Monday, July 6, 2015

Obama, ISIS, and the war of Ideas by Adrian Brooks



I love Obama but I think he's wrong when he says that the way to defeat ISIS is through "ideology." It's self-evident that ISIS members are the worst Muslims imaginable. Still, it is a mistake to imagine that they can be reasoned out of their beliefs or that their barbarism is something Western problem-solving can amend.

The Shia Sunni split in Islam dates to the 7th century. That schism is an internal matter. Each side claims the sacred mantle of the Prophet. Each bases its actions on its interpretation of the Koran. Given the contorted history following the end of the Ottoman Empire in WW1, and the meddling of the colonial powers, a tragic choreography is playing out.

I'm not claiming to have any answers. But ideologues who behead women or sell them as slaves or "wives" to their own troops won't substitute anything for their belief system or values. Waging holy war- Jihad, is seen as a sacred duty for 'the Faithful,' and, whatever we may think, the people in ISIS are, indeed, acting in accordance with their interpretation of what their religion requires. As such, while Obama's maturity is commendable, he's wrong about seeing this as a war of ideas. After all, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."