With the recent attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, the question of why Islamic terror is being permitted in the West has once again been seriously raised. Objections aside, serious commentators more and more begin to suspect that it is not merely accident that attacks like these occur, but no one is willing to point a finger.
A certain class of commentator focuses on the contradiction between western values of liberty and Islam; some also are evidently in consternation about the contradiction between ostensible feminist values and Islam’s teaching about women. Some wonder if this isn’t a clear case of a hostile minority trying to destroy a majority, which also happens to be an act of self-destruction.
In reality, by and large, the source of this permissive activity on the part of European powers is the post-World War II order itself–a bureaucratic system designed more to shift blame by, in the case of the Manchester bomber, moving possible terrorists to “monitoring pools” – and then to unmonitored monitoring pools – rather than deporting them. By all appearances, it is a very dysfunctional system even by its own standards.
On the other hand, it is definitely clear that the Islamic State wishes to invoke, if possible, a worldwide war against the West, which it believes lacks the resolve to follow through with the necessary force to win. While this is probably untrue, one also does not win a game of chicken by giving up before the other side flinches. In terms of belief, ISIS must prevail or its religion and some extent its God are refuted; this is not true of the West. Thus there is a transcendent element to this motivation, one which clearly cannot be redirected by offers of welfare and respect.
Presently, ISIS is riding the tide of the internet and using effective propaganda ability to influence disaffected and alienated young men in the West, which works in part because of the West’s unwillingness to seriously deter either the spread of ISIS’ teachings and the alienation and subsequent radicalization of young men. Western programs like denazification in Germany tell us that the West is quite capable of stomping out ideas, even ones that can spread effectively by word of mouth, if it wants to.
As to why the West does not want to, there are a few conflicting theses; one common one is that the West is simply too complex and hindered by its own internal legalistic processes and accrued conflicting ideals to take any decisive move against Islamization. While I think these incentives make action harder and certainly explain why you don’t see uncoordinated defensive activity on a broad scale, they don’t explain the West’s almost total inaction against deserving parties, malicious prosecution and unfair targeting of Westerners in opposition, and apparent enabling of Islamism in many cases.
For the moment, we can set aside conservatives’ conflicted responses (take Trump’s public statements, which are if anything almost perfect Western boilerplate, even if the position is not supine) and look at what the probable thinking of the progressive West, which mainly controls the levers of power even when conservatives occupy electoral positions.
By the progressive West we mean, as usual, mostly the elements that make up the Cathedral: prominent media and financial actors, some elected officials, permanent government officials with influence and power, prominent academies and their most powerful members, as well as a number of other celebrities who are able to push as well as pull. Because of the lack of personal power, there is almost never a single person or even cabal who can push or pull the whole in one direction. And yet, the whole does have a direction; the action of elites in this circumstance is mainly to prevent straying from this path.
What exactly is this path, and why are not the most significant actors coordinating to drive the West away from what really does appear to be a form of suicide? Is it that they really don’t care at all, is it that they literally can’t act? I don’t believe either of those are generally true, though I don’t doubt there are actors who have adopted a certain level of fatalism.
While the path itself seems to be, as pointed out above, established as a result of the post-World War II order and aggressive U.S.-instigated occupation propaganda, it is very hard to believe that supposedly well-meaning (in most regards) elites in Europe would sit on their hands completely. Here is why I think they are doing it:
Firstly, the progressive West largely agrees with Islam that the West itself is awful. The more technocratic left would not include food, nice paintings, good music and nice sightseeing in the basket of awful things, but would otherwise mostly agree. In particular, they both agree that the Christian aspect of the West is the worst; for both are derivatives from it in some fashion.
Secondly, the progressive West rightly does not consider Islam to be a threat militarily. If you consider the actual damage done even by the worst attacks (say 9/11) compared to the bombing of Dresden or Tokyo (remember, this is the post-World War II order) combined with the strategic quality of even the latest attack (which did kill over a dozen people) it’s obvious that these are small fries. On the one hand, conservatives are rightly troubled that even a single attack of this sort should occur, especially given the symbolic and political nature of these attacks, but militarily they are not significant and do not indicate an increased capacity on the part of ISIS.
Thirdly, these attackers are not targeting the elite–the decision-makers themselves, who in an oligarchy (we do live in a beige oligarchy, folks) have no connection to anything but their own interests–and so the elite does not view them as any kind of threat. You will recall that this elite did panic quite significantly on 9/11, given the high profile targets and impact zone which included many elite actors.
Fourthly, these attacks wound and demoralize groups that annoy progressives: groups like traditionally religious people (Christians, even some Jews, Hindus, etc), lower-to-middle class Europeans, small businesses, and non-elite white women. The last class is a favorite splash target, as it provides maximum pain and mental contradiction.
Fifthly, these attacks, though provoked in part by the progressive West’s moral corruption and vice, hit mostly the progressive West’s enemies, or at least threaten and brutalize them. They do make the progressive West’s internal enemies angry.
Sixthly, the brutalization of these groups ends up being to the progressive West’s advantage, as it provokes responses, sometimes vigilante in nature, to Islamic aggression. These responses prove to more naive Muslims that the West remain Christian Crusaders (this is important for their PR) and provide a pretext for progressive Western governments to do what they want to do: crack down on their internal enemies, whom they believed all along to be backward and dangerous. These real pretexts provide cover and a degree of moral fury to their actions, improving their effectiveness and hedonic value to progressive actors.
Seventhly, the secondary effect can be used to hide the real reason for young disaffected men in the West turning to Islam–Western vice and decadence, among other factors–and focus instead on important political targets.
Eighthly, the progressive West believes that it can denature Islam as it did Christianity. Readers of Houellebecq are familiar with the idea of Western progressives converting to a kind of mild Islam, but what the book misses is that in reality, even if there were conversions, you would still be ruled by the same set of people who went from being nominally Christian (as Obama was) to nominally Muslim. Certainly, Obama being Christian is as believable as him being Muslim. The fact that even conservative Christian teaching has drifted so far from where it was 100 years ago (compare this to ‘changes’ in belief from Ignatius of Antioch to Luther) should tell you that any astute progressive must realize that both soft and hard power can be applied to alter a religion; moreover, many have explicitly claimed that the meaning of all religions is the same.
Ninthly, the radicalization of children overall serves the purposes of atomizing society; while Muslim families don’t do as much as they could to stop this, we look at this the wrong way. That is, we see Muslims as accomplices to terrorist acts, but in reality, Muslims are allowing their families to be shattered and are actually willing accomplices. Compare this to most Christians who at least commonly disavow the acts of their radicalized children. This is favored not because atomization is directly a goal, but because of the benefits accrued by atomization to certain actors.
An example of a secondary benefit to atomization in our context is that it provides a pretext for more calls to communism. In particular, you have a volatile, yet controllable (in theory) group who will lash out against violations of ‘social justice’ and who won’t be clever enough to realize that when “Sharia Law” is enacted, not a single Zuckerberg or Soros will be bound to a letter of it. Some have already truly convinced themselves that these events will stop when some manner of “justice” is established.
Tenthly, because Muslims react strongly and visibly against Western vices, many radicalized youth in the West, exposed to the prison culture that has developed in many societies, gravitate towards its seemingly heroic attitude. If vast swaths of right-wing youth turn to Islam due to this unfolding dialectic, the problem solves itself for the progressive West. By converting, these young men will turn themselves from a liability to an asset of progressives.
A last point is that in general, progressives favor radicalized Sunni Islam over Shi’a, simply because Shi’a has an intact religious hierarchy that controls enforcement of religious norms, while radicalized Sunni Islam functions a lot like an anabaptist cult or Puritan sect; someone reads the pamphlet during a rough time in their life, and suddenly you have an asset. The charismatic incoherence of this kind of Sunni Islam in particular allows for a lot of interpretive leeway, something which groups like CAIR and “Muslim Feminists” show is a general capacity of Islam, although for the opposite reason. If you can imagine that feminists and others are rather certain of their ability to manipulate Islam back through these organizations, you get a picture of the power relation.
It goes without saying that the progressive West is toying with a process it does not fully control, but given my analysis, it should be obvious as to why it is permitting this process, not merely by providing the freedom to choose such and such a path, but by selectively enabling Muslim grievance, reactiveness, violence, and the reaction to it. It is a straightforward case of yi zhi yi; that is, using the barbarians to fight the barbarians.
If you’ve noticed the obvious analogy to the children’s story, “The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly” you’re not the only one– this is a degenerative ratchet, after all!