This is Not Nation Building

This group attempting to strike terror in our hearts
– this group with all the names (ISIS, ISIL, and more) pretends that it wants
to build a nation in the ancient style of a Caliphate called the Islamic State.
If their intent were to actually build a nation to take its place among the
other nations of the world they would hardy expect to succeed by using the
intimidating tactics they employ. They would not expect to win good neighbors
with brutal executions and by appropriating the wealth of those neighbors. A
nation does not usually dictate who can live in the nations next door and set
out to destroy neighbors whose traditions vary from theirs unless they are bad
actors. If they were nation building they would not call themselves the
“Islamic” state when they want to annihilate others who consider themselves
Islamic because they are not “pure” enough. They have invented a test for
membership in their “Islamic” state that they know all Islamic people cannot
pass. This is not any part of nation building.
No – what these religious fanatics are after is
world domination. They are on fire to create a planet that contains only those
who can pass their religious tests. They don’t value freedom. They value
submission through fear. They are the Roman Emperors reincarnated. They are
Genghis Khan back from the grave –
Hitler – the Popes of the Crusades – the Inquisitors in Spain or any of a long
procession of powerful conquerors who murdered, tortured, maimed and raped and
pillaged over the face of the earth until someone figured out how to stop them
or they were destroyed from within.
Perhaps it was easier to deal with these power
hungry, self-righteous war mongers in the days of the Roman Empire when there
was no media to announce their progress and their possible next moves. I’m sure
many folks were taken unawares by their conquerors, but today we know they are
coming, although not knowing exactly when, where, or how is disturbing in its
own right.
Just don’t be fooled when these killers try to sound
like they are simply building a new nation to house a homogeneous religious
community. That would not create the fear and loathing we are feeling right
now. You don’t build a new nation by inspiring these feelings in fellow
inhabitants of this small planet.
I don’t want to go to war but let’s not let these
fighters get too far in their jihad. I believe the nations that actually do
exist on our globe will cooperate and act if this situation begins to look like
it has legs. (It’s looking sort of like that right now) I guess we will find
out how long those legs are.
Sadly they remind me of folks in our own country who
want to be sure that true patriots can parrot certain ideologies and can pass a
religious litmus test. Our power-seekers are not as cruel, one hopes, and not
out to punish people with a more liberal, less religious bent, but they surely
would like to force us to be submissive to their governance, which would make
the idea of freedom sort of meaningless. 
Freedom is difficult. Bad people find
refuge in freedom and threaten to place limits on the freedom of people who
strive to let morality guide their freedom. But I value our freedom above almost
all else and I think if it is truly challenged then we must fight to keep it.
By Nancy Brisson

Who’s Solving Syria?

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 It is difficult to look across the ocean and see
what is happening in the Middle East and in Europe, because of the upheaval in
the Middle East, and even, in fact, because of the situations that pertain in
much of Africa. How will order ever be restored when nations are dissolving and
local political structures are inadequate to offer a stable life to indigenous
people?

The parts of the world that have not fallen into
total disarray have learned from past experience that there are no simple
solutions. Redrawing borders, propping up seemingly malleable leaders
(dictators), training citizens, or even waging full-out war have not been
effective ways to intervene, even when human rights violations become
unbearably obvious and too brutal to tolerate.

Colonization was perhaps the most effective way to
control chaos and set a matrix of order over the disorder, but it comes at a
cost to human dignity that is no longer acceptable to modern sensibilities. We
are at a loss about how to proceed against someone like Assad in Syria. Here is
a leader so unenlightened that, in order to hold onto his power, he will do
anything to his own people. He is the cruel parent who sees the slightest
disapproval from his exploited children as an insurrection, a civil war. Rather
than offer some reforms he hauls out the troops, the apparatus of war, the
chemicals with which he asphyxiates his own people. He holds onto his power as
his nation disappears around him. His people go elsewhere in panic, demanding
that other nations offer them succor. Perhaps they do not realize that their
sheer numbers may swamp the economies they turn to for rescue.

Not only is their leader corrupt and obdurate (and
backed by the Soviet state) but the terrorist force ISIS (ISIL) is pinching
these beleaguered people from the opposite border. These Syrian people are
truly caught between a rock (Assad) and a hard place (the terrorists). I would
run also.

But is there really anywhere to run to? Can nations
put their own citizens’ order at risk by allowing too many refugees or migrants
in? Will they be able to hold them at bay if necessary? Will prosperous,
well-governed nations be swallowed up by the rush of dislocated people
desperate to find peace and a future for their children? It seems unusual for
people to migrate towards densely populated lands but that is likely to be the
new normal as chaos seems to reign everywhere else.

There is no simple set of feelings to reduce our own
confused allegiances to. We look on from America and we understand the plight
of overwhelmed European nations and we understand the plight of the Syrian
people.

There are no simple solutions, either, it seems.
Assad is not about to be unseated, at least not without taking on Putin. That
is a fight that is best avoided because whatever the outcome, it doesn’t seem
like it would be a good one. We could find places to build refugee centers that
operate something like military bases (as I suggested in my post entitled We Need a Refugee Plan, 4/26/15), but
anyone I have mentioned this to just dismisses it, so it must be an unworkable
solution.

Meanwhile we wait for this distant tsunami to
eventually batter our shores. And we say to the world that we are fresh out of
solutions. We are using private charitable foundations to chip away at things
like women’s rights, hunger, poverty, schooling, entrepreneurship. These are
acts of everyday love and heroism and hope, but then we have the flood of that
huge migration of Syrian nationals and all those loving global attentions seem
like band aids on a world battered by powerful seas. My lament does not mean
that we should give up our grassroots efforts around the globe. But I do think
we need a plan (and I don’t mean just an American plan, although we probably
can’t use the UN because the right wing has demonized it), and we need a plan
now, or very close to now. Who is working on a plan? Anyone? 

It will be quite ironic if all our attempts to lift
up people around the globe end up pulling us all down into a new dark age. It
also seems all too possible.

 

 

By Nancy Brisson

 

 

 

Thoughts While Waiting to Hear the President’s Strategies in the ISIL Matter

Are the dangers of ISIL being exaggerated? These people
are hundreds of miles away and it looks as if they don’t have the fire power to
reach US soil. They might have secret cells of jihadists already in America
preparing the next 9/11-style attack, but they seem more interested in playing
that schoolyard bully game “no, you come over here.”
I may be minimizing the threat of ISIL with my
schoolyard bully analogy. These fighters are terrifying because they pretend to
be religious zealots and they are quite vicious and have no limits on their
brutal behavior. However, I reiterate, they are hundreds of miles away. They
don’t have nukes; they don’t have missiles. They are, like sirens, calling
converts to them. Those converts could be trained and sent back where they fit
in and would be able to plan mayhem without attracting undue notice. This fear may be a real
one, but many of these converts seem to be unstable and they can hardly leave
the lands in which they reside without using a passport and leaving a trail. On
the other hand we have a lot better luck seeing the antisocial tendencies of
these turncoats after they commit some destructive act than we do while they
are in the planning stages. Working to change this dynamic might be valuable.
It is much scarier to contemplate sending soldiers
over there. ISIL is trying to taunt us into showing up on their battlefield.
Two beheadings of innocent men who were journalists, noncombatants, who should
have had immunity from such violence, seem to have done the trick. Now America
is frightened to death, angry as hell and roaring for blood. Even once fairly
pacific seeming media people sound pretty hawkish this week, seeming to cry out
for military involvement. Boy, are we easy to call out. They want us there;
they know exactly how to get us there.
Then we have those Republicans along our Southern
border who have their own reasons for wanting America to build a manned and impenetrable
wall along that border and have come up with some nice expedient scare tactics
that suggest that Arab terrorists are entering America from Central and South
America. There is no proof at all that this is happening but Republicans have
learned lots of ways to scare Americans during the Bush Jr. administration and
can now jerk our chains any time they wish.
I assume that the President will not have us
hot-footing it over to meet ISIL in the desert to fight for who gets custody of
America. While we may know what form of the Muslim faith we would like to win
in this Muslim tug of war (a tolerant form) our input is not requested and it
makes the most sense that Muslims absorb the culture shock that has hit the
Muslim world and set their own course for that future. If that course includes
trampling over Western nations, then that would be the time to get seriously
involved in a war with radical Muslim jihadists.

We are certainly worried enough to be somewhat
proactive about doing all we can, short of all-our war to keep ISIL from
achieving its goals in the Middle East. Sitting at home and letting a huge,
angry jihadist force build in the Middle East is not a good plan. See how
difficult it is to take an exact stand on this matter? It will, as in all
conflicts, end up being a matter of move and countermove. Let’s still hope we
can keep the sand out of our boots.

By Nancy Brisson