Crisis over ISIS

I haven’t blogged about ISIS until now because I’m in a crisis over ISIS. My laptop bears a sticker with the slogan “War is Not the Answer.” I’ve been a lifelong pacifist, joined the Quakers, and freely quote Gandhi’s famed dictum “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I don’t grow weepy when I hear the “Star Spangled Banner,” nor do I thank anyone in uniform for protecting my “freedom.” That hasn’t been objectively true since 1945, and the only soldiers I truly respect are those who know exactly what they’re signing up for—not the testosterone-poisoned crowd that thinks the military is a live action video game, or the selfish ones just looking for college money and hope all they have to do is wear camo to class and do some spirited marching.
Do we just shoot this dog?

These days, though, I more annoyed by the Hugs, Puppies, and Rainbows (HPR) crowd—the kind who insist that the U.S.A. helped create groups like ISIS so we need to “understand” them and “work toward dialogue” with them. ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other such crazies have shaken my faith in my own pacifism. I find myself agreeing with military leaders who say we cannot talk with them, we must exterminate them. I also find myself agreeing with those who argue we are in the midst of a global culture war in which Western values are fundamentally at odds with radical Islam.

I know, of course, that American policy did help create many of the problems we now seek to redress. I know that we supported Osama bin Laden and channeled funds to him when his mujahedeen was fighting the Soviet Union. I know that Ronald Reagan and both Bushes sucked up to the Saudis—the world’s number one exporter of terrorism--like hungry orphan infants, and that Damned Old Fool Reagan supported Saddam Hussein as well. I realize that many of our problems stem from electing idiots as commanders-in-chief. And yet… I’m shocked by how quickly and glibly HPR Americans have come to accept the “It’s all our fault” thesis. Does anyone remember how Ward Churchill was crucified for saying that 9/11 victims deserved their fate? What cause or injustice, I must ask, justifies sending suicide bombers onto a Tel Aviv bus? What justifies trying to bring down passenger jets? Or beheading someone in the name of Allah (whom jihadists insult by assuming he would need someone as monstrous as they to mete out justice)?  

I also know, objectively, that the world contains 1.6 billion Muslims and that most are good folks. It sounds clichéd, but it’s true—I have Muslim friends. I know that there are Zionist warmongers and that Christianity looks pretty awful when refracted through the lens of anti-abortionist bombers or Westboro Baptist bigots. Yet… It was Muslims who pulled off 9/11, beheaded Daniel Pearl (remember him?), strapped bombs to Palestinian children, shot a 13-year-old girl who wanted to go to school, encase their women in hoods, bombed Buddhist holy sites, leave a trail of headless corpses across Syria and Iraq,  and speak of using metaphorical swords to force the world to kneel to their god.  Sure—these are zealots. But I can’t agree that that they are inconsequential. Revolutions do not need majorities to wreak havoc or succeed—they need only a “critical” mass. I fear that critical point is approaching, and that the views of most Muslims are being subsumed in the hegemonic madness of its zealots. Alas, the biggest difference between jihadists and other religious crazies is that the latter truly are marginal and troublesome only on an individual basis.

We must be clear about all of this. Maybe the USA did contribute to the monsters we now battle, but when one encounters a rabid dog, does one stop to ask how it acquired its sickness? Or does one just shoot it? The HPR crowd embarrasses me when they speak of reasoning with monsters such as ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, or the Taliban; they also insult their victims and survivors. Invite the mad dog into the living room to see if loving kindness will cure him? I don’t think so.

I’m still conflicted about what to do. The only thing I know for sure is that, as bad as he is, Assad is preferable to any of the Syrian rebels. (So was Saddam in Iraq, by the way.)  Only the HPR still believe in Arab Spring or in “moderate” rebels, the latter an oxymoron if ever one was constructed. I’m conflicted as I can possibly be about what the US role should be, but there’s a side of me that thinks it’s all  well and good to quote Gandhi—unless you’re the last person with sight in a roomful of the blind and there’s someone coming at you with a pointed stick. I want to believe that reasonable people can solve problems in a reasonable way, or that one can bring down repression non-violently--­like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Vaclav Havel did. But I’m not sure anyone should try to reason with mad dogs. You cannot speak to me of justice whilst committing atrocities in its name.  

Right now my position is as hypocritical as it can possibly be. I still call myself a pacifist, but I shed no tears when the mad dogs are put down. And I silently root for whomever is doing it—Kurds, Israelis, the Indian government, Afghani tribesmen, or US bombers.

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