Incensed by the use of “Evil”-pt 3 of 3

Say a doctor treats a man with Aids but ignores the disease he is stricken with and its nature. No doctor would do that. It is akin to treating the symptoms and not the disease to ignore the evil nature and its factor. Granted it may not win you points with Muslims(or fellow academics), but one withholds or censors the term evil at his/her peril.

Column continued: Is Isis Evil? 3rd part — [see 2 ; 1]

We can analyze the ways its violent tactics are effective for its purposes given the local power dynamics, so that we can also better understand its weak spots. And we can ask how it is that normal men — men who were not born evil — get turned into monsters, so that we can work to change the structures that produce terrorists over the long-term instead of locking ourselves into an endlessly repeated, short-term policy of “killing fanatics” until they are gone.

Trying to understand something isn’t the same as trying to justify or excuse it. That’s a basic mistake, and a costly one.

As Jane Harman, president of the Woodrow International Center for Scholars, recently wrote: “We can’t counter radical narratives if we don’t understand the motives of the radicalized.”

Nonetheless, trying to understand evil is an offense. It is an offense to everything we hold dear, because understanding — that is, true and effective understanding — must bring us close to the other, must help us see the world through their eyes.

That is a painful, offensive process, and that is exactly what we must do.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/22/opinion/dawes-isis-evil/

We can analyze the ways its violent tactics are effective for its purposes given the local power dynamics, so that we can also better understand its weak spots. And we can ask how it is that normal men — men who were not born evil — get turned into monsters, so that we can work to change the structures that produce terrorists over the long term instead of locking ourselves into an endlessly repeated, short-term policy of “killing fanatics” until they are gone.

What all is wrong with that? The government, military and CIA do analytics on their effectiveness and there are documentations. But if we do not have the leaders who act on those facts, we have our heads in the sand dunes. “Local power dynamics” is a problem.

You treat it as a social services matter, but this community(and ME region) has had these problems for many decades. Then you expect to “unmake” the results over their desires and will. If those in the neighborhood do not care, how can you undo a situation hundreds of years in the making? Generations of terrorists were weened on it.

We have also given them the incentives to improve and reform these “dynamics” but it falls on deaf ears. Apparently they don’t want to and have reasons to do otherwise. Put it this way, some of them like it this way, some of them don’t, but yet another part that is interested in reform wants to amplify those same dynamics many times over.

It doesn’t take a majority, only a fractional faction hell bent on any means necessary to do it. Change the structures? The structures are just the way they like them — and not even big or bad enough for some. Blaming the structures brings us right back to blaming, or understanding something other than the central causes of terrorism. It is evil.

Trying to understand something isn’t the same as trying to justify or excuse it. That’s a basic mistake, and a costly one.

Oh yes it can be the same thing. Attempts at understanding can lead to rationalizations for why they do it, and lead you to error. Human beings are easily capable of such rationalizations. Thereby making excuses for the evil conduct.

As Jane Harman, president of the Woodrow International Center for Scholars, recently wrote: “We can’t counter radical narratives if we don’t understand the motives of the radicalized.”

Sounds nice. So we must argue against another academic. We do have to understand and know the nature of evil that drives them, too, and its source. But that includes recognizing the evil. Their motives are part of the evil we face.

Nonetheless, trying to understand evil is an offense. It is an offense to everything we hold dear, because understanding — that is, true and effective understanding — must bring us close to the other, must help us see the world through their eyes.

That is a painful, offensive process, and that is exactly what we must do.

I realized some limitations to understanding “evil”. But there is real danger in trying to understand the people who perpetrate and spread this evil and their sordid history, across borders — against those structural boundaries — absent the evil involved. Pain or not.

Summary:

He said that evil is inhuman so best not even try to understand it. But then he also wants to treat these people from a humane perspective to counter it. As if applied humane nature will overcome the inherent evil in them. Now there’s a fool’s errand. You don’t get it do you? How do you do that with people who’s military strategy is summed up in deception or lying? What are you really going to understand about them and their social fabric of evil woven throughout the region? People who put severed heads on spits do not generally offer much in the way of working therapy. When an animal is rabid we don’t just say let me find out why he got it? The first defense is to destroy it and find out where its been etc. And yes we do understand the disease of rabies and know what it can do, and take precautions.

Handling this as if it were some humanitarian social ill would be a mistake. We know what goes into it. Finally, ignoring the central factor of their radicalization, their religion, would be another huge mistake. Playing social worker with terrorists is not a treatment, it’s a recipe for disaster. And how many months or years would that take? We don’t have that kind of time, when the very humanity you savor hangs in the balance. When there seems to be more urgency for Ebola epidemic than there is for terrorism, something is askew. We do understand enough about that culture to know how it works. And then it uses the most powerful addiction on the planet, blood. What is there to understand about that? Let’s not over complicate it, and its evil.

What he is asking us to do is to play social worker and therapist, namely to people who hate us. I notice he didn’t offer any solutions other than ‘apply the ointment, liberally’.

We don’t have enough beds or an asylum large enough to house all these patients. That’s what he has done, converted them into patients —albeit unthinking sick ones.

Terrorism: “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” But we do not have a simple matter of terrorism. We have a religion sponsored, state-sponsored, caliphate-centric, political, ideologically rooted, Islam-driven terrorism.

From ABC:
That includes the U.S. government. “No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance,” the State Department said in a report on world terrorism in 2000.
The key elements to terrorism are obvious to many — violence, non-combatant targets, intention of spreading fear, and political aims. But crafting a watertight, commonly accepted definition has proven difficult.
The State Department’s definition holds that only sub-national groups, not states themselves, can commit acts of terrorism. It states the violence must be politically motivated, but does not mention instilling or spreading fear.
The FBI looks to the Code of Federal Regulations definition: “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
“In a nutshell, [terrorism] is the threat and use of both psychological and physical force in violation of international law, by state and sub-state agencies for strategic and political goals,” says Yonah Alexander, a terrorism expert and director of the Institute for Studies in International Terrorism at the State University of New York.
“No ifs, ands, or buts,” he adds.

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Incensed by the use of “Evil”- pt 2 of 3

In the second part he makes it clear he wants to separate undesirable “understanding” of evil from the preferable understanding of the terrorist culture, and their environment, etc. (Part 3 follows.)

Column continued: Is Isis Evil? 2nd of 3

The fact is, there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think that way. [like Goldberg: “They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.”]

To resist ISIS and, perhaps more importantly, the larger social forces it represents, the U.S. will need more than a collective psychological readiness to injure, and more than bombs.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized that this evil ideology will only be stopped when “enough of its fanatics have been killed.” But if we’ve learned anything as a nation since our “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq, it is this: While invasions and bombing can be effective in the short-term, they are not durable solutions to terror-based violence.

Even if U.S. military force could effectively destroy ISIS, there will be similar groups waiting in the wings. If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking.

How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive? We can choose to answer these questions in two ways.

We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that makes them.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/22/opinion/dawes-isis-evil/

“The fact is, there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think that way.”

Than like Goldberg: “They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.” – I think denial and distractions are pretty dangerous. We haven’t heard why that is so dangerous.

To resist ISIS and, perhaps more importantly, the larger social forces it represents, the U.S. will need more than a collective psychological readiness to injure, and more than bombs.

So he’s leading to his big point. We do need all our assets, but to leave out an important one of calling something what it is and identifying it psychologically and strategically is key. That is before those bombs are dropped. Dismissing the sinister evil nature of it gets us nowhere.

Even if U.S. military force could effectively destroy ISIS, there will be similar groups waiting in the wings. If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking.

Yes, we keep thinking and they keep plotting, undeterred. Sound like a plan? We don’t have to prove the better thinkers, we have to prove to be ready and denial is not a strategy. We already are planning and thinking, so are they. Our ability and readiness are a deterrent. Has history not taught you want it can take to end that? Force is about the only thing they understand. A new one rises, so what is the alternative?

How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive? We can choose to answer these questions in two ways.

It’s the questions, stupid. They are loaded, try unpacking them. We see and know how its possible, more importantly so do they. Their hatred and religion are the driving dynamics. Those are two obstacles in your path. Now you show me your protocol for that, since you believe in it so much, and I may start listening. Either deal with that or live in denial.

We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends.[Goldberg] Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.

I wanted to laugh and couldn’t. “Hard work of understanding the context”? Well, do you know the context of the last 1400 years, which might have something to do with this repetition thing? We understand if we paid attention. Do you understand their context of warfare and deception being sacred things? Do you understand their tenants to lie as necessary to pursue and achieve their age-old goals, that context? Or is some other fabricated one in your own mind or someone else’s, which claims to have caused this?

What context or circumstances? Well, maybe we could undo the entire civilized world to satisfy them. Or maybe we could just accept their rules for the world to appease them – give it over to them? That might work. But outside that, you don’t have a plan, or even a theory either, on how to unmake this evil incarnate. Get it yet? We are back to examining symptoms not dealing with the disease.

First off any real solution for it would have to come from within. Except last I checked, Islam does not self-correct. Its the dirty little secret no one wants to mention. And trying to sterilize this barbaric terrorism from Islam is like trying to separate Naziism from The Third Reich. Btw, an awful lot of people have already devoted countless time and energy to this problem. You are not the first one to come along, but might be the most recent to whistle past the graveyard.

Our great tool is right here in the idea sphere. But as long as we are saying things like understanding and what is their reasons for radicalization we are wasting our time. Been there done that. If we don’t understand the central radical factor, you miss the point and end up in denial.

Part 3 follows…

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Incensed by the use of “Evil”

Should we use the term or shouldn’t we, and why?
Have we gone that far? Yep.

This is obviously an important subject but also provocative. There may not be simple answers but there might be limitations on conversation, at least with liberals. Here is my attempt at the topic, which is also a rebuttal to a column on CNN.

I soon realized others have taken issue with it, and one a conservative he singled out in it. I didn’t read the others until after. I included them below in case you want to check them out too. The subject deserves consideration. (It is three parts) You can read his entire column at link. But it could irk you, as liberal academics do.

Should we call ISIS ‘evil’?

By James Dawes | August 22, 2014

Editor’s note: James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, is the author of “Evil Men” (Harvard University Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — When most people look at ISIS, they see the incarnation of evil. Among its many horrific acts, the Islamic militant group beheaded American journalist James Foley and posted the video this week in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The Pope typically protests violence, but he implied that he supports the use of military force to combat ISIS. Even al Qaeda says ISIS is too violent. Across the political spectrum, public officials and pundits have characterized them as “savages,” a “cancer” and the “face of evil.”

Is ISIS evil?

The problem with that question is that the answer is as easy as it is useless. Yes, ISIS is evil and must be stopped. Saying so over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.

There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil — because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. “Evil” is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.

The flip side is that “evil” is also a word that stops us from thinking.

There is no point in trying to understand evil because it is, in the most typical phrasing, “inhuman,” “senseless” or “beyond comprehension.” It is a fool’s quest to analyze the local realities and strategic imperatives of unthinking savages. There is something almost offensive about trying to understand such evil.

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg tried to shame those who are trying to think seriously about ISIS. In a recent tweet, he mocked the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context, suggesting that we should focus instead on one fact: “They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.”

See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/22/opinion/dawes-isis-evil/

The first paragraph generally gets a pass as fairly matter-of-fact.

The word evil may get tossed around, but I think most people know it when they see it.

“Easy” to call it evil, but “useless?” I don’t agree. Their acts speak for themselves, and useless? The repeated use of the term evil makes it “harder to stop them”? So the answer is to stop using the term, so we can stop them. Say what? Thus, evil is a useless descriptor. I think he expects one to make a case just for using the term.

Now be careful about making all-inclusive statements:

There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil — because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. “Evil” is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.

Only one reason? I disagree. There are more than one reason. He is saying our use of the term is based on our intent. He ascribes our motives and intent to the use of the word. What about the evil ISIS? (he’s more concerned with us) A “powerful word”? It’s a powerful concept or force.

I have called some things evil without feeling the reflex to kill them. Likewise, a hunter shoots an animal not because he sees it as evil. I used the term about someone’s actions for years, but never, ever had a desire to kill or harm them. It surely was not my motive for using the word. Wrong. At times I did not wish them the best, that’s quite different. Even if there were reasons not to use the term, one needs to call something what it is – not based on what you want to do to it. So that doesn’t work, nor is it 100% correct. A motive might be to call attention to it or a person, or an effort to demonize them; but that is not an effort to go string them up on a tree. There is room and need for calling some things or people evil though, it is not meaningless.

There are legitimate reasons to oppose and fight it based on what it is. It is a moral repugnance. The ISIS evil is not just a criminal offense either. Anger is justifiable.

“The flip side is that “evil” is also a word that stops us from thinking.”

Use of the word stops me from thinking? Ludicrous and wrong. Now maybe evil nature could prevent its host from thinking? Just suppose it gets easier for these people to do what they’re doing without thinking — searing off any conscience. Isn’t that more the case? And people have given a lot of thought to opposing evil, even predicting its moves. Maybe some are obsessed about understanding it? That is reason to be careful trying to fully understand it. I would agree there is a danger inherent in trying to understand it that: to understand evil is to excuse it[LM]. The point is in trying to understand it you can rationalize reasons for it.

Apparently there is no point trying to understand evil:

There is no point in trying to understand evil because it is, in the most typical phrasing, “inhuman,” “senseless” or “beyond comprehension.” It is a fool’s quest to analyze the local realities and strategic imperatives of unthinking savages. There is something almost offensive about trying to understand such evil.

I don’t believe understanding is the cure. However, no point trying because it is inhuman? That’s pretty absurd. I’m not looking for explanations though. We have enough of that and call it what it is. I agree that what these people are doing is inhuman — what I call anti-human. But that doesn’t change the evil nature. Islamic terrorists are biologically humans. Savages, yes – unthinking, no. But they are taught and aspire to this evil. Sure they have turned themselves into barbaric animals. True some evil is beyond our comprehension and understanding — which is why the objective is not to understand it. Many people do not want to get into the mindset of that evil, and probably never will, but that does not make inquiry irrelevant. From one extreme to the other.

So are Islamic terrorists just zombies incapable of cognitive thought? No. We see what they do think about. They are actively establishing and running a caliphate – of evil but a caliphate. It takes some scheming evil thought.

Then don’t even consider their strategic imperatives? Is that asinine? Are we supposed to be numb to it or zombies ourselves? Of course you have to consider its strategy. And it wants to kill us as part of its grand strategy. But don’t bother with that.

“It is a fool’s quest to analyze the local realities and strategic imperatives of unthinking savages. There is something almost offensive about trying to understand such evil”

The reasoning here seems to be not to label it evil. Maybe this type of sinister illusion prevents its defining, and the application? Maybe a waste of time is what human nature would like us to think? At least know enough to guard against and predict it as possible.

I remember many people taking the criminal approach to terrorism pre-9/11. But possibly that itself is a passive participation in evil, to dismiss it as just another criminal deed.(that requires ignoring a lot) People do grow tired of an overuse of a term. As they say: “all that is needed for evil to flourish is that good men do nothing”. How would you fight something without understanding what it is?

I have a huge problem with other words there, like calling them unthinking. Now we have gone from one extreme to another — from scheming evil to unthinking. In fact, it would appear that a lot of thought goes into their actions. And there is a deliberate nature to it. It is actually work to do what these savages do. But unthinking? Unaware of what they are doing? I don’t think either works. It seems as systematic as what Nazis were doing. Then there is the political motives, which are at the very definition of terrorism. And not for one minute would I ascribe that they didn’t know what they are doing. Just the opposite, they incorporate a psychological propaganda campaign designed to affect their opponents.

Something offensive about trying to understand such evil. We should be offended by it, it is evil after all. But calling understanding a fool’s errand? We had to understand some of what created Hitler and the Third Reich did, and its nature, to see it doesn’t take hold again. After WWII, the Germans were led through the camps to see what their society had done. It is called denial. I”m certain it left many with questions how all this came to be? And who exactly permitted it? Crushing and tough questions.

I find that people who refuse or don’t want to use the term evil have an agenda , and often a reason for it. To recap, he has attacked both sides: he attacked using the word, and also attacked even trying to understand it. Though he did admit the evil involved. That would be hard for a person with a new book on Evil Men to deny. Well, he would not want to deny evil, having written on it. But don’t bother trying to understand it, something that is inhuman. When evil inhabits men then humanity is involved. That’s a different story from understanding perps and terrorists’ social culture.

In no particular order, here are the bullet points:

  • Do not use the word – evil.
  • Do not even try to understand it.
  • Will make you stop thinking.
  • Using it will cause us to lose the battle
  • The only reason to use the word is to kill the person or thing.
  • Don’t consider its strategy or goals
  • It is offensive to try to understand it
  • He criticizes the ‘evil is as evil does’ notion

As background, I include a statement about his book Evil Men. His description gives a flavor for his treatment of the subject. But he is talking about evil men, not ideology or ideas, and apparently labeled them evil based on their deeds.

As readers, what are we to do when we read such testimony? Can torture narratives teach us anything? Isn’t the endless circling around stories of atrocities a form of obscenity itself? When does the fight for justice and truth end and human rights pornography begin? Evil Men is painful to read. Horror and terror are etched into every page. Atrocities are reflected upon – sometimes calmly; other times with cold fury. The book’s author, James Dawes, forces us to think carefully about the ethics of telling stories – true ones – about acts of staggering cruelty. Disturbingly, it is a book about friendship, too. When we are brought face to face with men who raped, tortured and murdered men, women and children, where should we look? Straight into their eyes, he advises.

Other columns:

Jonah Goldberg’s rebuttal None Dare Call It Evil?
Kevin Jackson also takes him to task:CNN writer implies calling ISIS evil is a bad idea
Conservative Firing Line took issue with him Liberal cautions that U.S. faces a danger in calling ISIS ‘evil’

Part 2
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