State Department spokesperson Marie Harf became the target of much ridicule last week when she inanely suggested that we can combat Islamic terrorism through job creation. But the concept makes perfect sense to an administration that considers the solution to every issue, including “violent extremism,” to be “social justice.”
You will no doubt recall that Harf, while on MSNBC’s Hardball hosted by the befuddled Chris Matthews, claimed that we cannot beat ISIS simply by killing them; we also have “to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups,” citing a “lack of opportunity for jobs” as an example. She suggested that the U.S. should work with other countries to “help improve their governance” and “help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”
The notion that poverty causes Islamic terrorism has been discredited so often and for so long that I won’t bother elaborating on it again here (but if you insist, here is a recent debunking of that theory at National Review, and here is one at FrontPage Magazine). On its face, it is a patently ridiculous suggestion. People don’t choose to move to the Middle East and cut throats, enslave women, immolate people in cages, crucify them, and bury children alive because they are struggling to make ends meet or because their job applications aren’t getting them callbacks. They do it because they are fervent believers in a medieval warrior ideology that feeds their bloodlust and justifies it.
In subsequent TV interviews, Ms. Harf doubled down on her original comments and explained that she was speaking about a broader strategy that her critics were too dense to grasp: “Look, it might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I’ve seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out there, but it’s really the smart way that Democrats, Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat this.”
As much as progressives like to believe that they’re so much more intellectual than the right, nuance is not the issue. The issue is that Barack Obama’s administration refuses to acknowledge the real root motivation of ISIS and its “affiliates,” as the President calls them: Islamic supremacism. The issue is that our own administration is in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood. The issue is that our own President has facilitated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East, has facilitated Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, and has alienated our ally Israel while refusing to acknowledge the rising tide of Islamic anti-Semitism in Europe. We have an administration that pretends to be dealing with terrorism by holding a farce of a summit on “countering violent extremism.” (To give you some idea of how ineffective and morally skewed this summit is, our hapless Vice President and sexual harassment poster boy Joe Biden was there warning about groups who potentially could carry out violence “in the name of the Bible” – an outrageous accusation which greatly pleased the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Brotherhood legacy group.)
Harf continued: “If we can help countries work at the root causes of this – what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business?” The answer to her question is “jihad.” What drives “kids” to pick up AK-47s and knives and anything else they can use to butcher infidels is jihad. The answer to Islamic hatred of Jews, America, and the West in general is jihad. ISIS offers a bold vision of itself as the stronger horse in our clash of civilizations, and that is what compels these “kids” to leave home and join the growing number of jihadists challenging the decadent West. But I suppose that isn’t a nuanced enough explanation for Ms. Harf or a State Department that denies that the Islamic State has anything to do with Islam.
In Obama’s remarks at the counter-extremism summit, he acknowledged that poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist, and that there are terrorists from very wealthy backgrounds. And yet he went on to say that “resentment festers” when millions of people who are impoverished “have no hope for the future,” when “corruption inflicts daily humiliation” upon them, “when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns.” In other words, our own President is suggesting that the Islamic enemies of the West have legitimate “grievances” and if only we address those, the terrorists will turn their swords into plowshares and we can coexist, just like all those Prius bumper stickers urge.
For this administration, all issues can and must be solved through social justice activism. The term “root causes,” which the left raises frequently, is progressive-speak for “grievances.” In the case of Islamic “violent extremism,” that means helping young Muslim males feel less “hopeless” and “resentful” and “humiliated” by improving their economic conditions.
Islamic terrorists don’t have legitimate grievances. What they have is a savage hatred of infidels and the manmade laws of the Western world. But in Obama’s mind, we in the West must look at the blame and inadequacy within ourselves: “If we are going to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism,” he stated, “the international community has to offer something better.”
But the United States does offer something better. Israel and Europe and Australia offer something better. The entire Western world offers something vastly better than life under sharia law: freedom, prosperity, modernity, peace. And yet it is our way of life that these “violent extremists” are waging war against. They don’t have a void in their lives that can be filled by the promise of “something better”; they already have something they believe is better – Islam – and they are literally hellbent on imposing that belief system worldwide.
Besides, as former SEAL Rob O’Neill told Fox News, the members of ISIS already have jobs: “They get paid to cut off heads – to crucify children, to sell slaves and to cut off heads and I don’t think that a change in career path is what’s going to stop them.” But that argument isn’t nuanced enough for Ms. Harf.
Don't miss Shillman Journalism Fellow Mark Tapson on the Glazov Gang discussing Fighting the Culture War: