Columnist: What’s needed to combat ISIS
Do the atrocities in Paris and elsewhere signal the beginning of World War III between the Muslim World and Western civilization? Hardly.
Unlike World War II, in which we were fighting two unified nations (Germany and Japan), our enemy today is nothing more than a lunatic fringe of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. The recent jihadi terrorist attacks are dwarfed by the horrible mass atrocities that killed millions of people in World War II.
But that does not mean that anything less than an all-out effort on all fronts will be necessary for the West to defeat the threat to our way of life that ISIS and its affiliates represent. We must confront them on all fronts, including an appropriate military response, but more importantly an air-tight blockade, destruction of the oil fields and refineries that are financing ISIS, and strengthening the economies of the Middle East Muslim nations to provide job opportunities for the disillusioned and angry young men who are fodder for the jihadi cause.
It is far better to attack ISIS from within instead of launching a massive international military action, which, though appealing to many, would more than likely be impossible to put together, and would probably strengthen support for ISIS among the Muslim populace. Instead, we should give all the support we can to Muslim elements, such as the Kurds, who are taking military action against ISIS and the jihadis.
But our strongest weapon against these radical groups would be economic support similar to the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt the economies of Germany and Japan after World War II and created strong bonds between them and the United States ever since.
Such a program would be likely to win over the vast majority of Muslims who have no desire to live under ISIS rule. For every jihadi dancing in the streets to celebrate terrorist attacks on the West, there are probably at least 10,000 Muslims whose sympathies are with the innocent victims of those attacks. (After the 2001 demolition of the World Trade Center by Muslim terrorists, we had the sympathy and support of a majority of Muslims world-wide, until we launched our ill-advised invasion of Iraq.)
Winning over a preponderant Muslim majority would not only reduce support for ISIS and the terrorists, but would also give the West valuable intelligence to aid in ridding the world of this cancer in our civilization. It would also be much less costly in lives and money than an all-out war against ISIS.
We are fighting the grip that a religion, no matter how misguided, can be used by evil leaders to manipulate the masses into serving their purposes. Religion, when used in this manner, can become the curse of mankind.
An example is German Nazism prior to and during World War II, which under Adolf Hitler gained the status of a religion, taking a whole country with it.
It has ever been thus — witness the centuries of atrocities between Catholics and Protestants, and now between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and between ISIS and Western civilization. Where they are in control, these fanatics are busy brainwashing the young to grow up to hate and kill all “non-believers.”
Unfortunately, not without some justification, due to the history of Western domination over and exploitation of the Middle East. We need to counter jihadi propaganda with an enlightened economic program that will convince a Muslim majority that we offer them a better future than returning to a seventh-century lifestyle under an ISIS caliphate.
The Western powers need to deny ISIS a safe haven in the failed states of Iraq and Syria, where the terrorists are free to plan their strategies for attacks around the world. This means investing in building governments that can restore stability and stamp out terrorist groups in those countries.
The West also needs to eliminate encryption of e-mail messages so the terrorists can no longer communicate their plotting in secret. Some may argue that this would be an invasion of our privacy. But how much privacy did we have before the Internet, when communication by telephone could easily be wiretapped? In today’s world it may be necessary for us to give a little of our privacy for our own safety.
The Western nations will have to take united action employing all of the powers at their disposal to defeat ISIS and improve relations with the people of the Muslim heartland if they really want to restore civility to the world.
Hal Sundin’s “As I See It” column appears on the first Thursday of the month.
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