It's a movie I haven't seen. I have no strong desire see it. I understand the principle; why do I need to rub my nose in the details? I know what a sniper is and I know what he does. It is an awful world in which snipers are needed, but they are, and they do a job that few of us could do. Could you put a high-powered round through the head of a child who was about to be sent on a suicide mission? I am not referring primarily to the mechanics of getting off a good clean shot that hits its target from a great distance after you have been lying in the weeds for hours in a war zone. I am talking about bearing the psychological burden.
There are two extremes to avoid: the bellicose jingoism of the my-country-right-or-wrong types and the knee-jerk, hate-America mentality of moral equivalentists and blame-America-firsters. If the brunt of my scorn in these pages is aimed at the latter, it is because they are in the ascendancy and need it more.Think of it as akin to a quasi-Kierkegaardian 'corrective' to quasi-Hegelian excesses.
I think the two distinctions you make are the right ones to make. I doubt that the four necessary conditions in your definition of 'terrorism' are jointly sufficient, but I'm not too concerned about that. [And I didn't claim that they are jointly sufficient, only that they are individually necessary.] I was hoping for a good practical definition and this is as good as I've seen (and better than the ones I offered). If the State Department were to adopt this definition, they would have a good, functional definition that got nearly every case right. It's too bad that you and I both know the State Department as currently staffed and run would never do anything so sane!
BV: Here is the State Department definition:
Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code (regarding the Department of State) contains a definition of terrorism in its requirement that annual country reports on terrorism be submitted by the Secretary of State to Congress every year. It reads:
"[T]he term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents".
That is fairly close to what I said, though I wasn't aware of this definition until just now. I didn't mention premeditation, but that pretty much goes without saying. There are plenty of spur-of-the-moment crimes of passion, but how many spur-of-the-moment terrorist acts of passion are there? But three of my points are covered.
Here's my attempt at a counterexample. Suppose we are in Nazi Germany and suppose further that the Nazi state was not a legitimate one. Thus, in Germany during Nazi rule, there was no legitimate state. I am part of a German underground agency working to overthrow Hitler's regime because I and my agency recognize the Nazis as illegitimate and murderous. My agency is clearly not a state, so I think it meets condition three. My agency and I have a political goal: the overthrowing of the Nazi regime and the establishment of a legitimate government. So, condition one is met.
The other two conditions might be a little harder to meet. Suppose I know that Hitler is to give a speech at a rally, flanked by many high ranking Nazis. My agency has found a way to get myself and a few others into the crowd, but we know the Nazis thoroughly check a crowd for guns. Luckily, agent X is an ace explosive maker, and can make explosives out of things that not even the Nazis would suspect. Agent X equips us all with highly explosive cigarette lighters. We want to kill as many of the Nazi brass as we can and this may be the best shot we have. Given the circumstances, we do not have the option of discriminating between the "combatant" Nazis and the civilians who may have just come out of curiosity. We decide it is better to risk killing a civilians who are too close than not take the opportunity. Thus, we seem to meet condition two.
The question is whether this counts as an act of sabotage against the Nazis. It certainly involves the killing or maiming of other human beings. And, you might think that sabotage involves acts against legitimate entities, and the Nazis are not legitimate. It seems to me to be more than mere sabotage. But I think someone could reasonably disagree with me about that. If I'm right, then it appears that I'm a terrorist unless we come up with more conditions.
BV: Let us suppose that you count as a terrorist by my definition. Would that be a problem? My definition says nothing about whether terrorism is good or bad, morally permissible or impermissible. It merely states what it is. The original question was whether it is true that most terrorists, at the present time, are Muslims. To answer that question we need a definition of 'terrorist.' On the basis of my definition I would say that, yes, most terrorists today are Muslims. My concern was merely to define the phenomenon. I leave open whether some terrorist acts are morally permissible.
Of course, I consider Muslim terrorism unspeakably evil, from the beheading of Christians, including Christian children, to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, even though I consider the Hebdo crew to be moral scum who misuse, egregiously, the right to free speech, thereby confusing liberty with license. This is why it is is so wrong and indeed moronic for people to stand up for free speech by saying Je suis Charlie. Do they really mean to identify with those people? The way to stand up for free speech is by courageously but responsibly exercising one's right to free speech by speaking the truth, not by behaving in the manner of the adolescent punk who makes an idol of his own vacuous subjectivity and thinks he is entitled to inflict on the world every manifestation of his punkish vacuity.
If someone brings up all the violent drug cartel members in Mexico and Central and South America who 'terrorize' people, assassinate judges, bribe politicians and law enforcement agents, and so on, the answer is that they don't satisfy my first condition inasmuch as they are members of organized crime, not terrorists: they are not in pursuit of a political objective. It is not as if they aim to set up something like a narco-caliphate. They do not, like Muslim terrorists, seek to assume the burdens of governance in an attempt to bring about what they would consider to be a well-regulated social and political order in which human beings will flourish by their definition of flourishing. They attack existing states, but only because those states impede their criminal activities. See Mexican Drug Cartels are not Terrorists.
As for sabotage, I was suggesting that sabotage is not terrorism because terrorist acts are directed against persons primarily, while acts of sabotage are not directed against persons except indirectly. If Ed Abbey urinates into the gas tank of a Caterpillar tractor and manages to disable it, that will affect people but only indirectly. (But what about tree-spiking?) So I would not call you and your cohorts saboteurs.
You are not a terrorist by my definition because you are not indiscriminate in your attack on people: you are not trying to kill noncombatants. What you are doing comes under collateral damage.
I was reading your recent post on religious profiling in which you said, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims." I totally agree, but it's something I've been thinking about lately. I saw someone else make the same claim just last week on another blog, and a liberal vehemently objected, claiming that the reason "most terrorists are Muslims" is that we don't use the word 'terrorist' for all the Catholic murderers in the South American cities with the highest murder rates in the world.
The idea behind this objection, it seems, is that if we were consistent, we'd call Christian murderers (such as baptized Catholics in South America who work for drug cartels and perhaps occasionally visit a Catholic church) terrorists too, and once we did that, we would no longer end up with the result that most terrorists are Muslims. Furthermore, once we did that, we wouldn't think Islam had a problem with violence any more than Christianity does, so we shouldn't pick on Islam.
I think this line of thought has multiple mistakes, but it does bring to the surface an interesting question. How do we define 'terrorist'?
One obvious thing that distinguishes Islamic extremists, such as the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack, is that they are motivated to murder in the name of their religion, whereas the South American drug cartel members do not murder in the name of Catholicism.
My reader is exactly right. Muslim terrorists murder in the name of their religion. And please note that this is so even if it could be shown that there is nothing in Islam when properly interpreted to justify terrorism. Even if you think, incorrectly, that Muslim terrorists have 'hijacked' true Islam, they are still Muslim terrorists and must be counted when we tally up the number of Muslim terrorists in the world. Can someone give me an example of a Jesuit terrorist who in recent years has slaughtered human beings to the tune of ad majorem dei gloriam? Or the name of a Buddhist terrorist who has murdered while shouting a Buddhist precept?
There are two important related distinctions we need to make.
There is first of all a distinction between committing murder because one's ideology, whether religious or non-religious, enjoins or justifies murder, and committing murder for non-ideological reasons or from non-ideological motives. For example, in the Charlie Hebdo attack, the murders were committed to avenge the blasphemy against Muhammad, the man Muslims call 'The Prophet' and consider Allah's messenger. And that is according to the terrorists themselves. Clearly, the terrorist acts were rooted in Muslim religious ideology in the same way that Communist and Nazi atrocities were rooted in Communist and Nazi political ideology, respectively. Compare that to a mafioso killing an innocent person who happens to have witnessed a crime the mafioso has committed. The latter's a mere criminal whose motives are crass and non-ideological: he just wanted to score some swag and wasn't about to be inconvenienced by a witness to his crime. "Dead men tell no tales."
The other distinction is between sociological and doctrinal uses of terms such as 'Mormon,' 'Catholic,' Buddhist,' and 'Muslim.' I know a man who is a Mormon in the sense that he was born and raised in a practicing Mormon family, was himself a practicing Mormon in his early youth, hails from a Mormon state, but then 'got philosophy,' went atheist, and now rejects all of the metaphysics of Mormonism. Is he now a Mormon or not? I say he is a Mormon sociologically but not doctrinally. He is a Mormon by upbringing but not by current belief and practice. This is a distinction that absolutely must be made, though I won't hold it against you if you think my terminology less than felicitous. Perhaps you can do better. Couch the distinction in any terms you like, but couch it.
Examples abound. An aquaintance of mine rejoices under the surname 'Anastasio.' He is Roman Catholic by upbringing, but currently a committed Buddhist by belief and practice. Or consider the notorious gangster, 'Whitey' Bulger who is fortunately not an acquaintance of mine. Biographies of this criminal refer to him as Irish-Catholic, which is not wrong. But surely none of his unspeakably evil deeds sprang from Catholic moral teaching. Nor did they spring from Bulger's 'hijacking' of Catholicism. You could call him, with some justification, a Catholic criminal. But a Catholic who firebombs an abortion clinic to protest the evil of abortion is a Catholic criminal in an entirely different sense. The difference is between the sociological and the doctrinal.
As for the South American drug cartel members, they may be sociologically Catholic but they are not doctrinally Catholic. That's my second distinction. And they operate not from Catholic doctrine rightly interpreted or interrpreted in a twisted way, but from crass motives. That's my first distinction.
Anyone whose head is clear enought to grasp these distinctions has a head clear enough to appreciate that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims, and that the existence of sociologically Catholic mafiosi and drug cartel members is irrelevant.
My reader continues:
So, you might think that the definition of 'terrorist' has something to do with religious motivation. But, this sort of definition does not catch terrorists who are motivated by power or greed.
You could go with a definition that sticks more closely to the word 'terrorist', defining it as someone who uses extremely violent acts to create fear and terror to accomplish political goals, but this sort of definition is pretty broad, and it isn't as obvious that "most terrorists are Muslims" when we define it that way, is it? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about this.
Although it is true that Muslim terrorists are religiously motivated, it would be a mistake to define 'terrorism' in such a way that it could have only religious motivations. Terrorism could have purely political motivations: purely secular separatists might resort to terrorism to achieve their goal. It is worth adding that Islam is not a pure religion, but a blend of religion and political ideology; hence the roots of Muslim terrorism are religious-cum-political. Islam is as much a political ideology as it is a religion. So even if one defines a terrorist as one who uses violence indiscriminately, against comabatants and non-combatants alike, to achieve political goals, it would still be obvious that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims. Theocracy is both a political and a religious concept, and its instantiation, world-wide, is what Islamists want.
This brings us to the important question as to what a terrorist is. One cannot count Xs unless one knows what counts as an X. To evaluate the truth of the quantified statement, 'Most terrorists are Muslims,' we need to have at least a working definition of 'terrorist.' It is not easy to say what exactly a terrorist is in general terms -- which are the only terms in which one could give a viable definition -- easy at it is to identify terrorism in specific cases. I suggested the following in an earlier post from November 2009. It is not without its difficulties which are for me to know and you to discover.
I suggest that the following are all essential marks of a terrorist. I claim they are all individually necessary conditions for a combatant's being a terrorist; whether they are jointly sufficient I leave undecided. 'Terrorist' is used by different people in different ways. That is not my concern. My concern is how we ought to use the term if we intend to think clearly about the phenomenon of terrorism and keep it distinct from other phenomena in the vicinity.
1. A terrorist aims at a political objective. This distinguishes terrorists from criminals. No good purpose is served by lumping John Gotti and 'Whitey' Bulger among terrorists. Criminals may 'terrorize' as when a loanshark microwaves a delinquent's cat, but criminals who terrorize are not terrorists. This is because their aim is personal, not political. It is not impersonal ideals that motivate them but base personal desires. And although terrorists commit crimes, they are best not classified as criminals for the same reason. Treating the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as criminal matters showed a lack of understanding of the nature of terrorism.
2. A terrorist does not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. This distinguishes terrorists from the warriors of a legitimate state. All are fair game, which is not to say that in a particular situation a terrorist might not have a reason not to target some combatants or some noncombatants. This distinguishes a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah from the Israeli Defense Forces. As a matter of policy, the IDF does not target noncombatants, whereas as a matter of policy Hezbollah and other terrorist outfuts such as Hamas target anyone on the enemy side. The deliberate targeting of civilians also distinguishes terrorists from guerilla fighters.
3. A terrorist is not an agent of a legitimate state but of a nonstate or substate entity. A terrorist is neither a criminal (see #1 above) nor a warrior (see #2) ; a terrorist act is neither a criminal act nor an act of war; a terrorist organization is neither a criminal gang nor a state. Strictly speaking, only states make war.
Of course, a state (e.g. Iran) can arm and support and make use of a terrorist outfit (e.g. Hezbollah) in pursuit of a political objective (e.g., the destruction of Israel). But that does not elide the distinction between states and terrorist organizations. It is also clear that states sometimes 'terrorize'; but this is not a good reason to think of states as terrorist organizations, or some or all of their combatants as terrorists or of any of their acts as terrorist acts. The Allied firebombing of Dresden in February of 1945 was a deliberate targeting of combatants and noncombatants alike in clear violation of 'just war' doctrine. But whatever one's moral judgment of the Dresden attack or the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of these acts count as terrorist for the simple reason that they were the acts of states, not terrorist organizations. Some will bristle at this, but if one wants to think clearly about terrorism one must not confuse it with other things.
But what about the 'Islamic State' or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it? The short answer: it is not a legitimate state. What makes a state legitimate? With this question we are deep in, and the going gets tough. At this point I invoke blogospheric privilege and my maxim, "Brevity is the soul of blog."
4. A terrorist is not a saboteur. Sabotage is one thing, terrorism another. Analytical clariy demands a distinction. Infecting computer networks with malware or attacking the power grid are acts of sabotage, but they are not strictly speaking acts of terrorism. An act is not terrorist unless it involves the killing or maiming of human beings or the threat thereof.
I am indebted to the discussion in Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want, Random House, 2006, Ch. 1
I heard Nicholas Kristof use the phrase the other night. But is there such a thing as religious profiling?
I have argued that there is no such thing as racial profiling. The gist of my argument is that while race can be an element in a profile, it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Similarly, apparel can be an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
The same holds for so-called religious profiling. There is no such thing. Religious affiliation can be an element in a profile but it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense religiously to profile you, or to profile you in respect of your religion.
There are 1.6 billion or so Muslims. They are not all terrorists. That is perfectly obvious, so obvious in fact that it doesn't need to be said. After all, no one maintains that all Muslims are terrorists. But it is equally obvious, or at least should be, that the vast majority of the terrorists in the world at the present time are Muslims. To put it as tersely as possible: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.
It is this fact that justifies using religion as one element in a terrorist profile. For given the fact that most terrorists are Muslims, the probability that a Muslim trying to get through airport security is a terrorist is higher than the the probability that a Buddhist trying to get through airport security is a terrorist.
Or consider the sweet little old Mormon matron from Salt Lake City headed to Omaha to visit her grandkiddies. Compare her to the twenty-something Egyptian male from Cairo bound for New York City. Who is more likely to be a terrorist? Clearly, the probability is going to be very low in both cases, but in which case will it be lower? You know the answer. Liberals know it too, but they don't want to admit it. The answer doesn't fit their 'narrative.' According to the narrative, we are all the same despite our wonderful diversity. We are all equally inclined to commit terrorist acts. Well, I wish it were true. But it is not true. Liberals know it is not true just as well as we conservatives do. But they can't admit that it is true because it would upset their 'narrative.' And that narrative is what they live for and -- may well die for. A terrorist 'event' may well be coming to a theater near them, especially if they live in New York City.
It is the same with Muslims as with blacks. Blacks, proportionally, are much more criminally prone than whites. That is a well-known fact. And as I have said more than once, a fact about race is not a racist fact. There are facts about race but no racist facts. There are truths about race, but no racist truths. The truth that blacks as a group are more criminally prone than whites as a group is what justifies criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
Again, there is no such thing as racial profiling; what there is is criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
There are two mistakes that Kristof makes. He uses the unmeaning phrase 'religious profiling.' Worse, he think there is something wrong with terrorist and criminal profiling, when it is clear that there isn't.
But Kristof's heart is in the right place. He doesn't want innocent Muslims to suffer reprisals because of the actions of a few. Well, I don't either. I have Turkish Muslim friends. I met Zuhdi Jasser a while back. (The sentence I just wrote is logically independent of the one immediately preceding it.) Perhaps you have seen him on The O'Reilly Factor. An outstanding man, a most admirable Muslim man. May peace be upon him and no harm come to him. I mean that sincerely.
But, of course, there’s more here than mere tone deafness to public opinion. The president’s flat line response to the Charley Hebdo massacre and then the terrorist attack on the kosher market in Paris (which he failed to characterize as an act of anti-Semitism in his public statement after it happened) illustrated his lack of comfort on this terrain. This is a president that has spent his time in office trying desperately to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds to change their perception of the United States. That he has failed in this respect is no longer in question but his disinterest in taking part in a symbolic response to extremist Islam stands in direct contrast to his eagerness for détente with an Iran that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The cold shoulder he gave the Paris march resonates not so much because of the odd and very conspicuous absence of an American representative of any stature, but because it fits with the perception of his attitudes.
London Karl is a young Irishman living in London. I had heard that Birmingham is a 'no go' zone, so I asked London Ed about it. Ed told me that it is 80% 'no go' but that nobody would want to go there anyway: it is rainy and like Detroit. When I mentioned this to London Karl, he wrote back:
Funny you mention Birmingham. I went there for the first time on Saturday. It has a reputation for having a large Asian, Black, and Muslim population, and this was certainly very noticeable on the streets. I also saw the usual table on the main thoroughfare with Muslims handing out free Korans and Islamic literature, with a few Whites availing. One could say this was insensitive, given what was going on in Paris, or one could say that it was non-violent Muslims trying to ensure their faith was not being confounded with that of the terrorists.
Actually, the real ghettos in England are further north. An acquaintance of mine lectured in the University at Bradford, and told me it was a nightmare, as large numbers of the undergrad intake couldn't even speak, let alone write, English! He was instructed by the admins to pass them anyway, as if he didn't, there would be the inevitable 'racist' outcry. Unfortunately the press are so soft and PC in the UK that anyone who even raises legitimate fears is immediately slapped with the 'racist' tag, as indeed is the case in Ireland.
I think one thing people are underestimating is that it only takes small bands of dedicated elitists to change the course of history and certainly the history of ideas and religion. Think of Christians in the first three centuries, Protestants in the 16th, French revolutionaries, Nazis, Bolsheviks etc.
Karl is quite right and wise beyond his years: it only takes a few to bring about huge changes some of which eventuate in disaster. This is why decent people ought not sit back and do nothing. You must do your bit. Speak out. Vote. Blog.
It doesn't take much to shut down a great city such as Paris or Boston. A pressure-cooker bomb, an armed assault of an editorial office by a few Muslim fanatics. What are you PC-ers waiting for? A nuclear event in Manhattan? Do you think that might make a dent in your precious 'lifestyle.'
You say it is "unimaginable"? Then I suggest your powers of imagination are weak. People said the same about 9/11 before 9/11 became 9/11.
Pope Francis is a foolish man, and folly brings danger in its train. That is my harsh judgment. For documentation, I refer you to an excellent article by William Kilpatrick, Looking at Islam Through Catholic Eyes. Kilpatrick is too politic to draw the harsh conclusion; he prefers to say that the good pope has "clouded the issue." Excerpts (bolding added):
Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation seems to be in line with Massignon’s attempt to put a Christian face on Islam. The part that stands out is the following: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” [my emphasis]. Here, the Pope goes beyond the Vatican II documents and beyond the conciliatory statements of his recent predecessors. Some will call it a step forward, but there are reasons to think it is a step in the wrong direction.
The Koran is replete with admonitions to commit violence and terror. What can Pope Francis possibly mean by saying that a “proper reading” of the Koran shows that it is “opposed to every form of violence”? There are many violent passages in the Old Testament as well, but Christians believe that these have to be understood in light of the New Testament. However, there is no New Testament in Islam. Islam’s other “sacred” documents such as the Sira (the life of Muhammad), the Hadith (collections of the words and deeds of Muhammad), and the various law manuals confirm the violent teachings of the Koran. These books give us a fuller picture of Islam than does the Koran, but in no way do they soften or reinterpret the violent passages. If anything, they cast doubt on the peaceful passages. The Islamic doctrine of abrogation, which is based on sura 2:106 of the Koran, holds that if two passages in the Koran contradict each other, the later verse cancels or abrogates the earlier verse. Since most of the peaceful Koranic verses come from the early Meccan period, many Muslim authorities hold that they are superseded by the latter violent verses.
Some Sufi and Ahmadiyya sects have come up with more spiritualized interpretations of the Koran but, as noted before of the Sufis, they are far out of the Islamic mainstream and are often persecuted as heretics. Recently, an Ahmadi doctor was arrested in Pakistan for reading from the Koran because, as reported in the Ahmadiyya Times, “According to the laws of Pakistan it is a criminal act for an Ahmadi to read the Holy Qur’an or act in a manner that may be perceived as the Ahmadi is ‘posing as a Muslim.’”
[ . . . ]
Yet, at the risk of redundancy, it bears repeating that the spiritual tradition of Rumi, al-Hallaj, and the Sufi masters lies at the margins of the Islamic faith. For example, the use of music, poetry, and dance in rituals practiced by Rumi’s followers are considered un-Islamic by many, if not most, Islamic authorities. But, thanks in large part to the work of Massignon, this mystical tradition is looked upon by many influential Catholics as the authentic Islam. Thus, one man’s skewed and partial reading of Islam has come to color the “official” Church view of Islam.
As Pope Francis asserts, it is possible to read the Koran as being “opposed to every form of violence.” We know it is possible because that it is the way that some have read it. However, to say that this reading is the “proper” or “authentic” one is debatable, even misleading. At a time when clarity about Islam may be a matter of life or death for many Christians, the Pope’s statement may, unfortunately, only further cloud the issue.
"A senior Islamic cleric in Ireland has issued a warning against reproducing Charlie Hebdo's front page depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, after the massacre of journalists and police at the magazine's offices." (HT: Karl White)
Here is essential reading if you want to understand the nature of Islam and its threat to the West and its values. If Schall is right, the Obama administration understands nothing about either and is putting us in grave danger in consequence of its (willful?) misunderstanding. Schall is of course too 'measured' and 'gentlemanly' in his use of language to put things as plainly as I just did, which is why he needs the assistance of bloggers like me. Excerpt:
The Islamic State and the broader jihadist movements throughout the world that agree with it are, I think, correct in their basic understanding of Islam. Plenty of evidence is found, both in the long history of early Muslim military expansion and in its theoretical interpretation of the Qur’an itself, to conclude that the Islamic State and its sympathizers have it basically right. The purpose of Islam, with the often violent means it can and does use to accomplish it, is to extend its rule, in the name of Allah, to all the world. The world cannot be at “peace” until it is all Muslim. The “terror” we see does not primarily arise from modern totalitarian theories, nationalism, or from anywhere else but what is considered, on objective evidence, to be a faithful reading of a mission assigned by Allah to the Islamic world, which has been itself largely procrastinating about fulfilling its assigned mission.
It is important that people read the entire piece.
In Terrorism and Other Religions, Cole argues that "Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions." Although we conservatives don't think all that highly of Bill Maher, we cheered when he pointed out the obvious, namely, that Islam, and Islam alone at the present time, is the faith whose doctrines drive most of the world's terrorism, and that the Left's moral equivalency 'argument' is "bullshit" to employ Maher's terminus technicus. Why should pointing out what is plainly true get Maher labeled a bigot by Cole?
So I thought I must be missing something and that I needed to be set straight by Professor Cole. So I read his piece carefully numerous times. Cole's main argument is that, while people of "European Christian heritage" killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, Muslims have killed only about two million during that same period. But what does this show? Does it show that Islamic doctrine does not drive most of the world's terrorism at the present time? Of course not.
That is precisely the issue given that Cole is contesting what "the bigot" Maher claimed. What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi. This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. If the thesis is that Muslims who take Islam seriously are the cause of most of the world's terrorism at the present time, this thesis cannot be refuted by pointing out that people of "European Christian heritage" have killed more people than Muslims. For this is simply irrelevant to the issue in dispute. (I note en passant that this is why ignoratio elenchi is classifed as a fallacy of relevance.)
Someone born and raised in a Christian land can be called a Christian. But it doesn't follow that such a person is a Christian in anything more than a sociological sense. In this loose and external sense the author of The Anti-Christ was a Christian. Nietzsche was raised in a Christian home in a Christian land by a father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, who was a Lutheran pastor. Similarly, Hitler was a Christian. And Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a Muslim. But were Ataturk's actions guided and inspired by Islamic doctrine? As little as Hitler's actions were guided and inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a list of some of Ataturk's anti-Islamic actions.
Having exposed the fundamental fallacy in Cole's article, there is no need to go through the rest of his distortions such as the one about the Zionist terrorists during the time of the British Mandate.
Why do leftists deny reality? A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.'
That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Nazi-phobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values.
A reader asks whether Israel's actions against Hamas are defensible according to the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE).
According to the New Catholic Encylopedia, an action is defensible according to DDE if all four of the following conditions are met:
(1) The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
(2) The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may merely permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect, he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
(3) The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words, the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
(4) The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect.
My example. An obviously hostile knife-wielding intruder breaks into my house. I grab a gun and shoot him, killing him. My intention is not to kill him but to stop his deadly attack against me and my family. The only effective means at my disposal for stopping the assailant is by shooting him. But I know that if I shoot him, there is a good chance that I will kill him.
There are two effects, a good one and a bad one. The good one is that I stop a deadly attack. The bad one is that I kill a man. My shooting is justified by DDE. Or so say I. As for condition (1), the act of defending myself and my family is morally good. As for (2), I do not positively will the bad effect, but I do permit it. My intention is not to kill a man, but to stop him from killing me. As for (3), the good effect and the bad effect are achieved simultaneously with both effects being directly caused by my shooting. So I am not employing an evil means to a good effect. As for (4), I think it is obvious that the goodness of my living compensates for the evil of the miscreant's dying.
In the case of the Israeli actions, the removal of rocket launchers and other weaponry trained upon Israeli citizens is a morally good effect. So condition (1) is satisfied. Condition (2) is also satisfied. The IDF do not target civilians, but military personnel and their weapons. Civilians deaths are to be expected since Hamas uses noncombatants as human shields. Civilian deaths cannot be avoided for the same reason.
Condition (3) is also satisfied. The good effect (the defense of the Israeli populace) is not achieved by means of the bad effect (the killing of civilians). Both are direct effects of the destruction of the Hamas weaponry.
But what about condition (4)? Is the good effect sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect? The good effect is the protection of the Israeli populace. But the cost is high in human lives given that Hamas employs human shields.
Are numbers relevant? Suppose that 1000 Gazan noncombatants are killed as 'collateral damage' for every 100 Israeli noncombatants. Is the 'disproportionality' morally relevant? I don't think so. For one thing, note that Hamas intends to kill Israeli noncombatants while the IDF does not intend to kill Gazan noncombatants. There is no moral equivalence between the terrorist entity, Hamas, and the state of Israel.
It would be the same if were talking about fighters as opposed to noncombatants. If 1000 Hamas terrorists are killed for every 100 IDF members, the numbers are morally irrelevant. They merely reflect the military superiority of the Israelis. No one thinks that in the WWII struggle of the Allies against the Axis, the Allies should have stopped fighting when the total number of Axis dead equalled the total number of Allied dead.
My tentative judgment, then, is that condition (4) of DDE is satisfied along with the others.
I was actually impressed by Obama's speech last night. The greatness of the office he occupies, together with the external pressure of events and advisors, has resulted in a non-vacuous speech and wise decision, a two-fold decision: to launch air strikes against the advancing terrorist ISIS (or ISIL) forces and to drop supplies to the beleagured religious minorities under dire existential threat, the Christians and the Yazidi.
Learn Ralph Peters' lessons of Boston, or there may be a pressure cooker in your future.
As for the moral equivalency of Christianity and Islam, Bill Maher, certainly no friend of religion, achieves the right tone, "That's liberal bullshit." When some academic leftist says something that is plainly false, his pronouncement should not be treated with respect as if worthy of calm consideration. Call it what it is.
Are all Muslims terrorists? Of course not, and no one said so. Most are not. But most terrorists are Muslims. That is the point.
There an important distinction that ought to be observed. Someone who is a 'Christian' in a merely sociological sense of the term might commit a terrorist act such as blowing up a federal building, it being quite clear that no support for such a deed is forthcoming from Christian doctrine. But your typical Muslim terrorist is not just a punk from a Muslim land; he is someone whose actions flow from Islamist doctrine.
I have been told that there are a few 'Buddhists' who are also terrorists. But if you know anything about Buddhism, you know that there is no support for terrorism in the Buddhist sutras and shastras. So a 'Buddhist' who is also a terrorist is only a Buddhist in some loose and accidental sense of the term -- he happens to be a native of a Buddhist land or has acquired some Buddhist acculturation -- but there is no connection between his terrorist activities and Buddhist teaching.
Islam is unique among the great faiths in that it is as much a political ideology as it is a religion. In respect of the former, it is like communism, and, like communism, bent on world domination. Islam is the communism of the 21st century.
This is an entry from the old blog, first posted 28 December 2005. It makes an important point worth repeating.
In an age of terrorism, enhanced security measures are reasonable (See Liberty and Security) But in response to increased government surveillance and the civil-libertarian objections thereto, far too many people are repeating the stock phrase, "I have nothing to hide."
What they mean is that, since they are innocent of any crime, they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, and so there cannot be any reasonable objection to removing standard protections. But these people are making a false assumption. They are assuming that the agents of the state will always behave properly, an assumption that is spectacularly false.
Most of the state's agents will behave properly most of the time, but there are plenty of rogue agents who will abuse their authority for all sorts of reasons. The O'Reilly Factor has been following a case in which an elderly black gentleman sauntering down a street in New Orlean's French Quarter was set upon by cops who proceeded to use his head as a punching bag. The video clip showed the poor guy's head bouncing off a brick wall from the blows. It looked as if the thuggish cops had found an opportunity to brutalize a fellow human being under cover of law, and were taking it. And that is just one minor incident.
We conservatives are law-and-order types. One of the reasons we loathe contemporary liberals is because of their casual attitude toward criminal behavior. But our support for law and order is tempered by a healthy skepticism about the state and its agents. This is one of the reasons why we advocate limited government and Second Amendment rights.
As conservatives know, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have no illusions about human nature such as are cherished by liberals in their Rousseauean innocence. Give a man a badge and a gun and the power will go to his head. And mutatis mutandis for anyone with any kind of authority over anyone. This is the main reason why checks on government power are essential.
The trick is to avoid the absurdities of the ACLU-extremists while also avoiding the extremism of the "I have nothing to hide" types who are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of secure pottage.
Perhaps you have heard of taqiyya, the Muslim doctrine that allows lying in certain circumstances, primarily when Muslim minorities live under infidel authority. Now meet tawriya, a doctrine that allows lying in virtually all circumstances—including to fellow Muslims and by swearing to Allah—provided the liar is creative enough to articulate his deceit in a way that is true to him.
[. . .]
As a doctrine, "double-entendre" best describes tawriya's function. According to past and present Muslim scholars (several documented below), tawriya is when a speaker says something that means one thing to the listener, though the speaker means something else, and his words technically support this alternate meaning.
For example, if someone declares "I don't have a penny in my pocket," most listeners will assume the speaker has no money on him—though he might have dollar bills, just literally no pennies. Likewise, say a friend asks you, "Do you know where Mike is?" You do, but prefer not to divulge. So you say "No, I don't know"—but you keep in mind another Mike, whose whereabouts you really do not know.
One question about waterboarding is whether it is torture. Liberals, who are generally sloppy and inflationary in their use of language, say it is. These are the same people who think that ID checks at polling places 'disenfranchise' those without identification. (See this contemptibly idiotic NYT editorial.) But on any responsible use of terms, waterboarding cannot be called torture. (If that is what you call it, what do you call a Saddam-style red-hot poker 'colonoscopy'?)
Waterboarding led to the Bin Laden capture as Peter King (R-NY) revealed last night on the O' Reilly Factor.
Suppose we acquiesce for a moment in the liberal-left misuse of 'torture' whereby it subsumes waterboarding. Even under this concession, could anyone in his right mind think that it is always and everywhere wrong to use torture? That is the kind of extremism that characterizes liberals and libertarians. They cannot seem to realize that otherwise excellent principles often admit of exceptions.
It's been an interesting morning. At 10:30 AM I noticed that my traffic was way up for the day. And then at 11:12 AM I heard Dennis Prager reading on the air the first paragraph of a post of mine from yesterday in which I express my disappointment at Prager for rejoicing over Osama bin Laden's death when the appropriate response, as it seems to me, is to be glad that the al-Qaeda head is out of commission, but without gleeful expressions of pleasure. That's Schadenfreude and to my mind morally dubious.
(Even more strange is that before Prager read from my blog, I had a precognitive sense that he was going to do so.)
In his response, Prager pointed out that the Jews rejoiced when the Red Sea closed around the Egyptians, and that this rejoicing was pleasing to God. (See Exodus 15) Apparently that settled the matter for Prager.
And then it dawned on me. Prager was brought up a Jew, I was brought up a Christian. I had a similar problem with my Jewish friend Peter Lupu. In a carefully crafted post, Can Mere Thoughts be Morally Wrong?, I argued for a thesis that I consider well-nigh self-evident and not in need of argument, namely, that some mere thoughts are morally objectionable. The exact sense of this thesis is explained and qualified in the post. But to my amazement, I couldn't get Peter to accept it despite my four arguments. And he still doesn't accept it.
Later on, it was Prager who got me to see what was going on in my discussion with Peter. He said something about how, in Judaism, it is the action that counts, not the thought or intention. Aha! But now a certain skepticism rears its head: is Peter trapped in his childhood training, and me in mine? Are our arguments nothing but ex post facto rationalizations of what we believe, not for good reasons, but on the basis of inculcation? (The etymology of 'inculcation' is telling: the beliefs that were inculcated in us were stamped into us as if by a heel, L. calx, when we were impressionable youths.)
The text that so impressed me as a boy and impresses me even more now is Matt. 5: 27-28: "You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. [Ex. 20:14, Deut. 5:18] But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Not that I think that Prager or Peter are right. No, I think I'm right. I think Christianity is morally superior to Judaism: it supersedes Judaism, preserving what is good in it while correcting what is bad. Christianity goes to the heart of the matter. Our hearts are foul, which is why our words and deeds are foul. Of course I have a right to my opinion and I can back it with arguments. And you would have to be a liberal of the worst sort to think that there is anything 'hateful' in what I just wrote about Christianity being morally superior to Judaism.
But still there is the specter of skepticism which is not easy to lay. I think we just have to admit that reason is weak and that the moral and other intuitions from which we reason are frail reeds indeed. This should make us tolerant of differences.
But toleration has limits. We cannot tolerate the fanatically intolerant. So, while not rejoicing over any man's death or presuming to know -- what chutzpah! -- where any man stands in the judgment of God, I am glad that Osama has been removed from our midst.
I was a bit disappointed with Dennis Prager this morning. He said he was "certain" that bin Laden is in hell. No one can be (objectively) certain that there even is a hell, let alone that any particular person has landed there. (Is Prager so en rapport with the divine nature that he understands the exact relation of justice and mercy in God and the exact mechanisms of reward and punishment?) And although there is call for some celebration at the closure this killing brings, I can't approve of Prager's joy at this event. This attitude of Prager's plays right in the hands of leftists and pacifists who confuse retributive justice with revenge and oppose capital punishment and the killing of human beings on that ground.
Anyone who doesn't see that capital punishment is precisely what justice demands in certain circumstances is morally obtuse. I agree with Prager on that. I also agree with his statement this morning that pacifism is "immoral" though I would withhold his "by definition." (I've got a nice post on the illicit use of 'by definition.') And of course I agree that terrorists need to be hunted down and killed. But there should be no joy at the killing of any human being no matter who he is. It would be better to feel sad that we live in a world in which such extreme measures are necessary.
The administration of justice ought to be a dispassionate affair.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first of heard about the acts of 9/11 Islamoterrorism. It was a cool and bright Arizona morning, dry and delightful as only the desert can be. I had just returned from a long hard bike ride. Preliminary to some after-ride calisthenics I switched on the TV only to see one of the planes enter one of the Trade Towers.
I suspected correctly what was up and I remarked to my wife, "Well, two good things will come of this: Gary Condit will be out of the news forever, and finally something will be done about the porosity of the southern border." I turned out to be right on one count. Gary Condit, who had come to national prominence because of his adulterous affair with Chandra Levy, and who had dominated the news that summer of aught-one, dropped out of sight. And good riddance.
But I was sadly mistaken on the second count. So here we are, nine years later, with such abominations Obaminations as Department of Justice lawsuits against the State of Arizona for attempting to do what the Feds ought to do yet refuse to do while Mexican drug cartels control some portions of the state.