Today, President Obama sent to Congress the White House’s plan for authorizing the fight against ISIS.
The president’s proposal limits to three years the now-six-month-long campaign in Iraq and Syria, but it perpetuates the idea that war is the answer in the fight against terrorism.
And that’s a big mistake.
We need a new strategy to fight terrorism, because the one we’re using right now just isn’t working.
In fact, it’s only making things worse.
On The Guardian’s website right now, there’s an absolutely heartbreaking story about a 13-year-old Yemeni boy named Mohammed Saleh Tauiman.
Mohammed was killed by a US drone strike on January 26, but before he was killed, he worked with Guardian journalists to produce a video about how his family was coping with the death of their father, who was also killed by a drone strike.
That video exposes in a really graphic way the failure of the “war on terror.”
Not only are Mohammed’s siblings angry at the US for killing their father, but in the wake of his death they now also get financial support from al-Qaeda.
Now, there’s no proof that Mohammed or his family supported al-Qaeda, but what happened to them is a great example of what fuels terrorism and terrorist groups.
You see, President Obama was right when he said that ISIS and al-Qaeda are “death cults.”
They prey on death and suffering, and like all death cults from the Nazis to the Khmer Rouge, they’re really just nihilists who are interested in one thing: perpetuating their own power through violence.
This has nothing to with Islam, by the way. ISIS and al-Qaeda are about as Islamic as Hitler was Christian and Tojo, Japan’s military leader during World War II, was Shinto or Buddhist.
But back to the bigger point about death cults. The thing about death cults is that there’s only one real way to defeat them. And that’s by helping the people who believe in them stop believing in them.
This is what we did after World War II in Germany and Japan.
The people of Germany and the people of Japan were totally behind Hitler and Tojo because they bought into the death cult that both dictators presided over.
Hitler said he was bringing about a 1,000 year Reich and the Germans believed him. In Japan, meanwhile, they believed the emperor was literally a descendant of the sun god.
But after the war was over, we won the hearts and minds of the people and we convinced them that their death cult was wrong.
How did we do this? We showed them that our way of life was better than their death cult. We did this by injecting massive amounts economic aid into their societies and, at the same time, exposing the crimes of the old regime.
Can we do the same against the ISIS and al-Qaeda death cults? Absolutely – but there’s a catch.
Unlike the Nazi or Japanese death cults, ISIS and al-Qaeda are not states, they’re ideologies (although ISIS has constructed a pseudo-state of sorts in Iraq and Syria).
This means that war, although crucial for the defeat of the Nazis and the Japanese imperialists, will, in the long run, only fan the flames of the ISIS and al-Qaeda death cults.
After all, it’s pretty hard to convince people that their death cult is wrong when every day US drones are killing their fathers, brothers and sisters.
This should be obvious after 13 years of trying to bomb al-Qaeda into oblivion only to find out that one dead terrorist means 10 new ones.
When it comes down to it, the “war on terror” is not a military war, it’s an information war, and ISIS is getting really good at their end of the PR and propaganda.
So the only way we can permanently defeat the al-Qaeda and ISIS death cults is by showing the people who believe in those death cults that they’re wrong and by avoiding the kind of behavior that pushes people towards those death cults in the first place.
We need to dial back the military and ramp up the economic aid.
In other words, we need a new Marshall Plan for the Middle East – one that doesn’t involve more massive profits for US military contractors, but helps those countries rebuild their own infrastructure from the bottom up.