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The Clash of Stupidity: Republican Debate Part V

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Watching the Republican debates has become a surreal experience, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. Terrorism in general and ISIS in particular were very much the focus area of the fifth and final GOP presidential debate in 2015 and fear is what’s for Christmas. There was actually nothing to debate during the undercard discussion…hardcore war is the consensus. Hoorah Master Sergeant may I have another? Well yes, if the GOP has anything to do with it, you’re certain to get your fill. Here’s what they had to say:

Lindsey Graham: “If you don’t realize we need more American boots on the ground in Iraq and eventually in Syria as part of a regional army you’re not ready to be Commander in Chief…There’s four things you need to understand about this war: it’s a religious war, them against the world. If you don’t fight them over there, they’re coming here. If you don’t hit them first, they’re gonna hit us. If you’re not determined to fight it as a war you’re gonna lose it…The next 9/11 is coming from Syria, it’s coming soon, we better do something about it.”

On the contrary, there’s only one thing you need to understand about this so-called “war” on terror. It’s the number one recruiting tool for terrorism. If you have figured that out, then there are a few other things you might consider before you take anything Lindsey Graham says seriously: first, ISIS hasn’t actually attacked the United States. Considering the fact that the United States has been bombing them since 2013, if they were to attack the United States it would be much more an act of retaliation than anything the United States is doing. This group wasn’t even around during 9/11. They had nothing to do with it. That said, if you want to motivate them to replicate it in the future, listen to Lindsey Graham.
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Two Reasons The 'War on Terror' Will Always Fail

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If we want to get to a world where terrorism isn’t such a regular tragedy, governments need to start recognizing the fact that the so-called “War on Terror” is a self-fulfilling prophecy destined to foment one thing and one thing only: more terrorism. 

The Big Picture: The problem arising in the wake of the recent mass-murder event in Paris and the subsequent French bombing of the Islamic State (also a mass-murder event) is that the two acts (and hundreds like them) serve as justification for more of the same from the other side. They provide fuel for each other’s fire and the situation, not surprisingly, continues to metastasize. 

The great paradox at play is that as the West continues to attack the Islamic State, the organization’s appeal continues to grow among those who view the West as an adversary. Nobody knows exactly what causes radicalization but my best guess is that its appeal will continue to increase as the West continues to respond to violent events with exponentially more violence in turn. Such has been the trend thus far. 

Why Terrorism? Terrorism is likely to spawn from a number of things, such as a bankrupt ideology, a sense of injustice, and disenfranchisement with the status quo. Regardless of the exact origins in any particular case, there are two primary reasons that the “war on terror” will continue to fail (assuming the goal is to reduce the number of terrorist attacks and the rampant increase in radicalization). Reason #1: Western violence (the principal prescription for fighting terrorism) is also the primary motivation behind successful terrorist recruiting efforts. Reason #2: Western attempts to overthrow heads of state under the guise of fighting terrorism provide an incredible opportunity for terrorist organizations to take root in a more institutional fashion. Let’s discuss these two phenomena in more depth.
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Opting Out: A Small Step for Peace

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Let’s discuss conscientious objection. For those who don’t know what it is, conscientious objection is a moral or religious opposition to war. It is essentially the refusal to participate on moral or religious grounds. So I am a conscientious objector. Interestingly enough, before I conscientiously objected, I was an F-15E fighter pilot. I deployed twice to Afghanistan, and I sincerely regret to say that I have killed people. That is a heavy burden for an honest person to carry whether it’s justified or not.

People disagree on this point for obvious reasons: was it self-defense or aggression? It’s difficult to tell for sure. Most of the situations I have experienced are very gray. They could easily be viewed as self-defense (particularly from a tactical "on the battlefield" perspective). That is, when somebody shoots at you or some 18-year-old kid you’re supposed to protect, you shoot back. Pretty simple. Or is it? From a strategic perspective, it’s hard for me to see the world in the same light. Sure, you can make a pretty good case that Osama Bin Laden should have been captured, put on trial, and convicted for his crimes. That’s fairly straightforward. But he’s dead now and none of the countries we’ve invaded since 2001 had anything to do with it. Nor have they attacked the United States. That should be a problem for any sensible person. So I guess my point is that your perspective matters. The tactical perspective is very different than the larger picture.

What I am very proud to say is that when I personally changed my mind about the moral foundation of the American wars of the last century, I had the courage to act on my convictions and quit the military. To actually change your behavior is very difficult, but possible. Now I’m here to make the case for freedom of conscience in hopes of changing a few minds for peace. So what are we to do about all this war? In my view the answer is conscientiousness.
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Obama’s ISIL Speech: Five Lies, Four Truths, and a Potential War Crime

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Five Truths


Truth #1: “We have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland.” This is an extremely important admission to understand. If there is no specific plot against America then America must by definition be acting pre-emptively to wage war on the organization known as the “Islamic State.” Whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing, it is by definition, the truth. 

Truth #2: “ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East.” This is undoubtedly true. If American politicians wanted to combat such a threat, it would make sense to cooperate with the governments of both Iraq and Syria. The fact that the United States has thus far absolutely refused to cooperate with the government of Syria should make you search for underlying motivations for American intervention that are perhaps less obvious. 

Truth #3: “Last month I ordered our [the American] military to take targeted action [to drop bombs] against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then we’ve conducted over 150 successful airstrikes on Iraq.” This is undoubtedly true. The questions Americans should ask themselves are both procedural and moral. First, what procedures are used to authorize such action? Second, are there any transparent principles that unilaterally apply when deciding to exercise the use of violent force? Third, is the use of violent force morally justified in these circumstances?
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