State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf has been taking a lot of criticism from conservatives from comments she made suggesting that Da’ish and similar Islamist extremists have become radicalized because of a lack of economic opportunity and jobs:
State Dept Spokeswoman Marie Harf: We Can’t Beat ISIS Just by Killing Them
by Andrew Kirell | 12:04 pm, February 17th, 2015
There’s the old adage that “you can’t kill an idea,” and that concept seems to have influenced the thinking behind the administration’s approach to fighting ISIS forces in the Middle East.
During a Monday evening interview with MSNBC, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told Chris Matthews that the United States cannot defeat ISIS simply by killing them.
Instead, she said, we must use a combination of military force and an exploration of the reasons why so many young people keep joining up with the Islamic State to fight against the West.
“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians — they’re in this fight with us,” Harf said. “But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs.”
“We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or 50 lifetimes,” Matthews interrupted. “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?”
In return, Harf suggested a soft power-like approach: “We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance,” she said. “We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.” She conceded, however, that there is “no easy solution.”
Miss Harf has since gone on Wolf Blitzer’s show on CNN to defend her comments:
“I’m not the first person to say something like this,” Harf said. “Military commanders that we’ve had throughout many years here fighting this war on terrorism have said the exact same thing, that in the short term when there’s a threat like ISIL. We’ll take direct military action against these terrorists. We have done that. We are doing that in Iraq and Syria. But longer term, we have to look at how we combat the conditions that can lead people to turn to extremism.”
“So you suggested that maybe if you find these young men jobs, they might not become terrorists?” Blitzer asked, echoing her critics, prompting Harf to call his statement a “gross oversimplification.”
“We cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try,” Harf said later. “How do you get at the root causes of this? It might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I’ve seen over the last 24 hours some of the commentary out there, but it’s really the smart way that Democrats, Republicans, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat it.”
Or, as Scott Johnson entitled his article on Powerline, Marie Harf: I’m “too nuanced” for you.
Great Society liberalism couldn’t even cut it in the United States with more limited (if still ambitious) goals. Touting the rollout of Great Society liberalism worldwide as the answer to religious fanaticism betrays a mind-boggling stupidity.
Jobs programs don’t quite cut it when you’re in the 72 virgins business. This is where the administration’s comprehensive denial of the motive forces driving the terrorists is key. They aren’t looking for work. They aren’t looking to get rich. They aren’t looking for early childhood education. They aren’t looking for daycare programs. They’ve got something else on their mind, something else that is taboo to speak of in the higher reaches of the Obama administration.
I’d point out here that you actually can kill your way to victory in war; the Allies won World War II by killing 5½ million German soldiers, and an additional 1.1 to 3.3 million German civilians. It was ugly and it was gruesome, but it was what it took, to beat down Germany, to ravage that country with so much death and destruction that the Germans couldn’t fight on, and had no fight left in the next generation of Germans growing up. We won against the Empire of Japan by killing 2.1 million soldiers and around a million Japanese civilians, blasting apart their industry, burning down their cities and finally subjecting Hiroshima and Nagasaki to atomic hellfire. The Japanese surrendered because they were beaten down to the point where they couldn’t fight any longer, and the next generation growing up had all of the fight burned out of them. Miss Harf’s statement that you can’t kill your way to victory in war tells us that a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Indiana University, and a Master of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, don’t appear to require taking any basic history courses.
However, as silly as I believe Miss Harf’s comments to have been, I heartily applaud her making them, because she did something really radical like tell us the truth. Oh, not the truth in the real world, because they are utterly mindless, but the truth within the State Department and the truth within the Obama Administration; what she said is what they widely believe!
The evidence is clear: the President himself cannot bring himself to say that Da’ish is Islamic, is motivated by Islam and Islamism, and the Administration’s policies broadly reflect that. What Miss Harf said is completely consistent with the President’s policies.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demonstrated the same mindset with her statement that we must “empathize with (our enemies’) perspective and point of view,” comments defended by the current Secretary, John Kerry.
And that is the part that Mr Johnson missed in the second paragraph of his quoted above: it isn’t that Da’ish’s motives are “taboo to speak of in the higher reaches of the Obama administration,” but that no one of any importance in the Administration can grasp Da’ish’s motivations. They are so firmly locked into their own American liberal perspective that they cannot grasp anything outside of it.
In his book War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk described the will not to believe, the limitation of consciousness which simply blocked from the minds of seemingly intelligent people a possibility so outside of what they saw as normal from being considered or understood, despite evidence to the contrary. For Miss Harf, for President Obama, for American liberals as a whole, it seems as though they are completely unable to grasp the possibility that Da’ish do not think the way we do, that Da’ish mean what they say.
The Islamists aren’t interested in jobs programs, and they aren’t interested in tolerance for others and they aren’t interested in becoming wealthy Westernized societies. The Islamists who launched the attacks in France and in Denmark were already living in wealthy Westernized societies, and the Danish jihadi was born and reared in Denmark; that society was his entire life’s experience. Iran, under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was prosperous, oil-wealthy, Westernizing and modernizing, if nevertheless authoritarian, but the people rebelled, and overthrew the Shah for a clerical regime which told them, in advance, that Westernization would be rejected and a society under strict Islamic law would be created. Westerners tend to think of the clerical government as having imposed this on the Iranian people, but the reality is that they asked for it and embraced it.
And that is a reality that the American left simply cannot grasp.