Last week, an ‘extremist’ killed a number of people at NIU, then killed himself. In an article published in the Chicago Tribune (Metro Section) 2/18/08, the author implied that ‘extremist’ ideology that is present in many parts of the Middle East is similar to the NIU incident. The article implied that ‘home grown’ terrorism is more important and more of a threat. I found this concept difficult to believe.
It is most unlikely that Kazmierczak could ever have obtained a 15+ megaton nuclear warhead with the missile to deliver it from a range of 1000+ miles. On the other hand, it is only a matter of time before an Islamic terrorist organization is able to obtain this far more devastating weapon. (Or weapons) Not that we want to forget about the threat that people like Kazmierczak represent, but can Al Qaeda really be compared with him?
Many issues (Like slavery in the U.S.) have no political solution. History has shown time and again that warfare will result every time you challenge them. Many issues present within the Middle East are of this type. The people and the issues are not irrational. Robert E. Lee was not an irrational man. Can you think of a worse cause to fight for than the evil of slavery? How about the millions of good Germans and good Japanese who fought for evil during World War II? Were they all irrational? Japan produced hundreds of thousands of suicide attackers. It could arguably have become millions before it was over. Few if any of them were mentally ill. All of them were not in need of medication.
In ‘Japanese Destroyer Captain’ (Tameichi Hara) pointed out how he had to order his men to save themselves, so that they could go on to fight another day if the ship was sunk. Many disobeyed. This was not uncommon. In fact, his views were uncommon. Most preferred to die. Few Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner during the war. Many who were taken prisoner had been knocked unconscious. Some did surrender, braving the dishonor that befell them. These were a very small minority. Much documentation is available to anyone who wishes to study this subject. In any case, the majority of those soldiers did decide to take their own lives rather than be captured. They were not irrational. They were not in need of medication. They were in need of alternative ways of looking at things. As many in the Islamic world are in need of today.
Japanese culture places a very high priority upon consensus. The more people you add to the equation, the more difficult to obtain consensus. Hence, the need for a ‘take charge’ person. In addition, an ideology of superiority grew from a number of successes and the knowledge that they possessed a weapon of incredible strength in that they knew their men would and could take more discomfort than any other armed force. Their willingness to die would overcome all obstacles. This willingness to die ended up being somewhat counterproductive in that many Japanese just died not having gained anything for Japan in doing so. This is medieval thinking that showed up in other ways as well. All of this combined with a rigidity of thinking that made for disaster.
During the war, it is evident that Japanese soldiers and generals were very rigid in their thinking. They tended to divide their forces and learned only slowly from their mistakes. Captains like Hara were present, but they were a minority. Don’t get me wrong. The Japanese were very capable. The Zero was one of the best fighters in the world at the time, and in 1941-42 the best pilots in the world flew them. The Imperial Navy was one of the best in the world. The ‘long lance’ torpedo was the best in the world throughout the war. We did not discover its secrets until after the war. These were only some of their strengths. The overall point however, is that Japanese thinking was not very flexible. The code of Bushido was very inflexible. We are seeing some of this today.
The number 1 rule of warfare is: Know thy enemy. If you listen to Osama and other terrorist leaders, you will note that they constantly refer to Islamic laws and the Koran. Much of the education that is available in that part of the world is rote learning. Not flexible, but rigid adherence to the Koran’s teachings. We are also seeing some of the same attitudes of superiority. After all, they are much more willing to die. This will overcome all before it. The enemy (The U.S. and the ‘West’) is decadent and greedy. An important Japanese described the U.S. in 1941 as being ‘A gangster ridden country lead by gangsters’. They also thought of the U.S. as being weak morally and in weak in spirit. This sounds familiar. They also underestimated us, badly.
Organized warfare on the scale that we are witnessing throughout the Islamic world is a far more dangerous threat than ‘home grown’ terrorism. Mental illness and ‘copycat’ mentality cannot be compared with the rational, organized groups present throughout the Islamic world. Medication will not help them deal with these issues. Medication would not have helped to prevent the Kamikazes. I wish it were the case.
The overall point of this discussion is to point out that Islamic terrorists are not ‘extremists’ any more than Japanese soldiers were ‘extremists’ during World War II. They were extremists from our point of view, but not from where they originated. It was a common view from where they came from. "Today the popular belief is that the Japanese who took part in BANZAI charges, flew kamikaze missions, piloted KAITENS and SHINYO ‘Bang boats’, or served as human mines, were all fanatics. Because many of the BANZAI charges were ordered on the spur-of-the-moment no doubt there was an element of fanaticism in the army’s operations. But the kamikaze, KAITEN and KAIRYU men were dedicated individuals whose calm acceptance of death illustrates the impact of ideological persuasion. Fanatical or not, their actions can only be understood when seen in relation to deep-rooted Japanese traditions and a tyrannical governmental structure." (A.J. Barker, Suicide Weapon, C1971, Page 157)
Today’s Islamic terrorists and suicide attackers are not irrational. The ideology they believe in is not uncommon. They also are products of their culture. The very words ‘extremist’ and ‘fanatic’ imply that they are a very small minority of the population. This is incorrect. In many places, the ideology they believe in is held by a majority of the population. This is why they are so popular. This contributes as to why they are so difficult to find and destroy. This also contributes as to why they are able to rebound and create new organizations from scratch. Islamic terrorist organizations have plenty of replacements available. The only known way to end this amount of ‘extremism’ is to change the culture that nourishes them. If that culture became more moderate and less rigid, extremism would become more ‘extreme’ and less desirable. As has occurred in Japan over the past 60 years. Unfortunately, this type of change is responsible for more wars than any other. The vast majority of soldiers chose to risk their lives to protect their way of life. This is why so many good Germans and Japanese fought for evil during World War II. This is why so many good Southerners also fought for evil (slavery) during the U.S. Civil War. It would be against human nature to expect the population of the Middle East to be any different in this regard.