government to take action on:
I. Stop Supporting the Dictators Who Fund Terrorists
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest sponsor of radical Islamic terrorists.
The Saudis have backed ISIS and many other brutal terrorist groups. According to sworn declarations from a 9/11 Commissioner and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11, the Saudi government backed the 9/11 hijackers (see section VII for details).
And the Saudis – with U.S. support – back the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.
And yet the U.S. has been supporting the Saudis militarily, with NSA intelligence and in every other way possible for 70 years.
… if we stop supporting the House of Saud and other Arab tyrannies, we’ll get a two-fold reduction in terror:
(1) We’ll undermine the main terrorism supporters
(2) We’ll take away one of the main motivations driving terrorists: our support for the most repressive, brutal Arab tyrannies
II. Stop Arming Terrorists
We’re arming the most violent terrorists in the Middle East, as part of a geopolitical strategy to overthrow leaders we don’t like (see section III for more details). And see this, this, this, this and this.
Previously-leaked documents showed that the CIA warned Obama that funding extremist rebels doesn’t work … but Obama decided to fund the Syrian rebels anyway for cynical political gain.
Indeed, the French terrorists who just murdered the cartoonists in Paris apparently just returned from waging war against the Syrian government, where they may – directly or indirectly – have obtained U.S. weapons and training.
And – strangely – we’re overthrowing the more moderate Arabs who stabilized the region and denied jihadis a foothold.
If we want to stop terrorism, we need to stop supporting the terrorists.
III. Stop Imperial Conquests for Arab Oil
The U.S. has undertaken regime change against Arab leaders we don’t like for six decades. We overthrew the leader of Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, Iraq twice, Afghanistan twice, Turkey, Libya … and other oil-rich countries.
Neoconservatives planned regime change throughout the Middle East and North Africa yet again in 1991.
Top American politicians admit that the Iraq oil was about oil, not stopping terrorism (documents from Britain show the same thing). Much of the war on terror is really a fight for natural gas. Or to force the last few hold-outs into dollars and private central banking.
We’ve fought the longest and most expensive wars in American history … but we’re less secure than before, and there are more terror attacks than ever.
Remember, Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.
If we want to stop terrorism, we have to stop overthrowing Arab leaders and invading Arab countries to grab their oil.
IV. Stop Mass Surveillance
V. Stop Torture
Indeed, the leaders of ISIS were motivated by U.S. torture.
If we want to stop creating new terrorists, we have to stop torturing … permanently.
VI. Stop Drone Assassinations of Innocent Civilians
The CIA – the agency in charge of drone strikes – even told Obama that drone kills can increase terrorism.
If we want to stop creating new terrorists, we have to stop the drone strikes.
VII. Stop Covering Up 9/11
Government officials agree that 9/11 was state-sponsored terrorism … they just disagree on which state was responsible.
Because 9/11 was the largest terror attack on the U.S. in history – and all of our national security strategies are based on 9/11 – we can’t stop terror until we get to the bottom of what really happened, and which state was behind it.
Although to be fair, Ms. Williamson identifies the root cause of why these 7 actions are unlikely to happen, and the one change that we really need to demand from our government right now:
Money runs politics in America today, which means financial interests determine the allocation of resources to everything from military to education to humanitarian expenditures.
Until America deals with the fundamental issue of the corporate takeover of the U.S. government, there is no reason to think that the driving force in our foreign policy will ever be a true desire for peace.