Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 10, 2015

The enemy of peace and happiness

Filed under: Radicalization — by Philip J. Palin on December 10, 2015

I am a man in his sixties, mostly of Danish, Norman French, and English ancestry.  I enjoy a glass a wine.  I drink too much coffee.  I have a particular affection for the human form in art and otherwise. In many ways, I am a sensualist.

I am also an active member of the Jesus movement. I understand my spiritual tradition to be well-rooted in and watered by Judaism.  I recognize Islam as a closely-related tradition — in some ways the original protestants — who have preserved and extended a web of spiritual notions gradually excluded by the post-Constantinian Church.

I am especially taken by the Koran’s characterization of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. For me it is entirely coherent with Gospel accounts… and much more extensive.

On Tuesday I sent and received several Rohatsu greetings, celebrating the anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

I understand Ultimate Reality — what I sometimes call God — to be radically open to constant flux.  Reality is predisposed to freedom and creativity. Randomness is one necessary aspect of this freedom. Chaos is how we may characterize our experience of reality.

I also perceive that deeply woven into our universal context are strange attractors quite adept at maintaining certain boundaries.  In most ways, the behavior of Ultimate Reality is precisely unpredictable, but in many other ways: discoverable, dependable, and  — while beyond proofs positive — potentially (and innately) self-restrained.  God is reasonable, Aquinas thought he had proven.

To some all of this makes me an infidel (and for others, dangerously religious).  I honor the material world.  I am religiously syncretic.  I perceive God to be self-restraining.  The God of Spinoza? Heretic.

To the extent that I actively quote Tanakh, Gospel, Talmud, Koran, Hadith, Sutra, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr in arguing these perceptions, I am demonstrably Satanic.  A Tempter.  An Impediment. A Spiritual Rebel.

I am not being ironic.  I understand and — at a certain level — even empathize with the critique.

They crave certainty.  They perceive rather specific guarantees.  They preach and try to practice a strict formula that they are convinced can unfold into universal peace and happiness.  If only humanity would submit to this discipline, a holy justice, equality, and love would be experienced by all.

In my stubborn rebellion I not only condemn myself, but I endanger thousands of others. I am perpetuating the pain of sin and separation. Eliminating me would speed the reconciliation of humanity to its true calling.

Earlier this year ISIS was quite explicit in one of their English-language publications (Dabiq) regarding this separation of sheep from goats, wheat from chaff, good from evil.  They paraphrased Osama bin Laden (who drew on George W. Bush): “The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”

Today those associated with Raqqa perceive too many Muslims (the vast majority) reside in what they call a “grey zone”, a shadowland between the light of certain truth and the darkness of ambiguity that I personify.  Too many modern Muslims share some of my corrupt predilections. They must be motivated to turn from darkness and toward the light.

One of the best ways to achieve this is for darkness to expel them. Again in Dabiq — published to be read by English-speaking Muslims — they wrote,

The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufri [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffar [infidels] without hardship, or they perform hijrah [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens… Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilafah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of ‘Islam’ before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.

The coordinated attack on Paris was well-timed, intentionally or not, to influence the French regional elections.  Sunday the first phase produced an outcome very satisfying to Raqqa.  The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim National Front Party garnered more votes (28%) than the Socialists (23%) or conservative Les Republicains (27%).

In the US Republican Party nomination contest, Donald Trump is betting Iowa caucus goers and New Hampshire primary voters are ready to reject the grey zone. He is not alone.

The leaders of ISIS pray to a Power that they are certain can make Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump servants of His purpose: to eliminate the grey, clarify black from white, fulfill their vision of division and certainty.

This is a self-interested warping of reality.  In my experience the mixing of dark and light, night and day, is not grey.  At dawn and twilight what I most often see is pink to crimson, saffron to gold, and cerulean to ebony. This morning there was a crescent moon rising to meet the bright planet named for a once-upon goddess of love.

These places between light and darkness are beautiful. I welcome sharing them with anyone who is ready to look east in the morning or west in the evening.  I understand how this makes me the enemy of ISIS and others committed to certainty.  In this recognition, I am even more motivated to enjoy — and defend — these in-between places. Those who have been excluded or expelled are especially welcome.  Given your experience with extremists, your insight is especially needed.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

December 10, 2015 @ 7:09 am

MSM and the political class are often dominated by the same poorly educated people IMO. Often despite credentials that might indicate the ability known as critical thinking.

I try and listen closely to what the MSM and political class are saying. Perhaps it might astound some that I think they all are missing on TRUMP and ISIS, War and Peace, and what America wants and needs now.

I think that America may have swung into a pre-revolutionary mode, primed by Wall Street and recession, and a dysfunctional governing class.

One question of mine is can the 100M Evangelicals [not sure how can or will vote?] elect a US President on their own? What we do know is that the following groups–white men, blacks, Hispanics, the young old [65-85] and the old old [85 and over] and voters under 30 cannot elect a President without the help of other groups.

Polls are meaningless but who can vote and does vote is not.
Between LBJ and Obama the DEMS did not receive the votes of male white voters. Trump has his strongest support among white males and will they turn out to help him win Primaries? Maybe?

This vote may will give insights as to what damage has already been done to our country but could be wrong as always. What it will not do is set out a path for the rest of the 21st Century for the USA.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 10, 2015 @ 9:05 am

Bill: After the 2012 elections the Republican National Committee commissioned a post-mortem. At the time, many (most?) were amazed at the very candid and self-critical results. One quote — consistent with much of the report:

If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out. The Party should be proud of its conservative principles, but just because someone disagrees with us on 20 percent of the issues, that does not mean we cannot come together on the rest of the issues where we do agree.

The report makes a compelling, empirical case that without convincing voters of such inclusiveness (and more), the GOP can not win the Presidency.

Donald Trump is one of the eternal undead of Republican Presidential politics. He reflects and magnifies several profound dysfunctions in the culture. These are, by the way, essentially the same dysfunctions that William F. Buckley spent his life attempting to excise from the Party. Evidently, Buckley used something other than a hawthorn stake.

Especially in the absence of a compelling conservative alternative, Mr. Trump will continue to do well with, I’m guessing, up to forty percent of Republicans participating in the nomination process. In a crowded field this could give him a considerable plurality.

In the General Election, Mr. Trump would almost certainly be rejected in a Goldwater-sized landslide. But for such a guy to be the nominee of the Republican party is not just bad for the party, it would deliver to ISIS and other adversaries extraordinary advantages.

For the complete GOP report, please get it here.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

December 10, 2015 @ 9:51 am

Eloquent and brave words. Thank you Phil.

Comment by George Osbourne

December 10, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

Mr. Palin:

Substantively I’m sympathetic. Personally I like your essay. But part of “our” problem is that just as Jasper is writing mostly for his co-believers, so are you. His style is angry. Yours is poetic. Some one else is political. Another person is empirical. Each is mostly focused on reinforcing tribal attitudes (and maybe personal certitude). Some of this is related to William Cummings complaint regarding (lack of) education. But something else is happening or not happening. You may be happy to hear that I am deeply uncertain of what is causing this stylistic/substantive fracturing. But Whatever is the cause, it is a major impediment to effectively shared communication.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 10, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

Mr. Osbourne: Thank you. Unfortunately I expect you are correct. My style is probably not going to convert — may even reconfirm — a current Trump supporter. I hope what I have written might encourage a refugee or Muslim citizen or someone trying to put aside fear.

Maybe you are already familiar with the work of Jonathan Haidt? The Righteous Mind may be his most recent book. As I recall, Haidt has found quite persistent mental frames — intuitions — that complicate (or worse) reasoning and tend to emphasize sets of values — some of which are in tension. A 2012 book review may give you a sense.

It’s been a long day, so this may be defensive: But for what it’s worth, I was trying to suggest how and some of why we demonize each other. Not just “them”, but all of us. It becomes a mutually reinforcing cycle that tends toward Manichean division, each side insisting they are the light (right). Somehow we’ve got to break the cycle. But, like you, I’m not quite sure how.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 11, 2015 @ 6:44 am

Mr. Osbourne: After a night’s sleep, some additional thought on a possible “solution” regarding this widespread tendency to exclude, expel, and condemn as other: A first step involves suspending judgment. A second step involves engaging in a minimum of self-criticism… at least enough to hear the supposed other. I’m guessing this will often lead to a third step of questioning (then repeating steps one and two). All of which supposes the other has not already stormed away or launched into a loud monologue… or killed you or me.

This proposal supposes that those of us so engaged are ready — able — to listen with some comprehension, even sympathy (thank you), rather than just rant and rave. To your point, too often we are repeating scripts that our confederates understand, but regarding which those outside our confederacy can barely hear at all. These differences serving to further divide us. (Some will hear me referring to the Confederate States, others to Confederacy of Dunces, others will hear no allusion at all.)

So… deep breath, clear mind, ask authentic question, wait for answer… But then there will be those, Robert Lewis Dear is a recent dramatic example, who are not at all interested in conversation, perhaps so cognitively impaired as to be unable. Sometimes they are carrying a gun. Sometimes more than one. Then our quick judgment may be necessary to save our own lives and the lives of others.

But this diagnosis and prescription seems to end in a suspicious binary. Clearly I am not communicating effectively with Jasper. Potentially not with Bill. You and Claire are affirmative. But maybe I’m just repeating what you already perceived. You might even perceive me meaning something convivial that I do not intend. In this particular case, the non-communication does not have huge consequences. But if this is a reasonable microcosm of a larger social reality (and it seems to me it is), then this failure to communicate is a serious threat with enormous consequences.

Comment by George Osbourne

December 12, 2015 @ 9:11 am

Mr. Palin:

Thank you. Your formula is a good one. It will, I agree, often work. But as Jasper’s contributions to your blog, above and elsewhere suggest, there are some too angry to hear your questions and too convinced of their own righteousness to be self-critical. If they are also violent? Frankly, if Jasper was spouting a Salafist script, I might be inclined to suggest the authorities add him to their risk list. Maybe I still should. In a world where Jasper, Trump, Le Pen, Orban, al-Baghdadi, Khamenei,al-Zawahiri are allowed to set the agenda, we are constantly incited to be afraid of our own shadows. The best we can sometimes do is refuse to be afraid, reject anger, and continue with your formula: with no expectation of success.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 12, 2015 @ 9:16 am

The DONALD is woefully underestimated and perhaps even misunderstood but he is the master of the SOUNDBITE.

The problem of course is that just as Washington is filled with articulate briefers with their power point presentations few really good decision makers IMO.
Evaluation of decision makers very tough and even in hiring hard to really understand.

Sample test: Employment of a WMD somewhere in world or even USA?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 13, 2015 @ 5:10 pm

As of late afternoon on Sunday (eastern time), it appears the French electorate has frustrated the National Front’s attempt to break-out from pariah status, rejecting its anti-immigrant anti-Muslim message, and refusing to give ISIS an undeserved victory.

Turnout was up by almost 10 percent (at 58 percent) compared with the first round. It rose sharply in areas where the National Front had been strongest in the first round last Sunday, suggesting many cast ballots to prevent the far right from winning.

One election blog writes: “The main story is that Le Pen’s party has picked up its largest haul of votes yet, but still failed to win a single region after massive tactical voting by Frenchmen and women determined to keep it out of power.”

Merci, la belle France. More at France 24.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 13, 2015 @ 6:16 pm

Phil, I would submit that France gave ISIS and every other jihadi group an overwhelming victory when they decided to join the regime change crowd led by the U.S., and bomb Syria (otherwise known as the cradle of civilization) back to the stone age.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 14, 2015 @ 5:17 am

Vicki: I agree that current US, French, British, Russian, Iranian, and most other military interventions seem to be inflaming violence with very little prospect for substantive progress. (I am not as certain about Kurdish interventions, any thoughts there?)

But electing the National Front would have been an even more insidious, in my opinion, self-inflicted wound.

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