A dozen 'root causes' for Islamic extremism that Obama basically ignored

The Barack Obama White House, including the president himself and Secretary of State John Kerry, today continued to examine the “legitimate grievances” that have caused the rise of “violent extremism.”

Addressing an international White House Conference on terrorism, the two emphasized that the world is “not at war with Islam,” as if the cruelty and violence of ISIS and other extremists are to be found in such “root causes” as lack of jobs, economic opportunity and jealousy of our prosperity.

Okay, since we’re supposed to examine root causes, let’s itemize the grievances that are motivating the extremists—the ones that Obama seems to prefers not to emphasize. Their bellyaches against us include our:

  1. Religious tolerance.
  2. Democratic self-government.
  3. Belief in equal rights for women.
  4. Use of reason, instead of human immolation, crucifixions, stonings and beheadings, as a way to settle disagreements.
  5. System of education for girls, not just boys.
  6. Secular government.
  7. Failure to follow the strict dictates of the Koran, as the extremists see them.
  8. Rejection of the sword as a system of conversion.
  9. Right of free expression.
  10. Separation of church and state.
  11. Repudiation of terrorism.
  12. Respect for human rights.


121. Unemployment.
122. Poverty.

The idea that the causes of violent Islamic extremism are found in societal grievances and not in radical interpretations of an ideology is reflective of a college Introduction to Sociology 101 course. It is a view that we must redistribute income, make foreign policy concessions, conduct dialogues and, I suppose, accept our responsibility for the Crusades—even though none of us had anything to do with them.

Obama is willing to hold off until this fall so the United Nations can meet to tackle those so-called root causes. Ending the beheadings, rapes, enslavements, immolations, crucifixions and other assorted inhuman acts will just have to wait until then.


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  • You left out Bush's irresponsible, reckless, immoral, and illegal invasion of Iraq.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Last I checked, the World Trade Center attack occurred prior to the Iraq War, but maybe the Progressive History Machine now says different?

    I guess that attack is legitimate response to a war that had not happened yet. It was prophecy.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Um...what are you talking about? Of course 9/11 happened prior to the Iraq war. Who is claiming otherwise?

  • I left it out because I thought it was not irresponsible reckless, immoral and illegal.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    And you thought that...why?

    Please say it was because Saddam attacked us on 9/11.

    Please say it was because Saddam had "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa".

    Please say it wasn't irresponsible or reckless because L. Paul Bremer did the responsible and thoughtful thing when he banned the Ba'ath Party and disbanded the Iraqi Army. Clearly that had nothing to do with creating ISIL. Just because the leaders of ISIL are all former Ba'athists and Generals in the Iraqi Army doesn't mean anything.

    And as we all know, bombing a country that didn't attack you and killing hundreds of thousands of their citizens as well as needlessly sending over 4000 of our own to their deaths is completely and totally moral.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Let's see, if Iraq had no WMD, how was the CIA purchasing rockets, some with Sarin gas, from weapons dealers who appeared to gotten them from Iraqi weapons depots?

  • In reply to Wayne Driscoll:

    Wayne, the evidence the Bush administration was claiming they had in reference to Saddam's ability to build a nuclear weapon had been debunked by the time Bush said it in the State of the Union address.

    Everyone knew they had Sarin gas in the past. They used it on their own people, the Kurds. How much they had, how degraded it was and their ability to deliver it across the Atlantic Ocean using missiles was also completely overstated in the lead up to the Iraq war.

    Why do you think they did that?

  • Yes, Dennis! Let's bomb the shit out of them. Kill them all! Only killing will solve this problem. Ridicule any exploration of a multifaceted approach to ending terrorism.

    Madness: The War of 2015 aka the selective bullshit of Dennis Byrne. I got an idea for your next blog post! Create a straw man argument that supports your warped point of view and call it a day. Hey, why break precedence, right? It worked for you with this one...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Speaking of straw men, how about Obama's suggestion that those who oppose his approach are blaming all of Islam for the ISIS extremists? Yes, I'm for a comprehensive approach to combating Islamic radicalism and, no, I'm not for "bombing the shit out of them." But I also choose not to ignore the obvious reality, as does Obama.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    And what obvious reality is that exactly, Dennis?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    ... (crickets).

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Is the obvious reality that these are Islamic terrorists?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Dennis, if this is the barbershop, where's the barber?

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    First off, Bush has not been president in 7 years. Why should it be a point of consideration to balance out the discussion with a 7-year-old presidency? Of course the article's author "left this out".

    Second, are you all in for Hillary for President? You are aware she voted (i.e. agreed) with George Bush on this along with 209 other Democratic representatives, right? Will you be pinning the blame on the irresponsible, reckless, immoral, and illegal invasion on CONGRESS instead of just the President, who seeked a resolution and had it approved before going to war?

    And on that note, isn't it nice having a President actually seek congressional approval for wars instead of declaring war via executive fiat and making them "kind of sort of wars but we won't put boots on the ground"? I'm sure our allies are ecstatic to see that we are being so careful as to not offend the Islamic terrorists.

    I'm actually a conservative Libertarian and no fan of Bush, but at least he (1) had the fortitude to assign the resources to a problem so that it can be fixed and (2) had the courteousness to seek congressional approval.

  • In reply to Joe Stallings:

    Because, Joe, this blog is about root causes of ISIL and extremist terrorism. ISIL specifically would not exist today if our response to 9/11 wouldn't have gone so badly off course. More broadly, there are many reasons for extremist terrorism. Mostly misinformation that foments hatred mixed with hopelessness and the lack of opportunity to live the life you dream of.

    The misinformation campaigns of Islamic extremists gain credibility when western nations do shit like attack predominantly Muslim nations that had nothing to do with 9/11 and then choose sides in a centuries long sectarian battle between Sunnis and Shi'ites, expelling the Sunnis from all power. The way our country responded to 9/11, the misguided and irresponsible decision to attack Iraq legitimizes the illegitimate argument of Islamic extremists and makes it a lot easier for them to spread their ridiculous hatred of, not just the west, but any Muslim that happens to disagree with them. In short, the Iraq war was part of the problem, not part of any solution. And it was brought up because Dennis's tongue-in-cheek list (at least I hope it was tongue-in-cheek otherwise he's really off base) didn't include it.

    Aquinas turned what was a sophomoric straw man rant into a more fact-based, intelligent discussion by bringing it up.

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    In reply to Quedub:


    I largely agree with what you are saying here. In hindsight, I certainly agree that the Iraq War was a mistake. It is now evident that Hussein did not want to admit he lacked WMD so that he would come off as stronger to other rival nations (i.e. Iran). My discussion above is not whether we should've went to war, it is who should be assigned the blame. Bush was not the only one who wanted it. The public and members of BOTH parties were on board.

    And I get what Obama is trying to do, here. He doesn't want the US to come off as a bully as sentiment across the world indicated as such. But in the process of trying to implement a more amicable foreign policy approach, he is coming off as weak and lacking principle/resolve. His idea is noble but his solution is poor.

    The point we certainly disagree on is whether Aquinas "turned a sophomoric straw man into a more fact-based intelligent discussion". Sounds like he turned it into a "freshmanic" discussion by throwing a passing jab at a president who hasn't been in office for 7 years and moving on. Instead of the diversion tactic and "blame Bush" frantic ranting, why not discuss Obama's handling of the current situation? We all know why. It has become increasingly difficulty to defend Obama's actions on many crucial areas required to be an effective president.

  • In reply to Joe Stallings:

    Sorry, Joe. Roots do run deep.

  • In reply to Joe Stallings:

    Joe, the discussion was about a list of root causes. Well, the Iraq war (regardless of who is responsible for it) is a root cause. If you don't agree that it's apropos to bring it up in this discussion, then we can agree to disagree.

    As for discussing how Obama is handling the problem of ISIL and terrorism in general, I'm happy to. Let's start with your description of what he's doing. I disagree that the President's main objective is to not have this country come off as a bully. If he were trying to do that, he wouldn't have sent our airplanes to drop bombs on Muslims. He is doing what he thinks will defeat ISIL, now and in the long term.

    Part of that is to not legitimize them in the eyes of the Muslim world. ISIL desperately wants to get American boots on the ground so that they can successfully frame what they are doing as fighting off the infidel invading crusaders. Do you want US ground troops fighting ISIL? If so, what is your reasoning?

    Another part is to not legitimize them by calling them a religious group of terrorists. To label them as Islamic again helps to frame this fight in the way that will benefit ISIL. If ISIL were just Islamic why is it that the vast majority of the people they kill are Muslim? If this is a "holy war", why does ISIL kill so many Muslims? Way more than any other religious group (including Christians)? ISIL wasn't created by Muslim extremists. It was founded by Ba'ath party members and Iraqi Army generals (formally very rich and powerful men) who were removed from their power and wealth when L. Paul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army and made the Ba'ath Party illegal. The new Iraqi government Bremer oversaw, completely shut out the Sunnis.

    Their leadership went underground, basically, and regrouped as ISIL. Instead of army uniforms with gold braid and medals, these guys now long brown robes and let their beards grow. Are they now, all of a sudden, radical Muslim clerics? I doubt it. But if they are to succeed, they need to recruit young men who have been radicalized. And what better way to do that than to stir up a bunch of hatred and get western boots on the ground to come get them. So if we are trying to defeat ISIL, then the last thing we should do is put American or any western/non-regional boots on the ground, and we certainly shouldn't help them frame this as a Muslim vs. Judeo-Christian war.

    Fox News can try to frame Obama as "weak and lacking principle/resolve" all it wants, but when the people know all the facts and are told all the nuances of this complicated situation, they'll see what he is doing is trying to defeat them in the most effective and realistic way possible.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Well said. The idea that Obama is weak in the war on Isis is total nonsense and a partisan construct. Tell that to Isis after our bombs land on them.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thanks. I really wanted to foster a discussion with him. I hope he checks back.

    I hope Dennis checks back, too. I want to know what he's referring to as this thing that's so obvious.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Regarding the Iraq War, I do agree that it is a root cause of the ISIS conflict. I believe everyone can agree on that. The author appears to be listing root causes that Obama is ignoring.

    Regarding my views on how we should approach ISIS, my primary concern is how Obama initially called ISIS "sophomores" and mentioned immediately how we will not put boots on the ground. If you were in a boxing match, would you tell the opponent "I don't plan to throw an uppercut with my right hand."? If you were playing Scrabble, would you tell someone "I have a really good word for that part of the board over there." Yes, foreign policy is admittedly more complex than this, but his posturing regarding ISIS, the Syrian conflict, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is that of someone who does not know how to effectively implement a consistent foreign policy plan. Smart people disagree all the time, which it is apparent you and I disagree here.

    It is true that ISIS is killing Muslims and it certainly appears to have a strong element of sectarian violence, but the beheadings you see that are publicized are primarily non-Muslims.

    Fox News, Schmox News. Just because someone disagrees with liberal or Democratic talking points doesn't mean they sit down all day and spoon feed themselves Fox News. Are you an MSNBC'er and is every liberal or Democrat spoonfed Rachel Maddow every day? I truly hope not, and rarely do intelligent conservatives make such blanket statements. To imply this is unfortunate, as you make yourself out to be condescending instead of engaging in intellectual debate.

  • In reply to Joe Stallings:

    Joe, I did not claim that you watched Fox News. I made no blanket statement. I only said that Fox News (and hundreds of conservative talk radio show hosts, Drudge Report, NewsMax, etc.) have been describing Obama as a weak and feckless leader who lacks principle for years now. That's just a fact. Interestingly, at the same time, they also describe him as a tyrant who does whatever he wants regardless of what the Constitution says. Weird. I'm sorry you felt condescended to by this statement, I assure you it was not intended to be a comment on your news gathering tendencies. (As for Rachel Maddow, I like her a lot. I don't watch her very often, but when I do, I find her to be accurate, thoughtful and fair with a decidedly and obvious progressive point of view.)

    Regardless of what Fox News says, when we took a closer look at why the President is reticent to put boots on the ground and avoids referring to ISIL as particularly Islamic, we gained a deeper understanding of the strategies he is employing. We saw that he is simply avoiding doing exactly what ISIL wants us to do to help it gain legitimacy. What are your thoughts on that?

    Obama didn't tip his hand by saying he wouldn't put boots on the ground. He knew that's exactly what they wanted him to do, and he wasn't taking their bait. It's not tipping your hand to tell your boxing opponent that you aren't going to stick your chin out for him. But I have no problem with you or anyone else being critical of our President. Heck, it's our responsibility to do so as citizens. You said you felt his foreign policy was inconsistent. What led you to this opinion? I'd love to learn.

    We completely agree that the beheadings/killings that get publicized the most IN THIS COUNTRY are the non-Muslim ones. Why is that? Because our corporately-owned and run news media make money off of ratings and fear drives ratings. Obviously, we both know that just because it isn't in the headlines, doesn't mean it's not happening. And, heck, ISIL's violence transcends sectarian, they kill Sunnis without a second thought if they don't swear allegiance to them.


    And finally, I'm glad we agree that the Iraq war is a root cause in the rise of ISIL, but clearly not everyone agrees with us. In fact, the author of this blog post, Dennis Byrne, disagrees. He said as much in this very comment thread.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Regarding the Fox News discussion, perhaps my response had some presumptions attached to it, but I frequently discuss politics online and many of those who adopt a liberal ideology immediately simplify conservative viewpoints as "mindless Fox News" rants. Instead of pragmatically discussing differences of opinion, they frequently choose to take the low road. There are conservatives who oversimplify arguments too so it occurs on both ends of the spectrum. In fact, perhaps it is human nature to intentionally simplify opposing points of view but that doesn't make it right.

    Regarding my viewpoint on ISIS, I believe Obama making such a static statement about what lengths we are willing to go make it easy for him to go back on his word, which he has done on multiple issues repeatedly (another argument for another day). I'm of the opinion that we should be bridge-builders for coalitions to address issues like ISIS but don't mistake my discussion points here for "wanting to start a war". If we are to take on a larger role against ISIS, we should have a clear coalition of neighboring countries who have more stake in the ISIS problem than we do. Saudi Arabia, for example, is really good at letting the U.S. do its military dirty work. This is happening in their back door and they should take some responsibility. But in summary, I believe Obama is a weak leader because of his inability to communicate a consistent plan and to not frankly address issues in a manner that is productive. Unless whenever he is attempting to pistol-whip Republicans (as he frequently does), he is never willing to put teeth behind his statements so that our allies see we are in a leadership role and are willing to stand up for our ideals.

    On the beheadings, did you read about the 21 Coptic Christians that were beheaded recently? What if a Christian group in France beheaded 21 Muslims. Do you believe the Obama White House would mention that?

    If the author doesn't understand that the Iraq War allowed ISIS to shape into what it is today, then he and I simply disagree.

  • In reply to Joe Stallings:

    Joe, this comment makes me wonder about you.

    "On the beheadings, did you read about the 21 Coptic Christians that were beheaded recently? What if a Christian group in France beheaded 21 Muslims. Do you believe the Obama White House would mention that?"

    Do you think Obama is a secret Muslim or something? Do you think he doesn't care about Christians dying? Wow...

    As far as what the President is or is not commenting on, how many times do we have to go over the fact that ISIL is trying to frame their brutal terrorism as a holy war between the true Muslim caliphate and the West/Judeo-Christians? We agree on this, yes?

    Then why should the leader of our country help ISIL accomplish their goal and aid their sick and inhuman PR ploy of beheading Coptic Christians by making a big fuss about it and keeping it in the world spotlight a second longer than it has to be? What good would that do?

    I agree, let's build coalitions. But how is the Obama administration not doing that? Regionally, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have all flown airstrikes against ISIL. Iraq including the Kurds in the north and Syrian opposition forces have boots on the ground. The coalition is being built. Ten European countries are involved as well. Are you not aware of this?

    You've said the following more than once in this discussion.

    "I believe Obama is a weak leader because of his inability to communicate a consistent plan and to not frankly address issues in a manner that is productive."

    Can you give some examples?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    The root causes of ISIS can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood, a formation of haters coddled and co-opted by the Nazis prior to WWII and whose fascist tendencies about the "submission" to a seventh century version --one might say original-- version of Islam dovetailed nicely with fascist ideology.

  • Dennis, most of the 12 "bellyaches" can be felt in Saudi Arabia too. After all, that's were most of the 9-11 group came from, including Ben-Ladin.

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    Capt Ahab, do you consider anything outside your Obama Moby Dick obsession?
    Is there an issue that is possibly deeper and requires more thought than personal antipathy?

    Check your archives.

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