Brainwashing in Boston

Here is a story today in the Daily Beast:  Boston Bomber’s Defense Worked Before – Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s defense is banking on a jury that believes he was too brainwashed by his brother to think straight. Sound far fetched? It worked a little over a decade ago. This really makes me laugh.  What do they think religion is?  Brainwashing from cradle to grave.

Who Cares?

OMG!  Hillary had her own server.  So do I.  Does anybody really care?  Only those within the Beltway and those who are hoping beyond hope they can find something to sully her run for President.  Does anyone except Darrel Issa think she called off a recue operation in Benghazi?  Meanwhile the economy sucks (ignore the flag waving from Washington, for most of us, things are not really perculating), immigration reform languishes, infrastructure decays, nothing is done about climate change, and the Senate continues to delay on confirming Attorney General Lynch.  So again what is the focus?

WAIT!  An airplane slid off the runway at La Gaurdia in the snow.  SQUIRREL!  Bring in the experts to tell us about how slick a runway can be.  Snore.  What could have possibly happened?  How could an airplane landing in snow and ice slide off a runway?  I think I can figure that one out without the expert commentary.  Remind you of a dog that you are trying to get their attention when a squirrel runs by?  SQUIRREL!

In the next election let’s hope our press has learned its lessons, which of course they have not.  Charisma, podium presence, momentum, wife’s activities, sex life, or who they hired to rake their yard are not good indicators of who will lead us.  What they promise to do is irrelevant.  Republicans are telling us they are going to focus on the middle class which means they will redine their alternate reality to say that tax cuts for the wealthy really do help the middle class.  Only focus on the specifics of their policies.  What is it they will really do?  Will the media help us uncover their lies.  Doubtful. 

WAIT!  SQUIRREL!  

 

Black and White

No, this is not a blog about race.  It is a blog about how some people see the world, or more importantly, need to see the world.  When you step back, put away everything you think you know and just look at reality, the world is a chaotic place.  When bad things happen, they are radom and unfair.  Not always, but mostly.  But we humans need order. Cause and effect is our basic organizing principle.  When we can not explain things (say violent storms in our nomadic history), we invented gods and gave the whole thing cause and effect.  We were bad, we did not love the gods enough, we did not sacrifice enough, whatever.  Our saving grace was that the early Greeks starting thinking about nature as something understandable without using supersition and gods.  Science flourished and many questions that we thought were the providence of philosophy or religion became moot as science explained them.

But there are still things that science can’t help us with (or we ignore their findings because they are inconvenient to what we want to believe).  We have evolved into a sliding spectrum of how much uncertainty we can stand.  Liberals embrace change, and conservatives embrace stability.  On the far end of the spectrum, let’s call it the right side, uncertainty is chaos.  So they develop dogmatic rules to guide them either through religion or ideology.  I just listened to one (Ben Carson) on TV that told us that homosexuality is a choice because when men are in prison they choose homosexuality.  His ideology or religion defines it for him and he does not need no stink’in science.

The most current example of all this was Benjaman Netanahu’s speech and its appeal to conservative Republicans.  See for them, everything is black and white.  Iran is evil so there is no treaty that will work.  Trouble is, it is a gray world.  More sanctions will have our partners walk away,  More sanctions will make Iran more isolated and feel they need a bomb.  Attacking Iran will blow up the Middle East.  The enemy of our enemy is still our enemy would say that we should have never used the Sunnis to quell the violence in Iraq.  There is a natural attraction between Netanyahu and conservative Republicans because they see simple solutions to complex problems.  And one has to ask how well that has worked with the Palestinian situation.

But drill down deeper.  The need for an ordered world and black and white justice leads to the poor deserving their fate because they are lazy; immigrants are law breakers and need to be deported; gays have a choice and choose to be gay; our economy got in trouble because we were irresponsible borrowers and debt is bad; the market place will choose winners and losers in a fair game of competition and is always the best solution. even for healthcare; and I deserve my favored status because I work hard and the world is a fair place so why should I share with those less fortunate.  It’s too bad they can’t formulate Global Warming* in those terms and understand it is bad and we need to do something about it, but it crosses over into their hate government ideology, so we have some counterdictions in the way they see the world so they can still come up with totally unworkable approaches.

So the solutions they offer are non-solutions.  As Thomas Friedman described Netanyahu’s approach to Iran:

In that sense, Bibi’s speech was perfect for Congress: I’ve got a better plan, and it won’t cost a thing or require any sacrifice by the American people. The guy could be a congressman.

Of course what he should have said was “the guy would be a conservative”.  That is the problem with their whole world view.  They want to remove all doubt and risk.  They like black and white solutions, and there is no blow back.  However see Iraq for how well this works.  But that whole world view requires you to build up an alternate reality that makes your ideology or religion make sense.  And when you are not living in the real world, it is very hard to craft solutions to real world when they have to correspond to your black and white alternate reality.  At least while Bibi was here we got to see this whole dynamic in operation.  I hope some of us learned something.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, there is no free ride (supply side economics), the market place solves few problems, our economy would fail if we ejected all our undocumented workers, the world is full of really wonderful people who make sexual choices different from ours, single payer health insurance has shown itself to be the best way to deliver healthcare, we have to invest in our future, austery contracts our economy and limits our futre choices, and religion is mostly a hoax.  Just in case you were wondering.

*There is a way to put this in the black and white category when you mix religion into the mix as I believe is the only way to understand Senator Inhofe and his snowball.  God controls all things so don’t worry and Global Warming his under his control.  He has as much as said that:  “my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”  Religion gives some people certainty to not worry about thinking.  See Jim Jones.

The Crazies

Let’s see.  Yesterday and noted in my earlier blog, the Crazies tried to undermine the executive office and poke the President in the eye by injecting rank politics into foreign affairs.  I personaly think they made a big mistake because the country itself is not enthralled with Israel like the pandering politicians for jewish blocks of voters and there was something  very unseemly about how they cheered Netanyahu or any foreign leader as though he were an American patriot.  Winston Churchhill he is not. Let’s not forget he told us invading Iraq was a great idea and has been beating the “just around the corner for nukes” drum for about twenty years now.  As some have noted, had Democrats done something similar with a Republican president, they would have been charged under the Sedation Act.

But it gets crazier.  With all the kerfuffle about Netanyahu’s speech, they then fully funded Homeland Security with no strings.  Pundits said they did that under the cover of darkness (Netanyahu) so no one would notice.  Well the Crazies noticed and they are in an uproar.  If you want to see what a civil war looks like listen to the Right Wing talk shows, who really are the Republican Party today.  It is going to get very interesting.  I can only hope that in their ideological snit, they finally expose their craziness to the most obtuse of voter who thought a Republican majority could really legislate.  Well they can if we want to bring back the Dark Ages.

I still am amazed and angry at the last election.  I get it that the Democrats had no coherent message and let the Republican slings and arrows at Obama take over the election.  I get it that by catering to the moderate Democrats and looking ineffectual (the ones who got defeated anyway) they lost valuable seats.  But what I don’t get is that Republicans have no solutions to problems and it is clear they can’t even work with each other, so how could voters be so deceived?  If you listen to their rhetoric now, while they can name problems and claim they will fix them, there is no there there.   There are no coherent policies that we can evaluate.  There is no great exciting new ideas.  Just supply side economics, racism, and social conservatism and bigotry like there always was.

Abe Lincoln famously said, “You can fool all the people some of the time [last election], some of the people all the time [Tea Party], but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”  Let’s hope we are finally at the point where you can’t fool all the people all the time because the signs of craziness are now obvious to the most casual of voter (most of them).  It is time to throw these guys out and get on with rational governing.

Oh, and in case you missed it the Alabama Supreme Court decided to overrule the Federal Judge who ruled that denying same sex marriage licenses was unConstitutional.  I guess for the South, federalism is dead.  Are we going to have to fight that civil war again too?  Maybe this time we should just let them succeed.  We would all be better off without them.  They can wallow in ignorance, pollution, and bigotry while we get the economy going and rebuild our nation.

I Think I Want to Throw Up

I am listening to Netanyahu speak and I am wondering how this is playing out in Middle America.  Why should we be cheering a guy who runs a little country that causes so much trouble.  Oh, I get it.  There are big donors in the Jewish community, but the rest of us are starting to see Israel and their attitude toward their neighbors as problematic.  Clearly they have never given Palestine a chance.

Now Netanyahu says this is above politics, but of course this is all about politics.  So as I watch the Republicans try to poke a stick in Obama’s eye, and Netanyahu shore up his home support for his election (I hope he gets defeated), his real goal is all about politics, a treaty with Iran and trying to affect our internal politics over any approval of such a treaty if it ever comes about.

On this issue, you can do one of two things.  Continue the sactions, get no treaty and go to war, or maybe have a treaty which gives us time to deal with their nuclear ambitions while keeping them under control.  We don’t have a clue what that agreement might look like, yet he would have us pre-judge it.  Maybe we won’t get there, but not having tried is lunacy.  

I am listening to Netanyahu give us the “be afraid” speech.  But like the domino effect in Southeast Asia, that is not the situation.  ISIS would kill Shites.  Saudis hate Iran.  It is a complex situation and the be afraid will just give us what Israel has already given us, endless was.  So my though is get him out of here.  Watch what he does, not what he says (like all politicians), and give peace a chance while being ready for the worst.  Netanyahu and his ilk would just continue the endless strife that sees no resolution on our future because both sides are religious nuts.

Just saying … Oh, and if I were Iran, and I am not making excuses for a tyrannical regime, I would be very afraid of Israel and their nukes, especially listening to Netanyahu, and I would want to counter that threat.

Finally, why are we cheering a leader of another theocracy where only one religion is represented in its government?  And how do we know the treaty is a bad deal when we don’t know what the deal will look like.  It was a very slanted argument leading us to a war with Iran.  Desperate people will do desperate things.

We Have a Problem Huston

We in the Western world are assuming we are marching to an ever more rational place where the quality of life for everyone is increasing.  I am not so sure anymore.  We have seen the rise of ISIS which cannot be written off as some kind obscure minority that will burn itself out.  Their attraction to the Muslim religious faithful is based upon a literal reading of their religious documents.  What is even more striking is that their interpretation of their “truths” cannot be examined in the light of reason and logic.  That would be heresy.

Watching ISIS destroy the ancient artwork of their ancestors in some strange belief that this is a worship of false gods is horrifying.  Saturday I wrote a long blog about what they believe and how they may be defeated based upon Graeme Wood’s article in the Atlantic Monthly.  But I am wondering if this is the tip of the iceberg.  ISIS for sure, is the extreme example of what I call faith-based thinking.  It is basically where you check your brain at the door and believe an ideology dogmatically. The faith part it comes in when you believe that your faith allows you to reject evidence that is put in front of you to deny your belief.

If ISIS had their way, they would take us back to what I would call a living hell.  Mind control, tryannical religous leadership, loss of free choice, intolerance of any dissent, women as possessions, and leadership getting us ready for the end of days.  I think I would rather be in North Korea.  So for this extreme group, we have seen where religion out of control takes us.  But we Westerners have some  biases that blind us to the threat of our own religious beliefs. Our own “tamed” religious beliefs require us to apply our own faith-based thinking.  In this tamed version, we believe others can choose for themselves how to believe and we tolerate other points of view.  In limited ways, we even question our own faith, picking and choosing which parts we want to believe.

Now look around and see what is happening today in politics, which is a reflection, sadly, of ideology and faith-based thinking in our public life.  First we have a whole group of conservatives wanting more religion (and faith-based thinking) in politics.  It is no coincidence that many conservatives are evangelical Christians.  For example, this is reflected in the attack on abortions and the denial of science to inform us on this discussion (when life begins, when a fetus can feel pain).  Same with gay marriage.  It is against some rule in a book somewhere.  But the other form of this, coming mainly from conservatives is political ideology which is also faith-based.

While the pundits like to tell us we have become more partisan, the reality is that the country has moved far right (see what Republicans were like in 1980 and what they believe today).  What went for moderate Democrats back then is now called the liberal left, and moderate Republicans look more like what is called moderate Democrats today.  And the so called partisanship is really trying to move the country back toward the middle and conservatives applying faith-based ideology to anything that is proposed.

Let’s take some prime examples.  We know that Republicans have been hell-bent to repeal Obamacare.  Mention single payer and they go off the rails.  But all the evidence in the world says that is the most successful system for affordable and quality healthcare.  So why can’t we try it?  Because the ideology that can never be questioned is that only the market place can provide the best solutions.  Take climate change:  It is obvious, we have a model and reality is pretty much following it, and yet first it didn’t exist, then it is a natural variation, and then finally it exists but is not man caused.  This is a total denial of the model and our unprecedented dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere, and the vast majority of scientist that have warned us of the problem.  So why is denial faith-based?  Because their ideology denies the efficacy of government action.  If the only way to solve it is with a coordinated government approach, then it must not exist.  Government can not be effective (unless you need to ban abortions or deny gay marriage).

If you look at our economic choices, being afraid of the deficit, and then embracing austerity instead of attacking unemployment, they are based upon faith-based economic ideology when the data, models, and Econ 101 show these were all the wrong choices.  Even today, conservatives cannot admit that we need to spend more, and that the interest rates and inflation they predicted to soar, did not.  Our infrastructure is a shambles and they can’t find a funding mechanism (it’s called taxes, but that again is heresy).  If you really step back and look at how irrational our governing has become, you can only draw one conclusion, that we have transferred our faith-based religious thinking into our political ideologies.  Or said another way, our civilization seems to be moving away from progress and back to the dark ages.

The Founders, having benefited from the Enlightenment and taking religion out of government, believed that rational thinking and debate would lead to the best decisions.  But now-a-days we have two sets of facts based upon our ideological beliefs.  It makes debate and facts irrelevant. It is becoming clear that a large portion of our population does not know the difference between fact and opinion.  Somehow we need to turn the boat around and get back to rational fact-based decision making.  The first step to that is to realize that facts aren’t opinion, to debunk lies, and not tolerate those among us who spew lies.  That, of course, would end political reporting as we know it.

I fear for our world.  Reason and logic is being ignored for faith-based beliefs and we are spiraling into chaos that is called partisanship as the new normal.  Saying the two sides must just work together ignores that reality.  One side is right and the other is wrong.  It is time to throw out the ideology from either side of the spectrum and just do things that work, whether doing those things would be considered heresey to our ideologies.  I would argue that your best bet to get on that road is with Progressive Democrats.  Conservative don’t like change and clearly have built a whole alternate reality into which they rarely venture out of.

 

Oh My Brain Hurts

So I turn on the news (MSNBC) and Alex Witt is interviewing Lt. Gen (Retired) Daniel Boolger on ISIS and what we should do.  The general indicated that ISIS was just a retread of al-Qaeda.  Apparently neither one of them had read Graeme Woods article in the Atlantic Monthly on what drives ISIS.  Neither recognized ISIS’s need for more land to fulfill their religious caliphate prophecy and recurit more Muslims.  It was sad really.  How many wars have we fought now where we totally do not understand our enemy and are fighting the last war?

Oh, but then later I mistakenly turned the TV back on for the beginning of Meet the Press and they start off interviewing a Republican Congressman and his slant on the funding of Homeland Security debacle.  Interesting point of view as really a principled Constitutional fight (meaning totally bogus), but there was no counter interview.  Oh, and the Congressman decried the use of the filibuster by the Democrats to block the Senate bill baring executive actions.  Anybody see the gross hyprocrisy in this as the Republicans used record numbers of filibuster in the last four years.  Oh and a mention of “the nuclear option” (doing away with the filibuster).  Democrats were to cowardly to do this, but there enemy won’t be.

 Then they turned to a panel leading off with a Republican apologist who hammered home the same talking points as the Republican Congressman.  So did Chuck Todd let anyone else correct the record?  Nope.  New question so that all those allegations just lay out there unrebutted.  Then they turned to a political pundit to tell us about the politics.  Hello, is this even mildly related to what most of us see?  If stuff were actually put on the floor for a vote, like a clean bill to fully fund Homeland Security it would pass.  What about the immigration bill?  It would pass too.  So buried was that 50 Tea Party Republicans are controlling the Speakership and the house and making government totally ineffective.

Oh and there was the statement that it would seem that whatever party is elected this will be how Congress functions.  Really?  Did you understand that Republicans are blocking immigration and Homeland funding and when the Democrats had the Senate, because of the filibuster, only Republican approved legislation will get past?  This is what passes for news?  No wonder voters cast such uninformed votes.  The few people who still watch these shows are getting a dumb down version of what is really going on to be the least offensive.  What happened to just telling the truth and asking hard questions?  Can’t do that as you might offend someone and lose your access.  

So I switched over to CNN and there was another interview with a Republican Congressman on whether Boehner might lose his Speakership if he puts forward a clean bill.  Do Democrats even exist anymore?

But thank god, the Food Channel did not let me down.  

Facing ISIS

I have now subjectively digested Graeme Wood’s article in the Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants, and knowing most of you won’t spend the time to read it, I am going to try to give you a short summary of what he told us that I have found to be dead on.  I will use his words when I can, but mostly paraphrase.  I am doing this for two reasons.  First as our nation thinks it fine to bring religion into government, I want to emphasize that ISIS is religion and its faith-based thinking is the danger that all religions bring.  Our failure to recognize this and our built-in tolerance of other religious points of view without judgement is putting us at risk.

The second reason is that I believe ISIS is a real threat to the modern world and we have been disregarding this challenge to liberal progressive democracy as just a bunch of nuts.  The war will only be won when we recognize their religious aims and deal with them, by taking away their land, defunding them, isolating them and where necessary, killing them.  Sounds harsh?  That is exactly what they want to do to us.  President Obama, like the rest of us, wrote them off, as a JV to al Qaeda, not a real religion, and not Islam.  As it turns out, he and we were wrong on all counts.  Its draw is its religious base, not just to disenfranchised or troubled youth.

One other thing.  We Westerners seem to be having a real problem understanding why ISIS is so successful attracting jihadists from around the world.  It comes from the fact the ISIS appeals to the core religious beliefs of Islam taken from the early writings of the prophet Mohammad.  Some have looked “to the conditions in which these ideologies arose – the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil. … But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias:  that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.”  Said simply, ISIS is a pure form of their historical religion using the techniques and strategies of the Prophet himself.  They are called to do God’s work.  Okay let’s get at it.

Yesterday in my blog, Yes We are at War with Islam, I tried to make the following points from Mr.Wood’s analysis:

  • ISIS is a real religion, not some perversion of one.
  • Those who claim it is not Islam are badly mistaken.  “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”
  • Finally, If we are going to seriously combat it, we have to understand it. “Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

In order to counter ISIS, Mr. Graeme leads us on journey to understand the religion itself so we know what we are fighting.  He broke this into five parts which I will try to summarize.

I. Devotion

  • The Prophet and his laws are supreme to anything.  Logic does not apply.
  • Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy and punishable by death.  Said another way, anyone who does not interpret Islam as ISIS does is not just marked for death, but they have a duty to carry it out. “That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.  Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”  And then of course are the rest of us.
  • These beliefs are at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism. “Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.”
  • ISIS is simply a legitimate (or maybe alternative) interpretation of the Koran. “He [Haykel] regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. ‘People want to absolve Islam,’ he said. ‘It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.’”
  • When we look at the barbaric way they behead and enslave, they are simply following the permitted methods used by their Prophet and the Sharia

Bottom line:  ISIS is a religion which requires fundamental belief and adherence to 7th century documents that require the establishment of the caliphate, continuous battle with infidels and wayward Muslims, and unquestioning faith in their methods and beliefs.

II. Territory

We are kind of back to the devotion thing.  All adherents of Islam believe that a caliphate (pure Islamic State) will be established and a caliph who leads it and this is their journey to the final Apocalypse where only the cleansed souls will receive their just rewards.

  • It is critical to the Prophecy that the disciples take and establish a state and expand it.
  • This establishment is a call to Muslims to return to the caliphate to defend the Prophecy
  • Establishment of the caliphate demands the full adherence to Sharia Law
  • The Caliph is required to implement Sharia
  • ISIS’s leader is claiming to be the Caliph

III. The Apocalypse

Here is where the difference between Al Qaeda and ISIS becomes critical. “… al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif [recurrent theme] of its propaganda.”

  • The end goal of ISIS is to establish a caliphate and a caliph, “a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world.”
  • Like the Jim Jones of the world, this apocalyptic bloodbath “fulfill a deep psychological need.”
  • It is ISIS’s destiny to fight these religious wars until they purify the world and ready it for the apocalypse.

IV. The Fight

In this discussion Graeme lays out that ISIS has been clear in its strategy and what it hopes to accomplish, and therein lies clues to how to counter them.

  • Because ISIS requires ideological purity, strict following of the strictures for establishing the caliphate, and how to run it, we know what they will do.
  • Offensive jihad is required, the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims.
  • Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties and accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet.
  • To recognize any authority but God’s is heresy.  Cannot recognize the UN, or even the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means is considered polytheism and heresy.
  • ISIS is hamstrung by its unyielding radicalism and can be predicted.
  • We have made strategic errors dealing with ISIS by not recognizing its need for territory and the split between ISIS and al Qaeda.

The last section is called Dissuasion, but I am going to sum up what I think are the implications of all of the above in both The Fight and Dissuasion.

  • Escalation of the battle taking the fight to ISIS
    • It has genocidal intentions on its neighbors
    • Taking back land reduces its claim to a caliphate.  “…because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.
  • The biggest proponent of this approach is ISIS itself
    • An invasion would be a huge propaganda win for ISIS as the Crusade has finally begun
    • Yet another invasion [by the U.S.] and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment”
  • “… continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options.”
  • “… with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people
  • Because of its aims, ISIS’s focus is not attacking us, but having us attack them, unlike al-Qaeda who has a political objective to free the Holy Lands.
  • It is unlikely that returning ISIS volunteers from the West will be a continuing ISIS threat as, “The jihadist seemed to regard returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts. “The fact is that the returnees from the Islamic State should repent from their return,” he said. “I hope they review their religion.” Of course they could revert to al Qaeda operatives.
  • Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.”
  • ” … denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.”
  • There are other extreme forms of Islam that might work as a substitute as they eschew discord and chaos.
  • Westerners should probably stay away from matters of Islamic theological debate as the President did not when he declared the Islamic State not Islamic.  If you understand their ideology, debate is futile.  “But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.”

Here is my summary with a very subjective and atheistic view on religion.  Religion is the problem.  Faith-based thinking leads in the extreme, to dogmatic robotic adherence to documents and thinking relevant to ancient times, in Islamic terms, the 7th century.  But you can’t go to war with religion in general.  Our own history and the Enlightenment allowed us to end violence by removing religion from government and to tolerate differing points of view.  Islam is not there and may never be.  ISIS is one interpretation of Islam which is in fact based upon their most holy religious documents and while most Muslims reject their interpretations and atrocities, it is in the end a religious jihad we have to deal with.

As Mr. Woods wrote, the best approach is to isolate them as best we can, take back territory as we can, it will stagnate under its own dogma, and be less and less of a draw on new disciples as it is seen as a failure.  Also, this won’t be fast.  It will take time and the primary fighters will have to be Muslim, because quite frankly, they face extinction if they don’t buy into ISIS’s fundamental beliefs and rule.  In light of this, our planned or announced taking back of Mosul is fraught with risk and if we enter a battle and lose, we are furthering their cause and assuring more recruits.

Finally, the United States must provide massive humanitarian aid to assist those displaced by ISIS.  Along with that we must continue to try to bring Islam into the 21st century, because its core beliefs, like all religion is faith-based beliefs that defy logic and reason.  We have to find a way to respect their beliefs while exposing them to new ideas that may change the way the view their religion.  And make no mistake, this is the battle between secular progressive government and theocracy.  It is a battle for logic and reason instead of religious ideological belief and thinking.  This may be hard to swallow since we ourselves fall victim to faith-based thinking.

Squirrel!

Remember that commercial where a dog is focused on something and then all of a sudden a squirrel appears and he is totally distracted and now his whole world is the squirrel?  See the news story and coverage about the dress and its perceived color.  We have serious problems with a dysfunctional Government being undermined by Republicans, a great story about net neutrality winning out, and some really insightful thinking about the nature of ISIS and our strategy, and somebody shows a dress that changes color based upon your perception and it gets more news coverage that all the other items.  Welcome to America where squirrel is our mode of operation. No wonder we elected the people who are causing all our problems to make more trouble and solve nothing while claiming we want people to work together.

Congress!

Bullshit!  Republicans!  The media are trying to be fair and balanced again by describing the “dysfunction in Congress”.  Please spare me.  The dysfunction is the Republicans and the media are part of the problem.  Until they make it clear what the issues are and who is preventing any forward movement, blaming “Congress” just continues the confusion of the voters.  The spinners are on TV today trying to make the both sides argument  and if just moderates from both sides would get together BS, but if Boehner would not put the clean funding bill on the floor, what difference does it make?  Everybody knows if he does it would pass, kind of like immigration reform.  Who again is the problem?  Congress?