Islamist Beheading Highlights Danger Of Refusing To Police An Insurgency
In France, an Islamist recently beheaded a professor for showing a cartoon in class. Every time there is a low-level Islamist terror attack, beheading, or assault in Europe like this, elite liberals curiously attempt to frame it as a free-speech issue.
That implies you can reason with fanatics who are in positions of power, like a Marxist professor or a community organizer. It assumes there are moderates who are capable of tamping down on extremists within the community. It assumes that the perpetrators are individual miscreants who can be reformed or at least deterred. It is also a very Anglo-American way of thinking.
Unfortunately, this is wrong. Insurgency isn’t a free-speech issue, it’s an attack on sovereignty. The Chinese, Russians, Indians, and increasingly some conservative Europeans are starting to see it differently.
Historically, the question has been quite simple: who has the power to regulate and enforce the law? Is it the republic or nation-state with elected leaders, or individuals with their personal sense of morality and values alien to the unified whole?
Islamists have personal values that are alien to Europe. Liberal individualists, therefore, meet their logical contradiction when they face a group or ideology (including Islamists and Antifa-style Communists) who are determined to eradicate the social order and take over. Does their freedom of speech include insurgent propaganda, which radicalizes people? If not, why is the state not cracking down?
The French argument, mirroring the Chinese and Indian governments’ ones, is that Islamists are an attack on the existence of the republic and should be eradicated. This is much better than blathering about free speech and reasoned debate. It is at least a better way to start thinking about counterinsurgency than Anglo-Americans can. Sooner or later, Anglo-Americans need to learn that lesson.
Research suggests that good governance and benevolent reform-minded human rights rarely work on insurgents. You cannot win “hearts and minds” by backing down and responding gently to their violence. Annihilation is a better method than acceptance.
Most terrorists are radicalized somewhere, like in their ghettoed communities or mosques, just like most communists or Antifa are radicalized at universities or social groups. There is always a bunch of supportive or tacitly approving people, from family to teachers and friends, as well as communications networks through cell phones and social media.
Most importantly, there are benevolent fronts such as non-governmental organizations, funding, human rights lawyers, and the like. Unless this chain of command is identified and disrupted, the strategy will remain whack-a-mole.
Most of the Islamism in Europe is not just from second-generation migrants, but also those coming from Afghanistan to Eritrea and Chechnya. Because of their circumstances, there is no long-term prospect, no long-term job, or a marriage solution for them. The people who are arriving are not from educated backgrounds, and are thoroughly incapable of long-term assimilation, resulting in a cycle of disillusionment.
The result is a potent mix of cultural differences combined with envy and anger. And unless that is managed and stopped, by force if necessary, there will be a relentless diffusion of crime.
Migration is best when selective, controlled, and upper class. In an earlier imperial era, the world was borderless but closed. The reason was simple. Imperialism and colonialism — from the time of the Romans to the British, for good and for bad — was designed for one sole purpose: to bring the cream to the imperial center, and keep the rest of the periphery functioning. It was not the best arrangement, but it worked.
A Syrian could be a Roman consul posted in Belgium, for example, if he transformed himself into a Roman. An Indian fellow of the Royal Society of surgeons would have been welcome anywhere from Australia to Canada to Egypt and South Africa under the British Empire.
Even more religious empires, like the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, were relatively liberal. The two conditions were that those migrating to the core were chosen based on quality and adherence to values. The rest were in the peripheral regions, which were functioning due to imperial competence.
Now, I am not a neoconservative on foreign policy, and I oppose imposing values and transforming local customs. And no one can bring back colonialism in the form it was once. But if there were genuine neocon theorists instead of the current clowns, a provocative case could be made in favor of at least some form of imperial or colonial control beyond the U.S. border.
Some scholars argue that the future looks far more imperial. If Europe or America turned imperial (without an emperor) like the Colonial French Republic, then the people who live and work in the periphery and frontiers would be managed by competent colonial officers. The British Empire’s collapse led to more migration to the British mainland, whereas the peak imperial days only saw an inter-imperial movement of the cream of the crop: academic, business, and military elites, not the working class.
The thousands of people trying to move to America from the failed Latin countries, and the entire Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa on the move towards Europe, are doing so for a simple reason: those regions have failed to function. It is a problem that needs to be somehow solved — perhaps by going back to the days migration was based on quality and values, not simply relocating a mass of working-class people from a failed peripheral region to a functioning imperial core.
If the Euro-Atlantic is to survive as a coherent whole, nations need to bring down at least some form of an imperial hammer, to homogenize the polity and cull insurgents. No Pluribus survives without a strong Unum, so to speak.
To put that in policy terms, it would entail using insurrection laws against those who not only commit to insurgent behavior but those who actively or tacitly support it. It would mean cutting insurgent regions from federal funding.
It would mean organizing and mass counter-protesting, lawsuits by businesses and homeowners who have suffered, against both the cities that allowed rioting and attacks as well as individuals arrested. It would mean using federal laws to arrest — instead of state laws — organizations and demonstrations against institutions whose members get arrested, setting bail to the point of bankruptcy, intelligence gathering, and infiltrating groups that are actively working to bring down the republic.
Insurgents, by definition, cannot coexist with the system or civilization they are trying to topple or corrode from within. Likewise, the state or system cannot coexist by giving those people the freedom to spread propaganda that will lead to radicalism.
To rephrase Karl Popper’s paradox, sometimes society needs to turn imperial to preserve freedom. Blathering about the principles of free speech that are exploited by the same insurgents to spread their toxic propaganda will lead to societal collapse.
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a senior contributor to The Federalist. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.