Thoughts About Paris Attacks + Twitter
by Joshua B. Hoe I have been flipping back and forth on what day is politics (Monday or Tuesday)...Maybe it can be event driven. Now, with the Paris Attacks over the weekend, it seems like a good time to talk about what has been going on.
I have gotten to experience several times on Twitter how news happens in real time...Before I saw anything on the news I read what was happening minute by minute on Twitter.
Not all of it good.
Within minutes I saw people blame President Obama for terrorism and for ISIS.
Obviously kind of sad to rush right into political opportunism, no?
Who is to Blame on ISIS
Yes, I know, I am a progressive, so you will assume I will jump right to blaming W. But, I will try to be a bit more nuanced.
Actually, the blame is pretty broad. I would start with George H. W. Bush who was responsible for Gulf War 1. During the first gulf war, we did not do the greatest job of avoiding civilian casualties.
After H.W. lost we had Clinton who enforced a very stringent sanctions strategy including a no-fly zone for enforcement. Many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians perished from this sanctions enforcement (some claimed much higher numbers).
After Clinton, we got the absurd second Gulf War...we all now know that it was started under false pretenses during the Presidency of George W. Bush. But, and it hurts me to say this, things still might have worked out if we had actually carried out even a remotely competent post-war rebuilding of Iraq.
Instead of managing a sensible transition of power, we oversaw a veritable comedy of errors highlighted by:
- De-Baathification. We essentially fired all Baath party members from the government services, the military, and the police. These days, a large number of these fine folks now represent the military strength of ISIS.
- Corruption on both sides in reconstruction. Some of the books that I have read on this subject share incredible stories of wheelbarrows full of US currency being handed to whatever warlords we thought would help us on that particular day. Not only did we fail to build a new Iraq (to make up for our bombing it to rubble twice)...We mostly made it a cash grab with our companies and Iraqi warlords splitting the loot.
There probably was a period where we had a real chance to make this work. If we had just cared more about Iraq and less about profiteering and propping up corrupt leaders.
Again, we killed a very large number of Iraqi civilians between the start of the war and the enforcement of the many different governments and zones we tried to establish post-war.
One thing that people should remember, no matter how good our intentions, no matter what our troops did, millions of Iraqi's lost actual family members to US actions between GW1, GW2, and GW2 reconstruction.
If even a fraction of that many people lost their lives in the US...we would probably nuke someone. There is a LOT of anti-american sentiment in this part of the Middle East (and that is not even counting Afghanistan).
Now, after Bush, we get Obama...Most of us on my side thought the whole point of Obama's election was basically to get the hell out of Iraq. Unfortunately, in the long draw down, Obama decided it would be a good idea to kill another large number of Iraqi's (many of them civilians) in drone strikes..As you might imagine, tolerance was low.
When you add to this bloody mess our other failures...like Abu Gharib, the Rendition and Torture messes...The ongoing Guantanamo disaster (where we have released a TON of people because they were actually innocent). It is hard to explain why our politicians seem to think we have a clean slate in Iraq.
It is like the worst kind of amnesia...we keep seeing a problem as a nail and the only answer is the heavy end of the hammer. Yes, we need to do "something" about ISIS, but ISIS is a symptom of a larger problem:
1) Terrorism doesn't require traditional military structures. ISIS has a military structure, but if we take out that structure, it doesn't mean they cannot continue to commit acts of terror.
2) ISIS is one of 100 groups that could become ascendant. Remember Al Qaeda, we decapitated their leadership and now we have ISIS. This snake has as many heads as their are people who hate the West.
And that is the larger point, we are losing the battle of ideas. A bunch of self-interested politicians babbling about how we are the greatest country on earth won't change the fact that nobody in this part of the world believes what we are selling..why? Because we have been there for twenty years and changed NOTHING.
Hell, we don't even protect the people who helped us by allowing them to immigrate to the United States. Many times we just leave them to the angry warlords...We don't live our principles at home or abroad but we won't shut up about how everyone should believe in them.
Human rights? We are in bed with Saudi Arabia and we backed a coup to overthrow the Democratically elected government of Egypt. We actively tortured people and bragged about it.
Rule of Law? We arrested thousands of people without trials, we later had to release many of them after torturing them because they were innocent. We are still detaining people without trials. And at home, videos are produced almost daily about how our police kill our own people with very little caution or care.
Liberty? See above, we back dictators and even pushed government plans for Iraq that were based in inequity.
If we are going to go back in, again, and start bombing and killing...we might want to start thinking about how we are going to win the war on ideas. Because, what keeps terrorist organizations going isn't if we beat ISIS today and Boko Haram tomorrow...What keeps them going is the people who don't believe we care about them at all and think we are indiscriminate killers....and many of them lost family members.
It doesn't make them right to turn to terrorism at all...But it explains why there is so much hate for us. We have to have a long-game not just turn to the same disaster of a short-game that has failed time and time again.
Trump Opportunism (Trumpertunism?)
There were other forms of opportunism in play almost immediately as well
..it "would've been a much, much different situation" if the victims had been armed.
"When you look at Paris — you know the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris — nobody had guns but the bad guys,"
"Nobody had guns — nobody,""They were just shooting them one by one, and then (authorities) broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists."
So, the real problem was that French folks aren't armed to the teeth like Rambo gene-spliced with Robocop....and the evidence for that? Who knows.
and last but not least:
"We all have heart and we all want people taken care of, but with the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 — some of whom are going to have problems, big problems — is just insane,""We have to be insane. Terrible."
Of course, ISIS seems to be trying to convince the Muslim world that we are at war with them...and with immigrants...see above, war of ideas.
Oh and Obama, he also blamed Obama...because GOP.
Not to be left out Carly Fiorina had the following to say:
she was “disappointed” in the president for not specifically mentioning radical Islam in his statement after the attacks.
“I am profoundly disappointed that our own president cannot bring himself to speak with the same clarity of purpose as do President Hollande and Prime Minister Cameron,” Fiorina said.
This is not only opportunistic but wrong headed....Look, we don't call Timothy McVeigh a Christian Terrorist...and we don't call the KKK a Christian Terrorist Organization...They are just extremists.
There are many reasons for this...one of which is that what ISIS's strategy appears to be is to convince all Muslims that the West is at war with Islam.
We need to build bridges with Muslims not cause even more damage. Our best hope of dealing with terrorism is to get the Muslim world emphatically on the side of anti-terrorism.
Many people have legitimate gripes with the Muslim religion..For instance, not exactly the most progressive religion in the world with regards to women's rights. Can't refute that.
We have, for a very long time, been of the opinion that integration with the West functions like a virus. That people exposed to our Western forms of entertainment and justice system and society will gravitate towards a more liberal society. It seems like a bad idea to cut off the dialog by actually labeling all Muslims in this way.
And finally, saw Jeb (who apparently can fix "it" but we are not sure what "it" is) said:
“There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now,” said Bush. “They’ll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or by ISIS. And I think we should have — we should focus our efforts as it relates to the Christians that are being slaughtered."
Ummmm...this is pandering of the worst form. Did you just really respond to a tragedy with anti-immigration pandering and an exception that creates a second layer of pandering to the far-right...That is Olympic level opportunism.
So What Do We Do Now?
I don't have a great answer to this. I am virtually 100% certain that military action has very little chance of stopping terrorism...But, that seems to be the only tool anyone in politics wants to use.
Outrage is appropriate, but for some reason, we only know one thing to do with outrage, start kicking asses with boots on the ground.
I have no doubt that we will march in with NATO and maybe even Putin at our side, crush the military arm of ISIS, and be left where we are always left - winning the war but earning no peace.
Until we grow a hearts and minds strategy to go with our "bomb everyone into submission" strategy. We probably are going to keep ending up in the same place...over and over again.
That said, I really truly and genuinely hope I am wrong. And if we rev up and go to war again, I pray for our troops and I am already praying for the folks in Paris.
What do you think of what happened in Paris and what should we do? Would love to hear your comments!