Part Four in the Certain Violence Series
In the previous post in this series we identified absolutism as the core driver of ideological violence: the idea that one possesses a perfect truth that may be imposed on others, denying them choice. From the discussion:
- Claims of enforceable truths, of infallible universal application, are the main engine for radical behavior, and provide its rationalizations (“crazed mind juice”).
As we saw last time, the freedom of conscience is violated, and adherents rapidly descend the slippery slope to dehumanizing opponents, denying them freedom or life itself. The central role of the freedom of conscience in shaping our democratic societies was touched upon earlier in this series, so now we direct our main attention to the concrete measures and policies that can roll back, erode or destroy the infrastructure that today supports global Islamic terror.
Although there are many situations in which armed conflict might advance our interests, against ideas one can win battles yet see endless war. Foremost, then, we must understand that it is a war of ideas we must wage, but not fearing to supplement it via military measures when these have clear purpose and effect. To that end I propose a series of actionable measures below.
The Seeds of Violence
To begin, there are three elements that need to be in place for the kind of ideological violence we see today to result. Dealing with each forms part of an overall solution.
- A triggering condition, such as moral outrage, spurring actions of the moment, or the slow effect of the various forms of alienation. This is what erodes natural empathy and can close the mind. This is a necessary but insufficient condition, as historically this has led to a full range of human responses, from nonviolent protest to terror. Most analysis we read in the Western press today focuses on this point alone, in an admirable yet mistaken mea culpa that paints recent action in opposition to tyranny as evil (not that all actions were indeed correct or moral). As this ignores the option of nonviolent responses to triggering conditions, it falls quite short in explanatory power.
- An enabling narrative. Take your pick of historical examples from among political, religious, or social narratives. Those narratives leading to widespread innocent bloodshed have a common element: absolutism. At their core there is an idea of a pure, complete, unchanging and unchallengeable truth, or the unquestionable purity of a theory or race. Perfect truths demand perfect understanding, so all of these narratives have shown historically that the main violence, at least until there is a single victor, is among adherents to establish the one right and true interpretation. Note, too, that the potency of the narrative increases with societal approval around the terrorist-to-be; that is, nonviolent others may applaud in policy and in the home what terrorists undertake in action, encouraging violence.
- Access to resources. One can feel anger at a group or society, subscribe to horrible notions, and yet remain inactive due to a lack of plans, finances, or other resources. Access to information, money, and weapons is the final enabling factor that precedes acts of terror.
The danger represented by these enabling elements is more critically immediate as we go down the list, so the effort to oppose terror starts with the last, and works backwards. Again, this is the opposite of the usual response, which typically starts and ends with an exculpatory narrative that is self-defeating, often making the perpetrators of terror sound like innocent third parties.
Note, too, that the dynamics of alienation do very little to explain how well-adjusted, socially integrated young people in the West can turn to terror, so it is the least explanatory factor of all, and so the last and least important source of countermeasures, not the first.
Before continuing, allow me to add that in the case of Israel and the US, these countries have their own internal groups that also preach their own brand of unreason. The same cautions and observations regarding their denial of conscience applies; the idea is not to blacken Islam, but to identify the common attitude that lies behind the violence of many ideologies or specific takes on a faith, owing to their common absolutism.
Today, such critique is most needed for Islam in the form it is preached and followed by many, by a wide margin and for obvious reasons. But note, too, that this common absolutism mutes the comments of many proponents of other ideologies or religious sects, as honest analysis would otherwise quickly reveal the core dangers they all share. This is unfortunately resulting in a host of public statements that only act to reinforce, not lessen, absolutist thought.
So far, crudely speaking, we have a faux liberal strain of apology for terror, and a conservative strain of either unguided militaristic statements or derivations dangerously close to Christian extremist positions coming from the West in response to terror. As hit or miss strategies that are not sufficiently analytical, and as they contain their own form of misunderstanding of foundational democratic values, neither approach solves, while both promise no end to bloodshed.
We must not allow the fine sound of soothing yet misguided statements of tolerance for hate lull conscience while innocent blood is spilled time and again. That is complicity of the kind we will come to loath.
Organized violence is not senseless. It is directed by ideology and aimed and financed by evil hearts in search of power.
Denying Access to Resources
The following measures are intended not only to stop the financing and arming of terrorists, but the first measure also applies to those who traffic in humans or protected species, who distribute illegal drugs, and those who avoid bearing their fair share of the burdens of protecting freedom.
- Close all financial havens. All countries and territories, regardless of possible standing as allies, who allow banking and similar practices that shield depositors from full due legal and tax scrutiny should be first warned fairly, then in very short order sanctioned and boycotted if their practices do not comply, prohibiting travel to and from those locations, electronic communications with them, and any form of trade outside essential humanitarian supplies. Diplomatic ties should be severed if change is not forthcoming, and this includes places such as Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, territorial possessions of the UK, and Monaco, not just the usual small island suspects.
Long enough we’ve seen how these havens protect those who harm the innocent, or simply hide fortunes from the taxes that finance the freedoms and privileges that their owners enjoy at others’ expense. This is particularly true of corporations, control of whom would also benefit from a global charter registry and a minimum tax worldwide, pro-rated among the nations they operate in, but further detail on this goes beyond our concerns for now. An entire grab bag of miscreants, ranging from terrorists to criminals, would find their activities far less easy to engage in were we to close these financial havens.
Finally, engaging in any form of parallel or unofficial banking, international clearing houses, and so on, should be classified as a international felony pursued by Interpol, with major penitentiary time accruing on the first offense. And by the way, kill Bitcoin.
- Close the toxic flow of ideology. Those countries not actively shutting down terrorist web sites and ending illicit social media uses, or those incapable of so doing, should first be warned, and then have all communications cut. The flow of enabling hate speech must stop, including using ICANN and major DNS services for denial of service. This of course includes the many official government sites that preach and support the denial of conscience and/or murder in the name of God, as in the case of blasphemy laws.
The stages of application would include cyberattacks on specific offenders, then the denial of all service to a territory, and finally, should this prove less than 100% effective, the physical severance of all communications cables entering that country. This would include the jamming of radio, television and satellite signals, so that hate speech cannot find its way onto our or their airwaves and into homes by sanctioned means.
This measure takes little space to explain, but is an ace in our sleeve we should not be shy to use. The impact of a loss of outside communications would be devastating to the government in power and to national commerce, providing a strong incentive for compliance.
- Deny access to weapons of mass murder. Small arms and explosives are the number one method for killing innocents across the planet. Larger weapons, normally sold between governments, should bear scrutiny, as should the regimes in question, but except for their loss to the enemy during engagement and later use, these arms do not represent the primary weapons used against the innocent. The international sale of bullets, small arms and similar equipment should be controlled and vetted by the joint security and diplomatic services of an alliance such as NATO and its member states, plus other like-minded countries.
Given the potential for self-manufacture of firearms, all 3D printers should have an identifying electronic signature and require internet access to operate, so that they may be disabled if needed, with purchases requiring a license. Those countries outside the alliance and not joining this initiative should face a reduction in their fair trade status, with tariffs on their goods financing the efforts directed at stopping the distribution and use of the weapons they supply.
In future, the single-user DNA or similar protection mechanisms that are available should be mandatory in the manufacture of all firearms of any kind, including for the military. This would lead to all uses of any firearm being traceable to the owner or authorized user, and restrict their use only to those owners. The sale or distribution of firearms without this protection should be a criminal offense.
Draconian? Perhaps. However, we are weighing the delay of these measures against the number of lost innocent lives every day that goes by without them. Continued and willful failure to recognize the freedom of conscience should carry the high, permanent price of being shunned from moral society and denied the fruits of technology. Clearly, without free choice there is no free inquiry, so enjoying these fruits is felony theft for those who oppose basic freedoms.
One might argue the communications isolation outlined above would impede the entry of modern ideas into these societies. To the contrary, it was the enforcement of dysfunctional orthodoxy that made the last ideological empire, the USSR, fall from within and, in so doing, naturally delegitimize its dangerous dogmas; few argue today for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Our communication systems were not meshed with the Soviet block, in this case for reasons of their own. It still fell.
Business-as-usual finances these regimes, falsely props their longevity, and acts to legitimize their views. Lesser contact makes the accusation that internal supporters of change represent outside influence far weaker, and the travails they oppose more visibly common and palpable to those they wish to convince. Lastly, it is a conceit to think that freedom and justice must be taught; they are naturally aspired to under repression.
These measures alone merely partially impede the realization of the final stage, access to resources. Without other, more fundamental and longer term measures, we have yet to assemble an effective set of measures to reduce to a minimum the flow, and success, of hate speech and totalitarian ideologies, and the terror they spawn.
Destroy the Enabling Narrative
First, Destroy the Cover Provided by Institutional Islam
The useless distraction of differentiating between extremist vs moderate forms of Islam can be avoided by noting that 45 nation-states, the bulk of institutional, mainstream Islam, have already defined the position of moderate Islam on human rights, and so the workings of civil society they would see in practice.
As many of these nations also declare that the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights is not compatible with Islam, the pressure to sign the UDHR and implement it into local law resulted in a counter-offer, so to speak: the Cairo Declaration on Islamic Rights. I suggest the reader carefully scrutinize this document, best if done while reading up on the freedom of conscience to keep a healthy standard handy for comparison. I will not go into a lengthy debunking here, as I can easily fall into the sort of ridicule I best avoid. Suffice it to say, the narrative contained in this declaration fully enables the dehumanization of others, as Islam places itself in – here it is, in plain sight – absolute and unlimited authority.
We needn’t scrutinize the current forms of the teachings of Islam, then, as these representative countries have done that for us, and placed them into plain view in distilled form, an agreed core shared by the main sects of the faith. It thus reveals institutional Islam as an amazingly absolutist creed in its current form. It makes no allowance for the great limitations of truth in the hands of mortals, worst of all.
In prior posts from this series, we have argued that:
- Subjective experience is the seat of each man and each woman’s existence and Will, hosted in mind or embodied in soul. This Inner Light is sacred for believers and is the closest thing to it for unbelievers, as it is the locus of magnificent and wondrous experience, and where we exercise choice. We do not consider ourselves to be free, or truly alive, without choice.
- That speech which would advocate extinguishing, denying choice to, or harming the Inner Light of any individual or group, outside the protection of innocents, is hate speech.
- Enlightened belief will not extinguish the Inner Light (will not sin), rather nurture it
- Respect for beliefs applies exclusively to those who recognize the logically equal standing of each Inner Light
In view of the foregoing, the Cairo Declaration can be seen to be hate speech, and should be withdrawn as entirely and completely unacceptable. From earlier in the series:
The main task before Islam today is for Islamic institutions to unambiguously define and then implement in policy what peaceful Islam is, specifically with respect to the core tenets of the faith; “un-Islamic” means nothing without this. To be peaceful and respectful will require full and unfettered acceptance of non-believers, those of other faiths, and those that leave the faith, as free and equal men and women in society. And that they be accorded the full respect and rights they deserve.
And no waffling on that by us! Because this narrative of injustice provides mental cover to those who would slay the innocent and enslave the free, because it is hate speech, it should be the focus of a prolonged, loud, and insistent campaign in order to (1) identify in the minds of Western political opinion the official and main source of apology for terrorism, (2) call on all of these nation-states to ratify, adopt in policy, place into law, and fully implement the freedom of conscience, if not the entire UDHR, and (3) restrain or deny trade or other resources to the countries in question, outside of humanitarian goods.
Islam has its canon, and adjusting it, modifying it or gaining new perspective is a task solely for its followers. (However, my reading and research indicates that the claim to supremacy is so ingrained and central to the core tenets of Islam that I have my doubts this can be done.) A Renaissance in Islam is sorely needed, especially the criticism of early texts that other religions have been subjected to. The little published in this regard indicates that there is some hope that such research may help show its followers that parts of the Koran are in clear error, even taken on their own merits.
Finally coming to terms with the fact that, regardless of any purported original or foundational veracity, Islam is as subject to the foibles, limitations, and errors of Man as any other creed would do wonders to unleaven the inflated, absolutist bread. Let us encourage Islam to begin the long and substantial journey it needs to fully undertake to join the modern world in peace.
Second, Undermine the False Appearance of Normalcy
- Advertising. The advertising and propaganda served by Gulf States and others over the airwaves of media companies such as CNN, as well as the sponsorship of highly visible sports teams and events in Europe, provides a constant source of misguidance to the less wary, or the insidious. In these programs, these countries portray themselves as modern, friendly to science, and allied with progress. Do I need to explain why and how this is not so? Fine, so let us agree that allowing these messages to flow unimpeded acts to place repressive regimes, beliefs and societies in a false light. This false light aids the violent in thinking they are allied with a worthy and respectable society. Enough of that, ban advertising and sponsorship by pariah societies. Joining the modern world is not a question of using oil money to place fluffy adverts while using slave labor, as is the practice in the region.
- Tourism and Work Stays. These activities should be restricted only to nation-states having approved and fully implemented protections for the freedom of conscience. As this would include many nation-states that are not related to the current wave of terror, initially this measure should be targeted at places exhibiting the religious fanaticism that leads to terror, such as Uganda, with its Christian extremism, and Muslim nation-states. Travel or work in these countries, meantime, should mean heavy fines for business, and criminal prosecution for individuals disrespecting the ban, since they are fostering terrorism by indirectly yet materially supporting a covering narrative.
Currently, we financially support the nation-states that preach a creed in a form that would deny us all of our freedoms, our freedom to choose, and our very lives. I think it time we decided that consuming poison, or seeing it administered to others, is bad for our society. Pariah nations supporting hate speech should be treated as what they are, pariahs.
[Breaking News: In light of this discussion, examine the arguments made today by President Erdogan in this speech before the G20. I counted an intentional misdirect about every other sentence, and the general idea that terrorists have, in fact, no ideology driving them. Absurd. See also the poorly crafted Mme. Le Pen speeches in France, with some messy identification of cause, and no idea of proper response, given her own absolutist political views. Meanwhile, Pakistan has very recently announced the intention to develop tactical battlefield nuclear weapons; this from a country with a very bad client list, including the Taliban.]
Lessen the Triggering Conditions
Certainly there is a great element of truth to the observation that the proximate cause of current conditions in Iraq, Syria and Libya has been foreign intervention, dismantling the authoritarian regimes in place. Although such authoritarianism is no ally to modernity, and should be condemned on its own demerits, the removal of regimes by the outside using military force has been shown to be the most powerful terror recruiting message of all. The moral outrage that a youth can feel by seeing innocents (the West’s “collateral damage”) die at the hands of impersonal missiles that rain from the sky is a potent emotion. Regardless of argument for or against any specific military action, we must recognize that it acts as a dampener for today, but can foster future terror tomorrow. It must be used wisely and with clear purpose.
This places the onus for solving the immediate situation in Iraq and Syria squarely on regional players, who today undertake proxy wars in the absolutists’ fight for the supreme interpretation of Islam. However, there is a role for us to play in protecting innocent lives, in the form of aid to refugees.
With regards to military action in general, this topic is widely discussed, and is therefore in less need for highlighting than the other measures proposed, although there is one final concrete suggestion farther below. Meanwhile, of all those fighting, it does seem the Kurdish people have the greater respect for diversity, and legitimate grievances from historical oppression. They are, in my mind, worth supporting. (Turkey, long the possible lead in modernizing Islam, runs now in the opposite direction.)
The other measure worth exploring is the proper and healthy integration of Muslims in the West, and the development of ME economies. For the former, this is best accomplished by stressing those core values we hold in common in the West, and promoting the idea that it is shared values, including our freedoms, not shared race or origin, that truly unites. After all, we all have our own internal, non-Muslim terrorists who do not share those values and who often fall into the demagoguery of racism. The ongoing fight against racism, ethnocentrism, extremism, economic exclusion and belligerent ideology is, then, simply something we should continue, albeit with more diligence.
This should include adding an oath upon entry to support the freedom of conscience and the UDHR from all immigrants, from all countries and regardless of creed, which can then be sufficient grounds for permanent deportation if denial of these freedoms is ever advocated in writing or speech, in any venue, religious or secular. (It would be interesting to request a statement from representative Muslim organizations in the West indicating their support for this measure, or rejection of it, to clarify positions.) This type of measure, used in the past by the US for other ideologies, can actually work in practice.
As for the Middle East, some of what I have suggested earlier would in the short term act to repress and even wholly undermine the economies of the region. However, it is my belief that it is the lack of fundamental freedoms that most acts to depress the power and scope of human potential, so that eliminating this repression is the first and required step in creating healthy economic and political societies in the region.
A Caveat: Oil
Running in the back of minds of readers must be the thought that none of this is possible, that we are beholden to the oil of the region, and are incapable of acting in the face of a possible embargo.
In the case of the two financiers, wily crafters of terror policy, and lead apologists for Muslim extremism, Iran and Saudi Arabia, I am of the opinion that the time has arrived to be more aggressive. This is by far the “iffiest” of the recommendations I make, but as I’ve mentioned throughout this and the first series, the lives of innocents come first.
Should any embargo be made against us, we should occupy their oil fields in the immediate Gulf region, control the nearby waterways and administer them, including providing a fair portion of revenues to the countries in question. However, release of funds should be irremediably tied to compliance with the freedom of conscience. The rest of the revenue should be used to cover the costs of the responsibilities they bear from giving safe haven to the messages of terror: the support of refugees from Islamic terror, the cost of humanitarian aid to its victims, the cost of any military campaigns, including the occupation of the oil fields, and the reparations owed to all victims of terror from ISIS, al-Qaeda or similar others.
This occupation, the ultimate denial of resources, should be undertaken with the understanding that it has no relation to nation-building, and focus on a hard perimeter and protection of operations and personnel. Full stop.
As the most draconian measure by far, and the most counter to peace, I would avoid this measure until all of the others have been shown to be insufficient. A very, very last punitive resort. But if needed, then needed.
Who can do these things? Who can implement any of these measures? An alliance of modern nations, including the US, the rest of NATO, Israel, and others who so wish. Certainly not the UN (look who sits on the UN HR Council; the UN lives in contradiction of its, and our, principles). Today, none of this seems likely. Tomorrow, following strenuous debate, public pressure, and in the face of strong conviction, who knows? What we do know for a fact is that the terror will continue, that innocents will die, until we find a way to stop the flow of toxic ideology.
Isn’t there a high cost for us in terms of a recession or depression from attempting such measures? By weighing the cost today against the horrifically high cost tomorrow of continuing on the path we are on, I know what answer I come up with: it is worth it. What price do you place on saving thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent human lives, plus stopping or reducing the drug and slave trades?
This post is easily by far my most polemic. Until now, I have studiously attempted to avoid emotional argument. But I ask your forbearance to close now, and end this series, with some words from the heart.
First, I would repeat and add: Respect for beliefs applies exclusively to those who recognize the logically equal standing of each Inner Light, each person, each soul, each individual will.
Denial of the freedom of conscience deserves none.
For that is what best aligns with the core arguments of the social contract, of freedom and democracy, and represents a call to duty for those who would defend the innocent whenever or wherever choice is denied with violence and repression.
Believers are not the enemy. Militant extreme beliefs and toxic cultural stews are. If we beat the anti-absolutist drum, no back door is opened for the political extremes of right or left; our passions do not exhibit any violence beyond rhetorical flourish, and all extremes are equally dismissed with the same arguments in hand. No alliance with those who would turn on both modernity and the Jewish people, once their own goals are met.
The ideological war of the 21st century has taken shape and reached open conflict. I, for one, will stand for no return to the 1930s, much less for what came after. What’s that saying about evil triumphing and good men? It’s time, high time, the right time, to take a stand.
This is the portentous moment in our generation that we either show ourselves stronger in wisdom and foresight than many of our forebears, or continue to see the horrors they witnessed ever anew. This time, an effort equal in scope and unswerving conviction to that of WWII must come first for those who love justice, and not too late, only in time to mourn our grotesque moral failures. Let’s take on the absolutists, head on and without fear. Pens, laws and strong measures first, and ultimately with more, only if at clearest need and in just defense of the innocent.
Believers and non-believers alike, good men and women everywhere: Unfurl the banners of freedom, sound the trumpets of justice, buckle the moral outrage into a corset of fair conviction, and make all preparation to defend the innocent, with our very lives whenever and wherever needed. Charge! Charge, lovers of life and freedom, charge! Our dear friends are dying, and the world’s conscience with them.
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Et pour mes amis français:
Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
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[Note: Should the reader find me unreasonable or unhinged, he/she may perhaps find clarifying context by reviewing the full arguments in both series. For what remains at odds with your ethics or preference, please do consider formulating measures you might add to discussion as an excellent way to move forward.
This concludes my two series (8 posts) directed at formulating an ethical response to terror, with as little focus on death and destruction as possible, but hopefully not lacking warranted conviction nor eschewing muscular action when needed. We must heed the profound lament of the innocent, and take the long hard path to their safe keeping.]