November 18, 2015
Dec. 6 update
I don't know what's up with Xanga, but every new post I write is IMMEDIATELY BELOW this one. So I guess I'm asking you to check the next post down if you want to know my most current thoughts.
Jessica Stern wrote a wonderful piece for Politico that might well be more worth reading than what I've written below. To read it, go to http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/11/the-islamic-state-paradox-213368
Now it's my turn.
After ISIS declared war on Paris Friday night, France has declared war on ISIS and the bombing has started. Whoop-de-doo. Don't get me wrong, I am as Charlie Hebdo as you are, and just as angry and frustrated. I'll even admit -- back in September 2001 -- when we started "bombing the shit," as Donald Trump would say, out of Afghanistan because the Afghans were supposedly harboring Osama bin Laden, my visceral insides were gratified. It felt good, I'm saying, even though my brain was asking, as it is now, "What good will that accomplish?"
It's no secret that every act of revenge amps up the animosity. Creates more terrorists. Sure, it would solve everything if we wiped the enemy out so we could declare "Mission Accomplished" and be as smug as George W. Bush. But that's only if we can do that. And we can't.
The hawks rightly understand that the war on terror will take a long time. I don't mind so much that bombs are being dropped as I object to the fact that nobody is saying what needs to be said. What needs to be said, along with every warlike utterance, is a call for peace, the end of animosity, or a meeting with the "enemy." Something. Anything.
We can bomb. We can answer violence with violence. It's not that I'm against what the hawks want. But I'm saying, offer an olive branch at the same time, and KEEP that olive branch out there and visible and audible.
The REAL enemy is religious fundamentalism -- the idea that one's own religion is the only right one and that everyone else's religion is wrong. But I don't know how to deal with THAT enemy right now. No ideas.
But we do need to have a desire to end the violence. And being violent ourselves just creates more terrorists. I already said that. I'll try not to say it too many more times in this essay.
ISIS recruits around the world. The people they recruit are those who are angry, disenfranchised, poor, underemployed, not particularly bright (sorry about that), and I just got close to the first element in a plan to defeat ISIS, before I got to insulting the intelligence of people who allow themselves to be turned into suicide bombers.
That first element is to move toward a world in which the population of dissatisfied human beings is appreciably and visibly decreasing. Yeah, it's OK to be a bleeding heart liberal.
Those of you who cringe at the thought can at least try to agree with a second element of a plan to win the war on terror, and that would consist of drying up the financing of ISIS. I don't know how you do that exactly, but there are people far smarter than I am who could set themselves to working on the problem. At least there's no violence inherent in that element. None that I can think of, anyway.
But back to the first element. Reducing the agony of the would-be ISIS recruits. Let me go all Pollyanna on you and leave you with a final thought. Edwin Markham said it better than I can in his poem, "Outwitted." Here it is:
He drew a circle that shut me out --
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
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