Wednesday, 1 May 2019

"It is no longer enough to say 'That’s awful' and then move on; we need a serious reckoning with this war, with the rise of seventh-century barbarism, and with the collapse of any semblance of moral restraint among the new terrorists." #QotD

"From the US to Europe, from the Middle East to the subcontinent, tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered by Islamist [terrorists].
    "This terrorism seems to have utterly dispensed with the old rules of engagement. Its battleground is as likely to be a church or a school or a hospital or a queue of children as it is a piece of land claimed by an opposing military outfit. It follows no moral code whatsoever. Its defining feature is a glaring and terrifying absence of moral restraint. Anything is acceptable. Anyone can be killed. There is no code or rule or even basic human impulse that says to these groups: 'Don’t do that. Not here. Not at a Sunday school.'
    "This means the new barbarism is very different to the violent groups that existed in the 1970s and 80s. These outfits, such as the Palestine Liberation Organisation or the Irish Republican Army, were usually, though not always, restrained by their political motives and ambitions, contained and controlled by their political beliefs.
    "Their claim to represent a political outlook and a political constituency meant they tended to behave within a basic moral framework. Their claim to be serious political actors meant they carefully tailored and targeted their militaristic acts. Their acts of violence were frequently bloody, of course, but they rarely did what Islamist terrorists do today: seek to kill as many people as possible, ideal­ly women and children, in a kind of perverse display of pornographic misanthropy, and with no higher aim than to devastate lives, communities and the human family more broadly.
    "For a few years now, some observers — not nearly enough — have tried to get to grips with the new barbarism, with this utterly unanchored, unrestrained, death-glorying violence. A 2005 New York Times piece titled 'The mystery of the insurgency' commented on Iraqi insurgents’ massacre of civilians and how historically unusual it was. This 'surge in the killing of civilians' reflects 'how mysterious the long-term strategy remains,' it said.
    "The writer arrived at a horrifying conclusion: that maybe there was no long-term strategy; that maybe killing civilians was the strategy, was the overriding aim. Death for death’s sake..."
    "The [vapid reactions] to the attacks in Sri Lanka [however] captures Western liberal elites’ caginess about morally and politically confronting [this] new barbarism...
    "A weak and morally disoriented West that will not strongly condemn the nihilistic ideology behind the slaughter of Christians in Sri Lanka, or the bombing of children in Manchester, or the gunning down of rock fans in Paris, is a West that cannot feign surprise when such violence continues. It is no longer enough to say 'That’s awful' and then move on; we need a serious reckoning with [this war], the rise of seventh-century barbarism, and the collapse of any semblance of moral restraint among the new terrorists."

       ~ Brendan O'Neill, from his post 'Islamist barbarism thrives on West’s weak response'


  1. It's not a war, though, is it? If there's no military or political goal, it's literally mindless violence.

    Perhaps its opponents - both within the Islamic world, and the West - are being done a cognitive disservice by maintaining a warfighting mentality.

    1. I would say it is a war. Not a war as we've traditionally known it with individual nations, easily definable opponents, and limited to the military action; but a war nonetheless. It a geo-political threat to our safety and security, originating from a particular ideology (so in that respects it's not "mindless"). It's a threat that will remain until it's confronted and defeated. It's a war that requires both cultural, political, and at times military forces to win.

      Why do you claim it's not a war, and what "cognitive disservice" do you believe is being done in calling it one? I would suggest the opposite - that in not calling it and regarding it as a war, we limit our ability to defeat it.

  2. I think you touch on the main one - by treating it as a war, most expenditure and focus is on military action. (Which is itself legitimate; I don't mean to say that we _shouldn't_ be bombing enemy training camps. We should, and with great vigor.)

    But unlike a war, it's an ideological fight. We can't withdraw (the fight is on our turf too), we can't win a war of attrition (with whom?), we can't win a war for territory (the killing is happening on our own), we can't win by destroying infrastructure, either industrial or military.

    It's also literally never-ending. Do we really want to be on a war footing, forever? I don't think that's a healthy response, culturally or economically.

    Actually, thinking on it some more ... quite often the enemy here is comprised of citizens and naturalized people. Perhaps it would make sense to think of it, oddly, as a _civil_ war?

    1. I agree the focus shouldn't be exclusively on military action. But I don't think the author, nor myself mean that when we call it a 'war'. We're talking about the mindset that needs to be adopted. We need to treat the issue with appropriate seriousness - and adopt the mindset that it is a war, where either we defeat them, or they destroy us. Military action is a necessary ingredient at times, but it's a cultural war more than anything else. If the right 'war' mindset is adopted, the need for military engagement to counter the threat actually decreases rather than increases - as should the anxiety it creates our individual lives.


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