Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Obama's Choice

The rambling answers of American congressmen to questions about what Obama should do about ISIS strongly suggest that what America is faced with is not really Obama’s choice, but a Hobson’s choice.  According to Wikipedia:

“A Hobson's choice is a so-called  free choice in which only one option is actually offered. Since a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore really between taking the option or not. In other words,"take it or leave it." The phrase is said to originate with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest the door or taking none at all. “

I could have quoted only the definition, leaving out the origin, but one is as pertinent as the other.  With its array of attacks in the capital of an allied country, ISIS is basically telling the President of the most powerful country on earth “either you make a deal with us, or you too, will perish”.  Obama clearly knows that, even though people like McCain, who think in the same linear, dualistic terms espoused by the terrorists, want us to atom bomb them back to seventh century Arabia.

Echoing what appeared to be a broad congressional consensus, last night on MSNBC, Senator Jack Reid claimed that it’s more urgent than ever for Assad to resign, because he is the reason for the ISIS attacks.  Reid neglected to say that ISIS hates Assad because he is, and has consistently been, a secular leader, under whom a multi-religious people lived peacefully until the US decided this was not acceptable, especially with up-coming oil pipelines in play.

No American politician can admit that it is not our democracy that ISIS rejects, but our way of life.  None pointed out that the most brutal attack came during a concert by a rock band, while others targeted restaurants serving alcohol and a sports stadium. (The rationale for that target is not clear, unless it was the presence of the French President, the suicide bombers having failed to gain entrance to the stadium.) 

As long as Western politicians continue to affirm that radical Islamists are targeting democracy, instead of admitting that they reject our lifestyle, they will be forced, as in Hobson’s choice, to take ‘the horse closest to the stable door’, waging war instead of instituting a dialogue about the place of morality in the city.  Christianity and Islam spent the entire Middle Ages warring against each other for territorial supremacy. Today the Islamists’ narrowly focused jihad against ‘the other’ is about behavior: the West’s commitment to consumption as a way of life, in which freedom of choice is a value, inevitably leads to a social environment in which anything goes.

Do I think people who drink alcohol or listen to rock music should be assassinated?  Of course not, but few Westerners have taken the trouble to find out what Islam is about. ‘Submission’ to God’s commands is about treating each other with dignity equity and respect, and this really doesn’t jive with the sight of women wrestlers on TV.


  1. I think this is the first time I disagree. I don't think the rejection of the western culture is the reason. First, I think, there are two types of Islamists. One type is young muslims frustrated and angry because of the lack of opportunities for normal life, and also because they are witnessing the destruction of their homeland coming mainly from the west. The other type exploit this frustration channelling into hatred of the western lifestyle. Of course there are a couple of wacos among young arabs, just as there are a couple wacos among the westerners, but, if you give these young people a chance for normal life, you would severely undercut the islamists' recruitment base.

  2. Submission is such a heavy word. Since there is no God per se, and women don't seem to count as whole people; and killing in the name of a fictional God is absurd; I have to reject Islam out of hand. What good it shares with other faiths and individuals is that wisdom gathered by every culture just by living. Treat others as you would be treated. The ability to reinvent ourselves is our strong suit. The followers of Islam are "hanging back with the beasts" and will perish along with them.