by Paul Syers
Two nights ago, the President gave his third televised address from the Oval office. Given the important location and format, the country took notice, expecting a bold plan of action, hoping for stirring words from a strong leader to stir a change of national or global scale.
The President’s address wasn’t that — it certainly wasn’t anything memorable — which made me feel the pang of the absence of great leadership in this country right now.
Can the role of a good leader really be appreciated enough? Some famous leaders happened to fall into leadership roles, riding the crest of a wave of change that was going to happen with or without their presence. Some leaders create great change through their own will. It is most evident in their absence. The movement they built begins to falter and die off soon after their death. Their mark on the world is mainly from the momentum they build while they are on this earth. The empire that Alexander the Great built fell apart quickly after he passed. Apple changed a number of different industries (computers, phones, music, etc.) with Steve Jobs at the helm, and since his death it has slid to merely following the pack. Amazon is another singular giant in its industry, expanding from online commerce to microelectronics, and now they have overtaken SpaceX in the race to re-use launch rockets.
Complex problems may end up being solved, but true leaders often act like catalysts to produce a solution far faster. Everyone agrees that a solution to the fight against ISIS exists – for the survival of free thought, it must – but everyone also agrees that finding and implementing the solution is complex. The solution will almost certainly involve a coordinated effort amongst the world’s major powers, but current circumstances make that unlikely. We need the catalyst of a true leader: someone with the will, gravitas, and mind to hold the coalition together and steer it with a singular purpose.
I hoped that Obama’s address would be an announcement to do just that. With those hopes dashed, I’m looking for another way to do SOMETHING; I’m looking for a plan B. In the absence of a truly great leader, here’s a radical idea, harness the talents of someone with a forceful will: Putin. No one can deny that he has exerted his singular will in his own country and increasingly abroad as of late.
Many may see him as just another tyrant, but France, Great Britain, and the U.S. allied with Stalin during WWII, so there is precedent. Granted, the aftermath of that took us into the Cold War, so making such a similar choice today would have significant risks. It’s not an ideal solution. I’d much prefer a different leader, but in the absence of one, maybe we need to go with plan B.
By Charles Mueller
I woke up today to news that 14 people were shot dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. Another tragedy on American soil, another morning waking up to terror. Every time it happens I feel the same way; I become angry, sad, scared and confused. This isn’t supposed to happen in America. This isn’t supposed to be part of our narrative. We are not supposed to live in a country where the risk of being shot or blown up is something real that we have to learn to manage our lives around. Yet, this is our new reality. This is becoming our new narrative. And we have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as well as domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof and these people in San Bernardino to thank for this.
When bombs go off in Beirut or people are gunned down in Egypt, we don’t respond the same as we do to the shootings that took place in Paris or any of the most recent mass shootings here at home. We don’t respond the same because it is part of our narrative that regions in the Middle East are unstable and crazy things are supposed to happen there. Those regions of the world have many people who don’t live by the code of rational thought, they live more by the code of the holy text. It is “normal” for people in these regions to do crazy things due to their religious beliefs. Crazy things aren’t supposed to happen here though, we are supposed to live in a stable country full of rational people who would never dream of killing the innocent. That is what is supposed to make this country great. The idea that we can put so many people, with so many different religions in the same place and nobody kills each other over their beliefs. At one point in time that thought was revolutionary. Now it seems we may be taking that world we’ve fought so hard to create for granted. We have lost control over our narrative and now we are being forced to live in a world dictated by fear, a world controlled by terrorism.
Our narrative is tied to what we believe is possible. The greatest motivator to change one’s beliefs is fear inspired by real events. This is the goal of terrorism. To use fear to change our beliefs, to make us feel like we aren’t safe, to remind us that every day could be our last. When we as a people begin to believe this myth, they have won, they have taken control of our narrative even if they aren’t ruling our lands. There is only one way to get it back and that is to unite, to reignite our own myth that we can come together and make the world a safe, stable and free place full of opportunity for everyone. Right now though, it is hard to find the leadership to unite us like this. We have leaders arguing over the wrong things, forgetting who the real enemies are and taking us down a road that only leads to chaos. If fear is the greatest motivator, then we need to be fearful not that we might die, but that our children’s children will not grow up in a world with free thought.
Tragedies like what took place yesterday in San Bernardino are becoming normal; they are becoming part of our narrative. People are beginning to expect things like this and those in Paris to happen. This is what groups like Daesh want, this is the world they want to create and when they have finally destroyed our world, they will continue the fight with each other to figure out which illogical, irrational form of governance should rule the world. We have to unite, we have to come together around the world and take back the narrative. The only thing terrorists fear is our unity because they know what that means. Free thought, opportunity, equality, these are all things worth fighting for. We might not want to recognize it, but right now we are in a fight to keep these ideals alive. The more we act like we aren’t, the more we act like these things will just “go away”, the more we adopt this new myth of terror and fear, the more we lose the dream of the free world. We aren’t in a war with terrorism, if anything we are in a war for our freedom.
by Rebecca McCauley Rench
Government by Science propels us into the future. In a system driven by imagination and innovation, you create a society that is enlightened, educated, and full of potential. We can take in the knowledge of our current situation, think about how this can be used to create a better world, and see what happens when we try. This is the fundamental idea of the United States of America.
The events unfolding in the Middle East in recent months have gotten many people questioning if we’ve reached the precipice of World War III. This immediately conjures memories of the last World War. Is Daesh like the Nazis? They both fit the description of an organization with an extreme ideology based on external control instead of reason and thought, taking territory and bent on the total destruction of an entire way life. We make comparisons to history in hopes of recognizing the faults of the past and avoiding them. In the most recent rise in tensions between Russia and Turkey I see a lesson that comes not from WWII, but from WWI.
These parallels between WWI and today’s conflict have been noticed by others and are few and broad, but the common thread is that larger powers got distracted by smaller interests and lost the larger perspective. They used alliances to escalate a small event and get pulled into a much larger conflict with each other.
The tangled set of alliances that evolved in the fight against Daesh as well as the fight over control of Syria and Iraq has begun to shake the modern balance of powers. Things were strained when Russia began bombing U.S. aided rebels in Syria. Most recently, tensions have escalated between Turkey, backed by NATO, and Russia. We cannot make the same mistakes of a century ago and let the differing national interests of Russia, Syria, Turkey, the US, and the European powers create and escalate more conflicts. It poses a needless danger and it distracts us from the real enemy, which is Daesh and the extreme ideology that terrorist organization spreads.
Syria, the U.S., Russia, France, Turkey and other nations involved need not suddenly become close allies, but they should start focusing on the bigger picture and the end-game, which is stamping an ideology that does not allow freedom of thought.
A twisted strength of Daesh is that it has a unified message and set of goals. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the combined actions of the international community in recent months. Putting individual national interests aside, focusing on the end game and coordinating efforts to reach it should be our top priority in the war against terrorism. A coordinated effort will make it easier to provide an overwhelming force without forcing a single nation to provide all those resources. The world needs a global, united strategy if we are to defeat not only the fighters of Daesh, but also their mindset.
Rebecca McCauley Rench
I want what ISIS wants. ISIS wants the smartest and the brightest to be a part of their caliphate. I want the smartest and the brightest fleeing the borders of Syria and Iraq to be on our side, fighting ISIS every step of the way.
Albert Einstein. Sergey Brin. Nikola Tesla. What do these people have in common? They were not Americans at birth, but rather became Americans. We are a great nation because of those that came before us—immigrants. We accepted these great minds and hard workers into the United States because we welcomed all those with the drive and ambition to make it to our country. In the modern era, immigration to the USA has become burdensome and there are many calls to limit the number of immigrants even further.
Year: 1776 Population: 2.5 million Status: Unstable, rebel colony
From the time our Constitution was drafted until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the U.S.A. had an open door policy for immigration. With a total population that barely exceeded modern-day West Virginia, and the close of the Revolutionary War, it was a no-brainer to let people in. We needed these daring explorers to help us conquer our new country. If you came to the United States before 1882, you were welcome to be here. Ellis Island, opened in 1892, was our government’s call for immigration reform when they asked those entering to simply sign a book and swear an oath. Why do we insist on having a different system in place today? Shouldn’t becoming an American citizen be as easy as getting a birth certificate?
Year: 1924 Population: 114 million Status: Post-WWI
Almost 150 years after the founding of our country, like much of the world, our population has swelled to 45x its Revolutionary War population. This was due both to immigration and advances in health and medicine. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 which instituted quotas based on the current percentage of the U.S. population of that nationality. This law was extremely biased towards those of European descent and like so many other immigration laws in our history was based on prejudice. With most of the war refugees coming from Europe in the mid-twentieth century, the USA took in our fair share of refugees. With the prosperity of the US being what it is, why wouldn’t we take in more refugees, often the best and the brightest of their country, today?
Year: 1965 Population: 194 million Status: World Power on the Rise
The U.S. took another turn in its immigration policy by implementing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This law negated the quota system based per country of origin and allowed immigration on the basis of worldwide quotas and the specific circumstances and career of the immigrant. This is the immigration policy that remains in place today with the addition of the US Patriot Act, which allows for deportation and barred immigration of individuals connected with terrorism. While there are often addendums passed to take in certain numbers of refugees, we lose some of our best minds that come to the USA for higher education. Why send those away that are the best and the brightest when they would rather stay here? Every person we take in is a person that is a person to fight against ISIS and one they can’t recruit.
Year: 2015 Population: 319 million Status: World Power
While bringing cultures together is never easy, immigrants helped build our railroads and skyscrapers. They mined our coal and created a new life for themselves and their families. Most people that call themselves Americans today are the descendants of those people who dared to come to this country. With every individual that we bring into the American fold, the U.S.A. grows stronger economically and socially as we become diverse and expand our knowledge-base. With our abundance of resources and land, we should welcome these explorers just like our own ancestors were enticed by lands and riches.
You will hear Presidential candidates speak about securing our borders as a first step in immigration policy, but you should ask yourself if there is a need to keep these people out. Harkening back to the day of signing the book at Ellis Island, immigrants should simply be required to be documented without the need for quotas or bureaucratic procedures. When we are born in this country, we are registered with a birth certificate and social security number. Shouldn’t the process of being “born” into America be the same regardless of where you came from? Change in our society and culture is inevitable and we should embrace that change with open arms and open doors to the shining city on the hill.
The event in Roseburg, Oregon yesterday has once again shocked this nation. While the actions of the gunman have terrorized an entire community and, arguably, the nation, calling him a terrorist misses an important point: he was mentally ill.
Terrorism is different from mental illness. A terrorist is often someone who has been corrupted by an organization that preys upon his or her grief and frustration to brainwash that person into believing their twisted viewpoint. Examples include the RAF in Germany, the IRA in the 1990’s, Eric Rudolph, Al Quaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram, etc. Terrorists, and the mentally ill, can both commit mass murder atrocities. Preventing both types of people from getting to that point, however, requires two different types of action. Our government has taken action to identify and protect us from one of these types, but it has clearly not done enough with respect to the other type.
I find it a huge and telling problem that there are more people with mental illness in prison than in mental institutions. Our default policy is to react to the actions of untreated mentally ill people, send them to prison, and then give them treatment, which may or may not help. A reactive policy is too late.
In moving forward after this tragedy, we ask the question, what can we do to change things? Enacting common sense gun control laws would address a symptom, but does not get at a major cause of these tragedies. The Roseberg case, as well as other related tragedies, can only be prevented by both providing more resources to identify people with serious mental illness, and ensuring that those people and their families receive the help that they need.
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!
These were the famous words uttered by the fictional news anchor Howard Beale in the 1976 movie, The Network. These words were yelled on national TV because Howard Beale had finally had enough of the state of the world he lived in. He could no longer take American culture’s complacency with its slow demise to be something it was never supposed to be.
Well, here we are again and I am mad as hell. Today, an unconfirmed amount of innocent young adults were gunned down in broad daylight for reasons only the terrorist, who I’m sure we will learn all about in the coming days, knows. But here is the thing, WE ONCE AGAIN COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING. It is already being reported that this coward, this terrorist degenerate, was posting about the things he was going to do on social media yesterday. We seriously have the capability of being able to find people like this before they do terrible things like what occurred today. This isn’t rocket science. My credit card company can flag a fraudulent transaction at the speed of light, but for some reason we can’t keep our people safe even when the bad guys are telling us what they literally are going to do.
It makes me sick. It makes me angry. It makes me mad as hell. This is going to keep happening until we deal with it. This is the new face of terrorism. These people keep getting away with it because we refuse to address the problem for what it is. This is terrorism. This poor excuse for an American is trying to divide the country. He is trying to make us live in fear of going to school. He is trying to make us fear living our everyday lives. We’ve already seen other terrorists like this in Colorado who tried to make us afraid to go to the movies. Our social narrative keeps calling these events crazy acts of violence and categorizing these people as mentally ill, but that is just crap. All terrorists are mentally ill because they lack empathy for human life. It is our empathy that makes us humans and it is their lack of it that makes them terrorists.
We have to get mad. We have to get mad as hell and we have to decide that we aren’t going to take it anymore. This is our country, a place where we are supposed to be able to live free and challenge ourselves to become the greatest parts of humanity. Our ability to rise up and make change in our society is what makes this country the greatest, it is what makes us the United States of America. What is unfolding right now in Oregon is another notch on the belt in the sad new reality all American people face. We have the ability to stop this terrorism before it starts. We have the ability to find these terrorists and keep Americans safe. We have the ability, yet we remain complacent and try to come up with reasons that it is an issue we don’t have to address in full force. We’ve created complacent terrorism.
Well I’m mad as hell about all this and I’m not going to take it anymore. Write your Congressman, write the President, and tell them we are ready to stop being complacent when it comes to terrorism. This is our fight and the longer we put it off, the harder it’s going to be to win.
The title will lead many to think that I am talking about Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Unfortunately, I think there is a more dangerous weapon than a nuclear bomb growing in the Middle East and it is growing in a country that we attacked because we thought it had weapons of mass destruction when it did not! Today, I think that Iraq does have a weapon of mass destruction.
Iraq has become home to ISIS, which bases its claims of legitimacy on the Koran. ISIS is a modern version of an Islamic Caliphate. Government based on religion. I claim this is a WMD, Weapon of Mass Destruction, that will spread like a biological weapon, kill indiscriminately like a chemical weapon, and be as lethal as a nuclear weapon.
A weapon against free thinking, secular civilizations. An ideology that is far more destructive then biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
We invaded ten years ago because we thought Iraq had WMD and we were wrong. Today Iraq has WMD, an Islamic Caliphate, and we sit by passively, making only token efforts of resistance, while this WMD grows and attacks the West.
Friday saw attacks in several Western countries that resulted in hundreds dead. All inspired by ISIS, the new WMD of the 21st century. Who in the world would sponsor or support such a movement of hate, destruction, and subjugation? Iran, who is by the way only months away from deployable, useable, real nuclear weapons! How long until ISIS has nuclear weapons to go with its evil words? I can not imagine a more apocalyptic WMD than ISIS in Iraq supported by Iran with nuclear weapons!
Yes, there are WMD in the Middle East.
Almost 70 years ago, a destructive ideology evolved in Europe, the Mediterranean, and Japan. It was an ideology that said some people are superior to others because of their race, religion, and their place in society. In Germany and Italy, it was the Jewish people who were called inferior and must be exterminated to keep the human race clean. In Japan, people were divided into those whose breeding made them superior and those who were not worth being called human. These ideologies led to a massive world war where 60 million people died.
Throughout the 1930’s, the USA stood back and watched the growth of this insidious ideology. We did not enter the conflict until very late in the war.
Will we wait while this new WMD, the ISIS-Islamic Caliphate, this new Hitler, consumes more of the world? Or will we stand for the secular freedoms that make the USA what it is: the world’s shining light of hope and freedom.
Many historical scholars have noted that the USA acted almost too late in 1941 to stop Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito from taking over the world. Will we wait too long this time?
This Friday was marked by a seminal and controversial Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled that no state can define marriage based on sex. In other words, it is against the US Constitution to discriminate against same sex marriage. No state can define marriage in a way that biases or discriminates against one or both sexes.
This Friday was also marked with several terror attacks where dozens died. These attacks were encouraged, if not sponsored, by ISIS and Al Qaeda. They were attacks against Western countries because these societies do not govern their populations based on the teachings and rules of Islam. ISIS says that if we do not convert and live they way their religion says, we should die.
The Sunday talk shows are full of pundits making demagoguery statements on one side or the other about the Supreme Court ruling while mostly ignoring the Friday terror attacks. Few noted the ironic connection between these events. The US Supreme Court endorses personal freedom from religious definitions of marriage while ISIS sponsors terror to promote an theocratic/religious state.
Those against the ruling claim that the court invented law or that the court ruled against the wishes of the people in states where marriage was defined as between a man and a woman. They mostly claim that this discriminates against those whose religion defines marriage as such. I remember similar arguments in the 1960’s against laws and court rulings that allowed all Americans to go to the same schools regardless of race. It made it illegal to refuse service to any American: black, white, or in between.
Those for the ruling see the issue as one of pure rights. The right to marry who you want. The right to not be discriminated against because you love someone.
The one thing that has defined the United States since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock is our unwavering adherence to secularism. We have refused, from the very beginning, to base our government, governance, or policy on religion. Saying that marriage is such and such because that is the way my religion defines it is EXACTLY the same as ISIS saying woman must wear veils in public or adulterers must be stoned to death because their religion says so. Secular governments, of which the USA is the prime example, do not base their laws or policy on their religion or faith.
In the USA, we strongly believe that no one should EVER be discriminated against because of race, creed, color, or sex. To tell someone they cannot do something like get married because they are not a man and a woman is discriminatory. Just as discriminatory as telling someone they cannot marry a black American, or cannot join the military because they are female, etc. Or to attack and kill anyone who does not believe in Islam.
We should not discriminate against those who believe marriage is between a man and a woman and it is now illegal for them to discriminate against those who have different beliefs. We should not act like ISIS and AQ, attacking those who do not believe as we do.
Further, the United States stands for rational governance based on reason and the good of all versus the good of a few. We stand for science. We stand for laws and policy that demonstrate the good of all of us. Our laws and our policies are meant to be as non-intrusive as possible while guaranteeing that each person’s belief is respected and preserved if possible. At the Institute, we call that rational policy instead of belief-driven policy.
The United States stands for free thought as much as free religion. It stands for freedom to live the way you want, believe what you want, and now marry who you want!
These are the things ISIS and Al Queda fight against.
On Friday, the Supreme Court made the best statement the USA can make to ISIS. We told them that we do not believe in government by religion. We should take a moment to be proud, but then we should echo this message of secularism to all people in the world. These are the principles that will defeat the growing threats we see in Iraq.