I’ve written in these pages that 11 September 2001 was the day we discovered our government was either stupid or evil, and to this day we’re afraid to find out which. Now we’re hearing that the terrorist group ISIS is already ensconced here in the US, just waiting for the right moment to strike.
Our leadership is trying hard to present themselves as ‘not stupid:’ if, indeed, there is a terrorist attack, we won’t be able to say they didn’t warn us.
But if they’re not stupid, then they would have to be….
Hold that thought for a moment.
We, the United States, built ISIS.
We built ISIS the same way we built al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein. They served our purpose… until they didn’t.
In the particular case of ISIS, we wanted to go after the Syrian government, but the political will for a direct military response wasn’t there. So we enlisted the help of the ‘moderate Syrian rebels,’ only later coming to understand that there was no such thing.
There are two rational ways to deal with ISIS:
- Acknowledge (even if only to ourselves) that we’ve made a mistake, and do our best to undo it. That means not only ‘boots on the ground,’ but whatever it takes to grind them into oblivion, followed by an extended occupation so they don’t get back up.
- Acknowledge further that whatever efforts to undo the situation will only make matters worse: resist the urge to do something in the face of ISIS atrocities, stop supporting them, and let them burn themselves out.
Of course, we’re doing neither of those, outsourcing the dirty work to ‘carefully vetted moderate’ rebels, even though that approach got us into this mess in the first place.
Maybe I just don’t understand things. Maybe sleazy geopolitical gamesmanship is simply the way of the world.
I do understand, however, that if ISIS commits terrorism here, it will also be an event of our own making, because, besides building ISIS, we neglected the simple imperative of securing the border.
I also understand that responsible leadership means forestalling crises, not encouraging them. ‘Never let a crisis go to waste’ is the cry of fearmongers and despots.
Evil or stupid?
I’m still not sure, and I don’t think I want to find out.