State Department Claims: Poverty Causes ISIS

Marie Harf wearing glasses and caught mid sentence

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the terror group Islamic State (ISIS), while 78 percent back a new authorization for use of military force against ISIS, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

The poll found 57 percent don’t like how Obama is handling the threat posed by ISIS and 58 percent think American military action against the group is going badly. In the fall, both those numbers were at 49 percent.

It seems that there’s a huge disconnect between what most Americans claim to want, and the government they twice elected.

As an indication of just how far low we’ve gone, read this exchange between U.S. State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and MSNBC host Chris Matthews on his television show, Hardball:

MATTHEWS: How do we stop this [i.e., ISIS violence]? I don’t see it. I see the Shia militias coming out of Baghdad who are all Shia. The Sunnis hate them. The Sunnis are loyal to ISIS rather than going in with the Shia. You’ve got the Kurds, the Jordanian air force and now the Egyptian air force. But I don’t see any — If I were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now. I can figure there is no existential threat to these people. They can keep finding places where they can hold executions and putting the camera work together, getting their props ready and killing people for show. And nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.

HARF: Well, I think there’s a few stages here. Right now what we’re doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. That’s really where they flourish.

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether —

MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?

HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…

Imagine if those fighting the Nazis, in World War II, had said: “We can’t win this war by killing them. We have to help the Nazis get better job opportunities, and improve their infrastructure, etc.”

It would have been madness, then. Why or how is it sanity now?

The idea that poverty causes crime rests on the premise that those engaging in the crime — terrorism, in this case — actually want to improve their conditions.

Yet if they wanted to improve their conditions, why would they be squandering energy by blowing up people, towns and entire civilizations?

Also, how are the victims of these ISIS attacks supposed to “help” poor nations develop themselves? The United States became prosperous through its economic freedom. We have less economic freedom than ever before, and as a result we’re less prosperous; however, we still have some freedom and we’re still prosperous compared to these other nations.

If these other nations will not become economically free, then why is it our fault that some of their leaders decide to attack innocent people?

It’s a self-evident fact that violence does not solve problems, and that concentrating on economics would be a far superior method for those initiating the ISIS violence. However, we cannot evade the fact that they don’t wish to do this. If they did wish to do this, they’d refrain from violence and concentrate on economic development. The simple truth is that ISIS doesn’t care about making a profit and building civilizations; it’s obsessed with religion and life after death.

It seems like this member of the State Department does not understand the nature of criminal violence. She seems to assume that violence is something that almost happens outside the realm of choice. It’s something that one is driven to by economic despair, and even envy of others’ superior conditions. She assumes that at heart, everyone is reasonable. All you have to do is appeal to their reasonable side — appease it, if necessary — and then you will start to get somewhere.

This didn’t work so well with Hitler. It didn’t work well with Stalin, the Japanese of the 1940s, or any of the other dictators throughout history. Such mentalities reason on the premise that they are entitled to impose their will and force on others. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme or literal manifestation of this premise than what we’re seeing with ISIS and militant Islam.

If you assume your enemy has the same premise as you, then you’ll lose the battle. Only by challenging the basic premise — that ISIS has a right to impose its will, by force, on others — can you possibly win. In practice this means following the principle, “If you’re hell-bent on killing me, I will utilize all means at my disposal to stop you — even if that means killing you.” Don’t blame the victim for inventing the rules of the game, because it’s not the victim who does it. It’s the one initiating the violence — ISIS, in this case, along with states who sponsor terrorism (such as Iran).

Even if were true that people kill only because they’re poor, what are we supposed to do about it? We could raise the U.S. debt limit still higher, and send billions or trillions of dollars to ISIS terrorists to work on their economies. What do you think they’d do with this money? It’s obvious. They’d blow up still more people, generating who knows what kinds of bombs and weapons.

To claim, “You can’t kill your way to victory” means evading the fact that your enemy is hell bent on killing. It’s kind of like saying, in the middle of a fire, “We can’t simply put out the fire with water. At some point, we have to figure out what the root causes of the fire are.” No, you have to put the fire out, first, with whatever means you have available.

You wouldn’t want the police to pretend that murderers, rapists and thieves aren’t really murderers, rapists and thieves. You wouldn’t want your local or state police department to start saying, “We can’t arrest and prosecute our way to keeping the streets safe. At some point, we have to provide economic benefits for these rapists, thieves and killers.” Of course, the government already provides benefits, more than ever before. Yet we still end up with killers, rapists and thieves, because criminals –by definition — don’t care about these things. It’s something else they’re after. They’re not like us.

Our own State Department seems to be blaming the victims of ISIS terrorism: those who don’t initiate violence. Marie Harf insinuates that it’s somehow our fault, and that there’s something more important than self-defense we should employ in trying to keep our lives safe and our civilization intact. She blatantly evades the rational distinction between the initiation of violence (ISIS) and self-defense (anything the US does in response). She utilizes the psychology of unearned guilt to hope we’ll blank out on this evasion. How? Via that stale, tried and untrue method of economic Marxism: “Poverty makes them do it.” If the stakes weren’t so high for human civilization, it would be hilarious.

This is too massive an evasion to be ignorance. Even if it’s as innocent as ignorance, intellectually hollow people like this should not be in positions of power or authority. Yet Marie Harf’s attitude seems consistent with those of her boss, President Obama.

Remember all this as ISIS attacks continue unabated, and even worsen over time. Stop asking, “Why, why, why?” We already know why. ISIS hears our unearned guilt, and they’re made bolder by it.


Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael  Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1