…and, Ultimately, to Destroy (4): Difference

In an orderly world, a world “controlled” by or according to our moral principles – a world of justice, within the Great Chain of Being or karma – an “army of psychopaths” would, as it must, sooner or later meet a terrible end, as by the wrath of God. There is evidence to be found in history – not just indications in religious scriptures and their re-transmission in popular art, as for that matter in economics, the natural sciences, and philosophy – that supports this view (as well as a necessity of supporting it), and that strongly implies that neither the particular type of state or pseudo-state or species of political extremophile represented by the so-called Islamic State, nor the conditions that sustain it, can last for very long. We might or perhaps we must conclude that the very best that the followers of the Islamic State might reasonably wish is that a new state emerges with some characteristics of Islamic State ideology, perhaps even under the name “Islamic State,” but as a very different kind of state, and the thought of the alienness of the notion of a follower of the Islamic State wishing reasonably is the same thought: the thought of the unreasonableness of that state in a world survivably reasonable. In approaching the only end point “acceptable” for those who refrain from looking away from the character of a group said to pile the corpses of the women and children it murders into wells like garbage, the values in vector space “controlled” and “destroyed” approach their perspectival vanishing point asymptotically. After or as the completed subversion of the IS narrative of indomitability, through sufficient denial of material and moral resources fueling the IS reign and rampage, true control or true containment and management of IS might produce, or perhaps must be thought certain to produce, or might or must equate with, the political and essential destruction of IS, even if at this moment observers seem more focused on an alternative goal more satisfying to the emotions, of utter physical annihilation of IS, or of control as a type of absolute destruction of the source of chaos, something which may not ever occur in any world, just or unjust.

Even if, however, we both should and must remain confident that there will be no final happiness or triumph for IS, but rather misery and death only, according to the President we are prohibited from merely awaiting that desirably horrendous event. To the extent we are implicated at all in the origins and development of IS, and all the more to the extent that our lives or way of life are targeted by IS, in that we have already lost people to IS and have been directly threatened by IS, we cannot abstain, as we are not abstaining, from participation in its destruction. Our policy is now to accelerate and intensify the process. Put differently, the political destruction of the Islamic State is not the point where there is no one left saying that the Islamic State is un-destroyed, but when the statement ceases to interest us, or, the same thing, when we consider it satisfactorily under control. As soon as we feel we have secured our own state concept on its own terms, we lose “interest.” In an orderly world, a morally controlled and potentially just world that has a place for ourselves and our aspirations in it, we must believe we have played a role in bringing about the expected end of the Islamic State ahead of schedule, before what we find unacceptable about it becomes something unacceptable and irrevocable about us. Not to do so would represent a failure, as Ian Storey recently put it ((“Destiny and Democracy,” 6 October 2014, Hannah Arendt Center)) to exert “a kind of agency that is not the kind of agency that comes from a more thorough review of our study-guide for the quiz tomorrow,” but of a type that “makes the difference to history.”

This difference is never or only extremely rarely an individual accomplishment, thus the hopelessness of the merely personal quest that Storey depicts. We can perhaps imagine, or imagine ourselves imagining, a collective abstention, a refusal of or deafness to the call to become ourselves again, as we rehearsed in September of 2013, but an America that abstains from making a difference to the course of history, from the working of justice internationally, would be a different America than the America we have known since the great wars of the last century, and began to envision from the inception of the American Idea. The world in which the Islamic State as we know it could prosper would likewise be a world in which the United States as we know it or have come to know it had not survived, a world in which the nation or other entity that perhaps preserved that name was no longer the same nation or a nation at all. For the destruction of IS to occur without our aid and participation would be for us not just to have shirked a responsibility, but to have declined to assert our existence, to have absented ourselves from the course of events. The alternative for us to a world in which we helped to destroy IS would be for us an unjust and absurd world.


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