Disclosure: this is an academic post only because President Obama has already said our strategy toward ISIS and jihadists the world over will remain essentially unchanged, if a bit “intensified”. Which is to say: we’ll continue to dispassionately drone strike them if necessary but we will not be, barring — one would hope — some further tragedy we simply cannot ignore, waging war in a traditional sense. And for some, that’s the proper way to react to the loss of innocent life in places like Paris and Beirut. Let’s face it: no one relishes even one drop of spilled blood from the fine men and women serving our nation to combat those who value life so little.
So fine, do your thing France. Maybe we’ll be deploying our own new toys and stealthily helping you.
But there’s a particularly baffling outcry among the anti-engagement crowd that is worth exploring because it doesn’t address fear for our troops or the strain of war on our resources. It’s something else. A moral high ground of sorts that is, at this stage in the game, fairly irrelevant.
Yesterday, for example, CNN Political Commentator Sally Kohn reminded us on Twitter of that old chestnut our parents used to use when we came home crying about a bully at school: “Ignore that mean kid,” they’d say. “Any reaction is just giving them what they want.”
Y'all realize ISIS wants to provoke a war, right? If we go to war, we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) November 16, 2015
And the truth is: that’s pretty good advice. If what you’re dealing with is a school bully who confronts you at your locker and steals your lunch money. But chances are statistically, even with the uptick in school shootings, that bully isn’t going to lock you and your friends in the gymnasium and open fire. And if they did, we wouldn’t be discussing ignoring them anymore. We’d have them arrested and tried and, depending on the state and the evidence, put to death. And should they run or try to resist arrest, they would be shot in the street.
And almost no one would question it. They may wonder what motivated it, or rehash arguments over the 2nd amendment, or read articles about mental health and medication, but they would not say, “He baited us into killing him. That is what he wanted. We shouldn’t have given it to him.”
Because there is a line. It’s a crude comparison, but an apt one, so it’ll do. There’s an old saying about pornography, that it’s nearly impossible to define, but one knows it when one sees it.
It’s the same with evil. And the truly strange thing regarding those equivocating about whether France is making the right decision is that there really is no clearer line than a group of people – “handful”, as our president called them, but who are probably a little more hefty in number than that – willing to lock unarmed college-age students in a concert hall and methodically execute them.
And yet, there seems to be a general tenor with progressives and libertarians that we are somehow giving the terrorists what they want if we go to war with them; and, further, that giving them what they want is a very bad thing.
The question is: why? Do we fear that we cannot defeat them in war? Because most of the evidence would indicate otherwise (with the possible exception being the actual will to fight from the highest levels of our government).
So again, why, at a point in our dealing with these hopeless lost souls content to let the progress of human history pass them by while they look on in rage, do we take a moral high ground and ignore them? They indiscriminately kill, and will continue to do so, unless we put a stop to it, in whatever way we see fit. By joining forces with European allies, offering military support from the sky, humanitarian aid to the European mainland, aggressively ramping up security in our own country, or any and all of these things.
If the answer is simply that “they are baiting us and we shouldn’t give in”, then the argument is fundamentally weak. Japan did as much in WWII when it hit Pearl Harbor, for instance. It is a part of war.
And it is wise to remember: Nations go to war with killers. Children ignore school bullies. They are not the same things.