February 1, 2015

Rector’s Reflection

I listened carefully to the news this past week and I really enjoyed listening to government spokespersons trying to make a case for not calling some Taliban members terrorists even though others Taliban members in another location might be deemed as such. I marveled at some of the fancy footwork that it took, trying to put enough daylight between the term terrorist and the term insurgent so as to make them barely comparable.

Not being a member of a government think tank, I googled documents to help me begin to understand what I’d heard. I found this from the Department of Defense (DoD):

Insurgents vs. Guerrillas vs. Terrorists

Though distinguishing between guerrillas, insurgents, and terrorists may seem like a purely academic exercise, deeper analysis may reveal some extremely pragmatic understandings to help in combating each.

Doctrinally, we (DoD) define terrorism as “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

Doctrinally, we (DoD) define insurgency as “an organized resistance movement that uses subversion, sabotage, and armed conflict to achieve its aims. Insurgencies normally seek to overthrow the existing social order and reallocate power within the country. They may also seek to (1) Overthrow an established government without a follow-on social revolution. (2) Establish an autonomous national territory within the borders of a state. (3) Cause the withdrawal of an occupying power. (4) Extract political concessions that are unattainable through less violent means.”

Doctrinally, guerrillas are the “overt military aspect of the insurgency.” They exist alongside their counterparts, the auxiliary and the underground.

There’s more to the article, but even having read through it I still think that I was looking at a distinction without a difference… or as Shakespeare would have said, “a rose by any other name.”

I will be the first to admit that for the folks in the business of countering the activities and aims of insurgents, terrorists, and guerillas, it probably is important to know with what you are dealing. But it seems to me that the time has come to make some pronouncement about both the tactics and the goals of radical Islamists. It’s time to name it and not make broad pronouncements that terrorists are not necessarily radical Islamists. In the whole history of mankind there have been other radical religious wars that weren’t rooted in Islam, but the 21st century has not witnessed random and widespread kidnap, rape, enslavement, and murder at the hands of radicalized Methodists, Amish, Anglicans, or Bha’i’s.

I get it that the strategies and tactics it will take to combat this enemy that we now face are complex and best left to the professionals. But it does not take a professional to know evil when it comes on your TV screen… and this isn’t just me saying so. Jesus offered the model (albeit with better examples) when John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus: “When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” [Matthew 11:2-5]

Videndum est credendum. Seeing is believing… and what we see must be named. In the case of Jesus, we see the promise of the kingdom of God. With radical Islamists, we see the darkest side of human evil.