On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the threat of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant was “beyond anything we’ve seen.” He explained:
They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else…as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen…They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of … military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we’ve seen.
Just months ago, in February, Hagel stumped for some of the largest cuts to the military in American history; he proposed cutting the Army to pre-World War II size. “For the first time in 13 years we will be presenting a budget to the Congress of the United States that’s not a war-footing budget,” Hagel explained. “That’s a defining budget because it starts to reset and reshape.”
This has been working out beautifully.
But at least Hagel acknowledges that ISIS’ ideology is a threat. Not so for the president he serves. President Obama stated on Tuesday, “ISIL speaks for no religion….ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt….People like this ultimately fail.”
This is asinine.
First off, it begs one question: whom, exactly, is Obama addressing? ISIL could not care less about President Obama’s interpretation of Islam. Those who are potential ISIL recruits likely do not see the president as a Koranic scholar. Which suggests that his commentary is aimed at Americans. In which case, Obama seems to be saying, “Take it easy, folks. No need to worry. ISIL will fail because they’re mean.”
But ideologies do not fail just because they are brutal or nasty or evil. In fact, that’s one reason that ideologies often succeed in drawing people. In 1940, George Orwell reviewed Hitler’s Mein Kampf. His explication of Hitlerism’s draw is fascinating:
[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues….Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life.
And this is the point. ISIS offers brutality and violence, evil and barbarism. But they offer a higher glory to those who buy into their horrific system. That is why so many Muslims growing up in Western countries – those whom leftist theory suggest should be most likely to embrace Westernism – are joining ISIS.
Weeks ago, an ISIS flag flew in East London near Canary Wharf. National Journal has reported that “an estimated 12,000 foreign fighters [have been attracted] to its black banner flying over Syrian and Iraqi territory, including hundreds of Europeans and Americans who can travel freely with Western passports.”
The man who beheaded journalist James Wright Foley was likely British. The man who beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was British-born. The infamous picture of a seven-year-old boy in Syria holding a human head came from an Australian jihadist. Birth control and welfare payments will not buy them off.
That’s why Obama’s statement on ISIS’ ideology is so counterproductive. It is empty bluster rather than action. Instead of suggesting to Americans that ISIS will collapse of its own ideological weakness, and instead of paternalistically lecturing those who wish to murder Americans on their own ideology, Obama ought to be busy planning how we destroy ISIS. Philosophic naval-gazing only underscores for ISIS allies and potential allies that our ideology is weak – after all, why sort of people would allow its citizens to be beheaded, then issue whiny statements about it rather than sending the missiles?
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.