web analytics
April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Religious Sacrifice


Beres-Louis-Rene

Share Button
              As U.S. President Barack Obama stubbornly proceeds with his deeply flawed resurrection of a “Two-State Solution” in the Middle East, he will bring substantial harm to the United States as well as to Israel.  In this connection, Mr. Obama should quickly recognize that thecore rationale of Jihadist terror has little if anything to do with politics or with military strategy and tactics. Rather, this rationale is, and will surely remain, fundamentally, a sincere expression of religious sacrifice.

 

             Unsurprisingly, this seemingly subtle point will be difficult to understand and acknowledge at the Obama White House. Yet, critically determinative links between religious sacrifice and politics have had a very long and altogether pertinent history. To appropriately respect chronology, President Obama and his many advisers should now look with real interest to ancient Greece. There, Plutarch’s Sayings of Spartan Women revealed the exemplary female parent as one who reared her sons for civic sacrifice. This mother was always relieved to learn that a son had died “in a manner worthy of his self, his country and his ancestors.” Those Spartan sons who failed to live up to this bold standard of sacrifice were consciously and conspicuously reviled.
            One woman, whose son had been the sole survivor of a disastrous military engagement, killed him enthusiastically with a tile. Culturally, it was the unambiguously correct punishment for his apparent cowardice.  Later, the eighteenth-century Swiss (Genevan) philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, citing Plutarch, described a certain citizen-mother’s tale as follows: “A Spartan woman had five sons in the army and was awaiting news of the battle.  A Helot (slave) arrives trembling; she asks him for the news. `Your five sons were killed.’  `Base slave, did I ask you that?’ The slave responds: `We won the victory.’  The mother runs to the temple and gives thanks to the gods.”  

 

             President Obama should take heed. The true roots of Jihadist terror originate, in part, from cultures that embrace similar views of sacrifice. In these cultures, however, the key purpose of sacrifice goes far beyond civic necessity.  Here, sacrificial practice is a sacred expression of religion. In these cultures, sacrifice actually derives from a desperately hoped-for conquest of personal death. Above all, with such practice, the Jihadist terrorist hopes to realize an otherwise unattainable promise of immortality.

 

            There is no greater power in world politics than the power over death. The Jihadist terrorist insistently claims to “love death,” but this is a complete lie. Paradoxically, he kills himself and innocent others only to ensure that he will live forever. The so-called “death” that he expects to suffer in “suicide” is merely a momentary inconvenience on every martyr’s fiery path to life everlasting.

 

            The president should now consider the facts. “Martyrdom” operations have always been associated with Jihad. After all, unequivocal and celebratory invocations for such killing can be found in the Koran (9:111), and, even more explicitly, in the canonical hadith.

 

             The survival implications of this doctrinal fusion of religion and violence now warrant very careful study in Washington. Convinced that Shahada (“Death for Allah”) violence against the United States will lead to martyrdom, the Islamist terrorist can never be deterred by ordinary threats of reprisal and retaliation. Falling outside the usual boundaries of “rationality,” Jihadist terrorism should now compel us to seek very different and far more purposeful measures of dissuasion. This means that to keep America safe, the U.S.will have to look far beyond orthodox military and political solutions to terrorism. Ideally, of course, President Obama would simultaneously abandon his ironically ill-fated plan to carve an anti-American Palestinian state from the still-living body of Israel.

 

              It is precisely the Jihadists’ unique and overwhelming terror of death that leads them to “suicide.”  Curiously, because dying in the act of killing “infidels” and “apostates” is presumed to buy freedom from the penalty of death, these terrorists aim to conquer mortality by “killing themselves.”

 

             In the fashion of its Islamist enemies, America still imagines, for itself, life everlasting. But unlike these enemies, America does not see itself achieving immortality, individually or collectively, by mass killing of others. Rather, we generally see our national survival as the logical product of both mainstream diplomacy and traditional military power. 

 

            America and its terrorist enemies have decidedly different orientations to peace. This stark asymmetry puts the United States at a foreseeable disadvantage.  While America’s enemies manifest their “positive” expectations for immortality, individual and collective, by the intended and doctrinal slaughter of heathen, the Obama administration has thus far remained unaware of these enemies’ particularly murderous decisional calculus.

 

             Although usually preoccupied with other matters, the American president now faces a real and still-expanding mega-threat of unconventional war and unconventional terrorism.  Faced with adversaries who are not only willing to die, but who also seek their own “deaths” – because this sacrificial death is presumed to yield personal immortality – Mr. Obama should quickly understand the critical limits of ordinary warfare, national homeland defense and deterrence.

 

            The danger to America lies at two discrete but interrelated levels. First, it exists at the level of the individual Jihadist enemy who chooses martyrdom through a path of terrorism. Second, it exists at the level of states, the individual “self-sacrificers” in macrocosm, which may someday soon choose collective self-sacrifice through their frenzied initiation of chemical, biological or nuclear war against the United States.  Such a war might not be fought for traditional military purposes, but for “liquidation” of “infidels.” Any such choice would represent the unholiest of marriages between aggressive war and genocide, two clearly codified crimes under international law.

 

            The root problem here is Jihadist fear of death and the consequent compulsion to sacrifice certain despised “others.” This compulsion, in turn, stems from a widespread and doctrinal belief that killing unbelievers, and also being killed by unbelievers, is the path toward immortality. Terrorist unwillingness to accept personal death leads, then, to the killing of others to escape this death. The ironies are staggering, but the connections are real.

 

            For so many of our terrorist enemies, both individuals and states, killing Americans offers an optimal immunization against death. The death fear of the enemy “ego” is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the infidel. This generic idea has been captured by Ernest Becker’s vivid paraphrase of Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.

 

            The Jihadist enemies of America do not intend to do evil.  Rather, they commit to the killing of Americans and other “infidels” with conviction and purity of heart. Perversely sanctified killers, these enemies will gleefully generate an incessant search for “profane” victims. Though mired in blood, this search will be tranquil and self-assured, born of the presumption that its warrior perpetrators are neither infamous not shameful, but sacrificial.

 

            Jihadist war and terror will be with us for a long time. To better ensure our national security, it would be best for us to quickly understand these interpenetrating threats as still-impending expressions of violence and the sacred.

 

            President Obama, please take note, and begin by not sacrificing Israel at the bloody altar of Palestinian terror.

————

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on world politics, terrorism and international law. Born in Zurich, Switzerland on August 31, 1945, he is the author of some of the earliest major books on nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, and is also Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Share Button

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Religious Sacrifice”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Mock Eviction Notice shoved under the doors of students' rooms in predominantly Jewish NYU dorm by NYU SJP.
NYU Latest Site of Anti-Israel Mock Eviction Notices
Latest Indepth Stories
Students in Israel get computers to assist in their schoolwork.

Day schools can have boys and girls participate in the same online class but they don’t meet or interact in “real time.”

Richard Falk, FORMER  United Nations Human Rights Council’s Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.

Jews so hostile to their own people they’ve spun out into the orbit of rabid anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic radicalism.

Breaking the Fw:Fw:Fw Chain

Rav Pam said we must realize that God has no pleasure from such negative speech.

NIF support for BDS groups, writes Black, also included acting as a “go between for other donors….

Brandeis, which had to have known about her record of criticism of Islam, pulled the honor after pressure from a Muslim advocacy group and a number of faculty members and students.

Wherever I was invited around the world, I always met with people and let them know that I wanted to hear great stories.

R. Hadaya strongly argues in favor of establishing a festive day in commemoration of the establishment of the state of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.

Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.

Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s's overall security.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/terrorism-counter-terrorism-and-religious-sacrifice/2009/10/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: