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Whatever It Takes

These terrorists aren’t trying to kill us because we offended them. They attack us because they want to impose their view of the world on as many people as they can, and America is standing in their way. We need to make it unmistakably clear that we will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

We will punish — we will punish their allies, like Iran [bold mine-DL] — and we will stand with our allies, like Israel. ~Marco Rubio

I know this is what Rubio’s audience wanted to hear, and he may even believe it, but how is it that people aspiring to high office can continue to repeat this nonsense and still be taken seriously? Political grievances are always major causes of terrorist attacks. Those grievances may not explain everything, we may not take those grievances seriously, and we may have no interest in addressing those grievances, but they are responsible for generating violent resistance. We pretend otherwise at our continuing peril. Indeed, the longer such denial prevails in our politics, the longer policies of perpetual war will remain in place.

No doubt there are jihadists who have ideological fantasies of dominating the world, just as there were undoubtedly communists who imagined that their ideology would sweep across the planet, but this explains nothing about their current objectives, it explains nothing about the sources of their recruiting, and it explains nothing about the sympathy of other Muslims with their goals. It was not devotion to theoretical goals of global communist domination that drove millions of Vietnamese to fight against foreign powers intervening in the affairs of their country. Except perhaps for a dedicated cadre, jihadists are not intent on dominating us or our allies, which they have shown repeatedly they are completely unable to do, but are very intent on expelling us from territories they believe we and our allies occupy unjustly and they are also intent on retaliating against what they believe are unjust military actions against their co-religionists.

Rubio says that we should be willing to do whatever it takes to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism.” Of course, if he hasn’t the first clue why such terrorism exists, what are the odds that he will judge correctly what it takes to defeat it? Suppose that part of “whatever it takes” involves acknowledging the role of U.S. and allied policies in fomenting and provoking violent resistance. Would Rubio still be willing to do “whatever it takes” even if it means admitting something that contradicts his simplistic understanding of the world?

Iran is not an ally of anti-American jihadist groups. Despite a fairly constant barrage of disinformation to try to establish some connection between Al Qaeda and Tehran, which hates everything Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies represent, there is no reason for connecting Iran with anti-American jihadist groups. Rubio is either trafficking here in the myth of some globally unified jihadism with which Iran’s government is being conflated or he is making Iran’s proxies into our enemies. Either way, he is misinformed here as well.

I’ll leave Rubio the last word, and perhaps it will help him reflect on his miserably poor understanding of the relevant national security and foreign policy questions he addressed in his speech:

Clever one line slogans aren’t going to spare you the need to discuss policy issues in detail.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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