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.
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.