Are we At War with Islam? Check Your Premises!


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Subject: Are we At War with Islam? Check Your Premises!

Some conservatives, Objectivists, and 'right-wing' libertarians in the years since 9-11 have taken the position that we should use force against muslim institutions and civilians such as clerics and mosques and madrassas.

The implementations they have advocated vary from one instance: prevent a mosque from being built near ground zero to many instances: bomb madrassas, hunt down and kill clerics overseas (or nuke a major enemy city, killing the ringleaders along with millions of civilians).

Their argument would not be possible without a single crucial proposition, whether explicitly stated or implied: "We are at war with Islam."

This is a misleading statement. There are two words in this proposition which should be examined. And they are not "at" and "with".

First, "Islam". If one has read a book on the Middle East and Islam, one quickly learns that there is a difference between the religion and a tiny minority of its most extreme adherents, the Islamists or Islamofascists. The Islamofascists want to impose theocracy, to declare jihad and fatwas, to murder their opponents both in their home countries and in the West. And with the terrorists among them and some of the Wahhabi sect in particular, we have clearly seen - even before 9-11 - that they mean it.

Islamofascism or "Islamism" is strongest in the Middle East from the Arab world through Iran and into Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in a number of expatriate communities. But Islamofasism is not identical to Islam, nor do more than a tiny minority of muslims subscribe to it. Never in history have one billion people been of a single mind about anything.

Nor have they been willing to follow a single intellectual path, even when clothed in the respected garb of the church.

Even in Iran, the overwhelming majority of its population hates and resents theocracy, especially now that they live under one and have direct experience of what it does to their lives. After 9-11, the country in which there was the greatest number of citizens who expressed sympathy for the United States, who left massive flowers on the steps of the U.S. Embassy was: Iran.

And Al Qaeda and Bin Laden and their allies have been steadily losing support as they have murdered innocent people in their own countries, as thugs and murderers have terrorized those who violate religious strictures and as it has become clear what 'sharia' means. MOreover, elsewhere in the Middle East (with the possible exceptions of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) from Morocco in the West to Turkey in the East plus Iraq and Indonesia - the largest muslim country in the world, the forces of secularism and modernization are very much at war with, and disgusted by, the bands of would-be religious totalitarians.

So those who seek to use force against us, to use terror or weapons of mass destruction are not represented by the word 'Islam', but by Islamic terrorists, by Al Qaeda and like groups, by Islamic fascists.

So the doctrine 'we are at war with Islam' is false if you mean a war involving physical attacks.

Second, this brings us to the concept of "war". To say that we are at war with Islam and thus, as in any war, we must use force against their supporting institutions is to equivocate on two meanings of the word "war". Equivocation consists in employing the same word in two or more senses and either implicitly or explicitly switching between them in some unacknowledged way within one argument. Say to someone with a Christian or anti-Islamic or secular view that we are "at war" with Islam and they will often nod their heads, yes, it's an implacable religion which wants its doctrines and theology to expand and conquer. But that is *a war of ideas* as it is against socialism or other ideas advocating expanding the power of governments at the expense of individual rights.

The use of the word war is to equivocate, to blur and eradicate the vital philosophical distinction between two very different kinds: between a war of ideas, persuasion, and role models on the one hand --- and a war of bullets and bombs and coercion on the other.

A war of ideas is not (except for the extreme group mentioned in the previous paragraph) a war in which the enemy religion and its billions of adherents is trying to use force, to develop and employ weapons of mass destruction - as opposed to ideas against the unbelievers. Persuasion is its dominant mode of advance. Whether or not there are suras and passages in the Koran which advocate such force, here is the key principle: The billions of muslims are not enlisted and are not participating in any way in jihad. They are not (except for a handful) trying to fund or hide those who have declared jihad. Most of their jihads and conflicts and strongest resentments are local and internal: Sunnis and Shiites. Pashtuns against other groups. The oppressiveness of their own government. Groups such as the powerful and corrupt vs. the poor or downtrodden.

And it is surprising and dismaying to observe some of those who claim to be against the initiation of force and who believe it is the single greatest political evil and who believe that, only in the absence of force can new ideas, the best ideas advance, and can man advance out of barbarism and into civilization. It is surprising and dismaying to see such people arguing that coercion and force, not persuasion and ideas and reasons and positive values and the hope for the future, should be used against a religion or its advocates and leadership as such.

To kill someone or blow up their church convinces no one and permanently intimidates no observer or neighbor or relative.

Rather the opposite.

Added to this there is a lesson from history which further undercuts the idea that one billion muslims today are an implacably hostile military enemy (or filled to the rooftops with nascent terrorists itching to be unleashed).

There are indeed statements in the Koran which advocate holy war and advocate the fusion of church and state. And in many ways the religion as currently practiced is more hostile to civil society, and peace, and rights than is the Christian or Buddhist or Confucian world. But those muslim scriptures existed and were studied and learned across the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. And yet, the muslim world was the peaceful world, the civilized world, the world which had great respect for the Greeks and reason and science and which revered, respected, and preserved the works of Aristotle and of science and enlightenment for those very reasons. If the muslim religion as such were the implacable problem, what about it made it more so than the Christian world of the time: The Christian world was the world of barbarism and force and an intellectual, moral, economic, epistemological dark ages. The Islamic world was the world of order, rule of law, trade, science, reason.

So, it's possible to accept the religion of Islam and not be trying to exterminate the West or progress or reason or civilization. It's possible to be a practicing muslim and not be an enemy of modernity. Just like as it is possible for those who adhere to -- in full or in part, in terms of deep understanding and commitment or in terms of 'lip service' -- any other religion.

Edited by Philip Coates
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I'm going up to the lake this weekend, and thinking about the trip got me wondering about how many lakes there are officially here in Minnesota. We're called the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but did you know that we actually have 11,842? We have more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined!! We've got so many frickin' lakes that a lot of them share the same name: there are 201 named "Mud Lake," 154 named "Long Lake," and 123 named "Rice Lake." Isn't that awesome?

J

Edited by Jonathan
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The billions of muslims are not enlisted and are not participating in any way in jihad.

I’m afraid your use of the word Jihad reflects only one of its meanings.

Muslims use the word in a religious context to refer to three types of struggles: an internal struggle to maintain faith, the struggle to improve the Muslim society, or the struggle in a holy war.

From Wikipedia

Muslims are expected to be engaged in Jihad all the time. So it’s probably best to just say 'terrorism'. Jihad doesn’t have a proper equivalent in the Western Weltanschauung.

I'm going up to the lake this weekend, and thinking about the trip got me wondering about how many lakes there are officially here in Minnesota.

Lakes are great, do you ever go ice fishing in the winter? Every year Garrison Keillor’s iconic Norwegian Bachelor Farmer makes it the destination for his Hajj.

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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> I’m afraid your use of the word Jihad reflects only one of its meanings.

ND, isn't that a bit of a nitpick?

It's a serious essay. It took me half a day to write a post attempting to systematically refute a viewpoint regarding violating the rights of or killing innocent civilians held by Peikoff, Amy P., Ed Cline, Craig B. and others.

The views I expressed are presumably ones you largely would agree with. I would have hoped you would have been supportive. Or even offer some additional points, examples, arguments regarding what is wrong with the views of the lump-em-all-together, nuke-em-all crowd.

Edited by Philip Coates
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To kill someone or blow up their church convinces no one and permanently intimidates no observer or neighbor or relative.

I think this sentence needs a rewrite. Too confusing.

> I’m afraid your use of the word Jihad reflects only one of its meanings.

ND, isn't that a bit of a nitpick?

You’re contributing to the misuse of the word. Jihad has come to be synonymous with terrorism, and I think that’s the achievement of bigots with assists from the lazy and the clueless. Imagine a critic misusing Objectivist jargon, sorry I can’t think of an illustration at the moment. So I'm giving a suggestion how to improve your piece. Maybe you could substitute "violent jihad" if you don't want to say "terrorism" too many times.

Wasn’t it E.B. White who cautioned that you should never default on a loanword?

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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Lakes are great, do you ever go ice fishing in the winter? Every year Garrison Keillor’s iconic Norwegian Bachelor Farmer makes it the destination for his Hajj.

Yeah, lakes really are great, and I do indeed go ice fishing in the winter (you really can't do it in the summer, hahahaha!)

Speaking of Garrison Keillor, my brother ran into him on a golf course recently and had a very pleasant chat with him!! Neat, huh? And that's not the only brush with fame that my family members have had. Another brother of mine once gave Senator Paul Wellstone a ride in his car, and my wife currently owns a vehicle that she bought from Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Pucket right before he died! Seriously! We could probably make a buttload off of it on Ebay or something.

J

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> I’m afraid your use of the word Jihad reflects only one of its meanings.

ND, isn't that a bit of a nitpick?

It's a serious essay. It took me half a day to write a post attempting to systematically refute a viewpoint regarding violating the rights of or killing innocent civilians held by Peikoff, Amy P., Ed Cline, Craig B. and others.

The views I expressed are presumably ones you largely would agree with. I would have hoped you would have been supportive. Or even offer some additional points, examples, arguments regarding what is wrong with the views of the lump-em-all-together, nuke-em-all crowd.

Your effort to refute the Peikoffs et. al was very indirect. You don't seem to understand the many facets of "persuasion," only the most benevolent. The Muslim religion was spread by the sword and is maintained by force and religious intolerance. Leonard Peikoff is not amenable to reason nor will you change his mind with a weak sociological essay as if he were ignorant and just needed the facts. What he knows is which side of the bread his butter is on and unfortunately, unlike Stephen Hawking, doesn't know to turn his back to us while eating.

--Brant

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> You don't seem to understand the many facets of "persuasion," only the most benevolent. [brant]

So, are you agreeing with nuke em all or attack the mosques or kill the clerics, we are at war with the whole religion?

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Lakes are great, do you ever go ice fishing in the winter? Every year Garrison Keillor's iconic Norwegian Bachelor Farmer makes it the destination for his Hajj.

Yeah, lakes really are great, and I do indeed go ice fishing in the winter (you really can't do it in the summer, hahahaha!)

Speaking of Garrison Keillor, my brother ran into him on a golf course recently and had a very pleasant chat with him!! Neat, huh? And that's not the only brush with fame that my family members have had. Another brother of mine once gave Senator Paul Wellstone a ride in his car, and my wife currently owns a vehicle that she bought from Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Pucket right before he died! Seriously! We could probably make a buttload off of it on Ebay or something.

Your discourtesy is obvious enough to accomplish its diss. I don't like it one damn bit.

--Brant

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> You don't seem to understand the many facets of "persuasion," only the most benevolent. [brant]

So, are you agreeing with nuke em all or attack the mosques or kill the clerics, we are at war with the whole religion?

When I agree with that I'll say so. You might refer to your own essay so you can understand what I am saying.

--Brant

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Leonard Peikoff is not amenable to reason nor will you change his mind with a weak sociological essay as if he were ignorant and just needed the facts. What he knows is which side of the bread his butter is on [...].

I don't think it's an issue of "which side of the bread his butter is on." He gave himself a rep as a "madman" with his O'Reilly appearance. How has this helped butter bread?

I think that Leonard went utterly ballistic at the thought of what had been done to a symbol like the World Trade Towers in New York City -- *his* city for years, Ayn Rand's beloved city, her "city of the mind." Combined with his loathing of fundamentalist religion. Combined with his Jewish heritage and issues pertaining to Israel. I haven't suspected any element of calculation whatsoever in his intense responses re Islam, or his notion of the threat of a theocracy from Christian fundamentalists either.

Ellen

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I found this essay interesting and agree with it. I was intrigued with your assertion:

Al Qaeda and Bin Laden and their allies have been steadily losing support as they have murdered innocent people in their own countries, as thugs and murderers have terrorized those who violate religious strictures and as it has become clear what 'sharia' means. Moreover, elsewhere in the Middle East (with the possible exceptions of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) from Morocco in the West to Turkey in the East plus Iraq and Indonesia - the largest muslim country in the world, the forces of secularism and modernization are very much at war with, and disgusted by, the bands of would-be religious totalitarians.

I would like to see evidence of this since I have been paying attention to the issue of radical Islam and terrorism since Faisal Shazad was nabbed trying to bomb Times Square.

What was terrifying for me about that incident was that here was a Pakistani-born Muslim (Shazad) who lead a successful, secular life but became radicalized after listening to lectures by a radical Islamist named Anwar al-Alwaki who has been rubber stamping terrorist acts and giving legitimacy to people like Shazad.

What happened with Shazad is right out of Sam Harris's book The End of Faith where a religious moderate becomes radicalized and tries to committ acts of terrorism.

I am very concerned about the welfare of the U.S. and western civilization as I look at the present war on terrorism being fought as a way to defend the U.S. and it's allies from the barbaric forces of Al-Quaeda, Hezbollah et all.

I have also just finished reading David Horowitz's book Unholy Alliance which points out the ties the American far left has with radical Islamists. A very well-read and thought provoking book.

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The Muslim religion was spread by the sword and is maintained by force and religious intolerance.

That’s not true in the United States. You may read about an honor killing in an immigrant family, but even that’s very rare.

Your discourtesy is obvious enough to accomplish its diss. I don't like it one damn bit.

After pulling this shit, he should expect some blowback. My practice is to wait for the ass to bray, on a thread by thread basis, then respond. Unfortunately, neither Jonathan’s nor my approach works. Phil is immutable.

What happened with Shazad is right out of Sam Harris's book The End of Faith where a religious moderate becomes radicalized and tries to committ acts of terrorism.

The same happens with Christians deciding it’s time to go murder some abortion doctors.

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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What happened with Shazad is right out of Sam Harris's book The End of Faith where a religious moderate becomes radicalized and tries to committ acts of terrorism.

The same happens with Christians deciding it’s time to go murder some abortion doctors.

No argument there.

Except in Christianity the structure of the religion is such that the window was/is open to enable dissent within it's ranks.

In Islam you don't have that. The religion is complete to where it covers every aspect of your life and conduct. Up to and including yielding to the authority of Sharia law and its courts to resolve disputes.

In countries that practice it, there have been numerous instances of dissidents killed because they are considered to have sided with the infidels (i.e. those who are not Muslims) or violate the Koran.

Don't get me wrong, I think all religion is evil and, like Sam Harris, think religious moderation is a myth.

However, it's hard not to distinguish between the radical Islamists and the religion of Islam itself because (like Harris points out) if you want to see the true nature of a religion, look at the fundamentalists since they are the ones who take their religion seriously.

Suicide bombers, abortion doctor assassins and all.

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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> I found this essay interesting and agree with it.

Thanks, Mike. (I'm glad someone said that on this site.)

> I was intrigued with your assertion:

"Al Qaeda and Bin Laden and their allies have been steadily losing support as they have murdered innocent people in their own countries, as thugs and murderers have terrorized those who violate religious strictures and as it has become clear what 'sharia' means. Moreover, elsewhere in the Middle East (with the possible exceptions of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) from Morocco in the West to Turkey in the East plus Iraq and Indonesia - the largest muslim country in the world, the forces of secularism and modernization are very much at war with, and disgusted by, the bands of would-be religious totalitarians."

I would like to see evidence of this...

,,,,,,,,,

Mike, my post had to cover a lot of ground very briefly. Basically on this point, for nine years I've tended to read anything in the Times or Time or Newsweek or Foreign Policy or Foreign Affairs, etc. which covers a new development or new insight into the Islamic world. I've seen this dozens of times though during this decade. And there have been many times in many countries, after a particularly egregious new terrorist atrocity overseas, a bombing, beheading, stoning, etc. when I've seen mentioned in a piece that after initial enthusiasm, the terrorist and religious fundamentalist or sharia-advocating groups have lost support.

Sometimes it is not just resentment at the idea of being dictated to or fear for one's families and lifestyle or moral disapproval of killing, as I mentioned in my post. Additionally, it can be rivalry for power with the more religious factions. On this last, here are some clips in my Islam folder from the Times: (i) "For three decades now, Communism, civil war and Islamic fundamentalism have laid siege to Afghanistan’s tribes...Tribes have existed for millennia in the area."..(ii) "Pakistan’s predicament: an intolerant, aggressive minority terrorizes a more open-minded, peaceful majority." From a book summary in wikipedia: (iii) "Pryce-Jones's view [is that] power in Arab politics consists of a network of client-patron relations between powerful and less powerful families and clans."

Edited by Philip Coates
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Phil,

I liked your identification of actual war being brought in under the guise of intellectual war. Other than that, I think you relied way too much on sweeping generalizations you did not even try to back up with any kind of evidence (examples, real statistics from places that actually measure stuff, quotes, hell, even anecdotes).

Just a bunch of assertions.

With that out of the way, I believe you should have at least mentioned that any "war with Islam" is a religious war. When Objectivists claim that we are in a religious war, they strongly imply that Objectivism is a religion (with armed forces to boot).

That ain't good.

Also, the crucial distinction between normal Islam and radical Islamism--one that I have seen ignored time and time again, including in your piece--is the connection between the Islamist fundamentalists and leftover Nazism. You can find it in the Muslim Brotherhood (especially Qutb's writings), in the Ba'ath party (which included Saddam Hussein), in al Qaeda (and Osama bin Laden), in the very name of Iran (which was Persia and was changed to their version of Arya as in Aryan), in Hezbollah, Hamas, the Wahhabis, etc.

I could give you here example after example, but I have already done so all over the forum, especially in the Mideast section.

I have not read nearly as much as I have wanted to about the Muslim culture, but I have not seen signs of leftover Nazism in the more peaceful places where Islam is practiced, nor among the Muslims I have known. So I believe this is the strongest universal ideological difference between normal Islam and radical Islamism. It's frustrating that this is constantly ignored because there are so many supporting facts to back it up.

I'm still thinking about the why of that one...

Michael

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The Muslim religion was spread by the sword and is maintained by force and religious intolerance.

That’s not true in the United States. You may read about an honor killing in an immigrant family, but even that’s very rare.

Your discourtesy is obvious enough to accomplish its diss. I don't like it one damn bit.

After pulling this shit, he should expect some blowback. My practice is to wait for the ass to bray, on a thread by thread basis, then respond. Unfortunately, neither Jonathan’s nor my approach works. Phil is immutable.

What happened with Shazad is right out of Sam Harris's book The End of Faith where a religious moderate becomes radicalized and tries to committ acts of terrorism.

The same happens with Christians deciding it’s time to go murder some abortion doctors.

Arguing with Phil is like addressing a rock. OL is not a place for war between members. He deserved blowback on that other thread, not wherever he goes. I'm now supposed to like what Jonathan did after reading your remarks or at least not mind? It's not that you, I, and others don't have a gripe with Phil, it's how we comport ourselves apropos a subject's discussion.

--Brant

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While I have not been able to figure out where the Sufis fit in, aside from their dispute about the legitimacy of the the Shi'ites claim about Ali, I find little difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.

Could you briefly explain what they are or point me in the direction of the sites that do and if the religion allows for or tolerates dissent within it's ranks?

Near as I can tell, Averroes's influence seems to have been the last time that any semblance of toleration or secular influence has influenced the faith.

Also, do you think based on your knowledge of Islam that we can defeat the Islamists trying to invade or attack us?

Except in Christianity the structure of the religion is such that the window was/is open to enable dissent within it's ranks.

In Islam you don't have that.

Mike,

This is inaccurate. If it were true, there would be no difference between Sunnis and Shiites, let alone Sufis.

Michael

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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Some Islamists are at war with us; specifically the Jihadis.

The WTC got two plane-loads of them on 9/11/2001.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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While I have not been able to figure out where the Sufis fit in, aside from their dispute about the legitimacy of the the Shi'ites claim about Ali, I find little difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.

Could you briefly explain what they are or point me in the direction of the sites that do and if the religion allows for or tolerates dissent within it's ranks?

Mike,

There certainly is a lot more similarity between Sunni and Shi'ite than between either and Sufi. But I believe the kind of question you asked cannot be answered in such broad terms. You will do better to look for the differences between the countries where Islam is practiced, and the historical periods.

Going for the oversimplification is like trying to say Christianity allows dissent or not. If you are a mainstream Christian, dissent is tolerated. If you are a Jehovah's Witness, it is not.

The breakdown of Islam into different denominations can be grossly compared to Christianity, but once again, you have to look to the different countries, not actual names for the denomination. Even then, one Imam can be very different than another regarding how to implement the religion. This means that freedom-wise, what you get in Kuwait is vastly different than what you get in, say, Pakistan. And both countries have both Sunni and Shia issues.

For overall broad differences, you can Google it as well as I can. You get things like Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam. Here's a 2009 Q&A from Time Magazine with answers given by Lesley Hazleton (who wrote a book about it) that is not too bad.

Also, do you think based on your knowledge of Islam that we can defeat the Islamists trying to invade or attack us?

Yes.

Our military certainly is qualified to do that.

Unfortunately, many of our intellectuals seem to think that sloppy overgeneralizations and outright lies and bigotry are the best way to promote the intellectual part.

I think the truth is the proper way. And I believe that most Muslims are open to arguments of nonviolence and tolerance of opposing views--at the very least.

Michael

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> Also, do you think based on your knowledge of Islam that we can defeat the Islamists trying to invade or attack us?

Mike, I certainly do. Though I've done a little reading, I'm not an expert on Islam and all its permutations, but general principles don't require that level of specificity: Make a very clear distinction between those who initiate force or abet it or plan attacks and go after them even more ruthlessly. But like a precision rifle, not a shotgun blast that blows away innocent bystanders. We have the technology and knowledge to do that. The only case where a nation state is a clear and present danger and promises to be worse in the future is Iran + nuclear weapons.

We are the wealthiest, most powerful, most technologically advanced nation. As long as those tiny groups can be contained and kept on the run and with limited resources (espionage, special forces, alliances with those oppressed, smart bombs and drones), eventually they are playing a losing game.

The area where I do agree with some of the ARI writers is that we have been fighting stupidly. But the solution is fewer civilian casualties not more. And proportionately more taliban/al qaeda/islamofascist casualties.

As to the details of military policy country by country and case by case, unlike Leonard Peikoff and Craig Biddle and Amy Peikoff, I am not a world famous military tactics expert.

Edited by Philip Coates
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> Also, do you think based on your knowledge of Islam that we can defeat the Islamists trying to invade or attack us?

Mike, I certainly do. Though I've done a little reading, I'm not an expert on Islam and all its permutations, but general principles don't require that level of specificity: Make a very clear distinction between those who initiate force or abet it or plan attacks and go after them even more ruthlessly. But like a precision rifle, not a shotgun blast that blows away innocent bystanders. We have the technology and knowledge to do that. The only case where a nation state is a clear and present danger and promises to be worse in the future is Iran + nuclear weapons.

We are the wealthiest, most powerful, most technologically advanced nation. As long as those tiny groups can be contained and kept on the run and with limited resources (espionage, special forces, alliances with those oppressed, smart bombs and drones), eventually they are playing a losing game.

The area where I do agree with some of the ARI writers is that we have been fighting stupidly. But the solution is fewer civilian casualties not more. And proportionately more taliban/al qaeda/islamofascist casualties.

As to the details of military policy country by country and case by case, unlike Leonard Peikoff and Craig Biddle and Amy Peikoff, I am not a world famous military tactics expert.

You certainly don't know much about various basic types of firearms and the relative likelihood of each for collateral damage.

--Brant

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