President Obama has been roundly criticized for his “policy” of “when you don’t know what to do, try not to do something stupid.” This criticism is unwarranted.
Consider the videoed executions of two American journalists. Just these two acts has the neocons frothing at the mouth, saying “We must do something, anything (war, actually), to stop this!” I. too, would like to see this stopped, but the process in my mind doesn’t start with “war” as the only option. I start with the Five Whys and you probably only need one or two “whys” to see the motives behind this. And, I really would like to understand their motives before I decide on a course of action because, otherwise, I might just do what they want me to do, which will be “something stupid,” by definition.
So, why is ISIS/ISIL doing this? How does this benefit them? The simplest answer is that they are doing a box office business in kidnapping ransoms. Kidnapping ransoms have been in the millions of dollars for individual Europeans. But Great Britain and the U.S. have policies that their governments do not pay ransoms (although private citizens may). The argument is “if it works for the kidnappers, then the result will be more kidnappings.” (Even free market conservatives should be able to understand that.) So, since ransoms are not being paid ($132,000,000 was requested for the return of one of the American journalists subsequently assassinated) these public assassinations are designed to goad the U.S. and G.B. into doing so. And, talk about ROI; a cell phone video uploaded to YouTube, a sharp knife, and plastic handcuffs cost very little.
Let’s not stop there, let’s ask “why” one more time. So, why is ISIS/ISIL doing this?
Another reason is to goad the U.S. to getting involved in the land war again. Remember Osama bin Laden? He stated quite publically the goal that he wanted to get the U.S. to engage in war in the Middle East so as to bankrupt us. A couple of trillion dollars later and, well, did we learn anything? The results of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars? The region is no better off, one could say is worse off, than it was before. So, obviously, our position should be “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (It is if you ask John McCain.)
U.S. involvement in a ground war in the Middle East has done wonders for recruitment and funding for radicals there. Huge amounts of the money we spent there went to lining the pockets of corrupt officials who then ended up supporting one or another of the currently warring factions. Once you get a taste for American money, it is hard to give it up, so they want more. They don’t particularly care if hundreds or hundreds of thousands of civilians get killed as collateral damage, it is all good. Recruiting is good, there are plenty of weapons and cash flying about. Hoo rah!
So, President Obama’s policy of “not doing anything stupid” comes into play here, quite nicely as a matter of fact. Doing what they want us to do would be stupid. Going back in to “clean out ISIS/ISIL” would be stupid, because we would either leave (stupid) or stay (stupid) afterward. So, what should we do?
To begin with, we should stop showing videoed executions. It is that simple. Remember back in the last century when people/fans used to run out on the playing fields during professional sporting events, often without any clothes on (Streakers!)? Have you noticed that does happen any more (the exception being soccer as they haven’t figured it out)? This “problem” was solved quite simply. The leagues got the people under contract to broadcast their games to not display the people running around on the field. So, the idiots doing this could not go home and show the recorded video to all of their friends and neighbors because there was no video record. The payoff for the idiocy on the field was they got a night in jail and a fine, and no notoriety.
But, but, if we, the public, aren’t informed as to what is going on, how will we know what policy to support? Hello, what planet did you wake up on? Our governments don’t even pay lip service to serving the public any more. If our politicians actually listened to us, we would have legalized pot, we would have mandatory background checks for all firearm purchases, we would have “jobs, jobs, jobs,” food stamps for poor people, universal health care, etc., etc. Public notice of such assassinations can be made in small text only boxes on “page 2” as it were. To put things into perspective, remember the PBS honor roll of the soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan on Friday of every week. Name after name of young men whose lives were cut off before they could fulfill their destinies, every damned week. And we are going to war over a couple of journalists? (I do not trivialize the personal loss, but merely would like to bring things into perspective.)
If ISIS/ISIL doesn’t get all of the free publicity we are currently providing, they will probably stop because the ROI is vanishingly small. Why assassinate Americans when Europeans will pay for their kidnapped? Playing an assassination video in just the Islamic World may acquire a few recruits but the lack of evidence that they mean anything in the US will relegate them to “been there, done that” status and so will prove ineffective for the purposes outline above.
Hey, gang, I’ve an idea! Let’s not do anything stupid!