Breitbart News spoke with Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, about his call to action to destroy the Islamic State Terror group, the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, as well as advice for conservative college students on campus. The New York Times has described Dr. George as the United States most influential conservative Christian thinker.
Breitbart News: Tell us about your petition that calls upon President Obama to not contain, not stop, but destroy the Islamic State terror group?
Dr. Robert P. George: It is now clear that the Islamic State is serious about its intention to form a caliphate in the Middle East. IS has made clear in the most practical and vivid way that it will use any means necessary to do that. It will murder people; it will rape women; it will torture people; it will bury people alive; it will cut off people’s heads; it will commit genocide against communities standing in its way– Christian, Yazidi, Shia Muslim– even those elements in the Sunni community in Iraq that do not go along with the ideology of IS.
Breitbart News: Why Should Western Civilization Care about what is going on in the Middle East?
Dr. Robert P. George: We would be foolish to avert our gaze and pretend that we don’t hear or don’t take seriously these threats. It would be a humanitarian delinquency on the part of the United States if we did not do what we could to stop the genocide, murders, rapes, and tortures of innocents. We have a moral obligation to stop IS. But beyond that, it is within our national security interests to defeat IS now. IS openly plans on committing acts of terror in Europe and the Middle East. Even if we were to lay aside humanitarian concerns– which we should not do– we have a powerful interest in defeating IS right now, before they use the resources at their disposal to carry out terrorism in the United States and Europe.
Breitbart News: Why now? What has changed over the past few years to now demand action to stop the Islamist radicals marching across the Middle East?
Dr. Robert P. George: IS began as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Even by AQ standards, it was extreme in its violence. It has now become wealthier than Al Qaeda ever was; its better organized; it is more efficient. We are dealing with something astonishingly violent and evil. They have now conquered territory; they control substantial tracts of land– including major cities– they are on the move. The forces fighting against IS are doing a valiant job, but they will not succeed without support from the US in the form of intensified airstrikes, air cover, and strategic and intelligence support. Its now clear that ISIS is not a localized problem. IS is a violent force that plans on conquering the entire Middle East, and creating an Islamic caliphate.
Breitbart News: Being someone who is well-grounded in philosophy and ideology — what is it about the Islamic State that has made their recruiting efforts so successful? How have they been able to recruit thousands of jihadi soldiers from around the globe and wage war on behalf of the Islamic State?
Dr. Robert P. George: It is the same corrupt, evil ideology that drew people to Nazism and Communism, and made them willing to commit horrible atrocities in the name of those ideologies. People want to believe in something. People want to be part of a world-transforming movement. It gives meaning to their lives. It makes them feel like they are part of a larger plan, one which is dictated by history or by God. Unfortunately, their success on the battlefield creates the impression for people who are drawn to this ideology that they part of a world-transforming and humanity-transforming enterprise. We need to think of IS fighters as motivated by the same totalitarian impulse that motivated the Nazis and the Communist.
The best thing we can do to dampen the appeal of IS is to defeat them. Just as success enhances the appeal, defeat diminishes the appeal. We have to make it clear that this movement is not one that is ordained by history or God, and it will be defeated. The Islamic State’s ideology is, like Nazism and Communism, a form of totalitarianism that is destined for the dustbin of history. We must defeat them on the battlefield with the force of arms.
Breitbart News: Why has the President only acted in a limited capacity thus far to stop the advances of the Islamic State?
Dr. Robert P. George: I fear that President Obama has not taken the measure of the problem, or has done it very late in the game. This is no time for political calculations. This is no time to be asking: will the American public support our involvement? This is the time for leadership. The model for President Obama today should be Churchill. Faced with an enemy that will stop at nothing in order to conquer the world, Churchill said, “We must fight them; we cannot appease them; we cannot contain them; we must defeat them.” President Obama thus far has not been willing to say or do that. The airstrikes have helped, but much more support is needed. I hope we don’t need to send American troops to Iraq, and I’m well aware that the American public is war-weary, and that weighs heavily on President Obama and Congressional leaders’ minds. If we do not give the Kurds and others the military support they need, It will come to the point where we do have to send troops. If it does come to that point, then we must be prepared to do it, and the President must be prepared to lead. We must stop the genocide. We do not want to be looking back on this in the same light we look back on what happened in Rwanda. We do not want a terrorist mass-murder in one of our major cities as a result of our failure to defeat IS on its home turf. If we simply let them do as they please – if we let them control Iraq and Syria and continue to conquer the Middle East – they’ve made it very clear that their intention is to commit terrorist acts in the United States and Europe. These are not people who threaten idly. IS does not simply brag, boast, and taunt. Its track record shows that when it makes threats, it carries them out. IS has enjoyed enough success thus far that it believes it can do what it threatens to do. When IS threatens terrorist acts in Washington, D.C., they mean it. We would be fools to imagine that they have no intention, or lack the capability of doing so. If we do not stop them, they will acquire the capability to hit us. They are very well-funded and well-armed. We should not assume that they have no way to acquire additional arms, such as biological and chemical weapons.
Breitbart News: Where does the fundamental ideology of the Islamic State come from?
Dr. Robert P. George: I’ve reflected a lot on this, and I’ve considered what a lot of other people have had to say about it, and the judgment I’ve reached is what we’re witnessing here is another manifestation of the totalitarian impulse. This is the idea that corrupted the notions of nationalism and national patriotism, giving rise to fascism and nazism. It is the idea that exploited the idea of class to create the equally murderous phenomenon of communism. Here you have the same thing: a corruption of a religion, Islam, as a vehicle for the totalitarian impulse. I am not suggesting that they are merely pretending to act on religious convictions. On the contrary, they are driven by them. But their religion is a manifestation of the totalitarian impulse. Their faith is corrupted by it. The only way to defeat this impulse is to defeat it militarily.
Stay tuned for the second part of our extensive interview with Dr. Robert P. George.