Here we go again.
Yesterday, another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, was shown in a barbaric, brutal video being beheaded by the militant Islamic organization, Islamic State, also known as ISIS. This comes two weeks after the same group, and the same knife-wielding ISIS member, executed another kidnapped American, James Foley.
The American administration’s response to these threatening videos, since the videos’ purpose is to intimidate the United States into stopping its airstrikes against the group, was to publicly state that it will “degrade and destroy” ISIS, or ISIL as Obama calls them.
So the cycle continues. With no foreseeable end in sight.
There is absolutely no way to end this madness, this terror, by the “eye for an eye” mentality. For every airstrike we carry out, another anti-American mind will be created. For every ISIS member we take out, another will be recruited. All we need to do is ask Israel if their missile strikes into Gaza have ever led to lasting peace in their country. For that matter, all we need to do is ask Hamas if their attacks on Israel have solved anything.
It sounds cliche and a bit 60’s hippie-ish to say this, but violence will most certainly never guarantee peace.
Now with that being said, let’s be clear. I am also not saying that doing nothing, or giving in to terrorist demands will lead to any of us sleeping, or traveling to the Middle East or anywhere, without any further thoughts that we could be a target for some anti-American nutcase. I am not that naive.
But what history has largely proven, especially in the Middle East, where the passions are so deep-rooted, is that no amount of expensive weaponry can dig those sentiments out. Kill a child’s father or mother or sister and you have just about guaranteed another generation of someone who is dedicated to carrying on the fight, who will dedicate their life to hating you and retaliating in some way.
Right now there are a lot of war hawks in the U.S., on both sides, who think Obama is being way too soft about all this, that he is making America look weak to groups like ISIS. But I have zero doubt that behind the scenes the Obama administration is far into plans to exact revenge on ISIS. Remember, this is the same administration that took out Osama Bin Laden in a covert operation and has done the same with many other al Queda leaders. So I don’t doubt that the U.S. and its allies will find a way to get to and capture or kill the ISIS soldier in those beheading videos. And don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a part of me that looks forward to seeing that. I am human and have that urge for revenge like anyone else.
But despite that base feeling, I also know that the only real solution to ending these videos and actions, to stopping the next inevitable clash between Israel and Hamas, the hatred toward the West and especially the U.S. that so many have, is a real long term change in foreign policy and attitudes. I am not saying this will be easy, especially when the sides are seemingly diametrically opposed, as with Israel and the Palestinians. And let’s face it, so much of the anti-American hatred over there comes from Muslims who see us as nothing but a supporter for Israel’s position and therefore condoning what Israel does. Barring the elimination of the religious positions that also justify to some on both sides the righteousness of their actions, our goal in the long run should be nothing more than diplomatic efforts and humanitarian aid to any side that needs it. There simply is no short term solution, no matter how satisfying it might seem to strike back.
Here’s what I know: the root of most wars, and this is a war too, is usually either religiously-based or power-based. We cannot deny that religion and the desire for power are at play in the Middle East. Do we really expect to solve those issues with missiles, bombs or even Seal Team 6?
If we want to end this, to stop having to wait for the next kidnapping or beheading video, we really do have to put away the weapons and recognize, despite the appearance of weakness, the only real path to peace is the long, hard work of rebuilding relationships and recognizing that groups like ISIS indeed need to be stopped. But the best way for us to do that is to support the people of Syria and other Muslims in their missions to stop ISIS. And the way to do that is to show them that we are on the side of the people, and really mean it. Which means showing them fairness and rethinking certainly policies regarding the Palestinians and Syria and others in that region.
It would be nice if just killing someone in retaliation solved our problem, but any student of history knows when it comes to dealing with extremists, killing always leads to more killing, to the next generation of hate. Let’s respond to these videos in a real meaningful way and show real courage, which means long term change. It won’t be an easy solution, but revenge is not getting us anywhere either.