During this election cycle, we have consistently heard voters say that they value candidates "telling it like it is." That when a Presidential candidate foregoes the smoke and mirrors of usual politics and leaves the political correctness at the door, they are rising above the Washington elite, cartel, or oligarchy (depending on what flavor your candidate is). This makes it all the more shocking that every single Presidential candidate has said something along the lines of "we will destroy ISIS" or "we will carpet-bomb ISIS" or "we will bomb the shit out of them." Make no mistake, ISIS was created by bombs and every air strike we order creates a breeding ground for terrorism to thrive.
Terrorism thrives in areas with a lack of financial stability, little promise for the future, lack of non-religious based education, and where there is strong influence of American military involvement. It comes as no shock that the U.S. military drone program has been used for recruiting tools for Al-Qaeda and ISIS and it also should also be no shock that Pakistan saw a dramatic increase in the scale and number of terrorist attacks during the dramatic increase of drone strikes underneath President Obama.
Americans want a person who "tells it like it is" Well, here is the hard truth, America. Our air strikes have flattened hospitals, decimated schools, eliminated emergency shelters, and all but created a perfect haven for ISIS to thrive.
You don't believe me? Then ask yourselves how did the invasion of Iraq go? Did democracy thrive? Or was it hard to rebuild an oil and service based-economy with their homes and infrastructure in ruins?
It is the uncomfortable truth that every American must accept. I wish there was a bomb or a military strategy that could eliminate ISIS tomorrow. I would vote for that too. But the truth is that bombing infrastructure, eliminating industries, and preventing diplomatic engagement only emboldens our enemies and allows them to paint us as war-mongers with an unhealthy desire for world conquest. And let me tell you, that isn't too hard of a picture to paint.
In Osama bin Laden's Letter to America, he demanded that the U.S. pull out of Saudi Arabia. Not because we were westernizing the country, but because our support was upholding the monarchy. A monarchy that he denounced as one of the biggest violators of Islam as well as human rights. Terrorism can thrive when it has an enemy to paint as evil and powerful.
The answer is not an easy one. This problem of radical Islamic terrorism will be around for the next 50 to 100 years, but it is going to require the commitment of engaging terrorist organizations, not a continuation on the same path of death and destruction. It will also require no longer vilifying our enemies as pure evil and our use of overwhelming force on questionable targets (such as hospitals, schools, water facilities, etc.) as "necessary to secure our safety."
I know some of you are already having some hesitation in believing this argument, but there is some strong evidence that engaging terrorist organizations is the best way to eliminate their potential for attacks. Hezbollah used to be one of the largest terrorist organizations in the Middle East 30 years ago. Now, it is the 3rd largest voting block in the government of Lebanon's parliament and it has become one of the loudest denouncers of terrorist attacks in the region. Hamas has a similar situation of being responsible for much of the violent attacks on Israelis during the early and late 90s. Now it is one of the leading providers of health care, education, and essential services in Palestine with the PLO barely left operational. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) was responsible for dozens of car bombings throughout Ireland and now has vowed to only use non-violent techniques to impact the political landscape.
Americans like it when politicians who "tell it like it is." Well then try this on for size: America spent over $2 trillion dollars and 13 years killing over 500,000 Iraqis because our government was worried about what might happen to them if Saddam was left unchecked. Maybe then we shouldn't act so surprised that the chant "Death to America" is a popular chant in the Middle East. If you want to stop terrorists, then you have to stop terrorizing.