How to Eradicate Militant Islam

It’s said that nothing is harder to kill than an idea. Trying to stamp out a deeply felt belief by force, especially a religious belief, not only makes its followers cling to it more tenaciously, it gives them an aura of martyrdom that makes the belief look even more attractive to outsiders. And when the belief in question is a religious belief whose scriptures claim that persecution of the faithful is a sign of their righteousness, these tendencies become all the stronger.

This is more than just an academic debate, unfortunately, because we’re currently seeing it play out in the spread of militant Islam. In some form or another, Islam is practiced by almost a third of the population of this planet, and this means there’s a vast pool of people who are susceptible to the siren song of radical preachers calling for violent jihad. Fundamentalism is spreading among them like a weed, and the memes that give fundamentalist Islam its resilience and persistence are interwoven with memes that encourage acts of bloodshed and terrorism: suicide bombings, chopping off heads and hands, stoning and hanging as routine punishments, the execution of apostates, the brutal oppression of women and religious minorities.

Nor can it be said any longer that militant, fundamentalist Islam is just an insignificant minority within a peaceful faith community. Polls of Muslim countries routinely find that majorities or sizable pluralities approve of tactics like suicide bombing, even against civilians (see p.39). And diplomatic organizations representing dozens of Islamic governments are still pressing for legal restrictions on free speech around the world. In most Muslim-majority nations, the rights of women and minorities, both de facto and de jure, are practically nonexistent.

We badly need to provoke a new Enlightenment in the Islamic world, but how? As any atheist knows, religious memes are self-protecting; they come packaged with concepts such as faith, obedience to religious authorities, the command to trust only one book, and the promise of hellfire for those who disobey or doubt, all of which make it difficult for people inside the religion to take a critical look at their own beliefs. Once they’ve taken root, they’re very difficult to eradicate.

To answer this question, I think it’s worth asking another one. Why is it that violent Islam has had so much success at spreading itself? How has it made so many converts?

I don’t believe that it’s because militant Islam is intrinsically more appealing than moderate Islam, or because it offers a stronger sense of purpose or identity. Nor is it because, as racists sometimes claim, Muslim people are less intelligent or more prone to violence than Westerners. I think the real explanation is very different and, once you realize it, much more obvious. Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains it in her book Nomad, describing her experiences with rootless Somali youth in Nairobi:

“Some of these young men later repented and joined the Muslim Brotherhood. They would go to Saudi Arabia on Islamic scholarships and come back as preachers of what we would now call radical Islam. Their own story was compelling, for they had been saved from evil, Westernized behavior when Allah showed them the straight path.” [p.57]

The spread of radical Islam can be traced directly to the disastrous coincidence that the more severe forms of Islam, like Wahhabism, were born in and came to dominate the same countries that have some of the world’s richest oil reserves. The leaders of these countries, all of which are theocracies, treated this discovery as proof that God favors their beliefs. And they’ve used – they’re still using – their vast oil wealth to fund an evangelistic movement spreading the poison of militant Islam throughout the world.

This makes the otherwise mysterious success of Islamism much more understandable. There’s nothing inexplicable about it – it’s entirely to be expected that the wealthiest faction will have the most ability to spread its message. And this is all the more true when they’re preaching to people in poor and developing nations, who stand to gain the most from affiliating themselves with the Islamist movement and the financial power that supports it. Most of these countries have governments that are weak, corrupt or autocratic, making an attractive alternative of charismatic Islamist preachers who claim to represent virtue and societal order. And in many poverty-stricken regions, Saudi-funded madrassas are literally the only source of education, which means these preachers face little resistance or competition in the battle for young minds. (This sheds some light on why the Afghani Taliban are so bent on destroying Western-built schools, especially girls’ schools. It’s not just because they want to keep women ignorant; it’s because they fear the competition.)

And this theory points the way to breaking the power of radical Islam: We badly need to free ourselves from our dependency on fossil fuel. The fact that it lubricates every part of our economy means that America and the West are, in effect, paying a tax to the religious fanatics who desire our destruction. This isn’t a new observation, of course, but I think this analysis clarifies the direct connection between our addiction to oil and the spread of jihadist ideologies that cultivate theocracy and terrorism.

If we could develop an alternative-energy economy not based on importing fossil fuels from the Mideast, the Islamist regimes would shrivel up and die, and the source of funding for al-Qaeda and its affiliates would dry up virtually overnight. As it is, we’re bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives in a futile quest to establish Western-friendly regimes, while at the same time spending rivers of cash that flows to the factions resisting us. We’re fighting the enemy with one hand while aiding them with the other. It would be laughably absurd, if the consequences weren’t so deadly serious.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Nathaniel

    Shh! Not so loud. Any suggestion that oil is not our lord and savior is strictly monitored by the Committee of UnAmerican Activities. Being an atheist is bad enough, but if they catch you suggesting this, why they’ll… leave nasty nasty blog comments. So be cautious.

  • DSimon

    (This sheds some light on why the Afghani Taliban are so bent on destroying Western-built schools, especially girls’ schools. It’s not just because they want to keep women ignorant; it’s because they fear the competition.)

    Are you saying that this is a deliberate decision on their part (a “rational why”) or the result of memetic forces that individual Taliban members may not notice (a “memetic why”)?

    Or to put it another way, how big is this conspiracy you’re proposing?

  • DSimon

    Which isn’t to say I have a problem with the major point you’re making: fossil fuel dependency is catastrophically dangerous. Two or three times over, even. :-

    R&D is progressing well on other energy sources, but I wish it were an even higher priority than it already is.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Ebon’s point read to me as memetic, DS, although I’ve seen it that way long enough that I might just be applying my own bias. I don’t think I am, though.

  • http://bamoon.com BrianM

    Reading this post set off an “aha!” moment for me.

    Could it also be said that the rise of American exceptionalism also helped spread evangelical Christian ideas? Seeing America get stronger over the past two centuries led to the belief that “God is on our side”?

    Hmmmm. Very much food for thought. Thank you for an intriguing post.

  • Sarah Braasch

    BrianM,

    I think you are absolutely right.

    This is why Xtian religionists are so intent on redefining the US as a Xtian nation.

    This also accounts for much of the rage and frustration that leads young Muslim men to violent jihad (not that all violent jihadists are young and male — but most of them are).

    They simply cannot deal with the cognitive dissonance that accompanies the realization that, despite having the ultimate truth, many Muslim societies are floundering, if not foundering.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    Ebon is right that cultures spread by being successful, and we are an example.

    The West has been incredibly successful at spreading its dogma. All around the world, capitalism and market economies are viewed as effective (even if not necessarily desirable); conversations about free speech occur daily (even if they ultimately decide against it).

    And I think Ebon is right about the solution. Which makes Green energy not only good for the planet but patriotic! When will the Repubs get on board? Seriously, I mean it. When will the flag-wearing uber-patriots stop defending sending money to our enemies as the height of free-market genius?

    (P.S. I remember reading an Islamic scholar explaining the immorality of the West because the West was “in its infancy.” !!!)

  • Sarah Braasch

    Yahzi,

    Do you know how many times I’ve heard the “in its infancy” argument? That is certainly a meme that has taken root and spread like wildfire.

    Western (allegedly) values of individualism and freedom get characterized as the rebellious flailing of an impertinent teenager.

    Two problems with that of course — 1 Islam is the baby of the family of major world religions. 2 There are individualists struggling desperately for their freedom(s) in all oppressive societies, including Muslim societies.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    Most terrorist problems today would be solved by switching to green tech, I could not agree more. Nor is the Government a necessary middleman either, because these technologies are rapidly overtaking oil in cost-effectiveness. Many already have. Flexible, ink-based UV Solar now pulls even with coal in cost. More and more companies are building hyperefficient dirigibles to transform travel for pennies on the dollar; the Aeroscraft, SkyCat, LEMV, Sunship, Millennium Airship, Dynalifter, 21st Century airships, and others are examples of this. We have the ability to weaken oil! We only have to take that little first step.

  • DSimon

    J. James… and then about a million more little steps after that first step. But still. :-)

  • Zietlos

    The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, DSimon.

    Of course, the fact that not as much oil comes from the middle east to the USA as to, say, Europe is not really a factor. The largest chunk of United Statesian oil is brought down from Canada, and its oil fields which are larger than several middle eastern countries put together, footprint-wise. They also get a lot of their coal from Canada, and their wood, and their uranium, and their power plant designs… Everything that energizes comes from Canada!

    This, in itself, actually makes the argument that much stronger, though. You silly United Statesians don’t need to cut as much consumption as you think you do: Canada is more than willing to become your sole supplier. Just cut back a little, then start bad-mouthing Europe for using “blood oil” or some other moniker that paints a bad picture, start a campaign to severely tax and hinder this blood oil market. It actually wouldn’t be too hard to do if some wealthy individuals invested in a few commercials.

  • Jayman

    Ebonmuse:

    I don’t believe that it’s because militant Islam is intrinsically more appealing than moderate Islam, or because it offers a stronger sense of purpose or identity.

    I think you avoid a more important question: did Muhammad teach and practice militant Islam or moderate Islam? If, as I believe, Muhammad taught and practiced what we call militant Islam then serious Muslims will always be prone to adopting militant Islam.

    The spread of radical Islam can be traced directly to the disastrous coincidence that the more severe forms of Islam, like Wahhabism, were born in and came to dominate the same countries that have some of the world’s richest oil reserves. The leaders of these countries, all of which are theocracies, treated this discovery as proof that God favors their beliefs. And they’ve used – they’re still using – their vast oil wealth to fund an evangelistic movement spreading the poison of militant Islam throughout the world.

    There might be some truth to what you say but jihad and Shariah are rooted in the teachings and actions of Muhammad and are not restricted to merely one Islamic sect. Converting to Islam may seem to be the lesser evil when your other options are death or second-class status. That, combined with military success, explains the spread of Islam since the 7th century.

    Most of these countries have governments that are weak, corrupt or autocratic, making an attractive alternative of charismatic Islamist preachers who claim to represent virtue and societal order.

    More importantly, they claim to represent true Islam and can make a decent case from the Quran, Hadith, and Sira that they are correct.

    We badly need to free ourselves from our dependency on fossil fuel.

    I have no objection to freeing ourselves from our dependency on fossil fuel, but I guarantee that the power of radical Islam will not be broken merely because Middle Eastern countries are not being paid for oil. One could also ask whether we should be giving any aid money to Islamic countries either.

    Sarah Braasch:

    They simply cannot deal with the cognitive dissonance that accompanies the realization that, despite having the ultimate truth, many Muslim societies are floundering, if not foundering.

    I’m not sure they have much cognitive dissonance. They more likely believe that Muslim countries are suffering because they are not Islamic enough.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Another aspect to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is, sad to say, a consequence of the failure of secular regimes. Ayaan Hirsi Ali mentions in Infidel when she was living in Nairobi, Kenya how basic social services were inadequate if non-existent, so the Muslims exploited the vacuum.

    Secular governments in the Muslim world have largely tended to be either authoritarian (with Mubarak’s Egypt representing a softer authoritarianism while Saddam Hussein perhaps the harshest example) or weak and ineffective like most civilian governments in Pakistan.

  • bryan

    It’s totally doable. If we switch to power generation via mostly nuclear and gasify our coal instead of burning it directly, we can reduce our total carbon output and escape from oil while not taking away jobs in the coal mining industry.

    There would be other effects: coal is 3 ppm uranium and 12 ppm thorium. We reduce our radiological output by that much.

  • Rollingforest

    Your theory about how repression only spreads religion reminded me of my favorite line from the movie V for Vendetta: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bullet proof.” Not that Islam is a good idea, but the concept holds, nonetheless.

    Your theory of rich areas spreading their religion has precedent in Christianity, I think. I listened to a talk by Bart Ehrman where he explains that while the four main factions of early Christianity (Proto Orthodoxy, Ebionites, Marcionites, and Gnostics) competed for converts during the first two centuries of Christianity, ultimately the Proto Orthodox won out because they were the majority in wealthy Rome and could afford to send out missionaries on the trade routes.

    I’m also proud of you for saying “Enlightenment” rather than “Reformation,” the word that most of the press seems to love to do when talking about fixing Islam. The press ignores the fact that Islam already had its Reformation (forming Sunni and Shiite) and the fact that the Reformation only made Christianity more violent.

    The problem with pushing the political line “Green Energy is Patriotic!” is that the Republicans are just going to respond “Drill, Baby, Drill!” for oil reserves in our oceans and in ANWR. Even after the Gulf oil spill, they are STILL doing it! But I still think it will be easier to get funding for research in green technology than it would be to try and get anything like Cap and Trade passed.

  • Eurekus

    Do you ever get the feeling that atheism is fighting a losing battle? That the world is an insane fundamentalist place? Then I remember that I was once a fundamentalist and that reason saved me from lunacy. Whatever way we need to save humanity from itself, including breaking free from our dependency on fossil fuels which financially feed fundamentalist Islamic regimes or by just using reason, we need to multiply our efforts. Atheists multiplied their efforts on me, so it does work.

  • Rollingforest

    Terrorist organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah also gain a following by providing social services to the community, so this would seem to argue against cutting aid money from the West. So less money for oil, more money for schools for girls might do the trick

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    How to eradicate militant Islam? That is the question, and I have to admit I’m not sure of the answer.

    All I know is that secularism has to win out. I think that by comparing the religious (in this case Islamic) ideas and values to secular values, the point gets across that the secular values and societies have more peace and freedom than theocratic ones. Personally, I had the opportunity to compare the ideas of rights, equality, etc. that I was learning about in school (e.g. in history class) to the ideas that were being promoted in the Islamic Sunday School I briefly attended. Then again, my parents were/are not very interested in following much of the religion, and they always believed that I should get an education, be independent, etc. just like my brother, so I can’t really say that I deconverted from a very religious (let alone extreme) form of Islam.

    I definitely think that a large part of the extremism is that sometimes the only schools available are the religious ones. Parents have to choose whether to send their kids to school or not, without the option of sending them to a more secular school.

    There also seems to be this weird idea that following Islam is a way to preserve values, honor, respect for family, etc. along with the idea that a secular society would ruin these things. People’s rights aren’t considered as important by the extremists (of any religion, but in this case particularly Islam) and adhering to the traditions is considered more important. The assumption seems to be that, whatever problems may be caused by adhering to traditions, the problems caused by being less religious would be even worse. Combine this with a warped idea of right and wrong and there’s an enormous amount that can go wrong.

    I do think that depriving the extremist groups of money is a good idea, inhibiting their ability to make even more people extreme, but in addition to that, we’d still have to address the fact that there are people who already believe it. There is also the issue of people who are not necessarily involved in any of these larger groups but hurt their own families at home (e.g. in cases of honor killings).

    Perhaps the only way to do this really is one person at a time. I think the people most likely to see the benefits of secularism would be people who are being hurt or seeing their families being hurt by the religious rules.

    @Rollingforest (comment 17): I have to agree with that. The money should be going to projects that have a good impact, so that the people have a choice of where to send their kids to school and so on.

  • Rollingforest

    And to respond to Eurekus, there is good reason not to give up hope. The percentage of the world that is voluntarily atheist is increasing, especially in the West.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#Age_distribution

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Are you saying that this is a deliberate decision on their part (a “rational why”) or the result of memetic forces that individual Taliban members may not notice (a “memetic why”)?

    Or to put it another way, how big is this conspiracy you’re proposing?

    It’s mainly a memetic explanation, DSimon. It seems more likely to me that the Taliban just believe that educating girls is a sin and act accordingly. It’s not necessary that any of them grasp the rationale for that behavior, though some of them probably do – they may think in terms of these schools filling Afghan girls’ heads with decadent Western notions, which would be close enough. But it’s sufficient for my purposes that Islam as a religion has been channeled in this direction because the sects that historically kept their members subservient and ignorant tended to gain a numerical advantage.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Deliberately excluding women from education has a secondary controlling effect, because they have the most influence on young children. If you don’t want your child “corrupted” before the madrassa gets him, keep mom ignorant.

  • Eurekus

    Actually Steve Bowen, you’re right on. My mum was a fundamentalist and had a relatively poor education, so in hindsight I can see I never had a chance against the clergy. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I finally shook the brainwashing off, but at times I still have irrational fears. The similarities are endless between Xianity and Islam.

  • http://makingmyway.org Robert

    As much as I would like to see Saudi Arabia’s noxious form of Islam shrivel and die, I don’t think Ebon’s suggested solution will do the trick.

    First, the share of Saudi Arabia’s oil exports that go to the U.S. – 20% – is probably not large enough to make much of a difference if the share should decline.

    Second, and more importantly, even if we do somehow manage to drastically cut oil consumption, one needs to remember that oil will likely remain the primary fuel that powers most of the rest of the world for the forseeable future, particularly rapidly growing economies such as China and India. So, even as we import less, that won’t necessarily lead to an overall reduction in Saudi Arabia’s revenues from oil. Other economies will likely just take up the slack.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    When will the flag-wearing uber-patriots stop defending sending money to our enemies as the height of free-market genius?
    – Yahzi, #7

    TL;DR version: When it stops securing riches and power for the rich and powerful.

    There are two kinds of flag-wearing uber-patriots (basically), and the answer depends on which group you’re asking about. The overwhelming majority of them are docile authoritarian followers who do whatever they’re told by those they see as legitimate authorities, and see agreement with [social] authority as the hallmark of intellect (this is also how they manage to view atheism and evolution as religions – because there are some talking heads out front, so it must be the same sort of thing, right?). In order to stop doing that, they have to question their leadership (which they see as a bad thing to do) and realize that they’re being lied to (which is also unlikely because they think the authorities genuinely have their best interests at heart). You see, those in authority have the best interests of the populace at heart, so they do what’s best for them, which means that they don’t lie to them, and you can tell that they aren’t lying because they’re the authorities, making for the worst epistemological circle-jerk you can find outside of explicit apologetics.

    The other kind, those who turn the wheels of the grist mill, are no easier to fix despite their smaller numbers. They are cynical opportunists who will say pretty much whatever they need to say, profess whatever beliefs they need to profess, and jump through whatever social hoops they need to jump through, in order to acquire power over others. They may or may not believe their own BS to varying degrees, but they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing who try to secure as much short-term power as they think they can hold on to (and they think they can hold on to a lot!). For them, the circle-jerk is a little more complicated: buying oil from the rich and powerful in the Middle East encourages those very same high rollers to buy our guns, and the rich and powerful use the guns and money to secure their power, and keeping them supplied with guns and money in exchange for oil fosters a very profitable and loyal business relationship. Meanwhile, the poor fight for their precious ideals, while the rich and powerful in both nations exploit that conflict by encouraging it on all sides by various means. The poor and powerless are grist for the mill: either they submit to the authorities and carry out the orders, or they defy the authorities and place themselves on the receiving end of those orders, reinforcing the power structure all the while. All too often, those who foment dissent are cynical powermongers themselves, seeking to topple the old corrupt regime in order to take a shortcut to being at the helm of the new corrupt regime.

    If we go green, then those damned newcomer upstarts might edge out the good ol’ boys, ‘cuz the things they’ve been doing might not work as well as they used to work, and they don’t know who will have power when the dust settles! But as long as it might not be them, that’s a chance they’re willing to postpone until after retirement. These aren’t critical thinkers, mind you, they’re social predators who just climb and exploit existing power structures (which pretty much self-assemble out of the need for organization – or rather, those that self-assemble best prove to be the longest-lasting and most profitably exploitable).

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    First, the share of Saudi Arabia’s oil exports that go to the U.S. – 20% – is probably not large enough to make much of a difference if the share should decline.

    Given that Saudi Arabia has virtually no economy outside oil, I think a 20% cut would make a pretty big difference. But more importantly, I wasn’t suggesting this as an America-only initiative. China and India have every bit as much incentive to decarbonize their economies as we do – both for the sake of undermining Islamist terrorism, as well as for the sake of not sending a large proportion of their country’s GDP abroad. Why would anyone want to pay more and more for each increasingly scarce barrel of oil while solar power, after the initial startup cost, is free and inexhaustible?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey
  • allen

    Hello all — this is my first comment (as well as my first day here) . . . Yahzi — your question about the Repubs “getting on board” about not funneling money to terror orgs is conveniently answered by them: “drill, baby, drill”. They wrap themselves in the armor of indignation that they aren’t guilty of funneling the terror money . . . the foolish enviro-wackos are. If only we would just continue to tear up the ecosystem with more deep water drilling and in the arctic wilderness . . . we’d be free from terror funding and on to “energy independence”.

    I’m not going to go all misty eyed here about the immediate beauty and quality of switchgrass and windmills . . . I know that our entire lives are still wayyy too attached to the oil teet, from how far we live fom work, to the plastic bags we tote . . . but, of course, the road to real energy independence leads away from oil and toward sustainable, renewable sources.

    Until the obscene profits are ripped from oil (look at the extent BP went for profits with the release of the Lockerbie bomber) the Repubs will never be “on board”.

    Funny, though. Renewable will be profitable and it fits right into a capitalistic society . . . needs to be used and replaced . . . ideal, right?

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment and the insightful posts here.

  • http://makingmyway.org Robert

    But more importantly, I wasn’t suggesting this as an America-only initiative. China and India have every bit as much incentive to decarbonize their economies as we do – both for the sake of undermining Islamist terrorism, as well as for the sake of not sending a large proportion of their country’s GDP abroad.

    Your point about India is sound, but China? It appears devoted only to strengthening political and economic ties with Saudi Arabia.

    The more significant problem, however, is that the direct and sole link between oil revenues and terrorism upon which your prescription depends simply doesn’t exist. And even if it did, funding terrorists is hardly expensive. Funding could easily be maintained while budgets shrink.

    The truth of the matter is, Islamic terrorists are often simply creatures of states used to pursue their ends against enemies, state and non-state. Attacking Wahhabism or starving Saudi Arabia won’t change that.

    In sum, as much as I would wish otherwise, your silver bullet simply won’t kill the militant Islamic vampire. We need to seek other solutions.

    Why would anyone want to pay more and more for each increasingly scarce barrel of oil while solar power, after the initial startup cost, is free and inexhaustible?

    The problem with solar energy is that, currently at least, it costs vastly more per kilowatt hour than the alternatives. What’s more, it’s not true that after start-up costs, the energy is “free”. The panels degrade and need to be replaced. And those panels are not exactly environmentally-friendly.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    The more significant problem, however, is that the direct and sole link between oil revenues and terrorism upon which your prescription depends simply doesn’t exist.

    That’s a good point, Robert. However, I think it is not so much a matter of the money we spend on imported oil funding terrorism against us as it is a matter of oil being a reason for us to be involved in the Middle East which consequently causes resentment and anger towards us.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    It’s my understanding that the madrassas in Pakistan are largely funded by petro-dollars.

    Even if our shifting to green energy does little more that inconvenience them, it is still a good idea.

    I see no reason our money should fund those who teach religious zealotry and murderous intolerance.

    Also, while China will likely pick up some of the slack market, the decrease in demand will likely be accompanied by a decrease in cost across the board.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Yes, but none of the 9/11 terrorists or any of the others who have committed terrorist acts on our soil were educated in madrassas. A lot of them were college educated.

  • John Nernoff

    I hate to bring this up, but World War II had us fighting “militant Shinto” replete with endless suicide bombers (Kamikaze) and a population of tens of millions willing to fight to the death for their homeland and religion. Was that situation vastly different from our present predicament? I think not. The Japanese had plenty of resources and cutting them off did not seem to make any difference at all in their resolute attitude of aggrandizement and aggression.

    One thing did them in. Atomic bombs.

    A congressman, Mr. Tancredo, has proposed nuking Mecca and Medina in response to any future significant attack on an American city. You may well think this is an insane, lunatic and crazy idea, unthinkable in a modern world that only even gives lip-service to any sort of morality. And you may consider me suspect for even mentioning it.

    But there is a dreadful prospect even worse looming on the horizon. A terroristic Islamic strike with an atomic weapon in a large American city, active explostion or a dirty bomb. A recent movie, “Countdown to Zero” is showing now, which brings to light the imperative of reducing nuclear stockpiles and weapons to zero. NOW. Will this happen? I seriously doubt it. It is only a matter of time until the dream-world of the most radical Islamic terrorist will be realized. Thousands of nuclear weapons are “managed” by the U.S.A. and Russia, not to mention Great Britain, France, Israel, China, India, and Pakistan (the latter two wonderful representatives of advanced civilization at each other’s throats right now).

    Then there’s Iran and North Korea. !!!

    Would seriously promising a nuclear strike on Mecca and Medina deter a crazy group of Muslims from carrying out their most cherished notions of doing in the “Great Satan”? Even a vast conventional bombing might do the trick. I leave this horrific prospect here for further discussion — if you dare.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I sometimes think that a nuclear bomb being dropped will be the only thing that will get humanity to wake up and stop apologizing for and propitiating tribalism and dogma.

    But, this is not a scenario to which I look forward.

    But, I won’t be shocked, or, even, surprised when it happens.

    I certainly don’t think the US should be the one to begin the game of nuclear chicken.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Yes, Tom Tancredo is a nutcase, for more reasons than one.

    Should the British have bombed the Vatican in response to IRA terrorism? And would it have helped their situation?

    Militant Islam exists and thrives in certain conditions, such as weak or failed states which provides a vacuum for Islamists to fill (see Somalia and Pakistan), or in response to perceived or actual aggression against Muslim states by outsiders, such as the Russians in Chechnya or Afghanistan, the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, India in Kashmir and so forth.

    If you want to propose destroying the Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina in response to a terrorist attack in the United States, it would be good to know in advance what the blowback repercussions will be. Are Muslims around the world going to conclude that a vaporized Mecca means that Allah is powerless to protect them and that they will just toss aside their militancy and become Buddhists? Or will it inflame them to such a degree that they will seek vengeance to a degree we cannot even imagine?

  • John Nernoff

    Alternatively I ask, what happens when an Islamic terrorist group sets off an atomic device in NYC or Washington D.C and, say, 200,000 Americans (and others) are killed and 500,000 are injured? Will a widely published counter-threat forestall such a plot?

  • Sarah Braasch

    John,

    I really don’t think so.

    In fact, I think it would probably achieve the opposite result. I think such a threat would be seen as a provocation and a legitimate justification for carrying out such an attack.

  • Sarah Braasch

    We do not want to be playing nuclear chicken with the folks who want to martyr themselves for Allah.

    We aren’t going to win that game.

    The only reasonable course of action is to attempt to remove nuclear weapons from the equation all together.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Sarah in #36 has it right, I think. The eschatologists of both sides may indeed welcome such an occurence and work to bring it about, seeing such an event as being part of Allah’s — or God’s — plans.

  • Zietlos

    And on top of that, Johnny, you’re answering your own question:

    We have two countries that are, basically, run by religious zealots: Xians on one side, Muslims on the other. Now, the suggestion of nuking their major cities… You answered it yourself: If they nuked two of the USA’s cities, would the USA cease their hostilities, pull out from the countries they’ve invaded, and admit that putting all those dictators into power in the 80s wasn’t the best idea? Or would they nuke right back while saying they are on God’s side against sand-devils? Really. Think about it. They attack three buildings and the response is so insanely disproportional, I would hate to see what further prodding does. You’re facing humans here. If you can attribute it to your side, you can attribute the exact same thing to their side, just with views reversed. If the USA won’t stop from it, they definitely won’t either.

    Be a delinquent in the school of madness: Try talking it out, and being rational!

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Been thinking about this a lot.

    Another part of the problem is that the early history of Islam is extremely successful. Muhammad and his successor united the tribes of the Arabian peninsula and then in a very short time conquered half of the Eastern Roman Empire and the entire Sassanid Persian Empire.

    Since Muslims today view Muhammad and his circle as being the holiest of Muslims, there is a tendency to equate emulation of the early Muslims with the success of Islam and therefore it should be applied today to make Islam successful again.

    Unfortunately, secularism has failed to live up to its promise in many parts of the Islamic world. There is also a perception that Islam is under attack by the infidel powers. Not just the United States, which is seen as siding with Israel, having stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, and has a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the Kashmir situation between India and Pakistan. The terrorist bombings in Russia are a result of Russia’s wars in Chechnya. Some Muslims view the vote by the Southern Sudanese for secession from Sudan as carving away a chunk of territory from a Muslim state. If you’re a paranoid Muslim, you can find evidence almost everywhere that your religion is under assault.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that the United States can do about it. We can’t tell Russia what to do in Chechnya. We can try to push India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute, though our leverage is limited. If we really wanted to, we could probably get Israel to stop expanding and maybe even dismantle some of their settlements on the West Bank and recognize a Palestinian state, but I don’t see any U.S. president having the balls to do it.

    It’s a complex problem with no quick and easy solutions, though for some people there is the seductive and seemingly easy solution of just bombing enough Muslims so that there aren’t enough of them left to make a difference, sort of like the Cylon assault on the humans in Battlestar Galactica.


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