American Elephants

What Makes Them Join the Jihad? by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen has gone directly to the nub of the question. Why do they join the Jihad? Why are they flocking to ISIS?

Because it gives meaning to life, that’s why.

It’s a commonplace to anyone who’s studied the rise of fascism, of which Islamofascism is the most recent variety.  The main problem with democratic capitalism is that it’s so successful, and therefore very boring.  A generation or two of European intellectuals bemoaned the great triumph of science and industry, which they portrayed as relentlessly stifling the human soul, burying us under a hill of material things.

The Germans produced the most moving such literature — think Nietzsche, think Hesse, not accidentally the cult hero of the American revolt against materialism in the 1960s — and, seeking for paths to spiritual fulfillment, they often wandered off into Eastern mysticism.  (Californians dd, too, and sometimes still do, but that’s not fascism.  It’s Hollywood spirituality).

The spiritual path merged with politics, catalyzed by war.  All fascism, whatever version of social or political organization it advocates, insists that war is the true measure of human virtue.  A person’s valor and courage are measured by his performance in combat.  The Italian fascists insisted that Mussolini and his followers were superior people who had been molded in the trenches of the Great War.  Young men and women who believed they possessed heroic qualities raced to join the fascist movement, just as they now race to join the jihad.

Dr. Ledeen points out that though there is considerable literature on the recruitment of poor young Muslims to suicide bombing, the recruiters promise money and security to the surviving family. The immediate passion is the thrill of fighting the enemy and making a real difference in creating a new world.

Religious rituals and beliefs work, as long as the movement succeeds. When we crush the jihad, killing the jihadis before they kill us — we destroy the ideology by demonstrating that their leaders are false prophets.

What’s Going On in Iran? by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen has written the most interesting commentary on the spate of explosions in or near an Iranian military installation — or nuclear research facility, or Revolutionary guards base, or missile base — the mullahs can’t make up their minds what to say.

The mullahcracy is so intensely divided that different ‘spokesmen’ from different ministries/ news outlets/ cults/ mafias put out different versions.  There was an explosion, or at least ‘the sound of an explosion,’ it was just the sound of our fierce military training. Then again, yes, there was something, but not to worry, just go home and shut up.  And so it goes in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as our president so loves to call his intended international partners.

I’ve been reporting for many months about the ongoing sabotage of pipelines, refineries, military sites, Revolutionary Guards’ aircraft and trains, and groups of regime thugs. and have received the usual cold shoulder from publications “of record,” which is to say silent sneers.  But the tempo of attacks, most notably the monster blast a week ago that vaporized General Moghaddam and his foreign visitors (at least some of whom had taken the shuttle from Pyongyang to be with him on what they wrongly expected would be a happy day) led the Washington Post’s man in Tehran, Thomas Erdbrink, to note the phenomenon in a useful story entitled “Mysterious Explosions Pose Dilemma for Iranian leaders.”  He gives us a pretty good rundown of the explosions, and, living as he does in Tehran, gives ample space to regime “explanations” such as bad welding, western sanctions, and so forth.  Given the number of foreign journalists who have come to a bad end in Iran, you’d do the same.

Do read the whole thing.  Most of the news we get about Iran is scary and confusing. Dr. Ledeen comes close to making sense of this strange, fanatical, conspiratorial, repressive, corrupt, rebellious society.  I can’t say that he is comforting, but at least he isn’t fantasizing about the president’s non-existent foreign policy, nor assuming that we can just all be friends if we are nicer to them than George W. Bush was. It’s a pretty clear-eyed assessment.

ADDENDUM: Britain has closed its embassy in Iran and evacuated all its staff from that country following the attack on their embassy in Tehran on Tuesday.  Britain has also ordered Iran to close its embassy in London immediately, and its staff has been given 48 hours to leave, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said today in a strongly worded statement to Parliament.


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