CNN published an article by James Dawes called “Is ISIS Evil.” In a nutshell, Mr. Dawes believes that one of the worst things we can do is to label ISIS as evil. His solution to the problem of terrorism is to understand the circumstances that led “normal men” to become “monsters.” He asserts that when we use labels such as “evil,” it prevents us from understanding the root causes of such things as terrorism. Below are a few quotes from his article and my response to them.
“There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil — because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. “Evil” is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.”
“The flip side is that “evil” is also a word that stops us from thinking.” for example, “Jonah Goldberg tried to shame those who are trying to think seriously about ISIS. In a recent tweet, he mocked the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context, suggesting that we should focus instead on one fact: “They’re evil.
“They do obviously evil things for evil ends. The fact is, there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think that way.”
Contrary to what Mr. Dawes thing, the reason its essential to label something as evil is expressed by Dr. Scott Peck in his Book, People of the Lie. He wrote that, “to name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it.” For example, what if we didn’t have proper labels for diseases such as cancer, diabetes or Aids? When a disease is referred to by its name, this implies that certain symptoms are present that justified that diagnosis. Once a patient is properly diagnoses then they can be properly treated. The same idea applies to evil. If we do not know how to define it by it’s symptoms then how can we fight it?
Contrary to what Mr. Dawes asserts, the most dangerous thing we can do is not confront these terrorist organizations like ISIS, which is the greatest evil of our time. Academics like Mr. Dawes, are the product of a secular value system that permeates our Universities which hinder their ability to think clearly when it comes to moral issues.
“We must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking.
“How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive?
“We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.
“We can analyze the ways its violent tactics are effective for its purposes given the local power dynamics, so that we can also better understand its weak spots. And we can ask how it is that normal men — men who were not born evil — get turned into monsters, so that we can work to change the structures that produce terrorists over the long-term instead of locking ourselves into an endlessly repeated, short-term policy of “killing fanatics” until they are gone.
Those who believe people are inherently good, as Mr. Dawes does. Blame society and other external factors for producing individuals for their defective behavior. Dennis Prager explains in his book, Think a Second Time, that the defining issue that separates those on the left and the right is whether or not they believe people are inherently good or evil. This is why the left believes in big government because it has the authority and power to make the necessary changes in society that result in making better people, or at least this is what they think.
His approach to dealing with terrorism is a perfect example of what happens when you believe people are inherently good. The presumption is if we can just “understand” the reasons (I.e. external factors) that lead “normal men” to become terrorists, then we could reverse the process by changing their circumstances and prevent the spread of terrorism.
These type of solutions work well in the minds of academics. Maybe if this Mr. Dawes was around in WWII, understanding Hitler would have been a better strategy than crushing them! We don’t fight to win anymore because of those in the media and academics think the same way as Dawes. Had we leveled the cities in Iraq and brought them to their knees I would guarantee you ISIS would not exist.
Psalms 97:10, sums up well my thoughts about the lefts approach in dealing with evil. “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil.” A society can be measured in its “love of the Lord,” by what it considers to be evil. The western world is in great trouble for turning away from the Judeo-Christian values which have produced the greatest civilizations in history. We are seeing more and more of those in the western world loving evil, or in the very least tolerating it, and hating the God of Israel.