I watched the President’s comments from the G20 summit earlier today and listened with a growing sense of weariness and depression as he announced that he would double down on his current, er… for lack of a better word I’ll say “strategy.” As France declared that they were in a state of war and scrambled to find additional threats, the debate here in the United States heated up. Still, it’s seems the President is resolute in continuing his current policy which doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much of anything.
I’m guessing that the White House was telegraphing its punches because some of the usual voices who would prefer not to say anything unpleasant about our enemies were at the ready with stern words for anyone suggesting that perhaps it was time to get off our collective behinds and actually slay this monster. One of the first, of course, was Paul Krugman. Writing at the New York Times, Paul reminds us all to be strong and not start Fearing Fear Itself.
Like millions of people, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris, putting aside other things to focus on the horror. It’s the natural human reaction. But let’s be clear: it’s also the reaction the terrorists want. And that’s something not everyone seems to understand.
Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause.
After that confusing introduction, Krugman goes on for twelve more paragraphs, reminding everyone that ISIS isn’t powerful enough to actually conquer and take over France. They are bad fellows to be sure, but Paul wants us all to remember that we’re only being attacked by them because Bush invaded Iraq and we certainly don’t want to make that mistake again by overreacting to six score dead Parisians. And we most certainly don’t want to go getting all Islamophobic and rejecting refugees or anything.
The one thing that Krugman never actually gets around to in his lengthy missive is suggesting what we should actually do. We just shouldn’t be afraid, because then the terrorists have won.
There’s what could be considered a companion piece – almost as if they were cribbing off each other’s papers – from Peter Beinart over at The Atlantic. Titled, ISIS Is Not Waging a War Against Western Civilization, it follows a similar pattern. Rather than discussing the rapidly filling morgues in Paris or the evils of the enemy, Beinart opens with a quick shot across the bow at Ted Cruz and then focuses on one comment made by Marco Rubio.
“The attacks in Paris,” Rubio began, “are a wake-up call.” Forgive the pedantry, but this is among the stupidest clichés in politics. Wake-up calls are things you plan yourself because you want to be awoken from your slumber at a set time, usually by a hotel clerk. The Paris attack was a horrific surprise orchestrated by France’s enemies. It wasn’t a “wake-up call” unless you believe its ultimate author was France itself.
The linguistic weirdness continues a couple of lines later. “This is not a geopolitical issue where they want to conquer territory and it’s two countries fighting against each other,” Rubio declared. “They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical, Sunni Islamic view of the future. This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations.” Notice that Rubio never explicitly defines who “they” are. According to the French government, the Islamic State perpetrated Friday’s attacks. Rubio, however, said what occurred in Paris is a “clash of civilizations.”
If you’re waiting for a discussion of the merits of various proposals for how to deal with ISIS you’ll be waiting a long time. Much like Krugman, Beinart meanders on for an eternity picking apart each word in Rubio’s comment, mincing semantics and explaining why any failures in his specific wording must mean he’s just plain wrong about everything. He also insists that ISIS doesn’t hate us for our freedoms or the many other complaints they have with us. They are, Beinart explains, simply fighting a war for territory and they’re only attacking the people who actively oppose them in their caliphate. (Peter never goes quite so far as to say we wouldn’t have these problems if we just gave them the territory so I won’t accuse him of that today.)
All of this haughty discourse fails to answer some basic questions. What about fundamental decency and the battle of good versus evil? Do either of these authors for a moment doubt that ISIS is the distilled essence of evil in the modern world? We’re talking about Christians being raped, enslaved and beheaded. People are having their throats cut in the sands and are burned alive in steel cages to the sounds of terrorist applause. And after Paris, should we assume that they aren’t already working on a similar terrorist smuggling plan via the Syrian refugee highway for an attack on America? You know… since they already said they were?
Nobody is talking about fearing them or respecting their reasons. We’re talking about killing them in droves. We’re talking about not just taking back the lands they have stolen but liberally watering those lands with the blood of our enemies. And when it comes to the Syrian “refugees” we’re talking about common sense defenses against a tactic which has already been revealed in horrific action. Is there no room in your collective view for the idea of America taking action simply because there is a vast, dark pool of evil spilling over its banks in Syria and Iraq and someone needs to stop it?
Stop making excuses and put on your big boy pants, gentlemen. This is war, whether Obama seeks it or not. And if he won’t lead us we need to find someone else who will.