You can’t bomb an idea to death. So how do you ever defeat the idea that is ISIS?
To kill an idea, you need a hypnotist, or someone skilled in the art of persuasion. I’ll describe one way to do it. I do not expect any of the candidates to favor this approach. So what follows is not a policy suggestion so much as an example of how a trained hypnotist would kill an idea.
[As always, don’t take cartoonists too seriously. In this blog we kick around new ideas for entertainment. New readers of this blog need to know I am a trained hypnotist.]
A hypnotist would start by defining ISIS in a way that is true (enough) but provides some sort of psychological advantage. For example, you could start by defining the ISIS brand of Islam as “historical” as opposed to modern. That might not be the right world, but you get the idea. We want a label that is fresh (such as “low-energy” or “nice”) so we can imbue it with the qualities we want. In this model, we stop using the old language of “religious extremists” and similar labels because the old words have not helped us enough.
Then we A-B test historical Islam versus modern Islam to see which one does best.
The way you A-B test “historical” Islam is by first putting a wall around the ISIS caliphate, which means a combination of drones, mines, fences, moats, and whatever works. Neighboring countries will do the heavy lifting on the borders. They have the money and the incentive to keep ISIS out.
Some of you will say walls never work. And that is true if you are speaking in military terms. A wall won’t stop an army in the long run. But this wall would not be built to stop an army. Nor would it stop every individual with bad intent. It doesn’t need to.
We are trying to kill an idea with this wall. The wall would exist to define the territory where the idea will be tested. In this context, the wall can be a little bit porous and still work okay.
Once the border around the caliphate is mostly secure, we declare that “historical Islam” is on one side of the wall and modern Islam is (mostly) everywhere else. Instead of saying we want to kill all folks who subscribe to this “historical” brand of ISIS Islam, we say we want to see how their world thrives compared to ours. So our plan is to leave the Caliphate alone and see how they do.
Here’s the best part of the plan: Over time, our stated objective would be to drain from the caliphate all technology that was invented or manufactured by heathens. The ISIS-controlled caliphate would be left with an “historical” version of Islam. That would be our gift to them. We’re just trying to help.
We could remove modern transportation options from ISIS by bombing oil refineries and keeping borders sealed. I hope we can someday use drones to jam satellite signals over selected areas as well. Eventually all electric power plants would be removed from the Caliphate, and their electronic devices would become worthless.
But that isn’t enough. We also need to provide massive amounts of pre-modern farming supplies, food, and medical supplies, so the innocent population can eat, and also to reinforce the image that we are helping ISIS get to their “historical” version of Islam.
For example, we might airdrop plows and seeds and other early farming implements. And all of it should have a label that says we are supporting ISIS in its plan to live a pre-modern version of Islam. I would go so far as to provide copies of the Koran – lots of them – with no edits and no surprises. We might include a cover letter explaining our helpfulness and our desire to let the Caliphate thrive under its own set of rules.
The leaders of ISIS will have a hard time convincing the locals that the countries giving them free farming supplies are the enemy.
Once we create a “digital jail” for ISIS, where no one can use modern technology to communicate, and almost no one can leave or enter, we will also control their access to news. And that’s what you need to kill an idea.
Obviously we would need to be proactive about allowing innocents to leave the Caliphate. And by innocents, I mean women and small kids. The men of fighting age probably have to stay, so they can kill whatever is left of ISIS when the time comes.
The basic idea I am proposing is to switch from enemy mode (killing humans) to helpful mode (removing heathen technology). Instead of saying we want to end ISIS, say we want to give them a chance to show the world they are right. Just as soon as they give up their heathen-made technology.
If you want to kill an idea, you have to go after the idea directly. And the best way to kill an idea is with a friendly embrace and a bright light.
Trump says he wants to put a wall around ISIS and bomb their oil refineries. That’s how a Master Persuader approaches this sort of thing.