The Islamic State puts Western democracies into a difficult position.
Since World War II, governments have decided to construct massive oil-hungry infrastructures. There are many problems with this infrastructure that are beyond the scope of this post to get into. Due to this reliance on oil, these countries with oil-dependent public infrastructure have had to pay more diplomatic attention to the Middle East than they might otherwise want to. The effective politicking of the global Jewish community has also encouraged unusual affinity towards Israel, a new state formed from previously British territory in the special context of the postwar period.
Further, the modern European governments and the US have imported vast numbers of Muslim workers through their open immigration policies, pursued since the 1960s. Elites pursued these policies in response to falling birth rates, and, initially, especially in countries like West Germany, thought that they would be temporary guest worker programs.
The effect of this is that we have Muslim populations distributed worldwide that are sympathetic or overtly affiliated with the new Islamic State, which claims to be a caliphate, with good reason.
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the Western government pursued a policy that promoted a ‘tolerant’ variety of Islam that has no historic roots, much like the ‘tolerant’ universalist version of Christianity has shallow roots.
This plant, tended to with great care and trillions of dollars, has not taken root anywhere that it has been planted.
The Islamic State has openly baited the United States to attack it multiple times. The US will likely take this bait. It is mistaken to take this bait, if only for the reason that ceding the initiative to an enemy is always a mistake. Taking this bait also risks making even more of a mess of world diplomacy.
This new state does not pose a direct threat to American interests. The only way that it can pose an indirect threat is through terrorism, which only remains dangerous thanks to the American open immigration policy, which welcomes Muslims, Arabs, and countless other foreigners onto American soil, granting them America’s over-generous host of rights without obligations.
The way to neutralize this threat is to end the open immigration policy, which is of recent vintage, regardless of whatever consequences there might be to foreign relations in the short run. This might also need to be accompanied by deportations and some measure of illiberal segregation against people of the Muslim faith, particularly Arab Sunnis. This would be regrettable and shameful, but necessary.
It could be possible to frame this change in the context of fiscal responsibility and of reducing the need to maintain an enormous and intrusive internal security state. We can no longer bear the material and moral costs of fighting war internationally and maintaining a police state at home.
I would argue that it is much crazier to spy upon the domestic Muslim population illegally than it is to detain and deport them through a legal process. It’s also far more illiberal to monitor and interfere with the lives of supposed citizens based on their religion while legally guaranteeing that religion the same rights as everyone else. In the spirit of formalization, we should speak honestly about how we treat different classes of people with respect to the law. If we were to formalize what is already being done illegally, the debate would look quite different.
Because it isn’t practical to treat Muslims the same as everyone else under the law, because we have shown ourselves to be incapable of safely treating them equally under the law, we must formalize the discrimination if we are to maintain the integrity of our legal system.
What we have currently is corrupt: a system that purports to be color blind that in fact subjects Muslims and non-Muslims from Islamic territories to harassment and extralegal surveillance. It is both better for security and for rule of law to perform these processes above the board.
This is necessary for all of the different ethnic and religious groups in the United States and throughout Europe. Muslims aren’t completely special in this regard. Excessive diversity makes governance excessively challenging and less effective than it could be otherwise. Ironclad segregation is not entirely necessary in all places and with all people, but it is prudent in this particular case, probably more so than it was prudent to place the Japanese within internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
I’m comfortable that this advice will not be followed, because the Western governments have over-committed to a multicultural doctrine. What’s instead likely to happen is that the US will bomb the Islamic State, delay aground invasion, attempt to ally with hostile groups overseas ineffectively, and provoke terrorist attacks on Western innocents through these errors.
The Islamic State and its allies will be able to manipulate Western governments into behaving in exactly the way that it wants them to behave.
This loop will intensify until the Western democratic governments begin to flop over due to financial and moral exhaustion.
The best way to neutralize the threat that they pose is to disengage from the region and to return to our domestic affairs.
The US and other Western governments are particularly incapable of effectively fighting the Islamic State, and in any case, it’s not in our direct interest to do so. We must pursue a more honest domestic political strategy before we can even begin to confront the Islamic State internationally.