Recently the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said there are “new ways of deterrence that address those factors that make individuals vulnerable to coercion.”
In a speech delivered at the Hoover Institution, Mullen noted that the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaida can be deterred by a traditional method of military retaliation and by nontraditional 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,” Mullen announced.
Presumably an understanding of the Koran, rather than an interpreter’s view, a higher standard of living, and understanding wives and friends will convert swords into plowshares according to some military leaders.
Surely Adm. Mullen must be aware of several incontrovertible conditions.
For example, Muslim leaders who espouse violence are often from wealthy families, including Osama bin Laden; being able to read doesn’t translate into understanding; sitting on a couch with a psychologist who identifies with your angst may be comforting, but as a strategy for peace it lacks staying power.
The admiral’s psychobabble 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 there have been times in history when the choice is slavery or battle. Some, perhaps many, prefer battle.
As it turns out, Mullen’s words were turned on their head in any case.
In Iran, one headline noted that he wants the “U.S. to deter Qur’an followers.” Hezbollah TV in Lebanon reported that 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 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 doesn’t address, the part he intentionally ignores, is that violence is inherent in Islamic thought as Verses of The Sword suggests.
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 perhaps we should have sent psychologists to Berlin instead of Patten’s army.
It boggles the imagination to consider how misguided military strategists have become. From battlefield action based on lethality we have seemingly moved to Dr. Phil on the military couch.
The question that remains is whether the United States can subdue an enemy committed to our destruction with psychological, economic, and social tactics. Obviously Adm. Mullen thinks we can. I have considerable doubt.
Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction Publishers).
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