Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How To Defeat ISIS And Other Fables On Terrorism

Care to read a short story by a Townhall conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter?  The blogs of Digby and No More Mister Nice review this imaginary masterpiece.

It's about what it would take to defeat ISIS, in the dreams of one conservative guy (as in "When I dream I'm a Viking").  The story has all the wish-fulfillment aspects of bubble-gum literature aimed at teenage boys (except for the tits and ass): 

Macho men killing everything that moves (but for the good, of course), refusal to negotiate with any foreign power  (stomp over them), the utter humiliation of liberals (enemies), Democrats (enemies) and anyone opposing easy access to guns in the US (individual citizens successfully kill terrorists in public places but only in Republican states), simplistic scenarios where the hero faces no real obstacles (because of extreme use of military power), unending cheering by the grateful American crowds (who love the rising dead body counts from Iraq and Syria).  And a glorious victory at the end.

What struck me about the story was the glimpse into the id of the writer:  The imaginary Republican tough-guy president in the story fires his wimpy CENTCOM commander and replaces him with a marine called Wildman (!), known for his aggressiveness.  It is Wildman who then goes out to defeat ISIS.

Just think about that for a moment!  Schlichter wants the barbaric hind-brain to take over, along the lines that it takes a barbarian to fight one.  This short-cut bypasses all those parts of brain which take care of higher levels of thinking, ethics and so on.

But it works in the story!  Of course it does.  I always win in my daydreams, too.

Let's see how Wildman manages to destroy ISIS in the story:

The first wave of 12 B-52H’s emptied their bays of 750-pound dumb bombs directly over the heart of Raqqa, followed by a second wave, then a third. Crack Air Force ground crews were waiting back at the base in Saudi Arabia, and rearmament took less than two hours. Then they headed north again. In 24 hours, Raqqa ceased to exist.

The jihadis initially attempted to dig in, believing the Americans would pause to root them out of the urban areas. Instead, the Americans leveled the towns, often using the napalm that had just been reintroduced into the American arsenal, and followed up with infantry. At first, the jihadis tried to hide behind the few remaining civilians but the Americans never hesitated, and ISIS quickly learned that to try to hold ground meant a swift death.
So.  Raqqa has over 220,000 inhabitants.  But in this story worrying about civilian casualties is "secondary."  Will there be a second installment to this story, about the predictable response by most of the Middle East when people there learn that at least 220,000 civilians have died in these attacks?

Well, probably more than that number of collateral damage, because:

Covered from interference by Russian aircraft by a protective screen of F-22s, the B-52s worked their way from urban target to urban target, literally obliterating any ISIS-supporting town in Syria. This supported the Wildman’s strategy of depriving ISIS of any of the vestiges of an actual nation state. The caliphate, to the extent it governed anything, would rule over rubble.
That's pretty cruel, given that ISIS wasn't exactly invited into the towns in Syria it now controls.  It invaded them and killed lots of people.  In this story those civilians still alive would also die.  And of course all this carnage would sprout a thousand ISIS-type organizations.

Literary works don't have to worry about that, of course.  As an aside, I'm not writing about Schlichter's short story because of its interest or relevance, but because my recent reading about terrorism suggests that imaginary stories also fuel many  acts of terror. 

Granted, those stories are filled with religious imagery, not patriotic imagery, but the assumption that extreme violence for "good" is necessary to combat the violence of "bad" is something these stories share.  They also share the macho plot:  The only proper revenge against any past collective humiliations (however distant in time) is violence. And they share that aggregation of everyone "on the other side" as irrelevant collateral damage.