Friday, August 12, 2016

Donald Trump, ISIS, and Islamic Libertarianism

Donald Trump has said that Barack Obama is the "founder" of ISIS, and Hillary Clinton is the "co-founder." 

Yesterday, here's what Trump said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

HEWITT: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum; he lost the peace.
TRUMP: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the Most Valuable Player Award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
HEWITT: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.
TRUMP: I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay? ...
HEWITT: I know what you’re arguing …
TRUMP: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?
HEWITT: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.
TRUMP: Well, I disagree.

Trump is ignorant of the history of ISIS.  As I have indicated in an earlier post, the Islamic State was "founded" in 2006, two years before Obama was elected President.  Some people see Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the "founder of ISIS."  because he formed the group al Qaeda in Iraq, which became ISIS.  Zarqawi was killed in June 2006 in a U.S. airstrike.  Abu Ayub al-Masri then took over the organization and called it the Islamic State of Iraq a few months later.  This would seem to be the true founding of ISIS.

Trump says that Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 was the cause for the spreading power of ISIS.  On August 10th, Trump said: "We shouldn't have ever, ever, ever got into Iraq.  I said it from the beginning.  I said it from the beginning . . . . I said you're going to destabilize the Middle East and we did.  And then, an even easier decision, we should have never gotten out the way we got out. . . . We had a president who decided he'd announce a date and he was going to get out by that date.  The problem is the enemy, which really turned out to be ISIS, the enemy was sitting back and actually didn't believe that this could be happening. . . . That they would actually say when they were getting out.  So they sat back and they sat back . . . but instead of allowing some small forces behind to maybe, just maybe, keep it under control, and we pulled out eventually."

Apparently, Trump is ignorant of the fact that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by December 31, 2011 was set by an agreement with the Iraqi government signed by President George Bush in 2008, so that Obama was simply carrying out that earlier agreement.

Moreover, Trump is lying when he says that he has opposed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  As early as March 16, 2007, Trump said in a CNN interview that the U.S. should "declare victory and leave, because I'll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. . . . This is a total catastrophe, and you might as well get out now, because you are just wasting time."

Trump is ignorant of the true causes of ISIS.  The first cause is political:  there is a long sectarian dispute between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and when the Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki supported the Shiites against the Sunnis, that radicalized the Sunnis and created an opportunity for ISIS.

The second, and perhaps deeper, cause is theological.  As Obama correctly indicated in his December 6 televised address on ISIS, radical Islam is a misinterpretation of Islam that is opposed by most Muslims.  As I have indicated in some of my previous posts, ISIS embraces an apocalyptic interpretation of Islam based not on the Quran but on the Haddith (dubious reports of Muhammad's doings and sayings).  It is this apocalyptic vision of the coming of the Mahdi and the Last Battle between Islam and Satan that has attracted some misguided Muslims to ISIS.

As Obama said in his December 6 speech, this theological misinterpretation of Islam must be challenged by a correct interpretation of the Quran as teaching tolerance and religious liberty.  This would require what I have identified in a previous post as Islamic libertarianism (also here).  This is the same kind of theological libertarianism that has been adopted by most Christians today who have interpreted the New Testament as teaching liberalism in allowing for religious belief to be privatized in civil society without any theocratic coercive enforcement.

Finally, as I have argued in a previous post, the panic about ISIS terrorist attacks in the U.S. promoted by Trump is foolish.  The likelihood of an American being killed by a police officer is about 100 times greater than the likelihood of being killed by an Islamic terrorist.  Terrorism is a problem, but it is not an existential threat to the United States.  The greater threat, as Gary Johnson has indicated, is the threat to American liberty coming from the War on Terror.

Americans were so disturbed by the 9/11 attack that they were willing to support the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a response to the threat of terrorism, even though the American casualties in those wars outnumbered the deaths from the 9/11 attack, and even though the economic costs for those wars were astounding.  The huge investment in the Department of Homeland Security and the loss of liberty from government surveillance of citizens adds to the harm that Americans have inflicted on themselves because of their unreasonable fear of terrorism.

Oh, my, shortly after I finished writing this post, Trump tweeted a message saying that his calling Obama the "founder of ISIS" was only sarcasm!  This is the second time that everyone has failed to recognize Trump's remarkably subtle sarcasm.  A few hours after saying he was being sarcastic, he gave a speech where he said: "Obviously, I'm being sarcastic — but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you."  So he was only being sarcastic about his sarcasm?  If this is confusing, wait a few hours, and Trump will give us another interpretation of what he's saying.

Now, I am waiting for Trump to tweet that he's suspending his presidential campaign, because, after all, it was all a big joke, and somehow we were all fooled by the joke.


John Barr said...

Thank you for this piece, Larry. And, this is not sarcasm.

Cody Swift said...

Where are the sources