Learning How Not to Rule the World
[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.
- John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern
Al Zarqawi ... is an example of how the west has created bogeymen. Al Zarqawi is also an example of how the bogeymen have a habit of, eventually, fulfilling the role we give them.
- Jason Burke on the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq and, by extension after his death, ISIS
I know it’s not patriotic, but every time I hear some politico talk of bombing Iraq and Syria in response to the gruesome massacre in Paris I think of The Battle Of Algiers and the scene where a leader of the guerrilla movement is captured by the French military. A French reporter asks the man how he can justify the gruesome carnage from explosions in cafes and bars. “We’ll be glad to exchange our satchel charges for your jet bombers,” he says.
Always angling to be the farthest right of his fellow Republicans, candidate Ted Cruz honed in on the moral issue from Dick Cheney’s dark side. Cruz questioned whether a concern for civilian deaths was fitting when it came to the need to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Jeb! said we should only protect Christian refugees. Trump hollered to his fans, "We need to bomb the shit out of ISIS!" Rubio decried not having thorough dossiers on the refugees. The brilliant surgeon smiled beatifically. Pressed by the reactionary right of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, French President Hollande publicly declared war (whatever that meant in 2015) and increased the number of bombing raids on targets inside Syria provided by US intelligence. Reports suggested there were significant civilian casualties. Anti-Assad activists pleaded on Twitter for the French and other western forces to restrain their bombing, since, as Cruz understood, western bombs kill lots of people victimized by ISIS. Being caught in the crossfire between ISIS and the bomb-crazy West helps drive refugees to flee to Turkey and Europe. Sympathy for these refugees is evaporating rapidly, since fear-mongering demagogues are stigmatizing them as potential terrorists. Twenty US governors have said, "Not in my backyard. Send them back to where they came from." MSNBC's Chris Matthews got worked up into a lather and wanted all the able-bodied refugee males to return to Syria as a fighting force. Not a bully Teddy Roosevelt type, the Peace Corps veteran didn't volunteer to lead it.
It’s not a pretty picture of western humanity in crisis. Narcissism is not a wholesome trait.