Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Obama speaks about ISIS; Peter Bergen explains why it behaves so irrationally

President Obama just completed a very temperate speech on the ISIS threat, describing it as not typical of Islam and another example of extremism that radicalizes vulnerable people.  CNN has the video and explanation to today’s speech here. "We are not at war with Islam. We are aware with people who have perverted Islam.”  He denied that there is a “clash of civilization”.  He indicated the terrorists exploit economic grievances, but some terrorists come from wealthy background.  He did say that corruption humiliates people increases the risk or extremism and instability.  He did seem to hint that gross inequality contributes to instability.
Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst, explains why ISIS behaves in a way that seems “irrational”, making as many enemies as possible while trying to attract young recruits, link here.  He says (reinforcing the president) that they are a “death cult” driven by end-times beliefs, based on a narrow interpretation of some specific text in the Koran, regarding specific battles in specific places (in Syria). Ironically, the Muslim version of Jesus appears in the final battle.  The position of people in the afterlife would depend on the outcome of this battle, according to ideology.  Some books explaining Islam say that the Islamic afterlife occurs at the “end of time”, rather than continuously, as in Christianity  or other various belief systems like Rosicrucianism (and “continuously” makes more sense in terms of the physics of consciousness). Actually, some systems believe there are specified time intervals before reincarnation or some other outcome is known (for example, some systems say 144 years).  This all has the tone of the “pre-tribulaitonism” vs. “post-tribulationism” debate about the Rapture in evangelical Christianity, often debated, particularly in the South in the 1980s when I was living in Dallas. 

Graeme Wood echoes this view with a long essay in "The Atlantic", "What ISIS really wants", here. He appeared on AC360 on Feb, 18, 2015 and his own site is here
The ideology would mean that there is more to radicalism than just nihilism, or disenchantment with an unfair world in which others “get out of things”.  Still, that seems to be where it starts. 

Bergen, in a subsequent piece, has disagreed with Obama and others on the terrorist behavior as indicative of lack of opportunity.  That may be true of the Paris and Copenhagen shootings recently, but in general terror leadership and hijackers have been well educated men.  It is about religion.  Or maybe it is about demanding that others show the moral perfection once expected of oneself, so that you don't have to have any feelings for people who disappoint you.  

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