Another Sad Day

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.

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Lessons From History

Paul Syers

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.