How Not to Respond to Terrorism


The French are attacking ISIS, as we all expected them to. Well, at last those of us who know history, and know that the French military has always been a force to reckon with. Anyhow, they’re bombing the shit out of the targets in Syria, and will no doubt kill a large number of ISIS personnel.

129 people were killed, so far, in the attacks in Paris, which is terrible. But how many more innocent people are dying as a result of the response? I’m willing to bet the number ends up being a lot more than 129, but, hey, it’s their fault for living in Syria and not trying to get out, right?

Attacking someone violently who has hurt you feels good. It makes you feel powerful and superior. It’s also a terrible idea in general, and a really terrible idea in cases like this. I mean, what, you surely don’t think that ISIS launched these attacks saying, “No, the French won’t attack us. No one will.”

No, they launched the attacks hoping to get exactly the kind of response that they’re getting. They want the violence. They want the death, and giving your enemy what they want is generally a bad move. The French attacks on them are a great publicity coup, and will help mightily in recruitment. You doubt me? Put yourself in the shoes of a 20 year old Syrian man whose mother was killed by a French bomb and tell me you wouldn’t want revenge. Hell, you’re probably just some American sitting at your desk reading this, and you already want revenge against ISIS. Now make it even more personal.

Violence begats violence, because of course it does. We have to stop lashing out militarily when bad shit like this goes down. It never works, it kills a lot more innocent people (100,000 plus in Iraq as a direct result of our invasion and the fallout from it), and it’s a waste of time and money.

You know what would be far better? Leading by example. Showing the world that we’re the better man by not using our military and simply showing how terrified we are, and what a bully we are. No, preach peace, preach justice, keep the military away from it all, and treat it like the crime that it is. Arrest those responsible, when you can, try them, and imprison them.

I’ll admit, that’s difficult in a situation like this, where ISIS was inspiring/directing from a distance, but even with this kind of situation, the best should do is support local opposition to ISIS. Even then we have to be careful. Historically it’s rather embarrassing, after all, when the dictator we prop up fights back against people wanting democracy and uses weapons we gave him to do so. So to when someone sees their village flattened by weapons that are stamped with, “MADE IN THE USA”.

But we can fight ISIS and the like in other ways, such as various economic means, plus isolating them as much as possible from the rest of the world. We can also continue to be vigilant and do our best to stop any terrorism here by Americans or from people overseas.

I know this is lots less sexy, and slower, and far more uncertain, than invading countries, bombing cities, and otherwise bullying our way around the world. But I’m willing to take that over the certainty of more violence, where the only “certain” things are more death, and more terrorists.

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