observations and opinion
As the smoke clears and the blood is washed from the streets of Beirut and Paris, we see political arguments shifting like iron filings towards the magnetic poles of right and left. What shall we do now, about terrorism and the war in Syria?
Those on the “right” are saying things like this: (1) let’s form a military coalition to go after ISIS (2) put boots on the ground to do it (3) there’s something seriously wrong with Islam if it spawns people like this and (4) for God’s sake, don’t open the gates of our countries to refugees from Syria, when those masses may contain more of the people who committed atrocities in Paris last week.
On the “left” we hear this: (1) don’t blame Islam or Muslims – that’s “racist” (2) Muslims are in fact the victims here, because of bigotry (3) the last western military incursion started all this, we don’t need more wars and (4) keep the refugees coming.
My own views tend to blur across the sharp divide, but if we are serious about doing something different and if we really want to solve the humanitarian and terror crises that have exploded out of Syria, here’s a modest suggestion: ask a Syrian refugee what to do.
What that refugee will tell you, I’d warrant, is this:
Now, the unfortunate reality is that foreign countries are divided about what to do about the Assad regime that still clings to “power” in what is left of Syria. Some of us want them out, some want them right where they are. The United States (and others) chose not to apply sufficient force to pry Assad loose, helping extend an intractable civil war that many, including the viperous Vladimir Putin, seem inclined to exploit.
European and U.S. geopolitical arguments, not to mention regional ones (Iran v. Saudi Arabia, Iraq’s Shiite revenge on its Sunnis, the Arab Spring and its aftershocks, etc) make Syria a complex problem open to no easy answers. However, there is a rapidly forming unanimity of view that “the Caliphate” is too sick, too rich, too unpredictable, too irrational and too dangerous to be left in place. Everyone’s interests are threatened by it.
France, rightly enough, has declared war on ISIS and we can only hope it finds muscular support among other countries. And it should – look at a partial list of places hit by ISIS, its allies or its predecessor Al Qaeda: Sweden, Kenya, Canada, Turkey, Kurd territories, France (multiple times), the United States, Egypt, Russia, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria (every minute of every hour). There are no acceptable reasons to stay out of the fight against the so-called Caliphate.
Snuffing out ISIS will be a big, long, bloody, brutal business. We cannot relish the fight or underestimate the price. But restoring relative order in what used to be Syria and Iraq will relieve pressure on all the surrounding countries and, in time, create a road home to repatriate those temporarily exiled from the killing fields now controlled by the Caliphate.
A range of countries which neither like nor trust each other, now have a common enemy and can find a common purpose. If they don’t, we can resign ourselves to a perpetual twilight of bomb detectors, armed guards, terror alerts, body searches, surveillance cameras, preventive arrests and privacy violations, all to stave off the oil-fuelled, fantasy-filled ideological depredations of a steadily growing enemy.
We either fight to liberate those already enslaved, or become steadily and incrementally enslaved ourselves: refugees in our own land, fleeing from terror every day, by inches.