You (Yes, You) Can Help Defeat ISIS!
ISIS wants us to hate Muslims. In fact, ISIS needs us to hate Muslims. And it’s in our nature to want to blame all Muslims for ISIS and similar organizations. But there are important reasons we should resist that urge.
Lately I’ve attended a number of gatherings about “interfaith relations” – which seems to be code for “the Muslim question.” There have been parallels cited from WWI, in which aliens of German origin were forced to register and, in thousands of instances, were arrested. And of course, in WWII Japanese, German, and Italian aliens were expelled or subject to internment. Japanese resident aliens and Japanese-Americans were by far the most numerous, and are also the most publicized.
Many Christians argue that this was wrong, that thousands of innocents suffered based on the risk that a small number might be a security risk. There seems to be little evidence that internment actually did any good. And the question might be asked, did the ill-will generated actually harm our nation in the long run?
But there’s another, far more practical aspect of these actions: Did internment help or hinder the enemy nations from which these residents originated? Was the German or Japanese war effort affected in any meaningful way by our interment of their citizens? I don’t think so. The internment decision was a moral one based on fears that appear in hindsight to have been unfounded. Internment had no real effect on the war itself.
Times have changed. Our nation’s enemy combatants are no longer nations. They are terrorist groups, paramilitary organizations that seek influence rather than territory or resources. We can’t easily find them, but we need to react against someone. So we react against the people our enemies claim to represent. But what worked against Nazi Germany will not work against ISIS. In fact, it’s what they want us to do.
The majority of Muslims have no interest in supporting ISIS or any other extremist group, any more than the majority of Christians support the KKK or Timothy McVeigh. ISIS wants to change that. And the most powerful tool they have is making Muslims hated by everyone else.
Think about this: if ISIS can get us angry enough to turn on Muslims in general, where will those Muslims turn for support? If ISIS can get us to take actions that make Muslims hate us, ISIS’s message is going to sound more palatable. If we hate Muslims, we’re helping ISIS. It’s what they want. It’s what they need. It’s what every terrorist leader dreams of.
ISIS, and all organizations like it, have a strategy: They attack us. We get angry. We retaliate against Muslims. ISIS gains support.
The bad news is, there’s no military response to a war like this. (Unless we’re willing to commit genocide.) Any military action helps our enemy. Remember Al Queda? They used to be a few guys hiding in caves, planning attacks. After we attacked Iraq, Al Queda became one of the most powerful paramilitary groups in the world.
What eliminated Al Queda was not military action, but intelligence (in the broader governmental sense). Leaders were identified and eliminated. Unfortunately, our government often killed civilians in the process, which created more enemies just waiting for new leaders.
Whether a government can conduct surgical strikes precise enough to eliminate terrorist leaders without harming civilians is a question I can’t answer. But there’s an alternative (and necessary) approach we haven’t taken often enough.
Terrorists are disempowered when we refuse to hate the people they want us to hate. Yes, they’ll try again. Yes, there’s a price for that. But in war, there always is. Doesn’t it make sense to prevent new enemies rather than having to fight them?
ISIS needs us to hate Muslims.
Don’t fall for it.