If we only had a brain
by Tom Sullivan
At Foreign Policy, Stephan Walt considers what America might be doing if we were really serious about addressing terrorism. For some reason, he doesn't think we are.
Jumping around here.
I’m positive organizations like Fox News and CNN do not intend to help al Qaeda or the Islamic State, but that is in fact precisely what they are doing.
One of the best ways to discredit extremist movements is to make them look ridiculous, so that joining or backing them is seen as stupid, uncool, or embarrassing. Instead of constantly portraying the Islamic State and its ilk as cruel, cunning, fanatical, dedicated, dangerous, etc., we should spend at least as much time depicting them as ignorant, backward, inept, misguided, and absurd.
Neutralize the fear? What a concept. Walt offers a couple of examples. Apparently this is how it is done in Middle Eastern countries.
Walt also thinks we should have a serious discussion of how U.S. foreign policy contributes to the problem:
Even now, there is a widespread tendency to believe extremist violence comes out of nowhere or that it occurs because some unfortunate individuals are frustrated by their inability to find meaningful lives and thus vulnerable to fantasies of various sorts. To be sure, people alienated from the societies in which they dwell are sometimes drawn to acts of mass violence, but that fact hardly means U.S. foreign policy is irrelevant. As I pointed out back in 2009, the United States is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims over the past three decades, a sum vastly greater than the number of Americans killed by Muslims. It would be remarkable indeed if our actions had not led a small fraction of their co-religionists to want to retaliate in some way.
To say this does not justify the slaughter of innocents or suggest even remotely that what groups like the Islamic State are doing is justified. Nor does this imply that U.S. policy is solely responsible for this problem. Rather, my point is that any serious effort to address this problem has to begin by understanding its origins. If we ignore any of the key underlying causes, we are likely to keep doing things that nurture and sustain the very behavior we are trying to prevent.
Learning from the past is not allowed. Walt quotes here Ernst May of the 9/11 Commission:
“[T]he report skirts the question of whether American policies and actions fed the anger that manifested itself on September 11…. [it] is weak in laying out evidence for the alternative argument that the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Capitol might not have been targeted absent America’s identification with Israel, support for regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, and insensitivity to Muslims’ feelings about their holy places. The commissioners believed that American foreign policy was too controversial to be discussed except in recommendations written in the future tense. Here we compromised our commitment to set forth the full story.”
We don't do nuance. We never do nuance. Nuance is for losers. If Trump hasn't said it yet, give him time.