One of the problems with our electoral process is that candidates for the Presidency all have to show that they are tough when it comes to foreign policy, especially on terrorism. These days everyone is a hawk when it comes to the use of the military and firepower as a means to defeat those who would do us harm. So we hear a lot of talk about taking the fight to ISIS. 

But the problem is there is absolutely no way to end this madness, this terror, by the “eye for an eye” mentality. For every airstrike we carry out, another anti-American mind will be created. For every ISIS member we take out, another will be recruited. All we need to do is ask Israel if their missile strikes into Gaza have ever led to lasting peace in their country. For that matter, all we need to do is ask Hamas if their attacks on Israel have solved anything.

It sounds cliche and a bit 60’s hippie-ish to say this, but violence will most certainly never guarantee peace.

Now with that being said, let’s be clear. I am also not saying that doing nothing, or giving in to terrorist demands will lead to any of us sleeping, or traveling to the Middle East or anywhere, without any further thoughts that we could be a target for some anti-American nutcase. I am not that crazy or naive. 

But what history has largely proven, especially in the Middle East, where the passions are so deep-rooted, where the hatred for Israel, for Hamas, for Islamic militants, and for the United States, is so base, that no amount of expensive weaponry can dig that out. Kill a child’s father or mother or sister and you have just about guaranteed another generation of someone who is dedicated to carrying on the fight, who will dedicate their life to hating you and retaliating in some way.

Right now there are a lot of war hawks in the U.S., on both sides, who think Obama is being way too soft about all this, that he is making America look weak to groups like ISIS. But I have zero doubt that behind the scenes the Obama administration is far into plans to exact revenge on ISIS. Remember, this is the same administration that took out Osama Bin Laden in a covert operation, and has done the same with many other al Queda leaders. So I don’t doubt that the U.S. and its allies will find a way to get to and capture or kill ISIS leaders. And don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a part of me that looks forward to seeing that. I am human and have that urge for revenge like anyone else.

But despite that base feeling I also know that the only real solution to ending these videos and actions, to stopping the inevitable next clash between Israel and Hamas, the hatred toward the West and especially the U.S. that so many have, is a real long term change in foreign policy and attitudes. Again, I am not naive and not saying this is easy, especially when the sides are seemingly diametrically opposed, as with Israel and the Palestinians. And let’s face it, so much of the anti-American hatred over there comes from Muslims who see us as nothing but a supporter for Israel’s position and therefore condoning what Israel does. Barring the elimination of the religious positions that also justify to some on both sides the righteousness of their actions, our goal in the long run,  should be nothing more than diplomatic efforts and humanitarian aid to any side that needs it. There simply is no short term solution no matter how satisfying it might seem to strike back.

Here’s what I know, the root of most wars, and this is a war too, is usually either religiously based or power based. We cannot deny that religion and the desire for power are at play in the Middle East. Do we really expect to solve those issues with missiles, bombs or even Seal Team 6? If we want to end this, to stop having to wait for the next kidnapping or beheading video, we really do have to put away the weapons and recognize, despite the appearance of weakness, the only real way to peace is the long, hard work of rebuilding relationships and recognizing that groups like ISIS indeed need to be stopped. But the best way for us to do that is to get the people of Syria and other Muslims to do it. And the way to do that is to show them that we are on the side of the people, and really mean it. Which means showing them fairness and rethinking certainly policies regarding the Palestinians and Syria and others in that region. It would be nice if just killing someone in retaliation solved our problem, but any student of history knows when it comes to dealing with extremists, killing always leads to more killing, to the next generation of hate. Let’s get beyond campaign rhetoric and think in a real meaningful way and show real courage, which means long term change. It won’t be an easy solution, but revenge and tough talk is not getting us anywhere either.

Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Koster