IS or ISIL or ISIS or Daesh as “existential” threat

My comment today at “Ordinary Times” (first in more than a year):

You think you want to live in a world where the murder of Americans as Americans, or politically, could be broadcast to all, in connection with the rescue of innocents from genocide, and our response would be indirectly mathematical, while we turned to comedians to handle whatever stray remainders. IS/ISIL/ISIS/Daesh qualifies as an existential threat to the precise extent that failure to respond [directly] would equate with self-nullification. It is only the actual impossibility of non-response that diminishes the appearance of danger.

Aside from the fact that I have nothing against the author Mike Dwyer – and have in fact found him to be a congenial and open-minded ordinary gentleperson – I think the reason I was moved to respond directly on this question of being moved to respond directly was an email from a former participant in these parts that took a similar form, referring me to a Stephen Colbert video on the “supposed ISIS crisis.” I don’t urge anyone interested in a serious consideration of these matters to click on the link, but one minute is probably as good as another of the ca. nine-minute piece if you want to know what passes for “perspective” in certain quarters. The advertisement you may have to sit through first probably qualifies as about as useful on the topic.

10 comments on “IS or ISIL or ISIS or Daesh as “existential” threat

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  1. Right, real perspective would go much deeper into the history of western intervention in the region (including covert operations) & its results, farther than any satirical show could ever do while still being funny. That said, the fact that the “ally” Saudi regime dishes out much the same head chopping brutality that’s being cited as reason to especially fear I.S. has a dark stroke of humor to it.



    • loathe as I am to defend (even indirectly) the flamin Saudis, it’s not at all the same thing to  behead people for violations of a published code of national laws (such as it is) as it is for a group of self-appointed geefs to execute a journalist because his people didn’t pay ransom for his return.


      journalism (such as it is) is not by and of itself a criminal activity.

      • Being American was the particular crime or sin of which Daesh found those journalists guilty, and that makes their murders of special interest to all Americans, and legitimates action against Daesh as national self-defense, even before we get to all of the other things Daesh has done that we have long insisted are unacceptable and inherently threatening to our “existence.”

          • If the murderers were officials empowered to speak on behalf of the US government, and promised to kill more Pakistanis unless Pakistan acceded to US demands, then Pakistan would have cause. Even if the killers were stray individuals merely claiming to act and speak for the US, but the US refused to arrest them or pursue the case, Pakistan would have the right and responsibility to act on its own to the extent it could, including by acts that under a strict definition might qualify as acts of war – as the US omissions might be adduced in a case for war. Even if the murderers were unknown or completely unattached to the US government, Pakistan would have a special interest in the case, which in the realer world would be acknowledged by the USG. I think the pattern is that a responsible government will prosecute murders of foreign nationals on its own soil, but that foreign governments sometimes seek extradition or the right to prosecute according to their own laws as well, depending on specific details of the case and trial, treaty obligations, and other factors.

            • Far as I’ve heard, other than the ransom for the specific hostages the closest I.S. has had to a demand of the US was to cite the bombings as motivation for the beheading. So I’m not sure where demands come into the parallel in the way you describe.

              To go back to that parallel, another question: would the same or similar cause appear with the killing of Pakistani people by Americans on Pakistani soil? After all, if they have responsibility to citizens while overseas, then clearly they have responsibility when they’re at home.

              • Mr B-P, Daesh demanded that the US and allies stay out of Iraq or face further Daeshian wrath as exemplified in the gruesome killing of the captives. The executioner cited particular actions – contemporaneous bombings – but his organization’s disagreements with America and America’s allies are boundless. The demands were apparent, and aggravate the act, but even without them, even without the war-pornographic video, the special interest of the US in the lives and deaths of its own citizens is basic: It’s embedded in the very definition of “nation.”

                Yes, it goes without saying that Pakistan will be concerned both about its own citizens and its own soil. That also means that if Pakistan chooses to look the other way in particular instances, that’s also Pakistan’s right. Countries frequently choose to look away when presented with potential causes of war, or, more typically, to satisfy their injured honor or interests by other means. A state that does not respond adequately or at all to such challenges tends to put its own right and ability to govern in jeopardy.

                • If it’s part of the definition of a nation, how can it ever be set aside? Pakistan (or any other country, though I assume you know why I picked Pakistan…) looking the other way shouldn’t be seen as a failure of duty like you describe of if the US government backed off?

                  • This will, to say the least, be alien to your customary ways of thinking, but the relationship between the people and the sovereign is a relationship of love. You may forgive failures on the part of someone you love a thousand times before you finally call it quits. Pakistan has seemed at or near that point many times. Its lack of self-respect is directly related to its lack of respect for others. A better sovereign would not host international terrorists, and would not put others in the position of having to set aside its weakened sovereignty claims. Before you accuse the US of hypocrisy, respect for the “privacy” of others stops at the point of reasonable self-defense or intolerable violations. Disarming a thug doesn’t make you a hypocrite about the right to bear arms. You don’t normally interfere with someone else’s parenting methods, but protesting child abuse or even calling up social services or the cops on an abuser doesn’t make you a bad parent or a hypocrite.

  2. the problem is the newest dissenters against IS, like Maqdissi, the mentor of the predecessor organizer, Zarquawi, Quradawi, and Bin Bajjah all have argued in favor of similar applications of Sharia, against western interests, the fact that Sotloff and co, had shown sympathies with said organizations in the past, as has at least one aid worker, is immaterial,

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