Why Do Liberals Have Trouble Understanding the Pure Evil of Jihad?


David French

August 7, 2014

4 min read




When I came home from Iraq in 2008, friends frequently asked me what I learned “most” from the experience. That’s a tough question to answer, and it depends greatly on context. I learned many things about my faith, my family, and my country, but if the question relates to the war itself, I’d tend to say something like this: “I learned the enemy is more evil than you can imagine, and I learned that a deployment is more difficult than you can imagine.” But while the deployment was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the chance to play a very small part (surrounded by a band of brothers) to fight this extraordinary evil made it the most meaningful year of my life. 

Since I’ve returned — and it’s been almost six years — I haven’t stopped talking about the nature of the jihadist enemy. I share the stories as much as I can (when the context is appropriate), yet I continue to be discouraged by how few Americans — and especially how few of my friends on the left — truly understand (or even try to understand) what the world faces. So they react in outrage when Israel strikes at Hamas, use the collapse in Iraq to once again score political points against President Bush, and use words like “irresponsible” to describe actions like launching rockets at civilians while hiding behind civilian human shields.

Why is this the case? Why can’t so many liberals understand the pure evil of Islamic jihad?  I can think of three reasons:

First, they’re often in the grip of a strange kind of moral relativism. I say “strange” because it’s not true moral relativism. Actions of domestic political opponents are condemned in the strongest possible terms, and the history of Christianity is treated as if it is nothing less than one long story of war, rape, and conquest. That’s not relativism; that’s judgmental in the extreme. The relativism emerges when evaluating other cultures, where even dark deeds are excused by “culture” or “colonialism” and regions in the grips of the worst kinds of pathologies are hailed for their rich and glorious traditions. 

Second, relativism drives the quest for justifications. Since there is no way that Western culture can be superior to Middle Eastern cultures, when the Middle East boils, there has to be a reason located outside the jihadists’ own beliefs and pathologies. The roots of jihad are never in Islam or in the pure nihilism of the jihadist, but rather in the oppression or injustice he’s suffered. The formula thus becomes painfully simple: End the oppression, and you’ll end jihad. Yes, they’re angry — says the liberal — but they’re angry for many very good reasons. 

Third, the quest for justification drives deception and willful ignorance. Jihadists are so savage, so brutal, that no one can truly justify their actions. So the response is to deny reality or bury your head in the sand. When Hamas launches a rocket at Israel, it is praying — fervently — that rocket hits a home, a school, or a hospital. When Israel responds with a bomb or missile of its own, Hamas is praying — fervently — that the missile hits a home, a school, or a hospital. The Left’s answer? Deny. America abandoned Iraq so that our president could claim that he ended a war — and consequently empowered a psychopathic death cult that was on the verge of extinction. And now that death cult is on the verge of genocide and has just captured the means for mass murder on a world-historic scale. The Left’s answer? Deflect — including with absurd arguments over who is even allowed to speak about Iraq.

The only thing that separates the people of Israel from sharing the fate of the Christians in Mosul or the Yazidi on Mount Sinjar in Iraq is that Israelis are protected by F-16s, tanks, and trained troops. Iraqi Christians and Yazidi used to be. On a more basic level, however, Benjamin Netanyahu understands the evil he faces. President Obama? He refuses to understand. If he did, he wouldn’t have given a defeated enemy a second chance at genocide.

This article is crossposted on National Review.