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Asia Divisions Deepen after South Korean Missile Defense Deployment

On Friday, Seoul’s Defense Ministry and the US Defense Department announced their joint decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system in South Korea. The first battery will be placed to protect American forces on the peninsula against a North Korean missile attack.

China reacted within hours, lodging protests with both South Korea and the US. Then on Monday the Chinese foreign ministry continued its tantrum, threatening, in the words of spokesman Lu Kang, to impose “relevant measures” against South Korea.

South Korea’s deployment of THAAD, as the Lockheed Martin-built system is known, is a setback for Chinese attempts to move Seoul away from Washington and marks an end of President Park Geun-hye’s moves to entice China to abandon North Korea.

Expansionist China and Russia Deepen Ties

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met on the 25th of last month in Beijing and issued statements bound to upset their neighbors and the US. For instance, the two leaders, who are both using force to expand and secure their borders, drew upon Orwellian logic when they charged that the nations defending themselves are the ones destabilizing the international system, undermining “strategic stability,” as they put it.

Yet Putin and Xi typically issue provocative statements intended to intimidate neighbors and threaten the international order when they meet. The more important story of the one-day get-together is that the two countries remain on course to become “friends forever”—Xi’s words—and they are cementing that friendship with trade.

Will Brexit Unite Ireland?

The British decision to exit the Europe Union may end up dissolving the United Kingdom and uniting Ireland.

Northern Ireland may not be part of the UK for much longer. While the majority of English voters chose to leave the European Union, 56 of Northern Ireland’s want to remain. The (Protestant) Ulster Unionist Party and (Catholic) Sinn Fein both supported the Remain faction, only the second time in history they’ve stood on the same side of a big political question. They’ve been at each other’s throats for the most part, even before the island’s partition.

The Irish Free State declared its independence from Britain in 1919 and won it in 1922 at the conclusion of a three-year long war. Britain retained most of the northern province of Ulster, though, ostensibly to protect the Protestant majority there. Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority was not very happy about this, of course, and continued to view the British as a foreign occupation force.

War broke out in the 1960s when Catholic and Protestant nationalists battled it with each other, Middle Eastern style, in the streets. Gun battles, assassinations, car bombs, and kidnappings became numbingly routine for three decades. Hideous walls like those in Baghdad and between the West Bank and Israel still keep Catholic and Protestant neighbors away from each other.

More than 3,600 people were killed during the Troubles. It’s a trifling number compared with the civil wars in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, but it’s a huge number for Western Europe, and in any case it’s worth keeping in mind that Northern Ireland is miniscule compared with Yugoslavia, Syria and Colombia. Fewer than two million people live in the entire region. Belfast, the largest city, is home to barely 300,000 people. Metropolitan Boise is larger than metropolitan Belfast. With that in mind, the number of dead doesn’t look quite so small. If Northern Ireland were as large as Syria, for instance, the number killed would be close to 40,000.

It finally ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. There is no longer a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the island. Citizens can carry British passports, Irish passports or both, regardless of their religion, nationalist identity or political affiliation.

Good Friday wouldn’t have happened without the European Union. Northern Ireland’s membership in the EU made its membership, so to speak, in the United Kingdom almost superfluous. Catholics and Protestants didn’t have to argue anymore about whether or not Dublin or London should be the capital since Brussels trumped both.

When the British partitioned Ireland, the north had a clear Protestant majority. It doesn’t anymore. According to the 2011 census, 42 percent identify as Protestant while 41 percent identify as Catholic. (17 percent don’t identify as either.) Catholics have a higher birthrate, so the Catholic minority may well be a slight majority now.

You might think this means the population has been more or less evenly split about remaining in the UK or uniting with Ireland, but no. The Good Friday Agreement worked so well for so many people that even most Northern Irish Catholics said never mind to a unified Ireland.

In 2013, 65 percent of poll respondents said they would vote to remain in the UK if a referendum were held. Only 17 percent said they wanted to unite with Ireland. Last year, only 25 percent of Northern Ireland’s Catholics said they wanted a united Ireland.

But what about now? A majority of Northern Ireland’s people want to remain in both the EU and the UK, but they can’t.

Northern Ireland (nor Scotland, for that matter) can remain in the EU if the UK leaves. “The EU rules are very clear,” says Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. “Membership is at member state level, it's a national question.”

The next question then is, which do these people want more? To be part of the UK or part of the EU? Will they be willing to ditch the UK for Ireland if it’s the only way to remain in the EU?

Maybe.

Northern Irish Catholics aren’t as willing to go along with the status quo as they were even a month ago. “Unionists would have to rely on Catholics not wanting to be part of a united Ireland,” says Peter Shirlow at the Institute of Irish Studies in the UK. “That has been the trend up to last Friday, but I think that trend is now changing.”

After Brexit, even many Protestants are applying for Irish passports, not because they identify more with Ireland than the UK but because they wish to remain citizens of Europe, and they can only do so now through the Republic of Ireland.

“Our political structures,” SDLP leader Colum Eastwood writes in the Irish Times, “were shaped in the context of European membership.” The SDLP is the mainstream Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland. Unlike Sinn Fein during the Troubles, it disavowed the Irish Republican Army’s physical force republicanism

We have known and understood the positive impact of Europe. We have known and experienced the example of its architecture and its advocacy for co-operation and peace. We opted to stay true to that vision. We have not given any consent to change it. Unionists and nationalists alike backed that verdict.

The paradox therefore persists. The change chosen by the English people was not chosen by the Irish people. Nor was it chosen by the Scottish. The simplicity of those facts point to one reality: their future cannot now be our future.

The Northern Irish—along with everyone else in the rest of the UK and Ireland—will be doing a lot of soul-searching and arguing about this in the days ahead. Minds will change. Heels will dig in. New banners will fly. And votes will be cast.

Hopefully, bullets won’t fly.

Culture and Corruption in Ukraine

Peter Zalmayev is director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, member of the board of the NY Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and international outreach coordinator for the Babyn Yar Project for the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter.

Motyl: You just returned from the Bruno Schulz festival in Drohobych. How did a Russian-speaking Jewish Ukrainian from Donetsk become interested in a Polish-Jewish writer from Galicia?

History Returns to Europe

The British decision to leave the European Union is the most momentous event across the Atlantic since NATO bombed Belgrade. 

If I lived in the United Kingdom, I would have voted to Remain in the EU, but it’s not hard to see why the majority voted to Leave. I wouldn’t want the United States to join the EU for the same reasons the Brexiters want out of it.

The EU is a brilliant idea. Unite splendidly diverse yet like-minded nations into a powerful bloc that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Provide minimum standards and guidelines for countries that aren’t as advanced (such as Greece and Romania). Pull down trade barriers and do business in a common market. Open up job opportunities and leg-stretching room for all. (I wouldn’t want to be confined to a place as cramped as Belgium for the rest of my life, but I’m one of those cosmopolitan “elites” everyone likes to complain about nowadays.)

The actually existing EU, though, isn’t so brilliant. It includes all the good stuff, yet it’s crushed by a staggering amount of centralized regulatory bureaucracy and a disregard for the wishes of its individual member states. It’s hardly a gulag empire, but it’s autocratic enough that Europe’s democracy deficit has its own Wikipedia page. And its internally borderless nature is bringing more immigrants than can be absorbed all at once without shocks to the system.

Here’s how my Canadian pal Terry Glavin put it, who also would have voted Remain if he lived in Britain. “You can’t tell the British people, as Tony Blair’s Labour government did a decade ago, that there will only be 13,000 new immigrants arriving in Britain every year in the absence of EU transitional controls and expect them to shrug it off when they discover, as they did last month, that last year’s arrivals numbered roughly 330,000. Racism doesn’t explain everything.”

No, it doesn’t. Every racist jackhole in Europe is whooping it up over the Brexit results and pining for more, but even the most welcoming people and nations can only take in so many strangers at any one time, and Europe has never been as good at assimilating immigrants as the US and Canada anyway. (We have a lot more experience on this side of the Atlantic.)

I’ve always been skeptical that the EU would survive beyond the medium-term. Uniting nations as diverse as Britain and Greece isn’t as daft as merging the United States and Mexico into a single polity, but it’s a lot less likely to work than marrying Maine and Texas—or even British Columbia and Quebec. It’s more like combining British Columbia and Argentina. That kind of arrangement can only work if the federation is incredibly flexible.

The EU is not incredibly flexible, and English people don’t appreciate having decisions made for them in Belgium any more than Canadians would enjoy decisions being made for them by Americans, and vice versa.

Britain would have been better off without joining the EU in the first place if it wasn’t going to stay. That would have been fine. Switzerland is flourishing outside the EU, and so is Norway.

It may be a bit premature to say the EU is dead just because Britain left. The British were always the most likely to leave. They never joined with the same enthusiasm as other people. Many have always felt that “Europe” is somewhere else, that it’s the Continent, not the islands, and they refused to scrap the Pound for the Euro.

That said, this could well mark the beginning of the end of the EU. Leaving is no longer unthinkable now that the UK actually did it. If one country can leave, any country can leave, and Euroskepticism has been on the rise all over the place for a while. The EU can get along just fine without Britain, and it would probably get along even better sans Greece, but it won’t survive if France and Germany head for the exits.

The United Kingdom itself may come apart. England and Wales voted to Leave, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain. Scotland held its own independence referendum two years ago and narrowly voted to stay in the UK, but only because leaving the country would have meant leaving Europe, and Scotland doesn’t want to leave Europe. Within hours of the Brexit vote, officials in Scotland mulled a second referendum on independence. It’s far more likely to pass next time than last time.

People in Scotland don’t enjoy having decisions made for them in England any more than the English like having decisions made for them in Belgium. Nationalism in Britain cut both ways. English nationalists voted to Leave while Scottish nationalists voted Remain.

Cosmopolitan “citizens of the world” need to understand something: Nationalism isn’t necessarily bad. It can be—that’s for damn sure—but a lack of it can be just as destructive. Nationalism is exclusive, yes, but it’s also inclusive. It draws a line between those on in the inside and those on the outside, but it also binds those on the inside together.

Look at Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Precious little glue binds them. Huge numbers of people in all three identify more with their sect—Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian—than with their own country. They’ve formed military alliances with belligerent foreign states against people who live down the street. More than a million have been slaughtered because of it. "Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation," Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran wrote about his homeland a century ago.

The two Baath Party regimes in Syria and Iraq attempted to gloss over their sectarian differences with a patina of pan-Arab Nationalism, yet they still butchered hundreds of thousands of people from enemy sects inside their own countries. Fractious Northern Ireland is as homogenous and pacifist as Japan by comparison.

But Northern Ireland is not homogenous, and it is not pacifist. Belfast is the most car-bombed city in the history of Europe. There is no “Northern Irish” identity that binds everybody together. The Catholic half of the population identifies with the Republic of Ireland while the Protestant half identifies with the United Kingdom. If the UK breaks apart after Brexit, what will become of Northern Ireland? It can’t be neatly partitioned any more than Baghdad can be neatly partitioned.

The European Union may have helped calm nationalistic furies in Belfast. It makes less of a difference if the region belongs to Ireland or the UK if it’s part of a larger transnational entity either way—if Brussels is its ultimate capital either way—but that pressure release valve is now closed.

I would have chosen to Remain if I were British. Better to reform and liberalize the EU than to scrap it. The uncertainty following Brexit is nothing compared to what could happen if the whole thing collapses. Those economic shockwaves will hammer us here in the US. I guarantee it.

And what would become of Eastern Europe? Romania is no longer a Third World country thanks in part to the European Union, while Hungary—which likewise hasn’t fully recovered from Soviet-style totalitarian government—is lurching in an increasingly disturbing direction even from within the EU. “The era of liberal democracies is over,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared in Romania recently. “Copying Western models is a kind of provincialism that will kill us.” There’s only so much Brussels can do to prevent a nation like Hungary from descending into a Putin-esque hell of its own making, but it will have even less ability if the EU doesn’t exist.

This could be the beginning of a slow-motion and potentially ugly collapse, but who knows? The future isn’t yet written.

I can say this, though, with confidence: history is not over. The next quarter-century in Europe will not be the same as the last quarter-century. History never stands still for long, nor does it move in a straight line for long. It’s always turning corners, and it’s always surprising.

War and Energy in Ukraine

The following is an interview with Margarita Balmaceda, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. She is the author of The Politics of Energy Dependency: Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania Between Domestic Oligarchs and Russian Pressure.

MOTYL: In your books you maintain that independent Ukraine inherited a highly inefficient energy system centered on the Donbas that became increasingly controlled by regional elites and oligarchs who used subsidies to line their pockets while producing less energy for domestic consumption and neglecting the needs of Donbas residents and Ukrainians. How has the ongoing war with Russia affected this system?

BALMACEDA: The war has affected this system in three key ways. First, Kyiv has stopped financing the coal mines located in the secessionist territories. 

Russia's Parliament Ends Term with More Repression

Last week, the Russian State Duma of the sixth convocation held its last plenary session, breaking up ahead of the September 18 parliamentary election. The end of this legislature was fitting: its very last act was to adopt a draconian package introduced by United Russia lawmaker Irina Yarovaya that lowered the age of criminal responsibility for some offenses—including “mass disturbances” (Kremlin speak for street demonstrations) and failure to report a crime—to fourteen, and required cellular and internet providers to help security services with deciphering all messaging applications.

China Steps Up Provocations

Chinese incursions along its southern and eastern peripheries this month suggest an increase in the pace of territorial provocations.

On June 15, one of China’s intelligence-gathering ships entered Japan’s territorial waters in the wee hours of the morning. The Dongdiao-class vessel sailed near Kuchinoerabu Island and the larger Yakushima Island as it shadowed two Indian warships participating in the Malabar exercise with the US and Japan. The intrusion was the first since 2004, when a Chinese submarine entered Japan’s waters, and only the second by China since the end of the Second World War. Japan filed a protest, but China countered that it was transiting in compliance with international freedom of navigation rules. China's ship lingered for some 90 minutes, possibly in violation of international transit norms.

Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Radical Islam

Americans have been arguing about Islam since 9/11. It was perhaps inevitable that our presidential candidates would bicker about it eventually.

It finally happened last week when Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for refusing to say the words “radical Islamism.” Clinton responded by saying the words “radical Islamism.”

President Barack Obama is a little more stubborn about it. He even insists that ISIS, or ISIL as he and other government officials call it, “is not Islamic” at all.

Of course ISIS is Islamic. The first letter in ISIS stands for “Islamic.”

Every literate person who knows what letters and words mean must at the absolute minimum recognize that ISIS claims to be Islamic. It sure as hell isn’t Christian, nor is it Jewish. It is not Buddhist, Hindu or Zoroastrian. No human being on this planet thinks ISIS is atheist.

Obama comes off like he’s living in an airy fairy fantasy land. “Unless,” Trump said last week, “you're willing to discuss and talk about the real nature of the problem and the name of the problem radical Islamic terrorism, you're never going to solve the problem.”

“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” Obama angrily said in response. “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away…Not once has an advisor of mine said, man, if we use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around. If someone seriously thinks we don’t know who we’re fighting, if there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield.”

Of course Obama knows who we’re fighting and why. He’s been bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq for more than a year now. He’s been doing it half-assedly, sure, but he’s not bombing the Middle East’s Christians, Jews, Druze, Yezidis or Alawites.

And he’s quite right that we aren’t losing because he doesn’t use the phrase “radical Islam.” He could change his mind and use the phrase every day for the rest of his term and it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference on the battlefield.

What he’s doing here is picking up where former President George W. Bush left off when he repeatedly called Islam “a religion of peace.”

Trump says this is political correctness and that it’s killing us, but this is something else. It’s diplomatic correctness.

“There are good reasons why Obama—and President George W. Bush before him—did not describe jihadists in explicitly Islamic terms,” Eli Lake writes in Bloomberg. “It was not because they are cowed by political correctness. Rather it was because the wider war on radical Islamic terrorism requires the tacit and at times active support of many radical Muslims.”

Lake’s case in point is the Anbar Awakening during General David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, when every tribal leader in the western Anbar Province aligned themselves with American soldiers and Marines against Al Qaeda.

“These sheiks were pious Muslims,” Lake writes. “Many believed that apostates should be punished by the state and that fathers had an obligation to arrange marriages for their daughters.”

He’s right. I spent more time than was good for my health in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. These places are painfully, even brutally, backward. Not every Muslim who lives there is a fanatic, but virtually none can be described as liberal or cosmopolitan with a straight face.

Then there is Saudi Arabia. The United States has had a transactional alliance with the House of Saud since the 1930s. The Saudis provide the world with oil in exchange for American security. Since then, Washington and Riyadh have drawn closer together for other reasons. We share many of the same geopolitical interests, especially when it comes to Iran.

The Saudis are kinda sorta allies, yet they preside over and promote the most puritanical sect of Sunni Islam in the world—that of the Wahhabis, founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the 18th century. The Saudis spend enormous amounts of money spreading this noxious and dangerous brand of Islam all over the world. It’s a serious problem, and it’s long past time for the United States to demand they halt it or else, but the Saudis are nevertheless helpful in other ways and have been for almost a hundred years. 

So yes, we have fanatical as well as moderate and liberal Muslim allies, and Obama, like Bush before him, is reluctant to alienate them. American presidents have to weigh the diplomatic consequences of their words. Journalists, intellectuals, activists and historians don’t.

The downside is that people don’t like or trust leaders who appear disconnected from reality. And Obama is far more worried about this than he needs to be. All he needs to do is be honest and reasonable. He just needs to make it clear, as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did when he was bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan, that “the war against terrorism is not a war against a religion.”

Middle Easterners are among the least “politically correct” people in the entire world. The very idea of Western-style “political correctness” in the Middle East is absurd. They are far less “sensitive,” in the progressive sense of that word, than virtually anyone in the United States. And they know damn well that ISIS is Islamic. We’re not earning any points with our allies in the Muslim world by denying this, nor would we alienate any of them by acknowledging it.

The United States government surely would alienate our friends and allies over there if we had a bombastic bigoted blowhard in the White House, but calling the Islamic State “Islamic” isn’t even in the same time zone as bigoted or bombastic.

Whatever Obama and Trump say, the rest of us need to get something straight. At one end of the American spectrum is the notion that Islam is a religion of peace while the other end insists that it’s a religion of war and jihad. They’re both right, and they’re both wrong. Islam is not a single monolithic thing any more than Christianity is.

Former Muslim and Somalia-native Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains this better than almost anyone in her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, which I reviewed last year for Commentary.

She divides Muslims into three groups, ignoring the theological and cultural distinctions between Sunnis and Shias and smaller sects like Wahhabis and Sufis. She also sets aside national differences between countries like Kosovo and Azerbaijan, where almost everybody is secular, and ultraconservative realms like Saudi Arabia where almost nobody is.

First there are those she calls Mecca Muslims, traditional and largely peaceful people inspired by Mohammad’s benign example during the religion’s early years when he lived in Mecca and politely invited others to follow him. The majority of the world’s Muslims fall into this camp.

Then there are the Medina Muslims, the often violent minority that follows Mohammad’s example when he lived in Medina and assaulted those who refused to convert. Medina Muslims include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and the ayatollahs in Iran.

Both types of people are authentic Muslims. Both can cite the Koran to back up their beliefs and behavior. Both can say they’re following Mohammad’s example. 

Hirsi Ali’s third group are the dissidents like herself. Some are ex-Muslims while others are reformers—including imams and respected scholars—who are doing everything they can to modernize the religion and discredit the Medina Muslims.

Insisting that the Medina Muslims aren’t Muslims is as pointless as it is wrong. It may be defensible as a diplomatic fiction, but it’s also unnecessary. The dissidents and the reformers know damn well who and what they’re up against. They wouldn’t need to reform the religion if it did not need reforming. They also know perfectly well that the Islamic State is Islamic. These people are our best friends in the Islamic world, and they won’t be the least bit offended if Obama or anyone else calls a radical Islamic terrorist a radical Islamic terrorist. 

The Saudis wouldn’t sever the alliance either if the White House calls a spade a spade. They need us more than we need them, after all. People like the sheikhs of Iraq’s Anbar Province wouldn’t refuse to work with an American president for using phrases like “radical Islam” either as long as the White House made it clear we’re not at war with an entire religion.  

Obama is far more worried about this than he needs to be, and Trump isn’t worried enough. A commander-in-chief who bares his teeth at 1.2 billion Muslims in the world would be a catastrophe for a reason that ought to be obvious: winning wars against radical Muslims without enlisting the help of friendly moderate Muslims is impossible.

Inaugural Nemtsov Prize Awarded to Lev Shlosberg

On June 12—Russia’s national day that has its origins in a 1990 parliamentary declaration that asserted Russia’s sovereignty over the Soviet government and promised its citizens political rights and liberties—the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom held its inaugural ceremony to award the Nemtsov Prize. The event took place in Bonn, Germany, where the foundation is based and where its founder, Zhanna Nemtsova, resides after fleeing Russia last year following her father’s assassination on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, in plain sight of the Kremlin.

Latvia’s Push for a NATO Naval Base

NATO’s member states have agreed to base 4,000 troops in the Baltic states and Poland. That is extremely welcome news in these Baltic Sea countries, whose governments have long been lobbying for exactly such a presence.

But, while NATO allies regularly conduct naval exercises in this tiny ocean, the alliance doesn’t have a permanent naval presence there. Now Latvia is proposing a novel arrangement: a NATO presence in an old Soviet port.

Until Latvia‘s occupation ended in 1991, its port city of Liepaja housed an immense Soviet naval base. Large parts of the Soviet Union’s Baltic fleet including submarines were based there, as was nuclear weapons storage. With 26,000 military staff working for the naval base, which took up one third of the city, it was perhaps not surprising that the Soviet authorities designated the port area a closed city that did not appear on any maps.

Though Progress is Genuine, Reform Must Accelerate in Ukraine

The following is an interview with Myroslav Senyk, former head of the Lviv Province Council and current Vice Rector for Administration and Development of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.

MOTYL: Most people in the West, as well as most Ukrainians in Ukraine, are persuaded that corruption in Ukraine has either remained unchanged or gotten worse in the last two years. Do you agree with either of these views?

China Likely Cheating, Again, on North Korea Sanctions

“We are both determined to fully enforce the UN Security Council Resolution 2270,” said Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, referring to China and the US. As hundreds of American and Chinese officials wrapped up this year’s installment of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in China’s capital, America’s top diplomat wanted the world to believe Beijing was complying with international sanctions on North Korea.

Resolution 2270 is the fifth set of coercive measures imposed by the Security Council on Pyongyang for its weapons programs.

So is Kerry telling us what is in fact the case or what he would like to be true? Unfortunately, it’s the latter. 

Beijing has been making the right noises about compliance. President Xi Jinping, for instance, pledged China would “completely and fully” enforce the UN’s coercive measures. 

Banning Guns and Muslims Isn’t the Answer to Orlando

The United States suffered the worst act of terrorism since 9/11 over the weekend when ISIS supporter Omar Seddique Mateen killed 50 people and wounded another 53 with a handgun and a .223 rifle at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Americans are good at solving problems. We’ve put men on the moon, cured countless diseases, and invented nearly all modern technology from televisions and telephones to microchips and the Internet. We created a durable democracy that has lasted more than 200 years, ended slavery, destroyed Hitler’s Nazi regime, and bested the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Surely, then, we can solve terrorism, or at least drastically reduce it, but let’s get one thing clear. There is no such thing as The Answer. There is no silver bullet, no magic wand, no perfectly calibrated piece of legislation that Congress can pass to make terrorists leave us alone.

Even if there were such a thing, a government ban wouldn’t be it. If it were so easy, we’d just ban terrorism and be done with it. Yet a large swath of the left wants to solve this with a gun ban, and a large swath of the right wants to ban Muslims.

We’ve never solved any of our great problems with bans. Bans always backfire. Remember Prohibition? How’s the drug war coming along? What does the underground sex industry look like?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she wants stricter gun laws after Orlando. Reasonable people can disagree about the particulars of this or that piece of proposed gun regulation, but Clinton is kidding herself or pulling a fast one on voters by suggesting that better background checks, closing the loopholes at gun shows, or an “assault” rifle ban will prevent terrorists from getting guns.

The Orlando shooter worked as a security guard. He passed all kinds of background checks. He didn’t need to exploit any loopholes at gun shows. If the rifle he used had not been available in stores, he could have bought one on the black market.

France has strict gun laws. France has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. That didn’t stop ISIS from getting its hands on automatic Kalashnikovs seven months ago in Paris and tripling the Orlando shooter’s body count.

Ban guns in stores and at gun shows all you want—it will affect law-abiding citizens, not terrorists. Anything and everything banned by governments just moves to the black market, from guns and drugs to prostitution. According to the National Observatory for Delinquency, the number of illegal weapons in France has been increasing by double-digit percentages for years. Criminals and terrorists don’t need to pass background checks, nor do they need Wal-mart. They buy their guns on the street.

Even a draconian absolute gun ban wouldn’t work. Under what theory would a war on guns work any better than the war on drugs? Does anyone seriously believe that the government could ever take so many weapons away from so many people that terrorists would have to resort to running around with butter knives? Come on.

The French gun ban accomplished a grand total of jack squat last year when ISIS hit Paris. And Mohammad Atta’s crew killed thousands of people on 9/11 armed with nothing but box cutters.

Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States is even more ludicrous. The vast majority of guns are never used in mass shootings, and the vast majority of Muslims never commit acts of terrorism.

Almost three million Muslims live in the United States. The percentage who have blown up or shot anyone is only slightly more than one in a million.

The Muslim world is enormous and varied. A ban on all Muslims would be a de-facto ban on the Kurds, and the Kurds are America’s best friends in the entire Middle East. They’re more militantly anti-ISIS than anyone else in the world, and they’ve supplied most of the ground troops against ISIS.

Here’s what my Kurdish friend Ejder Memis wrote on Facebook today. “Let me offer my commiserations to the LGBT community for the savage murder of 50 and the maiming of as many in [an] Orlando gay club by an Islamofascist terrorist.” After getting that out of the way, he goes after the Orlando shooter’s father who said that what his son did had nothing to do with religion. “Where were you when ISIS killed, raped and pillaged their way across Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan? Where were you when they attempted a genocide on Yazidis, enslaved 'infidel' girls and women, cut off heads and burnt prisoners? Where were you when they blew up worshipers in churches and peaceful protesters in Suruc and Ankara? Where were you when they threw gays off the roof tops? Pray tell you were not at a 'No to Islamophobia' march rubbing shoulders with those who would rather see you dead.”

Raise your hand if you think America will be safer if the man who wrote that can’t come here.

Should the United States be more careful about who it lets in? Absolutely. But here’s a not-so secret secret about Middle Easterners—many of them are more clear-eyed than Westerners are about the likes of ISIS.

Banning all of them with a blind and blunt instrument probably wouldn’t directly help ISIS recruitment as much as Clinton alleges. Psychopathic totalitarians are not provoked by Western illiberalism. They are, on the contrary, provoked by Western liberalism. Who thinks the Orlando shooter just randomly chose a gay night club?

Banning all Muslims would, however, sour America’s good relationships with moderate Muslims and their governments from Morocco and Tunisia to Jordan and Azerbaijan. And it would profoundly alienate the Muslims who already live here, which could make them more susceptible to radicalization down the road.

In any case, the Orlando shooter was born in America. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban wouldn’t have touched him. 

So what’s the answer? The answer is that The Answer doesn’t exist.

We can start, though, by destroying the Islamic State. That would do a lot more good than preventing me from buying a gun, and it would do even more good than preventing my Kurdish friends from visiting Washington. ISIS can recruit and inspire people far more easily if it looks like it’s winning rather than losing. Even if it isn’t winning per se, if it simply looks durable and permanent, it can and does recruit and inspire people.

Destroying the ISIS “state” in Syria and Iraq won’t kill the ideology, obviously. The ideology will live on, almost certainly for the rest of our lives. Nazis and Communists still exist, after all. They are, however, a lot less dangerous now that Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union are buried.

When Downsizing is a Good Thing for a State

The following is and interview with Ian Lustick, a Professor of Political Science at the
University of Pennsylvania.

MOTYL: Professor Lustick, let’s begin the conversation with your provocative theory of “right-sizing” states. What’s the gist?

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