To the West: Just be the Bad Guy


Brussels was just attacked yesterday and dozens were killed. It’s like rain now or some astronomical phenomenon we see every few weeks. I was not shocked one bit when I saw the news. In fact, I was actually surprised there was no major attack in Europe for so long after Paris. Unlike many who reacted to November’s attacks I have no problem with sending prayers and good vibes. After the grief though, there needs to be a coherent response. I’m pretty laissez-faire when it comes to security and intervention. You could call me Newtonian. Crack down too much and you get push-back. The worst time to field opinions on next steps is when everyone is reeling from a disaster. That being said, I’m not reeling.

If ISIS is to be believed in their claim of sponsorship and that the reasoning behind the attack was Belgian involvement in the Middle East coalition striking at the caliphate, then there seems to be a bit of a catch-22. The West, in attempting to keep ISIS from gaining power, is intervening in Iraq and Syria. The reactive force results in attacks in their backyards. So in response the West tries to wage war as delicately as possible to avoid civilian casualties and bad optics. This draws out the conflict and gives groups like ISIS more time to develop counter-actions. In trying to minimize damage, the West merely moves it around.

Let’s not forget that much of this problem was caused by Western powers. Regime change, intervention, coups, funding insurgent groups, and the list goes on. God forbid a radical element in the Middle East get the capability to strike with a weapon of devastating power, yet much of the desire for violence against the West has been fostered by our own ill-advised ventures. Even after wake-up calls like the attacks on September 11th, we kept poking and prodding, deposing leaders or, in the case of Qaddafi, shamelessly assassinating them.  Something decisive needs to be done, but nobody wants to be the bad guy. Nobody wants to bear a brutal title in the history books. Instead they prefer to be a vague provocateur pinned with Western slogans like “democracy” and “smart power.” If smart power and precision operations are so smart and precise, then why is there so much far-reaching collateral damage?

The West stirred the kettle and brought it to a boil. The cast of characters is already populated with minor villains who brought about this tension in the first place. If the prerogative really is to end or significantly reduce ISIS backed acts of terrorism, then the West has to be the bad guy, and I don’t mean look like the bad guy. The West has to suck it up, admit that the proxy conflicts funded or directly caused by intervention have failed, cut off all migration with no exception from countries where ISIS has a foothold and wage total war against the Caliphate. It’s a terrible thing to do, especially when it all could have been avoided, but if something must be done and the status quo is not working, then that’s about the only feasible option left. I’m not a fan of total war, but if the enemy represents the most virulent extant threat of violence in the world, then anything less is appeasement. General Sherman is remembered for his brutal tactics in his march to the sea, but he also possessed an indifferent pragmatism (formerly mentioned by Bellewether) about his role: “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” There is no such thing as a humane war. Sure, our names will bear the marks of blood in the history books, but the first mistake was assuming we could be any exception.

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