Friday, March 06, 2015


"You only had one job"
This is a picture of State Department spokesgirl Harff.  She was in the news and discussion quite a bit recently for awkwardly attempting to articulate the Obama administration's curious policy regarding Muslim terrorism and particularly IS.  Islamic States is what the group calls its self, but the Obama administration insists on continuing to refer to them as Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant (aka, Israel).
People have reacted a lot of ways to Ms Harff, such as the snarky text on the image I posted.  When you get to my age, a girl that age looks very young because, well, she is young.  She's fairly pretty but what first struck me when I saw that image of her was "she looks like someone on SNL pretending to be in government."
She's young enough that she was still trying to get into a sorority when 9/11 happened.  And while I think there's something to be said for youth and vitality, its not in any sort of leadership or position of responsibility.  Experience, wisdom, and discernment do not sprout full grown out of college like Athena from the head of Zeus.
But I wanted to take a moment to examine what she said that had people talking so much.  Her argument was that you can't stop IS through just bombs and guns, that you have to find out what is making them so upset and reach out to those needs.
Now people have ripped her apart for this, and she foolishly began to respond on twitter, digging herself into a deeper hole and looking more and more immature and naive, but there's a little shred of truth in what she said.
IS in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East are unreachable through American programs.  They do have their needs and concerns, but those aren't something a jobs program or outreach will address.  They're concerned that people are insufficiently zealous in their brand of Islam.  They need people to kneel to Islam or die.  They've made their position absolutely clear and have no hesitation saying so.  They aren't upset about Israel or the US, they are upset that the world has not become completely and madly adherent to their version of Muslim faith.
But there is some room for the concept in the USA and other nations.  The fact that a few dozen folks from the US have gone to join IS indicates that there's a festering lunacy in our midst which needs to be dealt with.  And that we can help with outreach.
There is a severe job shortage in the USA, almost 100,000,000 million Americans out of work - nearly a full third of the population - and when you factor in all the people who could work but can't find jobs, the unemployment rate is almost 10%.  Many of those unemployed people are black, whose unemployment rate is about double the rest of the population.
There are more than a few radical extremist Muslim teachers and leaders in communities such as Dearborn Michigan who teach day after day the evils of the country around them and the purity and greatness of Islam.  These men teach not thought, discernment, study, and understanding, but obedience and submission.  They don't teach the Koran so people can learn from it, but to memorize and obey their teachers and Muslim leaders.
So some outreach not only to help disaffected and angry youths find work, but to help counter the lies and madness of certain teachers is a valuable thing.  Certainly finding these pot stirring extremists and showing them the door (if they are not citizens) is an important move as well.  There are other moves than could be made, such as directly opposing any legal and cultural submission to Islam by governments and officials, but I somehow doubt that's what the Obama administration has in mind.
So her ideas aren't completely without merit but the problem is she stated them in the contest of fighting IS in Iraq and the administration's apparent inability to refer to Islamic terrorism as such.  And the truth is, if you're in a spokesman for a diplomatic service, then if people misunderstand you... you suck at your job.  Its not because they're stupid, its not because they are small minded, its because you're a lousy diplomat and spokesman.

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