Daniel Pearl, journalist, d. 2002, Pakistan
Nicholas Berg, businessman, d. 2004, Iraq
James Foley, journalist, d. 2014, Syria?
The Internet has again been debased with a video of a beheading. Again, an American has been beheaded by an extremist Islamist group. Again, a “reason” was given for the atrocity.
Again, the “reason” involved punishment for what other Americans did in other places at other times.
Again, the so-called “reason” in fact was Sippenhaft, the Nazi principle of punishing the whole group for the supposed crime of some individuals.
Again, those who claim to be pious Muslims in fact behave like atheistic Nazis.
What can we say about this disgusting affair? How shall we react? With sadness, of course. But only with sadness, or also with righteous indignation? Are we losing the ability to distinguish unjustified anger from entirely justified indignation? Let us hear what others have to say:
James Foley beheading baits America to intervene.
– Sydney Morning Herald, Aug.22, 2014
James Foley video is obviously fake.
– Liveleak.com, Aug, 22, 2014
James Foley beheading does not change U.S. attitude toward Islamic state.
– Vice President Biden, Aug. 21, 2014
He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.
− Leonardo da Vinci
To those who do not know that the world is on fire, I have nothing to say.
– Bertolt Brecht
Forgiving terrorists is up to God. Our job is to arrange the meeting.
– Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf (attributed)
Which of these comments reflect a realistic view of the situation, the first three, or the last three? Which best reflect your own views?
The Sydney Morning Herald, like many liberal and libertarian commentators, believes that this atrocity was committed with the express purpose of drawing the United States more deeply into the conflict. It’s true that James Foley was murdered in the most brutal, sadistic manner – and on video, so the terrorist act was sure to be put up on the Internet.
This leads to two questions: (1) Was this the purpose of the ISIS beheaders? (2) Even if it was their purpose, does this necessarily mean that we must refrain from involving ourselves? That is, how can we best avoid being controlled by the beheaders? If we rush right in, guns blazing, we obviously may be falling into their trap. But if we do nothing for fear of being drawn in, we are still at risk of being controlled, but in the opposite direction.
Similarly, if I do exactly what my father wanted, I am clearly being controlled by him. But if I spend my whole life doing exactly the opposite of what he wanted, I am still being controlled by him – only in a negative way. In neither case am I actually making my own decisions.
We must do what, in our judgment, is in the best interests of America, and what is most likely to protect the lives of American citizens – regardless of that we think ISIS is trying to push us to do.
To me, the first three of the above quotations fulfill the requirements of what is now called liberalism or progressivism, but which in fact should be called pacifism, leftism, and defeatism. The last three, on the contrary, reflect what I see as realism.
When Ion Perdicaris, an American of Greek ethnicity, was kidnapped by the Muslim brigand Raisuli in 1904 – exactly a century ago – President Theodore Roosevelt declared, “This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” Navy ships were sent, a detachment of Marines was landed, and we got Perdicaris back alive. Teddy Roosevelt was called a progressive Republican in his day. Call him what you like – in his conduct of foreign affairs, he was a realist. He knew that those who understand only force must be opposed with force.
Teddy was a graduate of Harvard, but he completed his education elsewhere. After his mother and his first wife died on the same day, he went west and spent time as a cattle rancher and deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory. He then served as New York City police commissioner, and later as lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. Roosevelt thus acquainted himself with the realities of life on the frontier, the realities of law enforcement, and the realities of war.
Compare this to the education of Barack Obama, which was limited to academia and community organizing. It does not take an Einstein to understand which man was better suited to deal with violent hostage-takers.
Four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped by terrorists in Lebanon in 1985. One was murdered. The Soviets sent in a special-operations team that kidnapped relatives of the terrorist leadership. Reportedly, in at least one case, unmentionable body parts of a relative were sent to the terrorist leaders, with a note that more would follow. The three remaining Soviet hostages were returned unharmed, and no more Soviets were kidnapped.
Yes, such methods work. But this does not mean that we must descend to the level of our opponents. It does mean, however, that we cannot try to observe the Marquess of Queensbury rules, while our opponents use the methods of an alley fight. That is a sure recipe for defeat. We need to identify the leaders of a group that beheads Americans on video, and then destroy them by whatever means available. We must kill them if we can, or set them up to be killed by their own people if that seems advantageous.
So far as is known, the beheader of Daniel Pearl is imprisoned in Pakistan, and the confessed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is imprisoned in Guantanamo. The beheader of Nicholas Berg is still at large, as is the beheader of James Foley. Teddy Roosevelt would not be pleased. His favorite pastime was target practice on the White House lawn, not golf. To him, a rifle was something to be admired, cleaned, oiled, and shot – not banned. Perhaps there is a lesson here.
The world is a more dangerous place than it was in 1904, when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. But we have means at our disposal that Teddy never dreamed of. He had coal-fired warships and Marines armed with bolt-action rifles. We have nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, fighter/attack jets, stealth aircraft, drones, and the appropriately named Hellfire missiles, as well as surveillance from NSA and satellites.
Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, our options are much broader. Oh wait, he isn’t in the White House – he is on the golf course at Martha’s Vineyard. Still, we honor Teddy Roosevelt not for the forceful statements he made, but for the forceful actions he took to ensure the safety of Americans.
Some complain that President Obama made a feeble statement on the beheading of James Foley, then returned at once to the golf course. But for all I care, he could have made no statement at all and remained on the golf course. He could have met in the clubhouse with his secretary of Defense, National Security advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral McRaven, head of the Special Operations Command. He could have ordered the obliteration of anyone connected with the beheading, as well as the leadership of ISIS. That is, he could have ordered the decapitation of ISIS. He could then have returned to his golf game and kept a low profile, lulling our enemies into a false sense of security.
But I would bet serious money that President Obama did no such thing. His training as a lawyer suited him to rearrange words and shuffle papers. He never served as a deputy sheriff, a police commissioner, or a combat leader. The concepts he might have learned from those jobs escape him entirely.
Danny Pearl, Nick Berg, and Jim Foley must not have died in vain. By their horrifying deaths, they taught us a very costly lesson. It is now up to us to put that lesson into practice.
America wants our hostages alive or the hostage-takers dead.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.