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Marie Harf May Have Stumbled Into Something

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I do not believe Marie Harf is an eloquent speaker, but I did think her “jobs for ISIS” remarks made some sense. We know that in American cities, for instance, if young men do not have education and jobs, they get into mischief. The kind of mischief that includes gangs and drugs and violence. Why would we expect that young men in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere would be any different?

Apparently, I’m not the only one. While others have sneered at Harf’s comments as being simplistic, a few are tentatively suggesting she is not as far off-base as first thought. The National Review‘s Tom Rogan says this:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s global jihad provides ISIS fighters with inspiring theology, but broader social concerns make many young men open to this theology in the first place.

These social concerns are primarily of two sorts. First, there are those (predominantly in North Africa and the Middle East) who are angry at the endemic corruption and the lack of social mobility in their country; They see ISIS as a path to glory. Then there are those in the West who, imprisoned in poverty and judged for their “otherness,” are wooed by the malevolent charisma of Wahhabi and Salafi clerics. Consider what’s happening in Britain, France, and much of mainland Europe. The social foundations for Salafi-radicalism are clear. Conversely, America’s inclusive national identity means that comparatively few Americans have joined ISIS.

People need jobs in order to feel useful. Jobs give our lives meaning and purpose. They allow us to contribute in healthy ways to form our communities and our culture. To lack meaningful work is not a trifling thing.

Marie Harf might not have said it very well, but she said it: people everywhere need jobs.

Read “‘Jobs for ISIS’ Isn’t Quite as Stupid as You Think” at National Review.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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