Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
The Democrats have a plan to crush ISIS. All you have to do is tweet #CrushISIS, make it a trending topic and then ISIS will be crushed. If not, we can always bring back #BringBackOurGirls.
A party that is hesitant to fight ISIS in real life has become a movement of keyboard warriors convinced that the key to defeating the Jihadists lies somewhere in cyberspace.
It doesn’t. The internet is a medium. Dead men can’t tweet. Corpses can’t create hashtags.
But the Democrats are convinced that they can’t defeat ISIS in real life, only on the internet. And they’re probably half-right. They can’t defeat ISIS in real life or on the internet.
Obama told the Pentagon, “In order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda, we must discredit their ideology. This broader challenge of countering violent extremism. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas. We will never be at war with Islam.”
When the USSR wanted excuses for allying with the Nazis, it claimed that an ideology couldn’t be defeated militarily, even though its entire existence was proof otherwise.
As Stalin’s Foreign Minister Molotov put it, “One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism as well as any other ideological system; that is a matter of political views. But everybody should understand that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war.”
Once Hitler invaded the USSR, the Communists decided that ideologies really could be defeated with guns. If the left ever decides that Islam threatens a core value, it may come around to the same revelation about ideology as Stalin. And then Obama will stop channeling Molotov’s Nazi weaseling.
For now, the left would rather ally with Islamists than fight them. Fighting ISIS on the internet is a convenient way to avoid fighting ISIS in real life.
Hillary Clinton demanded a “unified national strategy in cyberspace”. Nancy Pelosi insisted, “We have to fight it on every front, including the front of social media. That’s a place where they have really made more advances than you would have suspected.”
But the HealthCare.gov party is terrible at that too.
Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism program, also known as Tweeting at ISIS, failed miserably. That’s not the view of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, but the panel of experts convened to evaluate it who found that there was no evidence that it had convinced Muslims to stop joining the Islamic State.
After the State Department lost its Twitter fight with ISIS, the keyboard warriors would like to redirect the Pentagon to fight ISIS on Twitter. Or engage in “offensive cyberspace operations to deny, disrupt, degrade, or corrupt those messages” which is a problem as the Pentagon lacks the “organic capability” on social media to do so. Nor does it need that capability.
We engage in cyberwarfare with China because neither of us is ready for a military conflict. We are already in a military conflict with ISIS. Our government just refuses to land a decisive blow on ISIS.
The Pentagon doesn’t need to fight ISIS on social media. It needs to bomb ISIS in real life. Unfortunately it isn’t being allowed to do that. Instead of destroying the terror group, it’s reduced to trolling it.
But ISIS isn’t trying to fight us on Twitter. It uses the internet to talk to Muslims, overtly and covertly. And it has far too many options to be able to stop it from doing so. Twitter and Facebook can be convinced to take down overt pro-ISIS propaganda, but we’re never going to intercept more than a fraction of covert messaging. Not without shifting the balance between power and privacy.
But then again, despite claiming credit for inventing it, the Democrats don’t understand the internet.
At the last Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton responded to a question about ISIS encrypted communications by saying, “There must be some way. I don’t know enough about the technology.”
No surprise there. Hillary’s own secret email server stood unecrypted for months.
Hillary Clinton talks about “doing battle in cyberspace”, but she was printing out every other email she got. She insists that ISIS, “needs to be battled in the air, on the ground, and in cyberspace”, but she has no idea what that means. If we crush ISIS as a viable Caliphate, its “cyberspace” presence won’t matter.
We don’t have to defeat ISIS in a propaganda war before we beat it militarily. The propaganda war is a sideline to real war. The only reason why ISIS propaganda remains an issue is because Obama won’t destroy ISIS. And until ISIS is crushed, there is no way to defeat its propaganda.
This is a group that openly broadcasts brutal acts of torture. Mean Girls namecalling is not going to impress it or its supporters. Nor are claims from non-Muslims that it’s hijacking Islam.
Despite the San Bernardino terror attack, ISIS covert communications are also not a major threat.
The more devastating international terror attacks carried out by the group were done by independent cells loyal to ISIS, like the San Bernardino Jihadists, but not directly wired into its organization. We could get rid of many of these cells by not obstructing ISIS recruits from traveling to join the terror group. This has led to unnecessary domestic terror plots by frustrated ISIS recruits in the United States and Europe.
Anyone willing to join ISIS is usually already a domestic terror threat. We should be making it easier for them to abandon their citizenship and leave, as long as they are not allowed to come back.
If we can make it easy for ISIS supporters to leave and impossible for them to come back, we will stop more terror plots than all of the cyberspace plans from politicians who can’t keep their own data secure.
While ISIS is in the headlines, domestic Islamic terrorists are still likely to cite Al Qaeda’s Anwar Al-Awlaki and Inspire Magazine as sources. The San Bernardino Jihadists utilized both.
ISIS provides far fewer useful resources to aspiring domestic Muslim terror cells than Al Qaeda. It’s very good at self-promotion, but the goal of all that self-promotion is to gather new recruits. ISIS needs foot soldiers and while they are a threat, they are less of a threat than domestic Muslim terror cells.
We don’t need to “defeat” ISIS on the internet. Our odds of trolling ISIS to death are as good as any other attempt at winning an argument on the internet. We need to monitor their communications, but we aren’t likely to stop domestic terror plots that way because they’re often locally directed.
ISIS is a much more conventional enemy than the terror groups we’ve become used to fighting. It’s straightforward in its objectives and motivations. It seeks to take and hold territory to set up a state.
This is the most basic kind of military threat there is. It doesn’t require keyboard warriors, but real warriors. And that’s where the Democrats and their post-military military fall short. Obama has won his greatest victories using the internet. But ISIS won’t be beaten with hashtags, memes, SNL skits, Tina Fey gifs, spin, ridicule and sneers. Mean Girl politics work domestically, but they don’t deter headchoppers.
Savages who take selfies with severed heads are not making an argument, they’re finishing one.
ISIS won’t be crushed in “cyberspace”. As long as it holds land and power, its ideology won’t be defeated. It’s not an internet threat, it’s a real threat. The question is, can we still fight those?
To defeat ISIS, we need to rebuild the military to what it was before Obama’s two terms.
Obama has sought to turn an army of real warriors into sensitive social justice warriors. But keyboard warriors battling microaggressions can’t stand up to beheaders and their macroaggressions.
We can either rebuild a military whose warriors can fight ISIS in real life or we can let Obama and Hillary go on dismantling the military while unveiling new plans by keyboard warriors to tweet at terrorists.
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