by Herbert I. London
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, recently said there are "new ways of deterrence that address those factors that make individuals vulnerable to coercion…". He noted, in a speech delivered to the Hoover Institution, that the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaida can be deterred by both the traditional method of military retaliation, and by non-traditional means of attacking extremism at its core. "Attacking the humiliation, the hopelessness, the illiteracy and abject poverty which lie at the core of the attraction to extremist thought will do more to turn the tide against terrorism than anything else," he announced.
As Admiral Mullen must surely be aware, Muslim leaders who espouse violence are often from wealthy families, such as Osama bin Laden; being able to read does not translate into understanding; and sitting on a couch with a psychologist who identifies with your agony may be comforting, but as a strategy for peace, it lacks staying power.
The admiral's recommendation has as much validity as alchemy. In fact, one wonders what happened to a military culture predicated on "kill or be killed"? No sensible person wants the bloodshed of war, but when in history the choice has been slavery or battle, some -- perhaps many -- prefer battle.
As it turns out, Admiral's Mullen's words were anyhow turned on their head. In Iran, one headline noted that Admiral Mullen wants the "U.S. to deter Qur'an followers." Hezbollah TV in Lebanon reported that U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mile Mullen says "people learning the way of the Qur'an are the subject of new American deterrence." And the Iran Broadcasting Station accused Mullen of using "insulting words against Islamic scholars."
Apparently Admiral Mullen has forgotten the incident at Fort Hood in which a Muslim physician wantonly killed fellow soldiers at the base. Was he suffering from deprivation, a lack of understanding, a low standard of living? The part of this equation Admiral Mullen does not address -- the part he intentionally ignores -- is that violence is inherent in Islamic thought, as the Qur'anic Verses of The Sword suggest.
How can one deter an enemy when there is a refusal to understand him? Even those in the Arab world are perplexed. Middle East tradition indicates you side with the "strong horse." But if you do not know how to apply your strength, you become the "weak horse." At the moment, U.S. psychologizing is having a paralyzing influence in fighting a war against radical Islam.
Can you imagine a strategy in World War II in which we argued the most effective way to deter the Nazis would be classes on Mein Kampf? Or that we should have sent psychologists to Berlin instead of Patton's army?
It stuns the mind to consider how misguided military strategists have become. From battlefield action based on lethality, we have seemingly moved to pop-psychology on the military couch. The question that remains is whether the U.S. can subdue an enemy committed to our destruction with psychological, economic and social tactics Admiral Mullen thinks we can; others of us doubt it.
Herbert I. London
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