Tuesday, November 17, 2015


There have been a lot of comments on social media since the events in Paris, and many of them are confused and ill informed. I would like to try and address that here.
(I will use ISIS though some prefer ISIL or DAESH)

Firstly it is necessary to reflect on the horror and pain of the deaths caused by those deluded young men, who we assume, firmly believed that their actions would lead them to some imagined paradise.

Though, as someone who has read a bit of history, especially the history of violence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature)
 It is necessary to put such an event into context. It is salutary to realise that roughly 1,000,000 people die every year in road accidents. And there have been countless times in the history of civilisation where more than 10,000 people have met violent deaths in a single day.

Bu still, in the modern world, and especially in capitalist democracies, this was a shockingly violent day which left many people dead, injured and grieving.

Why did ISIS do it?
It seems clear that ISIS is suffering militarily as a result of air strikes by the U.S., Russia, France and others. They are also losing ground to forces from the Kurds and the Syrians.
This is leading them to increase soft target terrorist attacks in western countries.

It also has to be realized that there has been a tendency among some in the Middle East to blame the West, especially the UK and the US (the great Satan) for all their problems, ever since the creation of Israel, and maybe before that. At the same time there is a concurrent and conflicting acknowledgement that their tendency to drink coffee and argue rather than deal with the problem is also a factor. But it does give some young hot headed men a preference for attacking the West. And those confused by religious messages can turn themselves into suicide bombers.

What is bad about ISIS?
ISIS wants to establish a caliphate over a large swathe of the Middle East, or the whole world if it could. This area would be ruled by medieval laws which suppress women almost as non beings (no education or work, or rights), use violence and fear, create nothing of value to the rest of the world and consider life on earth to be nothing but preparation for an after-life of their choosing. They consider the Koran to contain all knowledge, and so seek no further. They believe they must eventually be victorious because Allah, of course, is on their side. They are an evolutionary dead end in the life of this planet.

Terrorism is not new. ISIS is one of a long and somewhat undistinguished line. Remember EOKA, the Mau Mau, PLO, IRA, Tamil Tigers, Baader Meinhof, Carlos the Jackal and many many others.

The sad truth is though, that in the long run, terrorism does not work. It can some have minor temporary influence, but in the perspective of history it is just a blip

What should the response be?
Negotiate? With who? ISIS is not a nation state. It has no coherent internal integrity. There is nobody you could reliably negotiate with. Would be like trying to nail a jelly to the ceiling. There is no position that ISIS would accept that would be acceptable to the rest of the world. And really they have no need to negotiate, because of course they have Allah.
Leave ISIS alone to do their worst? Could be bad, very bad.

Carry on trying to degrade their capabilities, and hope the Kurds and Syrians (and Turks?) will see them off?

Tackle them head on with an allied ground army of sufficient power to eliminate them as a military force?

Of course this has its dangers and its problems. Solving the world’s problems is not easy. That is why politics is harder than rocket science. And it is natural for people to be reluctant to engage in warfare. I seem to recall that many/most? people in the US did not want to get involved in WWI or II. Come to that, many in the UK did not see it as necessary – that Mr. Hitler wasn’t so bad really. Why not negotiate with him?

I just ask the question, I leave the answer to you. For a more detailed discussion see:

What is the moral issue?
It is worth revisiting the moral philosophy example of the bad man in your street.
You know that along your street there is a man who lives on benefits, beats up his wife, abuses his children, trashes his garden, threatens his neighbours, and contributes nothing but aggravation to the community.

What do you do?

Leave him alone, it’s not your problem?

Report him to the police / social authorities?

Admittedly, this can be a tough problem. If you live in a lawless area, and he has a loaded shotgun and an AAK47, you may realistically hesitate to act.

But I suspect most of us would agree what the ‘Right’ course of action would be.

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