Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Our Naive Understanding of Violence Helps ISIS

At West Point I learned that technology forces warfare to evolve. The reason soldiers today no longer ride horses into battle, use bows and arrows, and wield spears, is because of the gun. The reason people no longer fight in trenches, as they did during World War I, is because the tank and airplane were greatly improved and mass-produced. But there is a technological innovation that has changed warfare more than the gun, tank, or airplane. That technological innovation is mass media.

Today most people’s understanding of violence is naive, because they do not realize how much the Internet and social media, the newest incarnations of mass media, have changed warfare. The most powerful weapon that ISIS has is the Internet with social media, which has allowed ISIS to recruit people from all over the world.

For most of human history, people from across the world had to send a military over land or sea to attack you, but the Internet and social media allow people from across the world to convince your fellow citizens to attack you. Several of the people who committed the ISIS terrorist attack in Paris were French nationals, and it now appears that the two people who committed the mass shooting in San Bernardino were influenced by ISIS.

To be effective ISIS needs two things to happen. It needs to dehumanize the people it kills, and it also needs Western countries to dehumanize Muslims. When Western countries dehumanize Muslims, this further alienates Muslim populations and increases recruitment for ISIS. ISIS commits horrible atrocities against Westerners because it wants us to overreact by stereotyping, dehumanizing, and alienating Muslims.

Every time Western countries stereotype, dehumanize, and alienate Muslims, they are doing exactly what ISIS wants. A basic principle of military strategy is that we should not do what our opponents want. In order for ISIS’s plan to work, it needs to dehumanize its enemies, but perhaps more importantly, it needs Americans and Europeans to dehumanize Muslims.

ISIS cannot be compared to Nazi Germany, because the Nazis were not able to use the Internet and social media as a weapon of war and terrorism. Trying to fight ISIS the way we fought the Nazis, when today the Internet and social media have dramatically changed twenty-first century warfare, would be like trying to fight the Nazis by using horses, spears, bows and arrows. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers during the September 11th attacks were from Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’ closest allies. None of the hijackers were from Iraq. ISIS seems to have better mastered the weapon of the Internet than Al Qaida, because ISIS is more adept at convincing French and American citizens to commit attacks.

Because technology has changed warfare in the twenty-first century and allowed ISIS to wage a digital military campaign, it is naive to believe that we can defeat terrorism by conquering and holding territory, which has become an archaic and counterproductive form of warfare. During the era of the Internet revolution, it is naive to believe that we can use violence to defeat the ideologies that sustain terrorism. ISIS and Al Qaida are global movements, and with the Internet and social media, they can recruit people from all over the world, including people on American and European soil. And they only have to recruit a tiny amount of Americans and Europeans, initiate a single attack, and kill a few people to cause the huge overreactions that they want from their opponents. Let us not react in ways that ISIS wants.

More articles by:

Paul K. Chappell graduated from West Point in 2002, was deployed to Iraq, and left active duty in 2009 as a Captain. An author of five books, he is currently serving as the Peace Leadership Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and lectures widely on war and peace issues. His website is www.peacefulrevolution.com.

May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail