The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues its march, and things in Iraq have deteriorated - from bad, to worse, to gruesome.
As a result, the U.S. military has just reentered Iraq, this time for humanitarian reasons and also, to slow down ISIS’s military advances.
The reaction from some quarters has been that this is not enough. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) referred to the U.S. actions as a “pinprick that is meaningless and almost worse than nothing.” At first glance, McCain was boldly advocating that America act with the strength and world leadership for which it was once known.
Demonstrators chant pro-al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they wave al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo)
At second glance, McCain’s words were little more than a purposely vague cheap shot taken at the president. Just what did he say?
Did he mean that the U.S. should once again fight an all-out war in Iraq? I doubt it.
So what then did he mean? I understand McCain’s problem. He wanted to make a grand public statement, and it’s always far easier to criticize others than it is to articulate a specific policy and then stand by it.
This begs the question. Has anyone on the national scene proposed a coherent and detailed policy on what exactly the U.S. should or should not do when terrorists such as ISIS are acting with such unparalleled savagery?
In truth, whether the U.S.. should intervene when atrocities take place in other lands is a theoretical moral question. My book on how classical Jewish wisdom views modern political issues takes up this matter. The position taken therein is that when terrorists are killing others, there are two very different types of situations that call for two completely different responses.
There are times when people are being slaughtered but little else is affected. Stopping such killing is thus a purely altruistic endeavor, but it has nothing to do with protecting the U.S. When U.S. troops are dispatched for this purpose, for each soldier sent, numerous lives will be saved. But some of those brave troops will die.
A man from the displaced Iraqi Yazidi community holds the hand of a child as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. The breakthrough coincided with US air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq on August 9, and Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey working together to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and rescue the displaced. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
A basic Judeo-Christian ethic is that of not sacrificing one life in order to save many others. For example, we do not seize people against their will and subject them to potentially lethal medical experiments in order to find cures for deadly diseases. We do not even perform such experiments on criminals who are about to be executed.
The same ethic precludes sending soldiers into the line of fire to stop this first type of killing. It might indeed feel terrible to stand by and not dispatch soldiers while a slaughter is occurring. Yet, it can be equally painful when many die from illnesses because we do not forcibly conduct deadly experiments in order to find cures.
It is not a case of callousness toward those who would be saved. Rather, it is simply that we do not play God and declare that it is worth it to sacrifice one person’s life in order to save many others.
Financial assistance could be offered to the victims, and private citizens should be free to volunteer for this humanitarian but dangerous mission. Governments, however, should not command their uniformed defense forces to risk their lives for this purpose.
When a local slaughter has the potential to mushroom to the point of threatening the U.S., it is an entirely different matter. It has been accepted since time immemorial that countries have a right and a duty to defend themselves from being conquered. At least in theory, this is probably why nations maintain armies. Stopping this type of carnage is thus a matter of self-preservation; it is a component of the U.S.’s overarching duty to protect itself from being savaged.
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
The atrocities committed by today’s Muslim terrorists are clearly of this second character. If ISIS is allowed to subdue large chunks of the Middle East, it will eventually direct its focus on conquering the West. In fact, they openly speak of forming a massive Caliphate. As such, all nations who are threatened by ISIS should act to stop them.
An ancient Jewish aphorism is that [emphasis added]: “When one is coming to kill you, rise up and kill him” (Talmud Sanhedrin 72a).
"Coming" implies that the person is merely on the way to posing a danger to life. The actual danger, however, may not yet be at hand. Nevertheless, once the intent to kill is articulated, one must assume that an attempt will be made to carry out the threat.
It is therefore best to forcibly respond during the earliest stages of the murderous preparations rather than later when the threat is imminent. As in the case of an emerging infestation of insects, the passage of time allows the peril to gather strength and become more difficult to defeat. Accordingly, once people threaten to kill others, if possible, they should be immediately eradicated.
Another component of this classical concept is that it advocates slaying the would-be killers rather than negotiating with them. Although dialogue is preferred for it avoids bloodshed, what is being implied is that it will be fruitless.
This points to a major psychological and political insight. People who sink to the level of killing others lose a component of their humanity, namely the capacity to feel the noble human sentiment that murder is reprehensible.
[sharequote align="center"]Talking morality with terrorists is like lecturing cats on killing mice; the concept is beyond them[/sharequote]
Discussing morality with terrorists is thus akin to lecturing cats on the immorality of killing mice; the concept is simply beyond them. Instead, as with rabid dogs, there is no option other than to simply hunt the terrorists down and “put them to sleep.”
The West needs to realize that the Muslim terrorists are veritably in the midst of initiating World War III (God forbid). And they should be responded to accordingly.
Yet, the West continues to allow it to develop nuclear warheads. Should Iran succeed, the terrifying possibility of an apocalyptic WWIII would become very real. Immediately – today while it still can and not tomorrow – the U.S. should bomb and obliterate every known locale of Iranian nuclear activity. The U.S. should act first and ask questions later.
The Western countries (all of whom are being threatened) would then require the services of a capable and principled leader who could inspire them to join forces and declare an all-out and no-holds-barred war against both the Muslim terrorists and the countries that help them. And like the combined Allied forces in World War II, they would not rest until this mortal enemy is utterly defeated.
After WWII, Germany and Japan were militarily occupied for decades. Here too, after victory is achieved, it may become necessary to militarily occupy such countries as Iran, Iraq, and Qatar for decades – but their oil income should be used to pay the bill for the Western occupation.
If the West acts quickly in the spirit of, “When one is coming to kill you, rise up and kill him” and adopts the type of response outlined herein, it will vanquish Muslim terrorism. If it does not…May Heaven help us all!
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