One site explaining the Tsarnaev brother’s homicidal motivations offered this helpful comparison: “al-Qaeda is a form of right-wing Islam”. It’s a phrase almost as good as “dark skinned white American” and together with it exemplies the danger of trying to understand the unknown in terms of familiar tropes. It is like attempting to speak a foreign language by yelling slowly in English. We think we’re getting it, but we’re not.
Much of what is described as education consists of being loaded down with models. Something comes along in life and the educated think: ‘if you push hard enough, it will fit into one of the models we’ve learned’.
Or as David Sirota put it “I still hope the bomber is a white American.”
That is the triumph of hope over experience, although it looks like he got his wish but not in the way he wanted. God’s funny in that way. He often gives us what we ask for — with a twist. It is too bad that not all of our media-derived mental models carry over into the next knowledge domain, however much we want them to.
Given these problems of cognition it’s sometimes best to start from first principles. To figure things out from scratch. Let’s forget all our intellectual baggage for a while and just for a moment to try and understand Tsarnaev. Forget critical race theory; forget Third World perspectivism; forget Progressivism. It’s hard but maybe for a few moments we can do it and just focus on the obvious.
Let’s imagine that you observe an ideology dedicated to your personal destruction, funded by billions and preached worldwide over the Internet and in buildings some of which are even built indirectly with government funds. What do you call it? “Right-wing Islam”. No, no no. Try again.
Let’s try calling it the “enemy” and set about distinguishing it from friends — from the guys who are just running the kebab store on the corner. It can be done by comparatively uneducated people. Our grandfathers distinguished between German Americans and Nazis back in the day.
They could probably do it because most of them had a high school education.
But once you arrive at the concept of the enemy — knowing who they are — you can proceed to the next step: dismantling them. The best means of doing this should be a matter for debate, but the strategic aim should not. The question is simple: do you want to survive or don’t you?
Once you get the strategy correct it is amazing how little force need be used in the tactics. You don’t have to drone people endlessly in other parts of the planet. Most of the action against the enemy can be civil and nonviolent. Defund them. Denounce their doctrine at every opportunity. Rival their faith with an appeal to patriotism. And only for the comparative few who take up arms should coercion be reserved.
War on them by all means intellectual and financial. And leave the mopping up to the military when all else fails.
Internationally it is the same. Identify the enemy. Adopt an energy policy that will beggar them. Oppose the construction of their organs of propaganda at every turn instead of building them at Ground Zero. Unless this is done, you will have to drone them all over the world and hunt them down through Boston, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, New York and every house in every street in every city. Yet in the words of Willard Mitt Romney, “we can’t kill our way out of trouble.”
We have to wise up. Why have we not until now? Because we have forgotten common sense; unlearned the idea that to win means waging mental strife so that the sword can sleep in your hand. That we can’t fight the enemy by “law enforcement”. Why did we miss something so plain? Because it required the recovery of old idea: if you are trying to kill me then you are my enemy. And if you are my enemy I will fight you.
But we are so beyond that. We want to feel other people’s pain. We want to demonstrate how enlightened, tolerant and progressive we are. We want to do everything except face the facts. And that’s why we won’t ever stop having to drone people all over the map and hunt them down house to house.
The process of opposition stops when then enemy gives up trying to harm you. Then you have have what is called peace. And the world turns again. In the coming weeks the Internet will be deluged with long and involved tracts purporting to explain things. It will offer new perspectives, new insights, new … but perhaps that is not half so important as the need to remember the old things; and to unlumber the attics of our mind.