Bombing ISIS is violent self-gratification

00-anthonyhallAs written online in the Daily Beast on Nov. 17: “No doubt Russia needed to retaliate after ISIS blew up a Russian plane, killing 224. No doubt France needed to do the same after ISIS terrorized Paris, killing 129.

“The problem is that both Russia and France have retaliated in a manner that will do nothing to stop ISIS followers from launching similar attacks … or war-stricken Syrians from seeking refuge in Europe. Russia pounds ISIS with biggest bomber raid in decades…Putin’s air force just used its nuclear bombers to lay waste to the capital of the ‘Islamic State.’ The Tuesday mission, which launched under the cover of darkness from a base in Ossetia in southern Russia, signaled a significant escalation of Moscow’s air war in Syria…”

Cynical retaliation
Frankly, this retaliation is too cynical, callous, and cowardly for narrative commentary. So here are just a few points to bear in mind, all of which I’ve been proselytizing, like John the Baptist, for years in various commentaries.

Hailing Russia’s retaliation as “shock and awe – on steroids” ignores that it took hundreds of thousands of troops invading, not hundreds of jets bombing, for the United States to win its pyrrhic victory in Iraq.

Criticizing the United States for having little to show after bombing ISIS for over a year ignores that the United States deems it as unconscionable as it is counterproductive to get off on killing thousands of women and children in a vain attempt to kill a few ISIS combatants.

Cowardly bombing
Presuming to take the fight to Muslim jihadists by dropping bombs from 50,000 feet is every bit as cowardly as presuming to take the fight to Western infidels by attacking concert halls, sports stadiums, and restaurants.

Bombing ISIS back to the medieval times its cult leaders seem to prefer will not stop followers from blowing up planes and/or opening fire in crowded venues. (If you see something, say something! Of course, you’d have to stop looking at your dumbphone for a second….)

The best we can do is to continually kill those who assume leadership of the so-called caliphate, thereby limiting the organizing and galvanizing role they play in getting others to execute the kinds of attacks we saw in Paris and Beirut last week.

Aids ISIS, profiteers
Retaliating in this indiscriminate fashion actually serves the interests of ISIS leaders – whose diabolical mission is to provoke a holy war between their followers and, well, everyone else in the world. But it also serves the interests of arms merchants – whose diabolical mission is to profit off the continual waging of war.

Staking out safe zones in Syria and Iraq will not only stem the flow of refugees into Europe. It would also provide a base from which Western ground forces could launch strategic incursions to kill ISIS leaders and enemy combatants instead of hapless Syrians unable to flee. Russia and France should join forces with the United States and its coalition partners to implement this strategy. All else is feckless folly, with all due respect to the heroic Kurds.

Defending safe zones for these limited purposes should have nothing to do with never-ending sectarian wars for control of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria, or with training and equipping any one sect to fight the others. We should leave warring Muslim sects, as well as their affiliated terrorist groups (from al-Qaeda to ISIS and all variations in between), to their own devices – intervening only when necessary to contain their menace – just as we generally leave warring African tribes to theirs (whether they’re engaged in tribal/religious conflicts or terrorist insurgencies).

Beyond these points, it behooves France to consider what portends for its national character if it becomes to Russia in Syria the poodle Britain became to America in Iraq.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at


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