This past week was supposed to be a wonderful week for political junkies. On Tuesday, we were treated to the latest Republican debate only to be followed by Saturday‘s second Democratic debate. Who could ask for more? Then Friday happened and the world turned upside down.
On Tuesday evening, when Sen. Rubio, pandering to an anti-intellectual sentiment, said we “don’t need more philosophers,” he couldn’t have been more wrong. We are all philosophers in our own way. We are forced to think things through (albeit with our own unique levels of intellectual dexterity) in our efforts to makes sense of our world and make intelligent choices. I know he was talking about philosophy as a profession but when he pits welders against philosophers he does a disservice to both professions.
Speaking of philosophy, as a person who was fortunate enough to have studied and taught philosophy, I would like to believe that my education, intelligence and experience have provided me with the tools to make some sense of what is happening in the world. Yet understanding the Islamic State (also known as I.S.I.L. and Daesh) and their barbaric actions which culminated in the massive killings in Paris, Beirut, Lebanon this past weekend is something that evades my capabilities. Their objectives are not about land or power or money (they seem to have all three) but rather are nothing less than the total annihilation of “non-believers.” In my view, they pose an immediate and long-term threat to all civilized peoples.
Given the imposing shadow of this evil organization, it was not surprising that questions were posed concerning our countries appropriate response to this threat at both presidential debates this week.
The public is weary after 14 years of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan and the candidates are well aware that putting our young men and women in harms way is something that should only be done as a last resort. At Tuesday’s debate, Donald Trump and Sen. Rand Paul were aligned in a “let someone else fight the war” camp. Trump announced, “If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of I.S.I.S., I am all for it, 100 percent, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it.” When Mr. Kasich, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bush (a position also advocated by Hillary Clinton) all supported a no fly zone in Syria and Iraq, Sen. Paul drew a line in the isolationist sand: “When you think it’s going to be a good idea to have a no fly zone over Iraq, realize that means you are saying we are going to shoot down Russian planes…If you are ready for that, be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq.”
Mr. Bush, trying to revive his failing campaign, sounded a lot like his brother: “We’re not going to be the world’s policeman, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader.” He went on to attack Trump and Clinton in the same breath, saying, “both do not believe the United States has a leadership role to play and now we’re paying the price.”
Given Bush’s not so subtle attack, I was curious as to what Secretary Clinton’s response would be at Saturday night’s Democratic debate to any foreign policy I.S.I.S. question. Sure enough, given the Paris massacre on Friday, I.S.I.S. was the first topic discussed Saturday night. Her response:
“We have to look at I.S.I.S. as the leading threat of an international terror network. It cannot be contained; it must be defeated. There is no question in my mind that if we summon our resources, both our leadership resources and all of the tools at our disposal, not just military force which should be used as a last resort, but our diplomacy, our development aid, law enforcement, sharing of intelligence in a much more open and cooperative way that we can bring people together.” She went on to say: “But it cannot be an American fight. And I think what the president has consistently said, which I agree with, is that we will support those who take the fight to I.S.I.S. That is why we have troops in Iraq that are helping to train and build back up the Iraqi military, why we have special operators in Syria working with the Kurds and Arabs so that we can be supportive. But this cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.”
Although fellow Democratic presidential candidates Gov. O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders tried to distinguish their positions from Clinton’s, neither were specific as to what they would do if elected President. At the very least Hillary tried to provide some historical framework on the I.S.I.S. question: “I think it’s important we put this in historic context. United States has unfortunately been victimized by terrorism going back decades. In the 1980s it was in Beirut, Lebanon under President Reagan’s administration and 258 Americans, marines, embassy personnel and others were murdered.”
In both the Republican and Democratic debates, no one was bold enough to flatly state that they advocated sending troops in to fight I.S.I.S. Perhaps this is due to their appreciation of the public’s disdain for another war, or maybe they understand that this type of intervention is what led to the birth of I.S.I.S. in the first place and is a response they (I.S.I.S.) desperately want.
Oddly enough it was liberal California Sen. Diane Feinstein who last week came closest to calling for the deployment of combat troops to fight I.S.I.S.: “Most disturbing is what it seeks to do next. I.S.I.S. has its sights set on taking control of additional areas in the Middle East, including Baghdad, where it is already interspersing among the civilian population in Sunni areas. I understand that many Americans don’t want to become mired in another war. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have claimed thousands of American lives and cost more than $1 trillion. But Americans need to understand I.S.I.S.’ degree of viciousness as well as what will happen in the absence of U.S. leadership and action. If the United States fails to unite and lead the world against I.S.I.S.’ horrific goals, we could suffer the consequences for decades to come.”
Although we will be playing right into the hands of I.S.I.S., I believe that this terrorist organization will leave us no choice but to engage them in total combat. If you don’t believe me, just listen to a recent audio message from the I.S.I.S. leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: “Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.”
In spite of the candidates’ differences in policy and tenor exposed in the political debates this week, I am certain that when pressed we will unite to meet this serious threat. When it comes to combating an evil that challenges our very existence, there are no divisions amongst us; no Democrats versus Republicans; no Christians versus Muslims; no rich versus poor; and yes, Sen. Rubio, no welders versus philosophers. We are one people. We, together, will always win.