No sane human being will applaud the latest act of unspeakable barbarism carried out by ISIS against its hostage, the Jordanian pilot, First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Too many people will nevertheless point to this latest unspeakable murder as a rationale for continued, even stepped up, efforts by the United States and its “coalition partners”, including (tragically) Jordan, to bomb it into oblivion. Thanks to our media and to the mainstream political commentators in the United States, it will be decidedly more difficult for the average news reader to discern that this is the worst possible action our leaders can take.
Too few people, I fear, will understand that the monstrous activities of ISIS will continue, if not increase, as long as the former colonial and imperial powers of the West, Japan, and their Arab allies –all of them run by tyrants and dictators beholden to or in league with US state power and seeking “security” — persist in their attempts to shape and control the destiny of the Middle East.
It nevertheless seems likely that however long the infernal activities of ISIS continue, ISIS itself – like so many other extremist and fanatical organizations past and present – will eventually destroy itself from within. Public opinion worldwide, above all in the Middle East, is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of such depraved, barbaric tactics. Everywhere, especially where terror like this reigns day and night, people fear and abhor it. Ultimately, the core leaders of ISIS and groups similar to it, will fall upon their own swords and then be devoured, however savagely, by the populations most directly affected by their brutality.
Long established states, guilty of hundreds of thousands of atrocities over centuries, are much more difficult to defeat. Over the centuries, they have established increasingly sophisticated means of control over their populations, using the structure and mechanisms of state power to instill xenophobia, indoctrinate their citizens with propaganda, increase and perfect surveillance, and ensure that their populations are either distracted, kept silent, or living in fear. In these cases, the mobilization of dissent is that much more difficult to harness.
In the United States today, dissidents have a two-fold task. The first is to denounce in the most forceful terms the Frankenstein’s monsters their country has helped to create and are fueling by bombing organizations such as ISIS. The second is to convince their fellow citizens that the policies their leaders have chosen are not in the interest of the general public; that they do not heighten their security, increase their global popularity, or encourage peaceful, diplomatic solutions without recourse to violence. On the contrary, contemporary US foreign policy has dramatically increased the likelihood of both home grown and foreign-sponsored terrorist acts on American soil.
These two tasks require both immediate, sustained action and a lifetime of dedication. Without them, however, our children will inherit the world we’ve got today: where innocent people of all ages and backgrounds are beheaded, burned to death, executed, gassed, targeted and murdered by unmanned drones, detained without trial, tortured in black sites, disappeared, displaced, sacrificed on an altar of state ideology, massacred or otherwise subjected to the byproducts of advanced, militarized, civilization.
Jennifer Loewenstein is Faculty Associate, Middle East Studies University of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org