How does something feel so distant and yet so close at the same time? I kept asking myself this question yesterday during a 9/11 Day of Service. It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting in my German class during third period in High School, waiting for the school news to come on the television. We watched as the regular news channel was showing one of the Twin Towers smoking. None of us knew what had occurred. One of the girls sitting in front of me said, “Look, they’re replaying what happened.” I watched in abject horror, as the second plane crashed into the second tower. What seemed like only several minutes later, our class, my world, and the nation were shock to our corps. A plane crashed into the Pentagon. Our school, my school, was only 15 miles away from the Pentagon.
A stones throw in suburbia.
More importantly many of the teachers and classmates had parents and spouses who worked in the Pentagon. I don’t remember how class was let out. I don’t remember what I did for the rest of the day. I just remember leaving the classroom and immediately trying to call my mom with my cellphone. I couldn’t get through. It seemed like nobody could get through. A week later I made a poster that said “Revenge” on it. A month later I had enlisted in the Army at 17. By 2003, I was in Iraq.
For many of you reading this, you remember where you were and many of you raised your right hand to avenge the deaths of those Americans.
Thirteen years later the world looks less secure than it was in 2001. Ebola rages throughout much of West Africa. Russia has invaded Ukraine. Iraq is in shambles. Syria is in shambles. Fanatical Muslims seem to have only gained ground ideologically across the Middle East. Not to mention the fact that an organization too fanatical to be members of Al Qaeda is now in control of territory larger than Israel and Lebanon. Many of us who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, who watched our brothers and sisters be maimed and killed, who traded the security of life in America for the uncertainty of war, are wondering what it was all for. More importantly, many of us are debating what should be done with ISIS. What was once a discussion by President Obama of propping up Iraq has turned into a conversation about containing, killing, and chasing to the gates of hell members of ISIS. It’s heartbreaking to think that much of this debate centers around the decade plus of war, death, woundings, and money spent in Iraq.
Sometimes the hardest stock to sell is a loser.
The truth is America can fight. If America chooses to destroy your military and country, there isn’t much anybody in this world can do to stop us. Militarily ISIS isn’t a threat to us. Ideologically they are.
A thousand cuts can kill a giant as sure as a stab to the heart can.
On one hand America is stuck with needing to destroy ISIS for our own security, on the other hand America feels the need to protect the country that was supposed to become our counterbalance ally against radicals and Iran. Iraq was supposed to show to the world that a liberal democracy composed of multiple ethnic and religious communities could function in the Middle East. Here’s the reality, we killed Osama bin Laden. Hell I think that we’ve made being the number 2 and number 3 guy in Al Qaeda the least wanted position in history.
Because we are always killing them.
We're in the position that Darth Vader was when he killed Obi Wan Kenobi. That’s not to say that we are the Dark Side, but rather Darth Vader was using force to strike down his enemy, rather than ideology.
The pen is mightier than the sword, because it can motivate more people to pick up the sword.
So what do we do? How does the US protect itself from ISIS? Is it by going in and defeating them militarily? Possibly. But why is America fighting ISIS? How much military equipment have we sold to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and Turkey? ISIS for us at this point in time is an existential threat. For those countries, ISIS is knocking on their doors.
Unless they’ve already let them in, fed them, clothed them, and gave them money. Which for some of those countries listed, is exactly what they have done.
If we do defeat ISIS, who’s side are we on in Syria? It does not seem that the moderates have enough power to fight the fanaticals, and even when “moderates” take over, they still persecute minorities.
And I don’t mean persecute them as in get to the back of the bus. I mean they run them over with a bus.
So is the US willing to side with Assad? If not Assad, who are we willing to support and are we willing to have US troops remain in the region on permanent combat patrols for the next decade?
I don’t have an answer to these questions. But because I don’t have an answer, and it does not seem like the President or anybody in Washington, DC has an answer, I believe that we shouldn’t be rushing off to militarily fight ISIS. The Powell Doctrine is an amazing doctrine. We haven’t followed it since 2001. Maybe it’s time to start following it.
Sun Tzu once said that “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” That doesn't mean that we should be pacifists, that just means that sometimes you can defeat someone without ever firing a shot. Maybe it's time to start making the Arabs fight for the Middle East that they want to live in, rather than diving into their civil wars.