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Israeli commentator Barry Rubin to lecture Oct. 14 in La Jolla

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Barry Rubin

LA JOLLA, California (Press Release) — A free lecture about Israel’s struggle for peace and legitimacy will feature Middle East expert, Professor Barry Rubin, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14,  at the Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Rubin is the Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, editor of the prestigious Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and author of 53 books about the Middle East.

The event is presented by the San Diego Israel Coalition, A Culture of Peace and is a prelude event for the “Yom Limmud: A Community Day of Learning” of the Agency for Jewish Education.  For more information, visit www.ajesd.org.

“As the latest peace efforts get underway, Americans need to understand why it is so important for Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. that peace is finally achieved,” according to Coalition Co-Chair Audrey Jacobs.  “Israel has continually sought peace with her neighbors.  For the past 16 years, it has made unprecedented efforts to reach a true and lasting peace with the Palestinians based on mutual recognition and a two state solution.”

Other organizations co-presenting this event are the Anti Defamation League, Hillel of San Diego, the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Tarbuton, T.E.A.M. and UCSD Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

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Preceding provided by the San Diego Israel Coalition

When it’s necessary and desirable to assassinate terrorists

March 8, 2010 Leave a comment

By Barry Rubin

HERZLIYA, Israel–There has been a huge international controversy about the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading Hamas terrorist, in Dubai on January 19. I have no idea who did it but have some points to make on the subject.

1. Generally speaking, media coverage almost never (in Europe) or only minimally (in the United States) talks about what Mabhouh actually did to merit his end. The New York Times had the following paragraph at the very end of its story:

“Mr. Mabhouh had a role in the 1989 abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, and was also involved in smuggling weapons into Gaza, Israel and Hamas have said. Israel officials say the weapons came from Iran.”

It would seem that there would be more discussion of the deeds of such people so they are not portrayed, at least implicitly, as innocent victims. Readers could weigh the assassination against their crimes, which would otherwise go unhindered and unpunished. Mabhouh was probably in Dubai arranging more arms’ shipments from Iran so that Hamas could go to war again, causing deaths on both sides. He was a real war criminal, in contrast to the bogus ones fabricated by the terrorist-sponsoring dictatorships which seem to have so much influence on the “human rights” agenda.

2. As long as Western states do nothing to help bring Hamas or Hizballah terrorists to justice, and since Israel has no way of getting these people before a court, it has no option other than the extra-judicial one. Remember that an Israeli cabinet minister is more likely to face prosecution in the United Kingdom nowadays than a terrorist who has murdered Israeli civilians.

Some European countries–France and Italy have admitted as much regarding past deals–have secret agreements with terrorist groups to allow them to operate freely as long as they don’t do attacks within the country. Other terrorists–like the Palestinians who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murdered an American citizen or one of the Libyan masterminds of the Lockerbie plane bombing that killed scores of passengers, mainly Americans–have been released from prison without completing their terms.

This point of international culpability in letting certain terrorists escape or function isn’t brought up, explained, or seriously discussed: What do you do if specific people are attacking you and there’s no other option to stopping them? If the United States could assassinate Usama bin Ladin or other top al-Qaida terrorists whom it could not capture shouldn’t it do so? Of course it should.

3. There is a cliché when talking about counter-terrorism to the effect that getting a specific individual doesn’t matter as there is always someone to replace him. But in terrorism, as in other aspects of life, there are more effective and less effective individuals. Since Israel eliminated Hamas’s master bombmaker-who not only made bombs but trained others–in 1995, less capable people replacing him in that line of work have managed to blow themselves up a lot.

The terrorist Imad Mugniya, who someone killed in Damascus, was a unique individual since he had personally worked with the Palestinians, Hizballah, Syria, and Iran. Given his energy, ability, and connections he was not really replaceable.

Mabhouh was in a similar position, the top Hamas arms’ procurer who enjoyed the trust of the Iranians and who knew how to get lots of rockets and other equipment quickly and consistently.

These are not people who merely carried out a specific attack but those who make possible the staging of dozens of attacks.

Of course, terrorism doesn’t go away–expecting that it will do so is a Western act of wishful thinking–but the point is to reduce the number and effectiveness of attacks, and thus the number of casualties.

There are other advantages to eliminating key terrorist operatives. Often it can spark factional conflicts which make terrorist groups spend more time on internal battles. It also sparks mistrust among terrorist partners. If Mugniya can be assassinated in the neighborhood of Damascus that is the most secure place in all of Syria, can Iran and Hizballah trust Syria? Where did the leak occur? Who is infiltrated by the enemy?

Indeed, though outsiders may understate this reality, there is more than a seed of suspicion planted. Perhaps Iran or Syria or Fatah or some other faction in Hizballah killed Mugniya? Perhaps Fatah or Iran or some other faction of Hamas killed Mabhouh.

By the way, although it doesn’t seem to make the headlines so much, other countries including the United States (certainly in Somalia and Yemen) have taken out specific terrorists. Doing so more would be a good idea, if the cases are carefully selected and in the absence of any option to grab them from some state providing safe haven.

Proposition One: if you truly understand that the terrorist groups are going to try to kill you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.

Proposition Two: If you know the world is going to criticize you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.

That’s Israel’s situation. It is also the situation of a lot of other countries which admittedly face a lower level of risk but also don’t realize the first proposition. At the same time, though, they have far fewer problems with the second.

But what’s at issue here is not revenge for past attacks but the prevention of future ones, a very careful and well-informed thinking through of what actions would weaken terrorist adversaries and save the lives of the civilians they are aiming to kill.

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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Pardon me, Obama Administration, but isn’t your policy on fire?

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Barry Rubin

HERZLIYA, Israel–The story of the U.S. engagement with Syria and the sanctions issue regarding Iran’s nuclear program are fascinating. Each day there’s some new development showing how the Obama Administration is acting like a deer standing in the middle of a busy highway admiring the pretty automobile headlights.

Or to put it a different way, it is like watching the monster sneak up behind someone. Even though you know he’s not going to turn around, you can’t help but watch in fascinated horror and yelling out: “Look out!” But he pays no attention.

So I’m not just writing about these two issues in isolation but as very appropriate symbols of everything wrong with Western perceptions of the Middle East (and everywhere else) and the debates over foreign policy (and everything else) nowadays.

On Syria, for the most recent episodes of the story see here and here but, briefly, the Syrian government keeps punching the United States in the face as Washington ignores it.

But now, on March 1, a new record is set. The place: State Department daily press conference; the main character, departmental spokesman Philip J. Crowley. A reporter wants to know how the administration views the fact that the moment the U.S. delegation left after urging Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to move away from Iran and stop supporting Hizballah, Syria’s dictator invited in Iran’s dictator along with Hizballah’s leader and Damascus moved closer to Iran and Hizballah.

In other words, the exact opposite of what the United States requested. Is the government annoyed, does it want to express some anger or threat?

Let’s listen:

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would point it in a slightly different direction. It came several days after an important visit to Damascus by Under Secretary Bill Burns….We want to see Syria play a more constructive role in the region. We also want – to the extent that it has the ability to talk to Iran directly, we want to make sure that Syria’s communicating to Iran its concerns about its role in the region and the direction, the nature of its nuclear ambitions….”

In other words, I’m going to ignore the fact that the first thing that Asad did after Burns’ visit was a love fest with Iran and Hizballah. But even more amazing, what Crowley said is that the U.S. government thinks Syria, Iran’s partner and ally, is upset that Iran is being aggressive and expansionist. And it actually expects the Syrians to urge Iran not to build nuclear weapons!

One Lebanese observer called this approach, “Living in an alternate universe.”

Meanwhile, as the administration congratulates itself on explaining to Syria that it should reduce support for Hizballah, Israeli military intelligence releases an assessment that Syria is giving Hizballah more and better arms than ever before.

Oh wait! Now it’s March 3 so time for someting new. The ófficial Syrian press agency reports that Syria’s government opposed an Arab League proposal to support indirect Palestinian Authority-Israel negotiations. Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem asserted that Syria is “no way part” of the consensus supporting the plan.

But guess what? First, Senator John Kerry opened a meeting of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee by erroneously praising Syria as supporting the plan, giving this as an example of Damascus’s  moderation. The New York Times quoted from the Syrian report, making it sound like Moallem is praising the United States, but left out the paragraphs attacking the U.S.-backed plan! And the State Department circulated the Times article as proof of its success in winning over Syria when in fact Syrian behavior proved the exact opposite!

Oh, and that’s not all! Not only did Syria oppose the plan but it attacked the Arab states that supported the U.S. effort and blasted the Palestinian Authority for not following the path of resistance, that is urged it to carry out terrorist violence against Israel.

Hey, that’s not all either. Syria also issued a statement accusing Israel of “framing” it by dropping uranium particles from the air to make it seem that Syria had been building a nuclear reactor for making nuclear weapons. Not exactly evidence of rational moderation I’d say.

Meanwhile, on the Iran front, it is now March 2010 and still—six months after the first administration deadline and three months after the second deadline—there are no additional sanctions on Iran yet. In fact, the process has barely started.

Even former Democratic presidential candidate and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry has taken a stronger stance than the administration.

He supports the congressional call for tough sanctions to block Iran’s energy industry which easily passed both houses. “I believe that the most biting and important sanctions would be those on the energy side.” But the Obama administration wants far more limited sanctions focused on a small group in the regime elite.

Yet sanctions are getting further away rather than closer. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted at this by pulling back from her early prediction of sanctions by April, now saying it might be “some time in the next several months.”

At the same time, we have endless evidence that the claim the Russians (and Chinese and others) are coming, to support sanctions, is nonsense. Just before meeting with Clinton to discuss the issue, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (or Lula for short) explained, “Peace in the world does not mean isolating someone.” (Quick, invite him to explain this to the anti-Israel forces in Europe and elsewhere).

But it’s outright amusing to see the efforts to spin the Russian and Chinese position. In this regard, the prize for this week should be won by an AP dispatch. The headline is: “Russia moves closer to Iran sanctions over nukes.”

And what is the basis for this claim that there has just been “the strongest sign to date that the Kremlin was prepared to drop traditional opposition to such penalties if Tehran remain obstinate?” This statement from President Dmitry Medvedev:

“We believe that [engagement with Iran is] not over yet, that we can still reach an agreement,” he said. “But if we don’t succeed, Russia is ready — along with our partners…to consider the question of adopting sanctions.”

Get it? When Russia decides that talking with Iran won’t work, then at that point—how long from now would that be?—it will “consider” sanctions. Actually, he said the same thing last August, a statement trumpeted in September by the New York Times as proving Obama’s policy was working.

There is more clarity with the Chinese, sort of, though the pretense is also made that they might do something. But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang put it this way: “We believe there is still room for diplomatic efforts and the parties concerned should intensify those efforts.” At most, the optimists suggest, in the words of this Reuters dispatch:

“China will resist any proposed sanctions that threaten flows of oil and Chinese investments, but most believe it will accept a more narrowly cast resolution that has more symbolic than practical impact.”

Yes, that’s the kind of thing that already existed four years ago. Some progress.

Is it too much to ask policymakers to pay attention to what’s going on occasionally?

So let’s leave it to Ahmadinejad to sum up how things seem to Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and lots of Arabs both pro- and anti-American:

The Americans, Ahmadinejad said, “not only have failed to gain any power, but also are forced to leave the region. They are leaving their reputation, image, and power behind in order to escape.…The [American] government has no influence [to stop].…the expansion of Iran-Syria ties, Syria-Turkey ties, and Iran-Turkey ties–God willing, Iraq too will join the circle….”

In other words, Obama Administration policy isn’t making the radicals more moderate but rather–by feeding their arrogance and belief in American weakness–making them more aggressive.  
 
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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Recommended reading and viewing #10

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Asahi Shimbun (a Japanese newspaper) – Interview with Shimon Peres on the Middle Eastern situation.

Shoshi Bogoch
, the Israeli shlicha for San Diego, reminds that sign-ups are being taken for a teen trip to Israel.

Donald H. Harrison, Sightseeing in San Diego County, a growing compendium of stories about places to take your family or visitors. 

Rabbi Ben Kamin, “Carter apology to Jews must be applauded,” on Examiner.com 

Bruce Lieberman,Santa, dreidels mingle in festivities,” in San Diego Union-Tribune

Cantor Sheldon Merel forwarded this clip from MEMRI television of two Arab academics debating the quality of Arab education. 

Michael Rosen, “In Memoriam: Judge Napoleon Jones,” on San Diego News Room

Barry Rubin, “Dramatic New Evidence On Major Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood Terror Attacks” on Rubin Reports

Alan Rusonik, executive director of the Agency for Jewish Education in San Diego, posted on Facebook a video of himself and family members as dancing Christmas elves.

Rose Marie Scott-Blair, “Diplomat’s papers will be housed at museum,” in San Diego Union-Tribune.

Recommended viewing and reading #9

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

__________, “As Ahmadinejad bullies the West, unrest grows in Iran,” Washington Post editorial

Yaron Farzon, Virtual tour of the House of Israel in Balboa Park on Quiksee Portal

Donald H. Harrison, Sightseeing in San Diego County, a growing compilation of stories about places to visit with family or visitors.

Jewish National Fund,
commercial on creating homes in the Negev, on You Tube

Barry Rubin, For Obama, 2010 in the Middle East Looks More Like the Precipice of Doom Than of Achievement, in Rubin Reports

Carlo Strenger, Jimmy Carter, his apology and western hatred of Israel, in Ha’aretz.

Eric Yates, “Eight great ‘buzzworthy’ San Diegans in 2009,” on San Diego News Network, including Alan Bersin and Adam Lambert

Recommended reading and viewing #6

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Josh Gerstein, “Israeli lawyer & peacenik guilty of leaking FBI secrets,” on Politico. com

Ben Kamin, “Hanukkah connects the land to the Jews forever,” in examiner.com

Ben Kamin, “Uncommon rabbi-scholar remembered twenty years later,” on Examiner.com

Yoel Meltzer, “Why make aliyah?” on Y-Net News

Barry Rubin, “What’s really going on in Palestinian politics: springtime for Abbas,” in Rubin Reports. 

Jon Stewart and John Oliver, “The Daily Show” White House/ Chanukah parody

Robin Washington, “Black, the Jewish faith and Hanukkah,” on NPR Reports.

Links to recommended reading and viewing, #2

December 10, 2009 1 comment

Judy Lash Balint in Jerusalem tells of “anti-freeze” demonstration, favoring continued construction

Jewish Federations of North America Update on Rescue of Yemen Jews

Donald H. Harrison, “Santee Lakes are models of recreation and reclamation,” Examiner.com (Don is now doing general sightseeing stories in addition to his work as editor of San Diego Jewish World.  Friends may follow the link and subscribe to his new column on things to do and see in San Diego County)

Donald H. Harrison, “Jewish surprises found on tour of Cuyamaca College” (This is the second story Don has placed on Examiner.com.  If you follow the link, and hit the subscribe button, you will receive emails with links to each story Don subsequently writes for that publication.)

Adam Levick, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism in Progressive U.S. Blogs/News Websites: Influential and Poorly Monitored

Barry Rubin, “Let’s Get Real: Obama’s Foreign Policy is Failing; Time to Wake Up, Change Course, and Do It Right” in Rubin Reports.

Tablet Magazine has a video piece on Sen. Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah) helping to create a new Chanukah song.  Hatch, a Mormon, routinely wears a mezuzah under his shirt.

Wedding video, YouTube has an Israeli comedy sketch of a photographer shooting photos at a wedding

Hasan’s slideshow told motiive for Ft. Hood killings

November 15, 2009 Leave a comment

By Barry Rubin

barry_rubinHERZLIYA, Israel — How do we know that the attack at Fort Hood was an act of Islamist terrorism? Simple, Major Nidal Hasan told us so. You’ve seen reports of a long list of things he did and said along these lines. But what’s most amazing of all is this:

Hasan is the first terrorist in history to give an academic lecture explaining why he was about to attack. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/11/09/ST2009110903704.html?sid=ST2009110903704 )

Yet that still isn’t enough for too many people—including the president of the United States–to understand that the murderous assault at Fort Hood was a Jihad attack.

It was reported that the audience was shocked and frightened by his lecture. He was supposed to speak on some medical topic yet instead talked on the topic: “The Koranic World View as it Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.” All you have to do is look at the 50 Power Point slides and they tell you everything you need to know.

It is quite a good talk. He’s logical and presents his evidence. This is clearly not the work of a mad man or a fool, though there’s still a note of ambiguity in it. He’s still working out what to do in his own mind and is trying to figure out if he has a way out other than in effect deserting the U.S. army and becoming a Jihad warrior. Ultimately, he concluded that he could not be a proper Muslim without killing American soldiers. Obviously, other Muslims could reach different conclusions but Hasan strongly grounds himself in Islamic texts.

In a sense, Hasan’s lecture was a cry for help: Can anyone show me another way out? Can anyone refute my interpretation of Islam? One Muslim in the audience reportedly tried to do so. But unless these issues are openly discussed and debated–rather than swept under the rug–more people will die.

In fact, I’d recommend that teachers use this lecture in teaching classes on both Islam and Islamist politics. .

Follow along with me and you’ll understand everything.

Hasan deals with three topics: What Islam teaches Muslims, how Muslims view the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, how this might affect Muslims in the U.S. military. [Slide 2] Hasan defines Jihad, showing how silly are the claims that it only means a personal struggle to behave better. It also signifies holy war, of course. [Slide 5].

Now here’s Hasan’s central theme. Muslims cannot fight in an infidel army against other Muslims. And Hasan himself says that it’s getting hard for Muslims in the U.S. military to justify doing so. [Slide 11] Obviously, Hasan was deciding that he couldn’t do so.

He then quotes the Koran extensively to prove the point. Allah will punish anyone who kills a Muslim [Slide 12]. Hasan then gives four examples of Muslim soldiers who broke under the strain. One who killed fellow American soldiers (which Hasan would himself do), one accused of espionage (but was acquitted), one who deserted, and one who refused deployment to Iraq. [Slide 13]

Quoting the Koran, Hasan next provides a number of quotations to show that the believer must obey Allah. If they do, they will enjoy great delights (though he left out the 72 virgins, there’s one quote hinting at pederasty), and if they don’t they will suffer torments of Hell.

Finally, he gets into the heavy stuff. Hasan introduces the concept of “defensive Jihad” which is a core element in radical Islamist thinking and has especially been promoted by Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida. [Slides 37-39]. If others attack and oppress Muslims, then it is the duty of all Muslims to fight them. September 11 was justified by its perpetrators by saying that the United States had attacked Muslims and therefore it was mandatory to kill Americans in return.

And here is the crux of the matter: Verse 60:08, “Allah forbids you…from dealing kindly and justly” with those who fight Muslims.” [Slide 40]

If Nidal Hasan believed this and would follow it, he must—to be a proper Muslim in his eyes—pick up a gun and join the Jihad, Muslim side. He was not shooting Americans because he caught battle fatigue from American soldiers he treated. Think about it. To have done so, Hasan would have had to sympathize with them, thinking about what it would be like for him if he’d been fighting…Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan. But that was precisely his problem. He sympathized with the other side.

Being ordered to ship out to one of these countries, Hasan now had to decide: which side are you on? Would he choose the side of Allah and the Muslims, to be rewarded in Heaven? Or would he join with the infidels, to be punished with Hell and to betray his religion? He made his decision.

It is interesting that no Muslim debate has developed over a very simple issue: What if two groups of Muslims are fighting, cannot one side with one group, even if it has non-Muslim allies? After all, Americans are not going to Iraq or Afghanistan simply to “kill Muslims” but to defend Muslims from being killed. The Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Egyptians had no problem with using Western troops to save them from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991, for example. The Iraqi and Afghan governments, made up of pious Muslims, do the same thing.

Arab nationalists who are Muslims can take this position more easily. But for Islamists the problem is not some abstraction but knowledge that they are fighting a battle to seize control of all Muslim-majority states and indeed perhaps of the entire world.

The true problem, then, is not that some Muslims help infidels kill Muslims, but that some Muslims help infidels kill Islamists. But Hasan never considered this point, which could be quite persuasive to other Muslims in Western militaries.

So, in his thinking, how might Hasan have escaped from that stark choice? Hasan answers that question. Quoting the Koran, he indicated that if the Americans ended the wars, then that would be okay and no killing would be necessary. [Slide 42]

Another alternative is if the Americans accepted Islam or agreed to become subservient to Muslim rulers (dhimmis) and paid a special tax [Slide 43-44].

The third alternative would be if the Muslim Messiah came, destroyed Christianity as a false religion and set off the post-history utopia. [Slide 45]. He didn’t mention another part of this description, which was the murder of all Jews.

A digression is appropriate here. Hasan, although a Palestinian, has never been quoted as attacking Israel or the Jews. This is one more reminder that this struggle isn’t all just about Israel. But it also tells something important about Hasan which also applies to many Muslim radicals in Europe. Hasan is an American. As such he has no other nationality, neither Palestinian nor Arab. He doesn’t support Hamas or Fatah. But he has a religion that directs his thinking. That’s why he is an Islamist and why he supports a generalized Islamist revolutionary movement, al-Qaida.

As one moderate Muslim from Canada pointed out, the clothes he wore the day before committing his Jihad attack was not (as some sources put it in a silly manner) some martyr or even Arab garb but the clothing of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is an al-Qaida Jihadi, having changed sides in the War on Terror.

Hasan was no fool or blind fanatic. Indeed, he presents a sophisticated view. For example, he quotes contradictory Quranic verses, one suggesting that all religions can enter Heaven; another that all non-Muslims will go to Hell [Slide 47].

His conclusion takes on tremendous significance in light of what would happen at Fort Hood. He writes:

“If Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against injustices of the `infidels’; i.e., the enemies of Islam, then Muslims can become a potent adversary ie: suicide bombing, etc.”

And of course, these groups did so convince Hasan. [Slide 48]

Why? Hasan tells us:

“God expects full loyalty. Promises heaven and threatens with Hell. Muslims may seem moderate (compromising) but God is not.” [Slide 49]

And at the very end, he proposes what might have been his own escape route:

“Recommendation: Department of Defense should allow Muslim soldiers the option of being released as `Conscientious objectors’ to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events.” [Slide 50]

If that had existed for Hasan, I think, he would not have killed people. This proposal is worth debating, though it has negative implications too, of course. But then he had other options. He could have resigned his commission, deserted, or refused deployment as a conscientious objector and gone to prison. In fact, Hasan himself cited individuals who had done the last two.

Consequently, Hasan’s lecture also tells us why Muslims can choose not to be Jihadists, though this requires ignoring or rationalizing clear, religiously binding commandments in their religion or by being basically secular people of Muslim background. This is the kind of solution found in Christianity and Judaism, of course.

Hasan was too pious and consistent to take this way out. The answer to his personal behavior must be found in a mix of psychological factors and political-religious beliefs. The fact is, however, that he clearly did see himself as a Jihad warrior in the end. The existence of psycological factors in no way negates the importance of religious considerations.

All terrorists have some psychological forces working to make them follow such a path. Yet if not for ideological–and in the case of Islamists, religious–beliefs they never would have become terrorists. In contrast, criminals have psychological factors plus material goals, while mentally ill people who commit crimes are compelled by purely psychogical factors. Hasan does not fit either of those two categories.

Equally, his action cannot be attributed to a “misreading” or “heretical” interpretation of Islam. To read this lecture is to understand how carefully and self-critically he approached the issues. Anything so obviously false or deviant from mainstream Islam would simply not appeal to so many Muslims. Hasan was looking for a way out in the texts and listed the “loopholes” he did find: either the United States must not fight anyone who was a Muslim or it must let him out of the military.

What Hasan neglected was an explanation that lay outside what his strict reading of the Muslim texts would allow him to say: the United States must fight, in general, because the Islamists have been the aggressors. And the United States is actually fighting as allies with one group of (more moderate) Muslims against another (of radical Islamists). Yet the texts always deal with the Muslim community as a united whole (the umma), an interpretation that just doesn’t correspond with reality. Indeed and ironically, this view enables Islamists to themselves kill thousands of Muslims all over the world!

The fact that Hasan’s lecture has not been the centerpiece of the whole post-massacre debate is a true example of how impoverished are the “experts,” journalists, and politicians at dealing with these issues. Of course, without exploring the Islamic factor, they’re wasting everyone’s time. They’re also going to be wasting quite a few lives.

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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

* Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.