When a Spy and a Theologian Agree

By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.



I mentioned before that I really don’t see any efficacy in measuring the success of Daesh/ISIS/ISIL solely by its movement on the ground and the expansion of its territory in the countries that used to be Syria and Iraq.  Sun Tzu once wrote in his famous annals that the success of the general depended upon the ability of the general to know himself and to know his enemy.

Well, for some reason people (even in the top positions of governmental authority in certain places) don’t understand that the conflict with ISIS is also conflict with radical Islamic ideology (also known as Islamism)…ISIS just happens to be (one) of the modern-day channels for that aggressive ideology.  Ideologies don’t work like armies– mostly because ideologies are metaphysical.  Armies present all kinds of hindrances where ideologies do not.  For example, armies are a whole lot more expensive to fund than ideologies.  Armies also move a whole lot slower, and they can be a whole lot less effective.

A little kid can buy a 75 cent pencil and write down “Spongebob Sucks” on a school poster board…spreading that ideology cost less than a dollar… but it is guaranteed to infect at least 20 children before an administrator comes by with an eraser.  That’s a pretty good return.

Now by the term “infect” I don’t mean “manifest.”

You see, right now, biologically speaking, you are probably infected with a couple of viruses.  No, really– there are pathogens everywhere– so such a thing is inevitably true.  You probably have a couple of variations of flu virus in your system, and if you received any recent vaccinations then you definitely are infected.  Now, something is preventing those viruses from spreading throughout your body and manifesting into a disastrous disease.  That’s right; it’s your immune system, the complexity of T Cells, B Cells, phagocytes, other fighting cells, and mechanisms that your body uses to defend itself day in and day out.

Much like pathogens are everywhere, even in the air, so is ideology.  And you can’t help but get exposed to ideology…and through that exposure you get infected, whether consciously or unconsciously.  That’s the nature of the beast.  Today’s modern information age of social media and 24-hour news corporations make exposure as likely as staying in a small humid room with a sick cow.   And if you are familiar at all with the tactics of ISIS for spreading their message (see here and here for the scoop), then you see just how dire the situation is.

Now as long as you have a healthy immune system, then you are basically fine.  But, when our immune systems cannot cope fast enough with the disease, then its rush to catch up can produce some of the tell-tale symptoms of an infectious disease (coughing, sneezing, fevers, etc.).  The ideological equivalent for such symptoms would be largely epistemological (confusion, rage, scrambling for ideological reasons why, apathy, denial, etc.).

But…if your immune system is weak…then you also may experience the effects of the actual disease…which tend to be way deadlier than the average symptom (internal bleeding, uncontrollable wheezing, chronic pains, etc.).

We don’t need to imagine the effects of manifested radical Islamic ideology.  We have several real-life examples from even the most recent and most news-covered events:

The November Friday the 13th attacks in Paris

the televised execution of several men by ISIS

the beheadings of Christians in Libya and the slaughter of Christians in Queragosh (where images are available in a Google search, but I warn you now that the images are extremely graphic, do NOT search for them around minors or in your workplace)

There are far too many.  And this is not counting other radical Islamic groups like Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other lesser televised groups.  In short, it is imperative that our ideological immune system be sound in all things, both on a personal and national level.  Because our immune systems may become weak.

And your ideological immune system can be weak in two common ways.  The first is that the immune system simply is not up to par to the infection in order to function properly.  Some individuals don’t have the necessary ideological backing to resist the temptation that ISIS presents.  Several Westerners have fled to ISIS for this very weakness, and their weakness manifests from multiple reasons.  The second way that our immune system can become weak is if it begins to attack itself.  The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, aka AIDS, acts in this way where the body’s immune system literally attacks itself.  When that happens, even the common cold is a dangerous bug to catch.  If your ideological immune system becomes introverted (misconceptions of allegations of racism, allegations of islamophobia, or pure ignorance to the vibrancy of Islam and the commands of the Quran can cause anyone to grow self-defacing when critiquing radical Islam) then ISIS can also be effective.  Sure, you may not be susceptible to do violence (thank God, Alhamdulillah) as the Westerners mentioned above, but you may be rendered politically incapable to adequately respond to the ideas of radical Islam.

Now for the meat of issue.  I don’t judge ISIS primarily upon its land possessions, but also upon its ideology.  As a Christian, I realize that ideas operate on the basis of good and evil, and that evil theologies are necessarily Hellish and spawn Hellish environmnents on Earth.  And now our nation’s top spy officials are saying the same thing.  The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that homegrown terrorists are a very real threat, maybe the largest threat, because ISIS depends upon its ideological spread for survival and some may fall victim to the war of ideas.  And to make matters more probably worse, the U.S. CIA Director John Brennan stated that there is likely reason to believe that ISIS has chemical weapons, and that they have the capability to smuggle them.  If ISIS sympathizers could come into possession of such weapons, the results could be disastrous for any nation.

This is why ideological defense is just as (and if not, more) important in the struggle against violent radicalism, be it Islamic radicalism or any other form of violent extremism.  And it just so happens that our immune systems need to be examined.  We cannot be faulty in our reasonable and hard-lined rejection of radical Islam, as a people and as a nation.  We also cannot allow the notions of politically-correct censorship to disallow us from critiquing radical Islam.

Radical Islam is not all of Islam…please see my previous post about CNN and Kool-Aid.  And we should become more educated about Islam and the Islamic religious doctrines (going past the cookie-cutter, two-sentence quotes found on Facebook) so that our ideological immune systems are sound and immune to becoming weak due to ignorance or to become weakened from attacking itself due to false-piety and fears of islamophobia.  Brush up on the sources for your own core moral beliefs; make sure that they are sound.

Also, brush up on Islamic history and ideology.  Check out the life of Muhammad, perhaps read a few surat (chapters) in the Qur’an.  Ask your friendly Muslim neighbors and companions to tell you about their beliefs.  In other words, get informed.

Remember the ancient words of Sun Tzu, the allegedly undefeated military leader,

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”



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