ISIS: What it is–and what it isn’t

By Paul Rozycki

Editor’s Note:  Paul Rozycyki offered EVM this “bonus” column as a local response to the Paris attacks.  In light of what happened in San Bernardino and the President’s remarks in his Sunday night address to the nation, Rozycki’s comments take on even more relevance.

After the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris a few weeks ago the reactions were, as you might expect, immediate and angry. The reactions were understandable, but like many fearful reactions, probably wrong.

Within hours, several presidential candidates advocated registering all Muslims, imposing a religious test for immigrants, closing mosques, bringing back torture, blocking the boarders to all Syrians and bombing the **** out of something, or someone, somewhere. And, out of fear, public opinion has generally supported them. (Yet the NRA still isn’t ready to stop terrorists from getting guns easily).

Take a deep breath, and get a grip, people.

Let’s remember what ISIS is, and what it isn’t.

To be sure, ISIS, ISIL, (or Daesh as some are calling it) is a serious threat to the Middle East, Europe and the world. And those who kill the innocent, behead and burn prisoners, as ISIS has done, deserve the harshest of punishments. They have grown from a minor force in the complex Syrian/Iraqi civil war to a significant power in the area, a terrorist threat beyond the Middle East, and a large psychological menace to the world. They have a military of some consequence and are willing to die for their apocalyptic vision of a Muslim caliphate. They are well skilled in social media and have had success in recruiting in western nations.

Yes, they are a serious threat and we need to defend ourselves and eliminate the threat.

But let’s also realize what they are not.

They are not Nazi Germany.

They are not the Empire of Japan.

They are not the Soviet Union.

All three of those were major threats to the survival of the United States, western nations and their values. They all possessed formidable military forces and they all wanted to impose a very different set of ideologies on us. They all presented a dramatically greater menace to the US than ISIS. If any of them had prevailed, we would be a radically different nation, if we’d exist at all.

In the end, they were all defeated. It wasn’t easy, quick or painless, but it was done. (Civil liberties were jeopardized in all those cases as well.)

And in spite of their name (Islamic State in Syria) ISIS is not a state in any genuine sense of the word and they are not Islamic. While they control some territory in the midst of a civil war, no nation recognizes them. Nearly every Islamic scholar rejects them as thugs and murderers, bearing no relation to Muslim teachings.

Yes, we need to keep our cities and streets secure, and yes, ISIS may try, and may even succeed with some attacks, and we do need to take extra precautions to protect people, both at the border and within the nation. (But you still have a much greater chance of being killed or injured in a traffic accident than by any terrorist.)

But the fight against ISIS, and the fear of ISIS, shouldn’t let us undermine the principles of a democratic society. A nation based on free speech, freedom of religion and open immigration doesn’t need to abandon those values to take on ISIS. We should also remember that an overblown reaction against Muslims is the greatest recruiting tool for groups like ISIS.

We’ve beaten tougher opponents. And with a sensible mix of intelligent military, diplomatic and political tools we’ll beat ISIS as well, without undermining our own principles.

Paul Rozycki

November 26, 2015

 

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