November 26, 2003

Three Conjectures: A (Slightly) More Optimistic View

Steven Den Beste's three conjecture essay examining Wretchard's three conjectures on the WoT is well thought out and you should read both if you haven't already.

I agree with Steven Den Beste that Wretched's second conjecture is the weakest but I take things from a somewhat different angle. I believe that for a faction of a religious movement, inducement and threat are not the only means of changing their intent.

I don't know Wretchard's background but from what I gather from Steven Den Beste, he's operating under two disabilities. He's american and he's not religious. It is difficult to understand the religious mindset when you stand outside it. But for americans, the first amendment and its attendant religious tolerance so limits and colors their politico-religious outlook that certain alternatives simply are not examined. They are culturally taboo because the day to day reality of all the world's religions living cheek to jowl next to each other requires it to maintain religious peace in the US.

The tools that are being overlooked are tools of spiritual warfare. Declarations of apostasy, work towards conversion, theological debate, these are all tools that are being discarded a priori when all that is being examined is threats and bribes (which Wretchard calls inducements) to change the islamist's behavior.

Strong religious belief in the monotheistic tradition is well prepared in resisting temptation and enduring persecution. Islamism is no different and thus Wretchard is right, there is no practical set of inducements or threats to reliably move these people to different behavior patterns.

But would a suicide terrorist carry out his operation if he were convinced he would spend eternity in hell instead of heaven? Would an imam cry out the call of violent jihad if he were convinced this was against the will of Allah and would result in mere banditry that is contemptible in the eyes of God? You may or may not know how to bring about these changes in opinions but they are a separate class of persuasion to change intentions from either threats or inducements and deserve separate treatment.

Let's be clear up front. This does not necessarily mean the end of Islam. This elimination of Islamism could be carried out entirely within the borders of Islam. Certainly there are theological experts in Islam who have declared what Osama bin Laden is doing to not be true jihad but hirabah, banditry. In fact, while other religions may play a role in this spiritual warfare, the heaviest weight falls on western muslims.

The problem is how can the US, as a society, do what the US, as a government, is forbidden to do? Congress can make no law on the subject so the executive cannot implement anything and there is nothing for the judiciary to interpret. For the statists in the US, that leaves the cupboard pretty bare on societal action. Fortunately the statists are a minority but we've got the neutrality acts to worry about. Al Queda (thankfully) is largely a foreign operation. Organizing and acting across the border to take it out is something that can plausibly be read as creating and acting on a private foreign policy and thus, under US law, illegal.

The same forces that have acted in the past to push God out of the public square will not automatically reign in their horns when the subject is Al Queda. Make no mistake, this will be a massive injection of God into the public square and that will make some people uncomfortable. When americans get profoundly uncomfortable, they tend to head for the courthouse.

So we have several problems on the down side of this strategy.

1. The government can't do it without shredding the Constitution.
2. The society isn't used to having such initiatives without government dominating the process.
3. There is well established and generally useful law that potentially stands in the way of doing it.
4. There are organized factions of secularists in the US that predictably will get the hives over the whole initiative and resist.

The upside is that the chances of the US surviving as a nation without turning the middle east into a nuclear wasteland goes way up.

America, you decide.

Posted by TMLutas at November 26, 2003 12:39 AM