03 December 2015

Terrorism in San Bernardino?

In America jihad is just another kind of amoklauf, Islam just another set of ideas, among many, that inspire people with grievances to kill. The more we learn about the shootings in San Bernardino, the more it looks like some sick hybrid of terrorism and amoklauf. The choice of target seems determined by the logic of amoklauf more than anything else. The male shooter, apparently a radicalized Muslim American citizen who was a county health inspector, went after his peers at a holiday gathering after making a brief appearance at the party as if to establish an alibi. The plan after the slaughter -- during which, from what we know so far, there were no characteristic "Allahu Akbar" cries or any other sloganeering, as if the shooters hoped to hide their true identities -- seems to have been to go out in a blaze of glory, though in fact they died more like Bonnie and Clyde than your typical martyrs, caught in crossfire as they were driving to Allah knows where. You'd think jihadis would seek some more significant target, though the idea for some seems to be to kill anyone they have a chance to, to repay Americans in particular quantitatively for the suffering the U.S. has inflicted on the Muslim world. This is a strange war in which no one has the guts to attack the Macy's parade in New York City, not even with a knife that alone might have caused a stampede, yet this happens. I don't think "heightened security" in Manhattan explains the discrepancy, since Muslims know how to make themselves inconspicuous; Mohammed Atta and his crew shaved their beards before 9/11, for instance. There's no more conspiracy here, I suspect, than there is a conspiracy of any other amoklaufers. That doesn't mean radical Islam isn't a problem that has to be addressed. But there are clearly more problems to be addressed, as Colorado Springs, Charlestown and other stricken cities can testify. Islam may be a particularly violent religion, but humanity is a particularly violent species and America is a particularly violent culture. That violence finds an empowering outlet in Islam, as it has done in other religions in the past, and it will find other outlets in Islam's absence, just as in the alleged absence of religion altogether it found an outlet in Marxism. For that matter, in the absence of Marxism as a viable rallying idea for the disadvantaged and disgruntled of the Muslim world, Islam has flourished since the waning of the Cold War. People will always find excuses to kill, and of course, one person's excuse to kill is another's excuse to kill that person, or people thought to be like him. Islam is just a head of a hydra; kill the head without killing the body and another will grow in its place. If the heads bite each other, others may grow in its place. But is there any way out of the quandry without further killing? That seems as unlikely as the possibility that those who would solve the problem by mass slaughter are much better than what they oppose.

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