Not free thought for those that agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate – US Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1929
Terrorism is here to stay, and it is now beginning to impact the economic performance of many nations – in particular the performance of the service sector.
ISIS versus modernity and the west
Relative power of ISIS versus Europe: The usual determinants of relative power (e.g. wealth or the size of an army) are not very relevant to assessing the struggle between ISIS and the West. [By ISIS we refer not only to ISIS proper, but to any of its affiliated groups as well.] For the conflict is less a militaristic one than it is a war of nerves between Jihadists who carry out scattered sting operations, and Europeans and Americans lacking both the will and the coordination to properly respond. An additional source of Jihadist power stems from their status as True Believers, making them a very dangerous kind of opponent. Their moral certainty immunizes them against normal threats such as being killed. The number who do not fear death is sufficient to spell trouble for decades ahead.
What is it that makes these extremists so morally superior, and so hateful of the West? In part, their superiority stems from their absolute faith in the truth of the teachings of the Koran. But this is only the tip of an iceberg of hatred. For their religious convictions are amplified by their detestation of the cultural, economic, ethical, and political values of Westerners. At a deep level, their terrorism stems from their hatred of modernity itself. We in the West are seen as weak and morally dissolute. For not only do we possess no religious fervor, but we lack moral resolve of any kind due to the anesthetizing effects of our materialistic, welfare-based social system. Such ethical values as we have stem not from fear of any God, but rather from an attachment to mushy concepts of "fairness" ranging from the "right" to nine weeks of vacation, to t he right to never be drafted to fight a war. In the US, citizens' erstwhile chant of "give me liberty or give me death" has morphed into "give me liberty or give me latte." All in all, ISIS' conviction of holding the moral high ground is a major source of their power over the West.
Reinforcing this power of fundamentalists is their strategy of implementing fragmented hit-or- miss strikes. They specialize in ongoing, unnerving terrorist attacks in public places. The West's superiority in the number of security personnel and in intelligence-gathering does little to prevent these random attacks which can occur in hundreds of different emporia. In this regard, it is sobering that more than 5,000 EU-based fighters have already been to Syria for training in terrorist tactics, according to the US-based consultancy Soufan. This number will grow given the poor economic conditions in Europe where the unemployment rate of males under 30 exceeds 25% in many nations.
Finally, today's ongoing Jihadist attacks are concurrent with the new European immigration crisis. Given the implications of soaring immigration for tighter border controls, the increasing threat of Brexit, and problems endemic to the Euro, it is likely that the EU as we have known it will cease to exist. There will then be no semblance of any "unified" EU stance against ISIS. Instead, we will observe fragmented and ineffectual responses as well as the suspension of many civil liberties now taken for granted.
This brief analysis suggests that the power of ISIS against Europe is much greater than might appear to be the case, despite Europe's greatly superior power as traditionally measured.
A war against modernity: The importance of the culture war underlying the Jihadists' hatred of Westerners cannot be understated. In their eyes, we are modernist devil worshippers. Women should be kept at home, devoid of any rights. They should be virgins when they marry. Adultery is a sin punishable by death, as is homosexuality. The fact that many citizens of Muslim nations do not share these views does not seem to matter. Consider Iran: the majority of the people value democracy, and even look favorably on the US. But so what? The Mullahs and the Red Guard rule with an iron fist, as we have seen during the recent elections when the candidates favored by most voters were stricken from ballot list. Moreover, Iran's autocratic leaders are out in front in an effort to fund terrorist groups, in one form or another.
Consider the words of the eminent Simon Schama in a recent March 26 Financial Times Op-Ed piece:
We are not talking fine points of Shia-Sunni theological controversy here. By every means possible Isis is at pains to let us know they will kill as many of us as it takes to sow such mayhem in the heartland of the kaffir world that it will be impossible to resist mobilising the "Crusader" army for the promised apocalyptic showdown out of which the Caliphate will emerge forever victorious.
Also consider the comments of Professor R. Vaidanathan of the IIMB in Bangalore:
Radical Islam is not fighting Christianity – which anyhow is dead in Europe – but it is fighting modernity. Islam is frightened of modernity destroying their religion and culture, however unacceptable this culture may be to European liberals.....
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