Having spent a decent run of my adult life involved in counter terrorism, I’d like to think that I have a grasp of the fundamentals. Yet one thing always struck me as highly annoying about counter terrorism efforts. Specifically, we never targeted the fundamental religious ideas that supported Islamic terrorism.
You see, terrorism or guerrilla warfare differ significantly from conventional warfare. The job of the terrorists isn’t to come out in open force-on-force battles and take key terrain. Instead, the job of the terrorist is to harass the enemy and gain popular support. They may transition to a standing force when the conditions are right, but in the meantime they lay low, and spread dissent for the enemy.
On the other side of the battle, the idea is not to seize key terrain, but to “seize” key metrics of the population. Populations that are well fed, safe, and have access to utilities and medical services are not likely to revolt. The “battle” then, is to suppress terrorist actions (kill or capture) while ensuring a robust civil affairs program.
That’s the very, very short version of counter-terrorism. But remember how the terrorist’s job is not to openly confront the enemy? Part of this strategy includes long, long waits. Months, years, or decades are part of the plan for terrorists. And I humbly submit, when it comes to the war against fundamental Islamic terrorism, we do not attack the very idea that motivates them- their religion.
In our recent War on Terror, the idea that supported the enemy was radical Islamic idealism. As Sam Harris has said, “Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center.”
Although we’ve “ended” the war, radical Islamic fundamentalism is still very alive and well in that region. As long as these fundamentalists continue to spread their message, their war is not over. They are just biding their time. Once the pressure is let off, they will again emerge and try to assume control. ISIS wasn’t created when Obama withdrew forces from Iraq, it simply was able to stand up and fight. And they are still there in Iran, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere just waiting for the time to present itself.
It is the IDEA that is the key terrain in a terrorist war, not physical locations. It does no good to take and hold the high ground, or the center of government. The IDEA is where the momentum for the terrorism resides, and only by destroying and replacing the idea can we legitimately win the war.
Yes, I firmly believe we should be attacking the very idea of Islam. Naturally, there is no political will to do so. Attacking someone else’s religion is so taboo that even the most ardent supporters of human rights refuse to decry the horrific actions by extremists acting in the name of their religion. The political left in the U.S., willing to vilify anyone that speaks out against LGBTQ rights for example, will bend over backward to defend the actions of genocidal homophobia from within Islam. This is madness.
With their own stupid religions already hanging on an unsustainable precipice, the adherents of Christianity and other religions FEAR the very idea of attacking religious belief. As believers, usually of the same genocidal and petty god, they have no intellectual opposition to those that beat women for their own beliefs. They have no logical argument against the belief of Islam that doesn’t equally crumble the theology of Christianity. They occupy the same cesspool of paranoia.
EVERY. SINGLE. ARGUMENT. in defense of Islam can also be used to defend Christianity. EVERY. SINGLE. ARGUMENT. against Islam can also be used to defeat Christianity. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the stupidity remains.
So, instead of a military campaign designed to control the key terrain, we have waged a war to control associated areas. Instead of targeting the stupid ideas of the terrorists, our forces are required to bat around the edges of the objective, without attacking it directly. We went to Afghanistan and spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives to instill democracy. We went to Iraq and spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives to instill democracy. But the IDEA that drives terrorism still lingers, which will only threaten the democracy again one day.
If we wish to defeat Islamic fundamental terrorism, we have to target the idea. THAT is the key terrain. As noted above, Christians are ill prepared to wage this war. Their stupid ideas are just different versions of the stupid ideas of the terrorist.
On the other hand, atheism is the perfect weapon against religious fundamental terrorism. No, that doesn’t mean everyone should be an atheist, or that there is some “atheist world view.” Only religious people say stupid shit like that. What I mean is merely the IDEA of thinking for yourself in respect to the question of religion should be respected. Free speech is the opposite of blasphemy, and should be promoted as a supreme virtue. Real free speech, not this “free as long as you believe what I believe” crap.
The very IDEA that we are encouraged to challenge and investigate is the opposite of faith. Along with free speech, people should be encouraged to explore and discuss religious ideas. Real discussion, not authority figure lead indoctrination.
The very IDEA that we should be open-minded is the opposite of divine proclamation. People that haven’t had at least one core belief challenged and even destroyed in their lifetime are forever shackled with limited intellectual visibility. ALL ideas should be able to be destroyed, if they don’t uphold to scrutiny.
If you’re not familiar with military psychological operations or information operations (similar but separate operations), just think about the Russian’s effect on the US elections. Less ominous, think about our country’s attitude about children in car seats in the last 30 years. That which we used to accept as normal is now considered morally corrupt. So it is possible to noticeably sway the opinions of a population.
Similarly, our military information operation efforts in defeating radical Islamic terrorism should include ardent support of free speech, individual investigation of the world, and challenging beliefs. Fundamental adherence to any doctrine should be looked down upon, even reviled. This should additionally be reinforced in our support of new constitutions, training of lawyers and judges, and school curriculum. This is more than a civil-military strategy, this is a full-scale government operation.
Now, if you have been following politics in the US for the last two years, I can understand your skepticism toward the effect of legitimate courts and education on the advance of religious stupidity. But then again, I’m not in jail or dead for doubting religion. Mutilating your daughter’s genitalia has legal consequences here. All children are required to go to school, even if creatards are trying to erase evolution from the curriculum. So the system may not be perfect, but then again, war is a messy affair.
If we legitimately attack the key terrain of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, we could reverse the movement within a generation. If we continue this stupid policy of pretending the issue is utilities, we will miss the mark. If we can universally agree that free speech does not end at the line of religion, we can destroy the foundation of their movement. If we collectively choose to protect our own sacred cows, we will never defeat their sacred war.
The Spartan Atheist