OPINION – Spirits in The City of Light remain darkened in the aftermath of a bloody siege that left more than 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.
The terrorist attack by ISIS, a pack of killers that makes al-Qaeda look like a bunch of choirboys, was vicious, horrific, an insult to humanity and further evidence that we have lost our dignity and grace as a species.
What we are left with is anger, fear and — most of all — confusion.
We’re angry for the senseless loss of life, fearful that the violence could — and most likely will — spread to other places on the globe and confusion over why this occurred, how it occurred and what it all means.
There were knee-jerk responses from those who squealed that none of this would have happened if those Parisians had been packing heat. This, of course, is ludicrous. A handgun does little to quell rapid-fire rounds exploding from snipers with AK-47 weapons and suicide bombers wearing explosive vests.
There were also knee-jerk responses from those who demanded immediate retaliation by bombing ISIS “into submission.” The only problem is, ISIS is really not a nation, just as al-Qaeda is not, so where do you strike without killing innocent civilians? It is an alliance of radical fundamentalist terrorists for whom home is wherever they hang their weapons of death.
Terrorists scatter like cockroaches when a light is flipped on, scurrying far and wide for shelter. They don’t congregate in large groups, are not a unified nation and are as likely — as we have learned — to be living in the French countryside as they are in a remote corner of an arid desert.
There isn’t a better-trained or more technologically advanced military in the world than that assembled by the United States.
Our sailors, soldiers, airmen and women are the best and they have, at their fingertips, the most efficient, accurate, advanced tools of war available, capable of winning any conventional engagement against any foe.
But this battlefield is not level and what our troops are experiencing now is anything but conventional warfare.
No matter how well-trained or well-armed, our military is at a disadvantage when faced with suicide bombers and guerilla fighters.
We were powerful and decisive during World Wars I and II. We started having difficulty in Korea, then Vietnam, when suddenly our military was facing an unknown enemy. The two excursions into the Persian Gulf, in 1990 and 2003, amplified the problem.
It’s difficult to engage the enemy when you don’t know who or where the enemy is. To simply go in and kill vast numbers of humans — as we did in Korea, Vietnam and twice in the Persian Gulf — is immoral. We cannot stomp out terrorism by taking out chunks of an innocent civilian population. We also cannot excise the guerillas from the general population because there is no way to determine friend from foe, which is why these conflicts in the Middle East will see no end.
Besides, ISIS is more of a thing than a place, even though it has seized a stretch of land that crosses from Syria to Iraq and has taken control of enough oil fields to earn itself about $3 million a day on the black market.
If it were a nation, it would be a different matter. It is difficult to defeat a movement such as ISIS which is rooted in archaic fundamentalism that is, in some ways, strikingly similar to that of fundamentalists the world over who share ISIS’ opposition to LGBT rights, demand that women should be subservient to men and believe in theocracy over democracy, including aligning the educational system with religious beliefs rather than science.
There’s also the nasty bit about a woman’s reproductive rights, the oppression of freedoms for every religion but the one they espouse, and that it is acceptable to overthrow governments if they do not follow the tenets of fundamentalism. It comes together in an effort to accelerate the apocalypse, which they believe will preserve the righteous and deliver torment to nonbelievers. It’s the heart of fundamentalism, a dangerous, merciless, unforgiving principle that is unyielding because it is the only reality these practitioners of such beliefs know.
So what we are left with is the dismal reality of trying to fight a cultural war that has been raging without rest for thousands of years against an enemy who would rather die than surrender.
What this means, sadly, is that we can count on the United States, Great Britain, and other allies to up the ante and spend a fortune in lives and treasure by sending more and more troops into harm’s way for the continuation of a war that will have no resolution.
We will never get a handle on the Middle East.
You cannot cajole them.
You cannot control them, even if you bomb them back into the Stone Age.
We have fought this so-called War on Terror for too long now, applying a strategy that, obviously, does not work.
All we have done is give birth to a bigger, more forceful, and more dangerous enemy by trying to force Western principles onto a culture that rejects them unilaterally.
The Middle East has never known peace, and will never approach it, not as long as the brand of fanatic fundamentalism imprinted there overrides decency and humanity.
So instead of trying to change the unchangeable, which does nothing other than place a target on our own backs, we should pack up the tent, go home and let the chips fall where they may.
For centuries now, nations have tried to conquer and divide the Middle East for reasons varying from religious beliefs to control of the vast oil reserves.
None have been successful.
All that has been accomplished is to exacerbate the hatred that has grown in the region for the Western world.
It’s time to turn our attention elsewhere, like within our own borders.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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