Reality Check After Paris
16 Points on Puzzling Pundit “Thinking”
November 19, 2015
A selection of the simplistic proclamations filling up the opinion pages of major U.S. publications and the airwaves of major U.S. media outlets since the November 13 attacks in Paris — and reality checks on these assertions.
1. No Scary Refugees!
■ Claim: U.S. refugee screening isn’t strong enough and should be halted or only opened to Christians — but this is not discrimination or cynical fearmongering.
■ Reality Check: U.S. refugee screening is already one of the most thorough and lengthy in the world.
2. All Muslims Responsible!
■ Claim: A billion Muslims should be louder in condemning “Islamic” terrorist attacks by a handful of people representing a few tens of thousands.
■ Reality Check: There have been countless loud condemnations (and public opinion polling showing condemnation) and the vast majority of “Islamic” terrorism’s victims are themselves Muslim.
3. Islam is Backwards!
■ Claim: Islam refuses to modernize.
■ Reality Check: Islam is a vast and varied religion filled with many social activists and pioneers, hampered significantly by Saudi financing of extremist preachers all across the globe.
4. Our Lives Matter More Than Yours!
■ Claim: We should be more willing to bomb other country’s civilians to “protect” our own civilians.
■ Reality Check: Widespread civilian casualties of our operations has been long been a major motivator of terrorist recruits.
5. More Bombs!
■ Claim: Bombing ISIS harder will defeat it faster.
■ Reality Check: Between the abject failure of unrestricted bombing by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the obvious lesson of the past decade that airstrikes create countless more recruits, why is this even still being discussed?
6. More Occupations!
■ Claim: We must maintain permanent military ground presence in as many Middle Eastern countries as possible.
■ Reality Check: Our indefinite ground presence in countries like Saudi Arabia was a major cause célèbre for al Qaeda throughout the 1990s and up through 9/11.
7. More Arms Deliveries!
■ Claim 1: We must continue to sell major arms to repressive governments in Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and beyond.
■ Reality Check 1: Their recent record of using those weapons to suppress civilian protesters and opponents brutally tends to radicalize people.
■ Claim 2: We must continue to arm moderate Syrian rebels.
■ Reality Check 2: Our arms are already being used by ISIS itself, via the collapsed Iraq Army we equipped. Should we send yet more arms into the chaos? And what “moderate” Syrian rebels?
8. Invade Syria!
■ Claim: Recent terrorist attacks in Europe (and Egypt) necessitate Western ground troops in Syria.
■ Reality Check: Why do terrorist attacks by Europeans in Europe and by Egyptians in Egypt necessitate Western ground troops in Syria?
9. Double Down!
■ Claim: Invading Syria will fix the mistakes we made by invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
■ Reality Check: We never actually defeated the forces we went there to stop (and have since been continuously fighting) more than 14 and 12 years ago respectively.
10. Worth the Cost!
■ Claim: Sending troops to Syria is necessary but will come with a “cost”
■ Reality Check: A very elitist argument. None of those who raise it have “skin” in the game. They won’t bear the financial burden and their kids won’t be the ones sacrificed.
11. Worst Case Scenario!
■ Claim: ISIS must be stopped now because if it is permitted to continue, it will become a medievalist, militarized oil producer.
■ Reality Check: That role is apparently reserved for our ally, best friend, and leading terror sponsor Saudi Arabia.
12. ISIS is a Cancer!
■ Claim: ISIS must be stopped because it is like a cancer.
■ Reality Check: Perhaps, but “defeating” cancer a very long-term process if it will ever be accomplished.
13. Sorry For Your Loss, Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys!
■ Claim: France is being attacked because it didn’t invade Iraq with us in 2003.
■ Reality Check: It should by now be clear to all that that was a catastrophic war. How would that have helped?
14. They Hate Us (All) For Our Freedoms!
■ Claim: France is being attacked for no reason whatsoever except for its love of freedom.
■ Reality Check: Terrorism isn’t justified, but this view also didn’t come out of the blue unless one entirely ignores France’s aggressive use of military force in the past five years and its violent colonialist history in North Africa and the interwar Middle East.
15. Thanks Obama!
■ Claim: If only President Obama used tougher words, this never would have happened!
■ Reality Check: People who are willing to blow themselves up for a cause would suddenly back down because someone was more rhetorically forceful?
16. Missed Our Chance!
■ Claim: Some very specific and little-known moment in the tangled morass of the Syrian Civil War is when the U.S. could have acted decisively to win it.
■ Reality Check: Every time a new major or regional power has entered the fray to tip the balance, another party has entered the war to balance it back to stalemate.