When I first began writing this article I intended it to be about the ban on Muslim immigration as proposed by Trump. While writing it I realized that it is more than that. It morphed into what I think are fundamental questions about our methods of dealing with Islamic terrorism.
Like all good stories though let us start from the beginning. Due to all the terror attacks happening in the US and around the globe perpetrated by Islamics who are either inspired by ISIS or outright members Trump has called for a total ban on all non-citizen muslims entering the United States. The main criticism of the policy is enforcement. How exactly is one going to find out the religion of every traveler?
There really is no argument here. It is not enforceable. As most people have mentioned there is no effective way to tell if a person is a muslim or not. Trump’s latest call however, to ban immigration from countries who have a track record of producing terrorists and are known terrorist havens, is definitely enforceable and is something we have most likely done in the past in other situations. That is a topic for another day though as I don’t predict much opposition to it.
If something is not enforceable does that mean there is no value in bringing it up for discussion? In letting other people know that yes we are so pissed of at this that this is what we are considering doing. That we view your religion so negatively because of all these terrorist attacks that a third to half of the population is willing to say that they are fine with this. Even though like I mentioned there is no practical way of doing it. I say Yes. There is a value in the discussion and the optics and other discussions it encourages.
Carrot and Stick
There is a military solution to dealing with Isis and we have discussed that in Trumplican in another article. The ideology of terrorism requires a different solution as well. At the end of the day the extremists of the religion of peace must be divided from the moderates (if they exist) of Islam. The moderates must hate the extremists so much that they would be willing to give them up immediately if they set up shop in one of their neighborhoods. Hatred from the moderates to the extremists would also make radicalization less likely.
There are two ways of doing this. The carrot and the stick. The carrot has been the main approach since the start and we are now realizing that it is not working.
Both Obama and Bush have tried this approach. They both go out of their way to make sure that everyone knows that there is nothing wrong with Islam and it is still the religion of peace. This was the strategy since the start of the war on terror and was implemented to divide the “moderate” muslims from the extremist.
Has it worked? Well 15 years into the war on terror the organizations just seem to be getting stronger and stronger. The US military claims it has killed 20000 ISIS fighters and Russia claims are more nebulous but some say they claim 60000. If that is true then Islamics are getting radicalized to fight for ISIS by the truckload as ISIS is still a going concern.
Terrorist attacks have not abated and seem to be getting worse. You would think that if the strategy is working then we would see a lot less of them or none as the “moderates” would report suspicious activity on the part of the extremists which would lead to more plots getting discovered. Yet as we say in Brussels this is rarely the case as none of their neighbors in the majority muslim area they were staying in reported them. In fact Brussels shows that the attacks are getting worse. Multiple reports indicate that the actual target was the Tihange nuclear reactor plant. Let me repeat that again. The target was a nuclear power plant. I don’t need to tell you the kind of long-term damage that causes much worse than 9/11 or any other attack since.
Clearly the carrot has failed. Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Should the carrot have been tried first? Yes. Should we have waited 15 years to confirm its abject failure before moving to the stick? No we should have done it a long time ago. What proponents of the carrot fail to do is pose any sort of time frame where this will be over. World War 2 was won in 5 years and we are still fighting this very same war on terror for 15 years running. Must we wait for 30 or 50 years? Do we need for the next generations to endure a terror attack every year?
The stick is very simple. It must be made plain to the moderates that the actions of the extremists have a very negative impact to them. They must be made aware that the world views the religion of peace and them by extension in increasingly negative terms because of the actions of the terrorists. The carrot relies on the better nature of man, which history has proven is a fickle thing to rely on while the stick relies on self-interest. They must be shown that extremism damages the very brand of Islam.
The hope is that since it is to their self-interest to do this it will lead to an actual division between the “moderates” and the extremists. Since they hate them for giving them a bad image worldwide the hope is that radicalization decreases as well. Most important and damaging to the extremist is the hope that some moderates leave the religion altogether so they are not associated with the terrorists anymore. If anything can galvanize religious leaders to action it is this.
The muslim ban has merit just being proposed and discussed openly. It is a step in the direction of the stick and “moderate” muslims should pick up on it. The counter argument is that well this would drive more muslims to join the terrorists.
What people don’t understand is by using the carrot we are already in that situation. We have plenty of examples of ISIS and other groups like it continuing on with new recruits despite any casualties. When this started the terrorists had their own country in Afghanistan after 15 years the terrorists still have their own country in Syria. No real expert says this war after 15 years is even close to being won.
Would it have been better to solve the problem just employing the carrot? Yes. But to keep employing it when it has so obviously failed is insanity.