Saturday, March 21, 2015

Some thoughts about ISIS and war

Hey. Okay. If you want to get angrier, read this: 7 Reasons America Is Stuck in Never-Ending War. It's on Mother Jones, so those of you who prefer Fox News can brush it off as some wacko liberal, I suppose. If you're still here, here are some facts I would like to pull out of it:
1. we are apparently always at war.
2. war's really horrifying but you and I never even experience it, except in movies, so we can sort of tolerate it.
3. "Support Our Troops" is a really clever move by hawks. I won't argue that each individual soldier is a bad person; they're probably great. I mean, the soldiers I know are totally solid dudes. (I don't know any female soldiers.) So if I condemn war, I have to pull this awkward dodge like "yeah but I support our troops." It's like the part-for-the-whole fallacy or something; if I say "I oppose this war", then the response is "ok, so which soldier is the bad one?" Maybe none of them! The system can lead to unfortunate outcomes even if every part is doing the right thing. (the software engineers among you will agree on how true this is."
4. privatization of war (like privatization of prisons) really messes up incentives. Now we have a bunch of people who are going to actively campaign for more war, because it makes them more money.

Fox News readers, you can tune back in now! This feels at least relatively non-partisan to me:
A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum
So if you agree with this, then the conservative/hawk POV is that "we are really on the edge of extinction and we gotta fight back hard." Zombie apocalypse. The liberal/dove POV is "everything is wonderful, no problems." Utopia. Neither is true, but if you take the hawk POV, war seems to make a lot more sense.

Anyway, read this: What ISIS Really Wants
Super interesting! ISIS is not like "the next Al-Qaeda"; ISIS is a full on cult. This makes it appealing to some (giving people a purpose really draws them in) but

The conclusion I draw from these articles is this: ISIS is a terrible cult, but like most cults, they'll eventually self-destruct. (Also, if we were to attack them now, we could really make things worse.) So can we try chilling out the warring a little bit?

3 comments:

Mark Tomczak said...

The "Support our troops" dodge is a really annoying logical fallacy, and should be a pretty transparent emotional ploy to anyone who tumbles it in their brain for a few moments.

When people call for the NSA to stop data-mining every information exchange that happens over America's phone lines (and many that happen outside of America)---almost all of them innocent private communications---nobody ever drags out "Support our Computer Scientists."

Joe T said...

Thanks, Dan, for putting some light on this very important issue.

ISIS is a very complicated topic. Graeme Wood goes deep in his blog "What ISIS Really Wants" and it's worth reading.

ISIS is much more than a cult, however. It is symptomatic of the struggle for power that has waged for centuries and likely won't disappear soon. It's current manifestation in Iraq and Syria (and soon in Yemen) is an outgrowth, in part, of the proxy wars fought by the US/Saudi Arabia/Pakistan against the Russians when they held Afghanistan in the 1980's. This is where U.S. money, which was matched by Saudi Arabia, was channeled to the mujahideen and Taliban and where a fellow by the name of Bin Laden gained fame. It is an outgrowth of the industrialized world's thirst for oil and willingness to wage war to get it.

And today, the Russians support dictator Assad in Syria, as does Iran, while the U.S. channels support to the opposition. Nothing has changed. It's intractable.

The religious zeal of the mujahadeen, then Taliban, then Al-Quaeda, now ISIS is just the wheel that keeps turning while thousands of innocent people are tortured, their homelands taken and then they're killed.

And in the end, I think we have to look at the quest to hold power . . . over others, over land, over religion. This is the fuel that keeps the fire burning. Islam is only a means, used by those who will do anything to keep their power. Sure, there are zealots who believe, but we have to look deeper.

Will this all eventually end up in the dust bin of history? Perhaps. But I suspect we will all be dust long before it's over.

What can we do? Dig for deeper understanding just to know where we should stand. Support the non radical Muslim community who hates all this as much as we do. Then, stand guard and pray that we know what we are doing when we fight to defend what we deem sacred. Lastly, spread the message that Pope Francis is trying to spread about respect and compassion for the dignity and diversity of life.

Joe T. aka Sam Spade

Dan Tasse said...

Yeah, there's of course a lot going on. The way I read Wood's article, it sounded like ISIS was an apocalyptic fanatic group that really believes their message, and are enabled by power vacuums, wars, money, and weapons. I guess that understanding that (or really, understanding the more nuanced version of that, because I'm sure it's far more complicated) should guide our response to it.

Which is hard when it's being governed by as blunt a hand as The Government As A Whole (and The Voters), but OTOH, you've got to have some public oversight. A hard problem, anyway.