Hysteria. That’s what I am witnessing. Plain hysteria.
It is one thing for John McCain and other Republicans to go on television, time after time, and argue that we need to do more to defeat ISIS, by which they mean defining the effort in terms of a religious war and bringing in American combat troops to fight and die in that war. I have come to expect such talk from warmongering right-wingers.
But it is another thing altogether to hear liberals arguing for the McCain Doctrine, a strategy that if followed to its logical conclusion would have us occupying several more countries, losing thousands more lives and spending trillions more dollars.
Last night I heard Ed Schultz on MSNBC say that the beheading of Egyptian Christians by ISIS zealots in Libya “amounts to a religious war” and that “what we’re doing isn’t strong enough, isn’t working.” He offered this criticism of Obama’s declaration about combat troops:
As I see it, the United States is going to have to have continual review of its strategy. We can’t sit back here and watch hordes of people get their heads cut off. And why would we tell ISIS there’s no way we would ever put ground troops in combat situations?
Shultz wasn’t alone on MSNBC. Later Chris Matthews chimed in on the mass murder of Coptic Christians in Libya:
What can we do? Can we do nothing? …We can’t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the sports page or the financial news or what’s at the movies or who’s going to win the Oscars and act like America, our country, is not being morally humiliated, because it is, with the lives of at least some of these people, who must, in their last minutes, have to be wondering if there’s any chance the people in the United States could be coming to their rescue because that’s how we were taught that we conduct ourselves. We don’t leave people behind.
I don’t know where Matthews has been. I don’t know what Ed Schultz has been smoking. But we are doing something about ISIS. It’s not like ISIS is some powerful, unconquerable army having their way while we, the United States, are ignoring them. We are killing the bastards every day from the air. We, along with Kurdish fighters and others, are helping to stop their advancement.
But I’m afraid ISIS is succeeding in doing what it is they want to do in another, perhaps more important, sense: they are slowly convincing people that we should see this as a religious war and that we should send American and other Western troops to fight them so they can, as their apocalyptic theological nonsense informs them, usher in the end of this world.
CNN’s National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen, explains:
A key window into understanding ISIS is its English language “in-flight magazine” Dabiq. Last week the seventh issue of Dabiq was released, and a close reading of it helps explains ISIS’ world view.
The mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor. Instead, as the magazine documents, its ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.
The name of the Dabiq magazine itself helps us understand ISIS’ worldview. The Syrian town of Dabiq is where the Prophet Mohammed is supposed to have predicted that the armies of Islam and “Rome” would meet for the final battle that will precede the end of time and the triumph of true Islam.
In the recent issue of Dabiq it states: “As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubrā, (‘the Great Battle’ to be held at Dabiq) the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.” In other words, in its logic, you are either on the side of ISIS or you are on the side of the Crusaders and infidels.
When American aid worker Peter Kassig was murdered by ISIS in November, “Jihadi John” — the masked British murderer who has appeared in so many ISIS videos — said of Kassig: “We bury the first crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the rest of your armies to arrive.”
In other words, ISIS wants a Western ground force to invade Syria, as that will confirm the prophecy about Dabiq.
Unfortunately, public opinion has been swinging in the direction of giving ISIS what it wants. A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 58% of Americans now think, quite wrongly, that our military action against ISIS is “going poorly.” That’s up from 49% last October. But here is CNN’s scariest and most troubling graphic:
As you can see, the country is divided on the matter of ground troops. However, back in September of last year, only 38% of respondents favored “sending ground troops into combat” against ISIS. Something has obviously happened to change minds. And if you think it is the way journalists, particularly on television, have reported on ISIS and its evil doings, you are right.
ISIS manipulates the news cycle at will. These terrorist freaks are doing everything they can to bring about their imaginary end-times apocalypse, and that involves broadcasting, or getting others to broadcast, horrific images or stories about horrific murders all over the world. And if we put American combat soldiers into the mix of actions we are undertaking to destroy ISIS, we are playing right into the freaks’ deluded strategy. And if President Obama starts officially referring to this as a war against a form of Islam, as many people are suggesting he do, then we are characterizing the fight exactly the way the jihadists want us to.
Beyond all that, all those people out there who are itching to send in American soldiers to die in a ground war with ISIS should be required to tell us just exactly what will come next. What will come after we have defeated ISIS? How long will we occupy Iraq and Syria and Yemen and now Libya in order to make sure they don’t come back? What other countries are we prepared to occupy, after radical religious zealots pop up and start murdering elsewhere? And how many dead Americans will it take before we are no longer “morally humiliated” by a band of Islamist fanatics with guns and little else besides small slices of territory here and there that they are constantly having to defend?
The truth is that we are right to fight ISIS. A lot of the reason there is an ISIS is because of a colossal mistake we made in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which triggered destabilization across the region. But our fight shouldn’t involve ground troops. As many have said, there are plenty of reasons for the regional parties to get involved with combat troops, many of them existential reasons. We shouldn’t let them off the hook by doing the job for them, especially since it will inevitably be a never-ending job.